7th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took tie chair at 3 p.m. and read’ prayers.
– I ask the Minister for Defence if he is making, or has he made, any arrangements for his departure from Australia. In view of the . persistent rumours appearing in the press, will he emphatically deny their truth ?
– In answer to the honorable senator’s question,- I am not, and I : have not.
Restricted Circulation - Advertisements
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister why the Commonwealth Gazette, that was supplied free to members of this Parliament since its inception, is no longer distributed to them?
– I am under the impression, and if I am wrong it will be understood it is from lack of full information, that the circulation of the Gazette to. members of this Parliament has been stopped consequent upon the shortage of paper, and it is part of the general policy to economize in that direction.
– I should like to follow up my previous question by asking do the Government think that it is in the interests of. the country that members of this Legislature should not be provided with the ‘ Gazette, which contains announcements of Government business.
– I mentioned that I had some difficulty in answering the honorable senator, as I speak without a very clear recollection of the restriction placed upon the previously free distribution of the Gazette to members of this Parliament. Speaking from memory, I am under the impression that any honorable member who desires the Gazette may obtain it upon application. The idea is that, whilst it is desirable to supply the Gazette to honorable members who require it, it is only a waste of paper to send it to those who do not.
– I ask whether the Government will take into consideration the practicableness and advisability of “considerably shortening the Government advertisements which appear from time to time, not only in the Commonwealth Gazette, but in the ordinary newspapers of the day. In order- to illustrate my question, I may allude briefly to the frequent repetition in similar advertisements of titles, distinctions, orders, and such like.” Will the Government see that their advertisements are as brief, as curt, and as intelligible as possible, whether in the Gazette or in the ordinary daily newspapers?
– I shall have great pleasure in forwarding the suggestion- of the honorable senator to the proper quarter.
Report of Public Accounts Committee on Commonwealth Finance, (a) Credit Balances, and (6) Method of Departmental Payments, presented by Senator Earle, and ordered to be printed.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate, in view of the fact that a Royal Commission has inquired at length into the purchase of the Shaw Wireless Works, and did not call for evidence from any expert valuers, will the Government undertake to have the plant and machinery valued by an expert?
– I can only offer to forward the suggestion to my honorable colleague, the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton).
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether he is now in a position to give me the information for which I have asked in connexion with the Blythe River iron deposits ?
– I regret to say that! have. not yet received the information. I shall send what a previous Commonwealth Minister used to call a “ chaser,” in order to secure it.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate whether he has noticed a statement published in the press, and attributed to the New Zealand Minister for Agriculture, to the effect that the New Zealand Government are adopting a policy to prevent the Meat Trust being established in the Dominion, to the detriment of the New Zealand people, and that, in their opinion, it will be necessary to successfully fight the Trust that other countries should co-operate, with New Zealand, special mention being made of. the Argentine and of Australia? If the Minister has seen the paragraph, will the Government take into consideration the suggestion thrown out ‘ by the New Zealand Minister for Agriculture, with a view to co-operating with ‘ the New Zealand Government in this matter?
– I have not . seen the paragraph referred to. As to the suggestion made by the honorable senator, I remind him that quite recently the InterState Commission inquired into the meat trade, and, speaking from memory, I am under the impression that they found no evidence of operations of the Trust in Australia.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether his attention has been called to a cable from London appearing in last night’s Herald, the sub- stance of which is that the strongest comments prevail concerning the failure to fill steamers with soldiers, owing to the insistence at Melbourne on slow demobilization ? Has the Minister seen that statement; and, if so, is there any truth in it?
– I have seen, the message, but I have no knowledge of the facilities which the sender of the cablehas >to obtain information upon which to base his statement. The only reply I can make is that the Government are being advised from time to time by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) of all . steps being taken, to deal with the situation in London. We are in full communication with London upon all matters relating to demobilization, but we have had no information such as that hinted at in the paragraph quoted.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The information is being completed, and the honorable senator will be informed as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is the Government in possession of full information in connexion with the constitution and control of the organization recently said to have been formed in Europe called the InterAllied Tin Executive; if so -
What are the names of its members, and what interests do they represent?
Is the British Government in any way responsible for its formation?
Is the British Government represented on the executive?
Will the Government lay upon the table of the library all the information in their possession concerning this matter ?
– The answers are -
Motion (by Senator Millen) agreed to-
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for’ an Act to amend the Commonwealth Public Service Act 1002-1917.
Assent to the following Bills reported : -
Beer Excise Bill.
Amendments Incorporation Bill.
– I move - <
That this Bill be now read a second time.
In submitting this measure, I hope that I shall be able to outline its provisions within a comparatively brief period of time. Through it, and with the concurrence of honorable senators, I think we can add another section to the great work of repatriation, by the aid of which we hope to satisfactorily secure the reinstatement to civil life of members of the Australian ImperialForce. Before dealing with the Bill itself, I think honorable senators know perfectly well that the housing problem has become as acute in Australia as, apparently, it is in other countries. It has, indeed, been acute for some time; but the position has been aggravated, during the last few years, owing to the comparative cessation of building operations, due, in a great measure, to the increased cost of building material.
– And to the landlords, taking advantage of that fact.
– Inreply to the honorable senator, may I point out that there is in . Sydney as acute a shortage in the matter of housing accommodation as exists in any other city in the Commonwealth, notwithstanding that there is a Fair Rents Court operating there. This shortage exists to-day, and will undoubtedly become accentuated with the return of the men who are still at the Front. I want honorable senators to recollect that, apart from what we owe to these men, there is a social side to this problem which, I believe, will influence them in the decision which they arrive at in regard to this Bill. The purpose of the measure is to enable members of the Australian Imperial Force, and certain of their dependants, to secure homes. ‘ I want to stress the word “ homes,” because the whole of the-7provisions of the Bill are conditioned by it. Those conditions provide that a man may borrow for the purpose of erecting a home which he will occupy as such.
As to the administrative authority under the Bill, it is proposed to constitute a Commissioner, whose term of office will be seven years, and whose salary will be £1,500 annually. The measure indicates that a heavy responsibility will be placed upon him, and, to enable him to discharge this responsibility, he is “to be vested with a corresponding measure of independence. ‘ Of course, he will be subject to the Minister in respect to all large matters, and, indeed, to all matters which, in any sense of the term, may be regarded as matters of policy. He will have two main duties intrusted to him. The first will be. that* of making advances to applicants from amongst those who are eligible to obtain such advances. But I shall refer to the question of eligibility a little later. One of hi3 chief functions, I repeat, will be to make advances to applicants who desire, by means of those advances, to build homes for themselves. I do not think that any explanation is required by honorable senators of this portion of the Bill. The operations . of the ordinary building society are generally known, and the terms provided under this measure are some-; what similar, although more generous. The second set of powers intrusted to the Commissioner are those which will en-; able him to build in anticipation of the receipt of applications. This is rather an important proposal, and I should like fco explain to the Senate exactly “what it means, and the reasons for including it in the Bill. The power to buy or to build in anticipation of applications, has been introduced in the belief that the Commissioner will find himself confronted with a position something on these lines : From a given suburb, he may receive a number of applications from persons . who desire to acquire homes for themselves. In the light of his experience, he may probably “be able to see that that number will be greatly augmented. It has been thought that, in such circumstances, he will be able much more advantageously to provide homes for the individuals concerned if, while satisfying the applications already lodged, he is left free to build other houses in anticipation of other applications coming along. For instance, in a particular suburb, he may be in receipt of ten or twenty applications for advances to build homes, and his knowledge may justify the belief that, in the course of- the next few months, another twenty applications will be received. It is possible that, after conferring with the applicants who already have sent in their applications, he may arrive at the conclusion that he can meet their needs quite satisfactorily and more advantageously if he acquires a big block of land which can be subdivided to meet their requirements, and which will leave on his hands the unused portion of the land thus purchased. Upon that unused portion, he will then be able to build houses for other applicants, who may be expected to come along a little later.
There are three great advantages in intrusting this power to the Commissioner. Every honorable senator will recognise that if that officer be empowered to buy in a wholesale way, he will be able to obtain land at much less per holding to the ultimate applicant than he will be if he has to buy allotments singly.
– What does Senator Grant say to that?
– I think that Senator Grant, as a good Scotchman, will assent to that proposition. Another advantage that will accrue from the Commissioner purchasing land in a wholesale way is that a considerable saving will be effected, particularly if he is also allowed to build in a wholesale fashion. That is to say, if, instead of arranging for the construction of a single cottage, or three or four cottages, he is able to arrange for the erection on the land he has bought of a larger number of cottages, he will be able to make a great saving. I have consulted a number of building contractors in regard to this matter, both here and in Sydney, and they assure me that it would be possible to make a much more favorable offer if, instead of being invited to erect three or four cottages, they were asked to build ten or twenty cottages.
– That is if the buildings were standardized.
– That follows. There is a further saving which the Commissioner can effect if he is intrusted with the power that is sought to be conveyed by this Bill. It is obvious that, if he is authorized to make contracts, or to purchase building materials in large quantities, he will be placed in a position of great advantage. Suppose, for example, that, instead of having to make arrangements for the immediate supply of a quantity of bricks from a brickyard, or of timber from a saw-miller, he is able to arrange for big lots of these materials to be supplied over a period of some months. Obviously, he will be in a position to effect a saving - a saving, perhaps, of something like 10 per cent, per cottage.
– Does the Minister mean that the Commissioner will undertake the work of building, himself, or will he be at liberty to let large contracts ?
– The Bill w’ill leave him free to do either one thing or the other. In some cases, it may be advisable to have houses erected by contract, whilst in others it may be advantageous for the Commissioner to make use cif the resources of our Commonwealth Works Department. That, however, will be entirely a matter for him to determine.
At this stage, I do wish to stress the great importance of endeavouring to effect economy in the erection of these buildings. Honorable senators will agree that the exercise of economy is desirable at all times, and will recognise that a saving of £50 or £.60 in the erection of one of these homes will represent a material help to the soldier. -But there is now a special reason for seeking to effect economy. That reason -is to be found in the fact that the cost of building material to-day is very high; and although, sooner or later, it must approximate to its normal cost, it is quite clear that we are not justified in looking for any marked decline for some time to come. It will be seen, therefore, that if houses were built to-day with building materials at their present price, it is quite conceivable that within two or three’ years, owing; to a drop in the cost of those materials, a building mav be worth less than it is now. If, by organizing, we can effect a saving at this juncture, it will constitute a very good set-off against any diminution in values lateron.
I come now to the question of eligibility of applicants. I want here to stress the fact that this Bill sets out to provide homes, and homes’ only. It does not make provision for land settlers - for those who acquire land holdings - because they are provided for by means of the advances which the Commonwealth makes for the purpose of enabling them to effect improvements. Its primary purpose is to provide for the establishment of homes for members of the Australian Imperial Force; but there is an intermediate class between those who merely wish to acquire a home in which to reside and those who, in addition, want a broader area upon which to make a living. There is a class who, in addition to a home, would like to possess a small area from which they can. augment the income that they obtain from other sources. That class will come under the provisions of this Bill. The only class shut out from its provisions are those who are eligible to become land settlers in the generally accepted sense of the term.
– Will widows be eligible to apply?
– Yes. An eligible person, however, can obtain the benefits of the Bill only once. That is a very necessary provision, to prevent the reckless parting with the advantages which are conferred by it, and to check speculation. The persons eligible to receive the advantages bestowed by the measure are the discharged members of the Australian Imperial Force, who have married or are about to marry, the widows of members of that body, and widowed mothers. But where there are both a widow and a widowed mother, both will not be entitled to come under the provisions of the Bill.
– Why not?
– If the soldier himself were” alive, he would be able to make only one application. We cannot, therefore, extend the provisions of the Bill to every relative of a soldier. The eligible dependants of a soldier to whom a home is necessary will be able to apply for an advance; and I think if honorable senators will look at the measure, they will see that we have endeavoured to meet the cases of all those classes whom it is reasonable to assume would have been provided for, if the soldier himself had been alive to make that provision. If we take the place of the deceased soldier, and discharge the obligations that he would reasonably have assumed, we are, I think, doing as much in that - direction as we can be asked to do.
– This Bill will not provide for the nurses.
– Yes. A nurse is a soldier, under the provisions of the Repatriation Act. This Bill will apply to sailors, to the members of the Army Medical Service, and, indeed, to all who have served with the colours.
A very important matter, particularly to applicants, is the terms to which they will be required to subscribe. The Bill sets out the rate of interest to be paid at 5 per cent. We are not borrowing at 5 per cent, to-day. Money is costing the Commonwealth Government possibly 5 J per cent., and, in this case, there will also be the administrative charges. It ‘ is possible, and highly probable, in fact, that it will cost the Government 6 per cent, to make this money available, and provide for the administrative charges. The Government propose to ‘make it available to soldier applicants, of their dependants, at 5 per cent. The Government will shoulder the loss, which is estimated at 1 per cent. The money, therefore, will be advanced upon those terms - 5 per cent., plus an amount for a sinking fund. That sinking fund will rise or fall according to the period over which the loan has been advanced. The Bill places a maximum limit of thirty-seven years in the case of a stone or brick, or concrete residence, and of twenty pears in regard to a wooden building. That is the period over which the loan will be advanced, and during which the borrower will be required to make payments to represent interest and sinking fund. ‘ There is a limit in the amount which can be advanced in any individual case, and that is £700. That is a generous limit. A few years ago it would .have been equally generous to have made it £600. But, allowing for increased cost of building, it has been thought necessary and desirable to raise the sum ,to £700. For the term of thirty-seven years the sinking fund would represent 1 per cent.; for a period of twenty-five years, it would equal two guineas per ‘cent., and for a twenty-year period, 3 per cent Those percentages will be required to be added to the 5 per cent, interest. The payments will be made fortnightly, monthly, or quarterly.
– It would mean £1 a week, or £50 a year; for a wooden house of a value of £700. *
– If the honorable senator will allow me to come to that matter directly, I will put a view of the case which will not quite coincide with his own. Ordinary building society payments are not usually made so frequently as fortnightly. But it is obvious that a large number of those “who will seek the benefits of this measure will be in receipt of weekly or fortnightly wages; and, in their own interests, and in the interests of the financial solvency of the scheme, it is desirable that payments should be made at as short intervals as may be convenient. The amount required to be paid will not only include interest and sinking fund, but there will be a sufficient sum also to cover payments of rates and insurance. There will be a certain fixed and regular payment to be made at the end of each fortnight, or month, and that will include all charges.
There is a certain provision, of which I hope considerable use will be made. It is one by which those who will be borrowers can, if they are .in a position to do so, pay any amount in excess of the regular payments ; and any sum so paid will be treated as a deposit, and upon it 5 per cent, interest will be allowed. That sum will be subtracted from the final payments of the loan.
I direct attention to a provision which is, I think, highly advantageous, and which is a rather important- departure in Government activities. It is proposed that the Commissioner shall be his own insurance company. He himself will issue the policies for the properties over which he holds security. It need hardly be added that no effort will be made, or sought to be made, to secure a profit. On the other hand, this proposition will represent a safe step, and will insure that there is no loss. There are two requisites in connexion with the matter of insurance. One is that there shall be a sufficiently large volume of business, and the other is that the risk shall be spread over a sufficiently wide area. Both those requisites are present under this proposition. The Commissioner will be much better able - and with much less administrative cost - to take over the risks himself and issue policies to soldiers or their dependants, than would be those parties if they had to draw up separate policies with existing insurance companies. The amounts which the Commissioner will receive by way of insurance premiums will be paid into a separate trust insurance account; and, from time to time, the Commissioner will make good any losses by fire by drawing upon that account. Of course, if a loss occurs in the early days of the fund, and before the premiums have mounted up, the account may be in need of support. In such a circumstance the Government will have to find the necessary amount.
– Will this insurance cover flood?
– Ordinary fire insurance does not; but the question of insurance against flood, in these days when we insure against everything, is quite a reasonable matter for consideration.
I wish now to deal with the rights of applicants to transfer. Although certain restrictions are set out in the Bill, I hope the Senate will recognise that they are as much in the interests of the men themselves as of the Government or of the country, which is finding the money. It is obvious that those properties, when they are built, will have a value for sale purposes. And it will be evident that the fact of money having been advanced upon lower terms than the ordinary market terms will provide something which the owner would be able to capitalize. A rough calculation discloses that the more successful applicant, if he were free to dispose of one of these properties, would possess - outside the value of his house - at least something saleable. The sum of £150 would represent the capitalized difference in the value of the rate charged to him, over a period of thirty-seven years, compared with the rate which he could obtain to-day from the ordinary banking institutions or building societies. It stands to reason that if a civilian were free to buy, and the soldier occupant free to discharge his obligation, speculation would follow. The private citizen would realize that, instead of going to a bank or a building society to obtain a loan and build for himself, it would be better to give a soldier £50 and step into his shoes. The offer of that. £50 might be a sore temptation to many, men. However desirable it may be to have some national scheme for providing homes for the people, this Bill does not pretend anything in that direction; it proposes only to enable soldiers and their dependants to obtain homes. It is only right that sufficient safeguards should be provided, in order that this measure shall not be made the medium of speculation.
I have set out first the general principles on which the Bill is shaped; but, necessarily, there must be provisions to meet special circumstances.
– What would be the position in the case of a soldier transferring from one State to another?
– I shall deal with specific possibilities. In the case of insolvency or death, for example, the property obviously must be transferred. That would follow in the same way as is ordinarily the case. In other circumstances, the consent of the Commissioner is necessary. That is required if the transfer takes place within five years ; but even then, in a case of great hardship, the Commissioner may give his consent to transfer. It is a very necessary safeguard against what would otherwise be a very hard provision. But the Bill has been designed on the assumption that there shall be this restriction against transfer, except - as I have indicated - in the case of death or insolvency, or in circumstances approved by the Commissioner. And the Commissioner is limited to cases of hardship. There is a similar restriction with respect to sub-letting. Unless such a restriction were in the Bill, eligible men who did not want homes for themselves might see prospects of obtaining property at a rate of 5 per cent, interest from which they might secure 10 per cent, rental. Therefore, letting and sub-letting are to be subject to the Commissioner’s approval.
There are two classes of applications provided for in the Bill. . The first has to do with a position where a deposit is paid ; and the other refers to the circumstance of an applicant not being in a position, or not being willing, to make a deposit. Generally, the same terms will apply to both classes of applicant, but with this difference, that where an applicant does not make a deposit he will not be given the title. The title will be vested in the Commissioner. The borrower will’ be placed under what may be described as a hire-purchase agreement. He will be given the occupancy of the house, and will be in the same position as if he were the owner; but the title itself will be vested in the Commissioner, and the tenant will be handed a hirepurchase agreement. Upon making ‘ the required payments, however, the property will be transferred to him; and if, prior to the period of his loan maturing, he can pay off a specific sum, he will be entitled to be given his deeds. The other applicant, who makes a deposit, can either have the benefit of the hire-purchase agreement, or he can have the property placed in his own name; and thus he can take up the position of a mortgagor; that is, provided that his deposit is not less than 10 per cent, of the amount of the loan. Similarly, the applicant who does not make a deposit, and who comes under the hire purchase agreement, can - when the amount which he has paid off represents 20 per cent., or one-fifth of the loan - also get the property transferred to himself by giving a mortgage to the Commissioner. Some parties may desire to do that. On the other hand, there will be no financial advantages. It will be merely a matter of sentiment; and not many will care to incur the risk of taking up a mortgage merely to say that the title stands in their name. It is a matter, however, on which they will be free to please themselves.
Clause 48, to which I specially direct attention, gives power to the Commissioner under which, instead of doing this work himself, he may arrange with such institutions as the Savings Banks of the various States to do it for him.
– Why not the Commonwealth Savings Bank?
– The clause refers <to. any institution; but I would like to explain why the Commonwealth Bank is mot at all equipped for this class of work. This must be universal throughout Australia, and the Commonwealth Bank has but a very few branches.
– It has branches or agencies everywhere. There are agencies at every post-office. “Senator MILLEN. - When I discussed this matter with the manager of the Commonwealth Bank he told me that if that institution did this work at all, its operations would have to be limited to those places where they have their proper offices.
– Every post-office is a branch.
– When I compare the position of the Commonwealth Bank with that of the State Savings Banks, it is clear that they have ramifications far exceeding those of the Commonwealth IBank. The ‘ point is that, if the Commissioner himself did not make such arrangements with the banks he would have to create an extensive organization throughout Australia. At the same time, the fact is that such organizations are in existence, and it will appeal to the common sense of honorable senators that if we can make use of an existing organization, especially when it is under , the control of the Government, with its trained staff and familiarity with the work, it is much better from a business point of view than to create a new organization to deal specially with this Bill.
– You have a postoffice in every town.
– Of course; but we have no valuers there. I am putting forward this proposition to give the Commissioner power to enter into an arrangement with the banks by which they can do the work. If the Senate does not approve of this proposal the Commissioner will then have thrown on him the task of creating another organization widely spread throughout Australia.
I direct attention to the clause empowering the Commissioner, besides dealing direct with applicants who may present themselves to him, to build for the Repatriation Department. The Department is under a self-imposed obligation to build houses for a number of those who are beneficiaries under the main Act. Provision is being made, for instance, to supply blinded soldiers with free homes, and it is thought desirable, instead of the Repatriation Department itself proceeding to build those homes for them, to utilize the machinery of this Bill, and the resources at the disposal of the Commissioner, to get him to build for the Department. It means actually getting one Department to do the work for another. It will be very useful to the Repatriation Department if, instead of having to load itself up with the details of providing homes for the classes of beneficiaries to whom I have referred, it can get the Commissioner, under this Bill, to do that work for it. In that case, -the Repatriation Department will become, in effect, the borrower, and make the payments to the Commissioner, just as if the occupant of the house was the borrower. The Repatriation Department will accept the financial responsibility of the person for whom the house is being built.
There are in the Bill many legal clauses which occupy a good deal of space, and look a little formidable, but, after all is said and done, they are only necessary formal legalities.
– And make things difficult.
– They are absolutely necessary.- For instance, we must have a provision to effect repairs, and we must set out what is to be done if a man is a defaulter. These things, unfortunately, have to find place in the Bill.
The only clause of this general character to which I shall direct special attention is 43, giving the Commissioner power at any time he deems it necessary, on account of circumstances which appeal to him, to give extended time, or to moderate the terms, to meet the difficulties of, a sorely pressed borrower. That is a provision which, if it errs at all, errs on a side which will command the sympathy of honorable senators.
Now, as to the possible financial commitment which the Bill represents. As with nearly every phase of repatriation, we’ are dealing in this case with the letter *. It is absolutely impossible to say how many of the returned men, or their dependants, will take advantage of this Bill, but one can, in a rough way, readily recognise that the obligation is almost bound to be big. We have to-day something like 200,000 men yet to return to Australia. There is no limitation as to time for making an application’; the only limitation is eligibility.
– There is no definition of “ dependant “ in the Bill.
– There is a defini-tion on page 2.
– That is a definition of female dependant; there is none of male dependant.
– If the honorable senator would read a little more, and interject a little less, he would see the following: - “Has dependants for whom it is necessary to maintain a home.” If there is a defect, surely we can point it out in Committee, and remedy, it ? I am trying, not to deal with possible faults in the phraseology, but to put the scope of the measure before the Senate. Whilst it is impossible to state with any degree of definiteness what the commitment will amount to, I direct attention to a few figures to show that the Bill will mean a considerable addition to the financial responsibilities of the Commonwealth Treasurer. With 200,000 men yet to come back, and, approximately, 70,000 already returned and discharged, it is easy to conceive that 25,000 applications at least will be received. If we take 25,000, and estimate the average loan at £500, that would represent a commitment of £12,500,000. If we take 50,000 applications, the commitment would be £25,000,000, and for 100,000 applications it would be £50,000,000.
– It will go very near that.
– That is the point I was coming to. If this Bill is, as I contend, the most liberal building proposition yet put before any Legislature, I cannot conceive that any soldier looking for a home will do other than avail him*self of its provisions.
– There are longer terms given by the State.
– My honorable . friend refers to the South Australian Act, which does give longer terms; and is even more liberal than this in some respects. But I say, with all kindliness, that when South Australia passed that Act it did so in circumstances which are now exhausting themselves, and it cannot continue that measure.
– I take it that the Commissioner will have full power to provide a home in a locality suitable for the man’s occupation?
– He can provide it anywhere. He can build wherever the . applicant asks him to build, provided that he is satisfied that when the house is built it will be a safe asset, and the same thing applies to purchases. With 200,000 mm yet to come back, and 70,000 odd here already with their dependants, and. with no limit to the time within which an eligible person may apply, it is safe to say that 100,000 applications may b£ anticipated, not immediately, but spread over a number of years. If that is so, £50,000,000 will be involved in this transaction.
– Money well spent.
– I quite agree; but that sum will not be needed at once, nor although the commitment is there, will- it all be required, because by the time the later applications begin to come’ in, an income will be received from the repayments of the loans granted earlier. One cannot name the rate at which the applications will come in. but it is right to point out, for what my opinion may be worth, that we may look to at least 100,000 homes being built under this Bill’, involving the Commonwealth in a liability of £50,000,000 sterling, for which the Commonwealth will have assets, represented by the houses, and, what I regard as an equally substantial asset, the knowledge that a number of those who have fought for us have been given a comfortable opportunity to establish themselves in this country.
– The money will not be returned to revenue, but will still continue in the fund 1
– Yes ; of course, if towards the end the fund begins to show a bigger income than is represented by the demand on it, the money will have to be paid ‘back to the Treasurer, who has the first responsibility for finding it. It is of no use to keep money in the fund when the . business of the scheme has been concluded. I do not like to indulge in prophecy, more particularly as I shall not be here to tell people that I told them so; but if this scheme is successful in making provision for our soldiers on a large scale, I venture to predict that it will not stop when the soldiers’ requirements have been met. By that time it will have become so big and well established that it will be continued for other national purposes.
I have already expressed the opinion that the Government will be called upon to face a loss of at least 1 per cent, on these transactions. That is the excess of the amount we are paying now for the money we borrow over the rate which we receive. I assume that we are borrowing at 5¼ per cent., and we propose to lend at 5 per cent. Adding to that i per cent, the administration charges, and taking into account the cost of the various State activities in this direction, we can say with something approaching certainty that the loss will be 1 per cent., at any rate until the rate of interest falls. On £50,000,000 sterling that will represent £500,000. We may reasonably hope for the time when we can obtain money at less than 5¼ per cent. We may be asked why we are not charging the borrowers with administration expenses, as an ordinary building society or bank would do. There . are two or three reasons why we should not. One is that we do not charge the land settler with the cost of administering the Lands Department. Another is that, when any other applicant approaches the Repatriation Department, we do not charge him for any of the services which the Department renders. These administration expenses are borne by the country. It seemed equitable, therefore, that in this case also we should bear the expenses as part of our contribution to the great work of repatriation. There is another practical reason, that it is of no use to establish the most liberal housing scheme that can be devised if we proceed on such lines that those whom it is intended to benefit cannot take advantage of it. It is necessary to bring forward a Bill that will be within the reach of applicants. The reaching power of an applicant is limited by his weekly income. It is of no use to say to a man receiving £3 10s. per week that he can buy a mansion at half its value on condition that he contributes £5 or £6 a week. That would only be taunting him, or offering him Dead Sea fruit. Our aim is to establish a scheme which will be applicable to ordinary wage-earners. I am not going to say what amount the classes I have refered to can afford to pay in rental, but it is- obvious that we must give them a scheme, if they are to” take advantage of it, by which they can acquire housing accommodation for a sum not greater than they now pay as rent. Otherwise, it will be no good to them. It is of no use to tell them that if they pay more than they are paying now in rent they will, in the course of years, own a home of their own. They will say, “ I cannot afford to pay more than I am paying now. My household requirements will not permit me to provide so large a sum for housing accommodation.” It is clear that if the interest is not kept down reasonably low, as we are doing, it will make the weekly payments too high for the majority of these men to take advantage of the scheme.
I have endeavoured to work out what applicants will be required to pay - and this deals with the point raised by Senator O’Keefe. I take the case, first, of a £600 debt. It is true the Bill provides for a £700 maximum, and I am glad to know, from representations already made to me by them, that a number of the men will be in a position to make some deposit. These will be. able to acquire houses for less than the maximum. It is to be presumed that the man who goes to the full extent of that maximum has “the knowledge that his income will permit him to do so. I am taking as an illustration a £600 house. The amount required to pay for that, including interest and sinking fund, will be 13s. 6d. per week. I feel I can speak with some authority when I say that the average wage earner to-day, living in ahouse, has to pay more than that.
– I presume that rate also covers insurance?
– To that 13s. 6d. would have to be added rates and insurance, but honorable senators know that these charges on a £600 house of a substantial character would not materially increase the cost to the occupant. In the case of a similar house for £600, on the twenty -six year period, the weekly amount would be 15s. 4d. I come now to another class of house classed in the twenty-year period. These will be wooden buildings, and therefore it is to be assumed that a man who borrows in respect of this class of house will not require the maximum amount laid down in the Bill. If a man is living in South Australia, and requires a stone or a brick building, the amount will be more than in the case of a man living in Queensland, and who prefers to live in a wooden building. The Queensland applicant will get his accommodation equally met for a smaller sum. In the case of wooden houses in the twenty-year period, I am assuming that the cost would be, not £600, but £500, and if so the weekly amount would be 15s. I am anticipating it will be possible to provide accommodation in Queensland for a smaller amount than in this State.
– A day’s wages ought to coyer the rent for the week.
– I cannot hope to effect, by one simple Bill, the whole of the social reforms that may be in the minds of honorable senators, but I do say that if my anticipations are realized, our men will be able to get homes on satisfactory terms.
– If a man borrows £500 on a wooden building, and repays in twenty years, at 15s. per week, will that include interest?
– That is so.
– And if money falls to 4 per cent., will the figures be reduced?
– That is a question for future policy. This Bill makes the proposition that we shall charge the borrowers 5 per cent.
– A great many people are of the opinion that money will be cheaper after the war.
– Personally, I hope it will become cheaper. The proposition in the Bill is that the charge must not exceed 5 per cent.
I have not attempted to go closely into many of the details of the measure. I have endeavoured, and I hope with some measure of success, to indicate the outlines of the scheme, leaving details for the consideration of the Senate in the hope, which I am sure honorable senators will share with me, that the measure will be the means not only of creating a number of additional houses in Australia, but what is more especially important, the establishment of happy and contented homes.
– Is there any provision in the measure for the receipt of donations in the way of land or building material ?
– No; but there is nothing to prevent that being done.
– The Minister promised to say something with regard to the standardization of houses, but overlooked the point. Will returned soldiers have an opportunity of suggesting the architecture of their own homes?
– There is no provision of that kind in the Bill, but it is obvious that the Commissioner will see the wisdom of considering the question of standardization in houses. By that I do not mean the same type of house everywhere; ‘but a series of types, with a view to effecting desirable economy.
– Will consideration be given to town-planning schemes where a number of houses are being built?
– I should say that, in these modern times, any Commissioner would naturally give consideration to such a matter.
– In ordinary circumstances, I would suggest the adjournment of the debate, and if honorable senators ihave any feeling in that direction, the speaker who follows me might ask for the adjournment. But, in view of the urgency of this Bill, and of the fact that an. additional sitting day might give us time to bring forward further information, I think we might go on with the second reading until we reach Committee.
– I think that as a matter of fairness to yourself, there is a feeling in favour of adjourning the debate.
– Personally, I do not desire to secure the adjournment; but when we reach the Committee stage it might be desirable to report progress.
I listened to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) most attentively, and recognise that h.e has submitted, a hard, business proposition to meet the necessities of our returned soldiers. There is nothing generous about the Bill. I am not saying that the Government are not doing a good thing ; . but there is nothing generous about it. It is purely a business proposition put forward on behalf of the Government, and the people who come under its provisions will be under no obligation to the Government.
– Does the honorable senator say that it is a hard business proposition when no deposit is required?
– I hope the Minister will not think that I am starting out to examine this proposition critically. What I am saying is that this is a hard business proposal. Speaking as one of the representatives of Sydney, I know that the one thing needful there is houses - rooms to live in. And what the Government are now doing with regard to “our returned soldiers is to say that, if they will pay the full cost of the building proposed to be erected, as well as interest on the money, and contribute to a sinking fund, they will build the houses. There is nothing generous about that.
– But payments are to he. extended over thirty-seven years.
– I do not care over what term the repayments are extended. Were I in the position of a speculator in houses at the present moment, I would not hesitate to offer the same proposition to every person in Australia prepared to take it on.
– You would lose a lot of money.
– Honorable senators may say that I would lose a lot of money; but, to my mind, the possibility of losing money is so very remote, and the possibility of making money is so patent, that the Government have inserted in this Bill - and, I think, quite rightly, too - a clause to prevent a’ soldier from transferring. I do not want the Minister to regard my criticism as con- ‘ demnation when I say that I regard this measure as a hard business proposition. There is no pretence of generosity about it.
– Omit the word “hard.”
– Then I will say it is a sound business proposition. I admit that frequently I do use words that, perhaps, are not the most suitable, and so I now accept Senator Senior’s suggestion. I will say it is a sound business proposition. The Minister will agree* with me that, if I wanted to compete against the Government for the good-will of the people in the way of offering to do. themost generous thing for returned soldiers, I could criticise the measure in such a way as to derhonstrate how much more generously it would be possible to treat our returned soldiers than is now proposed in this Bill. But I have no intention of proceeding on those lines. I recognise this as a sound business proposition, by which the men who have fought for us mav secure their own homes within a reasonable time, and pay for them over an extended term; but after we have done that for our returned soldiers, it cannot be said that we have done very much, or one iota more than > we ought to do.
I welcome^ the Bill in its present form. I use that term advisedly. I recognise that, as the Minister has stated, it . will represent a huge responsibility and a great liability upon the Commonwealth funds. It will entail the appointment of a Commissioner at £1,500 a year. That may seem a large sum to honorable senators, who are really directors of the Commonwealth, but only get £600 a year; but I say that a Commissioner who is worth £1,500 a year will be cheap at the price. And we are more likely to get a good man at that figure than by cutting down the amount. The. Government will require to exercise careful judgment so as to secure a man of high qualifications for the position.. He must .be a man of very great firmness of character and of wide sympathies. All these qualifications will be necessary for the position of Commissioner. I merely mention the salary because £1,500 a year seems to be a large sum. But to the right man, it will not be too much, whereas if the wrong man be unfortunately secured, no salary could be too small, because, however carefully the working of the scheme . may be watched, there will then be room for the introduction of improper practices. These are the dangers which I see ahead in the working of the scheme. I said at first that it was a hard business proposition, and subsequently I accepted Senator Senior’s suggestion, and I now say that it is a sound, but not by any means a generous, scheme. The difference between this proposal and the ordinary building society proposition is that in the latter case a deposit is required, whereas in this Government scheme it will not be necessary.
– And in a building society, administrative charges are debited against the borrower. That is not so in this scheme; and, moreover, borrowers will get money for less than it costs the Government.
– I do not think that our Savings Banks, when they advance money, make any other than the interest charge.
– They charge 6 and 6 per cent., plus the sinking fund.
– The Minister will agree with me that 6 and 6^ per cent, for advances for building purposes are rates which have only been fixed during the last few years. Those were not the rates on which, prior to the war, money was advanced by building societies, or which were charged under State legislation. In Queensland there has been very excellent State legislation dealing with the provision for house accommodation to’ which honorable senators from that State, will probably refer.
– Under the Workmen’s Dwelling Act of Queensland the charge is 5 per cent.
– And a deposit is required.
– I know that under Queensland legislation excellentbuilding conditions are provided,, not only for soldiers, but for other people.
The only difference between this proposal and those of ordinary building societies and State Governments is. that under it no deposit is to be required.
– That is pretty vital.
– It may be considered so; but, after all, what does the deposit amount to ? It might be a matter of £25 or £50. Although the Government under their proposal are not calling for a deposit, they will be assured;, when they lay the bricks, or use the timber for the building of these houses, that they are not going to lose by the trans* action. The financial success and safety of the proposal are assured, because of the demand for buildings of this kind. These houses will not be left unoccupied and unused on the hands of the Government, for the simple reason that, speaking again of conditions in Sydney, an. expansion in building is one of the gravest necessities with which the community is confronted. So that, although the Government are proposing to build homes for soldiers or their dependants without asking for a deposit, they will be assured that the possibility of any financial loss under the scheme will be very remote indeed. I am very glad that that is so.
– Will it not also be without profit?
– Certainly. If I go to a building society, and take up their terms for a house built on a certain plan, at a certain price, that, also will’ be without profit. If we face this matter straight we shall come to a betted understanding about this Bill. The Government may propose the building of a standardized house, estimated to cost £500, but carrying out a huge scheme of construction, and purchasing material in large quantities, and manufacturing fittings such as frames, sashes, windows, doors, and so on, in large quantities, not for one house, but for ‘ thousands of houses, they may find that the standardized building will not cost £500, but £475, and they will reap the advantage of that saving. The Government will not suddenly alter the price fixed for a standardized house, because carrying on the business in a large way, it has been found to cost less than was estimated. It should be remembered, too, that the persons for whom the houses- are built will be getting £500 houses, because it will be due only to carrying on the business in a very large way that the cost will be less than £500.
– I should think that the Government will charge only the actual cost of a house.
– I should not think so. In Adelaide, owing to the bracing climate and the energy of South Australian workmen, the cost of the erection nf a building might bp 5 per cent, less than its cost, say, in Western Australia, which is a more go-slow place, and where, perhaps, the workmen may not be so energetic. I am saying this only for the sake of argument, of course, and am prepared to reverse the illustration if any honorable senator objects to what I have said.
– That was what they did at the Perth Conference.
– I oan assure the honorable senator that if this matter were handled by the people who managed the Perth Conference, its success would be assured, because there would be direct action. It might happen that in one State; for a variety of reasons, the cost of building construction would be less than in another, and if persons secured the same standard of house in one State for less than had to be paid for it in another there would be complaints from those called upon to pay the higher price. So that it will be necessary for the Government to fix the price for standard houses, and if, by purchasing material in large quantities they find they can build cheaper than they expected, the saving will be to the advantage of the Government.
– - 1 still think that it would be unfair to the tenant if he were asked to pay more than the actual cost of the house.
– These are matters with which the Commissioner will have to deal, and we may leave it at that. I know that the Minister for Repatriation does not require the expression of my wish in the matter to do what I believe he will do, and that is to have these houses constructed, as far as possible, with the labour of repatriated soldiers. That, again, will be a matter largely dependent on the character of the man who is to be Commissioner.
In connexion with the purchase of material, I should say that, before the Government starts building at all they will have some idea of what the yearly output in houses is likely to be, and will, therefore, purchase their material in large quantities, and should purchase it at its source, and, in the case of timber, where the timber is produced. If it is intended to use American Oregon in large quantities - and, as a builder, I say that it is the best building timber I know of - they should purchase it where it is grown, and in shiploads. Let me give honorable senators an example to show the necessity for this. Twenty years ago, as a builder, I could buy American Oregon for 10s. per 100 feet. I could not get it now for less than £2 per 100 feet. I know that this is war time, and that there is a shortage of shipping, but I know, also, that there is a Timber Ring. Under this scheme the Government will have an opportunity to say to the Timber Ring that these houses are required for re’turned soldiers, and they must get the material required at a reasonable price.
– And we should use the Commonwealth steamers to transport it.
– - Tes, or buy other vessels for the purpose. I am aware that we have very excellent timbers in Australia, but I say that, for value, usefulness, and lightness, particularly for roofing, and I am speaking on a question on which I can claim to be an expert, American Oregon has no equal. If it can be purchased at anything near the price for which it could be purchased ten or fifteen years ago, I hope that the Government will not enter into huge contracts with the Timber Combine to pay for it more than its value. “We are proposing to start a huge building concern. The Minister for Repatriation has said that the expenditure involved may amount to £50,000,000. I believe that it will amount to as much as that, and the Government can afford to take a firm stand in dealing with the matter.
I hope that, in the construction of these houses, the use of concrete will be given earnest consideration. In the course of a trip I had the pleasure of taking to Ireland a few years* ago, I had an opportunity to see the buildings constructed for the Irish peasantry by the British Government. I believe that some £600,000,000 was spent in the purchase of land and the building of homes for farm labourers, and the handsome welldesigned, and cheap concrete cottages that I saw in Ireland were quite an eyeopener to me. In this country, concrete is more suitable for dwellings than it is in Great Britain, for the reasons that severe frosts create crevices in the concrete, and in this country, except on the higher levels, we are practically free from severe frosts.
There should be as much variety from an architectural point of view as possible, but the Government should standardize the structures for different localities, and there is no reason why the buildings should not be handsome, cheap, and useful.
– They do not use very much concrete at Daceyville.
– I recognise that; and it is because of that that I have referred to the matter. If Senator Newland will go to localities where the building speculators are at work, he will find out what they are doing.
– The use of concrete will be determined by the price of the material. If it is handy, it will be cheap.
– I quite recognise that that is so.
I believe that this scheme cannot fail to De a success, but, at the beginning, the Government must take all sorts of care that they do not let huge contracts to contractors, timber rings, and shipping combines. It is quite possible for the Government, with such a huge business before them, to undertake the manufacture of cement -for themselves.
– And to have their own saw-mills.
– Just so.
– Already there are big State mills, from which the Government could purchase timber.
– Exactly. I am only mentioning these matters as features which should be given full consideration, because upon the beginning of this business depends the success of the scheme. The business is so big that the Government will be in a position, if contractors are not willing to undertake the work at reasonable prices, to say that they will do it themselves. It will not be a question of the Government on one side backing private enterprise, and letting private individuals in the building trade make what profits they please, and the Labour party on the other side believing in control, and Government construction, irrespective of cost. This will be a business proposition, and the object should be to see how the soldier can get the best home at the cheapest price. 1 know that the Minister for Repatriation does not need to be reminded of that; but I think that these suggestions should be put forward when we are entering upon a business of this kind.
– We are glad to hear them from the honorable senator.
– I feel sure of that. I have no doubt that when our blood is running warmly, honorable senators opposite are as glad to hear from me, as I am glad to hear from them, suggestions in which we mutually agree. I feel that, on these questions, there is no room for party. That is why I speak on the second reading of the Bill unprepared, with the exception of the slight preparation that was possible since this Bill was introduced. My object is to conserve time, and give opportunity for fuller consideration in Committee.
Speaking again of conditions in Sydney, I may say that a change in the disposition of the people is shown by the style of building that is gradually coming into existence. The house with the close rooms and the narrow passages is about to give place to the dwelling in which the sleeping apartments will be in the open air.
– The people of Sydney are copying Queensland.
– I hope. that we shall copy Queensland in that matter, and in many others. Queensland leads us today in that a Labour Government is in power there. I hope that we shall follow her example in that respect. She also leads the other States in the matter of insuring a cheap meat supply to her people, and I hope that we shall follow her example in that connexion also. I note that in Sydney there is an intelligent desire to develop a new style of residence, under which there will not be so much household work as there has been hitherto. This is a matter to which we shall have to give very great attention in those climates which lend themselves to the reform I have suggested. Of course, I recognise that a house which would be eminently suitable for Queensland might be utterly unsuitable for Hobart:
Reference has been made to the question of town planning, and I do hope that the Government will lay themselves out to secure large areas of land, such as Daceyville, for the purpose of establishing proper soldier settlements, from which the settlers may be able later on to reap the advantage of the unearned increment. As neither the Commonwealth nor the States will accept that increment, I believe that even Senator Grant will be willing to allow our returned soldiers to get it.
The Bill will require very careful consideration in Committee. I apprehend one danger in connexion with it - the danger of making its provisions insufficiently elastic to meet varied circumstances as they arise. I recognise that we shall have to vest very large powers- in the Commissioner. In regard to the eligibility of applicants, I suggest that the mothers of soldiers should be entitled to the benefits conferred. Indeed, as this measure embodies what is really a hard business proposition, under which we shall be risking only the preliminary deposit, I see no valid reason why the whole of the dependants of our soldiers should not be brought within its ambit. I have no hesitation in saying that, within the lifetime of the Minister himself, assuming that he lives as long as I hope he will live, he will see this principle extended to ‘ the whole of the people of the Commonwealth.
– Why not?
– Exactly. I recognise that what the honorable gentleman is doing for returned soldiers today, the statesmen of Australia will do for all classes of people in the not-far distant future.
– Queensland is doing it now.
– Most of the States are doing it with one eye on the land speculator and the other on our financial institutions, and they are taking very good care that they do not clash too severely with those institutions. The buildings it is proposed to provide will constitute one of our first instalments in the repayment of the debt which we owe to our returned soldiers. I heartily wish the Government every success with this measure. If I were disposed to be pessimistic, I might make ail sorts of predictions as to the evils which will arise .under it. But if its administration be in capable hands, I do hope that many of those evils will be avoided.
Were I inclined to indulge in captious criticism, I might point out that the measure will open the door to all sorts of land speculation. I might exclaim, “What a chance it will be for the land-holders to dump land on to the Commonwealth which will be utterly unsuitable for the purpose for which it will be utilized.’’ We all know that there are patriots amongst us who are prepared to make money out of our returned soldiers, just as they are willing to make it out of anybody else. But I shall not indulge in any gloomy predictions as to what will happen in that respect.
– Governments have fallen because of land speculation.
– And Governments have risen upon it. In this measure I recognize that the Ministry are making an honest attempt to enter into a business arrangement with the soldiers - an arrangement under which we hope that comfortable homes will be provided for them and for many of their dependants. I suggest that we should consider the Bill in that spirit, and with a desire to deal generously with our soldiers. If we can improve any of its clauses, by all means let us do so, but do not let us submit proposals merely with a view to obtaining a little credit for ourselves when the next elections ‘come around. As Leader of the Opposition, I know of the ease with which amendments can be drafted to a measure like this - amendments calculated to embarrass the Government.
I welcome the Bill as one of the first instalments towards the repayment of our indebtedness to our soldiers. I regard it as embodying a sound business proposition - a proposition which the Government could very well extend to the people of the Commonwealth without any fear of incurring loss. But, inasmuch as they have , seen fit to limit its application to our returned soldiers, and to bring it forward promptly as part and parcel of the repatriation scheme, I am extremely glad. At the same time, I do not think that they will wish to deprive Senator McDougall of the credit attaching to his action in having submitted a very similar scheme when the Repatriation Bill was before this Chamber. The measure has my blessing, and I hope that it will prove a success. I trust that under wise administration it will conduce to the comfort, convenience, and material benefit of our soldiers.
.- As one who has been very much interested in the housing scheme for soldiers, I congratulate the Government upon having brought forward this Bill. I am sure that it will meet with a gratifying reception at the hands of our returning soldiers and their dependants throughout the Commonwealth. But there are just one or two matters connected with the measure to which I desire briefly to refer. We all know that it is the policy of the Government to extend a preference to returned soldiers. I would like to ascertain whether, in connexion with the letting of large contracts under its provisions, the Government will insist upon private contractors, other things being equal, respecting this preference.
While the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) was speaking upon the measure, Senator Guthrie made a very pertinent* interjection in regard to the question of insurance. In all insurance policies effected under it, I would like to see provision made, not merely against the risk of fire, but also against the risk of flood and tempest. In my own State, where cyclones are more prevalent than they are elsewhere, great loss has been sustained by the owners of small buildings through the absence from their insurance policies of some such provision. In the cyclones which recently devastated portions of Queensland, many persons suffered severely on this account.
During the course of his speech the Minister stated that at -an interview with the manager of the Commonwealth Savings Bank, he had been assured that it would be impossible for that bank to undertake the work provided for in this Bill, and that it would be necessary for the State Savings Banks to undertake it. May I point out that just as many facilities exist throughout the Commonwealth in connexion with Commonwealth Savings Banks as ‘ exist in connexion with State Savings Banks. In the country^ the work of the Commonwealth Savings Bank is usually undertaken by the local post office, whilst that of the State Savings Bank is invariably performed by the local railway station-master. One institution, therefore,’ is just as advantageously placed for the transaction of business as is the other.
There is just one other matter upon which I should like to get some information. Suppose that a soldier who has saved, perhaps, £300 or £400 from his military pay, be willing to make a deposit of £300 towards the purchase of a- home, will he be able to get an advance of an additional £700 under the terms provided in this Bill?
– Yes, he may put that sum into a house worth £2,000 if he chooses.
– I understand that any soldier will be entitled to the full loan of £700, irrespective of what amount he may personally possess. This Bill will do a great amount of good, not only for returned soldiers, but for the people generally. As applications pour into the Department and houses spring up throughout the community, the effect will be, to a large extent, to reduce rents. For that reason alone, the Government are to be congratulated on having brought in such a Bill.
– I also welcome the introduction of this as a measure which will meet with the approval of the public generally throughout Australia. It is a big step towards that form of sound State Socialism which, the people are beginning to think will be for the good of the community as a whole.
I am in accord with the necessity for paying an adequate salary to whomsoever may be appointed Commissioner. He will need to be a man of very wide attainments. He must have qualifications which are not to be found in many men. Therefore, I do not think the salary set down, namely, £1,500, too much. We have to pay for brains and ability when they can be secured. The only men of brains and ability who are not sufficiently paid to-day are members of Parliament; but, no doubt, many people outside of Parliament will not agree with that.
It will be necessary for the Commissioner to possess, perhaps, a wider discretion even than that proposed to be given him. While £700 is to * be the maximum loan for the building or purchase of a residence, it must not be overlooked that that amount will not be equal in value everywhere throughout the Commonwealth., Many of the returned men, or their dependants, will require to build in localities reasonably near to their places of employment. The amount of £700, therefore, will not go anything like as far in certain parts as in others. In the case- of a man desiring to build in a suburb fairly close to his city place of employment, he may have to pay from £3 to £6 a foot for land alone. That would not leave much out of the sum advanced to cover the actual cost of building. In many cases returned men will build for themselves in country towns and villages, or right out. in the country, where they can buy land by the acre rather than by the foot. All these factors must entail the most careful consideration and administration.
Senator Gardiner raised the question of what may be the most suitable timber for the construction, of wooden buildings. While imported Oregon may be the best, at any rate for’ certain parts of buildings, this measure affords a splendid opportunity, a rare one, and easily the biggest in the history of Australia, for the general employment of Australian timbers.
SenatorGuy. - Then the Government should give our timber a chance by getting ‘it seasoned straightway.
– That is so. It would be a good thing if the Government, were to look round . now and set out upon the purchase of Australian timber at the most reasonable prices offering. We know that there are timber rings in existence in the big cities; and if those rings cannot be persuaded to sell their stocks reasonably it might be well for the Government, or the Commissioner, to go into the question of purchasing forests and erecting sawmills, so as to begin the cutting , and adequate natural seasoning forthwith.
– There is any amount of timber available in Western Australia.
– It ‘ would be absurd to carry huge stocks from the West to build homes in the eastern
States, while building timber of probably equal value may be obtained much nearer at hand. One of the most important features of the Bill is that it offers a magnificent opportunity for our Australian building timbers to be afforded wide use. Builders may- say that our hardwoods are much more difficult to work up than imported softwoods. There is a lot of old-fashioned prejudice behind the disinclination of builders to make use of our Australian hardwoods. At all times, we should be on the look-out to afford every possible scope for our own natural resources. One of Australia’s greatest natural assets is its timber.
Another point raised by Senator Gardiner was that attention must be paid by the official who will be in control of this enormous business to the equipment of homes with such modern appurtenances as can be cheaply provided.’ In so many of our modest homes throughout Australia, built under private, enterprise, there has been a great lack in respect to that matter,
If insurance against storm and flood is not included in that portion’ of the Bill dealing with insurance generally, the Minister should consent to the insertion of the necessary provisions. Senator Poll knows * that many houses have been partially or completely ruined by cyclonic action in Queensland, and I remind him that at Brighton, in Victoria, a much more temperate State, a number of houses were almost razed to the ground during the last twelve months by a sudden storm. While it is a splendid idea that the Department should be its own insurance agent, I hope the insurance will extend to damage by storm as well as fire. I welcome the Bill most heartily and cordially. It is one of the finest efforts the Government have put forward in the interests of those who have done so much for us, and I hope that when it is in proper working order it will prove the success that it certainly deserves to be.
– The principle to be carried out in the Bill is welcomed -by me, because it will bring about a system that has been in operation in Queensland with very successful results for ‘ the last nine years.
The improvement referred to by Senator Gardiner in the style of homes for the people has been most noticeable in the case of houses erected under our Workers’ Dwelling Act in that State. Thirty-seven years “may be a long time for a prospective house-owner to look forward to before he can call a house his own which the Government are going to advance him money to build. That period is practically a utility lifetime, but there is this further advantage, that a man. who undertakes these payments, not only has a very cheap form of rental with ultimate purchase, but has also a security of tenure which is absent from presentday arrangements. That has been one of the notable results of the Queensland Act. In ordinary circumstances, a man who rents a house from a landlord has no permanency and no security. He is liable to be removed at any time by an increase in the rent, which is often made possible by the fact that the tenant himself has improved or beautified the place.
I welcome .one provision in this Bill, which is not in the Queensland Act - the right given to those taking advantage of the Act to add- to or enlarge their houses.. Many young couples entering upon the responsibilities of life do not wait until they, are able to obtain a home of large dimensions. They regard a place which will accommodate two people as sufficient to start life upon ; but when their family responsibilities increase, greater house accommodation becomes necessary. This “Bill will enable returned soldiers so situated to make additions to their homes. When the Queensland Bill was going through, I sought to have that provision included, and Mr. Kidston, the then Premier, said to me afterwards that there was something in the proposal, and that he would get it put in in the Upper House, but he never “did so. I have always regarded the Queensland Act as defective in that respect.
I trust the Commissioners will pay due and serious regard to the size of the blocks upon which the houses are to be erected, and to the necessity for preventing anything approaching crowding. I was not altogether in agreement with the remarks of Senator Millen and Senator Gardiner about the standardization of buildings. I am afraid that if standardized buildings are erected in any number, their appearance will savour of terraces, and .too great uniformity in construction, appearance, and surroundings will result. Thus the places will be identifiable as dwellings constructed under the War Service Homes Act. People are very .sensitive on these matters, and no one can blame them. In Queensland, people do not make public the fact that they have built their homes under the Workers’ .Dwelling Act; but if numbers of these houses are standardized and erected on estates, there will be too much sameness about them, and curious people ‘will be able to point them out. In Queensland, every applicant for the erection of a worker’s dwelling has the right to choose his own plan.
– There may be a variety of plans to choose from, and still they may all conform to standard principles.
– There will be no objection so long as all those placed in the one locality are not of the one pattern. While the plans must have the approval of the Commissioner, it is fair that they should be varied according to the individual tastes of the applicants.
A person who desires a house of the value of £2,000 or any other large sum, as mentioned by the Minister (Senator Millen) should not take advantage of this Bill if it is true, as the Minister says, that the Commonwealth Government are making a concession. If the Government are borrowing money and lending it at a cheaper rate than that they have to pay, with a consequent loss to the Consolidated Revenue, a person who wants a house worth £2,000 should not go to the Commissioner to obtain £700 towards that amount.
– If he is a returned soldier we are entitled to give him the same advantage as we give to any other returned soldier.
– If it is a fact that the Government are making a concession or loss over the transaction, which I do not admit, such a man should not go to the Commissioner for an advance. We had experience of that sort of thing in Queensland. The maximum loan under our Act* was £350, and people used to put that amount with another £250 or £300 to buy a house of the total value of £500 or £600. This was quite legitimate in that case, because the Queensland Government did not claim that they were doing anything magnanimous in lending money for the erection of workers’ dwellings. The Queensland Act was open to every section of the community.
This Bill is intended for returned soldiers only, and on examination it will be found that the Commonwealth Government are making practically no concession. Nine years ago in Queensland, before there was any thought of war, any man could borrow from the Government at the rate of 13s. 3d. per month per £100, which covered sinking fund and interest.
– The Queensland Government required a deposit.
– They required a piece of land, fenced. That rate of repayment amounted to £3 6s. 3d. per month for a loan of £500, spread over twenty years. The Minister has told us that under this Bill a tenant would have to. pay in interest and refund, exclusive of rates, taxes, and insurance, on a £500 wooden house the sum of 15s. per week, or £3 per month, which works out at I2s. per £100 per month. So while Queensland charged an ordinary citizen, nine years ago, 13s. 3d. per £100 per month, the Federal Government, under this Bill, will charge returned soldiers 12s. per £100 per month for interest and redemption.
– That is hardly a fair comparison.
– I am not disparaging this Bill, with which I am in accord, and which I realize is much in advance of our Queensland Act of nine years ago.
– Money was very cheap then.
– There is that difference.
– The money used in Queensland is all Savings Bank money, and the Government obtained it at 3½ per cent.
– That is so, and being the people’s money, it is lent to the people, just as the people’s money invested in Commonwealth war loans will, under this Bill, be lent to the returned soldier.
When the Minister was speaking, Senator Pratten asked if, in the event of money becoming cheaper, the Government would give the advantage of the reduction in interest to the returned soldier. The Minister correctly replied that that was a matter for future consideration. Still, there is no provision for it in this Bill.
The Queensland workers’ dwellings scheme applies to all citizens, but . in another Act, passed about eighteen months ago, the Queensland Government undertook to give the returned soldiers the advantage of any cheapening of money. It would be quite legitimate to provide that in future, ifmoney is obtainable more cheaply, those taking advantage of this Bill shall be given the advantage of the fall in interest. In Queensland, the applicants have to find a block of land first, but, under this Bill, the Government will advance to returned soldiers sufficient money to enable them to acquire land and homes. That is an advance on our Act; but, of course, the land has to be paid for, and the money ultimately repaid. However, in our State we have done something more for returned soldiers than is contained in our Workers’ Dwelling Act, because the Discharged Soldiers’ Settlement Act provides that returned soldiers may be advanced up to £500 for the building of homes on town perpetual leaseholds or suburban perpetual leaseholds, that for the first three years of occupancy the returned soldier shall pay no rent for the leasehold, and that from the fourth to the fifteenth year he shall pay1½ per cent, on the capital value of the leasehold. The repayments start after seven years of occupancy. That is a very liberal provision.
– What period is given for paying off the loan?
– Forty years, less the first seven years of its occupancy.
– Does that apply to wooden buildings.
SenatorMillen. - Does it not strike the honorable senator that forty years is rather long for wooden buildings.
– I do not know. Wooden buildings are not so short-lived as is generally believed. I suppose many of the wooden houses in the suburbs of Melbourne are from sixty to seventy years old.
– It is a question,’ not only of preservation, but also of fashion or taste in buildings.
-In Queensland, apparently, we are more practical.
Coming back to the point raised-by the Minister, I think the thirty-three-year period allowed under the Queensland Act is more liberal, and while, under this Bill, payments as enumerated by the Minister will amount to 12s. per £100 per month, including interest, in Queensland the rates, which apply to returned soldiers and sailors are 10s. 4d. per £100, or 1s. 8d. less.
– But that Act is limited to> perpetual leaseholds.
– Quite so; and a man has the right of occupancy for three years for nothing, and at half the usual rent for the next eleven years.
– It seems, then, that no one in Queensland would take advantage of the provisions of this Bill.
– It is my intention to endeavour to bring this measure into conformity with the principle operating in Queensland. The Repatriation Act, or the Act subsidiary to it, as this will be, should not be worked in any spirit of antagonism to State schemes. It appears to me that the greatest harmony should prevail if the best results are to be obtained by both State and Federal authorities. I do’ not know if there is any friction.’ I have never inquired into that aspect of the question.
– Do you mean to bring the proposal into line with the perpetual lease?
– I would give an option. If the Bill is passed as presented, the scheme will be limited to the construction of dwellings on freehold lands only, because, in one clause, it is stated that any land invested in the Commissioner must be in fee simple, and -with a Labour Government in power in Queensland, this would exclude from the operation of the measure, not only Queensland, where the policy of perpetual leasehold is indorsed, but also the Northern Territory.
– It will not exclude Queensland, but it will exclude land offered under perpetual lease.
– Which I think is 9 miles from the. centre of the city.
SenatorFERRICKS. - I am not aware where the leasehold lands of Queensland are situated. I am only referring to the difficulty that exists. The Bill, I say, will exclude Queensland and the Northern Territory lands, and we must not forget that quite a number of people joined the Australian Imperial Force from the Northern Territory. If they desire to return, they ought to be able to take advantage of this measure, because there is no place in Australia where it is more essential that suitable dwellings should be erected.
The Minister mentioned that he looked forward to the time when the principles of the Bill would be very widespread and general in their application; and I say that as a first step in this direction provision should be made to enable returned soldiers in Queensland and the Northern Territory to obtain homes for themselves under the measure. All gold- fields reserves belonging to the Crown in the respective States would also be excluded’ from the operations of the Bill as it stands. As honorable senators are aware,- applicants for gold-fields lands may take up what are known as miners’ homesteads - modest areas from¼ acre to 1 acre - or they may obtain larger areas under what are known as miners’ residence rights at a cost of 5s. These areas are virtually held under perpetual lease. I realize that the Commonwealth Government would not be protected in regard to tenure in connexion with advances for the erection of homes on these areas; but I think it is almost certain that an arrangement could be made ‘between the Commonwealth and the various States in order to provide adequate safeguards, so that returned soldiers from Charters Towers, Gympie, and other gold-fields reserves would be able to take advantage of this Bill.
– I think that clause 16 in the Bill meets the point raised.
– Sub-clause 3 of clause 16 states -
All land acquired under this section shall be . vested in the Commissioner for an estate in fee simple, and be freed and discharged from all trusts, obligations, estates, interest, contracts, licences, charges, rates, and easements.
– As far as we are concerned, we put the Commissioner in the position of being able to acquire in freehold any portion of Crown lands that may ‘be available.
– But such land must be. acquired in fee-simple.
– The State Government could not treat portion of a gold-fields reserve in that way. It can only lease from year, to year under a miner’s right.
– Which is practically a freehold.
– Yes, it is practically a freehold, and I think an arrangement could be entered into between the Commonwealth and the respective States, so that any danger of forfeiture could be guarded against.
– Cannot the State Government convert a residence area into a freehold?
– Not on the older gold-fields.
Another matter which I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister is the question of inspection fees. Under the Queensland Discharged. Soldiers Settlement Act an applicant for an advance is not charged an inspection fee. While it may be thought that the insertion of the alternative of allowing the operation of this Bill to extend to mining or perpetual leases would not be advisable, I am able to inform the Minister that, since the inception of the Discharged Soldiers Settlement Act in Queensland until 5th December of last year, there were 428 applications for advances, amounting to £161,793 10s. 10d., and that 382 applicants were approved for a total advance of £132,278 19s.10d. Members of Parliament were circularized on the 5th September, and were informed that up till then 315 returned soldiers had made application under the Act. When I called at the office in Brisbane recently I was informed that the total of approvals had increased from 315 to 382.
– For homes or land settlement?
– These were quite distinct from the land settlement portion of the Act. These figures show that returned soldiers are taking advantage of the Queensland Act. I think, therefore, that if the Minister inserted a provision giving this alternative it would improve the measure. If it did no good it would certainly do no harm.
Under the Queensland Land Act, although selectors had the option of taking up selections under either freehold or leasehold, the perpetual leasehold system was not very largely availed of. I contend, of course, it was because they did not understand it sufficiently, though the Minister may hold a different opinion. It remained on the statute-book for many years until the Labour Government came into power, ‘when its provisions were extended, with the result that they were availed of. I therefore intend, in Committee, to give the Minister an opportunity of putting a similar provision in this Bill, and I suggest that he give the question careful consideration. .
In support of what he said about the big task ahead of him, I may inform the Senate what has been achieved in Queensland under the Workers Dwelling Act since its inception in 1909. Up to. the 30th June, 1915, there were 5,014 advances on completed houses to an amount of £1,302,819 4s. 5d., and it must be remembered that Queensland has a comparatively small population.
– - How much has been repaid ?
– I did not go. into the particulars.
– I think the repayments have been kept up fairly well. .
– At all events, I have not heard of many complaints. I have been informed that in the last three years therehave been 2,046 advances on completed houses for an amount of £573,734 8s.1d.
– That represents nearly £2,000,000 altogether.
– Yes, and about 7,000 applicants.
The Workmen’s Dwelling Act has given very successful results in Queens- . land.
– It has kept down rents.
– It has, and it has given people good accommodation. One feature of this measure represents an improvement upon the Queensland Act, and that is the provision under which the Commissioner is authorized, if not almost commanded, to have due consideration to the localities in which these houses are to be built. The only fear I had as to the success of the Workmen’s Dwelling Act in Queensland was that as building was going on very extensively around the city of Brisbane some of the workmen’s dwellings might be erected upon unsuitable or dangerous sites. It occurred to me that if Brisbane had such another visitation as the record flood of 1893, many of the houses would be swept away completely.
– Many were swept away on the occasion referred to.
– Yes, some sections of the city were very seriously affected by that record flood. However, private individuals were taking the same risk, and the general impression there is that, as the country becomes clear of forests, there is not likely to be such a sudden precipitation of rain, and as the rivers are deepened they will more quickly carry away the storm waters, and it is not likely that the city will again suffer so badly from floods.
Under the Workmen’s Dwelling Act of Queensland the tenants of the dwellings are charged1s. 3d. per. £100 per month more than the charge provided for under this Bill. But, as: I have said, the Act has been a great success during the nine years in which it has been in operation. I hope that this measure will be equally successful in providing homes for our returned soldiers.
– I congratulate the Government upon the introduction of this measure, but I do not forget that when on 1st August, 1917, in the absence of Senator Gardiner, I attempted to carry a somewhat similar proposal on behalf of the party on this side, nothing but scorn and ridicule were thrown upon it. The Government are now attempting to do something in this matter, and I certainly congratulate them. They should have taken up this business earlier, and at least twelve months ago, because in the meantime a number of organizations in the different States have made ‘arrangements for the housing of many of our returned soldiers under a voluntary system. Some hundreds of returned men have been housed in this way in New South Wales, and they will be getting a better deal than those who come back later will get under this Bill. I said at the time that this matter should be taken up by the Government, and should not be left to voluntary organizations. I do not begrudge the soldiers who came home earlier any benefits they may have derived from the efforts of voluntary or- ganizations, but I do say that it is the duty of the Government to see that, as far as possible, all returned soldiers are treated alike.
It might be interesting to refer to what some of our honorable friends opposite said on the occasion when I submitted my proposal. Senator de Largie ridiculed the idea altogether. He wanted to know why I did not bring forward a. Bill and supply particulars as to the size of. the houses, and the materials of which they were to be built. He overlooked the fact that I was submitting a principle, and was not concerned with details. I. did not trouble about defining the class of buildings to be erected in different States, and the timber and other materials to be used. I desired the adoption of the broad general principle that houses for our soldiers and their dependants should be provided in the best way possible by the Government.
– The honorable senator has mentioned my name; will he quote what I said?
– The honorable senator ridiculed my proposal. He can look up what he said for himself.
– I rise to a point of order. Senator McDougall has mentioned my name, and has attributed to me statements that are utterly incorrect. I ask that the .honorable senator should furnish proof of his statement, or should withdraw it:
– The honorable senator has not raised a point of order that can be sustained. I should be sorry if I were called upon to be the judge of the correctness of statements made by honorable senators. If the statement made by’ Senator McDougall is offensive to Senator de Largie, that is. another matter, but there “is no standing order, practice, or precedent of which I am aware that would constitute me the judge as to whether a statement made by an honorable senator is correct or not. As 1 cannot judge whether the statement made by Senator McDougall is incorrect, I cannot ask the honorable senator to withdraw it. Senator de Largie will . have an opportunity of speaking later, and he can then point out in which way he considers the statement made by Senator McDougall is not correct. I rule that Sentor McDougall is quite in order.
– I am sorry for the interruption; but at a later stage I will look up Senator de Largie’s remarks in Hansard. I thought that the honorable senator would remember what he said. He certainly took exception to my proposal, because I did not tell the Senate What the size of the houses should be, and what would be the expenditure involved. I did not think” it was necessary for me to do so. Senator Earle considered my proposal impracticable and impossible, and said that the Government could not stand the expense. It now appears that the Government are prepared to consider an expenditure of £50,000,000 for this purpose, and T say that they can stand even a greater expenditure in connexion with such a scheme. Senator Newland also took exception to my proposal on the ground that it would embroil the States in trouble with the Commonwealth. I pointed out at the time that it was. not a State, but a Commonwealth matter. Surely provision for properly housing returned soldiers and the widows of those who have left their bones on Gallipoli and in France is a Commonwealth matter. Senator Lynch dealt with my proposal also, and suggested that Senators McDougall and O’Keefe were very ready to spend other people’s money, but were not so ready to spend their own. He also pointed the finger of scorn at my proposal. I have referred to these matters merely in order to put on_ record the inconsistency of some of my honorable friends opposite.
I believe that this business should be placed in the hands of a paid Commissioner. In dealing with the Repatriation Bill. I said that the men’ called upon to do the work of repatriation for the Commonwealth should be paid, and paid well. I do not believe in honorary commissions to carry out work of this kind. I believe in paying capable men to- undertake a business of this sort, and, in my view, a salary of £1,500 a year is insufficient for the services which a capable Commissioner can render the Commonwealth under this measure. Such a man would save ten times the salary proposed in avoiding, the mistakes which would probably be made by a less capable man. Honorary Commissioners do not feel themselves in a position to hurt the feelings of people in carrying out their duty. Senator Gardiner has said that this will be a payable proposition. I do not think it will, and I do not see how it can be. If we build these houses1, and hand them over to soldiers, and the widows of soldiers, we shall not be able to turn those tenants out whether they pay the rent or not, and whether they pay deposits or not. Honorable members are aware that private landlords are unable to agree with soldiers and soldiers’ dependants about the terms for the occupation of houses at the present time, and the landlords are having a good deal of trouble in this connexion. We cannot expect that the Commonwealth will have less trouble. But whether the scheme be payable or not, it is, in my opinion, the duty of the Commonwealth to provide comfortable homes for these people, and that duty should be performed.
It is suggested that under the scheme a returned soldier will be able to secure a house for 13s. 6s. per week, which is less than the rent for which he could secure a house to-day. But where do the Government intend to build these houses? In some places houses for the accommodation of returned soldiers have been built miles away from the places at which the men work, and it costs them 4s. or 5s. a week to go backwards and forwards from their houses to their work. I am a Unificationist, and I believe that the Commonwealth should take over the whole of the railways and tramways, and should see that soldiers are given access to soldiers’ settlements at reasonable fares. That would be doing something for them. We can deal with the Bill more fully in Committee, and I rose chiefly to remind some of my honorable friends opposite of the way in which they pointed the finger of scorn at me when I proposed to do something of this kind on the 1st August, 1917.
– Does the honorable senator refer to ac proposal to add the following clause to the “Repatriation Bill : -
Widows and invalid dependants of deceased soldiers shall be boused free for life by the Government; other dependants shall be housed free until sixteen years “of age.
– That was my. amendment.
– But the honorable senator made no proposal for a housing scheme for soldiers.
– This is a Bill to provide homes for Australian soldiers and the female dependants of Australian soldiers.
– I repeat that the honorable senator made no proposal for a housing scheme for soldiers.
-*I made a proposal for a housing scheme for the female dependants of soldiers, did I not?
– That is a part of the Government proposal, and I congratulate the Minister for Repatriation upon it. I hope that the returned soldiers will be given a fair deal by provision being made for reasonable fares to enable them to travel from their homes to their work. I sometimes go on Sundays to a settlement that is being established about 4 or 5 miles from Sydney, and I can inform honorable senators that thousands of men, women, and children give assistance in the formation of that settlement. I have seen women eighty years of age wheeling barrows of sand in order to level the ground for the erection of soldiers’ homes. Men, women, and children are willing to go to this place on Sundays instead of going to church, and they are engaged in making streets and putting in foundations for houses. We can congratulate them upon their willingness to do this work, but it is work which the Government should take out of their hands. It is a national work, and should not be left to any voluntary band of workers, no matter how willing, to carry out.
– Personally, I congratulate the Government upon their apparent determination to do something which will have the effect “of providing cheaper and better housing accommodation than that now available in any of our large cities, our inland towns, of even in our villages. If the Government go on. with this scheme, it will mean that our returned soldiers will not have to compete with others for the existing house accommodation. The citizen who did not go abroad will also, no doubt, secure house accommodation at a cheaper rate than he otherwise would. This proposal is one which, I think, may be regarded as distinct from that of land settlement generally. # It is not proposed under this scheme that the site on which any one of these houses is erected shall be suitable for the production of crops, though it may have that effect to a very limited extent. There should be a definite instruction from the Commissioner to put an end once and for all to the disgracefully small blocks of land on which Australian workmen are obliged to live.
– It is. New South Wales of which the honorable senator is speaking. *
– It is quite a common thing in all the State capitals to see men compelled to live upon allotments of a very limited area. Fifty feet is considered a fairly large frontage, and 60 a big frontage, whilst many blocks are very much smaller. In a country like Australia, embracing an area of 3,000,000 square miles, we should instruct the Housing Commissioner to see that these microscopic allotments are absolutely ruled out.
– The allotments should comprise a quarter of an acre as a minimum.
– There is no minimum area mentioned in the Bill; but, in my judgment, a quarter of an acre would prove a very excellent minimum indeed. However, there is not much prospect of anything being done by the Government which will seriously interfere with the vested rights of the land-owners of Australia. But to the small extent to which they are prepared to go, I shall support them.
There can be no doubt whatever as to the necessity for this Bill. Upon looking at the return recently furnished by the Metropolitan Water and Sewerage Board in relation to Sydney and its suburbs, for the year ended 30th June last, I was impressed with the tremendous shortage that has occurred in building operations. Four years ago the average number of buildings erected within the area indicated was about 10,000 annually, whereas last year it only slightly exceeded 5,000. It is quite obvious, therefore, that when our soldiers who are at present abroad return to this country the competition for housing accommodation will be very greatly accentuated.
– Has there been any reduction in building operations since the beginning of the war ?
Senator. GRANT. ^Between 1914 and 191S there has been a gradual reduction, which now amounts to nearly 50 per cent. During that period the population has increased, with the inevitable result of overcrowding. It is, perhaps, a matter of congratulation to the- city and suburban land sharks that the great majority of the people of Australia reside in our large cities. Nearly one-half of the inhabitants of Victoria live in Melbourne and its suburbs. A similar condition of affairs obtains in Sydney, and, indeed, in all our State capitals. An effort should, therefore, be made to provide housing accommodation for our soldiers upon their return to this country as near to the city as possible.
I’ would also suggest to the Minister, , even if he should*” get at cross purposes with some of the States by reason of his action,- that he should point out to them the reasons why the public are prevented from erecting houses at the present time. Let us suppose, for example, that a returned soldier in Victoria possesses a capital of £1,300. Under this Bill, he will be able to borrow from the Housing Commissioner an additional £700, and will thus be able to purchase a property worth £2,000. But what will happen to him then? He will be immediately pounced upon by the local authorities -and compelled to pay more taxation. The Housing Commission ought to consider this aspect of the question. It is, I think, singularly unfortunate that a similar position holds good in Tasmania and, to a large extent, in South Australia.
– “Not in South Australia.
– As a matter of fact, only a few weeks ago an effort was made at Gawler to revert to the taxation of improvements there. I am glad to know that that effort was defeated. Still, I am quite correct in saying that out of all the municipalities in South Australia there are not twenty which are rated on the unimproved land values. Probably about twelve municipalities are doing that. But throughout Victoria, the moment any man builds a house, all the machinery at the disposal of the municipal authorities is at once set in motion with a view to taxing him upon his improvements, not merely for one year, but for every year. This is a matter which the_ Government should bring under the notice of the Victorian Government for the purpose of having it remedied. A similar remark is applicable to the other States. Then a returned soldier who is possessed of £1,300, and who under the provisions of this Bill borrows an additional £700 for the purchase of a house, will be immediately pounced upon by the Income Tax Commissioner - assuming that his income be a taxable one - and will be charged 5 per cent, upon the total value of his house and land.
– I have allowed the honorable senator considerable latitude, but I must point out to him that his remarks have no relevance to this Bill.
– The Government ought to intimate to the various State and municipal authorities that any restriction which operates in the direction of preventing the people from investing money in the erection of homes should be removed as speedily as possible. I am inclined to agree that the Commissioner himself should be the insurance agent in connexion with the homes to be erected under this Bill, and I utterly dissent from the suggestion that the State Savings Banks should be brought into the business. If our Commonwealth Bank is not able to advance the necessary money to the Housing Commissioner, its charter should be altered to permit of that being done.
Then I would like to know whether something cannot be done to secure cheap railway and tramway fares for our soldiers, not for a month or two, or a year or two, but for an indefinite period. I know that in many places a rosy picture has been painted with a view to inducing the worker to pay a high price for land upon which he could establish his home. Then, when the millstone has been securely fastened round his neck, the fares have been increased, with the result that he has frequently lost his home, and with it the savings of years.
– Who has increased the tramway fares?
– The honorable senator is merely entitled to make a passing reference to that matter.
– I quite recognise that, although I would very much like to reply to the interjection by Senator Crawford. . There seems to be a disposition on the part of Senator Gardiner, in the event of a Housing Commissioner becoming the possessor of a large area of land the value of which is subsequently increased by the expenditure of public money, to affirm that the soldiers, who will be the prospective owners of the home3 upon that land, should be entitled to get the value which has been added to it by reason of the presence ‘of population. But it must be remembered that the greedy little land-jobbers round such areas would, in that case, also become entitled to’ the unearned increment attaching to their properties. If we are going to give our soldiers this unearned value, we shall experience considerable trouble in preventing it from being annexed by other people. It would be far better for Senator Gardiner to get back to first principles.’
– I regret that the honorable senator was not capable of understanding what I -said. I pointed out that he would not be in favour of taking the unearned value from the soldiers while the rest of the community were deprived of it.
– I am sorry that I misunderstood the honorable senator, and I am glad that he has got back to first principles.
In addition to the Bill excluding from its operation the Northern Territory, I should like to know whether it is intended to exclude the 1,000 square miles of Commonwealth territory at Canberra. When the Bill is in Committee I shall certainly endeavour to secure the insertion in it of a clause which will enable the Commissioner to erect houses on our own land at Canberra. I believe that the Government will be up against a very tough proposition when they attempt to obtain cheap building materials, and in the absence of cheap building materials houses cannot be cheaply erected. The Commonwealth is now about to embark upon a line of business which a few years ago it would have scouted. It is about to become a contractor. I anticipate that, under this Bill, another huge Department will be established, having its head centre in Melbourne, that another set of palatial offices will be erected, in which there will be telephones on the tables instead of being .stuck on the walls, as they are in our parliamentary buildings, and that this Department will be equipped with all modern conveniences. I quite expect that there will be at least a Deputy Commissioner and innumerable inspectors appointed in each of the State Capitals. Indeed, I suppose that there will be a few officials in some of our large inland towns. I shall not mind. Private enterprise has failed ignominiously to provide housing accommodation for the people, and I am glad that the Government are taking the subject in hand. I wish them every success, but I do not see how they are going to achieve it. I cannot perceive how they will get over the difficulty of securing material at a price which will enable them to construct houses fairly cheaply. I am against the standardization of houses. In one of the suburbs of Sydney many residences have been erected mainly by one company, with all up-to-date attachments, and no two houses are alike. The effect is admirable.
– Standardization does not mean the building of only one type of house.
– That is so; but the tendency is to erect in close proximity numbers of houses all practically alike.
I hope the Government will persevere with their project, and not be disheartened if it does not develop as well as they now expect. If the Government secure the best land available, and the Commissioner surrounds himself with a staff of competent men, he should be able to construct houses better and more cheaply than private contractors. I do not care for the. suggestion of the Government to farm out the work. They should go in for construction on the largest possible scale, employing their own competent staffs, and following on the lines laid down for such work by the Governments of South Australia and Queensland, and, to some extent, New South Wales. Much progress has already been- made with the housing of soldiers in those States. *
Reference has been made to the efforts of the New South Wales Government at Daceyville. But they are doing something there which does not at all meet with my ‘approval. If ‘the Government could be induced to secure land, and put up the leases to the highest bidder, and arrange for the payments to be made annually in advance, and not to bother too much about the style of house erected, large numbers of applicants would at once take advantage of the proposition. But that is the . last thing the Government would think of doing.. The New South Wales Government insisted on building Daceyville, and there are thousands of vacant lots about that suburb. The Commonwealth Government are proposing to do the best they can, according to their lights; but they are not seeing very far ahead. If they would only secure the land and cut up the blocks into suitable sizes, and put up the leases to the highest bidders, with payments in advance, far more success would be achieved.
– I am sorry that Senator McDougall made use of a statement as to which, upon consulting Hansard, he will realize that he was completely in the wrong. I refer to the construction which he put upon a remark made by myself in reference to his amendment to the Repatriation Bill in August, 1917. - Senator McDougall stated that I had ridiculed this proposal. First, it was not this proposal at all, but quite a different suggestion. The amendment moved by Senator McDougall was of such a nature that it did not receive the approval even of his own side. It was as follows: -
That the following new clause be added tothe Bill :- “ 21. Widows’ and invalid dependants of deceased soldiers . shall be housed free for life by the Government; other dependants shall be housed free until sixteen years of age.”
That proposal was so ill-digested that nobody could understand it. I have been long enough in the Senate to have developed a nose which pretty surely indicates to me when a thing is genuine, and when it has been put forward for the making of party political capital. Many honorable senators locked upon Senator McDougall’s amendment as coming under the latter category. But . there was nothing in my remarks at that time which could justify the honorable senator in saying that I ridiculed this proposal when it was formerly before the Senate. I will quote the words which I then used.
– On a point of order, I wish to know if Senator de Largie will be in order in quoting from Hansard of this session ?
– The standing order is very clear upon this matter, and, as a matter of fact, Hansard of the current session is the only publication which an honorable senator is entitled to quote from. Standing order 414, states -
No senator shall read extracts from newspapers or other documents, except . Hansard, referring to debates in the Senate during the same session.
I understand that Senator de Largie proposes to quote from Hansard of this session. I, therefore, rule that he will be in order in doing so.
Senator -DE LARGIE.- Far from attempting to ridicule Senator McDougall’s amendment, I simply asked why it was that, when a similar measure was before the Senate previously, at a time when the party with which Senator McDougall and myself were associated had a thumping’ majority in this and in another Chamber, and could have carried anything deemed desirable, the honorable senator did not avail himself of that opportunity to bring forward his proposal. The exact remarks which I made, I will now quote. First, Senator O’Keefe interjected, “ Cases are coming before us every day.” I replied, “ I know.” Then I continued -
And I believe many experiences will be revealed before we have finished with this subject. I agree with the Minister that this Bill is not the final word. No doubt, time will show the necessity for improvement, and the Government will doubtless be open to convection in that direction. Where the necessity for a proposal of this kind is shown to the Senate, I hope a much more satisfactory scheme will be placed before us.
– The honorable senator is quoting from the wrong speech. I ask him to look at his other remarks.
– This is the’ right one, but, of course, it is the wrong one for the honorable senator.
– Read the whole of . your speech.
– I shall not waste the time of the Senate to please Senator Gardiner. I have shown that there was nothing in the way of ridicule in my utterances, and I am content to leave it at that.
– You did not quote the speech to which I was referring.
– I quoted my comments upon the honorable senator’s amendment. That is the only occasion of which I have any knowledge when the subject has been discussed in the Senate. If there is any other, I invite Senator McDougall to bring it forth.
– I am pleased that the Government have introduced this Bill, and I am pleased with its construction, on the whole. It is a move in the right direction, but I think it could go further. Here we have the Australian National Government taking steps to recognise the national work of Australia’s sons. This Government could do more than the various State Departments should be expected to do in similar circumstances; but, looking upon what has been done, and is intended by the South Australian Government, it is only fair to say that the . proposals of the Federal Government are even more liberal. It is an important fact, which should not be lost sight of , that the efforts of the various State Governments in the same direction will really reduce the scope of the operations about to be launched by the Commonwealth Government.
It has been stated to-day that something like £50,000,000 will be required for this work. Taking into consideration the activities of the States, I. do not think anything like that sum will be required. Under the Commonwealth scheme, payments will be continually coming in for sums previously advanced, and can be paid into a fund from which fresh advances may be made. The whole of the » amount will, therefore, not be wanted at once- When a Bill to provide homes for working men was introduced in the South Australian Parliament, only £100,000 was asked for in the first year. Next year an amendment was passed to increase the amount to £200,000, and subsequently to £300,000; and those sums were found to be sufficient for the time being. If the
Minister has to spend £10,000,000, he will find, by the time he has disbursed it all, that money will be already coming in in the shape of repayments. We need not, therefore, jump to the conclusion that we shall have to borrow £50,000,000.
I should have liked to see the Minister’s speech in print, because the measure is far-reaching and important. It will not only provide housing accommodation for soldiers, but will become a great object lesson of what a nation can do when it really puts its shoulder to the wheel. A few years ago it would have been considered impossible to tackle this undertaking, and we should have been ridiculed for attempting it; but there is a consensus of opinion on both sides to-day that we . can do it, and that it ought to be done.
There have been minor criticisms of the measure, such as Senator Ferricks’ objection to any monotonous standardization of dwellings. I should not like to see these houses resembling rows of cottages such as we see in some streets now; but it should be possible, in view of the number of houses that have to be constructed, to have many patterns, although all can be standardized. For many years along the South Australian railways, the standard pattern of a fettler’s cottage was a lean-to. If any further accommodation was wanted, another one was tacked on to the end of it. In order to save wood, brick floors were put in, and these were very cold in winter. That sort of standardization has passed away, and better accommodation is given to the men-
– The Federal Government are giving no better accommodation at Port Augusta to-day.
– I am using the South Australian railways, and not the Federal railways, as an illustration. These men are now given separate houses, each on its own allotment, with room for a garden, and even then the houses are not all alike. The architect, however, has designed them in such a way that, to a great extent, they may be regarded as standardized. We may have a standard type of bungalow of five rooms, and know the exact amount of timber, iron, and concrete it will take, and the exact cost of erecting it anywhere. Another man may require a double-fronted cottage, and we may have a design for that purpose standardized in the same. way. Instead .of sub-letting the erection of dwellings to different contractors, who may use countless differing” architectural designs, we may be able to work the scheme as one unit, and set up a great example of what the nation can do in building for the returned soldier, if it wishes to do it.
– If it wishes!
– I take it that we wish to do more than we did thirty years ago, and that those who come after us will wish to do far more than we are doing.
– The Commonwealth Government are not doing it in connexion with their own railways.
– Our railways are not now under discussion.
There are omissions from the Bill; but if I point them out, I hope the Minister will regard my criticism as intended to be helpful. “We have been ridiculed for not supporting the building of homes which soldiers’ widows could obtain rent free for life. I would point out that a soldier may obtain a house under this scheme, go away to work, and never return. There is no provision in this Bill for the case of a deserted wife, nor is there provision to meet a case of divorce. These defects should be remedied. An amending Act has been passed in South Australia providing for such cases.
– Does it provide for the contingency of divorce?
– Yes, decidedly. It should be remembered that in framing a Bill of this kind there are existing models which ‘can be ‘ copied. The case is not the same as that of the Repatriation Bill, in which we were practically sailing on an uncharted sea. Similar measures to this have been in operation in other places, if not for soldiers . at least for workmen’s homes. I believe the original Act was passed in New Zealand. I know that in 1910 the South Australian Government brought in a Bill which closely followed on New Zealand lines.
The amount of £700 provided under this measure will have to cover the cost of land as well as buildings, and, as Senator Grant pointed out, the cost of land near any of the large cities will considerably decrease the amount available for erecting a comfortable home. In many parts of the country a soldier will be able to buy a block of land for £50, leaving £650 for the construction of the house, whereas near a large city the land will cost quite £200, leaving considerably less to provide comforts in the home. The construction of a house near a city will be much more costly than in the back country, although in some cases labour- may be cheaper. Take the case of a house built of stone. I hope the Government will not confine themselves entirely to one class of material for house building. There have been great improvements In the manufacture of ferro-concrete, and it may be possible to build a commodious house of . that material cheaper than stone, brick, 1 or wood. The Bill should not specify an advance of simply one full amount. A returned soldier’ about to marry and settle down would not expect immediately to spend £700 on a house for himself and wife. All these points must be considered in Committee. In South Australia the interest charged is 4£ per cent. We are asking for 5 per cent., and this the Minister regards as a business proposition, even though the Government under present circumstances will be fully 1 per cent. out. Although the interest charge is high to-day, it is quite possible that before the Bill comes into full operation money will be much cheaper. There* should, therefore, be a provision in the Bill, on the lines of amendments that have been made in the South Austra’ian Act, to the effect that the interest charged’ shall be that which is paid for the money used in the particular work.
Sitting suspended from 6.S0 to 8 p.m.
– This proposition is larger than anything we have yet attempted. It is a proposal to acquire large areas of land, and practically, in certain circumstances, to constitute a suburb in some of our cities entirely under the direction of the Commissioner. It opens up a very wide field for consideration, and it will enable the Commissioner to show what may be done in the way of collective undertakings, because not only will the land be purchased on a large scale, but building material also will have to be purchased in large quantities, so it is quite reasonable to expect that the Minister’s anticipation of a saving of from 10 to 15 per cent, in the cost of building will be realized. But I see the danger of duplication unless proper care is exercised.
Nearly all the States have made some provision along similar lines. In the earlier part of my address I referred to the Advances for Homes Act in South Australia, the Advances for Settlers Act, and the amendment of the Advances for Homes Act providing for advances to soldiers or soldiers’ widows. In that State, therefore, there is available all the necessary machinery, which may be linked up with the scheme now under considera-tion. The State Savings Bank in South Australia, so far as my knowledge goes, has not been intimately associated with the State projects, except as a moneylending institution ; but the State Bank, which is quite a different institution, has for many years been financially administering the schemes. Mr. Wright, the manager, is an exceedingly capable officer, and I think it quite possible that the Commonwealth Government could make some satisfactory arrangement for the utilization of the State machinery for the administration of this measure so far as that State is concerned.
As I have already said, the proposal opens up a very wide field for consideration. Settlement in the various States under this Bill will, in a measure, be somewhat communal. We can easily imagine that as the land will be bought in large areas, and as the soldiers will have a feeling of kinship, due to their association with one another in times of war, they will, under happier conditions, be induced to come together again in the establishment of their homes. The scheme also opens up the question of our timber resources. It has been suggested by some honorable senators that Australian timber should be utilized as far as possible; but I think that, until something further is done in the way of replanting our forests, it might be advisable to go easy in the use of Australian timber. Although the price of timber is exceedingly high now, I believe that it would be a better policy to use imported timber, wherever possible, so as to conserve our forests, and by replanting, we may increase our resourced against the time when timber will be still dearer. I was surprised to learn in the_ course of the debate that Queensland timber waa not so. plentiful a3 some of us have been led to believe, because all the information I have had on that subject goes to show that Queensland has a greater variety and a larger supply than any other State. The scheme, therefore, should be considered in the light of this fact. While it might be cheaper for the moment to use cur own timber, from a national standpoint it might be more advisable to import what may be needed for building purposes so as to conserve our own resources for the future.
I want now to discuss the terms of repayment. In the Bill now under consideration, the term is fixed at thirty-seven years in regard to stone or brick houses. I have compared its provisions with those of the South Australian Advances for Homes Act, and I cannot see why a somewhat similar provision should not be included in this measure. The South Australian Act contains schedules, setting out the quarterly and monthly payments over periods of seven, ten, thirteen, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five, and forty-two years. Any person getting an advance from the State Bank may arrange for repayment within any of the periods named, or, if he choses, he may pay off at any time.
– That can be done under this Bill.
– There is no provision, so far as I’ can ascertain, for any other period than thirty-seven years for a solid stone or brick house, though there may “be repayment of capital at any. time. Under the South Australian law repayments may be made in sums of £1 or multiples of £1, and the terms generally, I think, are somewhat more liberal than those of the Bill now under consideration, with the exception, of course, that under the South Australian Act the borrower has to furnish one-fifth of the amount as a deposit.
– That is a very important exception.
– I admit it is a very important exception, but we must remember that it is a business proposition. The persons who borrow money under the South Australian Act are those who follow their daily avocations, not soldiers who have rendered service to their country, so it is reasonable that they should not enjoy quite the same privileges as a soldier, who, under this Bill, may -secure his home without any deposit. The interest charged under the Advances for Homes Act in South Australia was 4$ per cent., but I think that of late years the Act has been amended, and it is now provided that the rate of interest shall be the rate paid by the Government for the loan. Another advantage under that Act is a rebate, equivalent to per cent., if the monthly or quarterly payments are paid within the first seven days of the due date.
I mention these facts so that honorable senators may be seised of the position as far as South Australia is concerned. I was pleased that Senator Ferricks gave the Senate some valuable information in regard to the Queensland legislation on this subject, and I am now handing him back information showing what South Australia has been doing along the same lines. When the South Australian Act came into operation, the Government set aside the sum of £100,000 for the first year. Ultimately this was increased to £300,000, and to-day the repayments on former loans are sufficiently large, to keep the scheme in operation in much the same way as a building society. The scheme is working most satisfactorily. All the instalments are being paid regularly. I believe there is scarcely any deficit at all.
As the soldiers’ homes to be erected under the provisions of this Bill will probably be erected in all parts of the Commonwealth, it will be necessary from time to time for officials to inspect and report upon the buildings erected under the scheme, and unless there is some coordination with the- existing machinery in the various States, the Government will need a large army of inspectors. I call attention to this fact, because I cannot see why a- man, “if he has a steam-engine lying idle, and wants to apply steam power to some other part of his works, should get another steam-engine for that purpose. The Commonwealth should utilize the existing machinery of the various States for the administration of this scheme. I think that the States authorities will be found willing to cooperate in a matter of this kind.
– Does the honorable member mean that we should use the services of State inspectors.
– Yes. This scheme can be carried out more cheaply if we use the services of State inspectors, where similar schemes are in operation under State legislation.
Some reference has been made to the tremendous risk undertaken in connexion with this proposal. It is well to remember that the risk will be greatest at the moment of its inception, and will gradually decrease. It may be said that the property will also gradually decrease in value, but- that does not necessarily follow. Some of the property may perish, but for reasons which I do not care to mention, lest Senator Grant should be induced to refer once more to his pet question, the property generally may increase in value. The gathering together of a new community in a particular locality will add to the value of property there. The establishment of a railway or of a post-office increases the value of property in the neighbourhood, and even the establishment of a picture show may make’ a particular place more attractive than it would otherwise be to some people, and so make property there more valuable.
The Minister for Repatriation stressed the fact that it was not proposed to erect mansions, but to give our soldiers an opportunity to make homes. There cannot be a home without children, and children require playgrounds. It is sad to find that, in many established suburbs of our large cities no provision has been made for playgrounds for the little ones, which are so necessary for their health. I hope that, in connexion with this scheme the necessity for’ providing playgrounds, for children will not be lost sight of, and if this provision is made, it must add materially to the attractiveness of the soldiers’ settlement.
Whilst provision is made for insuring against fire the properties that will be erected under this Bill, there are other risks against’ which they should also be insured.
– Why not have Government insurance?
– That is practically what is proposed. There is to be an insurance fund created to cover loss by fire. I hope that arrangements will be made to cover also the risks from flood and tempest.
I think that there is no provision in the Bill under which the Department may make necessary repairs if they are not made by the tenants. I anticipate that some of the dependants of our soldiers will be widows, invalids, or incapacitated persons unable to carry out necessary repairs themselves. Under the South Australian Act, the Board administering the measure may carry out necessary repairs if they are not undertaken by the tenant, and provision is also made for deferred payments to cover the cost of repairs.
– I think that clause 31 of the. Bill provides for repairs.
– It provides that the Commissioner may effect necessary repairs at the tenant’s expense, but it makes no provision for the payment of the cost of repairs” by instalments or deferred payments. A widow or incapacitated person might not have at hand sufficient money to meet at once a bill for repairs, and arrangements should be made for deferred payments in such cases.
– I think that clause 43 would meet that difficulty. It deals with cases of hardship
– It deals with cases of hardship in connexion with the payment of the ordinary instalments; and, by the way, clause 43 should, I think, be transferred to another part of the Bill.
There are one or two improvements of the measure which I will suggest when it is under consideration in Committee. I hail the introduction of the Bill. I believe it will be found to be a very use ful measure. I have no fear that, under it, the Commonwealth will be saddled with any indebtedness. As I have said, the risk of anything of the . kind will decrease from the time the Bill begins to operate. Although the expenditure involved may be very large, it will be less than our soldiers deserve from us. The carrying out of such a scheme will show that we appreciate what they have done, and are willing to do something more for them than wave a flag. Whilst we sing “ Home, Sweet Home,” we should be prepared to do our best to make the home of the soldier the sweetest spot on earth.
.- I heartily support this Bill. The passage of such a measure presses upon us as a necessity. It seems to me that if this Legislature, and particularly the present Government, did not do something of this very kind, they would fail in their obvious duty to those who have done so much for the interests of Australia. As the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Millen) has said, the housing problem is most acute in Australia. If we were to permit our soldiers to return, and find that there was no house accommodation for them here, we should very properly bring a nest of hornets about our ears. To neglect to provide house accommodation for them would be a calamity. There is a serious shortage of such accommodation throughout the Commonwealth, and though it may be greater in one State than in another, there is not ‘one in which the insufficiency of house accommodation does not present a serious difficulty. This is due largely to the cessation of building during the last four or five years, because of the increased cost of building materials. This has, in turn, given rise to increases in rents.
– The principal reason for the ,rise in rents is the shortage of house accommodation.
– That is so; but that is largely due to the increased cost of building. If the cost of building were not greater now than it was prior to the war people would be building houses to-day as rapidly as they did before the war.
The success or failure of this scheme will largely depend on the Commissioner and those associated with him in carrying it out. If the Commissioner and his officers are sympathetic and capable, it is very likely that the scheme will be. a success. If we have unsympathetic and incapable administration, it will not be ‘the success we hope for. I sincerely trust for more reasons than one that it will prove to be a very great success.
The purpose in view is to provide homes for soldiers, and those dependent upon them. What little advantage will accrue to the soldiers will be well deserved. No one will question the fact that, no matter what we do for them, we shall fall short of paying our debt to the men who went to the other end of the world, who made big sacrifices, and risked their lives for our welfare.
It is stated that to give full effect to this scheme may involve, the Commonwealth in an expenditure of £50,000,000. That is true, but as has been pointed out by speakers who have preceded me, the £50,000,000 will not all be lost. The Minister for Repatriation estimates the probable loss at 1 per cent. The loss may be more than 1 per cent. I can foresee that there will be failures. I have had experience in this kind of business for the last twenty years, not in lending my own money, but as a director of one institution, and the secretary of another that lends money for purposes of this kind. I take credit to myself for having instituted in connexion with the society of which I was secretary a system of loaning money which proved of immense benefit,, not only to that organization, but also to those who borrowed from it. If we lose 1 per cent, or even 2 per cent, of the money which will be expended under this Bill, the people of the Commonwealth will gladly bear the loss, so long as they know’ that it -has been incurred in an honest endeavour to assist those who voyaged to the other side of the world in order to fight for them. Prior to the introduction of this Bill, I was in some doubt as to whether, if the rate of interest dropped considerably within the next few year - a contingency which I consider very probable - the borrowers under it will be able to participate in the benefit that will flow from that drop. After casually looking through the measure, I believe that it does contain a provision of that character. At any rate, I hope that it does.
During the course of this debate some reference has been made to . building societies. I do not think that the Minister in his remarks had the slightest intention of reflecting upon those societies.
– I am not aware of having done so. What I meant to convey was that the borrower from a building society is at liberty to put the money that he borrows into any form of building, whereas this Bill provides that it must be invested in a home.
– I have had some experience of building societies, and lest anybody should run away with a wrong idea, I desire to say that they are of very great benefit to the community. They are useful institutions, which have been the means of enabling thousands of people to acquire homes of their own. The society of which I am a director disposes of its profits equally between its borrowers and those who make deposits in it. But I .can quite conceive that a Department such as we are about to establish must possess some advantage over an ordinary building society, inasmuch as the latter is obliged to pay the market rate of interest on the funds which it loans to its borrowers, in addition to the expenses of management. Nevertheless, I have it on the authority of one of the very first accountants in the State which I represent that to borrow from a certain building society is an investment equal to any of which he has knowledge, because the borrowers from it participate in its profits. Under this Bill a deposit will not be absolutely required from the soldier, but, in the case of a building society, it is usual to insist that there shall be a margin of one-fourth between the value of the security and the amount that is loaned upon it. In some cases where the loan is a small one, the advance made is not more than one-half of the value of the security.
We have heard a great deal during this debate about timber. It seems to me that the majority of buildings which will bc erected under the Bill will be wooden structures. I am, therefore, of opinion that the term- of twenty years provided for the repayment of the loan may very reasonably be extended. I know of plenty of wooden buildings which have been erected for twenty years and which are in better condition now than when they were built.
– And better than some of the structures which are now being erected.
– The house in which I was born is a wooden one, and it was then an old dwelling. Yet it is a good building to-day. I can conceive, therefore, of a woe-den1 building possessing a life considerably in excess of twenty years, and for that reason I should like to see the term specified in the- Bill extended for a few years. With ordinary . care and a substantial foundation, a wooden building will last fifty years, whereas a stone structure set upon a faulty foundation may collapse in four or five years. I know of some stone buildings which in less than three years . from the time of their erection were 18 inches out of plumb, the walls overhanging the street to that exbent. Of course, a great deal depends upon the nature of the foundation. If wooden buildings be erected upon a firm foundation, and the timber in them be well seasoned, they will be good structures in twenty-five years.
– Many of our soldiers will doubtless .prefer to pay ls. a week more, and get their title deeds in twenty years, than to pay ls. a weekless and get their deeds in thirty years.
– That is a matter that should be left to the option of the borrower. Occasionally it becomes my duty to consider applications from persons who have borrowed money from the society with which I am connected, on, perhaps, fourteen years’ terms. They find .that their payments are too heavy, and ask for a reconstruction of their cases. In such circumstances the term is often extended for several years. Under this Bill, things might be easier for a borrower if the term prescribed in it were increased by five years. Still, I would leave the matter to the option of the borrower.
Provision is made in the Bill to vest the Commissioner with discretion as to the localities in which he will loan money. I have in my mind certain localities, in regard to which money was borrowed for the building of houses, because it was thought that there were substantial prospects of progress there. That progress did not materialize, and, as a result, scores of tenements became unsaleable. I have known of new cottages, with the land upon which they stood, being sold for £20. I have known of buildings which have been carted miles, in order that they might be re-erected upon other sites, merely because money had been loaned upon them by financial institutions. I am glad, therefore, that the Commissioner will be endowed with power to decline to lend money for the erection of buildings in a locality in which he thinks’ there is a prospect that they will become useless.
A good deal has been said in reference to timber, and of the proposal to empower the Commissioner to enter into arrangements for the purchase of building requisites at wholesale rates. I have no doubt that much of the success of the scheme will depend upon how the Department purchases those requisites. In every State of the Commonwealth there are Timber Rings, which usually regard the Government as fair game. When the Queensland Government started to go in for using timber, the Timber Ring put up its price against them. .1 hope that the Commissioner will, take care that he is not “had” by these Rings. If he is, it will make all the difference between success and failure. If the necessity arises, I trust that he will get his own timber cut, rather than allow our soldiers who have fought for the benefit of Australia to be exploited by means of unwarrantably high .prices. A similar remark will apply to any other article that is required in the erection of these homes. I commend the opinions which have been voiced during this debate, as to the advisableness of the Commissioner’s Department purchasing wholesale every requisite that is needed in connexion with these dwellings. I could cite instances of monopolies in the timber business, which, have enabled those who are running them to make enormous profits. I hope that this condition of things will not obtain in the matter of erecting homes for our soldiers.
The case of standardization has been mentioned; and while I would not like to see every house erected on one plan, it is possible to have a series of types of buildings - perhaps twelve or twenty - and yet have a standard for each. The soldier who desired’ to build a home would thus be able to select the particular design he preferred: In other words, he would derive all the advantages arising from standardization, and in this connexion we must recollect that to him one of the most important of these is the cost of his dwelling. If we can save £50 in that cost by standardization, we shall achieve a great deal. I, too, would like to see Australian timbers used, as far as possible, where buildings are of wood. Senator Senior mentioned that he would prefer the use of imported, timbers in order to save our own. There is something in that point. If I recall the facts correctly,, it was stated in the reports of the InterState Commission on Timber that Australia was one of the five poorest countries in the world so far as the’ supply of timber was concerned, and that if we continued to use our timber at the present rate we would have none left in thirty years.
– That is an argument for afforestation.
– I am a supporter of that also; but, at the same time, we must build these homes as economically as possible ; and if the importation of timber is going to cost more than if local supplies were used, let us use our own, and at the same time go in for a vigorous policy of afforestation. If our Australian wood is properly seasoned it is as good as, if not much better than, much of the imported timber. In comparison with the Baltic pine, our timber is immensely superior. In a buiding society of which I am a director, if a borrower, when about to build, declares that he intends to use Baltic pine, we strike that out of his specification, and appeal to him to put V- jointed hardwood timber into his house. That is twice as durable, and makes a very much better job. With regard to flooring, there is nothing that I know of which can beat Australian timber, if the latter is properly seasoned. Oregon is a very good timber, but it is useful because it is quite seasoned. If we were to put our own timber in where we used Oregon, and it was equally as dry, there would be no shrinking. But the usual procedure is to cut our timber out of the forest and use it while it is green ; and yet we expect the same results as from an imported seasoned timber.
I support this measure for the purpose for which it is intended. I support it, further, because I believe that it will lead to a general movement towards providing homes for the people, and because it will tend to reduce rents generally. If we provide homes for our soldiers at reasonable rates there will certainly be a tendency to reduce rents immediately surrounding. Probably the greater part of the demand from eligible applicants will be for homes near the cities; but I hope there will be a good demand also for dwellings in the country. I know of numbers of men who are anxious to get out on the land, and wish to secure homes for themselves.
– What about garden suburbs?
– I have every sympathy with that project, and I trust that consideration will be given to modern townplanning. I hope that in every case, whether the dwelling is to be in .the city or in the . country, careful consideration will be given to providing as much land around the soldiers’ homes as may be practicable. I can hardly expect that the amount of money to be advanced will furnish a quarter-acre block in the cities ; but what I desire is that in this new departure the authorities shall studiously avoid anything like the suggestion of crowded conditions.
I look forward to this measure being thoroughly successful. I hope the Commissioner who will be appointed, and those associated with him in administration, will have all the assistance and sympathy possible in the carrying out of their work.
– The general reception extended to this measure has been so encouraging and, to me, so pleasing, that I do not think it necessary to add anything to the remarks which I have already addressed to the Senate. There are two points, however, which were raised in the debate, and to which I desire to refer. One had to do with a suggested amendment to extend the insurance provisions to include damage by flood and tempest. The other was a suggestion of Senator Ferricks regarding how far it might be possible to so enlarge the provisions as to enable them to operate in Federal Territories where, at present, the only title is leasehold land. Both suggestions appeal to me, and I will consult the legal advisers to the Government to see if those ideas can be incorporated into the Bill during the Committee stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Bill presented, and reada first time.
Motion (by Senatormillen) agreed to-
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
Senator RUSSELL (Victoria- Vice-
President of. the Executive Council) [8.58]. - I move-
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The principles of this amending measure are not only simple, but are well understood, because, from time to time, they have been debated in this Chamber. The first amendment of importance is to enable those who have been on active service in the Australian Imperial Force to enter the. Public Service without being required to go through the formality of examination. We should all be sympathetio’ with such a provision, although there may be difficulties in administering the principle fairly. But it is only right that a man who has been on active service should not be denied the opportunity to enter the Public Service because he has been abroad in the defence of his country during a period when he might have stayed at home and prepared him- self to pass the ordinary examination. And, even though the service for a little while might not be carried on with quite as much competency as ordinarily, we would all, no doubt, be prepared to accept that situation in view of the circumstances.
The second principle involves an amendment of the Act upon somewhat similar lines; but it applies to boys. Boys entering the service as telegraph messengers have either to go out or to pass an examination for promotion at the age of eighteen. Many of these youths enlisted, and went away on active service long before they were eighteen. While they were actually at the Front they spent their eighteenth birthday, and missed the opportunity to pass the educational test and qualify to remain in the service and receive promotion. The amendment in the Bill ‘ is intended to provide for the promotion of those youths automatically, as though they had qualified in the ordinary manner.
The third portion involves a bigger principle. As, the result of very strong public feeling, Mr. Barnett, Stipendiary Magistrate, of Sydney, was appointed a Royal Commission to inquire into the birth and parentage of those persons in our Public Service who were believed to “be of alien origin. It was proved in certain cases, and may be true in others, that some of those people were absolutely disloyal to this country, and therefore not loyal servants of the Government. This Bill gives the power of dismissal wherever such a case has been clearly and conclusively proved before the Royal Commission.
There has not been a uniform system of holidays for public servants through- out the Commonwealth, the general practice being to acknowledge the holidays proclaimed by the States. Unfortunately, some States have proclaimed very few, and others many. In some States, Commonwealth public servants were getting ten holidays per year, and in others up to fifteen or sixteen. It has been decided to have eight .uniform holidays, as determined under the Arbitration Act, consisting of days such as Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Good Friday, and Easter Monday, which are uniformly observed throughout Australia. In addition, there are to be four holidays in each State, or, alternatively, eight half-holidays, which may be selected by the individuals or the States themselves. Thus, instead of varying numbers in different States, there will be twelve uniform fully-paid ‘holidays for Commonwealth public servants.
– No; it will be one of the four which each State can select for itself. If an individual is compelled to work for any part of the extra four holidays, he is to receive double pay for the time worked.
Another principle arising out of a recent Arbitration Court award is introduced. The interpretation of an award affecting the letter-carriers was universally accepted, but a little while ago the High Court gave a decision which surprised everybody, and the practical “ effect of which has been that certain men have claimed pay going back over a considerable number of years, which it is practically impossible to catch up with new. This Bill is to make the decision take effect from the day on which that interpretation was given by the Court, a few months back.
Debate (on motion by Senator McDougall) adjourned.
Government Control “of Metals - Aliens in Public Service - Corporal Punishment in Australian Navy.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn. . .
– Have the Government received any communication from Sir John Higgins, demanding an inquiry by a Supreme Court Judge into the allegations brought before the Senate by Senator Pratten regarding the Government control of metals?
Senator FOLL (Queensland) [9.61. - Is the report of the Royal Commission on the question of enemy aliens in the Public Service yet completed ? If so, when will it be laid before the Senate?
.- On 29th November, I asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy -
Has flogging been abolished on the warships belonging, to the Australian Navy? and received . the following reply : -
Corporal punishment has been suspended for some years in the Royal Navy by Admiralty Order, and the suspension applies to the Royal Australian Navy. Caning of boys is allowed in the Royal Navy; but only in the training establishments of the Royal Australian Navy.
On 5th December, I asked -
I asked on 11th December -
I intend now to supply particulars so that this matter may be “inquired into, a decision arrived at, and, if possible, justice « done to the person concerned. I have not the whole correspondence, but I have sufficient to justify me in placing the matter before the Senate in an unmistakable fashion. I shall not give the name of the mother or of the boy concerned, but they can be made available to the Minister. The first letter written by the mother of the boy, and dated 29th January, 1917, was as follows: -
Sir, - Re my son, boy 1st class, who was under your care whilst you were in charge of H.M.A.S. Warrego, I wish to say the brutal way you treated my son would more befit a German than an Englishman. Do you think for a moment us Australians would allow our boys to enter the Navy to receive such monstrous treatment as you served out to my son. I wish to let you know that caning was abolished in the Australian Navy long before my son joined the Warrego, therefore you knew you overstepped the rule when you ordered my son twenty-seven cuts whilst in your care, also to wind up with, sixty days in the detention quarters on Garden Island. The boy will carry the marks of your kind treatment on his ribs as long as he lives (which is no disgrace to the boy, as hegot it undeserved) . Well, the boy did not do sixty days in the detention, as the Navy Board were more human than you, and I wish to inform you that unless I receive an apology in writing for the brutal way you treated my son whilst he served in H.M.A.S. Warrego, under your charge of that ship, I intend to take out a summons for you, and have the case tried in a civil Court. There were several of the men who were on the Warrego came to see . me to lot me know of my son’s treatment from you, also from some of the men on the Warrego.
P.S. - In case you forget the boy whom I mean, I am sending the photograph of him, so please send it back when you have seen it. I think a boy like him could have been treated like what he looks, not like a whipped cur, the same as he has been.
This is the reply from Captain Bond - 6th March.
While sending you back the photograph of your boy, as you ask, I think it is only fair to both of us, after your rather strongly worded letter, that we should try to understand each other’s point of view.
Will you believe that I understand yours? Any mother who has given three sons for their country would be a poor mother if she had not your feelings, believing, as you evidently do, that your boy has been brutally and unjustly treated.
Now I am going to ask you to try and understand my point of view. In a service like ours, the great thing that makes that service what it is, and makes it do what it has done, is perfect discipline and willing obedience, on the part of every officer and man, to the regulations of the service, and to those above them.
I happen to be in a position where I am responsible that this state of affairs exists in 1 my ship. Your son did not appear to see the necessity of either discipline or obedience, and, in spite of several warnings at first, continued to disobey orders, and was reported by petty officers over him for being disrespectful. It then became necessary for me to enforce obedience, and I treated him exactly in the manner he would be treated by regulations in a ship in England. You are perfectly right in saying this was not justified by the Australian Navy Regulations, but having newly been attached to the Australian Navy I did not know this.
To make your mind easier about the canings he received, these were carried out with a much lighter cane than the Navy supplies, and on one occasion the end curled round, and made the mark you refer to. With regard to his being ashamed of his canings, I can assure you that at his age I had very many more of them than your boy, until I learned from experience that if I wanted my way instead of the Navy’s I had to pay for it, but I never considered them anything to be ashamed of in after life. When they were over, I remember being very glad to have had my dozen instead of weeks of leave stopped and extra work, &c. If I had had a mother to tell all about it to, I am quite sure she would have said I was being brutally treated. With regard to the detention, although I hoped at one time your boy had turned round, and told him so, at the same time dismissing a minor charge against him - as no doubt he with remember - the same trouble started again, and I had to recourse to a heavier punishment. Having come from the North Sea, where war is very much war, and discipline must be, and is, very strict, no . doubt my ideas of a proper punishment were heavier than those of the Navy Board, and the Board did what we all expect them to do, that is, reduce- his punishment, according to their ideas of what is a just punishment, under the circumstances we are acting under. I am very glad they reduced the punishment, and, of course, now knowing their ideas, I will be guided accordingly.
I am trying to explain this to you, as I don’t want you, who have served your country so well in your family, to think that such a thing as deliberate persecution can exist from officers towards their men in the service, and I am sure, if you knew the worried hours we spend trying to do justice with the least punishment, at the same time making it clearly understood that orders must be obeyed, you would not have written quite so strongly. I confess your boy gave me more anxious thought than the whole of the ship’s company put together - in a ship that I always understood was a happy one.
I will give you one example. The Regulations state that boys of that age are not allowed to smoke.Your boy was continually caught smoking, and he finally told me he could not stop smoking, and would smoke; It sounds a small matter, but if I did not punish him every time he was caught, I had to (to be just) allow all- the other boys to break Navy regulations by smoking when they liked, which, of course, I could not do. Finally your son passed me on board, a foot away, quietly smoking a cigarette. That time I was not just, and did not punish him, as I could not help admiring his cheek, and I thought that at that time he was really trying to pull up. Those were just the small matters, but they may help you to understand my difficulties. Don’t think we looked upon him as a criminal, buthe had joined the Navy, and had therefore to abide by the rules of the Navy, or take the consequences. He appeared to prefer to take the consequences. Of course he is young, but we all start young. I started at thirteen and a half years, and had to learn to keep the rules pretty quickly. It is a hard service, and if our mothers knew what form our breaking in took they would all be miserable.
Now, if I have helped you to understand, write to me again; but if you still think I am a hard-hearted German, don’t. Remember, if your boy and I meet again (in the Navy) we start perfectly fresh, as far as I am concerned. If he should break regulations I would have to act as before (without the canings). If he carries out the regulations, he will have all the help and encouragement I can give him, as I try to give to the excellent ships’ companies that I have serving under me in this flotilla.
– Did he do the caning himself?
– -No. I have another letter here, and it will probably throw some further light on the matter. It is as follows: -
To the Secretary, Naval Board, Melbourne.
Dear Sir, - I wish to draw your attention to the fact that 1 have not heard from you re my son,– , boy, 1st Class, who was sent to the detention quarters onGarden Island from H.M.A.S. Warrego, on the arrival of that ship in Sydney. It has also come to my knowledge that my son received twentyseven cuts whilst on the ship, also that Leading Seaman Clough asked’ permiss’on of Captain Bond to be allowed to lay the cuts on the boy.’ Clough said to the boy, “I- am going to lay one dozen cuts on you, and I will make you squeal.” The boy said, “ I won’t cry out.” Clough said, “ I bet you two dollars you do.” I believe the bet was made. When the caning was ‘going on my son did not cry out. At the eighth cut Clough brought the cane round, and cut two strips off the boy’s right side, off the ribs, which has left scars for life. My son did not cry out in his agony, and Clough lost his bet, and did not like to pay up; hut it seems he wasmade to. Leading Seaman Clough is making a boast of the way lie can lay cuts on and draw -blood and cut pieces out. Even in the tram cars he speaks about it. He forgets caning was done away with in the Navy in the early part of 1914. If their doings on the ship want advertising, I can very easily have it put in- , which, would, no doubt, be pleased to have it, as they like scandal. Now, I want to know why my boy received such treatment, also what the Naval Board intends to do in the matter, as it is now going on for four weeks since’ I first wrote about the case. I should like to hear, or I will put the case into a solicitor’s hands, as we don’t send our boys into the Navy to be treated in such a brutal way.
Further correspondence was then directed to the . Naval Board, but no reply was received for some time. The following is a statement signed by one of the able seamen on the Warrego: -
Statement re the treatment of boyon board the H.M.A.S. ‘ Brisbane.
I joined the Brisbane with- in Sydney about October, 1916. In my opinion, the boy was never encouraged or even given a fair chance to got on. He was made to work in the stoke hole, also on the submerged torpedo flat, besides general work on deck. Whilst we were at Singapore, he’ was enticed by a petty officer to break leave. He did so, and for this offence ho was held across a vaulting-horse by a leading seaman and flogged with a cane by Master-at-arms- and Corporal- . I was eye-witness to this. When we reached Fremantle- broke leave again. For this he was discharged from the Navy and sentenced to ninety days’ detention in civil prison. In my opinion, the cause of all the trouble was unfair treatment.
The mother then wrote the following letter to the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) : -
Sir, - I am writing to ask if you could assist in any way in the case of my son, who is at present, or was, on the H.M.A.S. Brisbane. The case is as follows: - The lad’s name is - . He joined the H.M.A.S. Tingira in Sydney in 1914. After about nine months’ service, he was transferred to the. H.M.A.S. Warrego. Now on this ship his troubles began. For a minor offence - smoking, I believe - he was sentenced to be flogged with a cane. His punishment was to be twelve cuts. Now the man who volunteered to flog said to the boy, “ I will make you squeal.” ‘ The boy said, “ You will not.” He said, “ I will bet a dollar I do,” and in his brutal attempt to make the boy cry he left scars on his ribs that he will carry to his grave. He gave him many more cut3 than he should have.
– Yes, but there are more particulars. She continues -
Now this flogging of boys is a breach” of the rules, as you know, to say nothing of the brutal manner in which it was on this occasion carried out. “Captain Bond, of the Warrego, in a private letter to me on the matter, pleaded ignorance of the regulations. But that is no excuse. If he does not know the regulations himself, how can ‘he expect those under him to know. However, this is a matter that will probably require some explanation in the civil Courts later on. However, he was then brought to Sydney for the same offence as he was flogged, was given sixty days’ detention at Garden Island. I wrote to the Naval Board, and asked to be allowed to see him, and I received a reply that, as his ease was a special one, I would be allowed to see him. What was meant by a special case? Further investigations fey the Naval Board revealed the fact that his sentence was unjust. They remitted the balance of his sentence. I then got him home, and after a period of a few weeks, he was called up to go on the H.M.A.S. Brisbane. 1 have not heard from him since June of this year. Lately I have heard from a private source that he has been flogged on several occasions since he has ‘been on the H.M.A.S. Brisbane, and that he has been discharged, and is at present stranded an Western Australia, which, if it is true, is another breach of the regulations, as Sydney is his home port. This is not fair treatment for a lad of seventeen years. 1 would mention that since my son was first flogged I have, tried to get his discharge from the Navy; but, beyond receiving a reply to my letter that the matter would receive attention, I have beard nothing. Now, Mr. Cook, do you think this is fair treatment to a widowed mother who has but three sons, and has given them nil for the service of the Empire? One has made the supreme -sacrifice, and sleeps in a soldier’s grave. Another is on active service in France, and this, my youngest, to be treated in a manner that is breaking my heart. Now, what I want is this: - I want my son returned to me by the naval authorities, with his discharge from the Navy, if he is not already discharged. If he is discharged, I want him returned to his home port. Then it is my intention to seek legal advice to see if I cannot “bring to book some of those persons who break boys’ hearts, make bad boys of good ones, leave the scar of the criminal on their backs, and treat with contempt the rules and regulations of H.M.A. Navy. Trusting you will have this matter attended to at once,
I remain yours sincerely,
Following upon that letter it was subsequently ascertained that the boy had been discharged in Western Australia. According to one statement made by the Naval authorities he was offered a passage to his home in ‘Sydney, on the 25th September, but did not avail himself of the offer, and the Department had then no knowledge of his whereabouts. It was later ascertained that he had enlisted, and was in the Black Boy Camp in Western Australia. When this was known the following letter, dated 7th February, 1918, by Robert Hoare, signing for the Naval Secretary, was sent to the Secretary of the Department for Defence : -
I am directed by the Naval Board to inform you that- was discharged in
September last, at Fremantle, from the Royal Australian Navy, “ Services no longer required,” and was offered a passage to his home at Sydney, which he declined.
His mother,- , has been pressing this
Department to have the boy returned ‘ to his mother’s custody at Sydney.
It has now been ascertained that he has enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force, and is at Black Boy Camp, Helena Vale, Western Australia.
His mother has ascertained this, and wired stating that she refuses her consent, the boy being under age.
The same is communicated for your information, with a view to. any steps being taken by the Defence Department thai are considered desirable.
It is requested that if discharged the “boy’s return to his mother may be insured, and this Department will be glad to give any assistance required to that end.
I understand that the boy has now been returned to Sydney. The point I wish to make is that, in the Australian- Navy, contrary to the- regulations, this boy has been flogged with a cane. I understand that flogging is not permitted in the Australian Navy, and the gentleman responsible for the ‘flogging of this lad should be called upon to explain his gross violation of the regulations. It must be remembered that people who have sacrificed everything they have in the war are entitled to a little more consideration than this importation from the North Sea appears to be prepared to give them. The mother of this lad has been a widow for four years. Two of her sons went to the war. One of them has made the supreme sacrifice, and the other has been wounded and gassed.
– The honorable senator has. already recounted all those particulars.
– I do not think that I told the Senate that on© of this woman’s boys was wounded and gassed.
– Yes; the honorable senator did tell the Senate that.
– Then I beg pardon, as I was not aware that I had done so. I have explained tho position in this case.
-Colonel O’Loughlin. - Has the honorable senator any evidence that this lad was flogged on the Brisbane?
– There is some difficulty in ascertaining the whole of tho facts, but it is quite evident that he was flogged on the Warrego, when under the command of Captain Bond. If he was flogged only bnco there is ample reason why the matter should be definitely inquired into, and the person responsible for inflicting this punishment dealt with in a proper way. If the people generally, realized that flogging of this kind was carried ‘on in the Australian Navy, I am confident that we should have very great difficulty indeed in securing men for the service-. I hope that this matter will be represented to the responsible Minister In such a way that we shall hear no more of actions of this kind in the Australian Navy.
– In regard to Senator McDou gall’s question as to whether there has been a demand from Sir John Higgins that an inquiry should be held into the oharges made in connexion with the tin-scrap industry, and that it should- be by a- Supreme Court Judge, I think the only thing bearing upon that is_ the statement appearing in tho letter froni “ Sir John Higgins, read ; in the Senate, and which was laid on the . table as a document, and ordered to be printed. In that letter Sir John Higgins said that ho courted the fullest inquiry. I do not think that ho demanded an inquiry.
– I thought there might be a further letter from him.
– I shall’ bring the honorable senator’s question under the notice, of , the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt). Personally, I have no knowledge of any demand for an inquiry, or^any reference to an inquiry other than that which appeared in tike- letter I haver mentioned.
asked for. information with respect to the inquiry as. to enemy aliens in the Public Service. It was, undertaken by Mr. Barnett,. and I do not think that it is yet complete’. I shall bring the honorable senator’s question under the notice of the Acting Prime Minister. I do not know whether it has been decided that the papers in that matter- shall be tabled.
The matter ventilated by Senator Grant conies under the- Department of the Acting Minister for the Navy, and, personally, I have no knowledge of the circumstances referred to, except in so far as they have been mentioned in replies handed to me from time to time in answer to questions submitted in the Senate I shall see that Senator’ Grant’s remarks are brought under the notice of the Acting Minister for the Navy, and also his request that there should be an inquiry into the circumstances alleged in the. statement he has made.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at9.38 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 12 December 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1918/19181212_senate_7_87/>.