17th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The report published in the Sydney Morning Herald to-day of the debate on the Reestablishment and Employment Bill in the Senate yesterday, contains the following statement: -
Senator Leckie said many companies and linns had made up the pay of the employees on service. Many large firms paid 18s. lid. in the £1 taxation and it was to their advantage to make these payments to employees on service because that reduced tax.
As a matter of fact, I did not make those statements at all. They were made by the Minister for Health (Senator Eraser). I would not make such a statement because the second part of it is not true. At any rate, I do not wish to take credit for statements made by another honorable senator. I looked up the official report and I find that the words attributed to me are almost identical with those used by the Minister.
– Has the Ministor for Supply and Shipping noticed the report in the press that it is proposed to make drastic curtailment of the train services in the metropolitan area of Victoria? Has he also read that on Monday last a number of special coal-burning trains were run from Sydney? Has ho any explanation to make as to why the coal position is worse in Victoria than in New South Wales?
– I have not read the report with regard to the coal position in Victoria. As far as the Coal Commission is concerned there is an equitable distribution of coal between the States as far as possible. The shortage of coal in Victoria is intensified by the fact that the Yallourn works are not in operation, and as a result, the commission is now supplying to Victoria an additional 3,000 tons of coal weekly. I do not think it would be right for the Commonwealth Government to determine bow many trains should be run in Victoria, Western Australia or any other State. Coal is allocated for certain services and if more inconvenience is suffered in Victoria than in New South Wales it is not the result of the allocation of coal. Owing to the diminished stocks there is a prospect of the rationing of power and- light in New South Wales being introduced.
– What is the position at Wonthaggi?
– Work is proceeding satisfactorily there. Very few stoppages have occurred at Wonthaggi. Yesterday Senator Foll spoke of stoppages on the northern coal-fields and I informed him that prompt consideration was being given to the resumption of coal production in that district.
– by leave - The facts in regard to the dispute at Millfield colliery which led to a stoppage of all mines on the Maitland coal-field may be shortly summarized as follows: - A deputy named Wilson was suspended from his employment because it was alleged against him that he had placed his initials, together with the date of a pre-shift inspection, on certain working places on the mine in question at a time earlier than that permitted by the law. Under the Coal Mines Regulation Act a deputy is compelled to make an inspection of the mine and of all working places between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m., and it is generally admitted that it would be a serious offence for a deputy to make an inspection before the hour stipulated, particularly as the safety of employees is involved. Wilson, the deputy in question, denies having committed any breach of the Coal Mines Regulation Act, and further denies that the markings in the mine are his, and states that he knows nothing of them at all. Industrial matters relating to deputies are within the jurisdiction of the Industrial Commission of the State of New South Wales, and the d:-;)ute which arose following the suspension of Wilson - came before Mr. Justice Cantor of that commission. In a lengthy judgment, His Honor stated’ - i am not satisfied that Wilson did not place the markings where they were found before 3 a.m. on the 6th April. I am satisfied that the manager, acting for the employer, in good faith and as a reasonable man exercising his rights as an employer, suspended Wilson. I find no evidence of victimization of Wilson in the offence alleged or of failure on the party concerned to apply their minds fairly to the facts.
The judge concluded that portion of his judgment by stating that it was not a matter in which the commission should intervene and he refused to make an order for Wilson’s’ reinstatement. Following on this judgment the members of the Deputies Association in the Maitland district held a meeting and resolved that none of the mines in that area, would work until Wilson had been reinstated. As a result of that resolution some 24 mines were idle on Thursday and Friday of last week with a loss of about 20,000 tons of coal each day. On Saturday morning an officer of the Commonwealth Coal Commission met the representatives of the Deputies Association in conference with ‘me. Officers of the Coal Commission were tremendously concerned as to their ability to supply coal to essential consumers if this stoppage was to follow into the following week. Representatives of the deputies indicated that they had further evidence which could be produced to support Wilson’s claim that he had been unjustly dealt with and asked that the whole matter be reviewed. At the time of Wilson’s suspension the management gave to him the option of resigning or being suspended. Wilson replied that he would fight it to a finish. In an effort to ensure the smooth running of the colliery, pending the production of such further evidence., it was decided that the colliery should operate under an authorized controller until such time as the judge of the Industrial Commission had considered such further evidence, or for 30 days if no such further evidence was produced. Wilson was to remain suspended and no permanent appointment was to be made to fill his position in the meantime. A written agreement embracing the terms of settlement was signed by the executive officers of the Deputies Association representing each district in the State, and all mines in the Maitland district resumed work on Monday. In pursuance of the agreement arrived at, the Coal Commissioner took all steps necessary to take over control of the mine, and appointed Mr. G. Pellew his assistant production manager, as the authorized controller, while notice in writing of this action was posted to the secretary of the company owning the mine on the same day. Monday.
On Monday night the deputies employed at the Maitland mines held a further meeting and refused to accept the terms of the agreement referred to, although advised to do so by their responsible officers. They resolved to again, cease work until Wilson had been reinstated, and as a result the mines were thrown idle again yesterday and to-day. The State council of the Deputies Association immediately convened a meeting of all councillors in Sydney, and yesterday carried a resolution ordering a resumption of work on the terms of the agreement arrived at on Saturday, and the meeting of those concerned is to be hold to-night at which all officials of the association will attend.
It is true that in ceasing work the deputies have broken the law and are liable to prosecution. I notice that the Coal Commissioner has made a public statement drawing attention to the splendid record of mine deputies during the whole course of the present war, and expressing his regret that the foolish attitude of the Maitland men should have tarnished their otherwise excellent reputation in such matters. The Government is advised by the Coal Commissioner, and I have his permission to say that he will not recommend prosecution against the deputies if they accept the advice and direction of their officials to resume work without delay. In reaching this decision, the Commissioner informs me that he is influenced not only by the high regard he has for the past service given by the deputies to the industry during the war, but also because he firmly believes that such a decision will be in the best interests of future production.
SenatorCOOPER. - I understand that the Minister for Trade and Customs now has an answer to a question which I asked some days ago.
– On the 14th June, in answering a series of questions by Senator Cooper regarding synthetic and woollen goods, I said that I would obtain information from the Minister for Labour and National Service regarding the man-power made available to these two branches of industry. The Minister has now informed me that, there are no figures available to show the man-power made available for the manufacture of synthetics. For the woollen and worsted textile manufacturing industry figures are not available prior to February, 1944, but the following table shows placements by the Man Power Directorate between February, 1944, and April, 1945 : -
– Can the Leader of the Senate yet advise me. whether the Government approved Mr. Thornton’s visit overseas as the representative of the Australian trade union movement, and whether any payment by way of subsidy, fares, expenses or in any other form has been made by the Government in connexion with Mr. Thornton’s trip abroad ?
– That is not the question which the honorable senator asked me yesterday. If I remember aright he asked me whether I had read a statement attributed in the press to the Vice-President of the Executive Council expressing amazement at the appointment of Mr. Thornton to represent Australian trade unionists abroad; and also whether the Government had contributed to the expenses of Mr. Thornton’s recent trip. That information has not yet been supplied to me. I shall furnish it to the honorable senator as soon as it comes to hand.
– I ask the Minis ter for Supply and Shipping if it is a fact that petrol produced from shale at Glen Davis is of higher quality than that now being sold to the general public, and that the petrol produced at Glen Davis is not responsible for the low-grade petrol now being sold to the general public ?
– I do not know the quality of the petrol being produced at Glen Davis, but the petrol being sold to the general public is 70 octane petrol. It is of exactly the same quality as that in general use in 1941, after the super grade of 80 octane spirit was eliminated. There were not any complaints at that time about the quality of the petrol. When this country was threatened with invasion early in 1942, and American forces arrived, 80 octane spirit was required for their mechanical equipment. As we were not in a position at that time to keep two separate stocks of petrol, one for the civilian population and the other for the military authorities, SO octane spirit was again available to motorists. It is true that the higher grade petrol gives a better mileage, and I am having the position examined now to determine just what the difference is. It is claimed by some motorists that the performance of their cars on 70 octane spirit is reduced by from 3 to 5 miles a gallon. If that be so, and providing that petrol stocks in this country will not be reduced below the safety level, it may be possible to grant an increased allowance commensurate with a reduction of mileage. Probably a motorist who at present receives 4 gallons a month will receive an extra gallon monthly. However, I cannot promise any improvement beyond that.
– In fairness to the Glen Davis project, will the Minister for Supply and Shipping ascertain the quality of motor fuel that is being produced from shale in that locality. I understand that that spirit is of fairly high quality, and, if so, the doubt which at present exists in the minds of the genera] public should be removed.
– I shall endeavour to ascertain the quality of the Glen Davis petrol. I point out to the honorable senator that the production of petrol includes a refining and washing process. I have used some of the petrol which was produced at Newnes before the inauguration of the Glen Davis scheme, and I have found it to be of an excellent quality. Glen Davis is in a valley, separated from Newnes by a mountain, but the same lode of shale is worked at bothcentres, so that there is every reason to believe that petrol pro duced at GlenDavis will be as of good quality as that produced at Newnes. I shall try to obtain a comparison between the two.
– In view of the fact that the coupon rating of men’s socks and knitting wools has been reduced recently, will the Minister for Trade and Customs give early consideration to a similar reduction of the coupon rating on all male and female apparel manufactured from wool?
– I shall have the matter investigated and inform the honorable senator later.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.Will the Minister for Social Services make a statement to the Senateas to when the Government will implement the free medicine scheme? Is it not a fact that the reason for its nonimplementation is due to a difference of opinion between the Government and the British Medical Association? If that is not so, what other factors are delaying the commencement of the service which was provided for under legislation passed by this Parliament last year?
SenatorFRASER. - It is not a fact that the service cannot be implemented from the 1st July next because of a refusal on the part of the British Medical Asso ciation to co-operate with the Government. I have taken steps to have the necessary pharmacists and other professional personnel, who are now in the fighting services, made available for the purpose of the scheme, and as soon as possible it will be given effect.
– What steps have been taken by the Government to acquaint the rank and file of the medical profession with its intentions with regard to both free medicine and sickness benefits ?
SenatorFRASER. - That matter is being considered. I can assure the honorable senator that, when the time comes to implement the free medicine scheme, the Government will have ample propaganda to combat the views of those who do not agree with it.
– Will the Acting Min ister for the Army state when, in view of certain disclosures regarding conditions at the Albury Detention Camp, as revealed in a report of a court-martial held at Albury yesterday, it is likely that an inquiry will be commenced into the conditions surrounding detention camps generally?
Mr.FRASER. - As indicated by me previously, 1 have already decided to have a general inquiry made regarding these camps, but it has been difficult to obtain the services of a judge for the purpose. I have a judge in mind, but at present he is engaged on other work. It is necessary to obtain the consent of the State authority concerned, and I am hopeful that at an early date the inquiry will commence. I am unable to furnish any information as to the commissioner, but the terms of reference will be wide enough to include the matter to which the honorable senator has referred.
Sun day Advertising.
– In view of the fact that trade in general is prohibited on Sundays, will the Postmaster-General consider the advisability of prohibiting B class .broadcasting stations from indulging in advertising on Sundays, so that on at least one day a week the public will not have to listen to blatant advertising ?
– I shall give consideration to the matter, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable senator in due coursed
asked the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is as follows : -
A number of vessels have recently been handed hack to the Commonwealth by the United Slates Army. These vessels were in a damaged condition, and with the exception of one, the Corrimal, it will be some time before they can be recommissioned, having regard to ship repair priorities, docking facilities and labour available. The Corrimal has been allotted to the Tasmanian trade to carry pyrites from Strahan to Melbourne. The Royal Australian Navy has just released the Tambar and this vessel is now being fitted out for the Tasmanian trade (King Island service) and should be in commission at an early date.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, upon notice -
– The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Leader of the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 19th June (vide page 3233).
Clause Te ll.) The rate per week of the reemployment allowance payable to any person shall bc reduced by the amount (if any) of -
any pension payable to that person or to any dependant of that person :
Upon which ‘Senator Brand had moved, by way of amendment -
That paragraph (a) of sub-clause (1.) be left out.
.- Last night the Minister for Health (Senator Fraser) used the existence of a certain regulation under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act as an argument for the retention of paragraph a of this clause. That regulation became inoperative when the Department of Labour and National Service was created. Under it the Repatriation Commission was empowered to take a pension into account when assessing the amount of the unemployment allowance. It did not, however, take the whole of the soldier’s pension into account, but only sufficient of it to keep the allowance within the specified maximum. The matter was to be reviewed periodically. So far as I can learn there was no objection from ex-servicemen’s associations, which apparently thought it best that there should be some restraint on persons who might be disposed not to seek employment. Evidently, it was thought that it might not he in the best interests of an ex-serviceman to grant him a full employment allowance plus his full pension. The objective of the Repatriation Commission and of the several exservicemen’s associations was to ensure that the ex-soldier made an effort to be reabsorbed into the industrial life of the community. There is, however, strong opposition from organizations of exserviceman to paragraph a of this clause, because the whole of an ex-serviceman’s war pension is to he taken into account when calculating the re-employment allowance. This is in distinct contrast to the treatment of non-war pensioners who may draw the full allowance.
– Surely the Minister (Senator Keane) will reply to Senator Brand?
– The point raised was dealt with last evening.
– A Avar pension is paid to a member of the fighting forces as some compensation for injuries received by him on service, and to make up in some way the difference between what he is able to earn as a disabled worker and what he would earn had he not been injured. Tt is most unfair that, in considering what re-employment allowance should be paid to such a man, his war pension should be taken into account. The position would not be so bad if a sliding scale were adopted - if a war pensioner suffered a disability which reduced his earning capacity by one-third, and only one-third of his pension were taken into account when dealing with his re-employment allowance - but that the whole of his pension should be taken into account is most unfair. I cannot see why any distinction should he drawn between a war pension and a payment made by a friendly society. If it be contended that the person who receives benefits from a friendly society has paid for them, the same argument can be advanced in respect of the disabled soldier; he also has paid for his pension. I have never heard of such unfair treatment of men who have received injuries in the service of their country. It would seem that in this legislation the exserviceman is the last person in the community about whom the Government is concerned.
– What steps did the honora.ble senator take when he was a Minister in a former government to rectify this anomaly?
– I do not care what previous governments did. The proposal of the Government in paragraph a is wrong from whatever point of view it is considered. If previous governments acted wrongly, an opportunity now presents itself to do the right thing by the disabled ex-servicemen. It is no answer to the point raised by the Opposition to say that similar provisions exist in other legislation introduced by previous governments. I emphasize that this paragraph takes something away, not from a man in full health who is able to look after himself, but from a man who has been maimed in battle and is handicapped by reason of his injuries. If this principle is to he followed to its logical conclusion it will mean that £2 10s. a week will be the total amount that any ex-serviceman can be paid. The Government claims that this .bill will protect the interests of ex-servicemen, but this paragraph does not bear out that claim. Its effect is to wipe out his war ‘pension during the period in which he is receiving a re-employment allowance. I protest strongly against the inclusion of paragraph a. The Government is straining a point, not in favour of a maimed man, but against him. One would ordinarily assume that in such circumstances the Government would err in the right direction and strain a point on behalf of the disabled man; but, in this case, it is straining a point the other way. Yet we are told that this bill has been introduced in order to look after the disabled returned man. If that is the attitude of the Government towards ex-service personnel I have nothing further to say.
– I gathered from the remarks of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) last night that the main justification, if it can be so called, for the insertion of the clause was that if an unemployed ex-serviceman was receiving the princely re-employment allowance of £2 10s. a week while he was waiting for employment, and, in addition, was allowed a pension, he would not want to take a job. In the case of a single man that is absolute nonsense, because he would be in receipt of no payment in addition to the re-employment allowance of £210s., such as might be paid to a married man with, say, three children. The point I emphasize, however, is that the war pension is paid to a returned man in respect of disability owing to war service. That pension should not be touched. In any case, it would not amount to more than from 15s. or £1 a week. But the Government says that, because a man may be receiving that vast sum in addition to the re-employment allowance, he would not want to get a job. I point out that under this measure the re-employment allowance is to be payable for only three months, and up to six months in the aggregate in very special circumstances. In plain English, the effect of the clause is that under this measure the Government takes from the returned man whilst receiving a reemployment allowance the pension granted to him under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act in respect of war disability. The Government cannot possibly justify such a provision. Therefore, I trust that even at this eleventh hour it will sec the light.
Question put -
That the words proposed to he left out (Senator Brand’s amendment) be left out.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator B. Courtice.)
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 77 - (2.) A re-employment allowance shall not be payable to anyperson in respect of any period afterthe expiration of twelve mouths from -
.- I move -
That, in sub-clause (2.), paragraph (b), the words “ ceasing to be such a patient ‘’ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “becoming fit for employment “.
A patient may he discharged from hospital but may still receive medical care and attention although he would not be considered to be a hospital case. Under the clause such a person would be penalized. My amendment will obviate such an anomaly.
– This amendment is quite reasonable, and, I submit, covers a point which apparently was overlooked when the clause was being drafted. As Senator Brand pointed out, a man may be discharged from hospital and then have a period of convalescence. As the clause stands, the twelve months period dates from the time of a man’s discharge from hospital, and in these circumstances hardship may be imposed upon a man who for three months after his discharge from hospital, is recuperating from his illness. These cases would be covered by Senator Brand’s amendment. I trust that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) will not regard this as a hostile amendment, but rather as a proposal designed to cover . a point which apparently has been overlooked. Unless there is some vital reason for the rejection of the amendment I submit that the Minister should accept it.
– I do not regard the amendment as necessary. Service policy to-day is to retain a patient in hospital until he is fit for employment. That practice will be continued.
.- With due respect to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane), I contend that he has been wrongly advised in regard to this matter. Repatriation hospitals have many out-patients as well as in-patients. Surely it is not suggested that when a patient is well enough to go home, and requires medical treatment perhaps only twice a week, he should be retained in hospital. From time to time the repatriation hospitals of this country have been overcrowded, and the authorities have been only too glad to transfer patients to the out-patients list and send them home, where very often their chances of a rapid recovery are much better than they are in hospital. If the practice is as the Minister has stated, it is something quite new.
– I do not know from what source the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) has obtained his information, but according to the latest figures I have seen, there were five times as many out-patients as in-patients at our repatriation hospitals.
– As I have said, service policy is to retain patients in hospital until they are fit for employment. That practice was confirmed by a recent Cabinet decision.
.- The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) is referring to service policy, but Senator Brand is referring to repatriation hospitals, which is something entirely different. I realize that whilst a patient is still a member of the forces, he is retained in hospital, or in n convalescent depot, but that practice has no relation to repatriation hospitals. It would be impossible for repatriation hospitals to provide accommodation for all patients requiring treatment.
– In accordance with the repatriation regulations, allowances normally will be payable for a period or periods not exceeding in the aggregate three months, during a period of twelve months from the date of a serviceman’s discharge, or, if he has been in hospital, from the date of his discharge from hospital, or from the cessation of hostilities, whichever is the later. If a man is still unfit for employment upon his discharge from hospital, he will be paid under part VI. of this legislation which relates to disabled persons. Where there are special circumstances, the period of three months may be extended to six months by the administering authority. After this period of three months - or six months in special circumstances - an unemployed ex-serviceman will have to apply for unemployment benefits under the unemployment and sickness benefits legislation. The period of three months, with the right of an extension in special circumstances, is considered adequate. Under the Repatriation Regulations, a maximum period of three months is provided.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 78 to SO agreed to.
A re-employment allowance shall be paid, in such manner as the prescribed authority determines, to the person entitled thereto or to such other person as is approved by the prescribed authority.
– I move -
That the words “or to such oilier person as is approved by thu prescribed authority be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof, the following words: - “but the prescribed authority may determine that the whole or pan of the allowance shall be paid to such other person as the prescribed authority approves, in which ease payment shall be made accordingly “.
This amendment will enable the administering authority to pay the whole or any part of the allowance to some person other than the claimant. Portion of an ex-serviceman’s allowance may be paid to his wife, whilst the remainder is paid to the man himself. As the clause stands, only the whole of the allowance could be paid to a person other than the claimant
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 82 to 89 agreed to.
For tin- purpose of thDivision. a person who. at the time of the occurrence of the event resulting in the death of a member of the Forces, was recognized as the wife of that person although not legally married to him. shall, if the prescribed authority is satisfied that that person was wholly or partly dependent upon the earnings of the member, be deemed to be the widow of that member and that member, shall he deemed to have been her husband.
– I move -
That, at. the cml of sun-clause (2.), the following words be added: - “, but nothing in thi.s sub-section shall prevent the making of a loan under this Division to the lawful widow of (.be member, or the guaranteeing under this Division of repayment of a loan (includei”’. H’ien’.st (hereon) made or to he made, to her-‘.
The object of the amendment is to make it clear that a woman who was in fact recognized as the wife of a member of the forces at. the time of the occurrence causing his death, shall be’ treated as a legal widow, if she was dependent on the earnings of the member
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 91 (Loans for establishment in business or civil occupation).
– Under this clause loans can be made only to persons who will use them to engage in some kind of business. When income tax legislation was recently under consideration, I pointed out that a reduction of income tax should be made to ex-servicemen who owned dwellinghouses which during their absence at, the war had deteriorated because no expenditure had been incurred on their upkeep. It would only be fair to enable them to restore their dwelling-houses to a comfortable and safe condition. The Minis.ter was good enough to draw the attention of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to my remarks, and the Treasurer has replied that, after carefully considering my proposal for a reduction of income tax in such cases, he finds himself obliged to support the view that rewards for military service should take the form nf direct assistance to discharged personnel rather than be given by the indirect method of an income tax concessional allowance. I should say that if a serviceman on his return from the war finds it necessary to spend £50 or £100 on repairs to his own dwelling, some effort should be made to assist him. I. should like him to be able to obtain a loan from the Government to enable him to restore his home to a reasonable condition of repair. Would the Minister favorably consider an amendment having the effect of making loans under this clause applicable to dwelling-houses?
Sim a tor Keane. - No, but I shall con sider the matter later.
– Will the Minister give consideration to’ a proposal which has been submitted to honorable senators bv the Toowoomba Apex Club? Details of its scheme have been furnished to me by the Minister for the Interior (Sena tor Collings). Apex clubs have been formed in Western Australia, and I have received a communication from the el lib at Bunbury advocating that the Government might, adopt to its profit a loan proposal which has been fostered i-.y the Apex clubs throughout Australia. The proposal is that, loans should be made to ex-servicemen and also to civilians under varying conditions with preferential treatment of ex-servicemen. No money is to be advanced to the applicants, but they are to be granted land, house, furniture and refrigerator to ena’ble them to establish themselves in civil life, and the total repayment is to be reduced by varying amounts on the birth of the third, fourth and fifth child of the family. I hope that the Government will consider the introduction of such a scheme to enable ex-servicemen and civilians to be re-established in civil life.
– If the honorable senator supplies me with information regarding the scheme, I shall undertake to have it considered later.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 92 (Amount of loans, &c).
.- This is an important clause, and it cannot be dissociated from clause 102. Paragraph /> states that where the loan is for the purpose of enabling an eligible, person to engage in or resume an agricultural occupation, £1,000 may be advanced. There cannot be two loans, one from a State government and one from the Commonwealth Government. Up to the present no land has been purchased, although two of the States have already submitted about 2,000,000 acres of land to the Commonwealth Government, which will not allow the States to purchase land until it has approved the purchase, and. of course, the whole of the money must he provided by the Commonwealth. I can visualize a man taking an area of 1,000 acres and eventually having to pay interest to two authorities. The position should bc clarified to show whether the purchase will be financed .by the Commonwealth or by a State. If the Commonwealth Government is to provide the money, to whom shall the interest be paid? I contend that the whole transaction should be dealt with through one government. “When we refer to the next clause, avc notice that the rate of interest is to be fixed by regulation. I was concerned with a large estate which was subdivided for settlement. The terms were that 15 per cent, of the cost should be paid at the outset, and that 10 per cent, of the principal should ,be paid off the balance during each succeeding year until the whole of the mortgage had been paid. On the face of it, that was a tempting offer and many .persons took up land under those conditions. Later, when the vendor asked me how the settlers were faring, I said to him that the conditions of sale placed then in an impossible position. I remarked that for the first three years the settlers should not have been called upon for the repayment of the principal. After that, he would be in a position to meet some of his payments. The vendor then said that I could tell the purchasers that they need not make any capital payments during the next three years. When they heard that, they erected homes for themselves and their families and sheds for their stock and implements, and subdivided their properties with fences. After that they got on very well. I urge that during the first few years these men be given a chance to establish themselves. In connexion with a later clause I propose to move that loans shall be free of interest for the first three years. After that the rate of interest could be increased, if thought desirable, so that in time the situation would be the same as if interest had,been charged from the time of purchase. I should say that the purpose of the Mortgage Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank is to do as I have suggested, but the rate of interest charged hy that department is over 4 per cent. If a man has to pay 4 per cent, interest, and takes up land under a State authority the position will be, as I pointed out in my second-reading speech, that if he makes 14 ner cent, on £6,000 and provides his own stock and implements lie will still only make £152 a year. Taxation is a big item, and many men will find it too big a burden. No man can pay anything off a mortgage in these days. Unless the first few years are free of interest, or the rate of interest be low, these men will not succeed. The failure of so many men in the past was due tn their having to pay interest at 5 per cent. I hope that that mistake will not be repeated, but that these men will have au opportunity to establish themselves in homes and to erect necessary buildings during the first yean of their occupancy of their holdings. I hope that the Minister will give some indication of the attitude which the Commonwealth Government proposes to adopt in its dealings with the States. That is a matter which should be determined now. I have received numerous letters from men who have applied for land but cannot get it because no provision to provide them with land has yet been made. Among them are farmers’ sons and others well qualified to make successful settlers. A loan of £1,000 may be sufficient for a man to engage in poultry farming or share farming, but it will not be sufficient to enable him to purchase land for himself. The land settlement policy comes under clause 102, which provides that the Commonwealth may make advances to the States with a view to settling discharged members of the forces on the land. I want to know whether, in such cases, the interest is to be paid to the Commonwealth or to a State.
.- Sub-clause 2 of clause 92 reads -
The Aggregate amount of any loans made, or in respect of which guarantees are given, under this Division to more than one eligible person in respect of the same enterprise shall not exceed the amount of the loan which could have been made, or in respect of which a guarantee could have been given, to one eligible person in respect of that enterprise.
That means that if two or three discharged men desire to engage in a cooperative enterprise, the maximum loan to which they will be entitled will be £250. Loans should be made to each individual, and where two or more individuals wish to engage in an enterprise, the amount should not be limited to the maximum for one person. Can the Minister give some reason for this restriction ?
.- It is most desirable that discharged men should be encouraged to engage in cooperative enterprises, or to form partnerships. If two men formed a partnership and each was entitled to receive a loan, their chances of success would be much greater than if each man engaged in a business of his own. Men who have been closely associated as members of the forces may wish to retain that association by forming a partnership after their discharge. I see no reason why both men should not be granted a loan. I agree with Senator Brand that it is desirable to encourage co-operative enterprises. The Returned Soldiers Woollen Mills at Geelong is an example of the value of co-operation. Such examples may not be followed in many instances, but surely there will be numerous cases in which two men will desire to form a partnership. It is most unfair to restrict them to half the amount to which they would be entitled if they formed separate businesses.
– I agree with Senator Brand and Senator Foll that it is unfair to restrict the loan to the amount which would be paid to a man acting on his own account should two or more discharged men wish to form a partnership. That applies especially in connexion with a farming enterprise. The whole of the £1,000 which may be made available to enable a discharged serviceman to engage in an agricultural occupation could easily be absorbed in the purchase of stock and machinery. An agriculturist would bc in a worse position than a discharged soldier living in a metropolitan district, because the latter would be entitled not only to a loan under this clause, but also to assistance in building a home for himself. If, say, three men wished to form a partnership to engage in an agricultural occupation, they would have au opportunity not only to purchase stock and implements, but also to build homes.
– T cannot understand why this provision has been included in the bill. I draw attention to clause 95 (1) (b) which provides that a loan shall not be made unless - “the applicant satisfies the prescribed authority that he has the ability and qualification to engage in, with a reasonable prospect of success, the occupation, business or practice in respect of which the loan or guarantee is sought.”.
Paragraph d reads -
The applicant satisfies the prescribed authority that he is likely to be able to repay the amount of the loan made or guaranteed within a reasonable period.
Why cannot the same conditions apply to a partnership? Let us suppose that two men, a cook and a waiter, wish to open in business as cafe proprietors. Obviously, such a partnership is better equipped than either man would be by himself, yet this clause would not permit, them to have as much by way of loan as if they opened separate businesses. lt may be that the reason for this clause is that most loans will be made without much security other than the man’s character. The position would not be complicated by agreeing to Senator Brand’s suggestion. I shall ;be glad to hear the Minister’s explanation.
.- This clause has been included to prevent. dummying “, which is a worse evil than restricting the amount of the loan. In reply to Senator Gibson, who said that the loan provision is separate from land settlement, I point out that this is a matter which is now being discussed with the State governments. Following the submission of the report of the Rural Reconstruction Commission, on the settlement and employment of ex-servicemen on the land, plans were carefully prepared bv the Commonwealth Government for discussion with the State governments. An agreement was reached with the States at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held in October of last year. Subsequent discussions have clarified administrative and financial details and formal legal agreements have been prepared by the Commonwealth for transmission to the States. When the agreements have been signed they will be submitted to the Commonwealth and State Parliaments for ratification. Although commitments Can 1101 be made until the necessary legislation has been passed, a great deal of work ha? been done in connexion with the examination of the proposals for land settlement submitted by the States. The?” plana involve n good deal of work on the part of the States and careful examination of the schemes by the Commonwealth and the State departments concerned. A$ the result of this preliminary work, plans for settlement arc well advanced. T shall ask the appropriate Minister to supply a statement on the progress made with respect to land settlement generally throughout Australia. In this scheme, certain States will act a® agents of the Commonwealth, and other States will be principals. Such arrangements, must be made between this Parliament and the respective States. Certain applications have been received from ex-service personnel, lie majority of which I understand are in New South Wales. These are matters which I suggest will be covered in the complete statement which I shall seek to have made in order to clear up the misunderstanding which exists in the community that neither the Commonwealth nor the States are doing anything in the matter. I am sure thai, when honorable senators hear that statement, they will admit that the Commonwealth has not been responsible for any delay in the matter.
.- I am glad to have the assurance of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) that he will arrange for a statement to be made to show what the Government has been doing in thi? matter. However, the fact remains that many ex-servicemen are complaining that the Government has not yet made provision in the matter. I emphasize that the present occupants and owners of estates which are to be taken over for this purpose should be given full opportunity to make preparations to vacate their properties. They will require to look for another home, and also to get rid of their stock. Many other considerations enter into the matter. These occupants cannot be turned out at a minute’s notice. Scores of estates in roy district have already been valued, and the occupants have merely been told that the estates are to he taken over. It is yet necessary for the Commonwealth to approve not only the estates to be taken over, but also the size of blocks to be made available to settlers. Therefore, much ground has yet to be covered by the Commonwealth and the States acting conjointly before we can reach the point where ex-service personnel can be put on these properties. The owners and occupants of estates who have been told that their properties are to be taken over are in a very precarious position; and with the drought hanging over their heads they de not know where they stand. The Government should clarify the position as soon as possible in the interests of both the vendors and the prospective settlers.
– I shall, look into the matters raised by the honorable senator.
.- I am not quite satisfied with the explanation given by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane,) with respect to my suggestion. He said that when two men apply for a loan under this division the loan would not be made available to ‘both men because one of them might be acting as a dummy. 1. suggest that sufficient safeguards are provided .in subsequent clauses to obviate that possibility. Surely, that cannot be the reason for rejecting my suggestion. Take the case of two men, one a cook, and the second a waiter, who become firm friends while on active service, and who decide to start in business in a cafe, or restaurant. Under the clause, only one of those men would be eligible for a loan up to £250. But whilst one might fail in such, a project, the venture would be almost certain to succeed if undertaken by such a partnership. I am not satisfied with the Minister’s explanation that the provision is designed to obviate dummying.
.- T. urge the Minister to have another look at the clause, because, as. Senator Brand has said, adequate safeguards are provided to obviate dummying. Action will be taken to check the credentials of applicants before they acquire ‘ a business. In respect of certain classes of business, it will be found that where one man might find it impossible to succeed, two men would be almost certain to succeed. So long as the Government is satisfied with the bona fides- of each applicant, and the security of the business is adequate, it should provide that, subject to certain investigations, the Minister administering this portion of the measure shall have discretionary power to act along the lines indicated by Senator Brand.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 93 agreed to.
Loans made under this Division shall bear interest at such rate as is prescribed.
– I move -
That the words ‘”’ at such rate as is prescribed “ be left out with the view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ noi exceeding two per centum per annum “.
The object of my amendment is to lighten the burden of a borrower as much as possible in the initial years of his undertaking, and thus enable him to use the whole of his income in order to get on to his feet. Upon entering business a person has to face many incidental expenses, and, at such a time, requires to put every available penny into his business. These loans are to be made for the specific purpose of enabling ex-service personnel to rehabilitate themselves either in their former occupations, or in new businesses. The nation could show its appreciation of their war service by making available to them loans at lower rates of interest than the ruling rates in such cases. Therefore, I ask that the rate of interest be fixed at not more than 2 per cent, per annum.
– Whilst I am in sympathy with the objective of Senator Cooper’s amendment, I should prefer the amendment foreshadowed by Senator Gibson. Senator Gibson’s amendment is a sound business proposition. The first three or four years of an undertaking are the critical years, and in that period we should do everything to relieve borrowers of all anxiety. Once they have got over their “teething troubles “ they will be able to pay interest at an increased rate and thus make good the payments of which they are relieved during the initial years. If they are obliged to meet their full interest rate right from the start, the majority might become down-hearted and fail in their venture. Having regard to the amendment forecast by Senator Gibson, I suggest that Senator Cooper might withdraw his amendment.
– Senator Cooper suggests that the rate of interest should not exceed 2 per cent. I point out that that is the rate ruling at present in respect of business loans; and it is hardly likely that any government would charge a higher rate than the existing rate. Therefore, the Government cannot accept the amendment.
– In view of the Minister’s explanation and the amendment forecast by Senator Gibson, I ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
.- I move -
That the following words be added: - “and shall be free of interest for the first three years “.
I have already stated the main reasons for my amendment, and I do not propose to repeat them. However, I point out that the Government can recover any concession granted in this way by. increasing the rate of interest at a later period. That is a fair proposition. By relieving applicants of interest for the first three or four years it will enable them to get on their feet by using the Government’s money, and later when they have become established they will be in a position to make good any loss sustained by the Government in this way. This applies particularly to exservicemen who will take up blocks of land. In the case of an ex-serviceman who takes up £6,000 worth of land, this concession will relieve him of an interest bill of £240 a year, whereas if he is obliged to meet that obligation right from the start he “will not be able to make the basic wage for a period of many years.
.- In supporting this amendment, I take the. munis of honorable senators back to the difficulties which confronted governments in land settlement schemes after the last war. As Senator Gibson has pointed out, it is when a primary producer first goes on the land that he has to undertake the hard slogging work. For instance, after the last war some returned soldiers embarked upon the growing of citrus fruits and had to wait some years before their holdings became profitable.” In the meantime, a burden of interest accumulated. When a farmer first, takes up land, he ha9 to sub-divide his paddocks, perhaps build a home, open up soaks to ensure that his property shall be adequately watered, and do a hundred and one other things before he can start production. All that work involves heavy capital expenditure at a time when no revenue is being obtained, with the result that an interest bill accumulates and greatly disheartens the landholder. He may feel that it is of little use carrying on his work. In Queensland after the last war maize growing was undertaken in the north of the State, and eventually there had to be a substantial writing down of interest, charges. Th? result was a loss to the Government and to the people of this country. The same thing occurred in some fruit-growing areas. Had the men participating in those land settlement schemes been given a start on the lines suggested by Senator Gibson, most of them would have been able to achieve profitable production, and would have remained on their, holdings.
– Most of the lunn was greatly over-valued.
– Not in every case. Those schemes were not all failures by any means, and in cases where success was not achieved, usually there were many contributing reasons. Sometimes the unsuitability of the land could he blamed, but in other cases the responsibility lay with the individual concerned. However, governments should benefit by their experiences. Senator Gibson has struck the right note when he advocates giving soldier settlers a “flying start” by allowing them three years free of interest. Although settlers would have . to meet retrospective interest obligation? at the end of those three years, they would be in much better heart to continue 1 heli work, and the nation would benefit accordingly.
– I support the amendment wholeheartedly. Any man who has had experience of farming knows what a drag interest charges can be. We must give soldier settlers a chance to make more than a living. Their undertakings must be made successful. We must profit by the mistakes of the past. Senator Clothier suggested by way of interjection that the price paid for land after the last war was too high. In my view we are now approaching a set of circumstances identical with those which existed after the last war. Land is being sold for much more than it is worth, and sooner or later its value will have to he written down. If land is bought for returned soldiers at present-day prices, it will not be long before there will be an irresistible and justifiable demand for the writing down of capital values. The Government must not wait until settlers are broken-hearted by their burden of debt, before writing down the value of land. It must be written down at the start. Under existing conditions, it is quite impossible for a man to develop a farm successfully and pay interest on land, machinery, stock, and a house. He will be down and out before he gets a start. The only solution of the problem is to give settlers a “ flying start “ of three or four years free from interest charges. The country can well afford that concession. It would be far better to settle fewer men on the land and make it possible for them to earn a good living, than to indulge in wholesale land settlement schemes under conditions which make success impossible. Boom conditions are in evidence at present, but we must use foresight, and guard against what is likely to happen when conditions become normal. Soldiers who embark upon primary production to-day may find before long that their debts are mounting, and that the return from their produce is diminishing. In these circumstances, many of them will become disheartened and will seek other avocations. We must not let this happen to the men who have served their country so magnificently in time of war. Probably many of them will return to this country with a lower standard of physical fitness than when they went away. Every effort must bc made to assist them in the early years of their new ventures. That can he done by waiving interest charges for three years. I do not agree with the suggestion that at the end of the threeyear period, land-holders should be called upon to pay interest on their loans retrospectively. This nation can well afford to make loans to ex-servicemen entirely free of interest for three years.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD (Western Australia) [4.52 j. -1 regret that Senator Cooper withdrew his amendment, even in view of the assurance of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) that 2 per cent, is the current interest chargeable on loans. There is no guarantee that returned soldiers will not be asked to pay a higher rate. In any case, if the Government intends to charge 2 per cent, on loans to exservicemen, it is in for an “ unholy row “, because occupants of war service homes built after the last war are still paying 4 per cent, on their loans. No Government could justify charging one section of the soldier community 4 per centinterest on loans and another section only 2 per cent. Soldiers of the last war who acquired agricultural properties, are also paying an interest rate much higher than 2 per cent. I am of the opinion, therefore, that Senator Cooper should not have withdrawn his amendment. Whilst I do not think that the rate would be .as low as 2 per cent., at least Senator Cooper’s amendment was an earnest expression of the Opposition’s view that interest rates must be kept low, and the Government could easily have made some counter proposal involving a figure, say, a little higher. To suggest that interest rates will remain at 2 per cent, is quite ridiculous. Whatever arguments may be raised in support of the Commonwealth Bank Bill which will be brought before this chamber shortly, the fact remains that savings bank depositors are receiving 2 per cent, on their deposits. No doubt the Treasurer is using this money to finance the Government’s social security schemes, and will use it to provide loans to be made under this legislation. There must be a difference between the rate paid by the Government to savings bank depositors, and that charged on Government loans.. That difference, I suggest, would be a legitimate charge on the Treasury for the repatriation of ex-servicemen. I should like the Minister to bear in mind his reference to an interest rate of 2 per cent., because there is bound to be a protest from the “ Diggers “ of the last war who are still paying 4 per cent, for the financial accommodation granted to them, whereas during the last five years at least, the Government has been raising untold millions in the form of loans, at an interest rate of 3£ per cent. Tn almost every issue of Western Australian newspapers appear notices of sales of country properties. Usually the terms of these sales provide that the purchaser shall pay a reasonable deposit and that for the first five years interest on the remaining amount will be suspended to give the incoming tenant an opportunity to get on his feet. That is ordinary business practice, and I regret that Senator Gibson has not made the interest free period in his amendment five years instead of three. Farmers acquiring new properties should be given every encouragement, and probably the best way to do that is to grant them loans which should be interest free for, at least, the first five years.
.- 1 was glad to have the assurance of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) that loans for business propositions would be available at 2 per cent.
– Are available at 2 per cent.
– I take it that 2 per cent, will be the rate chargeable on loans to assist ex-servicemen to go into business.
– I answered Senator Cooper’s amendment by saying that 2 per cent, is the interest rate on business loans. I said that the Government would keep interest as low as possible.
– That is virtually a statement that loans for businesses in future will be available at 2 per cent.
– If I were Treasurer, yes; but I cannot answer for all the Ministers.
– I regard the statement of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane), in regard to interest, as so important, that it should be made in as clear terms as possible. I do not understand quite what the honorable gentleman means. He said something about 2 per cent., but I am not quite sure to whom this rate will be charged, or for what loans it will be charged. The committee is entitled to a clear announcement of what is intended.
Senator KEANE (Victoria - Minister for Trade and Customs) 1 4.59 J. - At no time did f. associate the figure of 2 per cent, with the clause now under discussion. Senator Cooper moved an amendment that the interest rate should not exceed 2 per cent. I answered him very briefly by saying that that is the rate in operation at the moment on businessloans. I did not associate that figure with government policy but I said that the Government would endeavour to keep interest charges as low as possible.
– What is meant by “ business loans “ Does the Minister mean loans by the Government?
– No. I am referring to ordinary commercial transactions. 1 am giving an assurance to the committee that interest charged on loans advanced under this clause will be as low as possible. I cannot go beyond that. Senator Gibson’s amendment that the loans, be available for three years free of interest is not acceptable. Again I point out that this legislation is unique, and that we must wait until it is in operation before we can determine how it will operate. We must give the measure a trial in order to discover whether it has defects. I have already stated half a dozen times that, after experience of the measure, any defects will be noted, and an effort will be made later to remedy them.
– We have had plenty of experience of that in connexion with other legislation.
– We are now dealing with a measure which breaks new ground. In dealing with taxation measures, I have the assistance of taxation experts, but we are now considering an entirely new type of legislation, and only by putting it into operation can we discover whether it will meet the need.of ex-service men and women. Their organizations will be consulted and efforts will be made to ensure that generally there shall be no departure ‘from th»existing practice. I agree with Senator Gibson that persons entering into business or settling on the land should noi bc overloaded with liabilities. The suggestion which he has made is no doubt sound, and may be adopted, when tin bill has been in operation for two or three years.
Senator LECKIE (Victoria - Acting Leader of the Opposition) [5.2 j. - The Minister has made his first definite statement, apart from an earlier statement that he would not accept amendments. He has said that the present rate of interest on business loans to ex-servicemen is 2 per cent., and on that assurance, Senator Cooper has withdrawn his amendment. I assume that the Minister means that the Government has already advanced certain loans and that the interest charged is 2 per cent., but I should like to know where money can be borrowed at that rate? Persons who obtain money on overdraft from the Common weatlh Bank for business purposes are charged 4½ per cent.
– The rate charged by the Mortgage Bank Department is 4 per cent.
– Yes. If anybody in business desires a loan from any bank, the interest rate charged is at least 4½ per cent. I should like an explanation of the 2 per cent. to which the Minister has referred.
– Under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, loans are made to ex-servicemen for the purposes of establishing small businesses at the rate of 2 per cent., hence, my warrant for my statement. I cannot give a definite undertaking that the interest rate for money provided under this bill will be 2 per cent., but I take it that the rate will not be greater than that charged on loans advanced under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act.
.- I admit that this bill covers new ground to some degree, but there is nothing new in the fact that settlers on the land have failed tomakegood, because of the heavy interest bill which they have had to meet. At the conclusion of the last war, it was necessary to write off the accumulated interest indebtedness of many exservicemen who had been assisted through the Commonwealth and State Governments to settle on the land. Senator Gibson merely asks that we should benefit by the mistakes of the past, and allow land settlers who take advantage of this bill to have a “ flying start “ by giving them an interest-free period to enable them to become firmly established. This is one of the most reasonable amendments submitted to the committee.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Gibson’s amendment)be added.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator B. Courtice.)
Majority . . 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 95 - (1.) Subject to this section, a loan shall not he made or guarantee given under this Division unless -
.- S. move -
That in sub-clause (1.) paragraph (a), subparagraph (i), the word “Ave” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word seven “.
The time limit for receiving an application for a loan or guarantee is limited by this clause to five years, but that does not accord with clauses 24 to 32, which provide that preference in employment shall be granted for 3even years after the cessation of hostilities.
– The paragraph to which Senator Brand has just drawn attention embodies the objectionable term “cessation of hostilities”. I suppose that the Government is still unable to define the meaning of those words. I draw attention to a most peculiar provision in sub-clause 2.
The factor to be taken into consideration is not whether a man is likely to be successful in his enterprise, but how other businesses in the same neighbourhood may be affected. The sub-clause allows nothing for the enterprise of the discharged serviceman. While men have been away on war service, numerous businesses have grown up. I shall cite only one instance, namely, the industry which makes ladies’ handbags and other leather goods. In 1039 there were 33 such shops in Sydney; to-d,ay there are 90 of them. These businesses are largely conducted by refugees. I do not know whether their businesses are successful, but I should say that they are, in view of ; he high prices charged. Before a returned soldier can start in a business of that type the prescribed authority will hu ve to take into consideration the possible effect of competition on existing businesses.
– What would the honorable senator do about it?
– T would not close the new -businesses which started after the war. but I would not prevent the ex-serviceman from competing with them if he thought that he could compete successfully. These mushroom concerns have had a clear run since their estblishment. Are they to be f>-ec from competition in the future? Should a returned soldier wish to open a similar business in the next street, are these other people to be told that their concerns will be protected against his competition I have no objection to refugees engaging in businesses in order to make a living, but I suggest that businesses which have been established since September, 1939, should not be considered in the administration of this sub-clause. They should be fair game for competition by returned soldiers. It is somewhat astonishing to find such a provision in a bill introduced by a Labour government. A discharged serviceman should be allowed to set up in business wherever he thinks he can succeed, regardless of the effect on others. I believe that free competition is good for the people, and encourages enterprise. I do not believe that new businesses which have grown up because of war-time conditions should be protected from competition by men who fought in the war. I therefore move -
That, in sub-clause (2.), paragraph (6), after the words “ similar type “ the following words be inserted: - “hut not businesses established since 1030.”.
– I regard paragraph b of subclause 2 of clause 95 as a provision which is founded on common sense, because it obliges the prescribed authority to have regard to the principles of ordinary business prudence. I should like Senator Leckie to consider the effect of his amendment in the following situation. Let us suppose that there was no doctor in a country town prior to the war and that a doctor who has been discharged from the services sets up in practice there. Let us further assume that there is only sufficient business in the town for one medical practitioner to make a living. Under Senator Leckie’s amendment, the prescribed authority would be expected entirely to disregard the fact that a returned soldier is already practising, and to assist another returned serviceman to establish a practice where there is room for only one doctor. That is only one instance of many that could arise if the amendment were agreed to. The clause is designed to ensure that the prescribed authority will have regard to all the factors which O’Ught to be considered by a person who would act in the capacity of a friendly adviser to the discharged serviceman who may contemplate setting up in business. A feature of paragraph 6 which should be emphasized is contained in the opening words, “ where there are limited opportunities for the establishment of a business, practice or enterprise of a particular type . . . “. The rest of the paragraph is conditioned by those words. If opportunities for -a successful enterprise .be limited, greater care than usual must be taken before a discharged serviceman is allowed to embark in that sphere. This paragraph really imposes a statutory obligation on the prescribed authority to take all factors into account. One factor is the effect of the establishment of the new business on other businesses of the same type or in the same locality. The honorable senator said that this was a strange provision to be included in a measure introduced by a Labour Government, but I point out to him that a Labour Government does not wish to drive any person into the insolvency court. Let us consider another instance which might easily arise. There may be five traders in a town, each barely making a living. If the prescribed authority is to be empowered to assist another trader to compete with them the effect may be that none of them will be able to make a living, and that all six traders will be forced into bankruptcy. Having regard to these factors I submit that the amendment should be rejected.
.- The first example given by Senator McKenna does not meet the case. The honorable senator cited an instance of a returned soldier setting up in practice as a doctor and that subsequently another discharged -serviceman desires to esta.blish a practice in the same locality. That is not likely to happen, but the point is that if he is not likely to make a success he will not bc granted a loan. As to the other instance cited by the honorable senator, it would seem that every one is anxious to protect the civilian who did not go to the war against the man returning from the war, whereas one would think that the opposite would be the case. But this provision is designed to protect the people who stayed at home. That is what I object to. The clause is simply designed to protect the people who used the opportunity presented by the war to establish businesses which they could not have established in ordinary circumstances. That .cannot be denied. Whether such persons could or could not have gone to the war is beside the point. The returned man is entitled to set up in business wherever he thinks that he can succeed; and if he has the business ability to give better service or to sell better goods at competitive prices, I do not see the need to protect others. If this is simply a device to ensure that no one shall make a success of anything, but all must become employees of the Government, it is a good starting point; but the Government should not try to deceive the ex-serviceman by telling him that these loans will be made available to him to start in business and then, by this subterfuge, prevent him from getting a business at all.
– Under the clause an ex-serviceman will not be able to compete with an ex-enemy alien already in business.
– That is so.
– I support the amendment. I was interested and amused by Senator McKenna’s lecturette about five persons eking out a living in the one locality. He said that the five of them would be bound to “ go broke “. That would not happen at all. Is it not more likely that in the circumstances mentioned by the honorable senator those who did not give efficient service would fail, and that three of them at least would end up doing pretty well? The clause will encourage monopolies and stifle competition. I do not know whether the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) and his colleagues noticed a move made recently by the Grocers Association in Victoria when they asked for an assurance in black and white from the Government that no more grocery businesses would be permitted to open in Melbourne or the suburbs of that city. They do not want competition from exservicemen of this war who have been away fighting to save the hides- and businesses of these very gentlemen. They were quite frank about their proposition because they published details of it in their weekly trade journal. Let us suppose that a “ Digger “ wishes to start in business in a particular suburb where a number of businesses already exist. Under the clause he will not be permitted to open a business; but, at the same time, the ‘Government would not prevent a firm like Moran and Cato, or any other private firm from starting in business in the same locality.
– At the moment we would.
– How could the Government do so?
– Under the Rationing Regulations.
– Apparently, the Government would not give such a new business the necessary quotas of goods.
– But we supply rationed goods to all ex-servicemen who wish to open a business.
– Apparently, we are getting back to the old basis of regulations. I agree entirely with the amendment.
.- 1 support the amendment. I can visualize ex-service personnel who formerly served behind counters in grocery businesses, or were managers of departments in emporiums, wanting to establish businesses of their own in certain districts. Under the clause, the Government will determine whether those men are likely to succeed or not. Senator McKenna told the story of five men who would be reel need to very low incomes owing to too many businesses being established, in the same locality. In such circumstances, it always happens that the man with the most ability develops his business by giving better service, or in other ways; but in such circumstances the Government is to determine which man shall go into business in a particular locality. It says t,o the enterprising man that if he wishes to establish a business in a certain district he must risk his own money because the Government will not finance him. In that way the Government will give preference to persons already established in business. That approach is entirely wrong. Our objective should be to establish many small businesses; but underthe clause the Government, apparently,, wishes to encourage monopolies. Such a policy will drive ex-servicemen back tothe emporiums in which they worked prior to enlistment, because it will prevent them from establishing businessesof their own for which they have the necessary ability. The Government is to be the judge as to whether such men will succeed or not. My reply to Senator McKenna is that a man with enterprise and ability would win out* against five persons of the kind he mentioned.
Senator BRAND (Victoria) [5.38 j.In the St. Kilda-Brighton area of Victoria., 23 new businesses have been established within the last few years. Some of those businesses were formerly control-led by men who joined the forces,, or were called up for service. I guarantiee that not one of those 23 businesses to-day has been taken up by an exserviceman of this war. It would- beinteresting to know who is really in charge of each of them. Possibly., refugees are in control of some of them.. Under the clause, ex-servicemen will not be allowed to compete with such businesses. I support the amendment.
– Although four honorable senators have spoken since I resumed my scat, not one of them has adverted to the opening words of paragraph b of sub-clause 2, which are, “ Where there are limited opportunities for the establishment of a business . . .”. In considering the clause, we must start off with the proposition that the opportunities are limited, and that means limited in fact, before other considerations under the clause apply. If there are ample opportunities, or if there is an open field, there is no need in common sense, or under the Statute, for the prescribed authority to have regard to them. Senator Sampson dealt with the clause as though it regulated who might or might not go into a business. That is a complete misconception of the clause. The clause deals simply with the lending of money to discharged members of the forces; and if we refer to paragraph d of sub-clause 1 we find that the applicant is obliged to satisfy the prescribed authority that he is likely to be able to repay the amount of a loan made, or guaranteed, within a reasonable period. That obligation is cast upon the ex-serviceman, and no objection has been taken by the Opposition to it. I suggest that paragraph b of sub-clause 2 is relevant to the obligation imposed upon the discharged serviceman under paragraph d of sub-clause 1. The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Leckie) replied to the case I instanced of a returned soldier doctor setting up :n practice in a country town long after 1939. 1 again point out that if effect were given to his amendment the prescribed authority, in determining whether to lend to another returned soldier or not, would ignore the fact altogether that a returned soldier was already in practice in that town with a population that was capable of supporting only one medical practitioner. The question of the qualifications of the two men adverted to by Senator Leckie does not enter the matter. I repeat that the clause does not stop a man from entering into a business in a situation where there might he limited opportunities. It may be that the prescribed authority - and for very good reasons - will not lend him money to do so. At the same time he is free to take the risk if he wishes to do so, although certainly without the support of a loan from a prescribed authority.
– I am sorry that I did not take notice of the opening words of paragraph b of paragraph 2, which deals with “ limited opportunities”. Senator McKenna has said that the provision applies only in a situation where opportunities are limited to the ex-serviceman; but, obviously, under the clause the provision will apply when the opportunities of those who are already established in business are limited. That is my approach to the clause. The test of the matter is whether an ex-serviceman is likely to make a success of his business; hut all the comfort that Senator McKenna can give to an enterprising ex-serviceman is, in effect, “ All right, you can set yourself u,p at your own risk, but we will take care that the Government will not help you to the slightest degree”.
– The honorable senator says that the Government should finance an ex-serviceman, even to force another ex-serviceman out of business.
– He would not be putting another ex-serviceman out of business. The primary aim of the Government is to ensure that those who remained at home do not suffer, and this is one way of ensuring that objective. For that reason the ex-serviceman is not to be allowed to compete with a man who has been in business before the war, or has established himself in business during the war. Therefore, 3 can only draw the conclusion that the provision in respect of “ limited opportunities “ relates to a situation where the opportunities of civilians, and not of ex-servicemen, are limited.
– Would not the honorable senator investigate the circumstances before advancing money?
– Yes; but that procedure is covered in other clauses. Under paragraph b of sub-clause 1, the applicant must satisfy the prescribed authority that he has the ability and qualifications to engage in, with a reason ah le prospect of success, the occupation, business or practice in respect of which the loan or guarantee is sought. That provision will restrict the freedom of individuals. In ordinary times, a man who has money to invest can start a business anywhere he likes. Unfortunately, he has been temporarily deprived of that freedom during the war by this Government; but I am speaking of the time when Australians will be free again, and not trammelled and ground down under the heels of the autocrats. When those days return a man will be able to start in business anywhere; or does the Minister visualize in peace-time a continuance of the present regimented society? I understood that the desire of the Government was to remove restrictions as soon as possible.
– This clause will not prevent a business man investing bis money wherever he pleases, so long as he fin not expect government assistance.
– That may be, but. in effect, this clause says, “ If you dare start an undertaking in opposition to an alien refugee, who has built up a business during the war, not one penny of government money will be available for your assistance. “.
– Bosh !
– Quite; but that is what it says. I am entirely opposed to the clause because it is an interference with the rights of individuals. This provision may prevent a returned soldier from engaging in a business in which he believes he can be successful, in competion witha civilian who has built up a business during the war.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Leckie’s amendment) be left out.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator B. Courtice.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 96 agreed to.
Clause 97 (Arrangement with Commonwealth Bank, State authorities and savings banks).
. -Will the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator
Keane) say exactly what this clause means? I have one ortwo questions to ask, but first I should like to hear the Ministers explanation of the clause.
– This provision will allow of a certain decentralization of administration and, if necessary, the provision of facilities through governmental agencies.
– The first thing that strikes me about this clause is the strange language used in it. When we were dealing with a previous clause, honorable senators opposite were inclined to be rather sceptical whenI said that the savings of the people lodged in the savings banks of this country were being severely strained by the Treasurer’s financial methods. This clause contains a clear admission that what I said was correct. I should like to know first of all if the words “ any Savings Bank “ in this clause refer to all savings banks. For instance, there is the State Savings Bank of Victoria and a Savings Bank in. South Australia which have not been absorbed by the Commonwealth Savings Bank. The term “ any Savings Bank “ might be applied even to a private bank, because, after all, a private bank is also a repository of the people’s savings. A reasonable construction ofthis clause is that pavings bank funds will be used by the Treasurer to finance loans to exservicemen. Therefore, discharged servicemen who obtain loans should have to pay only approximately 2 per cent. interest. I should like the Minister to be very definite on this matter. He was quite definite in the first place, but then he shifted his ground and added a qualification. Such tactics might be all right in the hurly-burly of a debate in this chamber, but I should like to know exactly what obligation will be placed onthe discharged soldiers who avail themselves of the loans that will be available to them under this measure. In thisclause the Government practically admits that its finances will be associated with the deposits of the people in the savings banks.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.The Minister in charge of the bill (Senator Keane) gave a rather sketchy explanation as to the meaning of the clause in saying merely that the Government was endeavouring to disperse the activities of the Commonwealth Bank and the savings banks throughout the country instead of centralizing them in the capital cities. The expression in subclause 1, “ for the performance by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia “, might refer to administrative duties, the collection of repayments by ex-soldier settlers or ex-soldier small business men, the issuing of temporary receipts, the issuing of loans, or the use of the accumulated profits of the savings banks to assist in financing the whole scheme of reestablishment loans. The language of the clause is so wide that it might mean almost anything, even to the rate of interest to be charged to the applicant. Will the Minister give a further explanationas to the meaning of the general terms employed ?
Senator KEANE (Victoria - Minister for Trade and Customs) [8.31.- The words “ Commonwealth Bank “, “ Savings Bank” and “State Bank” imply that the desire of the Government is that the transactions shall be carried out through governmental banks.
– There is the State Savings Bank of Victoria.
– Yes, and there are other governmental banks with other names.
– Does the clause mean that money may be borrowed from the State savings banks?
-The prescribed authority may, on behalf of the Commonwealth, give financial guarantees to the State banks or to the savings banks making loans to eligible persons. The measure is Australia-wide in its ramifications. The State authorities will be asked to work in conjunction with the Commonwealth authorities in carrying out the scheme.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 98 and 99 agreed to.
Clause 100 (BusinessRe-establishment Allowance).
Senator LECKIE (Victoria - Acting sume that an eligible person will be able to get an allowance to enable him to keep going for a certain period. Sub-clause 3 states -
The rate per week of a business reestablishment allowance shall be such as the prescribed authority determines, having regard to all the circumstances of the case including the income of the person concerned (whether from the occupation, business or practice or from any other source), but shall not exceed the amount of the allowance which he would have received if he had been in receipt of an allowance -
in the case of a person engaged in an agricultural occupation - under Part 111. of this Act.
I have not read in the bill of a specific sum that a person desiring to take up an agricultural occupation is to receive. Will the Minister explain the meaning of paragraph b of sub-clause 3?
.- The allowance is payable only where persons require financial assistance to tide them over the periods when they are establishing or re-establishing themselves in business on their own account, and while the applicant’s income is inadequate to his needs. The maximum amount of the allowance is the amount of re-employment allowance the applicant could have claimed if he were unemployed, or, if he is engaging in an agricultural occupation, the amount he would have received had he been a trainee under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme. The actual amount payable below this maximum is in the discretion of the administering authority, who must have regard to the applicant’s income. The higher amount is paid in agricultural occupations where the same higher training allowance is paid pending productivity, because the provisions for agricultural loans are linked with the ex-servicemen’s settlement scheme.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 101 and 102 agreed to.
Clause 103- (1.) The Minister may, on behalf of the Commonwealth, enter into an agreement with any State for the allocation of dwelling-houses amongst discharged members of the Forces, or classes of discharged members of the Forces, and other persons or classes of persons.
– This clause merely states that the Minister may, on behalf of the Commonwealth, enter into an agreement with any State for the allocation of dwelling-houses amongst discharged members of the forces, or classes of discharged members of the forces, and other persons or classes of persons. Under this clause, apparently, the ex-serviceman will be in mo better position than the ordinary civilian. Does the Government intend that this provision shall apply to everybody in the community? It is ra’.her peculiar that, in a bill which provides for the re-establishment of returned soldiers. they will have only the same rights with regard to housing as are to be given to all other members of the community. There is nothing in the bill to show that the Government is making strenuous efforts to provide houses for ex-servicemen or anybody else.
– ‘Houses will be provided on a 50-50 basis.
– The bill does not provide that. If the term “ other persons or classes of persons” does not imply civilians it does not mean anything.
– Senator Leckie has given a wrong meaning to this clause. The purpose is to allocate houses to ex-servicemen. Otherwise it would have no purpose at all. The general housing scheme provides for houses for everybody, but this measure provides for houses for ex-servicemen.
Amendment (by Senator Leckie) proposed -
That, in sub-clause (1.), the words “and other persons or classes of persons “ be left out.
– I should like the Minister (Senator Keane) to explain what is meant by the word “ allocation “ in sub-clause 1. Does it mean the allocation of houses already built by a State authority such as the Workers’ Homes Board of Western Australia? The subclause should be more definite. As it says nothing about the building of homes, it appears to refer only to the houses already built. I support the amendment.
.- It is amazing to find so many bush lawyers on the Opposition benches. I have already explained the purpose of this clause. Should this legislation disclose flaws after it has been in operation for some time, those defects will have to be remedied. Agreements for the construction of houses are on the point of being entered into between the Commonwealth and the States. This clause will have no effect on war service homes. Senator Allan MacDonald asked what was meant by the word “ allocation “ ? It means allotmentHouses are now being built under the War Service Homes Act, but under no other legislation can the Commonwealth Government build houses. Had the Opposition not successfully resisted the Government’s referendum proposals, thai power would have been vested in the Commonwealth, and many difficulties would have been avoided. The amendment, if accepted, would make the clause absurd. If the Commonwealth Government says that a percentage of houses shall .be allocated to servicemen the remainder must po to others. Servicemen are not the only persons who need homes.although this bill is designed primarily to provide homes for them. The amendment is not acceptable to the GovernmentSenator ALLAN MacDONALD (Western Australia) [S.19]. - The Minister (Senator Keane) would do well to be more accurate. The Commonwealth Government has always had authority to build houses for soldiers, and, has, in fact, built them for the last 26 years.
– I said that the Commonwealth Government could build homes under the War Service Homes Act.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.The Commonwealth Bank also has authority to build homes.
– It has never built them.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.It did so in Western Australia before the War Service Homes Commission was established, lt is useless for the Minister, by making inaccurate statements, to try to show that we on this side ‘are wrong.
– The Commonwealth Government can finance State governments to build houses but it cannot build bom cs other than war service homes.
Senator FINLAY (South Australia) 1 3.20]. - Senator Allan MacDonald asked for an explanation of the word “ allocation “. The whole subject of building houses is one for agreement between the Commonwealth and State Governments.
– Not necessarily.
– Sub-clause 2 reads - fu this section, “ dwelling-house “’ means any building or part of a building occupied or intended to be occupied as a separate dwelling and constructed or purchased in accordance with any agreement between the Commonwealth and the State relating to housing.
That means that before any housing scheme is undertaken there must be an agreement between the Commonwealth and State Governments. This bill is an attempt by the Commonwealth Government to establish a housing scheme in co-operation with the State governments, lt provides, first, for homes for servicemen, but it also extends that privilege to other sections of the community. What is wrong with that? Sub-clause 2, which defines “ dwelling house gives .ample protection.
– Confusion becomes worse confounded. No one said that this clause did not refer to “ dwelling house “ or to agreements be1 ween the Commonwealth and State Governments. This is supposed to be a He-establishment and Employment Bill, yet in the same clause as that in which the Commonwealth Government may enter into an agreement with State governments to build dwelling houses for discharged members of the forces, there is provision to build houses for “ other persons or classes of persons”.
– What is wrong with that?
– There is a lot wrong with it, because it means that in respect of homes, servicemen are not given any preference at all. It says so in plain English.
– The honorable senator should read the title of the bill.
– A few nights ago the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) said that the fact that many civilians had rendered valuable war service would have to be taken into account in granting benefits.
– I did not say that. The honorable senator is wilfully misrepresenting me.
– The honorable senator should read the reports of his speech in Hansard. That that is the attitude of the Government is borne out by the inclusion in this clause of the words. “ other persons or classes of persons “. T Iia ve no objection to the Government making provision to build houses for other persons “ under a separate bill, but not in this one.
Clause agreed to.
Claude 104 (Legal aid bureaux).
Senator SAMPSON (Tasmania) [8.26 j. - T believe in giving credit where credit is due and, therefore, I compliment the Government on the inclusion of this clause, which provides that the existing legal aid bureaux shall continue and that additional legal aid bureaux may be established. The legal advice which is now available to members of the forces and their dependants- has been of great value to them. It has been of greatest value to women whose husbands are on war service. I have passed on many of the pamphlets which the AttorneyGeneral (Dr. Evatt) has prepared, and 1 know that in many instances they have proved of great value. I am pleased that additional legal aid bureaux may be established.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 105- (2.) Nothing in the last preceding subsection shall affect the operation of any order of a court made in pursuance of the previous Regulations, and, where leave has been given to any person under the previous Regulation* to do, or to continue or complete the doing of, any act, that person may, notwithstanding anything contained in this Part, do, or complete the doing of, that act accordingly.
Senator KEANE (Victoria - Minister for Trade and Customs). - I move -
That, after sub-clause (2.), the following new sub-clause be inserted: - “(2a.) Any consent given under or for the purposes of regulation fifteen a or regulation twenty-two a of the National Security (War Service Moratorium) Regulations (being Statutory Rules 1941, No. CI, as amended) shall have the same effect as if the consent had been given” under or for the purposes of section one hundred and seventeen or one hundred and twenty-five of this Act.”
The object of the proposed new sub-clause is to ensure that consents given to the acquisition of land under the War Service Moratorium Regulations shall have effect for the purposes of this act, thereby making it unnecessary to re-issue the certificates.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 106 and 107 agreed to.
Clause 108 (Postponement of certain payments).
– Sub-clause 4 reads -
If the person liable to pay the principal or purchase money is the widow of a member of the Forces who died while engaged on war service, the time for payment shall be postponed so that the payment shall fall due upon the expiration of the period of twelve months immediately following the date on which His Majesty ceases to bo engaged in all the wars in which His Majesty was engaged at the date of commencement of this Part.
I cite the case of an ex-serviceman of the last war who is paying off a war service home over a period of approximately 35 years. Let us suppose that he enlisted in this wet, and was killed. Under sub-clause 4, which I have just read, will his widow be compelled to complete payment on the home within twelve months after the cessation of hostilities, or will the time allowed for repayments be extended for a further period of years? As I read sub-clause 4 it could mean that the debt would have to he liquidated by the widow twelve months after the cessation of hostilities; and, of course, that would be quite impossible.
.- The case cited by the honorable senator would not arise under this clause. That is clear from sub-clause 1 which covers certain contingencies including that mentioned by the honorable senator.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 109 (Interest to be (payable in respect of postponed payments).
– I draw attention to the glaring anomaly existing in respect of the rate of interest being charged to purchasers of war service homes. In fact one could justifiably describe the Treasurer as nothing less than a Shylock. The Government is utilizing money raised at a rate bf interest of from 2 to 3£ per cent., but in respect of accommodation provided from such money, it charges ex-servicemen who are purchasing war service homes interest at the rate of 4 per cent. There is a discrepancy somewhere. If the trading hanks, or other institutions, which Government supporters love to deride indulged in that practice, honorable senators opposite would raise a hue and cry throughout Australia. I should like an assurance from the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) that he will ask the Government to arrange an early inquiry into the present rates of interest being charged in respect of advances made to ex-servicemen of the war of 1914-18, and which they are still paying off. This is a very sore point of the “diggers” of the war of 1914-18; and in view of the statement earlier by the Minister that the rate of interest for the repayment of loans to be provided under this measure will not exceed 2 per cent., some adjustment should be made in respect of the cases to which I refer.-
– It may be less than 2 per cent.
– In that case many of the “ diggers “ who are still paying off war service homes since the war of 1914-18 can expect a nice refund of overpayments.
– The finance for those war service homes was raised at a higher rate of interest than applies to government loans to-day. The Government which the honorable senator supported did not attempt to reduce the interest rates on repayments in respect of war service homes.
– I have been fighting for a reduction for years, because ex-servicemen have been paying through the nose. I am positive that the Government of which I was a supporter effected at least one reduction of the rate of interest on repayments of war service homes, because I enjoyed that reduction; and I was looking forward to getting another reduction. It is useless for the Minister for Health (Senator Fraser) to say that previous governments did not attempt to reduce that rate of interest. I have been fighting for such reductions for many years. I have previously pointed out that when the Government is raising finance for war purposes, or other purposes at 3¼ per cent. it is neither right nor just to charge purchasers of war service homes 4 per cent. I should like an assurance from the Minister that an investigation will be made into this matter as soon as possible.
.- I shall examine the point raised by the honorable senator, I promise that the Government will make an early announcement with respect to the interest rates to which he refers.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 110 and 111 agreed to.
Clause 112 (Provision for cases of hardship).
– I should like the Government to give some consideration to the insurance of properties and homes whereby the deeds of a property will, upon the death of an ex-serviceman, be handed to his widow, thus relieving her of the struggle to meet further payments. The Government should inaugurate such a scheme in all cases where ex-servicemen are set up in a home, or on properties on which they will seek to earn a living. Schemes of this kind are already in operation, and if similar facilities were provided for the benefit of ex-servicemen of this war, it would be a very valuable help to them and their dependants. The Government should set up such a scheme even if it involved extra weekly payments by purchasers; and I suggest that the Government should bear a share of any additional cost. The additional cost to the purchaser would be more than worthwhile, having regard to the protection afforded to the dependants of exservicemen in the circumstances I have mentio ned.
– The suggestion of the honorable senator will be examined.
– There seems to have been some misapprehension regarding this clause, because it does not deal with governmentowned properties. I take it that it is not the Government’s intention to take over mortgages and liabilities under hire-purchase agreements, because the clause does not refer to Government properties or loans from the Government.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 113 to 118 agreed to.
Clause 119 (Continuation of protection afforded).
– Sub-clause 1 reads -
The protection afforded by the last three preceding sections shall continue until the expiration of the period -
immediately following the date on which the member ceases (otherwise than by his death) to be engaged on war service equal to the period during which he was so engaged ; or
of 12 months immediately following that date, w hichever is the shorter.
The first portion of the sub-clause would seem to indicate that the Government intends to give an advantage to the man who serves for five or six years in the forces; but, in order to achieve that objective, the phrase “ whichever is the shorter “ should read “ whichever is the longer “. I do not know whether that phrase had been put in deliberately or whether an error has arisen owing to a misprint. It seems to me after reading paragraph a that the intention is that if a man were fighting for twelve months he would get the benefit of a period of twelve months, and a correspondingly longer period if he were in the services for three, four or five years; but as the clause stands, no one will receive the advantage of a period longer than twelve months, regardless of his length of service. A m;an who has been on service for from four to five years has noi an equal opportunity to protect his rights as a man who was only six months in the forces. I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) to have a look at this clause iti order to make sure whether the word “shorter” should, not bc “longer”.”
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 120 to 124 agreed to.
A person eh all not take or continue against a partner who is a member of the Pureed any proceedings or other action, whether in pursuance of a partnership agreement or otherwise, for the dissolution of any partnership or for the expulsion of that partner, or for the forfeiture of his share in the partnership, unless and until the AttorneyGeneral or all the partners consent to the taking or continuance of the proceedings or other action.
.- 1 move -
That the following now sub-clause be added : - “ (2.) This section shall apply, in relation to a person who has been a member of the Forces, in the same manner as it applies in relation to a member of the Forces, for a period -
immediately following the date on which the member ceased or ceases to be engaged on war service equal to the period during which he was so engaged; or
of twelve months immediately following that date, whichever is the shorter.”.
This amendment is to make provision in this legislation similar to an amendment of the “War Service (Moratorium) Regulations made since this measure was introduced. The protection given by this clause, as amended, will extend until twelve months after a soldier has been discharged. This is in conformity with other provisions of the bill. It is desirable to extend the protection given for a short time after discharge so that a soldier may have an opportunity to consider and adjust his business affairs.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 126 to 135 agreed to.
Clause 136- (2.) During the war, the regulations may provide for the repeal or amendment of, or thi addition to, any of the provisions of this Act.
.- I move -
That sub-clause (2.) be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following new sub-clauses: - “ (2.) Regulations may be made providing for the repeal or amendment of, or the addition to, any of the provisions of this Act. “ (3.) Any regulations made in pursuance of the last preceding sub-section shall, by force of this sub-section, if not sooner repealed, he repealed at the termination of ail the wars in which His Majesty was engaged at the date of commencement of this Part. ‘ (4.) Upon the repeal of regulations by virtue of the last preceding sub-section, the provisions of thi3 Act shall have effect as if no regulation had been ma.de in pursuance of sub-section (2.) of this section.”.
The object of this amendment is to ensure that any regulations which amend or repeal any of the provisions of the act or which add any provision to it, shall cease to have effect after the termination of the war. The provisions of the measure will then have effect as if no such regulation had been made under sub-clause 2.
– This amendment comes as a surprise to the Opposition. Apparently, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) has been keeping his powder dry to fire this shot at the eleventh hour. According to my interpretation of proposed new sub-clause 4, if a regulation governing say the repayment of loans to ex-servicemen were repealed, the Government could demand immediately the repayment in full of all such loans. This clause is a bill in itself. It will provide a wide’ battleground for lawyers. The Government could do anything at all under this provision. It is the widest clause that I have ever seen included in any legislation. Out of courtesy to this chamber, the Minister foi Trade and Customs should have given some notice of his intention to move this amendment and should have had copies circulated to honorable senators. It is unfair to spring a trap like this at the last moment.
– I regret that I did not have an opportunity to circulate this amendment earlier. Quite a lot of thought has been given to this clause by members of the House of Representatives and of this chamber. The amendment is designed to eliminate any objections to clause 136, by providing that any regulations made under’ it shall cease to have effect at the end of the war.
– The amendment makes the clause worse.
– No, it takes the sting out of the clause, which I personally did not like. I commend the amendment heartily to the committee.
– I congratulate the Government on having seen the light. The clause, as amended, will still be objectionable, but it will be a thousand times better than it was. An amendment in almost the same terms was moved in the House of Representatives by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies). Proposed new sub-clause 2 still gives to the Government power to make any regulations it desires, repealing, amending, or adding to any provisions of this measure. Such regulations will cease to operate “ at the termination of all the wars”, whatever that may mean. I point out that the words “ cessation of hostilities “ have not yet been defined. Virtually, this sub-clause takes away from the Parliament its right as a legislature, by conferring upon the Executive, power to make regulations altering this legislation. I protest against that proposal. Although I realize that as the Government has a majority in this chamber, the clause will be agreed to in its amended form. It is pleasing to note, however, that at last, honorable senators opposite have heeded the storm of criticism that has been raised against this clause, and have decided to move the amendment.
.- I agree with the Acting Leader of the Opposition (.Senator Leckie) that the clause as amended, will be an improvement; but there is very little difference between this amendment and the original provision. For the duration of the war the Government will still have power to make regulations completely altering this legislation. If regulations promulgated prior to the termination of hostilities completely alter the effect of this legislation, the mere cessation of hostilities will make it impossible to revert to the original position under the act. The government of the day will either have to re-enact most of the regulations or introduce an amending bill to restore the provisions which have been altered by the regulations. The Parliament would then be placed in a difficult position. It would have been far better had the Government inserted the ordinary regulation making clause providing for the promulgation of regulations not inconsistent with the act, which regulations would be subject to parliamentary approval.
.- One of the strangest features of political life is that members of the Opposition who represent the class which has always existed on privileges wish to have the sole prerogative of power. They protest against regulations being promulgated for the purpose of providing the necessary machinery for the operation of the measure when they have always done exactly the same throughout the years when they have been in office.
– We have not provided for regulations to vary an act.
– Every government in the past has done exactly the same as the present Government is proposing to do under this clause. When the Opposition was in power it did this and it applied the “ guillotine “ to members of the Labour party; but when honorable senators opposite are no longer in power they cannot “ take it “.
.- 1 cannot agree with the statement by Senator Lamp. The original sub-clause 2 was one of the most atrocious provisions I have ever seen in a bill. Under that provision the Government would have had the right to wipe out the whole of this bill from the first clause to the last, and substitute an entirely new measure. I have been in Parliament for 25 years and have never previously read a provision of that kind. ‘The amendment which the Minister has submitted modifies the proposal to some degree. During the period of the war the Government will be able to promulgate regulations, but at the termination of the war the regulations and any amendments of the act will have to be brought before the Parliament in the constitutional way. The Government has adopted the proposal submitted by the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies) and I congratulate the Government upon having bowed to the inevitable.
– The Minister was rather amusing in his reply, but all that he has done is to attach a piece of lea tier to the end -of his big stick. He will still be able to wield his truncheon by regulations, yet he would have us believe that he has improved the clause. In my opinion the truncheon will still give as hard a knock as before. Throughout the discussion of the bill in the committee stage, the Minister has been adamant in declining to entertain any amendments suggested by the Opposition for the purpose of improving the measure. In an attitude of unalterable defiance, he has sat at the table like a satrap of ancient Media, with the exception that he has no glittering host behind him; because, if ever I have seen a lot of dumb people, I have beheld them on the Government side during the discussion of this bill. There was one outbreak by Senator Sheehan, but he promptly received his quietus. I remind the Minister of what happened to the ancient Medes. They had to bow their proud necks to the Persian sword and themselves ‘become a subject people. I suggest that the Minister should use discretion in wielding the big stick which he intends to take up under the present proposal. I hope that he will profit by my warning.
– The Opposition intends to vote against the amendment, although it is many times better than the original proposal.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments ; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Keane) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– Before I concluded my second-reading speech I was granted leave to continue my remarks on a later day, but, unfortunately, owing to transport difficulties, I could not return to Canberra. I appreciate the marked courtesy which the Minister (Senator Keane) extended to me in agreeing that, if I returned before the termination of the secondreading debate, I should be given an opportunity to continue my remarks. 1 have no knowledge of a precedent for that action, and I thank him cordially.
The argument has been advanced that because of the all-embracing nature of the services which the war has demanded of all members of the community, ex-service men and women are not entitled to the preference for which this bill provides. In my opinion, all members of the community are not doing their bit. The members of the fighting services are easy winners, because they are in a class by themselves. Ever since the war began there have been a number of individuals who have loafed on their jobs, particularly on the wharfs, and who have gone on strike at a period when their production was of vital importance to the country. The ordinary lives of many people throughout the community have not been seriously interfered with. They have not been deprived of their sports, liquor, tobacco and amusements, and many of them have not been very deeply interested in the war; it does not touch them. They have talked in a general way of the strain imposed by the war, but the effects of the war have not been brought home to them. In a dim way they know that our men are up north in places with strange names like Aitape, Buka, Bougainville and Maurakie. Every day. however, men of our race are fighting and some of them are dying for us. His comparison of such service with service on the home front is grotesque, and hia action in begrudging the survivors of the fighting men a generous measure of preference is gross ingratitude. The general preference provided in this bill means nothing to the fighting men, because preference for all means preference for none. More than two and a half years ago the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) promised that a bill to provide preference for servicemen would be introduced, but afterwards a change took place. However, the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has told us that in 1943, under pressure from the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Coles), the Government accepted the principle of preference to servicemen. That preference was by expediency out. of fear. Speaking generally the Melbourne Age is fairly impartial; it is not hostile to Labour. It is one of the few newspapers published in thi3 country which the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) has not condemned. In its issue of the 31st March, last, the following :t ppeared : -
Mr. Dedman said the history of the preference bill began in 1943, when the Labour Government, without a majority and relying mi the support of Mr. Coles (Ind., Vic.) for its continuance in office in the House of Representatives, was amending the Repatriation Act in the Federal Parliament. “During the debate on that bill, the Opposition moved an amendment to give preference to returned soldiers, and Mr. Coles told the Government tha’t unless it accepted that amendment or gave some undertaking to grant preference in a later bill, he could no longer support the Government “, Mr. Dedman said. “ If the Prime Minister hod not made the decision which he did at that time, the Labour Government would have been out on its neck before the last election “. In the face of that, he said, caucus agreed to the bringing in of a preference bill in the lower house, but that bill was not gone on with.
That was when the Labour party was first committed to preference to returned soldiers, and at that time not one word was said about it by any State or Federal executive.
That extract from the Melbourne Age explains a lot to me. It is, I assume, a fairly accurate statement; at least, I do not know that it was ever contradicted.
– The Government does not chase “ furphies “.
– The Government would do well to grant more than advisory powers to local rehabilitation committees, especially in country centres, because the man on the spot is always better able to judge in regard to local matters than some impersonal higher authority in an office in Canberra or Melbourne. We are prone to believe thatdistant fields are green, and that things which are done in New Zealand or Canada must necessarily be better than what is done in Australia. Nevertheless, I shall read . the following account of what is done in New Zealand : -
New Zealand has 110 local rehabilitation committees in 30 districts, all vested with administrative authority. This concentration of central authority at the top and diffusion of local authority at the extremities has been a conspicuous feature of the New Zealand scheme.
Local committees could well be given full powers to make decisions on the spot.
This bill deals with matters which come under the jurisdiction of many Ministers and departments. The multiplicity of departmental authorities with which the returned serviceman will have to deal is rather bewildering. After his demobilization, he will have to approach officials of the Department of Labour and National Service, because that department controls man-power. Then he will have to approach the Department of Post-War Reconstruction, because it is responsible for rehabilitation training schemes. The Repatriation Commission is concerned with one hundred and one things which affect returned men, such as pensions, medical treatment, and sustenance. He may also have to consult the War Service Homes Commission, a body which, unfortunately, has not been able to do much during the war years. That is something which could not be avoided. Then when the soldier has passed that imposing array of officials he will have to get the approval of the Directorate of War Organization of Industry if he wants to set up in business. But even then he will not be finished, because he may have to get the authority of the Division of Import Procurement to obtain the goods he will require, and another department under the control of the same Minister (Senator Keane) will have to be approached for rationed goode. I do not know whether there is any way to overcome these difficulties, but, if possible, there should be one central authority to which returned servicemen would have to go, instead of several authorities.
A serious defect in the existing repatriation scheme is the absence of trained officers charged with the duty of maintaining personal touch with unskilled servicemen who will obtain nonspecialized jobs and leave them in order to obtain other employment. Special care will have to be taken with these unskilled men. My experience after the last war was that a number of young fellows who enlisted came back without having had any training for civil jobs. They suffered most from restlessness and discontent and a sense of frustration which, unfortunately, are legacies of every war. These men are most in need of help and protection. Some do not seek special training, and some of them may be deemed ineligible if they applied for it; thus they call become unemployable. The first duty of the Government is to reinforce the rehabilitation of ex-service personnel with a skilled “ follow-up “ staff, consisting, if possible, of men who have seen service so that they may understand the problems of the men with whom they will deal. This “ follow-up “ service might with advantage be recruited from members of the Australian Red Cross Society and other voluntary bodies which have worked well without official status, and some times without official encouragement, to humanize rehabilitation and repatriation. As I have said before, it takes a “ digger “ to understand a “ digger “. The reason why we have been so fortunate in connexion with the Repatriation Commission is that the whole of the Staff consists of men who have had war service. This bill is a compromise; it is partly a bill to re-establish servicemen, and partly a measure to provide full employment. It appeals neither to the exserviceman for whom it is said to be designed, nor to the unionist whose interests it seeks to appease. Under the definition of “war service” the Executive is empowered to extend the benefits of this legislation to all sorts of persons and organizations. I am glad that clause 136 has been amended, but it is still full of loop-holes. Should an employer wish to evade his responsibility he will not have to seek long to find “ reasonable and substantial causes for refusing prefer- ence “ to a serviceman. They are ready to his hand in the bill and an employer may, if he so desires, easily dodge the preference provisions by taking into account “ any other relevant matters “. That provision will provide feasts for many lawyers ; they could argue as to its meaning for weeks and still not get anywhere.
I shall not make any further reference to the re-employment allowance which was discussed fully in committee, but 1 wish again, even at the risk of being charged with tedious repetition, to refer to war pensions. I regret exceedingly that a man’s war pension will be taken into account when certain payments and benefits under this legislation are under consideration. The Ministers in charge of the bill in the Senate and in the House of Representatives say that this measure is bound up with the Government’s full employment policy, and that the interests of the serviceman are interlocked with those of the civilian. They are two distinct problems, and it is unwise to jumble them together. Apparently, the ex-serviceman and the civilian alike are to sink or swim together with the Government’s full employment policy; and, as the Government’s plans in that direction are hardly in the blue print stage, as was indicated in the White Paper on employment, the outlook for both soldier and civilian at present is grim and bleak. So far as preference to ex-service personnel is concerned the bill is a mockery and a sham. I say that without heat. The more I have studied it and realized what has been taken from ex-servicemen under the measure with regard to preference, the more I consider the hill to be a mockery and a sham. The measure bears no resemblance whatever to the pledge of the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) at the last general elections when he promised to bring down “ s measure which would deal fairly, justly and effectively with preference for the fighting forces “. It bears little likeness to the measure which the Prime Minister promised last January and February in the face of the violent opposition of a section of Cabinet and caucus, and howls from the Australasian Council of Trade Unions so soon as his draft was secretly made known to that body. The bill is a mockery of the “ fair, just and effective “ preference which, nearly two years ago, the Prime Minister pledged himself before the electors that his Government would enact. I believe that the Prime Minister personally would have enacted a measure in keeping with his promise, but he was not allowed to do so. The bill violates absolutely the Australian sentiment of gratitude for the sacrifices of our fighting men. It is a vile betrayal of our fighting men. If ever there was a measure which should have been made perfect in the spirit of original promises and the help of all political parties, it was this bill. There can be no doubt whatever that the nation will be bitterly divided over the issue of preference. This is the direct result of the Labour party’s shabby and disgraceful handling of the great trust which its leader undertook.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
It will be generally agreed that bank ing policy plays an important part in the economic life of every country. At present when we are facing grave problems and momentous economic issues, any legislation affecting the banking system is of vital national importance. A banking system must always be in process of evolution, continuously adapting itself to changing conditions. This adaptation in the past has largely taken place under the slow pressure of events. Since the depression of the ‘thirties, it has come to be recognized throughout the world that changes in the banking system should be the result of conscious decisions of policy. This legislation is based on the conviction that the Government must accept responsibility for the economic condition of the nation. The problems of the post-war period, with respect to employment, development, and trade, are of such magnitude, and involve such serious consequences, that no other attitude could be maintained. Accordingly, the Government has decided to assume the powers which are necessary over banking policy to assist it in maintaining national economic health and prosperity.
TheCommonwealth Bank was established by the Fisher Government in 1911 and placed under the sole control of a Governor, Sir Denison Miller. For the first twelve years, its chief activities were assistance to governments and industry during the 1914-18 war, the establishment on a growing basis of the Commonwealth Savings Bank, and the development of general banking business. In 1924, thebank was placed by the Bruce-Page Government under the control of a board, consisting of two ex officio members and six other members who had been actively engaged in agriculture, commerce, finance or industry. At the same time, the board was given control of the note issue. For some years the board was not faced with any acute problems. But in 1929, when Australia was overtaken by the world depression, central banking responsibilities began to develop. The bank assumed control of gold in 1929, and two years later took over the management of the exchange rate. During the four years 1929-1933, the Bank discounted treasury-bills amounting to approximately £55,000,000, towards the finance of Commonwealth and State governments, and also provided £35,000,000 overseas. Thus, the necessities of the economic situation in Australia produced a central bank; but it did not fully measure up to its responsibilities. In the opinion of the Government, the Commonwealth Bank and the banking system should have done more to mitigate the distress of the depression years. A similar view was expressed by the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems in 1937, in paragraph 543 of its report, in these words -
Two of the most important monetary measures taken during the depression were the expansion of central bank credit by means of treasury-bills in 1931 and 1932, and the movement in the exchange rate in January, 1931. In each case, in our opinion, thedepression would have been lightened, and some of its worst effects avoided, if those measures had been taken earlier. 1 ii 1931, in the depths of the depression, the Commonwealth Bank and the private banks refused to assist the rehabilitation plan of the Commonwealth and State governments designed to relieve acute unemployment and restore industry. The present Government is determined to ensure, so far as it is in its powers, that this will not be repeated.
It is appropriate at this point to refer briefly to the report of the Royal Commission on the Monetary and Banking Systems of Australia. That commission was appointed by the Lyons Government in 1935, at a time when the experience of depression had aroused great public interest in monetary and banking policy. The commission’s 30 separate recommendations, some of which were majority decisions, must form the starting point for any review of the functions of the Commonwealth Bank. The commission, reporting in 1937, recognized that the Commonwealth Bank had developed into a central bank ; but the commission believed that certain extensions were required in the powers and the functions of the bank to enable it to carry out its responsibilities. The relations of the bank with the Government were also considered by the commission, and various detailed recommendations were submitted which will be referred to in their appropriate context. Following a consideration of the report of the commission by the Lyons Government, a bill was actually brought down to Parliament in 1938, to amend the Commonwealth Bank Act, but it was not taken beyond the speech in which the second reading was moved.
In the absence of appropriate statutory powers it was found necessary, during the war to use National Security powers to bring the banking system under greater control, in order to check any tendencies towards inflation and to aid the war effort. The banking controls embodied in the “War-time Banking Control Regulations and the Economic Organization Regulations, have worked satisfactorily, and the Government has not received any complaints that they have operated harshly. In at least one respect they have brought about a substantial benefit to the community through the reduction of in- terest rates. They have provided experience in the operation of banking controls, which will be of very considerable benefit, and a number of the principles on which they are based should be embodied in the permanent legislation to meet the problems of the post-war period.
Immediately after the war, Australia will be faced with unprecedented economic problems. Banking control, to safeguard the nation from the perils of inflation, will be urgently needed. The increase of retail prices by about 29 per cent, in two years following the last war must not be forgotten. The Government is determined to grapple with this danger and in doing so, it will take full advantage of the experience that has been gained in operating war-time controls. In addition, there will be certain special problems of the post-war period, particularly in the sphere of housing and industrial finance. The Government is also convinced that active competition by the Commonwealth Bank with the trading banks and other financial institutions will ensure that these services are supplied to the people of Australia adequately and cheaply.
The necessity for changes in banking legislation has been demonstrated by the report, of the commission, confirmed by the experience of war, and established beyond question by the requirements of the future. There appears, indeed, to be a general agreement thai amending legislation is needed. After full consideration the Government has brought down legislation in the form of two separate bills, namely a Commonwealth Bank Bill and a Banking Bill.
I may explain here that a completely new Commonwealth Bank Bill has been brought down so as to present a clearer picture of what is proposed than would be possible if an amending bill with a large number of amendments were presented. But the continuity of the Commonwealth Bank as a legal entity will be preserved. Briefly, the main purpose? of the Commonwealth Bank Bill are -
The principal function of the Commonwealth Bank must be to fulfil its responsibilities and duties as a central bank. The commission in paragraph 135 of its report stated that “ the chief function of a central bank may be said to be the regulation of the volume of credit including currency”. What this involves was put more fully by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) when, as Treasurer, he introduced amendments to the Commonwealth Bank Act twenty years ago. He then said -
The important functions of banking can properly be performed only with the guidance and control of a central bank.Decision and settled policy are essential. Divided counsel and clashing interests, of individual bankers must in the end be fatal to good credit management, and banking can be raised to its greatest perfection only by the action of a central bank working always for the good of all.
Reduced to its simplest terms one of the main responsibilities of a central bank is to control the issue of bank credit by all the banks in such a manner as to avoid expansion of credit in times of boom and contraction of credit in times of depression. Whilst there is now a better understanding of central bank responsibilities, it is nevertheless essential to ensure, by appropriate legislative action, that the central banking functions and powers of the Commonwealth Bank are strengthened so as to ensure that the broad lines of its monetary and financial policy will be in harmony with the economic policy of the Government and in the interests of the people of Australia. In order that the status of the Commonwealth Bank as a central bank may be put into proper perspective, suitable provisions have been made inPart
It shall be the duty of the Commonwealth Bank, within the limits of its powers, to pursue a monetary and banking policy directed to the greatest advantage of the people of Australia, and to exercise its powers under this Act and the Banking Act 1945 in such a manner as, in the opinion of the Bank, will best contribute to -
the stability of the currency of Australia,
the maintenance of full employment in Australia; and
the economic prosperity and welfare of the people of Australia.
It is necessary to provide for possible differences of opinion between the bank and the Government on questions of policy. The royal commission contemplated such a difference of opinion arising and the majority view of the procedure that should be followed in those circumstances was set out in paragraph 530 of the report: -
In our view, the proper relations between the two authorities are these. The Federal Parliament is ultimately responsible for monetary policy, and the government of the day is the Executive of the Parliament. The Commonwealth Bank has certain powers delegated to it by statute, and the board’s duty to the community is to exercise those powers to the best of its ability. Where there is a conflict between the Government’s view of what is best in the national interest, and the Board’s view, the first essential is full and frank discussion between the two authorities with a view to exploring the whole problem. In most cases this should ensure agreement on a policy to be carried out by the Bank which it can reconcile with its duty to the community, and which has the approval of the Government. In eases in which it is clear beyond doubt that the differences are irreconcilable, the Government should give the Bank an assurance that it accepts full responsibility for the proposed policy, and is in a position to take, and will take, any action necessary to implement it. It is then the duty of the Bank to accept this assurance and to carry out the policy of the Government. This does not imply that there should at any time be interference by the Government or by any member of the Government, in the administration of the Commonwealth Bank. Once the question of authority is decided there should be little difficulty in preserving close and cordial relations between the Commonwealth Government and the Commonwealth Bank.
Clause 9 of the bill gives practical effect to this recommendation of the royal commission. This procedure is to be invoked only in matters of policy affecting the interests of Australia, and there can be no interference in the relationship of the bank with its customers, or in matters of day to day administration.
The Government has also given consideration to the measures which will be necessary to develop the central banking functions of the Commonwealth Bank. The present act contains no reference to the Commonwealth Bank as a central bank. Part III. of the bill now prescribes a number of general powers including control over the note issue. These powers, together with those proposed in the Banking Bill, will enable the Commonwealth Bank to fulfil its functions as a central bank. It is not to be expected that the powers which a central bank in Australia will require to discharge its duties effectively will be the same as those which have been in operation in more highly developed countries. As the royal commission reported in paragraph 139 -
It may be said that, for Australia, any power which enables the Commonwealth Bank to exercise control over the volume of credit is a central bank power, irrespective of whether the power in question has been used by any other central bank, or is appropriate to any other central banking system. It is not to be expected that the regulation of the volume of credit in Australia could be achieved by a central bank which merely copied the methods appropriate to a different and much more highly specialized monetary and banking system.
The main powers required by a centra) bank are those which enable it to control the policy and activities of the banking system of which it is the head. These powers will be of the utmost importance in the post-war period for the proper disposition of the available credit resources and they have been fully provided for in the Commonwealth Bank Bill and the Banking Bill.
It has been held that a central bank should not compete with the members of the banking system which it supervises. This view has had considerable influence on the administration of the Commonwealth Bank for many years, and has largelybeen responsible for the lack of development of its general banking business. It is the Government’s view that a government bank should participate in active competition with the private banks, and that this function can be most suitably performed by a separate division of the Commonwealth Bank. It is therefore, proposed that its general banking activities should be expanded. Provision has accordingly been made in the bill that -
It is provided that the deposits of the trading banks with the Commonwealth Bank shall not. be kept with the General Banking Division, and consequently this will remove any grounds for complaint that competitive activities may be conducted with funds deposited by the trading banks.
Consideration has also been given to the question of the note issue reserve. The present act provides for a reserve of 25 per cent. to be kept in the form of gold or English sterling. The present note issue is about £185,000,000 and practically the whole of the reserve is kept in English sterling. One of the weaknesses of the present arrangement is that if the reserve is required in an emergency to meet overseas obligations, it would be necessary to obtain an amendment of the law. The Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems referred to this, and mentioned the tendency under such provisions to hold a reserve in excess of the legal minimum. The essential characteristic of a reserve, now that notes are no longer redeemable in gold, is that it should be available for use as required to meet external commitments. A perusal of paragraph 579 of the commission’s report, quoted in the explanatory notes to the bill, shows that the commission realized the importance of this point, ft is the Government’s view that the Australian reserves of sterling and foreign currency ought not to be immobilized by a legal relationship with the note issue, of a type which may, in the words of the commission, become “ embarrassing “, and which can be dispensed with now without harmful consequences.
The commission also considered the purpose of the reserve requirements as a method of limiting the volume of notes, but concluded that the present reserve limitation was of little use. The commission, therefore, recommended -
The statutory provisions which require the Commonwealth Bank to hold gold or sterling in proportion to the amount of Australian notes on issue should he repealed.
The note issue should he limited toy law to a fixed maximum (for example, £60,000,000) subject to the right of the Bank to exceed the maximum by a stated amount (for example, £10,000,000) with the consent of the Treasurer (para. 580).
It is apparent that the expansion of the note issue during the war up to about £190,000,000, which may be followed by a large contraction, makes it inappropriate at the present stage to institute arrangements of the type contemplated in the second paragraph of the recommendation. It must be appreciated also that in modern banking policy more emphasis needs to be. placed on the control over that part of the credit base which consists of deposits with the central bank, rather than over the note issue, which is only a reflection of credit policy. With these considerations in mind, the Government believes that the reserve requirements should be abolished. Provision is made accordingly.
I have briefly referred to the management of the Commonwealth Bank and stated that in 1924 there was a change from single control under a governor to a board which consisted of six members who had been “ actively engaged in agriculture, commerce, finance or industry”, and two ex officio members, namely, the Secretary to the Treasury and the Governor of the Bank. The selection of persons who have the qualifications and experience to manage a central bank but at the same time no other business in terests in the community, is obviously a difficult if not an impossible task. Most persons with suitable qualifications have other interests which might at times conflict with their duties as members of the board. It may be that these interests can be submerged completely when affairs of State are under consideration, nevertheless, the Government feels that an institution of this character should be under management which is divorced from private interests. After careful consideration, the Government has decided to revert to the original conception of control by a Governor. However, there will be an Advisory Council consisting of the Secretary to the Treasury, the Deputy Governor, an additional representative of the Treasury, who shall be an officer of the ‘Commonwealth Public Service and shall be appointed by the .Governor-General, and two officers of the bank who shall be appointed by the Treasurer on the recommendation of the Governor. The Advisory Council will advise the Governor with respect to the monetary and banking policy of the bank and such other matters as are referred by the Governor. The Advisory Council will not deal with ordinary matters of administration.
The question of adapting modern banking to give assistance to industries, particularly small industries, outside the ambit of ordinary banking practice, has received consideration in other parts of the world, notably Great Britain and Canada, and special provisions have been made in those countries to meet the expected needs of secondary industry in the post-war period. Some similar provision is required in Australia. The Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems pointed out that in general the Australian banks avoided longterm investments in industry in order to maintain the liquidity of their assets. The commission expressed the view that there was a lack of facilities for providing long-term capital for industry conducted on a small scale. It is therefore proposed to expand the bank by the creation of an Industrial Finance Department in order to bridge the gap in existing facilities. It is not intended that the Industrial
Finance Department should assist an industrial undertaking without proper investigation. It will be necessary for the undertaking to have reasonable prospects of continuing to be, or of becoming, a profitable undertaking before it will be assisted. The bank, through the Industrial Finance Department, is therefore empowered to lend money to establish and develop such undertakings. It may also extend assistance to an undertaking by direct investment in the shares and securities of that undertaking. The new department will require specialized knowledge apart from ordinary banking. Therefore, the General Manager, who will administer, the department, subject to the Governor of the bank, is to be appointed by the Governor-General. Given appropriate management, there is every reason to hope that the Industrial Finance Department will render valuable service in the future development of Australian secondary industry.
In the interests of the Australian people, the Commonwealth Bank must assist in the development of post-war housing programmes. Provision has therefore been made for loans on the Credit Foncier system from the General Bank Division to individuals and to prescribed building societies for the erection and purchase of homes or the discharge of mortgages on homes. In view of the number of demands that are likely to be made, priority will be given to borrowers who wish to build their own homes. Subject to a limit of £1,250,’ loans will be made to individuals up to S5 per cent, of the value of the security. The loans will be repayable by instalments over a period of not less than five years or more than 35 years, and rates of interest will be as low as practicable. It is not intended that assistance for housing loans through the Commonwealth Bank should overlap the valuable activities of State housing authorities, which have performed and will no doubt continue to perform an excellent service to the community in erecting new homes. Nor L= this provision intended to conflict with the agreement which has already been reached with State governments, under which the States are to play their part to overtake the shortage of housing. The closest co-ordination of activities is necessary to ensure that the public will get the maximum benefit from all the authorities concerned.
Up to the present, the recruitment, promotion and dismissal of tho bank’s staff has been at the discretion of the Commonwealth Bank Board. After reviewing the position the Government considers that equality of opportunity should he provided for entry to the bank’s service, and also that the position of officers already in the bank’s service should be protected with respect to promotion, dismissal and disciplinary action. It is proposed that candidates for appointment to the bank’s staff should be required to pass a prescribed entrance examination in open competition, and that appointment should then be made in order of merit. This i.= the practice in the Commonwealth Public Service, and also in the British Civil Service. There will, of course, he need for some flexibility so that exemptions can be granted in special cases. This can be explained at the committee stage. It is also proposed that officers should have a right of appeal against promotions made by the bank. As in the Commonwealth Public Service, the grounds of appeal will be either superior efficiency or equal efficiency combined with seniority. Appeals against promotions will be decided by a Promotions Appeal Board, consisting of an independent chairman appointed by the Governor-General, an officer of the bank appointed by the Governor, and another elected by officers in the service of the bank. The establishment of a right of appeal will, of course, necessitate the classification of all positions in the bank and the determination of relative seniority of officers. Accordingly, it is proposed to provide that all positions in the bank will be classified as soon as practicable after the commencement of the proposed act and that the classification of each position, the name of the officer occupying the position and the salary of the officer shall bc notified in the Gazette. Thereafter similar details will be published annually. It is also proposed to establish an appeal board to decide appeals against any decision of the Governor, which involves punishment, dismissal or reduction of status.
The members of the Disciplinary Appeal Board will be a chairman with experience as a stipendiary magistrate, appointed by the Governor-General, an officer of thebank appointed by the Governor, and another elected by officers in the service of the bank. The decision of the appeal board on matters which come within its jurisdiction will be final. This board will take the place of the appeal board, provided in the existing act, to which any officer of the bank could appeal with respect to any decision, other than a decision of the board, affecting his employment.
TheCommonwealth Savings Bank has recorded the most satisfactory development of the various activities of the bank, and to-day deposits exceed £300,000,000. TheCommonwealth Savings Bank is a separate incorporation, and the separation is retained in the new bill. It is proposed, however, to repeal the provision in the present act for management by a commission. That provision was never put into operation, and it is unnecessary. It is proposed that the Commonwealth Savings Bank shall be under the control of the Governor of the bank.
Advantage has been taken of the opportunity to make in this bill a number of machinery and other minor amendments and alterations to the present act.
The close of the war will undoubtedly bring with it increasing responsibilities and functions for the Commonwealth Government and a strong central bank will become an even more essential part of the equipment of Government than it has been in the past. The Commonwealth Bank was founded on legislation passed bythe Labour party over 30 years ago, and the party can point with pride to its success as a great Australian institution. It has grown steadily, and built up a solid foundation for future development, but at certain stages the bank has been unduly conservative in its policy, and at present there are some gaps in the powers which it will need in the post-war period. These deficiencies will be removed by this bill and the Banking Bill. Under the provisions of these bills, the Commonwealth Bank will grow to full stature. It will be shaped to meet distinctively Australian requirements and, on the lines now proposed, it will undoubtedly develop as one of the principal agents of national stability and progress.
Debate (on motion by Senator Leckie) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Keane) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I draw the attention of the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) to the inadequate shipping facilities provided between the eastern seaboard of Australia and Western Australia. In his reply to remarks made by me last week in drawing attention to this matter, he gave a brief outline of his recent visit to Western Australia when he inquired into the shipping requirements at the port of Fremantle. He indicated that he was quite satisfied with what he had seen, and that Western Australia was being adequately serviced in respect of shipping, having regard to the difficulties experienced at all ports during the war. The Minister has started a controversy in Western Australia on this matter. According to a statement published by the secretary of the Chamber of Manufactures in Western Australia, the position is not so satisfactory as the Minister appears to believe. I contend that Western Australia still lacks a proper shipping service, and I urge him to try to improve the present shipping arrangements. I understand, from the report of the secretary of the Chamber of Manufactures in Western Australia, that in Sydney alone 8,000 tons of goods await shipment to the western State. In the engineering industry, which depends on supplies from New South Wales, there is a shortage of iron and steel. Last year I drew attention to the scarcity of plumbing material, and I understand that the need has increased considerably in Western Australia since I last mentioned the matter. There is a shortage of all kinds of plumbing accessories, especially galvanized iron, guttering and piping. These are urgently required, in addition to the iron and steel needed in the engineering workshops. Western Australia is short of 2,000 tons of galvanized iron, and this is urgently required, particularly in country districts.
Reference has been made to the arrival of ships off Fremantle in ballast. In view of the Minister’s statement that no complaints have been made regarding the shipping service to Western Australia it is strange that ships should arrive from the eastern States in ballast. These vessels have come to Western Australia to load grain and fodder for starving stock, particularly in New South Wales. I can understand the fodder being required, but I fail to understand why thousands of tons of cargo awaiting shipment from Sydney to Fremantle has been left behind. The statement has also been made about delay to shipping, owing to lack of berthing space. In Fremantle harbour, certain vessels must be accommodated on account of war conditions, and of course that has reduced the available space for the berthing and handling of other vessels, but other ports are available for the loading and unloading of smaller ships, and I suggest that the ports of Albany and Bunbury could be used to relieve ‘the congestion at Fremantle. I submit this matter to the Minister, expecting that something will be done to meet the serious situation which I have described. It is very important to Western Australia, particularly in view of the restricted railway transport available for commercial goods, that the shipping service should be improved. When we had three trains a week running between Perth and the eastern States the position was not so acute as at present, but with only one train weekly, and the restricted goods service, ships have returned to their own as a means of carrying commerce between the eastern seaboard and the distant west. I urge the Minister to take steps to improve the position as soon as possible.
– Earlier to-day
asked me the following questions, upon notice: -
When was the submarine telephone cable connecting Tasmania with Victoria opened for business ?
I am now in a position to supply the honorable senator with the following answers to his questions : -
– Senator Allan MacDonald advised me this morning that he proposed to discuss the matters which he has mentioned to-night, and I have had certain inquiries made hy the Director of Shipping. Approximately 17,000 tons of cargo awaits shipment at Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide for Western Australia, and of that quantity S,000 tons of cargo are held up at Sydney. At present, it is impossible to increase the tonnage of galvanized iron and bar steel being shipped to Western Australia. The number of ships which can be loaded for Fremantle is determined by the number of berths likely to be available on arrival. While the present congestion at Fremantle continues, it is impracticable to load additional ships for that port.
Some time ago it was proposed to discharge Fremantle cargo at Albany, Bunbury and Geraldton, but the quantity of cargo which could be handled through those ports is limited by the availability of rolling stock. Fremantle consignees ;’ would not take delivery of cargo at Albany, Bunbury and Geraldton, as they would be at a considerable financial disadvantage in having to pay rail freight from those ports- to the Freman tie-Perth area, where the goods are required. Fremantle is suffering difficulties similar to those to which North Queensland ports were subjected during 1943 and 194.4. The honorable senator will be aware of the following statement made by the Western Australian Committee of the Shipping Control Board on the 18-th June: -
Referring to the statement of the secretary of the West Australian Chamber of Manufactures (Mr. A. C. Curlewis), published last Friday concerning delays in the shipment of urgently needed cargoes from the eastern States, the secretary of the Western Australian Committee of the Shipping Control Board (Mr. F. Hardouin) said on Saturday that, while it seemed to be thought that the solution of the matter was to make more use of ships specially sent to Western Australia to load back with grain and fodder for the eastern States, this was very far from being the case. “ As has already been pointed out,” said Mr. Hardouin, “ due consideration has also to he given to the facilities of the port for dealing with the cargo that may be Drought here - berthing accommodation, shed room, rail trucks, cranes, labour supply, and the rate at which consignees themselves can take delivery of the cargo, having regard to the fact that no carting is done after 5 p.m., although the ships for their part are prepared as far as practicable to work round the clock, Sundays and holidays included.”
Quite recently, several ships sent to Western Australia, primarily for the purpose of taking back grain and fodder for the eastern States, but which, under pressure of circumstances, had been utilized to take cargo from the ports from which they were despatched, have suffered very serious delays in getting this cargo discharged, and the loading of the grain and fodder for which they were sent has been correspondingly held up in consequence. One such vessel now in nort, which arrived on Tuesday of last week, had only secured a dis.charging berth to-day, and then had to work with less than half the labour that it required. This meant that, although it worked throughout to-morrow, it could not hope to finish its discharge earlier than Monday night. Meanwhile, ils cargo of grain and fodder is waiting for it at another port. The cost to the Commonwealth Government of this particular allied ship is probably about £400 a day.
Delays in the shipping of grain and fodder certainly do not suit either those persons in Western Australia who are interested in such exports, or persons in the eastern States who are urgently in need of feed for their starving stock. Even ordinary interstate cargo vessels trading -with Western Australia cannot be given anything like reasonable despatch under existing conditions. For instance, one vessel now at Fremantle arrived in Gage Roads- on the 29th May, but did not secure ship berthing accommodation ‘ until the 5th June. Even then, owing to a shortage of labour, the vessel has only just discharged its cargo, and will not complete the loading of a full cargo of general goods for the eastern States before next Friday. Thus, that vessel will have been at Fremantle at least 24 days, whereas normally its stay in that port would have been only eight days. Another interstate vessel at present at Fremantle arrived in Gage Roads on the 10th June, and is still awaiting a discharging berth, which is not likely to be available -before next Tuesday ; and then there is little prospect of more than a’ portion of. the labour required to handle the cargo being available. The facte are that under war-time conditions, with reduced berthage and shed accommodation for commercial purposes, and insufficient labour, on the one hand, and much more traffic to’ be dealt with than in peace-time on the other, the harbour at Fremantle is not able to cope with requirements. Therefore, it would be futile to bring more cargo to that port than is already being dealt with there, as to do so would only be to aggravate aD already difficult situation.
Senator Allan MacDonald also stated that T had said that the position in Western Australia was satisfactory. I did not say that; T said that conditions there were as satisfactory as could he expected in view of the allocation of shipping tonnage to that State. I also pointed out that there was a deficiency of coastal shipping as well as of interstate shipping. In peace-time twenty vessels traded between Western Australian ports, to-day there are only two or three vessel? engaged in that trade. There is great congestion on the wharfs in all States. At Sydney and Fremantle the position is most acute. Ho one knows better than does Senator Allan MacDonald the large amount of space taken up by naval vessels in the Fremantle harbour. At Sydney, also, the wharf accommodation is barely sufficient to meet ordinary peace-time commercial requirements. Today, when the demand for accommodation is practically double what it is in pence-time, it is impossible to avoid congestion. Moreover, there is a shortage of man-power, whilst materials to provide more accommodation cannot be made available because of the demands of work of a higher priority. I do not think that the erection of additional storage buildings would remedy the position in Western Australia. At Sydney storage sheds as far away from the wharfs as Parramatta have to be used by Service departments. That means that goods have to be carted to and from Parramatta. I shall bring this matter to the notice of the Director of Shipping, Sir Thomas Gordon, and instruct an officer to visit “Western Australia to inquire whether the position there can be improved.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service - Report of Committee of Inquiry into systems of promotion and temporary transfers.
Common wenlth Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of Health - J. J. Doyle.
Senate adjourned at 10.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 June 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1945/19450620_senate_17_183/>.