17th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I have received from Mrs. D. R. Hall a letter of thanks and appreciation for the resolution of sympathy passed by the Senate on the occasion of the death of the Honorable David Robert Hall.
Commonwealth Housing Commission: Report - Acquisition or Building Blocks
– In view of the fact that some weeks ago the Commonwealth Housing Commission presented a report which was tabled in the House of Representatives, does the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Housing intend to table the report in this chamber, so that honorable senators mayhave an opportunity to peruse it?
– I have not seen the report referred to, but I shall inquire into the matter. An opportunity will he presented shortly to debate the subject of housing in this chamber.
– Last week the VicePresident of the Executive Council, on behalf of the Minister for Works and Housing, read a statement obviously prepared by the Victorian Housing Commission. It denied any suggestion that National Security (Moratorium) Regulation 15a had been ignored in the compulsory acquisition of home building blocks owned by servicemen. The commission claimed that adequate compensation was offered or paid for land so acquired.
– The honorable senator is out of order in making statements in asking a question.
– Does the Minister consider that £78 is adequate compensation for land assessed for taxation purposes at £110? Is he aware that a group of land owners at Heidelberg and Highett intend to appeal to the Pull Court of Victoria, as the North Essendon owners have successfully done recently, in order to secure more adequate compensation, and to test the Victorian Housing Commission’s right to flout Moratorium Regulation 15a?
– I have no knowledge of the case to which the honorable senator has referred. I know the law relating to compensation for the acquisition of property, and I am aware that aggrieved persons have the right of appeal to a properly constituted appeal court. If the honorable senator will see me in my office, and furnish me with particulars of the case referred to, I shall obtain any information he requires regarding it.
Air Conditioning Service
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior say what progress has been made with the investigations for the adaptation of the diesel type of engine for use on the transAustralian railway? Further, can he say what progress has been made with the air-conditioning of additional sleeping cars and other carriages so that the trans-Australian railway may be brought to a standard which will make travelling on that line attractive to other than official passengers?
– I have no uptodate knowledge of the matters referred to, but if the honorable senator will see me in my office and acquaint me with any difficulties which he has encountered I shall endeavour to adjust them.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior inform the Senate when the normal train service will be resumed on the transAustralian railway, thus eliminating the extra day’s travel and providing an additional train each week?
– I shall have inquiries made and furnish a reply to the honorable senator’s question.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for “Works and Housing any statement to make regarding the attitude of building employees in Melbourne, 3,000 of whom are reported to have decided unanimously to continue with the go-alow policy?
– It is not, possible for me to have knowledge of the attitude of any section of employees towards a specific project at a particular place. If the honorable senator will let rae know what his difficulties are, I shall endeavour to remove them. No honorable senator on this side of the chamber would attempt to justify action which is unwarranted; therefore, the action of the honorable senator in asking a question before I have had an opportunity to acquaint myself with details of the matter referred to is not altogether fair: I shall, however, look into the matter and will supply an answer, possibly later to-day.
Hostels - Bread
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior aware of the improved standard of the cut lunches that have been supplied to girls in government hostels and other boarding-houses in Canberra during the past week, and, if so, will he give an undertaking that that higher standard will be maintained, and will not be merely “ a flash in the pan “?
– Behind the honorable senator’s question is a serious implication, which I resent. I said yesterday that I was unable to make a statement on this subject in the absence of the Minister for the Interior, who is responsible for the administration of Canberra. I have been in close contact by telegram with the Minister, and last night I personally contacted the Prime Minister. I am not prepared to make a statement regarding what has already happened. I am prepared to say that there was little or no foundation for the charge, made regarding the lunches; and there i3 no more foundation for the statement now made that there has been any improvement in the lunches.
– I shall prove it.
– Will the Leader of the Senate institute aa inquiry into this matter? The luncheon produced in the chamber by Senator Tangney was not in my opinion fit te serve to a coolie. Will an inquiry be made regarding the standard of lunches served to boarders at hostels in Canberra, and whether the lunches have been improved since the matter wai raised in the Senate? If there nas been no improvement, will he ensure that the conditions in this respect are improved t
– The honorable senator has asked me a rather embarrassing question, because this is really » matter for the Acting Minister for the Interior. I saw the lunch which Senator Tangney produced in the Senate. It was unappetizing, and obviously deficient in food value. I shall confer with the Acting Minister for the Interior on the matter. Incidentally, I notice that in this morning’s press I have been dragged into this controversy, being depicted in a hideous’ cartoon published in the Sydney Morning Herald.
– I resent the slur that has been cast on my veracity. Does the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior doubt that the cut lunch which I produced in this chamber last week was given to a resident of the Hotel Ainslie? This morning I saw the luncheon served) to the same person to-day, and it is much better. It includes meat sandwiches and a piece of cake wrapped separately.
– At no time have I questioned Senator Tangney’* veracity. This is more a matter of voracity than veracity. However, I do question the source of the honorable senator’s information. I have already stated that an inquiry is being made into thi* matter. I saw the luncheon which Senator Tangney brought to the notice of this chamber last week, and I handed it over to. the Department of the Interior for inquiry. I am following the matter up. and as I have already stated, I have communicated with the Minister for the Interior. Last night I saw the PrimeMinister in an endeavour to ascertain what best could be done to ascertain the facts of the case. Nobody would argue that the cut lunch produced by Senator Tangney, which has now become historic, was a satisfactory meal. If there has been any improvement in the alleged general situation, I am pleased to hear of it. Obviously, if the situation was as Senator Tangney claimed, it could not be permitted to continue. Again I emphasize that nobody questions Senator Tangney’s reliability or sincerity, but I believe that the general position has been misrepresented to the honorable senator and to other people. I assure the Senate that the Department of the Interior is regarding this matter very seriously indeed, and that a full inquiry will be made. I hope that it will fall to my lot as the repre- sentative in this chamber of the Minister for the Interior to make a full and satisfactory statement at a later date.
– Will you, Mr. President, endeavour to ensure that bread of a better quality is served in the ParliamentaryRefreshment Rooms. What we get now is not bread at all; it is dough of the very worst kind. It only requires an extra half-hour in the oven to be made into bread.
– I shall make inquiries, and if the bread is as alleged by the honorable senator, steps will be taken to provide bread of a better quality.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Army inform the Senate what steps are being taken to repatriate enemy prisoners of war now held in Australia, and what nationalities will be given priority in this matter ? Have any steps been taken by the Army authorities to ascertain the mind of prisoners of war at present held in custody in Australia with respect to doctrines which they absorbed in their native country before they became prisoners of war? What steps are being taken to improve the minds of these prisoners in this respect while they are in Australia?
– It will take the Government all its time to repatriate these individuals to their own countries without giving any consideration whatever to their education in the direction indicated by the honorable senator.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Navy has supplied the following answers : -
Motion (by Senator Keane) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Widows’ Pensions Act 1922-1944, as amended by the National Welfare Fund Act 1945.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Keane) put -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the billbeing passed through its remaining stages without delay.
– There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators present, and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to give effect to the Government’s decision announced in the budget speech to increase by 5s. 6d. a week the pensions and allowances payable to class “ A “ and class “ C “ widows. The former are widows maintaining one or more children under sixteen years of age. The latter are widows less than 50 years of age who have no dependent children but who are in necessitous circumstances. Such widows may he paid an allowance for a period not exceeding six months from the date of the husband’s death. The increases will raise the rate of pension for class “ A “ widows from 32s. to 37s. 6d. a week, and the allowance for class “ C “ widows from 27s. to 32s. 6d. a week. The increased rates will operate from the 18th September, 1945, the beginning of the current four-weekly pension period, and will be payable onthe next pay day, the 16th October, 1945. There are at present 15,286 class “A” widows receiving pensions and 66 widows in class “ C “ receiving allowances. The cost of the increases provided for in the bill will be £260,000 for a full year. The cost for the present financial year will be £200,000. There is another class of widow pensioner known as class “ B “. These are widows over 50 years of age who have no dependent children. There are 28,634 such widows receiving pensions, and the maximum rate of pension is 27s. a week. The Government has given very careful consideration to the position of these widows, but considers that there is insufficient justification for granting them an increase of 5s. 6d. a week, which would cost an additional £450,000 per annum.
– The subject matter of this measure has already been discussed in this chamber. I support the bill.
– I welcome the bill, and take -the opportunity to suggest to the Government that it should approach the problem of social services in a systematic manner by introducing a comprehensive scheme, instead of dealing with the matter in a piecemeal fashion. It would be of advantage to all concerned if other sections entitled to consideration were brought within the fold of social services. I refer particularly to spinsters of advanced years, many of whom are at a disadvantage owing to the fact that they have had to devote practically a life-time to looking after aged or invalid parents. They are not old enough to be entitled to the old-age pension, but they should receive consideration, as well as widows and others who get benefits from the Commonwealth. There are also others of whom the Government has cognizance, and who have claims for sympathetic treatment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Bate of pension).
.- Can the Minister say what the total cost of the proposed benefits will be?
– The total extra cost for pensions in classes “ A “ and “ C “ will be £260,000.
– I regret that the Minister in charge of the bill (Senator Keane) did not reply to my suggestion that a comprehensive social service scheme should be adopted. In the absence of a statement to the contrary, one can only imagine that the Government, in bringing in piecemeal measures, which are certainly welcomed by the persons who derive benefit under them, is determined to have Christmas every month instead of annually.
.- I regret having omitted to refer to the honorable senator’s remarks. The claims of spinsters have been considered, by the Government, and are receiving the atten*tion of the department. The claims of some other classes of persons also will probably have to be examined. During the next parliamentary sittings, the Minister for Social Services (Senator Fraser) will bring down a measure to consolidate all social services, and an opportunity will be taken to remove anomalies such as that mentioned by the honorable senator. A comprehensive bill will be submitted covering the whole range of social services, and an opportunity will be presented for a full debate on the details of the social services legislation. An attempt has already been made to do something on the lines suggested by the honorable senator, inasmuch as a special fund has been established out of which payment for these services will be made. At an early date the Government will have to consider the aggregate cost of the services, which will reach £67,000,000 at the end of next year. I am confident that every honorable senator is in favour of social services. They will tend to make Australia attractive to people overseas. The scheme is well overdue, and should have the support of honorable senators generally.
– Will the 28,634’ widows referred to by the Minister as being in class B receive an increase?
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Ashley) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The main purposes of the bill are to give effect to recommendations of a committee appointed in December, 1943, to consider matters relating to the system of promotions in the Commonwealth Public Service! The chairman of the committee was Professor K. H. Bailey, Professor of Public Law, University of Melbourne, and its members were : Mr. F. G. Thorpe, Public Service Commissioner; Mr. L. S. Jackson, Commonwealth Commissioner of Taxation; the late Mr. R. W. Hamilton Acting Deputy Director, Posts and Telegraphs, New South Wales, who was succeeded by Mr. J. Malone, Deputy Director, Posts and Telegraphs, New South Wales; Mr. J. V. Dwyer, general secretary, Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia; Mr. T. B. Goodall, general secretary, Professional Officers Association; Mr. A. V. Langker, general secretary of the Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association, the secretary of the Council of Commonwealth
Public Service Organizations; and Mr. F. J. Webb, general secretary, Postal Tele-communication Technicians Association. The report of the committee has been printed, and I commend it to the attention of honorable senators. The recommendations of the committee have been incorporated in the bill.
Under the existing law, selection for promotion in the Commonwealth Public Service is based, first, on relative efficiency, and, in the event of an equality of efficiency of two or more officers, then on the relative seniority of the officers available for promotion. Provisional promotions are made by permanent heads of departments, and appeals against such promotions are made to, and determined by, the Public Service Board. Under the bill, two important- alterations are provided for. First, it is proposed to set up promotions appeals committees to hear appeals and, in certain circumstances, to determine appeals. In other circumstances, the appeals will be heard by the committees and determined by the Public Service Board on reports from the committees. Honorable senators will find this provision in paragraph (p) of clause 7. The promotions appeals committees will be constituted by a chairman, who will be appointed by the Public Service Board, a representative of the department concerned in the appeal and a representative of the organization of employees whose members are concerned in the appeal. Reference to the system of appeals will be found in paragraphs 140 to 168 of the report of the committee, and its recommendation will be found on page 26 of the report in sub-paragraph (xii) of paragraph 180.
The second important alteration recommended by the committee concerns the selection of officers for promotion. As I have previously stated, under the existing law selection is based, first, on relative efficiency, and then on seniority. Whilst the committee did not propose any change in the existing law in connexion with vacancies generally in the Public Service, it considered that in certain of the lower classified offices of the Public Service selection for promotion should be on the basis of the senior efficient officer ‘available. Paragraphs 23 to 44 of the report of the committee deal with this aspect.
Generally, the selection for promotion on the basis of the senior efficient officer available is limited to subordinate positions where the test of seniority will not impair the efficiency of the Public Service as a whole. In these cases, the determination of relative efficiency in the terms of the existing law is difficult, as major differences are not usually found in the relative efficiency of officers of these subordinate classes. The committee has also made a recommendation, which is incorporated in the bill, dealing with the selection of officers for promotion to some of the higher positions in the Service. At present, when filling a vacancy it is necessary only to determine the relative efficiency of officers in respect of the position to be filled. The committee took the view, and the Government concurs, that when selection is made for a high position in a department, consideration should be given to the capacity of the officer to fill a still higher position in the department than that which is being filled at the moment, and I refer honorable senators to paragraphs 60 to 63 of the committee’s report on this aspect.
Apart from matters arising from the report of the committee, the bill makes provision for other matters to which I shall refer only briefly. It contains provision for the setting up of classifications committees and of a joint council. Both of these bodies are intended to have functions of an advisory character. In each case, they will be representative of the Public Service Board, of departments, and of organizations of employees. The classification committees, as their name implies, will deal with matters concerning the classification of positions in the Public Service. At present, classifications of positions are made by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Public Service Board, or by determination of the Public Service Arbitrator. The arbitration system does not lend itself readily to the classification of individual positions, and it is felt that a regular review of classifications could best be done by .a system that brings to round-table conferences the board, the department and the organization covering the class of position being considered. This would not be a sub- stitute for arbitration but a supplementary procedure designed to give effect to the ^principles of conciliation and agreement between organizations and the board.
A general reclassification of the Public Service was made by the Public Service Board with effect from the 1st J July, 1924, and it will be necessary as soon as practicable that a further general reclassifi-cation should be made. This has become particularly necessary following the dislocation of ordinary peace-time departmental organizations as a result of the war and it is felt that in making a general reclassification an advisory body of ths kind which the bill contemplates will be of advantage and assistance both to the administration and to officers.
The purpose of the joint council is to secure a greater measure of co-operation between the Commonwealth in its capacity as an employer and the general body of public servants, and to bring together the experience and different points of view of representatives of the Public Service Board, departments and organizations of employees. In England there is a body known as the Whitley Council, whilst in Canada and New Zealand there are joint councils. It is proposed that for the Commonwealth Public Service there should be a council of, say, six members representing the administration and six representing staffs which would meet perhaps three times a year and consider matters such as staff welfare, sick leave conditions, service seniority systems, and the improvement of procedure, &c. The council will not deal with individual cases but with general principles and it would function in an advisory capacity.
Further provisions in the bill relate to such matters as the re-appointment to the Public Service of officers who have resigned to contest elections for Parliament; the continuity of service of officers who have prior service with the Federal Capital Commission; the granting of power to the Public Service Board to transfer officers from one department to another; the re-appointment of an officer whose dismissal followed conviction by a court for a criminal offence but whose conviction subsequently is quashed; the granting of leave of absence to officers of the Public Service “who may be appointed to represent the Commonwealth of Australia in other countries or who may undertake service with prescribed international bodies or organizations such as Unrra; the preservation of furlough privileges obtained by officers when attached to the Northern Territory Public Service; and provision under which permission can be granted to an officer of the Public Service to be a director of an organization such as a <;o-operative society.
– This measure is of very great importance to members of the Commonwealth Public Service. Unfortunately, I have not had an opportunity to study its details, or implications. I am impressed by the calibre of the members of the committee which made the investigation upon which, apparently, the measure has been based. I should like to be assured that all of the changes now proposed were recommended by that committee and whether »ny of the committee’s recommendations have not been incorporated in the measure. Industrial strife between employers and employees is one of the outstanding features of our day. When touring other countries, one cannot help feeling that this is one of the greatest problems now confronting political leaders throughout the world. While I was in San Francisco, trouble occurred on the wharfs and on certain coal-fields. The author of much of that trouble was, [ was informed, an Australian who should have been interned in this country, because he is no ornament, and of no use, to any country. The wretched and pernicious disease of industrial strife is eating into our economic life. Policies being advocated by a small section of workers are doing great harm to industry, and more than anything else, are retarding industrial progress in this, as well as other countries. I believe the Government is just as anxious as I ‘am to maintain peace in industry, and that « number of trade unionists have done their best to maintain industrial peace it Australia. However, there are a few - only a few - extremists who are causing a lot of harm, and I regret that on a comparative basis industrial trouble in Australia is far more pronounced than it is in any of the countries which I visited when I was abroad recently. In England and the United States of America the responsible authorities do not hesitate to deal firmly with disruptions. In many instances, thousands of workers have been summarily dismissed for going slow. I returned to Australia to find that industrial trouble was most acute. This problem must be tackled. I admit that the faults are not all on one side. Hardships and conditions of employment in days gone by forced employees to organize themselves in order to protect their interests. However, to-day, some trade unions in this country have swung to the other extreme, and are dominated by a few people who style themselves Communists. At any rate, they are extremists; and I believe that if the Government had the courage to intern them - I would be prepared to support such action - a better understanding would be established throughout industry.
– I ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the measure.
– Whatever government is in office it should, as an employer, set an example to Australian employers as a whole. Employees are entitled to decent conditions of employment. In a large organization like the Commonwealth Public Service, men of ability should have every opportunity to win promotion, and in this respect should be given a fair deal. I take it that that is one of the objectives envisaged under the measure. We must deal with problems of employment in the light of the increased cost of living which has occurred during the war. This burden, combined with the present high rates of tax, has made it very difficult for many people to honour their financial commitments. I nm not concerned whether a man works 36 or 40 hours a week. Such matters can best be settled by independent tribunals. Regardless of the hours they work, employees will give of their best only when co-operation exists between them and their employers. Under such conditions, the average employee will work with enthusiasm. Contented employees) working for only twenty hours a week will produce far better results than dissatisfied employees working for 40 hours a week. I emphasize the importance of co-operation between employers and employees. I congratulate the Government upon its appointment of the committee upon whose recommendations the bill, apparently, is founded. I shall support the bill provided the Minister can give an assurance that all changes proposed in the bill have been recommended by that committee, and that no recommendation made by it has been rejected by the Government. As the Senate has other important business to discuss, I shall not delay the passage of this measure.
.- I.n endeavouring to force this measure through the Senate hastily, the Government is demonstrating once again its cynical indifference to the rights of this chamber, and of the people of this country. In the opening paragraph of his second-reading speech the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) said -
The report of the committee lias been printed and I commend it to the attention of honorable senators. The recommendations of the committee have been incorporated in the bill.
Later, the Minister said that the system of appeals was dealt with in paragraphs 140 to 16S of the committee’s report. We have not seen that report. Apparently whilst considering this important legislation, we are expected to study a voluminous and thoroughly prepared report. Later, the Minister referred the Senate to paragraphs 60 to (53 of the report. The Minister expects the Senate to pass, in ia few minutes, legislation dealing with the interests not only of the taxpayers of this country but also of the servants of the people. . That is not the manner in which the business of this Parliament should be carried on. Adequate time should be allowed for consideration of all measures brought before this chamber. Perhaps I have an unduly suspicious mind, but the circumstances in which this measure has been withheld from us until the final hours of the sessional period, indicates that there may be something fishy in it, and that the Government did not dare present it to Parliament until this late stage of the sittings, so that it could be rushed through and its defects hidden. It may be that this measure was prepared six months ago. Either we are regarded as supermen who can handle voluminous legislation such as this in a few minutes, or the Government once again is ignoring the rights of this chamber. This state of affairs cannot continue. There will be a revolt against it. This may be an urgent and necessary measure, but the Government is not treating the Senate fairly, nor is it being fair to Commonwealth public servants.
– In bringing down this legislation, the Government is filling a longfelt want. I understand that the Parliament of Western Australia will shortly pass legislation making the same provision for public servants of that State as this bill makes for Commonwealth public servants. For many years, workers’ industrial organizations have complained that promotions have been made more by favoritism than by due consideration of long service and ability. This practice over the years has been a major cause of industrial troubles. I can speak with some knowledge in regard to that matter, because in a position which I once occupied, it took me a long time, with the assistance of a competent court, to endeavour to correct some anomalies that had arisen in a government department, in Western Australia. The position was that certain men were entitled to promotion because of length of service and ability, but completely ignoring industrial determinations, certain, other individuals were given the jobs. Immediately, there was an outcry from other workers engaged in that industry, because they realized that a continuance of that practice would deprive them of their promotion rights.
Apparently a similar position has now arisen in the Commonwealth Public Service. I do not profess to know a great deal about that Service, and I am somewhat in agreement with Senator Leckie that this chamber is being given little opportunity to inform itself as to the contents of this measure. I should have liked to have had an opportunity to read the committee’s report before discussing this bill. However, whilst I agree with that aspect of the honorable senator’s criticism, I strongly resent his suggestion that there is something fishy about this legislation. He must think that the Public Service Commissioner, Mr. F. 0. Thorpe, and the Commonwealth Commissioner of Taxation, Mr. L. S. Jackson, are fishy persons. His statement was ill advised. In preparing this legislation, the ‘Government called together representatives of the employers and employees, so that all parties could have a thorough round-table discussion in order to determine special problems. The committee mentioned by the Minister in his second-reading speech appears to have been thoroughly representative of both the employers and the employees, and its recommendations have been incorporated in the bill. Therefore, I am justified in accepting the bill as being an expression of its wishes. The bill does more than deal with promotions and appeals against promotions within the Public Service. The Minister said that it is proposed to appoint a council of, .say, six members representing the administration and six members representing the staffs, which will meet perhaps three times a year to consider matters such as staff welfare, sick-leave conditions, service seniority systems, and improvements of procedure. The council will not deal with individual cases, but with general principles and will function, in an advisory capacity. This is one of the most important forward steps ever made in the industrial history of the Commonwealth. By act of Parliament, an advisory body will be established to deal with matters in a way which will tend to eliminate industrial unrest, of which we hear so much at present. Dealing with industrial unrest, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) staid that in England and America he obtained certain information regarding industrial troubles. He referred to disputes on the waterfront at San Francisco. I, too, was »t San Francisco, and I heard that a person formerly of Australian nationality was largely responsible for the waterside workers of America giving a marvellous war effort. I shall not take sides or discuss the merits of various political “ isms “. It is easy for the Leader of the Opposition to be critical here. He said that America and Great Britain took action against industrial leaders, but, whatever action they took, there was far greater industrial trouble in those countries during the war than there was in Australia. I compliment the workers of Australia on their war effort. When this country was in great danger, discussions were held between representatives of the Commonwealth Government and the trade unions, and, as a result, tremendous production w.as achieved in industry. These round-table talks enabled us to overcome difficulties that otherwise would have been insuperable. Workers accepted conditions, particularly in relation to wage-pegging and the dilution of labour, which they would never have accepted in other circumstances. Honorable senators who attack the workers on account of industrial unrest should be more tolerant. They should realise that the disturbances which have occurred are not truly indicative of conditions in industry generally. We should pay tribute to the workers of Australia. The results which they have achieved speak for themselves. Throughout the war, their efforts in all branches of industry were such as to leave no room for complaint.
– Order ! I ask the honorable senator to connect his remarks with the bill.
– This bill represents a move in the right direction. If the proposals embodied in it could be extended to industry generally, we should go a long way towards solving our industrial problems. We need some system of obtaining rapid decisions when disputes arise. I support the bill.
– in reply - The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) expressed concern as to whether the bill was based on the recommendations of the committee of inquiry, whilst Senator Leckie is perturbed that the bill should have been introduced at this late stage of the sessional period. As the report, which he complains of not having seen, was published on the 20th June last, he has had over three months in which to examine it.
If it has been the practice of previous administrations to pigeon-hole such reports, that is not the custom of the present Government, because the recommendations of the committee have been given practical effect. Even Senator Nash did not know that this report was available. That is excusable in his case, because he was absent from Australia when it was presented, but I am surprised that Senator Leckie was unaware that the report became available in June last. The criticism offered by the Opposition to this measure is of no value. The Government has not been hasty in introducing this measure. The personnel of the committee cannot be successfully challenged by any honorable senator. The Leader of the Opposition said that he was satisfied with the bill if it was based on the report of the committee, the personnel of which included Professor Bailey of the University of Melbourne, and Mr. F. G. Thorpe, the Public Service Commissioner, and others. A summary of the committee’s recommendations is to be found on page 26 of the report. Except in two instances, the recommendations were unanimous, and the bill is based upon them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title and citation).
.- I have been severely reprimanded by the Minister in charge of the bill (Senator Ashley), because of various charges made by me in the course of the second-reading debate. I then described the attitude of the Government as one of cynical indifference, and I now refer to it as showing indecent haste. The report which I am accused of not having read was not supplied to me, or, as far as I am aware, to any other member of the Opposition. I understand that, when I was absent from the chamber, I was accused of having made certain statements which I did not make. I was alleged to have said that this was a “ fishy “ measure and that the members of the committee were a “fishy crowd “, or words to that effect. There is little enough time to discuss measures of this kind without having to defend oneself against gross misrepresentation. I did not say that the bill was “ fishy but that the action of the Government in trying to force the measure through the Senate was such that one might be forgiven for suspecting that there was something fishy about it.I did not reflect on the members of the committee.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Joint Council and Classification Committees).
– This clause provides for the establishment of a Joint Council and of Classification Committees. The JointCouncil is to be representative of the Public Service Board, of departments and of organizations of officers or employees, and is to be constituted “ in such manner as is prescribed”. I desire to know if the bill provides for the organizations of officers or employees to be represented by an advocate while the Joint Council makes its investigations. If no representative of the organizations is to be present, I am afraid that the Classification Committees will not go far towards the remedying of grievances.
– It seems to me that the honorable senator has misunderstood the purpose of the bill. There will be no advocates, but representatives of the organizations will be members of the Classification Committees. The purpose of the Joint Council is to secure a greater measure of co-operation between the Commonwealth in its capacity as an employer and the general body of public servants in matters affecting the Public Service, with a view to increased efficiency and improved morale in the Public Service, combined with the well-being of those employed; to provide machinery for dealing with grievances; and generally to bring together the experience and different points of view of representatives of the Public Service Board, departments and organizations of officers and employees. The Classification Committees will also be advisory bodies. As I pointed out in my second-reading speech, the classification of positions is made by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the Public Service Board, or by determination of the Public
Service Arbitrator. The arbitration system does not lend itself readily to the classification of individual positions, and it is considered that a regular review of classifications of such positions could best be done at round-table conferences at which the board, the department concerned and the organization covering the class of position involved would be represented. This would not be a substitute for arbitration, but a supplementary procedure designed to give effect to the principles of conciliation and agreement between organizations and the board.
. -I am aware of the difficulty of the Public Service Arbitrator determining the classification of an officer. He generally fixes the salaries and conditions under which certain officers shall work. The classification of positions, of course, is quite a different matter. As I understand the position, a Classification Committee will investigate the nature of the duties performed by certain officers, and as a result of its investigations it will determine the classifications in which those officers shall be placed. During the discussion regarding the duties performed by certain officers in order to determine their classification, is it intended that somebody with a knowledge of the whole of the ramifications of the Public Service, and the duties of the officers concerned, shall be present on behalf of the organization? Will the committee have power to make a final decision which the Public Service Board shall accept, or is it to be a mutual admiration committee with no power to do anything at all?
Senator ASHLEY (New South Wales -Minister for Supply and Shipping) 11.59]. - I still consider that Senator Sheehan has not quite understood the position. He asked if there was to be an advocate. I replied in the negative, and. pointed out that representatives of the organizations would be members of the Classifications Committee. That body will be purely of an advisory character, and will not make any final determinations.
.- I cannot but be struck by the difference between the savage attack on me by the
Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) for my mild remarks and the Minister’s conciliatory attitude towards Senator Sheehan, who appears to have discovered a vital fault in the bill. I cannot understand why the Minister did not consult with his supporters before introducing the bill, in order to assure himself that they agreed with it. On many occasions, Senator Sheehan has shown that he does not lack astuteness; now he has proved that he also possesses courage. If he has discovered a flaw in the bill he should vote against the clause in its present form. I claim from the Minister the same courtesy as he has shown to Senator Sheehan.
– I do not need Senator Leckie’s assistance. The bill which has been presented to the Parliament is the outcome of recommendations by a committee consisting of men thoroughly conversant with the matters with which they dealt. I did not make a second-reading speech on the measure, because I regard it as one essentially for consideration in committee. I have drawn attention to certain features, and if my views be correct and are accepted by Public Service associations, I have no doubt that representations for an amendment of the legislation will be made later.
– Now is the time to amend the bill.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 4 to 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 (Promotions).
– I ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) practically the same question in relation to the Promotions Board as I previously asked in relation to Classification Committees. When an officer appeals against the promotion of another officer, will he have the right to the assistance of an advocate ?
– There will not be an advocate to present the appellant’s case, but the organization to which the appellant belongs will be represented on the Promotions Appeal Committee.
– I understand that on that body there will be a representative of the Public Service. Board and a representative of the organization of employees to which the appellant belongs, but surely the appellant is entitled to have some one to assist him in presenting his case?
– A representative of his organization will be a member of the committee.
– The appellant should be entitled to an advocate to assist him in presenting his case. In the Victorian railways service, appellants against the promotion of other officers are entitled to have the assistance of an advocate who is not afraid of being victimized for anything that he may say on behalf of the appellant. On numerous occasions I have appeared as advocate. I claim that the same privilege should be extended to appellants in the Commonwealth Public Service.
-. - The point raised by Senator Sheehan was considered fully by the committee which made the recommendations on which this bill is based. I have already given the personnel of that committee. Its members agreed that there was no need for an advocate. They were of the opinion that it was sufficient for the appellant to have on the committee dealing with his appeal a member of the organization to which he belongs.
– I read the report of the committee, and I expected that the machinery necessary to give effect to its recommendations would be established as the result of regulations to be promulgated later. If, however, organizations of employees are satisfied with the Government’s proposals, that is their business. I do not blame the Minister in this matter, but I did hope that provision would be made in the regulations to meet the point to which I have directed attention.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 to 18 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended
Bill (on motion by Senator Collings ) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second tim-
Honorable senators will realize that thi.’ bill is an important piece of social legislation. It will provide a means whereby a full-scale attack can be made on one of the worst of our social evils, the slum areas in our capital cities, and also enable us to proceed to overtake the serious shortage of houses which. now exists. Exservice personnel and their families need decent houses ; thousands of workers need houses far in advance of what they have had in recent years. More and better houses should help us to induce a higher natural increase of population than in th* decade before the war. We must be able io house the migrants we seek from overseas. The Commonwealth Government recognizes that it, as well as State governments, must play its part. The Commonwealth Government is limited by the Australian Constitution, which in peace-time give? to the States all powers over the physical side of housing, except those for Commonwealth Territories, for the rehabilitation of ex-service personnel and for employees of the Commonwealth Government. The Commonwealth has no constitutional power in peace-time to control the production, allocation and distribution of materials. It has n« power to decide who shall first have a house - therefore, it cannot provide directly that those in greatest need are first accommodated. It has no control over regional and town planning. Despite these restrictions the Commonwealth can give considerable assistance and perform much effective work. By the offer of financial assistance, it can encourage the States to undertake certain activities. It can perform research and bring to Australia the results’ of overseas experience. It can set down principles. These things we propose to do, and this bill provides a plan for housing and rehousing families of the lower income group, adequately, effectively and hygienically, on a scale in advance of all our past performances.
The bill does not provide a housing policy complete in itself. The proposed Commonwealth-State housing agreement covers only rental housing of a good reasonable standard. It does not preclude subsequent sale to a tenant at the discretion of the housing authority. The Government is aware of the need for the encouragement of home ownership. The Commonwealth Bank Act, recently enacted, and the War Service Homes Act are ample proof of the Commonwealth’s interest in that direction. But the principal deficiency in Australian housing policy to date has been provision of good standard houses to be let to families who cannot afford, or do not desire to purchase a house. Rentals must be within the lessee’s capacity to pay. Also, and to our great discredit, there has been to date no adequate attack on our slums. No fewer than 235,000 Australian families are living in dwellings which need replacement, and the number is steadily growing. At the beginning of 1944, there were at least 200,000 dwellings short in the Commonwealth. At present the shortage may be 240,000. The estimate of the total number of dwellings needed to-day is about 350,000 as an absolute minimum.
The Government does not apologize for the fact that little building has occurred in the last five years. If house construction had not been drastically curtailed, our war effort would have been appreciably affected. In April, 1943, the Curtin Government appointed a Commonwealth Housing Commission. After making an exhaustive survey, the commission, in its final report, said -
We consider it essential that, in Australia, the governments should accept responsibility for ensuring adequate housing of the people, especially the low-income group. This will involve supplementing on a large scale building undertaken by private enterprise.
The commission also expressed the opinion that the Commonwealth Government should supplement the housing activities of States governments. At the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers just concluded the Commonwealth offered to continue its wartime control over the allocation of building resources provided the States unanimously agreed to support its policy. The States were unwilling to agree to do so. Therefore, in ‘accordance with the Constitution^ the. States will once more accept this responsibility. The Commonwealth, at the request of the States, is, however, examining the question of some form of national control of scarce materials produced in one or two States but needed by all.
After considering the reports of the commission, the Commonwealth Government decided to offer assistance to the States to undertake a policy of housing for low-income families, provided that the States adhered to certain general principles. The matter has been debated at two conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers, and an agreement has been worked out in detail; the final draft, which is set out in this bill, was forwarded to the States early last month. It is hoped that it will be signed by the Commonwealth and ratified by the parliaments of the States in the very near future, so as to enable its benefits, especially rental rebates, to be made available to occupiers of dwellings already erected under the scheme. It is provided in the bill that the agreement will cover all dwellings erected since the 3rd December, 1943, under the war housing programme, so as to give statutory effect to an agreement made with the States in. that regard.
The measure now before the Senate is designed to give the Commonwealth Government power to execute a composite agreement with the States, provided such agreement is substantially in accord with the draft agreement set out in the schedule to the bill. It is not proposed, however, that implementation of the agreement should await the passing of legislation by all State parliaments. As soon as the required legislation has been passed by any one State parliament, the present bill provides that the agreement shall come into force in that State.
Capital funds for the programme under the agreement are to be obtained by Commonwealth borrowing. The Commonwealth Government will make advances to the States, repayable, together with interest, at the same rate as the long-term Commonwealth public loan last raised or being raised, in 53 years or such shorter period as may be agreed. The financial arrangements also provide for meeting losses of any State in respect of the scheme as a whole. The Commonwealth will meet three-fifths of these losses and the States two-fifths. The States are to calculate their losses and render an annual account, certified by the State Auditor-General, to the Commonwealth, which it will settle on a cash basis. Honorable senators will ask why losses may occur. The Commonwealth Government has taken the view that a family earning the basic wage should not pay more than one-fifth of its income in rent. In the history of Australia there have been few, if any, instances where a working man on the basic wage or less has been able to obtain a new dwelling of good standard, adequate for his family needs, for a rental of one-fifth of his income. Particularly is that so at the present time when building costs are abnormally high. It is no use building good houses if families with low incomes cannot afford to live in them. And if such families cannot afford to live in them we cannot hope to stimulate the birth-rate, nor to improve the environment and thereby the characters of young Australians. We have asked the States to rent these dwellings broadly at one-fifth of a family’s income, whatever their economic rent may be. By economic rent I mean the costs which ordinarily enter into rental - interest, repayment of capital, maintenance, rates and taxes, administration and so on. The difference between one-fifth of income and the economic rent would be rebated. As the income rises or falls, however, the rebate will diminish or increase. Let me give an example. If the economic rent of a three-bedroom dwelling be 30s. a week and the family were on the basic wage, which was £o a week, the rent payable would be onefifth of that income, ov fi, and the rebate would be 30s. less 20s., or 10s. weekly. Six shillings of that rebate would be met by the Commonwealth and 4s. by the State. An increase or a fall in the family’s income would involve adjustments which can be worked out very quickly by means of tables. It is to be noted that the minimum rent is not to bc less than 8s. per week. The system works to the benefit of the family on »- low income. It is flexible and permits of variation according to a family’s changing circumstances. Any rebate granted under the agreement shall be on the application of the tenant and shall expire at the end of six months. If the tenant wishes to secure a further rebate he must make * further application. The rebate, however, may be varied or withdrawn at any time by the housing authority after a thorough investigation. Granting of * rebate is, therefore, entirely at the discretion of the housing authority, which will consider each case on its merits. A family occupying a dwelling under this scheme obtains a double benefit: first, a reasonable rent; and, secondly, a good standard dwelling of sound construction.
To cope with the housing shortageabout 750,000 houses must be built in the next ten years, or an average of at least 70,000 a year. Naturally this figurewill not be achieved in the first year, nor in the second. It is hoped by the 30th. June, 1946, that Government and private construction combined will have built. 24,000 dwellings, and that for the year ended June, 1947, a rate will be reached: of 50,000 dwellings per annum, whileby June, 1948, the annual figure will have reached and be stable at about 70,000 dwellings until the shortage isovercome and sub-standard dwellings replaced. Of each of these figures, thegovernmentsponsored dwellings, it ishoped, will be approximately one-half. Up to date the severity of the Australian housing shortage has led us to concentrate our attention on arrangements for building new dwellings, and little has been said about slum clearance. Nevertheless, persons enduring bad housing conditionswill get an early priority in the rehousing programme. The system of allocation already agreed upon by the .States provides that up to 50 per cent, of the houses shall be allotted to ex-servicemen, the dependants of servicemen still serving, and members of the Merchant Navy. The other 50 per cent, will go to those whose present habitation is condemned by local authorities, or otherwise regarded’ as insanitary, or dangerous, or where for other reasons a court has issued an eviction order; whose present habitation isovercrowded - including family units inadequately housed’ in boarding houses;: whose present habitation is not affording reasonable access to place of employment, and resulting in loss of efficiency to an essential worker, some consideration to be given to essential workers living apart from their families because of inability to obtain suitable dwellings near their place of employment; whose tenant is prepared to move from a dwelling which has accommodation in excess of needs; and those to whom suitable housing accommodation is not available at a rent within their means.
Honorable senators will note that under that proposed agreement, the States are the authorities for the construction of the dwellings.; the States carry the basic financial responsibility; and the States are the administrators of the scheme. The Commonwealth hopes that full use will be made of efficient local government authorities in this regard. The Commonwealth is to provide the finance which it will borrow and advance to the States, and it is to meet three-fifths of the losses, [n addition to its financing of the scheme, the Commonwealth will use its best endeavours to assist in the procurement of building resources - labour and materials - to enable the scheme to function successfully. It has already taken action to train building labour, especially exservice personnel, under the provisions of the Re-establishment and Employment Act recently passed by this Parliament. To keep Australia abreast of world developments, it will continue housing research, especially through the Commonwealth Experimental Building Station.
The agreement is a compromise, lt is the best that we have been able to obtain, working in co-operation with the States, and I shall not pretend that, in all matters, it satisfies the Commonwealth. Per example, we are not yet happy about the prevision with regard to standards, particularly maximum standards. The agreement provides that minimum and maximum standards, as established by the States, shall be set in respect of allotments of sites, accommodation standards, construction, standard equipment and services. The States, however, at the request of the Commonwealth, ‘are to consider revision of their standards. As yet there is no provision for the enforcement of maximum standards beyond which the Commonwealth would not be liable to meet losses. This matter was debated at length at the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers and will be reviewed next year. In the interim, Ministers agreed to do their best to keep costs down, and, if possible, reduce them.
We have come to a satisfactory agreement with the States in respect of the allocation of dwellings to occupiers. Dwellings are to be allocated by the State housing authorities on the basis of need. Criteria of need are to be determined from time to time by agreement between the Commonwealth and each State. In pursuance of its rehabilitation obligations, the Government has ensured that half the dwellings shall be allocated to servicemen, ex-servicemen, and members of the Merchant Navy and their dependants. The proportion is subject to variation according to changing circumstances.
From a defence point of view an important provision in the agreement is that which states that the allocation of the dwellings as between metropolitan and country areas of a State shall be agreed upon from time to time by the Commonwealth and the State. The Commonwealth may desire to populate certain areas for defence purposes, and for the same reason desire that the population should be decentralized as far as practicable. These matters will be kept in mind when State plans for the location of new dwellings are before us.
Generally speaking, I believe that despite some limitations and drawbacks, this agreement represents a major step forward. It is to run for ten years and may then be renewed. Good housing for all Australians is the objective, and within reason, we propose to encourage and assist the States to devote whatever resources are required to achieve this end.
Debate (on motion by Senator Leckie) adjourned.
Silting suspended from 12.35 to 2.15 p.m.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Ashley) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the hill be now read a second time. A further stage in the development of the Government’s social service and health policy is reached with the introduction of this bill to provide hospital benefits for the people of Australia. After much preparatory work and discussion, the Commonwealth’s proposals were submitted to the State Premiers in August, 1944, and were unanimously accepted by them. On the 17th and18th September, the proposals were considered by the State Ministers of Health in detail, and the bill in its present form is the outcome of that conference. Honorable senators will appreciate that cooperation with the States is essential for this scheme because the majority of hospitals are State public hospitals ; i.e., they are either fully or partly under the control of, and to some extent dependent on the financial support of, the State Government authorities. As far as public hospitals are concerned, the Commonwealth proposals mean that the States will cease collecting revenue from public ward patients but will receive from the Commonwealth the amount that would normally be “collected in that way. In clause 3, the bill provides for the necessary agreement to follow the form and substance of the heads of agreement in the schedule to the bill. It is hoped that the agreement will be ratified by State Parliaments in time for the scheme to commence on the 1st January, 1946. The Commonwealth proposals for public hospitals are designed to ensure free treatment in public wards of public hospitals by the Commonwealth agreeing to pay to the States the benefit rate of 6s. for each bed occupied each day in a year and the State agreeing to abolish the means test for admission into public wards and to cease charging fees to patients admitted. Out of the yearly amount so paid, the proposed agreement provides for the State to distribute to public hospitals for maintenance an amount to be agreed upon between the Commonwealth and State, based on the average of what was actually received by way of fees from public ward patients in the base years 1942-43 and 1943-44, and for the State to recover out of the balance a sum equivalent to any loss of charitable donations in the year as compared with the total amount of charitable donations received on the average in the base years just mentioned. Any balance remaining after such recoupment will be held in trust by the State for public hospital construction as approved by the Commonwealth. If, on the other hand, the total amount of benefit paid under the method just outlined is inadequate to meet both the amount representing the public ward fees foregone and any loss of charitable donations, then the Commonwealth will make up the deficiency. A balance paid into the trust account for capital construction in one year will not be set off against any deficiency occurring in the next year, but each year will be regarded separately. Taken together, these arrangements ensure thai the State will not suffer any loss of revenue after the advent of the Commonwealth Hospital Benefits Scheme in respect of public wards of public hospitals.
With regard to intermediate and private ward patients in public hospitals, the proposed agreement provides for the Commonwealth to pay to the States a benefit rate of6s. per. occupied bed-day as a contribution towards the cost of the hospital treatment of such patients, and for the State to reduce the hospital fees by the equivalent of the benefit rate, thus relieving the patients of fees to this degree. Section 4 of the bill provides for a benefit rate for patients in private hospitals as defined by the regulations. The rate contemplated is 6s. per daily occupied bed. These hospitals must be approved by the Commonwealth Minister for Health before the payment of the benefit will be made to their patients. It is proposed to form a National Hospitals Council of Commonwealth and State representatives, the functions of which will be to advise the Commonwealth and the States on any hospital matter referred to it by the Commonwealth or a State. In addition, it is proposed that a joint committee of Commonwealth and State health authorities will be set up in each State. Its functions will be to make recommendations as to the approval of private hospitals. Local standards and the recommendations of the National Hospitals Council will be considered by the joint committee.
In view of the proposed removal of the means test in public wards of public hospitals, all States have indicated that the honorary medical staff serving in the hospitals may not feel able to continue to give their services voluntarily after the Commonwealth scheme begins. Accordingly, at a conference of Commonwealth and State Health Ministers held recently, the Commonwealth indicated that it was prepared to reimburse to the States the cost of paying for services in hospitals which are now given on an honorary basis. It was also agreed that the Commonwealth should confer with the British Medical Association as to terms and conditions under which doctors would serve in public wards. A conference with the British Medical Association will be held within the next few weeks. Certain persons will bc excluded from the scope of the scheme ; for example, those whose fees are borne by the Commonwealth or who are entitled to receive their fops under a State law, such as a Workers’ Compensation Act. The agreement will be for five years in the first place, and thereafter can be terminated upon notice as agreed between the Commonwealth and a State. It is estimated that the annual cost of this benefit in a full year will be approximately £5,000,000, which will be met from the National Welfare Fund. The bill embodies a further important step in the development of the Government’s social and health services plan.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLEAY) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vida page 6451).
.- I should like’ to be able to approach this bill in a free atmosphere, but unfortunately wo are governed by the fact that Ali agreement has already been entered into with the States. The Government has committed this Parliament, and the States have committed themselves, to a certain scheme.
– The Government, cannot commit the Parliament.
– The Parliament could reject the agreement, but it could not amend it in any way, because the States have agreed to it in its present, form. Therefore, any improvements that we might be able to effect in the agreement must go by the board. In his second-reading speech, the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Collings) said that there were faults in the agreement, but in effect the good part belonged to the Commonwealth and the bad part to the States. It seems that the Government will take credit for the good features of the agreement, but will blame the States for any flaws that may be revealed. Furthermore, the States will take all risks.
– I say “Yes”. The ‘Commonwealth, under the agreement, will advance money to the States.
– It will make up for losses too.
– No. It will advance money to the States to carry out this housing project, and the States will have to return the full amounts of the advances over a period of years. It is true that the Commonwealth will accept two-thirds of the liability for any losses sustained in the letting of the houses. However, the States will take all the risks in connexion with the capital expenditure. That is a serious responsibility in present circumstances, because the financial risks include all the extra costs of building which have occurred during the war years and which represent an increase of 2» per cent, or 30 per cent, on the costs of 193S. Those increases have been largely caused by Commonwealth activities, yet the Commonwealth will accept no liability in respect of them. The Minister made a remarkable statement in his second-reading speech. He said that the agreement would cover only “ rental housing of a good, reasonable standard”, and then he said. “The Government is aware of the’ need for the encouragement of home ownership “. The bill makes no provision for home ownership. It is true that tenants will be permitted to buy houses built under the scheme, but only at full cost prices. No reductions will be permitted in consideration of any decrease of building costs which may occur in the future. A house built next year may cost £1,250, yet in four years’ time it might be worth only £750 or £800.
– The Government can bring down an amending bill should the necessity arise.
– Apparently, Senator Courtice sees that there is reason in my argument. We should make provision for such eventualities now. A house will cost £300 or £400 more than the price at which I hope it will he possible to purchase it four or five years hence, but the tenant will not be able to buy it at the cost price, as the cost will be inflated by reason of abnormal circumstances. Therefore the Government has spoken with its tongue in its cheek. It was stated in the House of Representatives by a Minister that he did not favour the encouragement of small capitalists, which include men who purchase small homes. It was said that he has such a hatred of capitalists that he includes even the small house-owner in that class.
– That is a dirty untruth.
– It was reported to have been said in the House of Representatives.
Some of the conditions of the agreement operate unfairly against the family man. The rental to be paid for the houses will be based on the income of the occupants. It will be determined, not in accordance with the income of the person who rents the house, but according to the income of the family which occupies it. Therefore a man on the basic wage, or in receipt of a slightly larger sum, who has a couple of children approaching the age of seventeen or eighteen years and beginning to earn money of their own, will have to count that money as part of the family income. The result in such cases will be that it will be better for the children to live elsewhere than at home. Therefore this scheme will impose a tax on family life. It will encourage young people to board elsewhere so that their parents will not be charged an extra few shillings a week in rent. That is one of the worst features of the scheme, and 1 was impressed by it as soon as I read the bill.
– Will the capital value of the house be taken into consideration in determining the wage!
– No. Whether he lives in a house costing £800, £1,200 or £1,500, he will not have to pay as rent more than a fifth of his income. How that will be arranged I do not know.
– Does the honorable senator claim that, when a young member of a family reaches an income-earning age he or she will purposely leave home to enable the parents to take advantage of that provision?
– I said that the tendency will be to drive them out. As a rule young people do not pay much into the family income. Parents usually like young earners to have money of their own, but they will have to pay extra rent for their cottage when their sons or daughters living in the same house have incomes.
– As the family income increased, they could shift into a better house.
– Irrespective of the value of the house, the rent will not exceed one-fifth of the income of the family. It is also provided in the agreement that every six months an investigation of the income of householders will be made. If a man takes a. job for which he is paid a few extra shillings a week, there will be a general inquisition as to whether his rent should be increased. As I remarked in referring to another measure, he must prove his poverty.
The bill is drafted on wrong lines. It may offer the only solution of lie housing problem under present circumstances, but I am inclined to think that it would be better to saddle the Commonwealth with the task of supplying houses at certain prices. This scheme will involve a much greater expenditure than the rental ‘ of the houses will warrant. I am driven to that conclusion by the fact that employees in the building trade have already begun to sabotage it. In Melbourne the go-slow policy has been adopted. The employee.1 have declared, at the behest of their trade union officers, that they are not prepared to do a fair day’s work, despite the fact that their fellow workers are the people who need houses at low cost. Those employees ask, “What does it matter what the houses cost? Our fellow workers will only be called upon to pay one-fifth of their incomes, irrespective of the cost, so we are quite safe in making the cost of these houses to the Commonwealth and to the States double what it was previously “. Of course the losses to the States will be colossal.
– The Commonwealth will not lose anything.
– No. It will merely advance the money required, and the States will guarantee to pay it hack. Under this scheme the Commonwealth “ stands on velvet “.
In 1934, a timber dwelling cost about £730, and in 1944 a similar dwelling involved an expenditure of £1,035. The cost of a brick veneer house which could be erected in 1934 for £864 increased in 1944 to £1,2-50. It is interesting to know that in 1934 the labour costs amounted to £240, whilst in 1944 the figure was £546. Because of the go-slow policy adopted by the building trade employees in Melbourne, the cost will probably increase by another 15 per cent, or 20 per cent. The Government is quite disinterested when it is asked how the goslow policy is to be countered. All we get is a wave of the hand, although in every newspaper throughout the Commonwealth the fact is blazoned forth in large type that there is a go-slow policy in the building trade, and that it is being encouraged by officers of the trade unions.
Not one word is said by the Department of Labour and National Service by way of discouragement to those who are sabotaging the scheme. This is not so good a bill as the circumstances warrant. No estimate has been obtained as to the cost to the Commonwealth of the remission of rent. In view of the present cost of building a house, which in the case of a man with a family will amount to £1,300 or £1,400, I have no doubt that the remissions will be large. In present circumstances I should not object to that loss, but under the agreement with the States the Commonwealth has the best of the bargain. The States are circumscribed in their ability to raise money. However, as the States have accepted this agreement I cannot do anything about it. I am not trying to upset the agreement, but only to point to the dangers associated with the scheme. 1 ask the Minister to give his attention to the points that I have raised, particularly the danger of families being driven out of their homes, the need to do something to counteract the effects of actions calculated to raise the cost of houses, and legislation to enable people to own their homes. I -cannot exaggerate the importance of home ownership. Every man likes to own the house in which he and his family live. If I were asked to choose between a house to rent or one which I could own, I know what my choice would be. A man whose home is his own has the satisfaction of knowing that every tree that he plants in the garden, every cupboard that he installs, every improvement that he makes, is his own. That is the attitude of almost every man worthy of his family. However, as the agreement has been entered into, nothing that I can do or say can alter it. I merely point out that the agreement does not end the housing problem of this country. I believe that the Commonwealth Government has been remiss in its approach te that problem. It was caught flatfooted by the sudden ending of the war. For months before hostilities ceased it ought to have encouraged the production of raw materials for the building of houses, but the war ended before any real effort was made to provide bricks, cement, galvanized iron, doors, plumbers’ requirements, and other materials necessary for a big housing programme. The Government will now have to hurry if it is to provide in time, the labour and materials necessary for a worth-while housing programme.
– in reply - This is an occasion of privileges and gratification. I am proud of the bill, and of the Government responsible for its introduction, and proud also of the reception it has had from honorable senators.
– It was received in ‘ silence.
– The silence of honorable senators opposite was most eloquent. With one distinguished exception, honorable senators opposite could find no defect in the bill worth mentioning. Even the honorable senator who did criticize the bill had so difficult a task that he had my sympathy. He had been detailed to lead the opposition to this measure, and was so anxious to do a good job that he asked for time to study its provisions. That opportunity was afforded him.
– I was given twenty minutes in which to study the ‘bill.
– The honorable senator evidently thought that he had to find some faults in the bill. I should not like to have had to bear his responsibility. He said that I had admitted that there were flaws in the bill and had blamed the States for them, whilst giving to the Commonwealth credit for the good features of the bill. A perusal of my second-reading speech would quickly dispose of that statement. I said nothing of the sort. I did not say that the bill had flaws, and I certainly did not try to allocate the responsibility for them. What I did say was that the bill was not all that I would have liked it to be. I have yet to learn that any government or party can produce a perfect instrument.
– The Minister should read the last paragraph of his secondreading speech.
– I know that in that paragraph reference is made to limitations and drawbacks. Those limitations and drawbacks are due to constitutional disabilities. When the people were asked by referendum to remove those disabilities, Senator Leckie and his colleagues did their best to prevent their removal. The honorable senator made another inaccurate remark when he said that the Government claimed to favour a policy of home ownership but had introduced a bill which provided only for the renting of homes. What I did say was -
The bill does not provide a housing policy complete in itself. The proposed CommonwealthState housing agreement covers only rental housing of a good reasonable standard. . . The agreement would not preclude subsequent sale to a tenant at the discretion o> the housing authority.
The Government has done all that it ha* constitutional power to do, but because it did not go further and make provision for other things, which, if done, would have been objected to, the honorable senator complains. The present Government does not propose to attempt the impossible. In this bill it is making an honest attempt to deal with a serious situation in the only way possible at the moment.
– Does the bill permit of the sale of freehold property, or only of leasehold property?
– We shall look into that matter later. We are now dealing, not with freehold, but with house* for rental to people whose economic position makes it impossible for them to pay high rents. Senator Leckie also said that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) had said that he did not believe in the creation of small capitalists, but the Minister has denied saying that. But even if the statement were made, what would be wrong with it? Have we reached the stage at which a person cannot say what he thinks ? Is not a man at liberty to say that he objects to small capitalists? I say plainly that I dislike big capitalists. I dislike the privileged position which the big capitalist enjoys because of hi» wealth. Let us consider what the bill provides. It applies only to persons in receipt of the basic wage or a little above it. A person whose income is £5 a week will get the full benefit of this legislation, but should his income be £6 a week, he would get a slightly reduced benefit. If his income fluctuates, adjustments are made. Persons with bigger incomes will have to take their chance in the open market; this bill is not intended to cover them. Senator Leckie said that the sons and daughters in a family who have been living in a comfortable home, made possible under this legislation, will suddenly decide to desert Dad and Mum and live elsewhere in a less satisfactory dwelling because their earnings would increase the family income. That is too silly for words. In any case, that is their business. This bill is for the basic-wage earner, and not for people who can afford the extravagant values mentioned by the honorable senator. For a person whose income is £6, or over, the benefits are correspondingly reduced.
Senator Leckie also argued that the States would take all the risks, whilst the Commonwealth would not take any risk under the agreement. That is not correct. The Commonwealth’s agreement to bear three-fifths of the cost and the State’s agreement to bear two-fifths applies to the scheme as a whole, and not merely to a phase of it. Senator Leckie concluded his speech with his usual dissertation on the villainy of the workers. [ am not prepared to make an apology for men who when conditions are abnormal do things which they should not do, and probably would not do in other circumstances. But Senator Leckie said that in the building trade workers arc adopting a go-slow policy, nd by that means are sabotaging the interests of their fellow-workers. He wanted to know whether that procedure would not inevitably cause an increase of the cost of construction, and what the Government proposed to do to prevent .any increase from that cause. Quite recently this agreement was discussed in the Queensland Parliament, when a good deal was said about the cost of building houses in that State. In the course of that debate a gentleman, who does not belong to the Labour party, but is the head of the Master Builders Association in Brisbane, pointed out that the great increase of the cost of construction inQueensland was not due to high wages or strikes, but mainly to the operations of combines within the building trade. He pointed out that during the war the people who supplied, for instance, electrical equipment, had got together and laid down a basic price below which they agreed they would not tender for any -job in the building industry. He also indicated that suppliers of other materials had entered into similar agreements. That meant that contractors had to tender for jobs on the basis of the minimum prices fixed by the various sections of the suppliers of building materials and house fittings. When Senator Leckie insists on voicing his views about the villainy of the workers, I am entitled to reveal the villainy of the people whom he represents in this chamber.
In the Australian Capital Territory and every State of the Commonwealth, and in most countries of the world, schemes are in operation to enable people to purchase homes on easy terms. But does Senator Leckie know of any other country in the world where a scheme of this kind exists for the purpose of enabling people to rent good homes when they cannot afford to pay the economic rent of such homes? Yet the honorable senator complained that the Government had not introduced legislation for the purpose of enabling people to purchase their homes, and thus develop the pride of possession which he holds to be so wonderful. He said, for instance, thai if a man owned his own home he would not hesitate to beautify it by developing a garden, and in other ways. Surely, the honorable senator will not contend that the average citizen who is renting a good home at a reasonable rent will ignore the interests of his family and refuse to make his home as nice as he can, simply because he is a tenant. But the honorable senator endeavours to impeach the Government simply because it has not made provision through the medium of this measure for the purchase of homes. He knows, of course, that such provision is made in not only the Australian Capital Territory, but also all of the States, and many overseas countries. I repeat that this Government is the only Government which has yet attempted to provide good homes for people who cannot afford to buy them, and many who cannot afford to pay the economic rent of a home. We now say that those people shall be provided with decent homes, and in order to do this the Government has agreed to subsidize the rent. I am grateful to Senator Leckie for his criticism of the bill, and I thank other honorable senators for their eloquent silence and the splendid reception which they have given to the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Execution of agreement authorized).
.- Sub-clause 2 of clause 6 of the schedule states -
The State shall repay to the Commonwealth the amount of each advance made to the State together with interest thereon by equal annual instalments of principal and interest, so that the whole of the amount of the advance and interest will bo repaid over a period of fifty-three years . . .
I was taken to task by the Minister in charge of the bill who said that the State would not have to repay this money. It is true that provision is also made that the State cannot sell a house at a price less than the cost except with the consent of the Commonwealth. If a house were sold with the consent of the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth would take some responsibility ; but, on the face of it, the States clearly have to repay every penny advanced to them under the agreement. Therefore, the statement which
I made, and which the Minister contradicted, is correct. The Minister also questioned my interpretation of “ family income “. I draw his attention to clause 12 (1) (a) of the schedule, which reads -
II comprise the total of the following: -
Under that provision total earnings of all persons living with the tenant would represent the family income, and the rent of the home would be determined at onefifth of that family income.
– A tenant would not pay more than the economic rent.
– The rent will be one-fifth of the family income.
– The economic rent will be determined on an ordinary commercial basis.
– The economic rent will be calculated in accordance with the provisions of the first schedule to the agreement.
– If the family income is less than the basic wage, the rent will decrease and if the income is greater than the basic wage, the rent will increase. The point I wish to make is that the rent will not be determined upon the income of the breadwinner, but upon the family income.
Clause 14 of the agreement which I am alleged to have misrepresented states - (1.) A dwelling may be sold by a State at any time after its completion but except with the consent in writing of the Treasurer of the Commonwealth a dwelling shall not be sold at or for a price less than the capital cost of the dwelling ascertained in accordance with the provisions of the First Schedule.
I believe that I have replied adequately to the criticism that has been levelled at me. No amount of verbosity on the part of honorable senators opposite can alter the cold facts that are in print. The Minister’s sympathy for me is entirely wasted.
– Senator Leckie endeavoured to make a strong point in connexion with clause 12. I point out that this measure has been the subject- of two conferences. At both these meetings, clause 12 was discussed by representatives of the Spates and of the Commonwealth. It was agreed to unanimously by those representatives, including the representative of the State of Victoria, which Senator Leckie represents in this chamber, and nobody canaccuse the former Premier, Mr. Dunstan, of being in any way sympathetic to Labour proposals unless he is absolutely satisfied with them. Clause 15 of the agreement states - (1.) With the object of assisting each of the States in the administration of its housing projects, the Commonwealth subject to the State observing the provisions of this Agreement on its part to be observed will after the end of each financial year concerned contribute to each State a portion of any losses incurred in that financial year by the State in or in connexion with the administration by theState’ of its housing projects. Any such loss shall be ascertained in manner provided by the Second Schedule to this Agreement.
Clause 6 of the second schedule to the Commonwealth and State HousingAgreement provides -
If the total of the part headed “ Payments “ exceeds the total of the part headed “ Receipts “ the total of the part headed “ Receipts “ shall be subtracted from the total of the part headed “ Payments “ and the sum «o obtained shall be deemed to be the loss insurred by the State in that year and shall be allocated as to three-fifths to the Commonwealth and as to two-fifths to the State.
By what verbosity or eloquence can Senator Leckie hope to get over those facts? The first schedule sets out clearly the provisions for the calculation of economic rents. An examination of those provisions will answer every objection that has been raised by Senator Leckie.
.- [n connexion with clause 14 of the schedule, I asked the Minister if sales of homes by the various States would be on ia. freehold or leasehold basis. Has the Minister any information on that point?
– I am pleased that the Government, in co-operation with the States, has decided to introduce a scheme which will give to working-class people an opportunity at least to rent homes at a reasonable figure. I was pleased also to hear the Minister say that the plan did not altogether measure up to what the Commonwealth Government desired, because it does not measure up to what I desire. However, it is a start. The mere fact that the economic rent will be fixed on the capital cost of a building, does not mean that we cannot fix a standard maximum rent. That will depend entirely on all the factors which must be included in the capital cost, including rates and taxes, together with interest charges on the money that is made available to the States. One of the principal factors in assessing a rent will be the interest charged on the money that the States would have to pay over a period of 53 years to liquidate the total liability of a property. I hope that within a short space of time the Government will have an opportunity further to examine this matter, in conjunction with the States, to see whether it is not possible to reduce interest charges considerably, and thereby enable people in the lower income groups to enjoy the benefit of cheaper rents. I assume that on the present cost of building, with all the charges to be included in the capital cost, tenants will be fortunate indeed if their rent is less than 1 10s. a week. Family income is to bc taken into consideration in assessing whether or not a person is eligible to apply for a rent concession. A person on the basic wage, of course, will be eligible for a concession provided additional income is not brought into the home by members of his family. If, however, their children are bringing income into a household, the rent will be calculated on the basis of the total family income. I have not much fault to find with that, but I should like to know what would happen if a tenant - the sole income earner - became unemployed. During his unemployment, the income of his household would be only £2 5s. a week - £1 5s. for himself and £1 for his wife. Would he, during the period of his unemployment, pay onefifth of that income? ti should like to know also if invalid or old-age pensioners will be called upon to pay one-fifth of their pension. In re-assessing family income at the end of each six months, would consideration be given to the fact that a tenant had been unemployed for a number of weeks?
– Senator Gibson has inquired about the land-tenure basis on which sales of homes will be effected. The answer is that sales will be made under the conditions of land tenure operating in the States in which the properties are situated. If, for instance, a house is situated in a State in which land is held on a freehold basis, then that property will be sold on that basis. In Queensland both the freehold and leasehold systems are operating.
I come now to Senator Finlay’s remarks. First, I point out that although the Government is planning for full employment for everybody, it does not believe that -there will not be transition periods in which there may be a measure of unemployment for short durations. There is of course an unemployment and sickness benefits scheme, which will cover the case of individuals who are temporarily unemployed ; but the bill makes provision for the very situation which Senator Finlay foresees. It provides for a bi-annual review of incomes. Adjustments of rents will be made in accordance with any variations of income that may have taken place. Cases in which a review at the end of six months may impose hardship will be dealt with on their merits.
– I should like to be clear on the question of family income. Let us assume that a bread-winner receives £5 a week and that his son and daughter each receive £4 a week, making a total income of £13 a week. Does that mean that rent would be assessed at one-fifth of the total income, namely, £2 12s. a week? I can see nothing in the bill to prevent that being done.What would be the maximum rental for a home in those circumstances?
– I rather enjoy the facility with which unusual hypothetical cases are stated by honorable senators opposite. Senator Mattner assumes a case in which a man earning the basic wage and his wife require a house which will also provide accommodation for an adult son and daughter. The father earns £5 a week, the son £4 a week, and the daughter £3 a week. This hypothetical case would very rarely occur in actual practice. Why throw that spanner into the works as though it presented a difficulty, when it does nothing of the kind? An economic rental will be assessed in the way laid down in the bill, and it will be based on the cost of construction of the building and on nothing else. In the hypothetical case mentioned by Senator Mattner, the father and mother would probably not continue to live in the same house if their son and daughter moved elsewhere. They ought to have enough sense to transfer to a smaller house. They would not be allowed to live in a large house at a rental of £1 a week if the total income from the family was £13 a week. Give the Government credit for some sense.
– I am sorry that I did not make my meaning clear enough for the Minister. The hypothetical case which I cited is not unusual in practice. Unmarried sons often live with their parents; that is the natural thing to do. If a son earning £4 a week lived with his father and mother, and the total family income amounted to £9 a week, would the rental be fixed at onefifth of £9? I cannot see anything in the bill to prevent that.
– The honorable senator should read the bill. Clause 12 of the schedule states - (1.) The family income of a tenant of » dwelling shall for the purposes of clause 11 comprise the total of the following: -
There is no provision there for calculating the rent on the basis of the total earnings of the family. The rental is assessed on a proportion of the total earnings, as specified in that clause.
.- This bill will satisfy a long-felt want in the community by providing houses at rentals which the workers can afford to pay. However, I am unhappy regarding the basis upon which economic rentals will be calculated. The Government proposes to finance the scheme by public borrowing over a period of years, and to lend to the States amounts which they will have to refund to the Commonwealth. Interest charged on the capital will be taken into consideration when assessing economic rentals. The ruling rate of interest on public loans is 31/2 per cent. Recently, Parliament passed legislation to give to the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank power to control advances by private banks. This power should be exercised so as to enable the Government to borrow the money at h low rate of interest, say, 1 per cent, or & per cent., which would enable rentals for the houses to be fixed at economic levels. The Government has power to do this, and T am confident that the Parliament would support such action, which would be the means of reducing the rental for an average worker’s home to probably 27s. 6d. a week. Everything should be done to reduce the living expenses of working people. The proposal under this scheme is to charge rents equivalent to one-fifth of a family’s income. I hope that it will be possible for everybody to be in employment, but it is desirable to allow working people the opportunity to make financial provision for times of sickness or unemployment. Those members of a f family who are not regarded as the breadwinner are denied, by the means test, the right to unemployment benefits. Therefore it is necessary for them to provide for such eventualities, and their incomes should not be eaten into by rental charges. [ urge the Government not to obtain money for this scheme on the public loan market, but to secure the money at a low rate of interest under the powers conferred on it by the banking legislation.
-Order! The honorable senator is not entitled to refer to irrelevant matters. He must not discuss the method of raising money for the housing scheme.
– It is proposed to raise the money needed to finance the scheme by means of public borrowing. That is mentioned in the schedule to the bill, and was referred to by the Minister in his second-reading speech. The proposal is diametrically opposed to the principles of the Labour party, and I am perturbed at the fact that the Government does not propose to take advantage of the banking legislation which gives it power over the private banks.
– I understand that this housing scheme will apply in the main to men on the basic wage. Take the case of a man earning £5 a week who lives in a house the rental value of which, based on construction costs, is 30s. a week. He will be required to pay only onefitfth of his income. Should his wages increase to £6 a week or should the earnings of other members of his family raise the household income to £7 a week, the rent then, in my opinion, should be the true rental value of 30s. a week.
– It would vary according to the increase or decrease of the family income.
– If the man’s earnings increased to £12 a week, would he have to pay one-fifth of that amount as rent?
– He would then bc out of the scheme altogether.
– Where is the line of demarcation? At what income level will a. man go out of the scheme?
– The first schedule to the agreement provides information on that point.
– This discussion has centred on cause and effect. Senator Amour dealt with cause when he discussed the basic cost of a home in relation to the assessment of rental. He objected to the method of financing the scheme.
– Order ! There is no provision in the bill relating to the financing of the scheme.
– 1 wish to correct Senator Amour’s statement regarding the effect of interest charges on the rental of a home. Senator Amour was considering the effect on rentals of an interest charge of 3-J per cent, whereas the actual interest charge must be higher than that. It must be at least 4 per cent, because, if the Government is to subsidize the housing scheme through the States and makes provision for losses, the interest rate must be increased beyond 3^ per cent, in order to provide for possible losses. I join issue with the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Collings), who subjected us to a “ blitz “ on the subject of rental values. I refer to contractors who sub-let contracts to men who put their heads together in order to keep up the prices of goods such as electrical equipment, but the cost of such equipment is only a fraction of the total cost of building a house. A similar observation is applicable to the sub-letting of tenders for painting and plastering. The large items are the costs of bricks and timber. In “Western Australia, the State Government has its own brick kilns and timber yards, and private contractors have to contend with the competition of the State-owned enterprises. Therefore, the Minister’s argument that the operations of private contractors are largely responsible for the high cost of home building is untenable.
– I am grateful to Senator Allan MacDonald for his contribution to the discussion. I am pleased to hear his testimony that the Stateowned brick yards in “Western Australia are of decided advantage to that State in keeping down building costs. He also referred to the rate of interest to be charged in respect of money provided .for the construction of the houses. The bill means exactly what it says. It provides that the money shall be made available to the States at the rate of interest which the Commonwealth Government had to pay for its last loan. That does not imply that the Government, having secured money at 3i per cent., will allow anybody to add an extra i per cent, or i per cent.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Schedule and Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed (vide page 6453).
– This bill, like the measure we have just passed, shows that, despite the fact that this Parliament was not granted the ‘additional powers sought at the last referendum, it is possible for the Commonwealth and the States to enter into agreements for such purposes as the building of homes for the people and the provision of hospital benefits, as originally intended under the Constitution. I have no doubt that the State authorities, having had experience of such schemes,, can do a more satisfactory job in thatdirection than any Commonwealth, organization. Conferences have been, held between the Commonwealth and the State authorities on the important matter of hospital accommodation and assistance for poor people. “When the system oi uniform taxation was introduced, the States were placed in a financial straitjacket. It is desirable therefore, thai the Commonwealth should raise the money required for undertakings of thi* kind, and advance it to the States under certain terms and conditions, allowing the States, which have the machinery necessary for carrying out the work, to. do it under prescribed conditions. That principle was first adopted by the BrucePage Government under the Federal Aid Roads Agreement. I commend the Government for having proceeded on those lines. I believe that the bill will result in efficient administration of the scheme designed to confer hospital benefits on the people. A cheap and effective method will be for the Commonwealth to provide the money and for the States to do the work. In August, 1944, a unanimous agreement with regard to matters of this kind was reached between the Commonwealth and the States. Ministers have been giving close attention to the need for the provision of hospital accommodation and similar benefits for those without sufficient financial means to provide for themselves. Therefore, I support the bill, knowing that it has the unanimous approval of the States and the Common wealth.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from 3.57 to 5.13 p.m
– I present the report of the Public Works Committee on the following subject: -
Additions to the Institute of Anatomy Canberra.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Ashley) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Nearly twelve months before the termination of hostilities in Europe, the Chief Justice of Queensland, Sir William Webb, was appointed under the National Security (Inquiries) Regulations to inquire into the question as to whether any war crimes had been committed on the part of members of enemy forces against persons who were resident in Australia prior to the outbreak of war. As a result of that inquiry, His Honour reported that war crimes had been committed by many Japanese against members of the Australian forces and against the native population of New Guinea and Papua. The inquiries made by the Chief Justice did not completely cover the field either as to the persons concerned in the commission of war crimes or as to the nature of the crimes themselves. With a view to obtaining as full information as possible with regard to the commission of war crimes by Japanese a board of inquiry consisting of His Honour the Chief Justice of Queensland, Sir William Webb, and His Honour Mr. Justice Mansfield, of the Supreme Court of Queensland, and His Honour Judge Kirby, of the New South Wales District Court, was appointed on the 3rd September, 1945, to inquire into and report on the following questions : -
For the purposes of the inquiry the commissions issued to Their Honours enumerated the various kinds of war crimes in relation to which their investigations were to be carried out.
At the present time, His Honour Mr. Justice Mansfield and His Honour J udge Kirby are prosecuting their inquiries outside Australia. They are engaged mainly in the examination of prisoners of war who have been released from Japanese prison camps. In the meantime, it is anticipated that a number of the Japanese as to whom His Honour the Chief Justice found in his first inquiry had committed war crimes will be apprehended and liable to be charged. In those cases where it is decided that a charge should be laid it is most desirable that the trial should be held without delay.
For the purpose of these trials, it is proposed to set up military tribunals which will function very much along the lines of a field general court-martial.
In relation to the trial of war criminals in the European zone, the military tribunals set up by the British Government are constituted under regulations issued under a royal warrant. In the case of Australia, however, it is considered to be preferable that the military tribunals should be established under legislation of this Parliament. For that purpose the present measure has been presented to the Senate. The measure follows generally the lines of the regulations for the trial of war criminals made by the royal warrant executed on the 14th June, 1945, by His Majesty the King. Under the bill, the Governor-General or a delegate of the Governor-General, will have power to convene military courts, appoint officers to constitute the courts and to give effect to the sentences of the courts and. if necessary, mitigate or remit or suspend any such sentences. A military court is to consist of not less than three officers, and power is given to include in any court officers of allied or associated powers, provided that not more than half the members of the court, excluding the president, are such officers. A military court will have power to sit either within or outside the limits of the Commonwealth for the purpose of trying persons charged with war crimes committed either against a person who has been resident at any time in Australia or against any British subject or person of any allied or associated nation. The measure gives a military court very wide latitude in regard to the matters which it may take into consideration in trying war criminals. It will riot be bound by ordinary rules of evidence, and power is taken by the bill to provide by regulation or rules for the procedure of the courts and for the nature of the evidence which may be received or admitted by the court. Generally, as in the case of the regulations under the royal warrant issued by His Majesty, the provisions of the Army Act and the rules of procedure relating to field general courts-martial will apply, but those provisions may be modified, adapted or added to by regulation made under the measure before the Senate. The punishments which may be awarded by a military court under the act range from the death penalty to a fine of any amount. In addition, where a war crime consists of the taking, distribution or destruction of property, the court may order the restitution of the property or the payment of a pecuniary amount where restitution is not possible or is not made. In order to facilitate the prosecution of war criminals, military courts are required to act in aid of each other and in aid of similar courts set up by allied or associated powers where courts of those powers are required to act in aid of our courts.
To sum up, with the object of effecting the trial and punishment of war criminals the board of inquiry presided over by His Honour ‘Chief Justice Webb will make exhaustive inquiries and report as to the war crimes that have been committed and the enemy subjects who have committed them. The report of the board will be considered by the United
Nations War Crimes Commission. That commission will determine in what cases charges are to be laid. When the persons who are to be charged are apprehended they will be brought to trial before a national military court, such as those to be set up. under the present measure, or before some tribunal such as that provided for the punishment of major war criminals in the European zone. It is proposed that sentences imposed by the courts will be carried out in those places where their effect will be most impressive. The measure is necessary in order that war criminals may be adequately and expeditiously dealt with. I commend the bill to the Senate.
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) extended to me the courtesy of supplying me with a copy of the bill some time ago. The Opposition parties have considered the bill, and from conversations with professional men I understand that there is power to legislate in the direction indicated in the bill. I therefore give to it any wholehearted support. I commend the Government for the strong attitude it has adopted in urging that stern action be taken against war criminals. The harder the conditions imposed on persons found guilty .of the most heinous crimes in the world’s history the stronger will be the support given to the Government by the Opposition.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bil] read a second time.
– Clause 8 deals with the arrest of persons suspected of Avar crimes. I should like to know what persons will be competent to lay charges against suspects, and whether the Court will be competent to try persons who are not citizens of any country with which Australia has been at war. I have in mind a member of a friendly nation who is suspected of treachery. Can such a person be tried by the court?
– The War Crimes Commission ia the authority to lay charges against individuals, after investigation. There is power to try any national who is suspected of a war crime.
– I do not hold a brief for any war criminal, but I am concerned for the next of kin of persons who have been arrested for alleged broadcasting over Japanese stations. I have received letters from the next of kin of two such persons. I desire to know whether steps will be taken to inform the next of kin of such suspects of their whereabouts, and whether any action will be taken to enable them to get in touch with the suspects. We must remember that such persons are not guilty until they have been found guilty. I have in mind, particularly, the members of a family who would much prefer that their son were dead than that he should be found guilty of the crime of which he is suspected. Has any provision been made for notifying the next of kin of a suspect that he has been arrested, so that they may provide for his defence?
– There is ‘no provision in the bill for notification to the next of kin of persons suspected of war crimes.
Bill agreed ,to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Keane) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time. I direct the attention of honorable senators to the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) on the 30th August, in reference to the report and recommendations of the London Wool Conference. Those recommendations were approved by the Empire Governments concerned, and the plan is embodied in this bill, which also provides for the establishment of an organization to administer the plan on behalf of the Commonwealth Government.
The wool industry, which is Australia’s greatest industry, has suffered greatly from instability of prices, but no government has previously found a means of securing for it a permanent measure of stability. The war-time plan under which the United Kingdom purchased all Australian and New Zealand wool and afforded certain guarantees in respect of South African wool, gave stability to wool-growers during the war. Australian wool-growers were able to dispose annually of their full production at fixed prices, but the United Kingdom had to hold wool which could not be used by the British Empire and its allies, and by neutral countries with whom we traded. These stocks became so large that the British Government, in October, 1944, asked the wool-growing dominions to assist in working out a plan which would relieve the United Kingdom of part of the heavy financial burden, and at the same time provide for the orderly disposal of the accumulated stocks. The deliberations which followed resulted in the adoption of this plan, which is primarily one for the disposal of the surplus stocks. However, it goes much further than that, and, as the Prime Minister stated when announcing the plan, it amounts to the underwriting of the income of Dominion woolproducers during the whole period required for the disposal of the surplus stocks.
The four Governments will decide annually on a general level of reserve prices for wool. That general reserve will be applied to the various types of wool and to the individual lots offered by Australian wool-growers. In order to make effective the series of reserve prices, a Joint Organization is to be established to administer the plan. The Australian Wool Realization Commission to be established pursuant to the provisions of this bill will, as the Australian subsidiary of the Joint Organization, buy in any wool offered by a grower for sale which does not bring the reserve price in the open market.
Wool will go to auction or may be sold direct to manufacturers. It is hoped that growers will dispose of their wool, as far as possible, in either of those two ways, because such procedure will ensure the satisfactory operation of the reserve price. However, there will not be any general prohibition upon the sale of wool to dealers by growers who find this procedure convenient; it will not be possible, of course, for the Government to ensure that growers who dispose of their wool in this way shall receive the protection of the reserve price. “When the auction system is re-established, each lot of wool will be appraised by the technical experts of the Australian “Wool Realization Commission and an auction reserve will be placed on it. That wool will then be offered for sale by auction and, subject to the grower’s right of withdrawal, will be sold to the highest commercial bidder provided he bids up to the reserve price, or higher. Wool, for which the highest bid is lower than the auction reserve, will be bought in by the Australian Wool Realization Commission at the auction reserve. The contributory charge, which will be of sufficient proportions to cover the industry’s half-share of the operational costs and the interest on the outlay by the Commonwealth on the purchase of wool, will be assessed; and the proceeds, after deduction of the contributory charge, will be paid by the broker to the grower, who will be responsible for the usual selling charges as at present.
The auction reserve for each lot of wool under this new plan will take the place of the issue price which operated under the war-time plan, i.e., the price at which wool was sold by the ‘United Kingdom ‘Government to overseas buyers. The grower’s reserve will take the place of the actual price paid to the grower under the war-time plan. The contributory charge will be the difference between the auction reserve and the grower’s reserve and will take the place of the margin in the war-time plan between the price charged to the overseas buyer and the price paid to the grower. In each case, the margin is used to cover costs. In the war-time plan the margin was sufficient to cover costs and establish a reserve against future losses. It is likely that, on the whole, the margin under this long-term plan will not need to be so great as that which existed under the war-time plan.
During the present wool year, 1945-46, wool will be taken up by the system of appraisement and acquisition just as during the war, and will be handled by the Joint Organization on behalf of the United Kingdom and Australian Governments. The system of appraisement, reserve prices, and auction will be introduced when conditions are favorable, probably in the year 1946-47. The woolgrowers’ organizations and other sections of the industry and trade both in Australia and overseas have whole-heartedly commended the plan, which contains great benefits for the industry - not only for the growers but also for the manufacturers and users of wool, who must gain benefits from price stability at a reasonable level.
The Government is assuming very great responsibilities in regard to both finance and administration. Australia enters into a full partnership with the United Kingdom, and takes over a halfshare in the stocks of Australian wool owned by the United Kingdom Government on the 31st July, 1945. Those stocks are costed in the books at £100,000,000 sterling. As against that cost, there is a credit balance in the accounts, in respect of Australian wool already sold, of £20,000,000 sterling: that sum is available in reduction of the cost of the existing stocks, thus reducing that cost to £80,000,000 sterling. Australia’s half-share of stocks at the outset will thus cost £40,000,000 sterling, which sum is to be provided in the next four years. Henceforth the United Kingdom and Australia are equal partners in that wool and in all future purchases of wool by the organization during the operation of the plan. The funds for future purchases will be provided equally by the two Governments, which will also share equally in the distribution of financial proceeds and in any profits or losses on the joint buying and selling operations. The operating costs of the plan will be met as to half by the industry, and as to the other half by the two Governments in equal proportions. The share of the Governments will be met from realizations, and the share of the industry will be met from the contributory charge, in respect of which separate legislation will be introduced. The organization for the administration of the plan in the United Kingdom and the three dominions will be a joint one. The central body will be directed by nine directors of whom four will be nominated by the United Kingdom, two by Australia, and one each by New Zealand and South Africa, and there will be an independent chairman -elected by the four Governments in agreement. In each dominion there will be an active subsidiary, which will be set up by that dominion and will discharge on its behalf its responsibilities and functions under the plan. The functions of these organizations, which have been briefly described by roe in my exposition of the plan, are clearly set out in the schedule to the bill.
In approaching the post-war problems and the functions of the Australian Wool Realization Commission, we will, fortunately, profit by the skill and experience of the Central Wool Committee, although it is not possible to retain the constitution in exactly the same form as that of the Central Wool Committee, ft is not possible, for example, to have as a member of the commission an active wool buyer. The commission will be organizing, and to an extent managing, the annual disposal of the wool clip, and will be dependent on competition amongst buyers for the maintenance of values. Similar considerations apply in the case of the manufacturers who may themselves be buyers of wool either at auction or direct from growers. The services and co-operation of the wool-selling brokers are necessary in the receival and display of wool as well as its subsequent sale after it has been appraised. The wool brokers have rendered efficient and essential services in the conduct of the war-time wool acquirement plan, and the brokers have recently assured the Government of their full co-operation in the long-term postwar plan.
The bill provides that the Australian Wool Realization Commission shall consist of the following: a chairman and an executive member who will be the administrators of the plan; four growers, two to be representative of the Australian
Woolgrowers Council, and two to be representative of )the Wool Producers Federation; one representative of the Federated Storemen and Packers Union ; and two other persons who will be chosen for their knowledge of the marketing of wool. In regard to the two members lastmentioned, the Government proposes to select one person who has had adequate experience in the buying and appraisement of wool and one person who has had adequate experience in the wool broking business. The persons chosen, however, will not be regarded as direct representatives of the buying and broking sections of the industry. Provision is made in the bill, however, giving the commission power to appoint advisory or technical committees. The purpose of this is to provide a formal basis for full cooperation between the commission, the brokers and the wool buyers,, and similar collaboration can be secured in this way from the Australian manufacturers.
– ] assume that most honorable senators have had an opportunity to study the provisions of the bill which were dealt with in the comprehensive statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) on the 30th August. The London Wool Conference dealt with a very delicate problem, and from a personal examination of the agreement I agree that the conference arrived at a common-sense agreement which will benefit all of the parties concerned. I am particularly interested in this” problem because the Menzies Government, in which I was Minister for Commerce, entered into an agreement with the British Government for the sale of the Australian clip for the duration of the war. I express my gratitude to the British Government for the manner in which it has carried out that most difficult scheme which has meant so much to Australia. I have memories of the secretary of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, Mr. J. F. Murphy, working into the early hours of the morning and throughout Sundays in connexion with this and other difficult schemes covering the sale of our primary products to the United Kingdom. I was pleased to note his attendance at the London Wool Conference. As one who has been a prominent critic of bureaucrats, I now pay tribute to all who have played a part in evolving these proposals, and congratulate them upon the results of their work. I am pleased that South Africa and New Zealand should join with Australia and Great Britain in arriving at a working arrangement covering the disposal of wool. Now that the war is over, it is of the utmost importance that Empire countries with surplus exportable goods should enter into arrangements of this kind instead of indulging in cut-throat competition as they did in the past, f hope that the British Empire countries will be able to work in harmony with the United States of America in regard to the disposal of other commodities. While I was overseas, 1 was pleased to learn that technical men were already working on a wheat agreement. That is a step in the right direction. These problems are important and they will have to be faced in the near future. From our travels overseas, particularly in ‘ England and the United States of America, it was evident that in the future these countries would have to co-operate to avoid world chaos. L hope we shall never again weaken ourselves by civil war in the economic field. We must not lose sight of the need for immediate economic adjustments. I believe that it is of the utmost importance that during the forthcoming recess, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane), who is responsible for the making of trade treaties, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), who is also Treasurer of the Commonwealth and therefore vitally concerned with financial problems, should visit the United States of America and Great Britain to take part in deliberations. It would be stupid for this Government merely to sit back idly and complain about the shortage of Australian purchasing power in the United States of America, or the attitude of Great Britain or the United States of America to important world financial problems. Australia must present its case clearly and firmly. I am sure that Great Britain, the other dominions, and the United States of America will welcome any endeavour by this country to put its case. Technical officers alone cannot do this job. I realize that the war kept Ministers occupied in this country; but the war has now ended, and in any case, I remind the Senate that even while the war was in progress, the then British Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, was able to leave London to participate in discussions at Moscow, Washington, and other centres. By establishing personal contact with the leaders of the Allied countries, Mr. Churchill was able to do a great deal to avoid misunderstandings. I am pleased to say that the Minister for Trade and Customs was well received in Washington on his recent visit to the United States of America. The American people appreciated the speeches he made whilst he was in America, and the firm attitude he adopted in regard to the necessity for maintaining, and if possible, increasing food supplies from Australia to Great Britain.
I stated a few days ago that the duty imposed by the United States of America on Australian wool was a matter that required immediate attention. At present, the United States of America imposes an import duty of 34 cents, or 25d. per lb. on Australian wool greasy basis. That is an extremely high tariff. The President of the United States of America is empowered to deal with this matter. 1 admit that it is a sticky problem, and that some of our technical officers believe that Australia cannot succeed in its endeavour to secure more favorable treatment. Again I emphasize that this is a job, not for technical men alone, but also for senior Ministers. I trust that this measure is the forerunner of further action to secure closer collaboration between great exporting English-speaking countries, because I believe that only in that way can we improve our internal economy, and enable the primary producers of this country to receive for their products, prices comparable with the general Australian standard.
Primary producers have a great influence in the south of the United States of America. In fact, in the course of the war, when wages were high and people engaged in secondary industries were enjoying greatly enhanced prices, the primary producers were able to force the Senate to agree to increased prices for land produce, so that farmers could enjoy the same high standard of living as that enjoyed by other sections of the community. That can be done satisfactorily in this country only by co-operation between the great exporting countries. I trust that it will not take fourteen years to dispose of accumulated wool stocks. I believe that if the American tariff be reduced we shall be able to export large quantities of WOO. to that country.
.- I. congratulate the delegation which visited Great Britain to negotiate this agreement which satisfies the woolgrowers of this country, and that is a substantial achievement. Hn his second-reading speech on this measure, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) rather over-stepped the mark when he said that no previous administration had ever given this measure of permanent stability to the wool-industry. I am sure that the Minister does not believe that this plan will give permanent stability to the industry. Its intention is not to stabilize the price of wool. This year, wool realized 15 1/2d. per lb., but next season it will be sold by auction, and the auction price will determine the ruling rate. It may be 15d. or it may be 30d., depending upon the competition amongst purchasers. I do .not share the view that fourteen years will be required to dispose of the accumulated surplus of wool. I understand that 10,000,000 bales are involved. According to the Minister for Trade and “Customs) this wool is valued at £100,000,000 which, allowing for the £20,000,000, representing the profits on the sale of wool, means that the value is approximately £15 a bale. Apparently, the high-class merino and crossbred clothing wools have been sold, and we are left with the residue of inferior wools. The reserve price is to be fixed by appraisement. That is to say, we are to have the auction system operating in the future, side by side with appraisement. A reserve cannot be fixed on any bale of wool unless every bale is appraised. As I have said, the wools already sold are the good wools, and the carry-over probably consists mainly of wools of carbonizing types usually sought on ‘the
Continent. If that be the case, there will be a large number of bales, but a comparatively small amount of money involved. I think that there will be a big demand for wool in the immediate future. This agreement will not play the part that Bawra played after the last war. When Bawra took over the accumulated wool stocks, the ruling price was 11 1/2d. per lb. Bawra put 2,000,000 bales of wool on the market in two and a half years, and the price increased gradually until finally, when Bawra ceased operations, it had reached 2s. 3d. per lb. I believe that that same wool hunger exists to-day. Already we have sold 1,000,000 bales to the United. States of America - something which has never been done before.
With the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), I hope that the sale of Australian wool in America will be pressed, and that we shall be able to dispose of at least portion of our higher grade wools in that country. To-day, America cannot buy low-gra.de wool because the duty on greasy wool is 25d. per lb. Obviously, that duty could not be paid on wool valued at only .Sd. per lb. America, therefore, could take only highgrade wool. Australia has bought back from Great Britain one-half of the surplus wool, namely, 5,000,000 bales, and 1 th ink that when this is spread over the market under the system proposed, we shall get rid of it long before fourteen years have elapsed. France, Belgium, and other countries are demanding wool today. Much of it will.be absorbed by people who are returning from the services to civil life. The greatest competitor of wool is .synthetic fibre, which already is being manufactured in this country. Recently, one honorable senator opposite showed me a sample of material made from soya beans. I understand that hundreds of tons of soya bean seed have been imported to this country with the object of growing the beans for food purposes, and for the manufacture of synthetic wool. The soya bean is a sub-tropical plant, but seed has been developed which will *grow well in temperate, moist climates. The wool industry will have to look to its laurels if the position of wool as the leading clothing material is to be maintained. I was asked to-day if sheep-raisers could make a living from the sale of mutton only. My reply was that they could not. Unless both wool and meat are produced, the position of the sheep-raiser is hopeless. This agreement provides a glimpse of daylight, aud I hope that wool will he able to compete with synthetic fibres. Synthetic products may strike a serious blow at the cotton industry throughout the world. In fact, they may force cotton off the market altogether, if they can be produced with the water resisting and washing properties of cotton.
I am opposed to one provision of this measure, namely, clause S. I do not object to the commission of nine members holding office during the pleasure of the Governor-General, because that simply means that they will remain on the commission so long as their behaviour is satisfactory.
Sitting suspended from 5.5S to S p.m.
– Sub-clause 3 of clause S is a masterstroke of inconsistency, and I hope that some honorable senator on this side of the chamber will move an amendment to it in order tr> test the matter. There are to be nine members of the Wool Realization Commission, but the chairman will have the power to override any decision made 6Y the remaining eight members by appealing to the Minister. I had thought that this Government would stand for majority rule, but in this case one man will be able to override eight. The members for the most part will be widely representative of wool interests, yet final jurisdiction over their decisions will rest with the Minister. I take objection to that position, and I shall certainly support any amendment that may be submitted to overcome what I regard as a disadvantage.
– I express my appreciation of what the Mother Country has done for Australia in taking our wool clip every year throughout, the war. It has done remarkably well. The bill is an attempt by the Government to meet circumstances that may arise in the post-war period. It is always wise to be prepared to deal with threatened danger. In the main, I am in favour of the bill, although I am not fearful regarding the future of the wool industry. There is unlikely to be chaos. My confidence is based upon the experience which we gained from 1918 to 1924. At the end of the war of 1934-18, we were told that, because of the large stocks of wool on hand, chaos would rule in the industry. There was even talk of dumping wool into the sea. However, pessimistic forecasts proved to have little or no foundation, and from 1918 wool prices rose higher each year until a. peak price of 24d. per lb. was reached in 1924. The average price for 1920-21 was 11 3/4d. per lb., in 1922-23 it was 12-kl. per lb., aud in 1923-24, when the top price was 24d., the average price for the whole clip was 23d. per lb. The wool that we have on hand at present is estimated to be worth about £15 per bale. In 1924, Mr. Lewis, of Martindale, South Australia, received an average price for his wool of £34 a bale. Another pleasing fact is that since the cessation of hostilities America has purchased 1,000,000 bales of best quality wool from Australia. I do not agree with the Prime Minister’s suggestion that it will probably take fourteen years for our wool trade to return to normal. I am hopeful that within three years the wool trade will be able to return to normal channels. During the war of 1914-3S, Bawra did some remarkably good work, but ite functions consisted simply of orderly marketing and regulating supplies to conform with the estimated demand.
– Bawra never sold a bale of wool.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.That is so.
– It was different altogether from the present scheme.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.It was on the same lines as this scheme. The Government proposes to ensure orderly marketing now, but its scheme will go farther and provide for fixed prices. The wool-growers will be able to submit their wool at auction, with the proviso that they will be entitled to receive anything in excess of the appraised value. The Government will take over the unsold wool at the appraised prices, and will “ nurse the baby “ from then on. That is the difference between this scheme and Bawra.
– That is a wise provision.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Yes. This time the Government will do more than was done after the war of 1914- 18 by controlling prices up to a point. This should meet with the approval of growers. In 1923, many growers were anxious for Bawra to continue to operate. If they were satisfied with Bawra, they should be even more satisfied with the present scheme. There is an old adage that “Australia rides on the sheep’s back “, and I am convinced that for many years to come; if not for all time, wool and meat will be our principal staple primary products. Australia is without doubt the greatest wool-producing country in tlie world. Of the world’s total production of merino wool in 1943, of 1,504,000,000 lb., Australia produced S27,000,000 lb. In addition to quantity we also have quality. Our stud merino sheep are eagerly sought by woolgrowers of other countries. American growers are keen to obtain South Australian merino blood, but, unfortunately, they are prevented from doing so by an embargo. They are compelled to obtain the South Australian strain by buying sheep from New Zealand. New Zealand buyers are permitted to buy South Australian stud sheep on the condition that they do not resell them. However, they cross them with New Zealand merino sheep, and the resultant stock is bought by American growers. That is how American sheepmen are replenishing their flocks to-day. The Americans have a big type of merino sheep known as the Rambouillet. They are big-framed sheep with clean faces and legs, and produce good quality wool, but they have a light fleece. The Americans are anxious to cross them with the stronger strain of Australian merinos in order to obtain a better type of wool. Previous speakers have complained about the tariff imposed by America on Australian wool. I remind them of the old saying: “If you want friends you must be friendly “. People who complain about the American duty on Australian wool forget about the embargo on the export of Australian stud merinos to America. Mr. J. F. Wilson, a professor of the University of California, who has made five trips to New
Zealand to buy merino sheep, is annoyed because he cannot buy stud stock in South Australia. When interviewed in New Zealand, where he is at present, Mr. Wilson said -
Australians complain a good deal about Uncle Sam’s high tariff on wool. They are fr<:« traders when it comes to selling wool to the United States. When I got off the boat, however, with, n wool necktie for one of my friends, a pair of rayon hose for his wife and a handful of cheap little American novelties, the customs officers in Sydney charged me a duty so stiff it could stand up alone. Our tariff on wool may be high, but at least it is not a complete embargo such as they impose on us in regard to Merino sheep. Any Aussie i:an come to the United States, buy anything lie wants mid take it home. Australians have bought some of the best beef and dairy cattle blood in the Commonwealth from American breeders, and judging by what I saw down there four years ago they might do well to keep on buying good cattle. But when it pomes to selling us a few Merino sheep they slain the door shut. . All they leave open is the keyhole - you Call still take a peek.
If we expect, the American people to reduce the tariff on Australian wool we must be prepared to reciprocate by selling our sheep direct to them.
The most serious competition experienced by the wool trade is from the manufacturers of rayon and other synthetic fabrics, the production of which is rapidly increasing. The total production of merino wool in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa in 1934, was 1,514,000,000 lb. In that year, world production of rayon amounted to 53,500,000 lb. Our wool production today is unchanged, whereas the production of rayon has increased to 1,350,000,000 lb. a year, which is almost equal to the total production of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The fostering of the rayon industry in Australia is a mistake. Although jio figures have been made available regarding the financial arrangements between the Government and the industry, rumours assess them at a high figure. Instead of fostering the rayon industry, the Government would have been well-advised to have extended production of woollen goods in Australia. I was surprised at the following statement made in an appendix to the report of the conference of the United Kingdom, Australian, New Zealand and South African representatives: -
Under the incentive of war domestic consumption in Australia has almost doubled since 1938-39, but it would perhaps be unwise to reckon on the maintenance of this volume of local manufacture, and for the present purpose post-war domestic consumption in Australia is estimated to be 50 per cent. above the 1934-1938 average, viz., 100,000,000 lb.
The Prime Minister seems to have the idea that our high rate of consumption of woollen goods will be reduced within the next year or two. That is a mistaken idea. No doubt that statement was based on the fact that, during the war period, we manufactured large quantities of woollen fabrics for the armed services. However, we have the best merino wool in the world and we can produce woollen goods equal to any other fabrics.. It is the duty of the Government to see that, the industry progresses. We should encourage the manufacture of more woollen goods, and endeavour to increase local consumption.
I propose, at the committee stage, to submit an amendment to clause 8 on the lines suggested by Senator Gibson. [ quite agree with him that too great a power is proposed to be given to the chairman. It should not be possible for a decision of a committee of eight men, who are supposed to understand thoroughly the matters with which they will be called upon to deal, to be vetoed by the chairman of that body.
– In such a case the Minister would not act, but he would refer the matter to the Cabinet.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Far too much power is proposed to be placed in thechairman’s hands, and when the bill is in committee, I shall propose the deletion of sub-clause 3 of clause 8.
– The introduction of this measure is the outcome of. a conference of representatives of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Great Britain to discuss the future disposal of wool. For many years wool has retained a commanding position in the world’s markets and we now find that it has serious competitors, the chief among which in. the post-war period will be synthetic fibres: These are made from various materials, such as wood, glass, a. product of the soya bean, and milk in the form of casein. They are also manufactured from other commodities which are available in practically every country in. large quantities. Therefore, there ispractically no limit to the quantity of synthetic fibres which can be produced in various parts of the world. Wool, which is Australia’s greatest primary product, has to reckon in future with the competition of these fibres. Even in. 1940, the quantity manufactured was equal to the total quantity of scoured wool produced. During the last four years the production of the fibres has doubtless increased considerably in both allied and enemy countries. The object of the bill is to provide for the disposal of the surplus wool held in various part of the world. This amounts to about 12,000,000 bales, of which 10,000,000 bales consist of dominion wool. Therefore, the problem affects the post-war economy of the British Dominions.
After, the first world war, the surplus of wool was considerably smaller than that with which we have to deal to-day. There were then only 2,000,000 bales. Bawra acted on behalf of Great Britain, not in the sale of the wool, but in feeding it to the various markets. That 2,000,000 bales was disposed of in the short period of two years. Practically the only condition imposed with regard to its sale was that it should not be sold for less than8d. per lb. So the problem confronting the wool-producing countries to-day is far greater than that with which they were faced after the war of 1914-18. From 1939-40, the first year of the appraisement scheme, under which Great Britain undertook to purchase the whole of the New Zealand and Australian clips, to the 1944-45 season, 21,000,000 bales have been appraised. Great Britain has been responsible for the initial purchase of that huge quantity of wool. The carry-over in Australia is about 7,000,000 bales. Considering that the peak production in this country is about 3,000,000 bales, if the carry-over of 7,000,000 bales were released to the market to the full, chaos would be caused. The majority of the wool carried over is of the lower grades, such as burry wools, short stapled wools and wool of a; generally low grade. The eyes have been picked out of the wool at the different appraisement periods. I consider that the sales in future of the high-grade wools will meet with keen competition, and the low-grade wools will have to be fed to the market as they can be absorbed. They are suitable for use in Belgium aud France by manufacturers who adopt the carbonization process. They are also suitable for Australian manufacturers who have installed modern, carbonizing plants in their .mills. “When the wooli manufacturing industries are resumed in those countries, a considerable quantify of this wool will be taken off the market.
The bill provides for the surplus wool to be liquidated over a term of years, but no definite period is stipulated. The market will be fed as required, and the wool will be sold as soon as possible. The measure also provides that certain reserve prices shall he placed on that wool. That is one of the main features of the bill. It will not entirely stabilize the price. The commodity will have to be sold as previously in the open markets of the world, but an opportunity will be given for sufficient wool to be provided at the sales to meet the demands of the market and keep the price at a reasonable level. There is no greater danger to the industry than the price fluctuations that have occurred in the past. In 1924, some greasy wool of mine was sold at 38 1/2d. per lb., but seven years later the highest price 1 received for wool of the same type, which was shorn from the progeny of the same sheep, was 9Jd. per lb. Such fluctuations as that over short periods spell ruin to the industry. A grower may budget to make improvements to his property by sub-dividing it on the basis of a price for his product in the vicinity of 25d. per lb., but when the improvements have been completed he may find that the financial return expected has not been realized. He may be left with expensive improvements on which he may have had to borrow money on security which was regarded as quite good at the time. If the agreement with Great Britain will stabilize the price of wool year by year, it will do ia great deal to stabilize the economy of this country. That is essential for the next five or ten years.
Two major factors have been responsible for the large carry-over of wool.
One is the fall of France in the early part of the war. “When Great Britain decided to purchase the total wool clip of Australia and New Zealand, it rightly thought that France would be a heavy user and purchaser of dominion wool, but Great Britain eventually had to pay for the whole of the wool received from Australia and New Zealand, and naturally the carry-over mounted up year by year. There has been a greatly increased production of wool during the last 25 years. Millions of people in Europe are not only starving for want of food, but also are in need of clothing. As soon as the woollen mills of Belgium and France and other European countries which before the war were hig purchasers of wool, get hack into production much of the carry-over of wool will be used.
– Japan also used to be a big buyer of wool.
– That is so, but it will be a long time before Japan again becomes a big purchaser of wool. Not only must, we do our best to revive the demand for wool from countries which previously were good customers, but we must also seek fresh markets for our wool. I understand that the Government is active in this direction. Some months ago, when speaking in the Senate on the subject of wool, I drew attention to the market which awaits development in such countries as China and India with their hundreds of millions of inhabitants. I said then that owing to the low purchasing-power of the people in those countries they were not able to purchase our manufactured woollen goods, and I suggested that it would be worthwhile to supply them with spinning wheels and hand looms free of co3t, with a view to popularising wool. If we cannot sell manufactured woollen goods to them, we may be able to sell the raw material to them. In that way a market might be found for wool at, say, ls. a pound. In time, the peoples of those countries would . become accustomed to wearing woollen clothing, and gradually they would become educated to use woollen goods manufactured in Australia. I think that the suggestion is worth consideration by the Government. I well remember reading how American oil companies supplied large numbers of oilburning lamps free to the people of China and thereby developed a big trade in oil used for lighting purposes. Similar methods could be used by Australia to create a demand for wool. The agreement will not stabilize the price of wool, but if we work in cooperation with South Africa and New Zealand, which also are wool-exporting countries, and with Great Britain as a purchaser, we should be able to ensure that the world’s markets are not flooded with wool at a time when the manufacturing side of the industry is not able to cope with large quantities of wool. By gradually feeding the market, it should be possible to keep the price of wool at a fairly stable level, and so help wool-growers. 1 have pleasure in supporting the bill.
Senator MATTNER (South Australia) (8.37]. - During recent years a good deal has been said regarding the kind of world people are looking for in the postwar period. The bill before us is tangible evidence that we are moving towards a better understanding. It is good to see the representatives of Great Britain and the Dominions meeting and discussing their problems amicably, and making a deal which is fair to all parties. During the debate, mention has been made of the part that Bawra played after the war of 1914-18, but conditions to-day are very different from what they were then. To-day the financial resources of Great Britain. are strained to the utmost. That countr has lost its foreign investments, and its finances are in a serious state.
– Great Britain &as poured out its wealth to save the world.
– No one has said otherwise.
– The result is that Great Britain is impoverished. It is Australia’s duty to come to the assistance of the Mother Country. I am glad that the Government has introduced this bill, which is clear evidence that Australia recognizes Great Britain’s difficulties and is willing to come to its aid and share its burdens. The bill offers a ray of hope that there will be orderly marketing of wool in the future. That will be to the advantage of Australia and the other dominions. I hope that orderly marketing will be the rule, not only in respect of wool, but also of primary production generally. We must progress with the times. The individualism of the past has gone forever; to-day the watchword is “ co-operation “. This bill is a step towards greater co-operation. I am delighted at the thought that Australian factories will play their part in converting wool into woollen goods. If other families are in the same predicament as is my family, there are many homes in Australia which are desperately short of woollen goods.
– The manufacture of woollen goods has fallen by 25 per cent.
– That is so. There are various reasons for that state of affairs. When labour becomes available I hope that Australian woollen mills will again get into production. The people of Australia have the money with which to purchase woollen goods. I believe that it is our duty to educate our own people that the best investment for their money is to purchase goods produced in this country.
– The first step towards an increased trade in woollen goods is to make them coupon free.
– The first step is to get workers back into the factories. That will be done in a few months.
– All of us are anxious to get back to non-coupon days, but we must be realists. I do not think that any one desires to retard the progress of any Australian industry. There must be some good reason for rationing.
– The Rationing Commission is retarding the woollen industry.
– At the moment, I am concerned with effects rather than causes. The fact is that the people of Australia are in need of woollen goods. Our job is to relieve the shortage. The supplying of that need will create employment for large numbers of Australians. The people have the money to buy woollen goods, and as soon as conditions adjust themselves there will be. a boom in the production and sale of woollen goods which are badly needed. I hope that the people of Australia will be patriotic enough to buy woollen goods rather than goods made of synthetic fibres. The wool-growers must give more consideration to the needs of the spinner. If growers can improve the quality of their wool, and will set out to meet the requirements of spinners, much good would result. Too often in the past wool-growers have adopted the attitude, “ Take our wool, or leave it “. The buyer is deserving of more consideration than he was shown in the past.
– Australian wool is all right, but the machinery used in manufacturing woollen goods is not equal to that used in Great Britain.
– By giving more consideration to the requirements of spinners we shall do a great service to the wool industry. I commend the bill as a worthy measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 - (3.) If tlie Chairman dissents from any decision of the Commission, signifies at the meeting to tlie other members present in person his intention to bring his dissent to the notice of the Minister and, within twenty-four hours after the close of tlie meeting, transmits to the Minister notice of his dissent together with full particulars of the decision, effect shall not be given to the decision unless the Minister approves of the decision (whether with or without variation) and, if the Minister approves of the decision subject to a variation, the decision so approved shall be deemed to be the decision of the Commission.
– I move -
That sub-clause (3.) be left out.
As I pointed out in my second reading speech, this sub-clause is quite unnecessary. Surely, the Government can rely upon the experts who will compose the commission to do the right thing in the interests of the industry. It is absurd to provide that the chairman shall have the right to veto a majority decision of such a body.
.- 1 support the amendment. This is another instance of the cloven hoof creeping into everything that this Government undertakes. It is dominated by the idea that it must always be the dictator; it must be the boss of the show. It cannot allow those interested in any industry to run their own affairs. The principles upon which the bill is based are excellent. Honorable senators are familiar with tine proposed composition of the commission. The chairman is to be appointed by the Government who will also appoint the executive officer, and in the absence of the chairman the executive officer will preside at meetings of the commission. Thus, the commission will be under the control of a nominee of the Government. In view of the fact that the commission will consist of nine members, one would think that a decision by the majority would be final. But that is not to be the case. Even should eight members of the board come to a certain decision, the chairman, should he dissent, need only report to the Minister that he does not agree with the decision, and the Minister may veto such decision. The Government wishes to retain power to override the decisions of the commission. After all, the wool is the property of the growers who are to have four representatives on the commission. They will be financially concerned in its decisions, and, presumably, having been appointed to the commission because of their knowledge of the industry, their decision should be final. In view of this provision giving power to the Minister to veto any decision of the ‘Commission, the Government might as well not have set up. the commission at all. I shall he interested to hear the reason for this provision.
– Subclause 3 is designed to enable the chairman to report to the Minister should he believe that a majority decision of the commission, or a general line of policy adopted by the commission, is not in accordance with Government policy or the general interests of the industry and of Australia. The bill proposes to confer wide powers on the “Wool Realization Commission, and it is essential that there should be a provision for a direct reference by the chairman to the Minister should the chairman believe such a course to be necessary. The sub-clause is so framed that the Minister may make full inquiries regarding the particular subject-matter before he makes his decision. He may consult the commission in general or get the written advice of members. On the other hand, if the matter submitted relates to a clearly defined aspect of government policy, the Minister may not need to confer with the commission but may be in a position to make his decision on the facts submitted by the chairman. The Government cannot accept the amendment.
.- The Minister for Trade and Customs has not given an answer to the objection I have raised. He has said, in effect, what I have already pointed out, that despite all the paraphernalia of the commission the Minister will remain supreme. This provision is typical of all legislation of this kind which has been enacted by this Government. The Government adopts a dictatorial attitude. It prates about democracy, but in matters of this kind it ignores the democratic principle that the majority should rule. In effect, the Government is setting up an elaborate scheme but it can flaunt the decisions of the controlling body at the whim of a Minister who may know nothing whatever about the problems confronting the wool industry, but is intent solely on following a certain course as a matter of political expediency. It is useless to go to the expense and trouble of setting up the commission on this basis.
Question put -
That the sub-clause proposed to be left out (Senator James McLachlan’s amendment) be left out.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Sebator B. Courtice.)
Majority . . 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I would like to move that, in sub-clause 3, after the word “Minister”, third occurring, the following words be inserted : - “ after consultation with the commission “. As the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) has stated that the Minister will confer with the commission, I have no doubt that such a simple amendment would be acceptable to the Government.
– An amendment of that nature is unnecessary and therefore would not be acceptable.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 9 to 23 agreed to.
.- The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) has not given a very complete picture of the constitution and financial set-up of the Joint Organization. Clause 1 of chapter II. of the schedule states -
I understand that Great Britain will subscribe 50 per cent. of the finance required and that each of the Dominions will subscribe 50 per cent. of the finance required insofar as its own activities are concerned. That seems to be a fair proposal and represents liberal treatment by Great Britain which, after all, is our best customer.
Clause 7 of chapter III. states - 7. Taxation.-Payments will be so adjusted that each Government will receive the sums to which it is entitled under the above scheme irrespective of any tax chargeable by the United Kingdom Government or a Dominion Government on profits arising from the operations of the Joint Organization or its subsidiaries.
Does that mean that the operations of the organization will be free of taxation?
– It does not say so. There might be misunderstanding on this point.
– The clause means what it says.
– The clause as it stands does not mean anything. It does not say specifically that taxation will not be imposed. This provision should be clarified to avoid ambiguity.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Khanh) read a first time.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this legislation is to provide for the collection of a contributory charge to meet the industry’s share of the expenses incurred under the disposals plan. The contributory charge will not come into operation until a date to be proclaimed and the date of the proclamation will not be before the 1st July, 1946. As this legislation is part and parcel of . the wool realization scheme, it is being submitted to Parliament at this stage so that it may be considered in conjunction with the other legislation relating to that scheme.
The proceeds of the contributory charge will be used to meet the industry’s share in the operating expenses of the disposals plan and to provide for interest upon the amount of money invested by the Commonwealth Government in wool. For the period of its duration, the contributory charge will supersede the present wool tax, which is collected at the rate of 2s. a bale, and is applied to wool publicity and research. Wool which is subject to the charge will not be subject to wool tax. Clause 14 provides for the setting aside, for wool publicity and research, of a sum equal to the amount which would have been otherwise collected under the present Wool Tax Act. The present wool tax will remain in full force and effect until the contributory charge comes into operation.
It is proposed that the contributory charge shall be levied as a fixed percentage of the value of the wool, and shall come into operation at the time of the resumption of the system of auction sales of wool by wool-selling brokers. The main bulk of the wool which will become the subject of the contributory charge will be disposed of at these auction sales. The wool so sold will bear a charge based upon the amount for which it is sold, whether the purchase is made by commercial buyers or whether the wool is bought in by the Wool Realization Commission at the auction reserve price. In either case, the selling brokers will be required to furnish returns and to pay a charge on the sale price of the wool and they will deduct the charge from the proceeds payable to the vendors of the wool. Brokers will also be required to pay a charge on sales of wool effected by them other than at auction.
In some cases manufacturers will acquire wool which has not been sold by a broker, and which has therefore not borne the charge. In some instances, the manufacturer may, in fact, be the producer of the wool processed by him. In other cases, he may apply manufacturing processes to wool owned by some other person. The bill provides that, in all of these cases, the manufacturer shall lodge periodical returns and pay the charge in respect of all wool which has not previously borne the charge and which is subjected by him to a process of manufacture. For the purposes of the WD, “ manufacturer “ is defined to mean a person who subjects wool to a process other than scouring, carbonizing or fellmongering. Persons whose activities are confined to scouring, carbonizing or fellmongering will not, therefore, have to furnish returns and pay the charge. It is proposed, in cases where the manufacturer processes wool purchased by him direct from the grower, that the charge shall be calculated on the landedintofactory cost of the wool. If a manufacturer processes wool which is the property of other persons and which has not previously borne charge, he will be required to submit the wool for appraisal at an appraisement place established or registered as such by the Wool Realization Commission. That manufacturer will W liable to pay the contributory charge om the appraised value of that wool and will be authorized by the law to recover the charge from the owner of the wool. Wool exported from Australia in some instances will not have been sold by a broker and therefore will not have borne the charge. In such cases, the exporters wifi be required to submit the wool for appraisal, and to pay the charge on the appraised value before export, except where the commissioner enters into an arrangement with the exporter permitting the export of the wool without prior payment of the charge, on the understanding that the charge will be paid later on a sale value determined as specified in. the arrangement. It is provided in the hill that a ship’s agent shall not accept wool for export except at accordance with the regulations. It is proposed to provide in the regulations that the wool shall not be accepted for export unless and until the exporter produces evidence that the wool is not subject to the charge, that the charge has been paid thereon, or that arrangements to the satisfaction of the commissioner have been made for payment of the charge. The commissioner will issue certificates as evidence in this regard. Manufacturers who process wool which has previously borne the charge will also rely on certificates of payment of the charge to relieve them of further liability.
The wool which will be subject to the contributory charge will embrace all wool produced in Australia, whether greasy or scoured, including fellmongered wool. Where sheepskins are exported they will be submitted for appraisal and the charge will become payable upon the appraised value of the wool on the skins. Sheepskins will not be otherwise subject to the charge, as the charge will, except in the case of exported sheepskins, fall upon the wool recovered from the skins in Australia. Consideration is being given to the frequency of returns to be lodged by brokers and manufacturers. It appears likely that the returns will be required monthly, and that payment of the charge in respect of the transactions of one month will be required during the following month. These matters will be provided for in regulations. The administration of the act will be placed in the hands of the Commissioner of Taxation, and the greater part of this bill comprises machinery provisions based on those which are common to the taxation acts generally. These relate to the obtaining of information and evidence, the collection and recovery of the charge, penalties for breaches of the law, and the keeping of proper books and accounts by persons required to pay the contributory charge. Honorable senators will, no doubt, readily accept this measure as a necessary part of the wool realization scheme. I commend the hill to honorable senators.
.- This bill contains 74 clauses. It was placed in our hands only a few minutes ago, and we have had no chance to examine it. Therefore, as Parliament will go into recess to-morrow, we must accept, what, the Minister has said about it. I notice that, although provision is made for a contributory charge to be paid by wool-growers, no mention has been made of the rate of charge. Are the wool-growers to have no advance knowledge of what this scheme will cost them ? Who will decide the rate of charge? The growers are already paying contributions in respect of another scheme which was approved earlier in this session.
– The charges are provided for. in the Wool (Contributory Charge) Bill, which will be introduced in the Senate shortly.
– As there are 74 clauses in this bill, I cannot pretend to appreciate its full import. However, on the face of it, it seems to be all right. I have the word of the Minister that it is necessary for the proper carrying out of the wool realization scheme. That being so, honorable senators on this side of the chamber will not opposethe measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Keane) read a first time.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The legislation is designed to impose a contributory charge based on the value of wool produced in Australia, for the purpose of meeting the industry’s share of the expenses incurred under the plan for the realization of wool. The charge will fall on the sale of wool by brokers at auction or otherwise, upon the processing of wool by manufacturers if the wool has not previously been purchased from a broker, and upon the export of wool which has not previously borne the charge. The charge will notcome into operation until a date to be proclaimed, and the date of the proclamation will not be earlier than the 1st July, 1946. However, as the charge is an essential part of the plan for the stabilizing of wool marketing, it is necessary to obtain legislative authority for the charge in conjunction with the Wool Realization Bill, which has just been under consideration.
The charge will be levied as a prescribed percentage of the sale value of the wool, but it is not possible at this stage to specify the precise percentage which will be decided upon. The percentage will be influenced by marketing conditions operating when the charge is about to commence. However, it is made clear in the bill that the rate of the charge will be so fixed as to produce only an amount sufficient to cover the wool industry’s share of the operating expenses of the plan, the interest on the amount invested by the Commonwealth Government in wool, and the amount which would have been payable as wool tax but for the introduction of the contributory charge. The lastmentioned amount will be set aside specifically for the purposes to which the present wool tax is devoted, viz., to research and publicity designed to promote the use of wool. It will probably be necessary to vary the rate of the contributory charge from time to time in the light of experience under the marketing plan. Any such variations, however, are likely to occur only at the commencement of each season, unless some unforeseen developments render it desirable or necessary to make other alterations during the seasons.
.- The Minister now states that the contributory charge cannot be fixed at the present time, as it will depend on conditions. Surely some estimate can be made of the rate of charge. Will it be 1 per cent. or 25 per cent. ? The growers want to know what proportion of their wool cheque will be required to pay the charge. I know that the charge will not be any greater than can be helped, but the growers are entitled to be supplied with some advance information about it.
.. - in reply - It is not possible to indicate the charge at the present time. Clause 4 of the bill partly answers the honorable senator’s questions. It states -
The rate of the charge shall be such percentage as is prescribed from time to time of the sale value of the wool, being a percentage which, in the opinion of the Governor-General, after taking into consideration any advice tendered to the Minister by the Australian Wool Realization Commission is necessary. . . .
It Tuen goes on to state the purposes for which the money will be used. At present it is impossible to indicate any percentage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- I wish to make it quite clear that the Minister will decide what levy is to be made upon the wool-growers. He may fix any charge he likes.
– He represents a majority government.
– I doubt whether 4he present Government could be so described. We should let the wool-growers know that they are now in the hands of the Minister with regard to this levy.
– The rate will be fixed by a regulation at the commencement of each year. That is a safe provision.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Ashley) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill -be now read a second time.
The purpose of the measure is to authorize the execution, by or on behalf of the Commonwealth, of agreements with the States for a scheme of land settlement for discharged members of the forces. The terms of the agreements are set out in the schedules to the bill. These terms were finally decided upon at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers held on the 22nd August, 1945, and represent the result of discussions between Commonwealth and State repre sentatives extending over a period of about twelve months. It will be noted that the bill authorizes the execution of two different agreements-; that in the first schedule would be used in the agreements to be made separately between the Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, and that in the second schedule being used between the Commonwealth and the. States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania.
Although the main principles of the scheme are identical in the two agreements, the financial commitment of the Commonwealth varies, and is greater under the scheme contained in th«5 second schedule than it ‘ is under the scheme set out ir> the first schedule. This is due to the fact that the views of the States varied as to the extent of the financial responsibility which they were prepared to bear, and also as to the extent of Commonwealth supervision which they were prepared to permit.
In the case of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, the Commonwealth will provide the capital funds required for acquiring, developing and improving the land, and make a capital contribution equal to threefifths of any excess of the total cost of such acquisition and improvement over a valuation which will give the settler an opportunity to make a reasonable labour income, after meeting all costs associated with the holding. In order to assist the settlers in the early stages of production, provision has been made for an assistance period, of about twelve months, and during this period the Commonwealth will provide living allowances for settlers and meet the cost of any remission of rent and interest. The Commonwealth will also bear any losses arising from approved advances by credit authorities for the provision of working capital, for effecting improvements and for the purchase of stock, plant and equipment.
In the case of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, which will act as principals, the Commonwealth will make a capital contribution of half of any initial writing down, and bear one-half of any losses arising from advances approved for working capital and for such purposes as effecting improvements and acquiring stock. During the assistance period, the Commonwealth will provide living allowances for settlers and bear half the cost of any remission of rent and interest. In all cases the Commonwealth will bear the cost of Commonwealth administration, and provide training, including the payment of living allowances to applicants selected for training, and of certain transport and other expenses incidental to training.
In drafting the present plan for war service land settlement, the Government has recognized the need to take adequate precautions to avoid a repetition of the disasters which followed land settlement after the war of 1914-18. It has had the benefit of the report of the Rural Reconstruction Commission, which discusses in some detail the present problem in relation to the lessons of the past. An examination of the information presented in that report indicated the need for some fundamental variation in the manner of approach. In the interests of exservicemen themselves, it is necessary to ensure that they have the qualifications needed for farming before they are permitted to assume the financial and other managerial responsibilities of a farm holding. “With the experience of the past in mind we must also recognize that it would be a mistake to settle men on the holdings and then find that satisfactory markets did not exist for their produce. For this reason it is essential that settlement shall only take place where economic prospects for the production concerned are sound.
One of the most important causes of the losses on previous soldier settlements was the high prices that had to be paid for land, stock and equipment. The matter of price control generally has been discussed with the State premiers, and an assurance ha3 been obtained that it will be possible to maintain such control for some time at least. So far as transactions in land are concerned, the Commonwealth has recently issued a proclamation under National Security Regulations to prevent the transfer, of land considered suitable for the purpose of war service land settlement. It will be noticed that it is provided that, where it appears that the capital cost of the property will need to be reduced, the writing down of capital values will take place before a settler is placed on the holding.
Many of the areas selected for soldier settlement after the war of 1914-18 were unsuitable for the purpose for which they were used. The technique of land selection for settlement has advanced considerably in recent years, and the value of soil surveys, market surveys and agricultural economic surveys is now generally recognized. Under the proposed agreements, careful examination will be made of all the areas proposed for land settlement, and steps will be taken to ensure that men are not settled on farms which are too small to give a reasonable living. “With regard to’ the form of tenure to be adopted, it i3 expected that land will be allotted on a freehold basis by the Victorian Government, and in the other States on a perpetual leasehold basis.
In view of its responsibilities, the Commonwealth has appointed a Director of “War Service Land Settlement who will be responsible to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction for the administration of the agreements. It is not intended to duplicate State administration and care will be taken to respect the experience of the States in the field of land, settlement. Regarding specific proposals for settlement, the broad procedure is that the State will select land which appears suitable for settlement and submit to the Commonwealth such particulars as location, area, rainfall, soil types and fertility, topography, suitability for cultivation, liability to erosion, water resources, present and potential use of the land, amenities available, and transport, facilities. On the basis of this information the Commonwealth and State authorities will decide whether detailed surveys are necessary and whether the area can be acquired at a reasonable price. Upon approval being given to this action, the State will proceed with the necessary arrangements and prepare a plan of the proposed subdivision, indicating the size of the individual holdings, their use, valuation and other relevant information. After Commonwealth approval of the plan, the State will set apart Crown lands, or acquire the area aud carry out the subdivision, development and improvement up to the point whore it can be brought into production by a settler within a reasonable time, having regard to the type of production proposed.
In anticipation of this legislation considerable progress has been made in the investigation of certain areas that may be suitable for settlement. The New South Wales Government has submitted proposals for the acquisition and subdivision of 21 estates, involving a total area of about 360,000 acres. It is estimated that these areas will provide for the settlement of about 400 servicemen. Investigations have already proceeded to the stage where the Commonwealth has been able to inform the New South Wales Minister of Lands that a prima facie case has been established for the approval of eleven of these properties, containing about 155,000 acres as suitable for settlement, aud that the State should proceed to negotiate with the owners with a view to acquisition. A proposal for the acquisition of about 60,000 acres for the establishment of an irrigation settlement in the. Murray Valley District has been received from the State of Victoria. The Government of Queensland has submitted proposals for the acquisition of about 1,700,000 acres, to be subdivided into about 1.300 holdings, which, after allowing for retention areas, would provide an additional 900 holdings. Some areas have already been examined, and th« State has been informed that about 440,000 acres at least appear sufficiently attractive to warrant more detailed investigation. The offer in respect of the remaining areas is now being considered. A proposal has been received from Tasmania for the acquisition and development of an area of approximately 3fi,000 acres. This proposition provides for subdivision into about 140 maintenance area farms.
The Government has introduced this bill as early as possible following the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers as it recognizes the need for urgent, action in this matter, and it expects that the State governments will also tate action to introduce legislation as 3O0n as possible. It is recognized that the parliamentary draftsmen of the arious States may make certain alterations to the arrangements of the clauses and that the actual words used may differ slightly in the various States. Under the bill as now presented, it would be competent for the Government to make any agreement with a State for the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land, provided that it was not inconsistent with the proposals set out in the appropriate schedule to this bill. The passage of the measure will enable the Commonwealth to make such agreements with the States and to proceed in partnership with them in the settlement of discharged servicemen on the land, thus providing an additional means of rehabilitation.
.- The Opposition welcomes this bill, which is long overdue. For some time, the States have been making valuations and other preparations in connexion with soldier hind settlement schemes, but they have not been able to tell the owners of
I he land proposed to be acquired when it would be taken over. This bill should have been introduced some months ago. The schedule to the bill contains seven pages of closely printed matter which we are. supposed to accept. I do not know the views of the Government regarding the way in which legislation should be placed before the Parliament, but the procedure followed in connexion with this bill is not the way in which the Parliament should be treated. I know that in the last few days of a sessional period there is often a rush of legislation, but on previous occasions most of the measures brought forward at that stage have been of minor importance. The legislation with which this Parliament has dealt this week has contained some measures of major importance. For instance, the bill now before us deals with the rehabilitation of servicemen on the land, yet the Senate has been denied an opportunity to examine it thoroughly. We must take the Government on trust; and that is something that I do not like doing. I prefer to have matters set before me in black and white.
– The honorable senator will realize that the sudden termination of the war makes legislation of this kind urgent.
– It was urgent months ago. In his speech the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) said -
Under the hill as now presented, it would he competent for the Government to make any agreement with a State for the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land provided that it was not inconsistent with the proposals set out in the appropriate schedule to this bill.
It would appear that the Government is keeping something up its sleeve. First, it presents a ulan to the Parliament, and then it says that that plan may be altered. That is not the way in which legislation should be submitted to us. I like legislation to be precise.
– Six State Governments have agreed to this legislation.
– The Minister is trying to have something both ways. As far as I can gather from a. brief examination of the bill and its schedule, the measure contains many things of which f approve. I draw attention to clause 11 (2) of the first schedule which reads -
The State shall subdivide, develop and improve the land to a stage where it can be brought into production by a settler within a reasonable time having regard to the type of production proposed.
L regard that as an excellent provision. The absence of such a provision in connexion with earlier land settlement schemes was the cause of the failure of many settlers. I hope that that arrangement will be adhered to, and that no settler will have to wait for a number of years before getting some return from his block. The land must be placed in his hands in such a condition that he can start to earn an income from it almost straight away. In clause 13 of the first schedule it is provided -
I have a keen recollection that when this subject was discussed on an earlier occa sion, Senator Gibson, a man of considerable experience on the land, said that it would be wise to postpone the payment of interest for the first three years, so that the settler could get it into working order without having to meet interest payments. I think that the honorable senator was right. If a settler knew that he would not have to pay any interest for three years, it would have a most stimulating effect. The only other clause in the first schedule to which I draw attention is clause 17 which reads -
The form and conditions of tenure on which a holding is to be held by a settler shall be determined by the State.
I regard that as a proper provision, although the idea of the Government seems to be that land, shall be held on a rental basis. I lived on the land for many years, and I know that, just as the city dweller likes to own his home, so the farmer likes to own his land, or at least, to have some equity in it. The man on the land prefers freehold. I am glad to know that, the Commonwealth Government has not raised any objection to a settler getting the freehold of his estate.
I was privileged to have a copy of the second-reading speech read by the Minister, but I notices that a portion of it, which presumably was read in the House of Representatives, was deleted from the copy supplied to me. I draw attention to one paragraph which was not read by the Minister in this chamber. We have been told on numerous occasions that the failure of land settlement schemes after the war of 3914-18, was the fault of the States. The Commonwealth has been able to say that the States had made mistakes. Now, the Commonwealth is accepting responsibility for soldier land settlement schemes, and I think that that is right. One paragraph which the Minister did not read was as follows : -
No settlement involving a. contribution from Commonwealth funds can thus be carried out by a State unless the plan has been approved by the Commonwealth.
In future, the Commonwealth will not be able to blame the States; it is now committed to accepting responsibility for this scheme. I do not object to that, but T wondered why the Minister did not read all tlie speech which had been prepared. I regard the legislation as necessary, and I have no objection to its passing.
– This measure and the complementary legislation to be passed by the ‘States is legislation for which many ex-servicemen have been waiting. Many ex-service personnel have approached me with a view to learning on what terms they could settle on the land. My advice to them has been that if they knew of a property which was in the market and they could not wait any longer they should pay a deposit on it, and commence operations. T gave that advice only to men accustomed to farming. I welcome the measure, and I am certain that soldier laud settlement will now be proceeded with in all States, and that many of the mistakes of the past will be avoided. Wo hear quite a lot about the failures of laud settlement schemes in the different States after the war of .1914-18, but there are still “ diggers “ of that war on their farms in Western Australia and they are making a reasonably good living. We do not hear so much about those cases as we hear about the misfits, of which there were a large number on that occasion. I came into contact with many of them in Western Australia when I was a member of a land committee appointed by the returned soldiers’ organizations in that State. The members of that committee had a harrowing experience. To blame one set of circumstances for the failure of soldier settlements after the war of 1914-18 is to ignore the facts, because those failures were due to many major factors.
The main considerations which should be kept in mind in this scheme are the cost of the land and the rate of interest to be charged on advances to be made to settlers for stocking and the maintenance of their properties. I am sure that the Government, in collaboration with the States, will see that every avenue is explored in order to keep the original cost of the land as low as possible. I know, of course, that some difficulty will be experienced in this respect so far as estates which must be purchased for subdivision are concerned. I believe that most of the trouble in connexion with soldier land settlement after the first world war arose from this cause. Clause 11 of the second schedule deals with the resumption of Crown land. In Western Australia great stretches of Crown land have not yet been alienated for subdivision. A fair proportion of that land may be suitable for intensive soldier settlement. Sub-clause 2 of clause 11 of the second schedule provides -
Where Crown land is set apart or resumed for the purpose of settlement, the State shall be credited with such amount as the Commonwealth and .tlie State agree represents the interest of the State in the land.
The real value of Crown land particularly in Western Australia is very low and I am sure that the Government of that .State will ensure that such land made available for soldier settlement shall be valued at as low a figure as possible. Possibly, the State need include in such valuation only the cost of the original surveys of such land. We should remember that nothing is too good for our ex-service personnel, and that Crown land has not really cost the State anything except the cost of the original surveys. Therefore, although it would appear from clause 11 (2) of the second schedule, that a State may claim a value to which the Commonwealth will agree, T hope that every State will fix that value at as low a figure as possible. That valuation, I repeat, should represent only costs actually incurred by the States in respect of the land. I support the bill.
.- During the budget debate I expressed my views with respect to the settlement of soldiers on the land and I shall not traverse the ground which I then covered. The Rural Reconstruction Commission had estimated that of 80,000 men who left rural occupations in order to enlist in the services, about 54,000 will want to return to the land. But the commission points out that the settlement of so many additional farmers will cause grave problems unless sufficient additional markets are found to absorb their products. It says that “ the productive capacity of existing settlement has already outstripped requirements at payable prices”. What will these new settlers grow? The more sugar a settler grows in Queensland the less becomes his return per ton. If additional settlers are settled in the Murray Valley to grow currants, raisins and dried fruits, they will find that the more they grow, their average return will be correspondingly less. The same observation applies to additional production of every exportable commodity. Within the next four or five years, Denmark and Sweden will recapture their former share of the British markets, to which they previously supplied from 70,000 tons to S0,000 tons annually. In addition, Great Britain itself is becoming more and more self-contained so far as the production of butter is concerned. In these circumstances,’ the price of butter will fall to a level which will riot provide a payable return to the Australian dairy-farmer.
– To-day, Great Britain is imploring us to supply more butter.
– The present price of butter is ls. 7-Jd. per lb., whereas at least 2s. is required to enable the dairyfarmer to earn the basic wage. Prior to the outbreak of the war, New Zealand was exporting 12,000,000 carcasses of fat lamb and we were exporting 4,000,000 carcasses; and at that stage the market had practically reached saturation point. Had we produced an additional 100,000 carcasses or 200,000 carcasses for export, we should not have been able to obtain a market overseas for that increased production. We must remember that Great Britain is our only market for mutton and lamb. At the same time, Argentina is a big supplier of mutton and meat to the British market, largely because of British investments in Argentina. There will be no outlet for additional production of oats because the tractor has displaced the horse. Perhaps, the only place where horses are to be found to-day are on the race-courses. The only other outlet, possibly, is consumption by Scotsmen as a breakfast food. There is no available market at present for additional production of harley. Similarly, there is no outlet for hay. I have sold hay at £1 10s. a ton, which is not a payable price.
– I think that the honorable senator underestimates the market for barley.
– Provided the price was reasonable, barley-growers in this country could produce in one year sufficient not only to meet Australia’srequirement but also a substantial quantity for export. Barley is a quick crop* The farmer does not need to fallow the land, and an average yield of 20 bags to the acre is fairly profitable provided the price is reasonable. A sum of £2,500,000 has been paid by the Government to make up losses suffered by potato-growers. A similar position exists in respect of onions and carrots. Therefore, the crux of soldier land settlement is the provision of additional markets for the increased production. But the Government has not yet indicated how it proposes to find additional markets. The total loss incurred in respect of soldier land settlement schemes undertaken after the first world war amounted to £45,000,000; and I sometimes believe that we shall make just as big a bungle of soldier land settlement on this occasion.
– There is no chance of that.
– I hope that the Minister is right. Following the first world war, over 11,000 returned soldiers wore settled on the land in Victoria and of that number 9,000 still remain on the land and are doing fairly well. However, over 34,000 returned soldiers were settled on the land in the various States, and only 14,000 of those remain on their original holdings to-day. Of that number 9,000 are in Victoria. The success of the scheme in Victoria is attributable largely to the fact that most of these men entered the citrus and dried fruits industry in the irrigation areas and markets were readily found for those products. I urge the Government to give careful attention to the findings of the Rural Reconstruction Commission with respect to soldier land settlement. The commission has pointed out that on the basis of payable prices producers already on the land are meeting present demands, and that no room exists for increased production. Additional markets must be found, or the settlement of additional men on the land will not only bring ruin to those already engaged in primary industry, but will also destroy all prospects for the success of the new settlers themselves. I should like to know what amount of interest the Government proposes to charge to men settlers with respect to both freehold and leasehold properties. What will be the area of the blocks? What will be the value of the blocks ? Some honorable senators say that this is a State matter, but that is not correct, because under the agreement the Commonwealth must approve every block of land selected for settlement. The Commonwealth must approve the area and value of each block, and its potential productive capacity on an economic basis. But we have not been given these details. A new settler cannot, erect buildings and fencing, and stock his land within a year. It will take him at least five years to attend to those essential matters. Therefore, the Government is telling only half the story. F want it to tell the whole story. Exservicemen intending to go on the land should be fully informed of the difficulties which will confront, them; but, apparently, the Government, is prepared to place ex-servicemen on the land without telling them all the facts.
In order to make a success of life on the land, one must have a knowledge of not only stock, but also land values, cultivation processes and many other matters, as well as being able to act as a bookkeeper for the Government so far as taxation is concerned. Bearing in mind the present high rates of tax, no settler will have any chance of paying off a mortgage under the conditions set out in the scheme. The potato-growers had one good year and the Government took half of their production under contract, the contract , price being £12 10s. a ton. The position finally was this : If a grower received say £2,500 for his potato crop, the Government took 10s. in the £1 in income tax. In effect, it paid the grower £12 a ton for the potatoes, and then took back £6 a ton. It then sold the potatoes to the consumer at £6 a ton, and was square on the deal. The growers of course did not repeat the experiment.
I hope that the Government, will make clear the problems that land settlers will have to face. After the war of 1914-18, when soldier settlement schemes were carried out, butter was 2s. 6d. per lb., wheat was 4s. a bushel, and the price of other commodities was similarly high. Itwas not long, of course, before there was a slump. The same position exists to-day. It is almost impossible to stock a farm at present-day values of live-stock. A store bullock cannot be bought for less than £15. The price of sheep, too, is very high, and a property oan be stocked only with the greatest difficulty. The only dairy cattle available are culls from dairy herds. These are not good enough for the man who is starting off on a dairying properly. I hope that the Government will make a definite statement on the values and areas of the settlement blocks, the interest charges that are to be imposed, and the possibility of an extension of the interest-free period. These are matters that require careful consideration lest ex-servicemen be lulled into the belief that they will make a fortune out of their properties.
Senator COURTICE (Queensland) “1 0.17].- Whilst I support the bill, T agree with quite a lot that Senator Gibson has said. I recall that on several occasions after I was first elected to the Senate, I expressed the opinion that the marketing problem of the primary industries of this country was most important and warranted immediate attention by the National Parliament. Invariably the reply by the then government was that, the matter was not one for the National Parliament, but for the Parliaments of the States. To-day, this Government appreciates the necessity for scientific and organized marketing of primary products, and it is most regrettable that the referendum which sought to provide additional powers for the Commonwealth Parliament in this regard, was not carried. I warn the Government against the indiscriminate settlement of men on the land. I am a practical farmer, and I know something about farming. I know what it means to be engaged upon the production of commodities the prices of which are insufficient to meet production costs. An important factor to be considered, too, is the mechanization of primary industries and the advance of technical knowledge. In America during the war just ended, despite the fact that the number of people engaged in primary production was 2,000,000 fewer than before the war, production was con siderably higher than in pre-war years. This was achieved by mechanization and the use of scientific methods. The application of these methods to primary production iii this country may mean that production will far exceed consumption. Stabilized markets for primary products are essential to the success of any land settlement scheme.
– The industry in which the honorable senator is encaged is a protected industry.
– Time will not permit me ‘to deal in detail with the sugar industry, but I point out that not one penny has been paid to that industry by way of bounties or bonuses of any kind. The sugar industry is the one primary industry in this country that is still able to sell its product at a price fixed during depression years.
– Will the honorable senator say at what price Australian sugar is sold in New Zealand and Great Britain?
– The people of this country buy sugar for 4d. per lh. One hears a lot of foolish talk about the sugar industry, but that industry has been able to keep prices down only because of the great technical advance it has made. ‘It is an example to all other primary industries. Whilst I agree that land settlement is necessary in this country to develop our vast empty spaces, I emphasize that land-settlement must be carried out in a balanced way. Secondary industries also must be expanded. To be developed successfully, Australia requires a greater population. I am pleased that the Government has introduced this measure and I hope it will have a speedy passage.
– I welcome this measure because it, makes provision for the settlement of ex-servicemen on the land. Agreements have already been made between the Commonwealth and the States, and we have no option but to ratify them. The bill lays down the broad plan upon which the Commonwealth considers land settlement should be carried out. The actual implementation of the scheme will bo in the hands of the States. Like Senator Gibson and Senator Courtice.
I urge that before ex-servicemen are encouraged to undertake primary production, assured markets be provided for the commodities they will produce. The bill does not compel the States to ensure that extra advances shall be made for the construction of homes. I believe that to be most important. When a man goes on the land, almost invariably he goes there to 3tay. He does not have a choice of vocations as does the man in the city. He cannot go from one job to another. To make a success of a holding, not only the farmer himself, but also all members of his .family have to contribute. Earlier to-day, we passed a measure providing for government assistance to basic wage-earners and others whose income is insufficient to enable them to pay the full economic rent for a home. The man who settles on the land is just as much entitled to modern home comforts and amenities as the man who lives in the city. In the past it has been the practice for farmers and their families to sacrifice home comforts for many years, and to live in galvanized iron shacks and bag shanties. It is most unfair that rural citizens should have to live for many years in homes which are not comparable with those occupied by city dwellers. I hope that the Government will make some provision on the lines I have indicated, because I believe that land-settlement experiments will be much more successful if a good standard of housing is provided.
As a practical farmer, I regard the proposed exemption from interest charges for one year as quite inadequate. Under the Queensland scheme, settlers will be allowed three years free of interest, and an additional five years before being called upon to make principal repayments. That gives-men a fair chance to settle down and make their properties sufficiently productive to provide them with reasonably comfortable living conditions and to enable them to commence paying off their indebtedness. If this problem is examined from a practical point of view, it will be realized that one year free of interest will be too short a period in which to expect a man to establish himself on the land. I hope that the settlement scheme will be successful. In fact, we must ensure that it is successful because we cannot afford to bave men disillusioned, disappointed, and heartsick as the result of the hardships which they have to suffer. Only by sympathetic administration can we ensure the success of the scheme.
.- This bill, as has been said, has been long awaited, and it is the hope of every member of the Parliament that She plan for the settlement of exservicemen on the land will be on a very firm basis so that the settlers will be able to earn a reasonable living. In his secondreading speech, the Minister stated that -.the settlement of ex-servicemen on the :land after the war of 1914-18 bad cost the Commonwealth and the States a total of £45,000,000. That amount did not include losses sustained by individual settlers. The original number of exsoldier settlers was 34,000, and only 14,000 of these men remain on their holdings to-day. To spread the complete loss over the 34,000 settlers would represent a loss of approximately :£1>200 a man. Excluding the successful settlers, the loss would be ;in the vicinity of £2;000 for each unsuccessful settler. However, that is not the -full story. The monetary loss, although considerable, does not take into account the losses sustained by the men themselves, not only in money, but also in terms of physical fitness. As a settler under the returned soldier scheme after the 1914-18 war, and as one of the 14,000 who still occupy their holdings, I pay tribute to the way in which the South Australian scheme was carried out. Settlers in that State enjoyed certain advantages which did not apply to settlers in other States. In reviewing my experience of ex-service settlement, I divide -£he subject under four headings - the type of settler, the type of land, markets, and interest rates. Those factors have the greatest bearing on whether a settler will be successful or otherwise. I favour settlers acquiring tie freehold of their land, but I am not opposed to men holding their properties on perpetual leases if they so desire. ‘I am firmly convinced that a man who ‘holds the freehold of his property has a greater incentive to work hard. I experienced an extraordinary thrill when, after -a good deal of work and saving, my farm became my own property, and I should like others to enjoy the same experience. “We should make it abundantly clear to settlers that it will be useless for them to work out on paper what they expect to earn from their properties. If they do so they will suffer many rude shocks. They must be prepared to like their job and not endeavour always to measure their success in terms of bank balances. There will be times when they must be content merely to hold tight and to work long hours for little profit. They must take an over-all view of their work, and be prepared to sustain losses in some seasons and endeavour to compensate by making good profits in other seasons. The type of land selected must determine the price to be paid for it. The price should be bound up with the productive value. Unfortunately, in many rich areas, the price of land has increased far beyond its productive value. People with capital to invest have forced the prices of the properties far beyond their real value. This does not worry them, because they are not working to ‘earn a living from the land, but their competition with other settlers is very unfair. Under the soldier settlement scheme which followed the war of 1914-18, many such investors purchased properties in the settlement areas and the returned soldiers had to buy their properties at inflated values, which caused disaster in many cases. We have no great measure of control over markets, but I hope that the system of cooperative marketing will be greatly developed in the future. Unlike some honorable senators, who are inclined to pessimism, I believe that standards of living throughout the world will improve in the future, and that this improvement will affect primary producers.
Great emphasis has been placed on the fact that control of the returned soldier settlement scheme after the war of 1914-18 was left in the hands of the States. State officers decided, on the price of land. The States were accused of being extravagant and with failure to select suitable properties. However, I can see very little safeguard against the repetition of such mistakes by the Commonwealth Government under this plan.
Is the Minister convinced that the Commonwealth has sufficient experienced jla nd valuators to give fair valuations in respect to properties selected for settlement? Land valuation is a tricky business. I might be competent to value land an the district where I live, but I might mot be nearly so competent as a valuator tin other districts. A man may be expert in his own district but quite at sea in a district only a. short distance away. Has the Commonwealth sufficient men capable of supervising the valuations made by State officers? I believe that the State officers are good men, who are zealous and keen to put this scheme on ;a proper foundation. The rate of interest to be charged to settlers is very important, and I hope that the Minister will give an indication of the rate to be charged. I favour a rate of about 2-J per cent., although I do not know whether that would be practicable. Also, properties should be free of interest for the first two years, so that the settlers will have an opportunity to establish themselves. The majority of the settlers will have mo ready cash. Usually, when a man .settles on a property he is in a position to pay perhaps 50 per cent, of the purchase price immediately, and therefore (he has to pay interest on the remaining 50 per cent. only. Under the previous returned soldiers settlement scheme, we had to pay interest on the full purchase price. Men in the district where I settled had taken up properties under earlier Government-controlled schemes, and they grumbled because they had to pay &j per cent, interest, yet the ex-soldier settlers were criticized because they said that they could not pay interest at 5 per cent, on the full purchase price of their properties. The question as to whether men should be settled on improved properties is controversial. It is possible that some men could improve their land at a cheaper rate than if it were done under & government scheme. However, with modern methods, it should be possible under a properly organized scheme to bring apparently virgin country to a reasonable state of production at a lower cost than could be achieved by individual settlers. The cost of improvements must be kept as low as possible. I realize that this scheme will be put into effect by means of an agreement with the States. However, I should like to know whether the Government proposes to establish similar schemes in territories under Commonwealth control, such as the Northern Territory, New Guinea and Papua. 1 admit that our fighting mcn have seen New Guinea and Papua under the worst possible conditions, but those areas offer great possibilities for settlers. Perhaps the Minister will indicate whether the Government will encourage and assist the settlement of ex-servicemen in Commonwealthcontrolled territories.
– in reply - I appreciate the reception which has been afforded to this measure by most honorable senators, although there have been some adverse comments regarding certain provisions. Senator Leckie complained about the delay in bringing the bill before the Senate. In August last, an agreement was reached with the Premiers of the States in regard to the bill. In view of the experience gained of land settlement after -the first world war, it is essential to make an examination and survey before further settlement of ex-servicemen is effected. The scheme should not be regarded as a sole responsibility of either the Commonwealth or the States. The Commonwealth will provide the finance required for the undertaking, and the scheme will be administered by the State authorities. It is necessary for the Commonwealth Government to be satisfied that the land proposed for settlement is suitable for the purpose. Exservicemen were placed on the land in New South “Wales after the war of 1914-1S in marginal areas where the rainfall was irregular, and although some of the settlers had had considerable experience at farming, they were financially ruined. It was subsequently proved that the blocks on which they were placed were too small to enable them to make a living. The time expended in taking steps to ensure that the mistakes of the past shall not be repeated will not be wasted. Honorable senators opposite have pointed out that under the bill assistance in the form of a living allowance, and freedom from interest charges and repayments of principal, is to be granted to settlers for only twelve months; but it is also provided that in special circumstances, and upon conditions approved by the Commonwealth, assistance in particular cases may be extended beyond the period of one year. If it be shown that through adverse circumstances a soldier settler requires further help, it may be given to him. Senator Mattnerasked me to indicate the interest rate that is to be charged on the money advanced to settlers. That is a matter for determination between the Commonwealth and the States: it is not a prerogative of me Commonwealth Government alone. Therefore I cannot furnish the information desired by the honorable senator. Consideration will be given to the prospect of settlement of ex-servicemen in the Northern Territory, New Guinea and Pa pua.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill reada second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
War Service Homes - Directorate of Research and Civil Affairs - Tas- manian Air Service - Shipping : Use of Esperance.
Motion (by Senator Keane) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– On the 27th September, Senator Cooper asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice -
The Minister for Works and Housing has supplied the following answers : -
In addition to the figures shown above a total of69 homes were in course of construction as at the 30th September, 1945.
. - This morning, Senator Foll asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answer: -
There is no such body as the Army Research Council but it is assumed that the question refers to the Directorate of Research and Civil Affairs.
In reply to a similar question in the House of Representatives onWednesday, the 26th September, the Minister for the Army stated -
The Directorate of Research and Civil Affairs was responsible to the Army administration for former civil territories and was associated with the Department of External Territories. It was regarded by the Commander-in-Chief as an essential organization. It will be considerably reduced in the near future, but will be continued on a reduced scale until the Army hands the territories over to the civil authority.
To-day Senator Herbert Hays asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following answers : -
– I have made representations in this chamber on more than one occasion concerning the necessity for the utilization of the port of Esperance in Western Australia for shipping purposes. I recently communicated with the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley), asking him to take action in the matter, and I am pleased to report that I have received a letter from the Minister in which he states -
Following on investigations by theDirector of Shipping, the Ship Control Board was directed to allot a vessel to load in the eastern States for Esperance as a trial shipment. Accordingly, the SS. Arkarba was put on the berth at the beginning of August and secured approximately 11,000 tons of cargo for Esperance, where she discharged between the 30th August and the 2nd September. In view of the very satisfactory result of this trial shipment, it is intended to provide a ship to load in the eastern States every three months for Esperance, and it is hoped that future sailings will receive similar support.
I much appreciate the Minister’s action in this matter. It is more than gratifying to know that it is proposed to have a ship call at that port once every three months.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Broadcasting - Composite statement of programme and technical service accounts of Australian Broadcasting Commission and Postmaster-General’s Department in respect of the national broadcasting service for year 1943-44.
Housing - Final Report of Commonwealth Housing Commission, appointed under the National Security Regulations.
National Security Act - National Security (General) Regulations - Order - Use of land - Revocation.
Postmaster-General’s Department - Thirtyfourth Annual Report, for year 1943-44.
Science and Industry Research Act - Nineteenth Annual Report of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, for year 1944-45.
River Murray Waters Act - River Murray Commission - Report for 1944-45.
Senate adjourned at 10.59 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 October 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1945/19451004_senate_17_185/>.