18th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President ( Senator t the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Some days ago, I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture a question concerning fats, particularly pig meats. Has the Minister yet obtained the information which I sought?
– I have referred the honorable senator’s question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, but have not yet received a reply. I shall make inquiries with the object of securing the information as soon as possible.
– I understand that the Minister for Public Works in Victoria has circularized various shire councils in that State implying that, because of a decrease of the amount allotted to Victoria by the Commonwealth as a federal aid roads and works grant this year, the Country Roads Board has not been able to carry out all the road maintenance and construction work that it should have done. I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer what sums were made available to Victoria during the last two years under the Federal Aid Roads and Works Agreement? How did those grants compare with the amounts allotted in previous years? Does the Australian Government give any directions as to the way in which such moneys shall be expended ?
– The honorable senator was good enough to inform me of his intention to ask a question on this subject. I have been informed by the Treasurer that the Commonwealth has allocated to the State of Victoria the following grants for road works during the last three completed financial years: -
The estimated grant for 1948-49 is £1,270,200. The Australian Government exercises no control over the expenditure of such grants. It has some power of direction in relation to special grants for roads which lead to Commonwealth establishments, such as munition factories, but otherwise it is not concerned with the manner in which grants are expended or the locations of works undertaken. Such matters are the complete responsibility of State governments.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy whether the Australian Naval Squadron will be in southern Tasmania from Saturday, the 12th February, to Tuesday, the 15th February, 1949, when the 111th Anniversary Regatta of the Royal Hobart Regatta Association will take place? If so, what will be the composition of the squadron? Can H.M.A.S. Australia be made available as the flagship for the regatta? What will be the approximate numbers of officers and men on board the vessels during the visit?
– As the honorable senator is aware, it has been the practice for a detachment of the Royal Australian Navy to be in southern Tasmanian waters about regatta time, early in February of each year. I have found my colleague, the Minister for the Navy, and his department, most co-operative in ensuring a good representation of naval personnel at regatta functions. It has been the practice for the Navy to make available Australia as the flagship for the occasion, and the presence of naval vessels has had much to do with the success of those excellent functions. Officers and men usually take part in the various aquatic events, and generally contribute substantially to the success of what is a notable occasion. I believe that there is no better regatta than that conducted in southern Tasmania. I do not know, nor have I had an opportunity to inquire from the Minister, about the movements of the Australian Naval Squadron in February, but I shall refer the honorable senator’s request to him with every confidence that it will receive favorable consideration. I hope to be in a position to give a detailed reply to the honorable senator in the near future.
– In view of the continually increasing shipping freights on the Australian coast, I ask the Acting Attorney-General whether there is any means by which the Australian Government may, under the Constitution, take action to prevent further increases of those freights which are already most disturbing to various States, particularly the island State of Tasmania? Is the control of freights now within the province of the States as the result of the relinquishing of prices control by the Commonwealth ?
– 1 should have liked some notice of this question, but I can say at once that the Commonwealth has no jurisdiction over intra-state freights. In dealing with interstate freights, of course, we come up against constitutional difficulties one of which is section 92 of the Constitution. As the honorable senator is aware, no general power lies with the Commonwealth to control prices as such. There is no head of power dealing specifically with that subject, and whilst under its extended defence powers the Commonwealth exercised a very broad control over prices during the war - and with most advantageous results to the people of Australia - it has now abandoned that field with the passage of time since the cessation of hostilities. That action was influenced largely by the decision of the people at the recent referendum. I should not like, at such short notice, to embark upon a full discourse on the limitation of Commonwealth powers, but if, upon further consideration of the matter, I believe that, any more useful information can be given to the honorable senator, I shall be pleased to provide him with it.
– As shipping freights on costal steamers have increased by about 300 per cent, to 400 per cent compared with costs before the war, and as that fact is having a disturbing effect on the economy of Australia, will the Minister for Shipping and Fuel indicate whether the Government proposes to inaugurate a Commonwealth line cf steamers with the object of preventing a further rise in shipping freights? If the Government cannot constitutionally do so, would it be prepared to inaugurate such a shipping line in co-operation with the States?
– The Australian Government proposes to establish a shipping line, and steps are at present in progress in that connexion. Although such a line of steamers cannot be established as speedily as the Government would de sire, I can assure the honorable senator that it will be established as soon as possible..
– Is the Minister for Shipping and Fuel aware that citizens of Esperance in Western Australia, which serves .a large hinterland including the goldfields area, are of the opinion that the number of ships chartered to call at the port is insufficient to meet their requirements? “Will the Minister have the situation investigated with the object of . arranging for ships to visit the port at intervals of two months instead of three months as at .present?
– -Representations Lave been made on this subject on various occasions and inquiries have been made. The frequency with which ships call at Esperance is governed by the small quantities of cargo sent direct to the port. I understand that most of the cargo for that area, is directed through Perth. I. am prepared to have the matter examined again, and I shall inform the honorable senator of the result of the inquiries as soon as possible.
– I ask theMinister for Shipping and Fuel whether, as reported in a Melbourne newspaper this- morning, the Communist-controlled Seamen’s Union has threatened 1o tie up the port of Melbourne ? If so, what is the Government doing to prevent such action? Is it a fact, as- reported in yesterday’s Melbourne Age, that the masters of four government-owned ships in Melbourne were instructed not to log seamen who were unlawfully absent from duty on Tuesday and “Wednesday? If so, who issued those instructions and for what reason were they issued ? “Will the Minister table the last annual report of the Director of Navigation?
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is not sincere when he asks me whether I a.m prepared to verify press reports of the kind to which he has referred. That is a responsibility which I shall not accept. I understand that there has been a limited stoppage in the port of Melbourne and that the Government of Victoria has threatened to take certain action in respect of that matter. However, I have not seen any report of such action having been taken. Of course, when a Labour government was in office in Victoria, the press was very loud in its protestations at the inactivity of the Victorian Government, but since the anti-Labour parties have taken office in that State the press does not now blame the State Government for the industrial disputes which occur. With reference to the “logging” of seamen, I accept full responsibility for seamen in governmentowned or controlled ships not having been logged. For many years, i( has been the practice to discipline individual seamen for negligence, drunkenness, disorderly conduct and like misdemeanours by making an entry in the log of the particular vessel concerned, from which an endorsement is ultimately made on seamen’s discharge papers. However, the present stoppage occurred, not as the result of misconduct on the part of some individuals, but following certain action by the Seamen’s Union, and I am not prepared to allow every seaman involved in the strike to be “ logged “. Honorable senators will be interested to know that, as the result of action taken by the Government, ships owned by the Government are moving to-day, whilst privately owned vessels are still tied up. Concerning the reference by the Deputy Leader of tho Opposition to the report of the Director of Navigation, I point out that reports by government officials, and other reports to the Parliament, are laid on the table of the Senate in their appropriate order. The report referred to by the honorable senator will be laid on the table at the appropriate time.
– Has the Minister for Shipping and Fuel read the article published in “ Column S “ of the Sydney Morning Herald on the 30th October, stating -
Because it is the end of the month and no petrol tickets till Monday, private motorists had a lean week-end.
A lot of taxis could not take the road.
But some sparkling Commonwealth cars were able to take ladies to the fashionable beaches to escape the heat.
– Order ! It is not in order for an honorable senator to quote extensively from a newspaper report when asking a question.
– As the article appeared in the city edition of the newspaper, it must have been written prior to the 30th - the date on which Commonwealth cars were alleged to have visited the seaside - and it would appear, therefore, that the article was a deliberate falsification, expressly to mislead the public with a view to damaging the reputation of members of the Government.
– Order ! The honorable senator may not express opinions when asking a question. I direct him now to ask his question.
– Will the Minister refer the article to the AttorneyGeneral’s Department with a view to ascertaining whether legal action can be taken to protect members of the Government against such deliberate misrepresentation ?
– I have not seen the article to which the honorable senator has referred, although I have heard it mentioned by several honorable senators. I shall refer the matter to the AttorneyGeneral’s Department and inform the honorable senator upon it as soon as possible.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration aware that owing to the dockworkers’ strike in the United States of America, trans-Atlantic liners are held up in British ports, and that for this reason the sailing of Queen Elizabeth from Southampton has been postponed indefinitely? Will the Minister consider the possibility of chartering Queen Elizabeth, or other suitable vessels so affected, for the purpose of bringing British migrants to Australia and thus give speedy help to many who desire to come to this country?
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s request to the notice of the Minister for Immigration, who, I am sure, will be very much interested in the suggestion.
– Can the Postmaster-General indicate when a commencement will be made with the construction of modern post offices in metropolitan suburbs where the department has already acquired sites for such purposes? Is the Postmaster-General aware that in some suburbs the population has increased to such a degree that because of accommodation difficulties unofficial post offices are unable to cope with the increased business?
– Offhand, I am not able to supply the information sought by the honorable senator but I shall make it available to him as soon as possible.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Fuel whether a stoppage of work has occurred on the Townsville waterfront, due to the dismissal of five gangs of waterside workers who were engaged in loading ships? Is it a fact that, although some months ago the shipping company involved consented at the request of the waterside workers to add two nien to each gang, no improvement in the rate of loading has taken place in spite of the undertaking given by the waterside workers to that effect? Is the Minister in a position to make a statement regarding the dispute? What action is being taken to settle it as early as possible?
– I have noticed press references to the matter to which the honorable senator has referred, but I am not familiar with the details. I shall ascertain them and supply an answer to the honorable senator as soon as possible.
REPORT of Public Works Committee.
– As chairman, I present the report of the Public Works Committee on the following subject: -
Proposed establishment of a new airport for Hobart at Llanherne, Tasmania.
Ordered to be printed.
– Order ! For the information of honorable senators generally, I point out that papers should not be presented until questions upon notice have been answered. Question time should not be encroached upon in this way.
– Has the Minister for Shipping and Fuel seen the recent announcement that Mr. Tom Horrabin Liberal party whip in the House of Commons, has joined the British Labour party because he believes that it is the only party which is determined to preserve an<l add to the essential freedoms. Did the Minister also see in the same press that the Australian Liberal party was prepared to use the name of the people in order to thwart the will of the people?
– I have not seen the announcement mentioned, but I shall certainly take the first opportunity to acquaint myself with the facts.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction supply the following information: - (1) The latest statistics of Australian production of enamelled copper wire 2S s.w.g. to 44 s.w.g., or Brown and Sharps equivalents, 27 gauge to 40 gauge; (2) the latest statistics of imports of enamelled copper wire 2S s.w.g. to 44 s.w.g., or Brown and Sharp equivalents; (3) the allocation of copper for the manufacture of copper wire, bright tinned and enamelled, in Australia; (4) a reliable estimate of Australian requirements of 2S s.w.g. to 44 s.w.g. enamelled copper wire for 1949?
– The honorable senator will realize that I cannot, at the moment, supply the information which he seeks. However, because of the close watch kept on production activities by the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. I am confident that my colleague will be able to supply the information required. However, it may be necessary for the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction to refer to the Minister for Trade and Customs for information concerning the allocation of coper wire.
– In view of the incidence of infantile paralysis in Western Australia, which is assuming alarming proportions, and the suggestion that satisfactory efforts are not being made to overcome the disease, can the Minister for Health inform the Senate whether the Government has taken any action to assist the Western Australian Government in the matter ?
– So far as I personally am aware, no request for assistance has been received from the Government of Western Australia. The Commonwealth has taken a very appreciable interest in the incidence of poliomyelitis, and the matter of its prevalence in Australia is being watched closely by the Department of Health. That department has sponsored the undertaking of research into its causes. I shall make inquiries regarding the incidence of the disease in Western Australia. When a question on this matter was asked in the chamber a few weeks ago, I gave a considered reply, the exact terms of which arc not, at the moment, in my possession. However, I shall review the reply that I. gave on that occasion, and if I have any information to add to it, I shall furnish that information to the honorable senator in the near future.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs inform the Senate whether the action taken by the Minister for External Affairs in communicating direct with the Western Powers and Russia, with the object of achieving a settlement of the Berlin dispute, was taken with the approval of the Australian Government? Does the Minister consider that Dr. Evatt’s action in approaching those powers direct, without reference to the Security Council, may result in embarrassment of the Western Powers, inasmuch as that action may be interpreted by Russia as a weakening of the attitude of the Western Powers in the matter?
– Whether or not the action of the Minister for External Affairs had the approval of this Government, I point out that, as President of the United Nations General Assembly, Dr. Evatt is acting in a capacity not immediately connected with the Australian Government. Wide as are his responsibilities to the Australian people, in that high office he has a duty to all of the peoples of the world. That duty may, at times, transcend even his obligations to Australia. I repeat what the Prime Minister said recently, namely, that the action taken by Dr. Evatt in the international sphere has the full support of the Australian Government. Whether that action may result in embarrassment to the Western Powers or not is, of course, a matter for the Western Powers themselves. I am afraid that I am not in a position to speak on their behalf.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice -
What amount of money has been advanced to the State of Tasmania under the Commonwealth and State housing agreement?
– The Minister for Works and Housing has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question: -
The amount advanced to Tasmania since the inception of the scheme up to and including the 14th July, 1948, is £1,385,000.
Crash of Aircraft “ Kurana
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
Essendon control for permission to descend from 11,000 feet to 7,000 feet because his plane was “ icing very badly “, and yet the air hostess, Miss Fry, said that two minutes before the crash she could see the ranges in front of her which would have meant that the aircraft had climbed to 11,000 feet and descended to 3,000 feet in eighteen minutes?
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
There is no evidence of engine failure in this instance, and it would appear that the captain was suddenly faced by the tree-covered hill. However, the inquiry is not yet completed in detail.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answers: -
Bill returned from the House of Representatives without amendment.
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 Commonwealth proposes to reimburse to the States the costs they will incur in the administration of prices, rents and land sales controls during 1948-49. This measure of financial assistance is considered by the Government to be most desirable in order that the effective administration of those controls, which form an important part of measures designed to preserve general economic stability and to keep inflation in check, will not be hampered because of financial considerations. The proposal that the Commonwealth should provide a special grant in order that the States may meet “ additional administrative “ costs incurred as a consequence of the transfer of administration of the controls, arose out of discussions at the recent, conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers. Under that proposal, South Australia and Western Australia would not have been entitled to reimbursement of rent control costs as those two States have been exercising rent control for some years, and would not have to meet any additional expenditure. It is considered, however, that the proposed grant should be extended to those two States to reimburse them for their expenditure on rent controls.
A tentative figure of £750,000 was included in the Estimates for 1948-49 as the probable cost of the grant, but, according to estimates of expenditure subsequently submitted by the States, the expenditure on those controls up to the 30th June, 1949, will total £807,000. It is estimated that expenditure on the controls will be £601,000 for prices, £109,000 for rents, and £97,000 for land sales. It is proposed to limit the grant to the reimbursement of administrative costs, any capital expenditure that the States may incur being a matter for themselves. The payment of the grant by way of advances is proposed so that the States will be relieved of the necessity to finance expenditure pending reimbursement from the Commonwealth. At the end of the financial year, each State will furnish a statement of its administrative costs, certified by the State Auditor-General, and an adjustment will be effected on the advances made during the year. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’sullivan) adjourned.
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.
This bill provides for the payment during the current financial year of special grants aggregating £6,750,000 to the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania in accordance with the recommendations in the fifteenth report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. In arriving at its recommendations the commission has followed the same general principles and methods as it has observed in recent years. Full details of these principles and methods are given in the commission’s fifteenth report which I tabled in the Senate last month.
The commission follows the general principle that special grants should be such as to enable the States concerned to function efficiently as members of the federation. In applying this principle of financial needs to the calculation of the grants the commission adopts certain standards which are derived from the financial position and practices of the non-claimant States in the year of review. Because the audited results of the States’ budgets on which the commission bases its assessments are not available for some time after the close of the financial year, the year 1946-47 is the year of review for purposes of assessing the grants to be paid in 1948-49. When assessing the grants the commission has, as in the last seven years, ‘adopted a balanced budget standard in arriving at the initial approximation to the assessed grants. This first approximation is then adjusted for differences in the levels of certain revenues and expenditures of the claimant States as compared with the other States. As has been done in recent years, these adjustments have been confined to expenditures on . social services and to revenues from State taxation. The grants calculated in this way represent the grants assessed in respect of the year of review, namely, 1946-47. By the time the assessed grants are receivable, however, they may, especially in a period of rapid change, be greater than the current indispensable needs of the ‘States. The commission, therefore, makes an estimate of the improvement or deterioration likely to occur in the budgets of the claimant States in the year of payment as compared with the year of review. On the basis of this estimate and by the -use of its broad judgment the commission then decides whether it- is necessary to recommend either that payment of portion of the assessed grants be deferred or that an advance payment be added to the assessed grants in order to meet the current indispensable needs of the States.
In its fifteenth report, the commission has examined trends in the finances of the claimant States since the year of review, 1946-47, and has reached the conclusion that having regard to the retrogression expected in the finances of each of the claimant States, the assessed grants would be insufficient in each case to meet the current indispensable needs of these States. Accordingly, the commission has recommended that amounts additional to the assessed grants’ be paid to the States this year. These additional amounts are regarded by the commission as advances on the grants to be assessed in due course in respect of 194S-49. It is indicated in the commission’s report that the retrogression in the finances of each of the claimant States is due mainly to increased railway losses. In this connexion the commission points out that railway losses must continue to bc a particularly serious drain on the finances of these States for many years to come unless revenue can be substantially increased by raising freights and fares. In arriving at the amount of the advances recommended for payment this year, the commission has borne in mind the need to compare the charges made by business undertakings in the claimant States with the charges in the other States. The special grants recommended ‘ for payment in 1948-49 amount to £6,750,000 or £708,000 more than last year. Of this amount, South Australia will receive £2,250,000, Western Australia £3,600,000, and Tasmania £900,000. The Government has carefully considered the fifteenth report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission and has decided that, as in past years, the commission’s recommendations should be id op ted.
I point out that, in addition to the special grants proposed in this bill, the States concerned will also benefit substantially by reason of the increased tax reimbursement grants which are payable this year as a result of legislation passed recently by the Parliament. It is estimated that the share of these three States in the increase in the tax reimbursement grants this financial year will amount to about £1,710,000. If the special grants proposed in this bill are approved by the Parliament, the total increase in the current financial year, on account of both the special grants and the tax reimbursement grants to these three States, will amount to about £2.418,000, of which South Australia will receive £665,000, Western Australia £1,305,000, and Tasmania £44S,000.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’sullivan) adjourned.
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.
This bill proposes to increase the scale of compensation payable to Commonwealth employees who are injured during the course of their employment, and to increase correspondingly the provision for dependants of such employees. Important amendments are also proposed to the principles which now determine entitlement to compensation under the act, .and the basis upon which such compensation is paid. Furthermore, the act will be extended to cover members of the peacetime defence forces and Commonwealth employees outside Australia. Four and a half years ago this Parliament amended the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act to provide for increased compensation to employees injured at work. At that time the act was believed to afford more comprehensive and more generous protection than was afforded by any similar legislation in Australia. However, in the meantime, five of the States have amended their legislation and now grant compensation benefits substantially higher than those available under the Commonwealth act. In Western Australia, where no change had been made in legislation since 1944, the Parliament of that State recently agreed to increase benefits generally along the lines of those adopted .in Victoria and Tasmania. The Government, therefore, considers that compensation available to Commonwealth employees should be reviewed, and that, certain anomalies that have arisen under the present act should be remedied.
I shall state the monetary increases proposed to be made. Whereas the amounts at present payable at death range up to but may not exceed £S00, a fixed amount of £1,000 is proposed to be paid to dependants. The additional provision for each dependent child is to be increased from £25 to £50. The existing provision for incapacity of £3 a week, or two-thirds of weekly wages, whichever is the less, i& to be increased to a fixed sum of £4 a week. In respect of . minors the increase is to be from £1 a week to £3 a week. The provision for a wife or female dependant will be increased from £1 a week to £1 5s. a week, and that for each dependent child under sixteen years of age will be increased from 8s. 6d. a week to 10s. a week. The present maximum of £800 for certain specified injuries will be raised to £1,250, with proportionate increases of other amounts shown in the Third Schedule to the act. Th, maximum amount to which weekly payments of compensation may accrue will be increased from £1,C00 to £1,250, but no maximum will be imposed in cases of total and permanent incapacity.
Compensation is granted to employees of the Commonwealth for personal injury by accident if the accident arises out of or in the course of the employment. At present, both conditions must be fulfilled. It is now proposed, however, that, as is the position in the majority of the States, compensation will be paid when either condition has been met.
Further, it is proposed to repeal the Second Schedule to the present act, which specifies the diseases in respect of which compensation will be granted, and limits compensation to particular processes which cause disease. Following the example of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, compensation will, under
Hi is proposal, be granted on account of incapacity for work caused by any disease, provided that it is due to the nature of the employment. Hitherto, when a lump sum has been paid to an employee in redemption of a compensation liability, the total of any previous weekly compensation payments have been deducted from that lump sum. In four States, the necessity for making those deductions has been either partly or totally eliminated. In future, such deductions will not be made from lump sum payments under the Commonwealth act. Pending any litigation under common law against the Commonwealth or a third party, payment of weekly compensation will be permitted. If damages are awarded as the result of litigation they will be subject to deduction of the compensation payments. An employee will be allowed twelve months within which to institute proceedings to recover damages from the Commonwealth.
In regard to compensation for injury sustained while travelling to or from work, it is proposed to liberalize the provisions of the present act in the light of recent criticism expressed in the Workers’ Compensation Commission of New South Wales of similar provisions in the legislation of that State, which form the basis of the present Commonwealth legislation. The present limitation in the act to a journey while travelling to or from the place of abode of the employee will be removed. An interruption or deviation from a direct journey which does not involve added risk will not deprive the employee of rights under the act. Compensation will be granted where an injured employee is again injured while travelling to obtain a medical certificate, or to receive medical, surgical or hospital treatment or compensation. A provision in the Commonwealth act which does not appear in other similar legislation, and is intended especially to protect the interests of large families, is that the maximum weekly payment made to a totally incapacitated employee may be limited only by the amount of his wages at the date of the injury. It is proposed lo extend that benefit to cases of partial incapacity, in which, at present, the amount of weekly compensation is the difference between the amount which the injured employee is earning, or able to earn, and the amount of his weekly pay at the date of the injury. It is now proposed not only to vary the amount of weekly pay on which compensation is based in accordance with the provisions of any relative award or cost-of-living increase, but also to ensure that a partly incapacitated employee with a large family shall receive in pay and compensation not less than the total weekly payment for total incapacity.
It is recognized as an injustice that under the present act the Commonwealth contribution to the pension under the Superannuation Act received by an employee who has retired on account of injury is set off against any weekly compensation payable to him. Thus the benefits of superannuation pensions and of any increase in them, such as that granted last year, are nullified. To remedy this it is proposed that any employee retired through injury shall receive his full pension, and that his compensation right will be commuted by the payment of an amount not exceeding £1,000.
As already mentioned, it is proposed to extend the provisions of the act to employees of the Commonwealth outside Australia and to members of the peace-time defence forces. Such members, if injured in future, will receive the benefits of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act and, if retired on account of the injury, the full benefit of the recently enacted Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act. The present provisions of .the Australian Soldiers’ .Repatriation Act, Defence Act, the Naval Defence Act and any Service regulation in relation to pension, compensation or other benefits for these peace-time members in respect of incapacity or death will be terminated. The benefits at present paid to injured members of the peace-time forces will be reviewed and adjusted as an act of grace on the basis of the new provisions in this bill. All injured employees who at the time this legislation comes into force are receiving weekly compensation payments under the 1912, 1930 and 1944 acts will, it is proposed, receive the increased weekly payments provided in this bill. A number of minor amendments, the purport of which will be explained in the committee stages, are also proposed. Finally, if the amendments to the present act proposed in the bill are enacted they will have the effect of modernizing our compensation legislation, and will incorporate in that legislation ample safeguards for those who serve the Commonwealth in their daily work. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’SULLIVAN adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Ashley) read a first time.
– I move - 1’liat the bill be now read a second time.
The Audit Act provides the -legal machinery to implement the financial provisions of the Constitution in relation to the receipts and expenditure of the Commonwealth. It ensures, not only that the receipts and expenditure shall be brought to account under a uniform practice, but also that proper audit procedure will operate to secure accuracy in accounting.
The Audit Act No. 4 of 1901 was one of the earliest pieces of legislation passed by the Commonwealth Parliament. It laid down a simple system of public accounts while at the same time safeguarding the public interests. In the intervening 47 years it has been amended on nine occasions but only in 1906 and 1920 were amendments of a major nature effected. ‘The four minor amendments since 1920 were of no consequence in the financial procedure and therefore it will be appreciated that the present bill is the first comprehensive attempt to review our audit and ‘accounting procedure for 28 yeaTS. The fact that the last substantial amendment of the act followed a world war and that the present bill ensues on the termination of another world conflict is not without significance. The 1914-18 War found us unprepared to- cope with complete efficiency with the rapid increase of the receipts but more particularly the expenditure of the Commonwealth. Hence the Royal Commission on Navy and Defence Administration made several recommendations which were implemented in the Audit Act 1920, in the direction of improving both audit and accounting procedure. To handle effectively the still greater expansion of the finances of the Commonwealth during the recent war, measures had to be adopted, which the exigencies of the abnormal period dictated. The Treasury Regulations were completely revised in 1942. Comprehensive Treasury Instructions in manual form, were issued to all departments in 1’94’3. By National Security Regulation and otherwise, methods were devised to meet difficult situations which arose from time to time. It is now proposed to incorporate these emergency measures in the Audit Act. Following a critical examination of the present provisions of the act by the Treasury, in close collaboration with the AuditorGeneral, other necessary improvements will be effected and some provisions, essential when the Commonwealth was in its infancy, are now being discarded as having long since served their purpose. Seventeen of the 41 clauses of the bill concern audit procedure. Their purpose is to add nine new sections to the act, to omit one section as being redundant and to amend eleven others. Twenty-three clauses of the bill relate to accounting procedure. They add four new sections to the act, omit two sections and the Fourth Schedule as unnecessary, and amend sixteen other sections.
One of the more important clauses of the bill relating to audit procedure, provides for the enactment of National Security (Supplementary) Regulation 136, which was found necessary in 1945 to give, the Auditor-General access to accounts, books, documents or papers which relate to expenditure. In view of the difficulties which then arose, it is deemed imperative that the provisions of that regulation be continued by appropriate provision in the Audit Act.
It is proposed to include a specific provision in the act to make it clear beyond any reasonable doubt that the Auditor-General is responsible for the audit of all accounts of the revenue, expenditure and stores of the Commonwealth, subject, of course, to the exercise by him of his discretionary powers under the act to dispense with detailed, checks where the circumstances, in his opinion, warrant that course. For this purpose three sections will be added on the lines of the relative provisions in the United Kingdom and Canadian acts.
It was the intention of the 1920 act to give the Auditor-General full ‘ discretionary power as to the extent of his audit, where he is satisfied that an adequate system of internal check is in operation. Some doubt has arisen as to whether the legislative provision then made actually gives this discretion. This doubt is being resolved while at the same time not taking away from him any portion of his responsibility to the Parliament.
Although not required by law, it has been the practice of the Auditor-General for some years to include in his annual report references to audits, examinations and inspections carried out by him under other acts in relation to Commonwealth authorities. This practice will now be placed on a statutory basis.
To facilitate the accounting procedure during the war, particularly in relation to the marketing of primary production, it was necessary in 1940 to issue the National Security (Guarantee) Regulations to enable the Treasurer to guarantee to the Commonwealth Bank moneys lent for the purchase of goods or performance of work essential to the defence of Australia. Although under the present peace-time footing the link between the defence of Australia and the purposes for which guarantees have been given is fast weakening, the necessity for guarantees still continues. The use of the Commonwealth Bank in trading activities in which the Commonwealth responsibility to the public is recognized by giving guarantees to that bank rather than by the expenditure of public moneys which would later be recovered provides a practical form of accounting. Its purpose principally is to assist the primary producer in obtaining finance in anticipaton of the sale of his product overseas. It is therefore proposed to give the Treasurer authority to issue guarantees to the Commonwealth Bank in respect of loans, for the purposes of the Commonwealth. The Treasurer will report all guarantees to Parliament and details will be furnished annually in the budget papers.
The act provides that the Treasurer shall issue a quarterly statement of receipts and expenditure of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, Loan Fund and the Trust Fund. Since 1930 it has been the practice of the Treasury to issue a monthly statement of the receipts and expenditure of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, and the expenditure of the Loan Fund. This statement issued on the tenth day of each month has supplanted in the public interest the quarterly statement, which takes five weeks to prepare.
It is now proposed to make the monthly statement statutory, and to supplement it with one additional statement in more detail for each half-year ending the 31st December.
The present provisions of the Audit Act in regard to a trust account, when it has been established, limit the Treasurer’s authority to two actions, namely, to close the account on the completion of its purpose, and to pay any balance to revenue. Trust accounts are established to facilitate accounting procedure, and many are in the nature of working or trading accounts. They are financed from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or the Loan Fund, and they accumulate additional funds from their trading activities. Provision is now being made to permit any balance on the closing of a trust account or any unrequired balance in a trust account to be credited to revenue or loan in accordance with the nature of the appropriation which originally provided moneys in the trust account. This provision does not give the Treasurer any authority to dispose of moneys which have been received from any person for credit to a trust fund.
It has always been regarded as being within the inherent prerogative or discretion of the Treasurer to write off amounts due to revenue but not recoverable and also the value of stores which are deficient. It has been his practice for many years to delegate these powers to Ministers and, within limits, to senior officers of departments. These powers will now be placed on a statutory basis. In five sections of the act, authority is vested in the Governor-General in Colin.Cil to make decisions regarding matters of accounting procedure. Whilst these powers may have been of some import in the early days of the Commonwealth, it is more appropriate and convenient nowadays that they should be placed in the hands of the Treasurer. A suitable amendment will be made in each case. Many of the proposed amendments to the act are of a machinery nature, and therefore their purport is more appropriate for explanation in the committee stages of the bill. The bill will bring up to date and improve an accounting procedure which, subject to the Executive, gives the Treasury effective control of the finances of the Commonwealth and at the same time strengthens the Auditor-General in his independent position to ensure the correct accounting of those finances. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Sullivan) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 17th November (vide page 3062), on motion by Senator Courtice -
That the bill be now read a second time.
. - in reply - There is no necessity for me to speak at great length in continuing my reply to the speeches that have been made in this debate. The bill appears to have the approval of all honorable senators, and I have already expressed my appreciation of their generous support of the measure. The stabilization plan has been fully explained in my introductory speech and in the speeches of other honorable senators who have taken part in the debate. Therefore, I shall not discuss its details. The bill will implement a plan that will provide a profitable price for wheat grown in Australia to the end of : the 1952-53 season. The Government will guarantee a price of 6s. 3d. a bushel f.o.r. ports on a bulk basis for all wheat delivered by growers. That figure may be varied according to an index of production costs for each season, beginning with 194S-49. A committee will be established to investigate costs of production, and it will report to the Government. Any variation of costs disclosed by the committee may be applied to the guaranteed price so as to cause a slight increase or decrease. During the debate, Senator Critchley discussed the disparity between the price provided for bulk wheat and the price of bagged wheat. The difference is determined, of course, by the cost of wheat sacks, which represents approximately Sd. a bushel.
– That is true, but the price of wheat sacks varies from year to year.
– The measure will guarantee security to the wheatgrowers of Australia and will he of great benefit to the general economy of the nation.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’sullivan) mentioned only one provision with which he was not in full accord. He contended that the period of operation of five years was not sufficient. It should be conceded, in the light of all circumstances, that the term is reasonable. Moreover, the honorable senator may rest assured that the plan will be reviewed in due course. The policy of this Government is to apply the principle of organized marketing of primary products to the fullest degree. As circumstances change, I am sure that the Government will take whatever action is necessary to provide for the continuance of stable conditions in the wheat industry. The Labour party has always believed in orderly marketing.- The wheat-growers have expressed their definite approval of this bill. It will be necessary for State governments to pass complementary legislation in order to give effect to the plan, and I am sure that all honorable senators are just as pleased as I am to know that they have expressed their intention to do so. This agreement with the States is very important because for many years we have had great difficulty in securing the co-operation of the States in any plans for the stabilization of primary industries. Many unsuccessful attempts have been made to reach agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, and that is why this’ plan represents a great achievement.
Much credit is due to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard). He is to be congratulated upon having at last succeeded in providing for stable conditions in a great industry. In paying this tribute to the Minister, I do not overlook the efforts of his predecessor in that office, the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully), who did a great service-
– To New Zealand.
– He worked very hard to establish better conditions in the wheat industry. The Deputy
Leader of the Opposition refers to the New Zealand wheat agreement. That does not come under the terms of the bill, and I have no desire to discuss it at any length. However, I remind the honorable senator that our sister Dominion proved a very great friend during the war. If we did err on the side of generosity in our dealings with New Zealand, there will be plenty of opportunities to compensate for any disadvantage that we may have suffered. The price agreed upon in the agreement with New Zealand was not so high as the price that could have been obtained from other countries, but it was equal to the price at which the Government was supplying wheat to Australian consumers. We are very closely associated with New Zealand, and after all, I do not think that the arrangement will prove to be such a grievous mistake as some honorable senators believe.
– It was a great investment in goodwill.
– Yes. The price was fairly satisfactory. I admit that it had no relation to the price that could have been obtained from other countries, but we were dealing with people who are closely associated with us and I believe that the agreement represented a good investment from the point of view of goodwill. I have great hopes that our trade relations with New Zealand will develop to such a degree that the deal will eventually pay dividends.
I am pleased to be associated with the introduction of this measure. It is a great privilege. I have recollections of many years of strenuous efforts by men associated with the wheat industry, who considered that a solution of its economic problems could be provided by a stabilization scheme of the kind for which the bill provides. The Government has been very active in assisting Australian primary industries. I remember the days when it was considered that governments should not interfere with industries but should leave their problems to private enterprise. However, this Government has constantly negotiated with other nations for the sale of Australia’s primary products. As a result, it has made a number of long-term agreements which will ensure security for the primary producers for many years. These agreements will be of great benefit to the national economy. They will ‘assist the business community and will place the industries directly concerned upon something like a proper business basis.
Having been associated with primary industry for many years, I have considerable knowledge of the efforts that have been made at various times to persuade the States to agree to a settled line of action in the interests of primary producers. Previously we were not able to make satisfactory progress in that direction, because, invariably, some State or some section of industry refused to fall into line. Therefore, we were unable to establish true security for primary producers. This plan represents a noteworthy achievement, and I am particularly pleased to be a member of a Government whose action has secured the full accord of the Opposition. I believe very earnestly that, if we are to provide permanent stability and induce primary producers to remain in the country, instead of allowing them to gravitate to the cities, we must effect great improvements of their economic conditions. Therefore, I am happy to know that we are now able to assure the wheat-growers of a reasonable degree of prosperity for the next five years. As other honorable senators have pointed out. primary industries have to contend with many difficulties. We hear much to-day of the necessity for greater production, but I remind the Senate nhat, no matter how efficient a government may be, it cannot control climatic conditions. Should we experience adverse seasons, the economic condition of many of our primary industries might deteriorate seriously. The present-day high world prices for primary products are reflected in a sound Australian economy. Whatever government is in office, economic stability depends upon successful industries and I have no doubt that the organization of the wheat industry on th». lines laid down in this measure will benefit immeasurably, not only those engaged in that industry, but also the economy of Australia. I am pleased indeed to be associated with the measure, and I appre ciate the support that has been given to it by all honorable senators.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 (Guaranteed price).
– Although I have supported the general principle of the bill, there is no need for the Government to preen itself because of its generosity. I understand that for ten years after World War I., the lowest price paid for wheat was approximately 6s. Id. a bushel. It is with that figure in mind that I consider the guaranteed price of 6s. 3d. a bushel provided for in this measure. Certainly, after the deduction of 2s. 2d. a bushel, whatever surplus there may be over the guaranteed price will be enjoyed by the wheatfarmers: but 6s. 3d. a bushel is not very generous in the light of the world parity price, and in view of the probability of a continued shortage for some years. I have no doubt that the prices of our primary products will eventually fall, but I do not think that the Government is taking any great risk by guaranteeing 6s. 3d. a bushel for the limited period of five years. I suggest that consideration be given to increasing the return to the farmer by reducing production costs, altering the basis of assessment, or giving a higher guarantee. I am not a betting man, ‘but, if I were, I should be prepared to wager that the Government will not be called upon to subsidize its guarantee of 6s. 3d. a bushel in the next five years at least.
– It is unfortunate thai, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’sullivan) has placed some qualification upon his support of this measure. As I said last night, to those members of the community who regard the profit motive as of prime importance, a guarantee of 6s. 3d. a bushel may appear to be rather insignificant. I consider, however, that the Government could not do other than accept the finding of the special committee that it set up to ascertain production costs. That committee made an exhaustive inquiry, and acquired a valuable fund of knowledge.’ I cannot agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the world shortage of wheat will last for many years. I am sure that within the next two years it will become far less pronounced than, it is to-day. I remind the Senate of what I said in my second-reading speech about wheat production trends in other parts of the world. I pointed out that, although we did not have very much information about what was taking place in Russia, the announcement had been made that even at this stage of internal disruption in that country, it had agreed to export to two neighbouring countries approximately 100,000,000 bushels of this season’s wheat. The significance of that cannot be overlooked by the Government. I remind the Senate also that an overwhelming majority of the wheat-farmers in the principal wheat-producing States of the Commonwealth decided that the price of 6s. 3d. a bushel was acceptable to them. One could build quite a formidable argument against this measure on the basis of overseas prices to-day.
– What is the world parity price 1
– About 14s. 8d. a bushel. That, I remind the honorable senator, is less than it was when this bill was drafted and substantially less than it was when the wheatfarmers voted in favour of the proposal. I understand that, in three months, world parity’ has dropped by 3s. 9d. a bushel. That indicates how quickly conditions can alter, and how uncertain is the price of wheat.
– The price to be guaranteed under the proposed International Wheat Agreement was only 12s. 3d. a bushel.
– Yes. I believe that there was a disparity of about 2s. a bushel between that price and the price ruling on the world’s markets. Seasonal conditions play a vital part in the wheat industry. Even in the present season, wheat crops in some parts of the Commonwealth are total failures. Despite the present clamour for food by the people of many countries of the world to-day, I believe that the Government has been well advised to keep the guarantee at a reasonable level.
– In stating that the Government’s guarantee of 6s. 3d. a bushel is insufficient, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’sullivan) has merely expressed an opinion. I remind him that, should a higher price rule, the wheatgrowers will obtain the benefit.
– I appreciate that.
-Ample security is provided.
– How was the guarantee determined?
– It ‘ is based upon the recommendation of a special committee which was appointed by the Government to investigate the cost of producing wheat. The committee in-, eluded at least two representatives of the growers and an accountant. Its recommendation to the Government of 6s. 3d. a bushel is reasonable and has been approved by the industry.
– That is the cost of production.
– Yes. The committee will check .production costs frequently, and any increase will result in an increase of the guarantee.
– The price includes a certain payment to the farmer for his labour?
– Yes. We do not know what the overseas price will be for this season’s wheat, but last year we received 17s. a bushel from Great Britain and ls. 8d. or 2s. a bushel more from India. Whatever the price may be this season, the growers will obtain the benefit of it. I believe that the proposal is reasonably fair.
– Was an allowance made for interest on capital ?
– Yes. I believe that the basis of. the calculation is liberal, and that the scheme will operate in the best interests of the country. The majority of wheat-growers have expressed satisfaction with it. No real protest against the measure has been received. At the end of the five-year period, the plan will be reviewed and it may well be that the economic .position of the industry will he found to be more buoyant than it is to-day. Great changes can take place in five years, particularly in production methods.
– Even governments may change in that time.
– Yes, but that is not likely in this sphere at least. As the scheme has been approved by the wheatgrowers, and by the State governments concerned, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition may rest assured that the guaranteed price, and the conditions of acquisition, are fair and reasonable.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 (Membership of board).
– This clause provides that the board shall consist of -
I should like to know on what basis grower representation on the board is determined. Is it determined on the acreage sown, the number of growers, or the production in each State? I have in mind particularly Tasmania’sposition. The entire crop in that State, although not very great, is used in the manufacture of biscuit flour, all of which is exported. I notice that Tasmania will not have a representative on the board.
– I understand that grower representation on the board is determined on a State basis having regard to the number of growers in each State. The growers’ representatives will be elected by the growers themselves.
– Until the inauguration of the Scully wheat plan, growers’ representatives were in a minority on all boards dealing with the wheat industry. Furthermore, the employees in the flour milling industry were not represented on any of those boards. That omission was rectified by the Government in 1946-47. The board will be concerned mainly with the control and disposal of wheat for export, and that fact is reflected in the representation of the States. For instance, New South Wales and Victoria, which are large exporting States, will have two representatives each, whilst Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia will each have one representative. I also point out that in the exporting States considerable quantities of wheat are gristed for flour, much of which, together with wheaten products, are also exported. I am pleased that the provision for representation of employees in the flourmilling industry has been retained. I understand that those employees have already made tentative plans for the selection of their representative on the board. That is a wise principle, and is a distinct improvement upon the composition of boards which operated before this Government assumed office. In future, the board will be representative of all sections of the wheat industry.
– I am sure that all honorable senators will agree with Senator O’Flaherty that the proposed composition of the board is in accordance with democratic principles. For the first time the board will be representative of all sections of the wheat industry.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 (Meetings of the board).
– I should like to know whether the board will establish its headquarters in any particular centre, or whether it will have complete discretion to hold its meetings wherever it chooses to do so.
Senator COURTICE (Queensland- - The clause provides that “meetings of the board shall be held from at such times and places as the board from time to time determines “. The board will have, complete discretion to meet in any centre it selects for that purpose.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 (Licensed receivers).
– This clause reads - (1.) Subject to this section the Board may license, subject to such conditions as are specified in the licence, any person, firm, company or State authority to receive wheat on behalf of the Board, and may cancel or suspend any such licence. (2.) A State Board or other State authority authorized under any State Act to act as a receiver of wheat shall be entitled to a licence.
Will the board be empowered to control what is known as stored wheat? Under this clause it is empowered to license receivers which, I take it, would include existing merchants or buyers of wheat. I recall that about fifteen years ago one of the oldest wheat-buying firms in South Australia went bankrupt at a time when it held in store considerable quantities of wheat which was the property of various growers. The Bank of Adelaide foreclosed on the company with the result that those growers lost all of that wheat. At the time the marketing of wheat was conducted under a State scheme. If the board licenses a firm as a receiver of wheat and the firm happens to become insolvent would the growers’ right of ownership of any wheat being held by the firm on their behalf he protected? Will the Minister ensure- that in such circumstances the growers’ rights shall be protected?
– I should imagine that a board consisting of growers’ representatives, business men and accountants would provide adequate safeguards to protect the interests of growers in the circumstances mentioned by the honorable senator. The board will certainly have ample power to do so, and it would be remiss if it failed to make such provision.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 12 to 15 agreed to.
Clause 16 (Transfer of functions from board under National Security Regulations).
– Paragraph d of the clause reads -
I should like to know whether any substantial claim is outstanding either by or against the board?
– I do not know of any claim outstanding either by or against the board.
– This is a general provision?
Clause agreed to.
Clause 17 and 18 agreed to.
Clause 19 (Unauthorized dealings with wheat) .
– Whilst I appreciate the necessity to give the board complete control, this clause could prove to be very drastic should its provisions be administered unsympathetically. The clause could cause considerable embarrassment. I take it that under it all wheat must go to the board. However, should a grower have the misfortune to lose his stock and feed wheat say, for instance, by fire, would his neighbour be prohibited from supplying wheat to him for immediate use for seed and stock? Having regard to the clause, it would appear that a grower upon receiving such a request from his neighbour would be obliged to say, no doubt reluctantly, “I am sorry, but you will have to go to the board for any wheat you require “. Can provision be made to enable a grower to make available wheat to his neighbour to help him meet a sudden emergency arising through circumstances beyond his control?
Senator COURTICE (Queensland - - The object of this provision is to prohibit unauthorized dealings with wheat. As the majority of members of the board will be growers’ representatives I can hardly visualize it doing anything that would place hardship upon growers. To protect the interests of wheat-growers it is necessary to confer on the proposed board absolute authority over the marketing of all wheat, and I am satisfied that the members of that board, who will be experts of considerable standing in the industry, can be trusted not to abuse their powers.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 20 (Price to be paid foi wheat).
– Sub-section 3 reads -
The principle upon which the amount payable in respect of wheat of any season shall be determined shall be a pooling of the net proceeds of the disposal by the Board of all wheat of that season delivered to the Board, and of any amount deemed to be added to those proceeds under this Act, and a division of the pool among the persons entitled on the basis of the number of bushels of wheat delivered by each such person with proper allowance for differences in the quality .of particular wheat and for transport charges for the carriage of particular wheat to the terminal port from the place at which the wheat was delivered to the Board, charges for corn sacks, and any other necessary adjustments in particular cases.
It is highly important to improve the standard of Australian wheat, and .whilst I think the provisions of the other subclauses of the clause are commendable, because they are designed to encourage growers to produce the best wheat possible, I should like to know what test is to be applied under sub-clause 3 in determining the quality of wheat. Subclause 6 states -
For the purposes of this section, the Board shall not be bound to preserve the identity of wheat of any season, . . .
Whilst I appreciate that ultimately all wheat must go into the pool I should like to know what steps will be taken to preserve the identity of farmers’ wheat before it goes into the pool.
– As I said previously I think we may safely rely on the members of the board, who will be men of considerable experience in the industry, to apply proper standards. Flour-mill interests would, of course, offer a premium for the bestquality wheat, and I do not think that we need have any anxiety that growers will not do their best to maintain and improve the quality of wheat grown.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 21 and 22 agreed to.
Clause 23 (Entry of premises, seizure of wheat, &c).
– Whilst I agree that the proposed board must be clothed with adequate powers to discharge the important functions entrusted to it, we all have a deep-rooted respect for our own and other people’s rights of property. The right of forcible entry into private premises without the authority of a court, as contemplated by sub-clause 1 of the clause, is a very dangerous thing. If it is necessary for the board to obtain entry to the property of a recalcitrant wheat-grower, after all persuasive methods have been exhausted, then the board should obtain an order in the usual form from a court of competent jurisdiction, whose bailiff could effect the forcible entry. I must protest against the proposal to confer extrajudicial powers on the proposed board.
– Paragraph b of sub-clause 1 of clause 23 authorizes certain persons mentioned to- take possession of and remove any wheat which is the property of the Board or the delivery of which has been lawfully demanded by the Board, or any corn sacks which are the property of the Board.
– I still prefer that the board should be required to obtain an order of the court.
– As a lawyer, the Deputy Leader of the. Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) should appreciate the need for the proposed board to be clothed with adequate powers to discharge its important functions. After all, it is to be responsible for marketing the entire wheat crop of the country.
– I have no objection to the board exercising substantial powers, but I am concerned- with the nature of the powers which it is proposed to confer on the board.
– I think that the point made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) is covered by the provision contained in paragraph b of sub-clause 4 of clause 17, which states that nothing in that section shall apply to- wheat retained by the grower for use on the farm where it is grown.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 24 to 28 agreed to.
Clause 29 (Finance).
. With the permission of the committee I propose to discuss clauses 29 and 31 together because they deal with cognate matters. If the even tenor of events continues as we all hope, no immediate serious deterioration will occur in the price of wheat. Our export target is estimated at 100,000,000 bushels, which is, I understand, the limit of our future export capacity. However, 140,000,000 bushels is being exported this year, and the price of 2s. 2d. a bushel, which it is estimated the board will receive, should result in an amount of from £15,000,000 to £20,000,000 being deposited in the trust account which k to he established. That being so, I urge that farmers who desire to discharge the mortgages on their propertiess-
– All mortgages on wheat farms have already been discharged.
– Then wheatfarmers in Queensland must be operating under some older order of event’s because, to my personal knowledge, a number of them still have substantial mortgages to discharge. Apparently they have not heard of the “ new order “. Apart from discharging mortgages, many of them require finance to purchase farm machinery, particularly tractors, now that the day of the pick and shovel in farming has gone. Only -i few days ago I read in an American farm journal that one man had himself ploughed a farm of 750 acres.
Twenty-five or 30 years ago a regiment of men would have been required to plough such an area. We must bear in mind that if we are to compete successfully in the world markets, the efficiency of our primary industries must be at least equal to that of our competitors. Mechanization is, therefore, an important factor. Of course, the purchase of machinery involves considerable expenditure, and instead of purchasing farm machinery on the open market in competition with each other it would be an excellent idea if the board were to lend money at cheap rates of interest to wheatfarmers for the purchase of agricultural equipment. After all, the money in the trust fund will belong to the farmers. Paragraph b of sub-clause 2 could be extended for. the purpose I have suggested without violating the spirit of the bill. Instead of the investment of the trust moneys being restricted to Common.wealth securities it could be extended to include investment in such securities as are approved under State laws. I would even go so far as to give the beard discretionary power to lend money to the wheat-farmers, imposing a limit on advances of, say, £5,000.
– Whilst I appreciate the point that has been raised by the honorable senator, I point out that it is necessary to safeguard the financial interests of all members of the board, should it become a lending institution. Difficulty or danger may be involved if the suggestion of the honorable senator were adopted. The principal interest of the board will be to safeguard the interests of those engaged in the industry. I have no doubt that the board will have a full appreciation of its responsibilities, and that the money will be safeguarded adequately. The money will be invested in a proper manner.
– I thank the Minister for his explanation, and, whilst I have no doubt about the security of the money, it would be mortifying for a farmer, who had a substantial amount of money returning at the maximum 3 J per cent., less the cost of administering the fund, to have to pay 5 per cent, or 5-$ per cent, interest on a loan obtained by the mortgage of his home or his tractor. I claim that it would be better for the farmer to be able to say to the board, “Here is my security. It is gilt-edged. I require a loan on it, for which I am prepared to pay 3 j- per cent, interest”.
– I agree with the principle that the farmer should be assisted to obtain loans as cheaply as possible. Since this Government assumed office, interest rates in Australia have been reduced considerably. The Government is -favorably disposed to the adoption of any method whereby a wheat-grower would be able to obtain whatever financial assistance he required as cheaply as possible. I remind the honorable senator that this money - the growers’ money - will be placed in a pool, for the purpose of stabilizing the price of wheat for a period of years.
– Yes, but that money belongs to the farmers; it is the proceeds from the sale of their wheat.
– I am convinced that the board will safeguard fully the interests of the wheat-growers.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 30 to 35 agreed to.
Clause 36 (Application of act).
– I shall repeat what I have said previously, that if this industry is to be established on a permanent basis, five years is altogether too short a period for the guarantee to operate. I should be much happier if the period were to be ten years.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) is very judicial in his approach to these matters. As I have said before, the Government strongly supports the principle of organized marketing, and the stabilization of primary industry. The position will be reviewed regularly. Doubtless, before the term of five years has expired, action will be taken to stabilize the wheat industry for all time. It has already been decided that the matter will be reviewed in three years’ time.
– Will further approval have to be sought from the farmers in three years’ time?
– If that should be necessary, I am sure that, having once experienced the benefits of stabilization, the farmers would readily signify their approval.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment: report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 11th November (vide page 2849), on motion by Senator Courtice -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 11th November (vide page 2850), on motion by Senator Courtice -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 (Payments to Australian Wheat Board out of Wheat Prices Stabilization Fund).
. -I should be pleased if the Minister would indicate the amounts of charges for administration that will be deducted from the farmers’ money that is to be distributed. I assume that, since the funds of the Australian Wheat Board will be liquidated, that board, which was established under the act of 1946, will be abolished. Can the Minister say what extraneous charges are to be deducted before the farmers will receive their contributions back? It is to be hoped that the farmers will not be penalized to any degree by the deduction of heavy charges.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) need have no misgivings in this matter. I remind the honorable senator that interest will be added to the amount in the fund. Deductions for overhead charges will be modest.
– What amount is there in the fund?
– Approximately £11,000,000.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 7 and 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 (Payments by board).
– Has the Government given any thought to the matter of paying interest to those entitled to this money, bearing in mind the period during which they have been deprived of the use of it? I assume that the money has been in a trust fund, and thereby earning interest. If that is so, obviously the owners of the money should be entitled to receive that interest.
– I have already indicated that interest will be paid on the growers’ funds. Clause 6 provides that an amount equal to the income which accrues to the fund from the investment of any amount shall be paid into the fund. That covers any earnings by the fund, including interest.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 11th Novem ber(vide page 2853), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I appreciate the fact that the Government has seen fit to make a grant of £2,150,000 to Western Australia for the purpose of helping that State to meet the cost of a scheme to reticulate water from the eastern gold-fields water supply to certain agricultural areas in the northeastern part of the State, which is a mixed farming region for sheep and wheat, and from the Wellington Dam to towns along the Great Southern Railway. The State Government proposes to expend £4,300,000 on this enterprise, and, as a Western Australian, I am more than pleased to notice that it has already begun the job. I cannot refrain from mentioning the fact that the former Labour government of Western Australia, which was in power for many years, , proposed to expend approximately £10,000,000 on water conservation. The present government apparently is not so ambitious, but it is moving in the right direction. It has asked for Commonwealth assistance, and this Government has agreed to provide a part of the amount required for the undertaking. The StateGovernment proposes to raise the level of the Mundaring Weir, thereby increasing its capacity from 4,600,000,000 gallons to 15,000,000,000 gallons, and to increase the capacity of the pumping stations and the mains of the gold-fields water supply system so as to reticulate water throughout certain north-eastern agricultural areas.
Those of us who know the areas which will be served by the new scheme are aware that the country is capable of growing almost anything provided that a regular water supply is available. Nature has not been very generous in that part of Western Australia. The rainfall generally is light, although severe floods sometimes occur. Only recently the eastwest railway, which intersects the region, was damaged bywashaways over a distance of about 100 miles. The area is. arid in the main, but floods are likely to occur when heavy rains fall, causing great damage. If a continuous water supply can be provided there, the State will benefit considerably. It has often been said, and it is worth reiterating, that the eastern gold-fields water supply pipeline is one of the wonders of the world.
I doubt whether it would be included amongst the seven wonders, but, at any rate, it was a magnificent engineering feat. Its history is of special interest. Mr. C. Y. O’Connor, the engineer who designed and supervised the construction of that great pipeline, in addition to planning the famous Fremantle Harbour, committed suicide shortly before water first poured into Kalgoorlie from its source, nearly 400 miles away. That unfortunate gentleman had ‘been depressed by unjust criticism of the project. We know now that the growth of the mining industry of Kalgoorlie and the development of a large area of country contiguous to the city was made possible only by the water supply provided by the scheme which he planned.
I knew Kalgoorlie in the fairly early days of its. history, and I remember when the water was turned on there by the late Lord Forrest. The day was particularly hot, and it was glorious to see the water gushing from the pipe and starting to fill the reservoir at Mount Charlotte. The proposal that is now before the Senate is to provide financial assistance for an extension of that water system. Pipes will have to be laid to the other areas, making possible the fruitful development of a region which otherwise might remain arid and unproductive for many years. I travel extensively over Australia’s railway systems, and I have noticed the vast distances over which I sometimes pass without seeing signs of human habitation. It is amazing to see the green state of the bush where little or no water is available. The existence of growth in such areas indicates that the soil is fertile and capable of growing almost any sort of crop if we provide it with the water which nature has withheld. For that reason, this bill is well worth while.
Another feature of the scheme which the proposed grant will help to finance is the raising of the level of the Wellington Dam to increase its capacity from 7,500,000,000 gallons to 38,000,000,000 gallons and the construction of a steel main, with pumping stations and highlevel storages, over the Darling Ranges to the great southern towns extending from Beverley to Katanning. Some honorable senators may not know very much about the great southern region of Western Australia. It is a wide area on which wheat and sheep are produced. However, for a long time, one of the greatest drawbacks to the development of the region has been the inadequacy of the standard rainfall. The falls in local catchment areas have not been sufficient to meet the requirements of the farmers and the residents of the 23 towns which the new scheme will serve. I had occasion to visit Narrogin on one occasion, and I stayed at an hotel where it was difficult to get sufficient water for a bath because of the severity of the water restrictions. Restrictions were frequently necessary. Shortages seemed to occur periodically, with the result that residents suffered severely from the lack of water, and such water as they could obtain was often so impure that I should not like to drink it, even after it had been boiled. The new scheme will overcome that disability, and I am more than pleased that the State Government is making an effort, as the previous Labour government had planned to do, to relieve the . conditions of the farmers and the townspeople who live in the areas adjacent to the Great Southern railway line.
The cost of this scheme is another indication of the necessity for Commonwealth assistance in the development of Western Australia. As I have frequently said in the Senate, Western Australia is in a different situation from that of other States because it covers one-third of the area of the Commonwealth yet is occupied by a little over 500,000 people. The northern part of the State covers a tremendous area, the development of which will require all the help that can be provided by the Commonwealth in years to come, if it is to be made a strong link in the chain of our defences. I was very pleased to hear the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) say, in his second-reading speech, that the development of Western Australia is of considerable importance not only to the State but also to the Commonwealth as a whole. As a representative of Western Australia, I know that many people still believe that this Parliament, because of its remoteness from that State, is not greatly concerned about its needs and aspirations. This bill offers a direct contradiction of that belief. It indicates that this Government is prepared to do something practical to help Western Australia. The fact that it has decided to provide over £2,000,000 for the new water supply project, in addition to other grants that it has made for special purposes, proves that it is not unmindful of the welfare of Western Australia.
– I have pleasure in supporting this measure. As Senator Nash has pointed out, it is amazing what water can do. It has been described as “ flowing gold “, and at Kalgoorlie it has converted what otherwise would have been a desert into what can become a veritable paradise. In supporting the bill, I hope that before long honorable senators will have an opportunity to support a similar proposition for the irrigation of semi-arid parts of western Queensland. Water conservation and reticulation must be dealt with on a broad national scale. It is not just a matter of working a ten-acre paddock. We must envisage the expenditure, not of millions, but of probably tens of millions of pounds. Expenditure on such a scale would be well warranted if it made possible the settlement and development of our outback areas. We must endeavour to give to the people who live in them at least reasonable amenities of life and an adequate means of livelihood, and the basic requirement for that purpose is water. I have much pleasure in supporting the measure.
.- ‘in reply - I am pleased at the reception that has been accorded to this measure by the Senate. I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) that a government cannot spend money more wisely than on water conservation. The full utilization of Australia’s water supplies is part of the policy of this Government, but unfortunately implementation of that policy has been postponed first by the war, and subsequently by the shortage of labour and materials. I assure the honorable senator, however, that the Government is prepared to support any proposal for the conservation of water in Queensland or in any other part of the Commonwealth. The development of this continent by means of water conservation will contribute substantially to a sound economy. The advantages of water conservation and irrigation schemes are enjoyed not only in the United States of America and in other parts of the world, but also in this Commonwealth, particularly in New South Wales. For instance, in the Mumimbidgee irrigation area, where, not many years ago, there were only a few stations giving seasonal employment to a handful of people, there is now a population of more than 20,000. That area is practically self-supporting in -foodstuffs, and in addition, of course, it exports huge quantities of primary products to other parts of Australia and overseas. Similar settlements could be established in many other parts of the Commonwealth if a water supply were assured. I assure the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the Labour Government will give all possible assistance to the conservation of our water supplies.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Appropriation of amount not exceeding £2,150,000).
.-I had intended to speak on the second reading of this measure, but I missed my opportunity to do so. This scheme is of particular interest to Western Australia. Virtually, it is a modification of the Hawke scheme envisaged by the Wise Government of that State. This grant to Western Australia by the Australian Government is generous. I point out, however, that the expansion of the Mundaring water conservation scheme by increasing the capacity of the Mundaring Weir has already been embarked upon. The Wellington Dam project was also under consideration’ before this measure was announced. I believe it to be vitally necessary that that scheme be extended to the degree envisaged by the Labour Government before it relinquished office. The expenditure involved in that scheme raised an argument at the time, and the Western Australian people, particularly the farming community, were afraid of the project because they did not knew that a grant as munificent as this would be made, without charge, by the Commonwealth. I believe that the Commonwealth should insist upon the installation of 18-in. mains as was envisaged in the original Labour government scheme, because this project will be only the initial part of the irrigation scheme for the great southern area. It will provide water for people living close to the railway lines. I believe also that the scheme must be extended to the Lake country, where the farmers are battling because of the lack of water. The Government is to be complimented on the assistance that it is giving to Western Australia, but I regret that it was not understood, when the Wise scheme was introduced, that the Commonwealth would back the proposal to the degree provided in this measure.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 and 6 agreed to.
Preamble and Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill 7-ead a third time.
Debate resumed from the 11th November (vide page 2854), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill be now rend a second time.
– This bill is designed to secure to exservicemen an equity in the large sum of money that a very grateful country has provided for them as a measure of its appreciation of their services in defence of this country. The total amount to be expended on the war gratuity is estimated at £S0,000,000. Of that sum, £10,000,000 lias already been paid for various reasons, leaving £70,000,000 to be provided in the financial year 1950-51. The Government lias taken the wise precaution of establishing a fund so that when the war gratuity becomes payable, there will be sufficient money in the Treasury to meet that liability. In the absence of such a. provision, there would be danger that, should the Labour Government cease to hold office, a succeeding administration might not take steps to ensure that there was sufficient money in the “kitty” for this purpose. I take a great interest in this measure because I am a member of the all-party parliamentary committee which has been appointed to consider various aspects of the payment of the war gratuity. It is not generally known that to ensure that the interests of exservicemen would be adequately safeguarded, the Government decided that every member of that committee should himself be an ex-serviceman. The main object of the committee is to ensure that money from the war gratuity fund shall be expended with the maximum possible benefit to ex-servicemen. The committee has met from time to time, and has already liberalized the provisions of the War Gratuity Act to provide for prior payments in certain circumstances. We have received representations from exservicemen’s organizations for a widening of the scope of the act, as a result of which the committee has made certain recommendations to the Government, and quite a. number of those recommendations have been adopted. I believe that it is wise to provide for the payment of some portion of the war gratuity, under certain conditions, before 1951, to ease the strain upon the finances of the country in that year. For instance, representatives of exservicemen’s organizations urged that provision be made for the payment of the war gratuity immediately to men whose economic circumstances have been lowered by sickness or for some other such reason. That is being done. We have even gone so far as to provide for the payment of the gratuity to ex-servicemen who have suffered financial loss through “ act3 of God “ including storms, floods, or fire. Applications made in such circumstances are examined, and should the immediate payment of the gratuity be regarded a» desirable, that payment is made. The gratuity is also paid in the event of sickness on the part of the ex-serviceman himself, or of a member of his family. Unemployment is another circumstance to which consideration is given. In addition, provision has been made for the payment of the gratuity to ex-servicemen who have reached the age at which they are entitled to an age pension.
At a recent meeting, the committee authorized payment of the gratuity at the overseas rate to a large number of men who previously had not been credited with the overseas rate of payment of 2s. 6d. a day because, during the war, they were not actually associated with a recognized body, force, or unit serving overseas. As the result of this liberalization, payments will now be made at the overseas rate to a large number of ex-Royal Australian Air Force personnel who served in England on various duties, but who, up to date, have not been credited with the extra 2s. 6d. a day. This concession will mean as much as £100 to some of those men, and as 1,000 men are involved, we believe that we have done something worth-while on their behalf.
The fund which the Government is establishing will have paid into it surpluses from various accounts. In all, £23,420,430 is being appropriated from various sources. For instance, there is an appropriation from the Import Procurement Suspense Trust Account, amounting to £4,000,000. That account was established for lend-lease purposes during the war. Another £4,500,000 is being contributed from the Marine War Risks Insurance Trust Account.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m..
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting, I drew attention to the fact that the Government, very wisely, was building up the War Gratuity Trust Account from surplus moneys held in various other funds, and that the sum of £23,420,430 had been accumulated in that account. Additional provision will have to be made in that account in future, but the feature of this measure is the method by which the Government is preparing to finance the payment of war gratuity. The War Gratuity Trust Account will be financed from payments made from Consolidated Revenue from time to time. Consequently, the payment of the gratuity will not be a direct drain upon the taxpayers, because by this method the Government will obviate the necessity to impose a special tax or to float a special loan to raise the sum of £80,000,000 which will be required to pay the war gratuity in full. Of the 700,000 ex-servicemen who will be entitled to war gratuity at either the rate of 6d. a day or the full rate of 2s. 6d. a day in respect of service overseas, over 300,000 will receive gratuity at the higher rate. There is no doubt that for many recipients the gratuity will be a real nest egg. I am sure that the bill will not evoke opposition from any section of the community. It .makes wise provision for the financing of this payment to those who so richly deserve it.
– I refer, first, to the appropriation for the payment of war gratuity of the sum of £1,420,430, representing the excess of receipts over expenditure in the Consolidated Revenue Fund for last financial year, the sum of £5,000,000 from general revenue and the sum of £17,000,000 representing the balance of surplus funds in certain trust accounts. The lastmentioned sum has really been contributed by the people of the respective States in respect of war damage insurance, marine war risks insurance and other funds established during the recent war, and the Senate, as a council of the States, should have some regard for the rights of the States in the appropriation of these moneys. The Commonwealth, which is now virtually the only taxing authority, is in the position of the stern parent doling out to its children, the States, such amounts as it deems fit and proper that they should receive. It is far from my mind to suggest that we should regard our people not as Australians but merely as residents of different States. However, most of the States suffered severely from the ravages of the recent war, and there are many items in respect of which none of the States has been adequately recompensed. In this measure the Government discloses a handsome surplus which really belongs to the people of the several States. It would be more decent and just for the Government to say, in effect, to the States, “ Your roads have been badly damaged and your railway rolling-stock has fallen into disrepair as the result of the war. You must now be rather hard up. After all, you, as the States, carried a substantial burden of the defence of the Commonwealth so we will make an allocation of these moneys to you as some compensation for the sacrifices you made and the services you rendered during the recent war.” Out of these funds which were established essentially as war funds, the States should be given particular consideration. I am sorry that the Government has not done that.
When we are considering legislation all of us are happier when we know its terms precisely and the real intention of the Government with respect to it. For that reason, it is customary to preface each measure with a preamble. The title of this measure reads -
A bill for an act to establish a War Gratuity Trust Account, to provide for the Payment of Moneys to the credit of that Account-
That would be quite clear if it stopped there, but the title continues - and for other purposes.
The Minister, in his second-reading speech, gave no intimation whatever to the Senate as to what those other purposes may be. For instance, the Government may consider me to be a fit and proper person to enjoy a pension to be paid forthwith out of these trust moneys.
– This is not a pension fund.
– It could be used for any purpose.
– It is to be used to pay war gratuity.
– In view of the honorable senator’s interjection I can quite understand why some measures are ill-considered. The inclusion of the words “ and for other purposes “ in the title of the bill makes: the purposes of the measure as wide as the night and as uncertain as the time of death. I ask the Minister to explain what these other purposes may be. Recently when the words “ and for other purposes “ were omitted from a measure steps were taken in the House of Representatives to remedy that omission, but on that occasion the reason for such action was given. Apparently, the words “ and for other purposes “ have been included in the title of this bill merely for good measure, and - I wait to be corrected on this point if I am wrong - to ensure that there shall be no limit to the purposes: for which these funds may be allocated in the discretion of the Minister who is charged with administering this legislation.. The Government must have had something definite in mind when it included those words in the title of the bill, and the. Senate is entitled to know what is likely to be embraced in “ other purposes
As Senator Murray has indicated, the administration of the payment of war gratuity has been considerably liberalized, but the conditions of payment are still a little on the rigid side. The emergency cases in respect of which the regional officers have authority to anticipate payment of gratuity are still limited to those of hardship occasioned chiefly by illness. But no provision has yet been made in respect of a sudden emergency which may, and does, arise from time to time as the result of commercial or business hardship. After enjoying success and prosperity in a particular class of business a man may suddenly experience disaster, and may badly need the amount due to him by way of war gratuity for the purpose of making another start. Payment cannot be made in respect of such emergencies even under the more liberal system of payment now operating. I urge the Government to provide for a more generous distribution by allowing the regional officers to anticipate payment of war gratuity in circumstances of the kind to which I have referred.
– I commend the Government for themethod by which it proposes to finance the payment of war gratuity. Wargratuity made available after World War I., was financed by raising special loans overseas. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) has complained about the inclusion of the words “ and for other purposes “ in the title of the bill. Unlike the honorable senator I am not a legal man, but I should imagine that those words will not in any way permit these moneys to be disbursed other than as payment of war gratuity. I point out that the war gratuity which the Government has undertaken to pay to ex-service personnel was not definitely promised to members of the defence forces when they joined the services. This payment is virtually an ex gratia payment.
When the former member for Franklin, Mr. Frost, was Minister for Repatriation the Government liberalized the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. I recall that on one occasion when I was travelling by train to Canberra with members of the Executive Committee of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers “and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia they told me that the Government had gone much further than ex-service personnel had expected it to go. That legislation has been further liberalized by the present member for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard). However, in spite of the Government’s generosity, we find some exservice personnel of World War I. writing articles with the object of discrediting the Government in its dealings with ex-service personnel. Such persons succeed in discrediting only themselves. I refer to an article published recently in the official journal of the Tasmanian branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. It will be clear to honorable senators that the person who wrote it did not write it in the interests of exservice personnel. As a senator I represent ex-service personnel as well as anybody else. I am closely associated with them and I know at first-hand their needs and wants. On many occasions exservicemen have approached me for assistance in various matters, and in nearly every instance I have given them 100 per cent, satisfaction. Under the heading, “Australia menaced by selfconfessed Communist traitors “, the article states -
The truth is, of course, that the Government has succumbed to the worst form of industrial blackmail, for which the taxpayer has to pay, merely to enhance the prestige of a Moscow rabble of insurgents.
– From what document is the honorable senator quoting?
– I am quoting from the official journal of the Tasmanian branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia. In a later portion of the article the following statements appear :-
Unfortunately, the present Australian Government is unable to accept this, the only effective method of dealing with communism. The reason is that far too many of their own members have been involved in the Communist network in the past, so that any complete inquiry into communism in the Commonwealth would incriminate a large number of trade union leaders and members of Parliament. So the Australian Labour party is thus seen, perhaps unwillingly, as the defender of communism against the only type of action - exposure - which can and will be effective.
– That is a contributed article, and not a leader?
– It is a contributed article.
– Written by whom ?
– By no less a person than ex-Senator Burford Sampson, who was a gallant soldier in World War I. Of course, the articles which he has written recently demonstrate clearly that he is a traitor to the ex-servicemen of World War II. Although he states that he has proof that influences of the kind indicated are at, work in the community, he has not the courage to come into the open and expose them.
– Unfortunately, the honorable senator will not be in this chamber to hear the former senator speaking after the next election.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) has forgotten that I was responsible for displacing ex-Senator Sampson from the Parliament many years ago, and that when he stood for reelection after serving a term of six years ir the Parliament, 1 again displaced him because the people of Tasmania realized the extent of his misrepresentations. If ex-Senator Sampson knows that there are Communists in Australia who are traitors and whose activities are subversive to the country, he is a traitor himself to the ex-servicemen of World War II., because he is not prepared to come into the open and tell us exactly what he knows so that the Government can take action against them.
– The honorable senator must connect his remarks with the bill.
– My remarks are connected with the bill, because I point out that the ex-servicemen who will receive payment of the war gratuity have not minds as filthy as that of the man who wrote the article which I have read. The great majority of ex-servicemen are most appreciative of the attitude towards them of the present Labour Government, which has done far more for them than any anti-Labour government did. I am disgusted that a man who poses as a champion of the interests of ex-service- men should write articles of the type which I have just read, and I am impelled to defend the great majority of exservicemen who appreciate the present Government’s concern for their welfare. I desire to make it perfectly clear that there are not tens of thousands, but hundreds of thousands of ex-servicemen who dissociate themselves from filth of the kind which I have just read. I appeal to the Government to get in touch with gentlemen who write such articles and invite them to communicate their knowledge in writing to the Government so that it can take action against the subversive influences of which they complain. If ex-servicemen who have written such articles are prepared to come forward with a statement of the information which they possess concerning the alleged subversive activities, they would prove themselves to be as gallant as they were in war-time. I emphasize, however, that I do not detract from the excellent record in World War I. of ex-Senator Sampson. Of course we all know that as a man grows older he often becomes blind to what is happening around him, and I have no doubt that ex-Senator Sampson is blind to the activities of the present Government on behalf of ex-servicemen. However, because of the nature of the article which he has seen fit to contribute to an official organ of an ex-servicemen’s organization I suggest that the Government should arrange for some one to interview him with a request that he place before the Government any facts concerning subversive activities in his possession. If he is prepared to do so, then I shall be satisfied that he is still the same gallant soldier that he was during World War I.
. - in reply - The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) has complained that insufficient consideration is given to the financial needs of the States, and that instead of setting aside money for the payment to ex-servicemen of war gratuities, the Government should distribute the money to State governments to cover the cost of repairing damage to their instrumentalities caused by the war. Although it is true that State governments have contributed towards the expenditure involved in providing for the payment of war gratuity, I point out to the honorable senator that if provision had not been made of the kind now proposed by the Government, heavier taxes would have to be imposed throughout the Commonwealth to pay the war gratuity when it falls due, and that would affect very adversely the money available to the States. In any event, ample provision is made for the financial requirements of the States. The Commonwealth Grants Commission constantly reviews their financial position, and legislation is frequently passed to provide special financial assistance for various States.
The honorable senator also took exception to the inclusion of the formal words, “ and for other purposes “ in the title of the bill, but if he will examine the titles of other legislation, such as the Tuberculosis Bill, the Social Services Consolidation Bill, and the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill he will notice that the words of which he complains also appear in the titles of those measures, so that there is no sinister significance in their inclusion in the title of the present measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill has two principal objects; first, to provide a system for the registration of users of trade marks, and, secondly, to permit the assignment, in certain instances, of trade marks without assignment of the goodwill of the business concerned. The provisions of the bill which relate to registered users are entirely new to Australia. Similar provisions became law in England in 1937, having been recommended by a departmental committee which had taken lengthy evidence on the law and practice of trade marks. It was generally agreed that the trend of modern commercial development required some relaxation of the then existing restrictions on the use and registration of a trade mark by a person other than the proprietor. Several suggestions were considered by the committee, including one of unrestricted licensing, but that proposal was rejected on the ground that it would lead to deception and confusion of the purchasing public. It was felt to be essential that any use of a trade mark by a person other than the registered proprietor should be subject to control in the public interest.
At the present time, a licence by the proprietor of an Australian trade mark to another person to use the trade mark on goods other than those of the proprietor is a form of deception which invalidates registration of the mark. This rule is inflexible, and applies even if the proprietor of the new mark owns and controls the other party to whom the licence is given. Secondly, a parent company which is the owner of a registered trade mark cannot license a subsidiary company to use the mark. This position is out of harmony with modern commercial development and has been so recognized not only in Great Britain but also in other British and foreign countries. An amendment to bring the law of Australia into line with Great Britain and other countries is desirable in the interest of Australian commerce. Many Australian companies have subsidiary companies operating in different States of the Commonwealth, and if any one of those separate legal entities use3 the registered trade mark of the parent company the registration of the trade mark is invalidated. Further, many overseas manufacturers desire to make arrange- ments with Australian companies for the local manufacture of goods formerly manufactured overseas and sold under well-known trade marks. The new provisions proposed in this bill will overcome the difficulties which I have mentioned, and will assist in the industrial development of Australia and in the establishment of new industries.
The bill proposes that the Registrar of Trade Marks shall, before registering a person as the user of a registered trade mark, require to be satisfied as to the relationship between the proprietor and the proposed registered user, and particulars must be furnished showing the degree of control by the proprietor over the permitted use, and, generally, the conditions which will govern the use by the user. Upon consideration of all the information before him, the registrar will decide whether it is in the public interest that the applicant should be registered as the user of the trade mark. The bill makes it clear that an application which would be likely to facilitate trafficking in a trade mark will be refused. The control by the registrar will not cease even with registration of a registered user, as the registrar is empowered to cancel registration on the ground that the registered user has used the trade mark in such a way as, amongst other things, to cause or to be likely to cause deception or confusion, or on the ground that the proprietor or registered user made some misrepresentation or failed to disclose some fact material to the application for registration. All decisions of the registrar are made subject to appeal to the High Court. The bill also makes it clear that a registered user has no power to -assign or transmit the right to the use of the trade mark.
At the present time a trade mark cannot be assigned except with the goodwill of the business in connexion with which it is used. This rule has given rise to one of the most pressing problems of trade marks law under present conditions of commerce and industry. Justification for the rule has been found in the view that if a mark could be assigned without goodwill there was some danger of deception to the public. Thus, a mark used upon A’s goods represents that the goods come from A’s factory. If A were to assign the mark to B, while retaining his business and factory, then B would be using a mark which entirely denoted A’s manufacture. If, however, B was the purchaser, not of the mark alone, but of A’s whole business and factory, with its goodwill, there would be no question of deception. Moreover, the courts have taken a narrow view as to what constitutes goodwill and have insisted that where a vendor of a trade mark retains his factory he necessarily retains his goodwill. This rule, however salutary it may have been in former conditions of trade, has been the cause of hardship in modern commercial conditions.
Some illustrations will demonstrate the truth of what I have said -
Apart from the inherent desirability of modifying the existing rule ‘as to assign- ment of trade marks the enactment of the other provisions of the bill relating to registered users themselves require a corresponding amendment to allow a trade mark to be assigned without the assignment of the goodwill of the business concerned.
The bill proposes to retain the general prohibition against assignments without goodwill but to limit the circumstances in which the validity of an assignment can be attacked, and the period within which it is liable to attack. An assignment without goodwill will be valid except in any one of three cases. The first is where the trade mark was not in actual and bona fide use in Australia by the assignor or his predecessor in title at any time prior to the assignment, but this rule does not apply where a trade mark has been registered with the intention that it should be assigned to a new company yet to be formed or that some person should be permitted to use it as a registered user. The second case in which the assignment would be invalid is where the assignee has used the trade mark in association with statements, or otherwise in such a way as to lead to the belief that the goods upon which the mark is used by the assignee are manufactured or dealt in by the assignor. The third case in which the assignment would be invalid is where the trade mark continues to be used by the assignor in relation to other goods and the public is likely to be deceived by the use of the trade mark by the assignor and assignee upon their respective goods.
There is no doubt in the minds of the Government that the passage of the bill will be welcomed by the commercial community, and that adequate safeguards are provided against confusion in trade and deception of the public.
The bill contains a minor provision to enable more than one deputy registrar of trade marks to be appointed. The existing law allows the appointment of several deputy commissioners of patents and deputy registrars of designs, but provision is made for only one deputy registrar of trade marks. The bill also contains several amendments to which it is not necessary for me to refer specifically at this stage, but which are consequential upon the adoption of the provisions relating to registered users and permitted assigns.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Sullivan) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 17th November (vide page 3019), on motion by Senator Armstrong -
That the hill he now read a second time.
.- The Minister for Supply and Development (Senator Armstrong), who introduced this bill, very happily said that the main aim of the agreement envisaged in the measure was the provision of good standard housing for people in the lower income groups. Nothing could be more commendable, but, unfortunately, pious hopes and good intentions are of themselves insufficient to attain that goal. I quite agree with the -Minister that nothing is so important at the present time as the problem of providing homes for those in need of them. It is true that the Government had, up to 1948, advanced to the States, for the purpose of assisting in home-building, about £38,000,000. This measure seeks to provide a further £14,000,000 for that purpose. However commendable the provision of money may be, that, in itself, is not the answer to the problem. Time and time again, governments have provided money, but, after all, that money belongs to the people. I feel quite confident that the people could not feel happier than when public funds are dispensed for the provision of homes. However, the results that have been achieved by such handsome gestures have been disappointing.
At the present time we are faced with a lot of social problems, industrial disturbances, and unrest. In my humble opinion - for what it is worth - the illhousing of our people is one of the mischiefs at the root of the trouble.
– It is a legacy from past governments.
– If the matter is to be approached in that spirit we cannot achieve any worthwhile improvement. I shall not waste either my time, or that of the Senate, by endeavouring to allocate the blame. I stress that there is a shocking lack of housing. Let us at some other time apportion the blame. Our fellow Australians are screaming for homes. Thousands of young people desire to get married, and young mothers are anxious to have babies. Their ambitions are being frustrated, because of the lack of homes. I shall not indict the Government by saying, “ It is your fault “. At the next general elections the people will apportion the blame, and act accordingly. In the meantime, however, cannot we all agree that the facts are as I have said, and try to devise ways and means to overcome the home-building lag?
– But there has been a record building of homes.
– Cannot we see what can be done to expedite the building of homes? It is not sufficient for a government to say, “ Here is £38,000,000- - run away and play trains “.” The people do not want trains; they want homes. This is not only an economic matter, but also a moral matter. There is a moral obligation upon us to see that our fellow Australians are provided with homes. When homes are provided a lot of our economic problems will automatically be resolved. There is probably no other single item in the whole of our economic life that is so calculated to cause anti-social feeling, bitterness, and the feeling of frustration and annoyance which eventually leads not only to anti-social feeling but also toantisocial actions, as the lack of homes.
If honorable senators on the Government side of the chamber are satisfied that all is well, I am sorry that nothing that I can say will be likely to affect the situation. If we agree that things are not well, let us consider the physical causes responsible. I am sure that no honorable senator would be so silly as to suggest that a Labour government, or any Australian government, would deliberately deprive the people of homes, or deliberately frustrate any effort to provide homes. I do not believe that any member of the Australian Labour party would suggest such a thing about the Liberals, or that the Liberals would’ suggest that about a Labour government. It is inconceivable that any honorable senator would suggest that any government would derive sordid pleasure from depriving mothers and babies of homes. If this matter is to be approached on that basis, there will be one quarter in which I cannot make an impression at all. For that I am very sorry. Let us examine the situation. I approach this subject factually and with an earnest desire to ascertain the cause of the trouble. I want to find out what can be done to expedite the building of homes, not just to decide who is at fault. I shall offer a suggestion later. First, I place some facts before the Senate. Having heard them, honorable senators may or may not agree with my conclusions. Personally, I think the facts speak for themselves.
In 1944, the Commonwealth Housing Commission fixed a target of 50,000 homes for the first post-war year. Over a period of three years, it hoped to reach a target of 80,000 homes a year, a very commendable objective. We shall see how it progressed, and I trust that, in the process, we may be able to lay a finger here and there upon some of the causes of obstruction which, unfortunately, have prevented the Government from reaching its target. At that time, a fact-finding inquiry had assessed the housing shortage at 300,000 homes. That was a colossal handicap for any government to face. We were a war-weary people. Our man-power had been otherwise engaged since 1939. Obviously, the exigencies of war had had first call over the construction of homes. The Government was faced with the stupendous task of overtaking the arrears of 300,000 homes, as well as providing for the normal requirements of people who previously had not needed homes. The Housing Commission estimated that an additional 40,000 homes would be needed to satisfy the normal current demand. Professor Copland had some very interesting comments to make on the subject in a treatise entitled, Back to Earth in Economics, which was published this year. I am sure that honorable senators know something about Professor Copland, who has been adviser to more than one government. He is a very able man, and a remarkably loyal and ardent Australian. He wrote -
At the present rate of housing construction the housing crisis will become almost a permanent feature of the Australian economy, a most disquieting thought and a desperate prospect for large-scale immigration on which we have made such a commendable start since the war. In fact, in housing it would appear that a condition of stability (better described as stagnation) in the level of housing construction has been reached. The explanation of this is again partly shortage of basic materials more than low output per man in building construction. But the high and rising costs of construction act as a powerful deterrent to enterprise in the building industry.
Professor Copland’s opinion is entitled to respect. In order to give an instance of the truth and force of the learned professor’s comments, I shall cite some figures comparing the rates of housing construction in New South Wales before and after World War II. There has been a great deal of loose thinking on this subject. In 1939, 17,100 dwellings were constructed in New South Wales. For the year ended the 30th June, 1948, only 16,825 buildings were constructed in that State. I know that a recital of figures is liable to be boring and enervating, but on this occasion statistics are necessary to illustrate the way in which conditions are drifting. After all, if we are to make some contribution to a solution of the problem at least we must know what the problem is.
In 1945-46, when the target was 50,000 homes, only 15,376 were completed. In 1946- 47, 32,607 were completed. In 1947- 48. 42,867 were completed.
– That shows up what was done in 1939.
– If honorable senators are satisfied to say, “ All is well “, I cannot agree with them. I consider that all is not well. From July, 1945, to September, 1947, 70 per cent. of the houses started by private enterprise were completed, but government instrumentalities completed only 55 per cent. of those upon which they commenced work. The Minister for Supply and Development said that, from the inception of the scheme in April, 1944, to June, 1948, 25,361 dwellings had been commenced in the five States in which the agreement with the Commonwealth is operating. Of that number, 15,271 had been completed, leaving 10,090 still under construction. The Commonwealth Statistician has disclosed that 42,867 houses were completed in 1947-48. Of that, number, 36,500 were completed by private enterprise. Approximately one-sixth of the total number were completed by government instrumentalities. Therein, I think, lies one of the reasons for the unfortunate lag in the housing programme. The function of the Government, in my opinion, is clear and onerous. There is much that the Government can do and should do. There is much that it is doing. But in the field of construction it is hopelessly inefficient, as the records show. The figures which I have given show that, in 1947-48, government instrumentalities completed only about one-sixth of the number of houses completed by private enterprise, although they had priorities in regard to almost every phase of building operations, including even transportation.
The moral to be gleaned from that is obvious. Let the Government stay within the sphere of government. Let it exercise the powers which it should have in cases of emergency, and ensure that first things shall come first. Let it ensure that materials of all sorts necessary for building shall be reserved, in the first instance, for the building of homes for the people. After hearing the figures which I have cited, I think reasonable people will be satisfied that the Government is a hopeless failure as a building authority. One of its proper functions is to be the benign provider of the people’s money for the people. Another function is to be the authority to determine priorities for essential materials. It should carry out those functions and give encouragement to private enterprise instead of putting the clammy retarding hand of bureaucracy upon an otherwise vigorous people. In spite of the restrictions and the grossly unfair competition in which government instrumentalities have indulged, private enterprise has succeeded in building six houses for every one built by the Government.
– “What about the slums?
– That problem might be solved if people would get out of the slums. That might be one objective towards which some of this proposed expenditure could wisely be directed - the elimination of slums and the resumption of slum areas.
– The slums were built by private enterprise.
– My poor friend is still wallowing in the slums. I did not build the slums.
– The honorable senator would like to have built them.
– I am trying to explain to the honorable senator and others who want to live in the past that we are faced with a very difficult problem which must be solved by looking to the future instead of back to the days when slums were built. I am not endeavouring to apportion blame so much as to find a solution of our problem. The people will apportion the blame at the next election or give the crown of reward, as the case may be.
– It may be a crown of thorns.
– I must be making some impression, because I have not had such a noisy left-wing audience in this chamber for some time.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Nicholls). - The honorable senator is not in order in answering interjections.
– I was adressing my remarks to you, sir. May I tell you what I think of the honorable senators who have interjected? As I was saying prior to that rough interruption, the Government should encourage enterprise in the building of homes instead of engaging in competition in the actual work of construction. It should make money available to building societies and insurance societies. Building societies throughout the length and breadth of Australia have intimate local knowledge and are able to get in touch with builders and with people who want homes built, and with a little cooperation and friendliness here and there, houses are being built. But frequently financial problems arise, and in that field the Government, with its £38,000,000, could render a very real service. Instead of competing with the friendly suburban builder, the Government could go along to him and say, “ You have a very good idea. Go ahead and build the house “. It could then say to the building society, “You lend the money that is required at. your usual charge of 5 per cent., but as we regard 5 per cent, as rather high, you charge the purchaser 3 per cent., and the Government will make up the difference “. Public money expended in that way - I emphasize that it is not government money because it is the property of the people - would bring homes within the reach of people in the lower income groups. I come now to the availability of supplies. It is true that the Commonwealth has now handed the control of building supplies over to the States, but, in the final analysis, the Commonwealth still has control because it holds the pursestrings. The Commonwealth could make this £38,000,000 available to the States on certain conditions. It could say to the States, “ This money will be made available to you, but’ we expect you to give first priority to materials for the construction of homes “. I agree that in the past much economic strife and sadness has arisen through avaricious landlords building houses for speculative purposes. However, at times, that practice is highly commendable. For instance, if the building industry lags, as it has done on some occasions in the past, the enterprising builder who decides to erect half a dozen or a dozen homes as an investment is rendering a valuable service to the community. But to-day, when so many people are crying out for homes of their own, and there is a reasonable amount of finance available for that work, all available materials should be reserved for those who wish to erect their own homes. Not until the present state of stringency has passed should materials be released for speculative building.
I protest most strongly against the whole philosophy of the Commonwealth being both the builder and, on occasions, the landlord of homes. It is not a function of any Government, Commonwealth or State, to own homes. It is the duty of both the Commonwealth and the States to make homes available to the people for purchase. I could not disagree more, in philosophy, in economics, or in any other way than I do with the statement of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) that we do not want to build up a nation of “ little capitalists “ by helping people to own their own homes.
– That is not true.
– If it is not true, what the Minister did say has yet to be satisfactorily explained. I may not have used the Minister’s exact words, but the effect of his utterance was that the Commonwealth should not build homes and sell them to citizens of the Commonwealth and thus build a nation of “little capitalists “. In the name of Australian decency and manhood, I ask, “ Is it acrime for Australian people to own their cwn Australian homes?” God forbid that they should ever be.
– The honorable sena-i tor will be a member of the Labour party before long.
– I am not interested in the politics of this matter. I am an Australian. Unfortunately, too many people are much more concerned with the interests cf their political party than with those of their country. At present, I am most vitally concerned with rendering what assistance I can in the provision of homes for our people. If the Labour Government wants the credit for providing homes, it is welcome to that credit, but let us give the people homes. I am not seeking credit; I am seeking homes for the Australian people. One factor that has seriously retarded the provision of those homes is that the Commonwealth does not see its new function in its proper perspective. That function is to facilitate the provision of homes; not to do the job itself or to be the landlord. It would be shocking if we were to revert to the times of William the Conqueror, when most of the people of Britain were villeins or tenants of some master overlord. I can assure the Senate that there is no more soulless” overlord or master than a government. In the olden days, the lords of the manor at least had bodies to be kicked and souls to be damned, but governments have neither bodies nor souls, and they can at times be completely oblivious of the humanities which actuate the average man and woman. Governments are impersonal. There are, of course, other things that I could say about certain governments, but, owing to the restrictions of parliamentary language, I shall have to be content with thinking them. Instead of the Government competing with private enterprise, it should stand aside. After providing the finance, it should ensure that homepurchasers shall not be exploited and hat whatever materials are available shall be distributed fairly. In that way, the present bottle-neck in the building industry could be removed, and the target so worthily aimed at before the war ended, but so hopelessly missed in subsequent years, would be nearer achievement.
I shall now quote some very wise words, and, in due course, I shall name the man who uttered them. I’ am sure that they will create a slight irritating itch in the minds of some honorable senators opposite. They are the words of a distinguished Australian, and were uttered quite recently. He said -
I think it is a disgrace to the trade union movement that when there are differences between unions they cannot find some way to settle the disputes without depriving the community of things it should have.
I am not always able to see the reason that they drive men to strike.
Then he proceeded to add that what was scarce to-day was not money but willing hands.
– “We agree with all that.
– The words are those of no less a person than the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), and were spoken at a trade union conference. The speech was reported in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 6th November, 1948. The conference was attended by 140 delegates, representing 64 federal trade unions. On previous occasions, I have uttered similar sentiments, although not quite so eloquently or so forcibly. What we need to-day is a little more Australianism, more hard work, and an appreciation of the duty to the public that rests upon us all. Too frequently the attitude of many people is, “ The public be damned “. As the Prime Minister said, what we want is more willing hands, and, I might add, more noble hearts. We should like to hear from honorable senators opposite, who claim to represent the rank and file of the workers, a little encouragement and sometimes, a few strong words, to remind some sections of the community that they have an obligation to their fellow citizens. Most of the Shortages to-day are due to the fact that people are not working as well as they should be.
– That condition is world-wide.
– That does not make it right. The fact that people were starving and homeless in Europe would not make me any more comfortable if I were sleeping in a park. I urge honorable senators opposite to use their great influence with the trade union movement to eliminate industrial unrest. Opposition members in this chamber also have some influence with trade unionists in Queensland, otherwise we should not be here. I shall strive to interpret their wishes and sentiments sensibly, and to do for them whatever is within my power. Sane, sensible unionists, and good Australians that they are, they realize that there is only one way out of the slough of despond into which this country is sinking fast, and that is by the co-operation of all sections of the people, and the maximum production of essential goods. It is of no use for 80 per cent, or 90 per cent, of the people to work hard, when others who produce essential commodities such as coal are falling down on their job. I have no suggestion to offer in that connexion, but I urge honorable senators opposite to contemplate for a moment ( the figures that I have cited to-night showing the hopeless incompetence of the Commonwealth as a contractor, compared with the efficiency of private enterprise. I say let the Government remain within the realm of governing; and let private enterprise render services to the people at a reasonable and fair price. If there is any suggestion of exploitation by private enterprise, both the Commonwealth and State governments have ample power to act. In the language of our Prime Minister, let us all be willing hands and do our best to solve this problem which affects us all so much.
– A few days ago a prince was born into the Royal Family. That event was a source of great pleasure to us all ; but in this chamber we have a prince of private enterprise. Throughout his very long speech on housing he has not made one constructive suggestion which would contribute one brick to one house. He has merely criticized the Government’s proposals. It is generally recognized that, in tackling the housing problem, and endeavouring to overtake the lag caused by the war, the Government has undertaken a colossal task, particularly in view of world-wide shortages of essential materials. Although, possibly, it could have done considerably more, it has done a great deal. However, success in this matter will depend primarily upon the degree of co-operation given by all sections of the community. The Government would welcome any constructive suggestion from the Opposition parties, but the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) made no real contribution in his speech. All of us recognize that the basis of home life is a house for each family, and that the centre of family life is its dwellingplace, however humble it may be. “ Home sweet home “, is still one of the world’s best-known songs. Under every housing programme, the authorities should ensure that every dwelling provided shall be of a type of which those who live in it can be proud, and shall be suitable for the upbringing of a family. “We hope also to eliminate the slums which grew up in days gone by when so many people were forced to live under inhuman conditions. This Government is gradually improving the standard of living of the people. However, no government can be expected to achieve these objectives overnight. The Government has embarked upon a comprehensive housing programme. Can any one say that it has made a failure of housing in Canberra? Leading experts and architects are co-operating with the Government in overcoming the shortage of houses and in its task of- giving to the people the standard of living which is the birthright of every citizen. It is true that many of our people are not yet able to live under ideal conditions. However, the Government is doing its utmost to improve the living standards of the people including the provision of decent housing. Under this measure a sum of £14,000,000 is to be appropriated for housing. I should like to see that sum increased to £40,000,000. The Government of Tasmania is doing an excellent job in this sphere. It has been obliged to divert building materials such as bricks, tiles and cement to the construction of houses. Otherwise those essential materials would be used for the construction of unnecessary buildings and luxury dwellings or for the erection of factories for the purpose of manufacturing non-essential goods. The Government of Tasmania is insisting that the provision of homes is the first requirement of the people to-day. I commend this bill to honorable senators.
– I welcome the opportunity to speak upon this measure, because the provision of adequate housing is vital to the well-being of the people. Indeed, I do not think that the Parliament could discuss any other subject which affects the community to so great a degree. We must give the closest consideration to this problem and to the living conditions of the people generally. The effects of bad housing conditions are far-reaching, being reflected not only in the health and behaviour of the community as a whole but also in the well-being of the children of the nation. Lack of adequate housing seriously retards the growth of population. The provision of adequate housing is a matter of major national importance, and we must face that fact if we are to achieve worth-while results in meeting this problem. I am alarmed at the number of houses which are shared to-day. Whereas in the past the shared house was the exception, and almost a rarity, I regret that to-day it has practically become the normal state of affairs throughout the length and breadth of the country. It is almost the rule to-day to find more than one family living in a house. Family life must tend to break up under such conditions which break more hearts and homes than anything else could do. I recall how, during the war years, the men and women in the armed services looked forward to the time when they could set up their own homes. What must be their disappointment under the conditions which exist to-day, when so many of them, although they have married, are obliged to share houses and are confronted with problems which would not otherwise arise? I believe that all honorable senators will agree that a house of itself does not necessarily mean a home. In dealing with this problem, the Government should also help people to make homes. It can do ‘so, for instance, by exempting from sales tax all furniture and equipment required for homes. To-day, the high cost of many domestic essentials is retarding the making of homes. I am alarmed at the number of people who, even after they have had plans of a house prepared and approved, must either abandon those plans altogether or considerably reduce them in order to meet rising building costs. That is a serious trend to-day. I urge that under this agreement consideration should be given to the provision of houses of sizes adequate for family purposes. I am alarmed at times when I see in this country, which has so much area available for the development of communities, so many houses of the same type crowded together in terraces. Under such conditions, it is practically an impossibility to rear healthy and happy children, or to develop happy home life.
I urge the Government that whilst it gives consideration to the needs of young married people it should always make provision in housing programmes for the age and invalid pensioners. On previous occasions I have urged it to encourage the construction of garden settlements and units in order to enable aged couples to live together in the evening of their lives, and to discontinue the present system under which it is the rule for aged couples to be separated and housed in different institutions. The Government can do much for the old people by ensuring that a percentage of every housing programme shall be set aside for them. In this respect, it can take as a model the garden settlement conducted by the Methodist Church for aged couples at Chermside, Brisbane. That settlement consists of units comprised of a bedroom, verandah, living-room and bathroom, with a community kitchen and recreation room. Whilst I am not an architect or a constructional expert, I believe that the material required for a house of average size would be sufficient to provide three units for aged couples. I am informed that last year 10,000 homes we:-:-; constructed in Queensland. The material used in the construction of 100 of those homes, or 1 per cent, of the total, would be sufficient, on the basis of three units to one home, to provide housing accommodation for 300 aged couples, or 600 aged people. What a help even that small percentage would be. I sincerely urge the Government to consider my suggestion. Senator Murray said that Opposition senators invariably failed to offer any constructive criticism in debates in this chamber. That is not so. I now make this constructive suggestion for the provision of housing for aged and invalid persons. I can see no reason why provision cannot be made for the construction of garden settlements for age and invalid pensioners in every housing programme. The community has a duty to these people to enable them to live together in the evening of their lives. When I dealt with this subject on a previous occasion, honorable senators opposite said that I should not ignore the needs of young married couples and people with young families. I realize that need and I do not ignore it. Throughout the country there is a great shortage of housing accommodation. People should be able to purchase their own homes in order that they may experience the joy of ownership and the pleasure of turning a house into a home. However, we must not lose sight of our obligation to provide for the aged, who have given a lifetime of service to the community, and are entitled, at least, to decent accommodation in their declining years. I commend to the Government the suggestion that garden settlements should be constructed for aged couples, and that a definite percentage of the buildings constructed should be set aside for the accommodation of aged persons. In addition, I urge the Government to do everything possible to complete its housing programme speedily. I make that appeal because I believe that the provision of decent housing accommodation is vitally necessary to the maintenance of a proper standard of living.
– The bill proposes to authorize advances to the States amounting to £14,000,000 to assist in the construction of homes throughout the Commonwealth, and the Government has stated that it intends to provide houses of good standard for working-class people and those in the lower income groups. That proposal should commend itself to honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) said that pious thoughts are insufficient and will not provide good homes. That is perfectly true, but the only practical method of providing homes is, first of all, to make sufficient money available, and then to set the builders at work to construct the houses. In the State of Tasmania, which I have the honour to represent in this chamber, the Commonwealth-State housing agreement has resulted in a large number of homes being constructed. However, certain bottle-necks are retarding the rate of construction, and I believe it to be my duty to tell the Senate the factors which I believe to be responsible. The Deputy Leader of the ‘ Opposition said that 15,376 houses were constructed in the financial year 1945-46, 32,607 in the following year, and 42,S67 in 1947-4S. Those statistics indicate clearly that considerable progress is being made, and as the supply of building materials improves we can expect the rate of construction to increase still further until the target of 50,000 houses a year is reached. The factfinding committee which investigated the housing requirements of the nation reported that throughout Australia there was a shortage of 300,000 homes, so that, at the present rate of building, six years would be required to fulfil that demand. I remind critics of the Government that Rome was not built in a day, and that time and sustained effort are required to construct 300,000 houses. Professor Copland is reported to have remarked recently that the present shortage of housing may become a permanent crisis in the Australian economy. I do not know whether he intended that remark as a compliment to the future development of the country, or whether it was a cynical remark uttered in a rash moment. However, I consider that the country will benefit if house construction does not become a permanent feature of our economy. As members of the Australian Labour party and supporters of the present Government, honorable senators on this side of the chamber are particularly aware of the need for an increasing amount of food, clothing and shelter for our people. Those are the basic necessities of existence, and all other requirements and amenities must take second place. Should house construction become a permanent feature of the Australian economy we can look forward to a continuous improvement of our living standards, because it is obvious that the older and less comfortable houses will be demolished and replaced by modern dwellings. As the population of the country increases so the need for housing accommodation will increase, and the continued success of our present large-scale migration policy will necessitate sufficient houses being constructed to house decently all members of the community.
The claim that, private enterprise has constructed 73 per cent, of the houses built since the war; and that the Government has been instrumental in having erected only 25 per cent., is ill-founded. Under the Commonwealth-State housing agreement the Commonwealth undertook to provide funds so that houses could be constructed by private builders at the direction of State authorities. We had a good example in northern Tasmania of the attitude of private contractors, who have now completely vacated the field of house construction. The State Government has had to employ day labour to build the necessary houses. The action of the building contractors in declining to erect dwellings, because it was not nearly so profitable as other kinds of construction, is a grave reflection upon their sense of civic duty. They are prepared not only to sabotage the national effort to house the people, but also to neglect the workers and people of moderate means who desire to build small homes, so that they may exploit the more lucrative- fields of construction, including the erection of luxury homes. Of course, they overlook the fact that their prosperity must depend ultimately on the contentment of the working people in the community, because it is only when the working people are in regular employment that sufficient money is circulated in the community to enable elaborate homes to be erected.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that the Government should stay in the field of government and leave the field of house construction to the builders. That would be quite all right if the private builders were prepared to do their job, and even now I appeal to them to realize their responsibility to the community, and enter wholeheartedly into the national plan for the construction of houses. In the light of our experience of the jerry- building which occurred after World War I. the Commonwealth and State governments were morally bound to take joint :action to protect the interests of homeseekers. Labour wants houses to be built sp that “ love in a cottage “ may continue, whereas the jerry-builders hope that they will again have an opportunity to exploit the community by providing “hell in a hut “. The Commonwealth-State housing agreement has already achieved a great deal of success, and it bids fair to achieving the objective of constructing 300,000 homes within six years, which is the target set by the fact-finding committee.
– The honorable senator is overlooking the fact that in the first two year? cf the scheme fewer than 40,000 homes were constructed, and that last year only approximately 42,000 homes were built.
– That is so, but we hope to improve the rate of construction, and undoubtedly we shall do so as building materials become available in greater quantities. At present we have reached saturation point in regard to certain building materials and also in respect of certain other essential supplies. As I have said, private contractors have, in very many instances, let the housing scheme down, but in some cases their failure has undoubtedly been due to causes beyond their control. However, it is of no use to allocate blame now ; what we must do is to find out where the present bottle-neck exists and attempt to remove it. To the recommendation of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the Government should stay out of the field of building I add, “ Let private enterprise recognize its responsibilities to the community by building more houses “. I have pleasure in supporting the bill, which is a most important contibution to the solution of one of our most pressing problems.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) stated that the provision of money is not a sufficient answer to the problems associated with the construction of homes for the people, and with that sentiment we must all agree. However, the fact remains that without money the work cannot be performed.
Although the government now proposes to appropriate from loan moneys £14,000,000 for the construction of houses, it should not be forgotten that it has already made advances totalling £31,000,000 for that purpose. The principal objective of the Government’s housing drive is to provide homes for people in the lower and middle income groups, with the proviso that at least 50 per cent, of the homes erected shall be allocated to ex-servicemen. I understand that the ratio of homes actually provided for ex-servicemen is approximately 60 per cent. In answer to the honorable senator’s criticism of the Government’s efforts, I point out that the actual construction of houses is the responsibility not of the National “Government but of the housing authorities in the several States. The only responsibility of the National Government is to provide finance, and it has undoubtedly provided ample money to enable the States to proceed with their plans. The State authorities are also responsible for the control of building materials, and when houses are constructed they allocate them to those awaiting homes. In view of the facts I have mentioned, I think that much of the honorable senator’s criticism is wide of the mark.
The honorable senator also complained that we are experiencing a shocking shortage of housing accommodation, but that fact is well-known to every one. Furthermore, that shortage has existed for many years, including the period before the recent war. The truth is that when the anti-Labour parties were in power they did little if anything to provide houses for the people, and the efforts of Labour are all the more praiseworthy when we contrast its achievements with the inactivity of the anti-Labour governments which preceded it. Until now the present Government has concentrated on providing houses for ex-servicemen under the war service homes scheme, but the present measure is intended to provide homes for civilians. I point out that besides the large number of houses which were constructed under the Commonwealth and State housing agreement, the Commonwealth has constructed a large number of war service homes. The present. Government has made available £31.000,000 for the construction of homes in Australia, and, as 1 have just said, the anti-Labour parties when they were in power, spent virtually nothing at all on house construction. Nevertheless, members of the Opposition have the audacity to endeavour now to convince the people of the country that the present Government is not making a substantial effort to provide houses. Although the Deputy Leader of the Opposition inquired what could be done to expedite the construction of houses, he did not advance any constructive suggestion ; indeed, I do not think that he is capable of making one. He complained of the occurrence of industrial disputes and said that the supply of building materials has been hampered by a bottle-neck. We know that the reason for the bottle-necks that exist in regard to materials is that all of the available materials in this country prior to World War II. were used for purposes associated with the war. We have had to rehabilitate into civil life in this country approximately 1,000,000 ex-service personnel, many of whom are to-day engaged in industry throughout the length and breadth of this country. In many instances they received their preliminary training under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme, which was inaugurated by this Government.
– That is the scheme that broke down.
– As honorable senators know, this Government pays the difference between the rate applicable to 40 per cent, efficiency, and the rates that they should receive for whatever work they are performing in their particular avocations.
– They cannot eat their money.
– We do not expect, that they should do so. Wc do expect,, however, that the Opposition shall be fairin this matter.
– I have been over-generous to the Government.
– Considerable criticism has been levelled at the Government, from time to time in respect of the workmanship of the workers in this country at present. The honorable senator said that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) had recently made an announcement. He doubtless thought when telling us of the nature of that announcement, and without indicating the origin of it, that he would irritate honorable senators on this side of the chamber.
– Is the honorable senator a thought-reader ?
– The honorable senator was surprised when honorable senators on this side of the chamber applauded the statement. There have been disputations in various sections of industry in this country, and doubtless there will be other disputations in industry long after honorable senators now present in the chamber have departed hence. As honorable senators are aware, in many instances the workers have returned to their jobs principally as the direct result of efforts made by this Government.
Operative builders in the building trade industry, have stuck to their jobs remarkably well. We know that there has been trouble on the coalfields and in the transport industries. The trouble in the transport industries was not very bad, if the whole matter is examined thoroughly. With respect to the coal-mining troubles, there is room for improvement on both sides.
Let us review the progress of workers generally in the building trade industry. Not long ago, the Deputy Leader of the
Opposition said that bricklayers to-day lay only about 200 to 300 bricks a day, compared with 1,000 bricks a day previously. To any body who has a practical knowledge of bricklaying the mere Suggestion that bricklayers used to lay 1,000 bricks a day is ridiculous. It was also said that carpenters now hang only four or five doors a day, compared with twelve or mere a day before the war. I point out that the conditions in the buildingtrade to-day are vastly different from what they were then. The output of the operative to-day is judged on what might be termed an average basis. That basis is obtained .from the work performed first, by apprentices, secondly, by trainees, and thirdly by the fully-fledged tradesmen, who -are called journeymen. If we analyse the output in respect to the work performed, the position is that instead of our being able to say that a fully-fledged bricklayer is laying 400 or 500 bricks a day, we can quote only the average rate of 200 to 250 bricks a day. In order to arrive at the average rate, there is taken into account the work of the practical tradesman, as well as that of the inexperienced apprentice and trainee.
Honorable senators will be interested to hear evidence that was given before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works not long ago, in respect of matters associated with the building trade industry. I am a member of that Committee, as is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Because of suggestions that had been made respecting what tradesmen used to do, what they were doing, and what they should be doing, the Committee deemed it necessary, to obtain evidence from men who had a practical knowledge of the industry.
– The honorable senator should keep both sides in mind.
– I have before me the Minutes of Evidence taken at the time. I remind the honorable senator that he heard the whole of the evidence, and asked questions of a number of witnesses. Broadly, two suggestions were made. The first, was that in the main, bricklayers were capable of laying 1000 bricks a day, but were not doing so. The second was, that .carpenters were not doing a fair day’s work, because they were not hanging at least 12 doors a day.
– Will the honorable senator cite the evidence given in that connexion?
– The following evidence was given by Mr. Francis Somes, executive officer of the Building Workers Industrial Union, vice-president of the Trades and Labour Council, Canberra, and vice-president of the Australian Labour party, Canberra Branch, who is a bricklayer -
Work is frequently held up because of shortages of materials, not of bricks but principally of frames, especially on government daylabour projects. Those hold-ups cause a very great slowing down of the jobs. . . . The number of bricks laid by bricklayers employed on day-labour jobs at Narrabundah has varied. In- the early stages of construction we were laying over 400 bricks a day. The trainees under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme began work in January or February. I was employed there in April. In the following January the Englishmen caine here. We went through a bad winter and the average dropped to approximately 350 bricks a day. When the Englishmen came our figures went flat. After that they started to rise again. When the change-over came there were about five of us left there and we were laying about 500 or 000 bricks a day.
That gentleman’s evidence supports what I have already said concerning the averaging of output. The witness continued -
When Mr. Oliphant gave his evidence he did not appear to know that the average figures relating to the laying of bricks applied to the work of all concerned, including skilled bricklayers, the Englishmen tradesmen, the apprentices and the trainees under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme. The average figure did not represent the average output of a skilled worker.
Mr. Oliphant is a well.known architect in Canberra. I suggest that honorable senators opposite will take due notice of the following evidence given by this witness : -
The shortage of suitable labourers is the crux of the building position to-day. . . . Mr. McPhail, who is perhaps the fastest bricklayer in Canberra, cannot lay bricks at the rate of - 1,000 per day, and he is an exceptionally good tradesman. That man unfortunately is being wasted. He is carrying a hod because he cannot get a hod-carrier. Other good men are also carrying a hod for the same reason. Thus, competent bricklayers are wasting their time doing labourers’ work.
That is another reason why the progress in the building trade is not as great as could be desired. He continued -
If a man is working on a job which is constantly held up for one reason or other, he is given no incentive to do his best. It is not unnatural for him to think that if he goes along at a reasonable pace, he will be out of bricks or his labourer will not be able to keep up with him. In that way the speed of a job steadily declines.
Later in the proceedings he gave valuable evidence respecting incentive payments to workers. He said -
I do not believe that incentive payments over and above the minimum wage now prevailing would be effective as a means of stimulating the workers to greater output.
That is the statement of a responsible officer. He continued -
To-day, the ratio of trainees to experienced men is very much greater than it used to be. That would reduce the average number of bricks laid by men employed as bricklayers. Mr. Oliphant said that a good bricklayer could lay 900 to 1,000 bricks a day. I shall gladly bet him £10 to £100 if he can produce in Canberra any bricklayer who could average 1,000 bricks a day on cottage construction, either of his own design or of departmental design. . . . A good man to-day would be doing a fair thing on cottage construction if he laid between 500 and 600 bricks a day.
That is the evidence of a practical bricklayer who appeared before the committee. I shall now cite the evidence that was given by a carpenter and joiner, Mr. John Richard Jenkins, secretary of the Australian Capital Territory branch of the Building “Workers Industrial Union. He said -
I agree with what Mr. Somes has said in regard to the building industry in Canberra. . Conditions in the carpentering section of the industry are similar to those in the bricklaying section. We have suffered much the same sort of disadvantages as Mr. Somes has outlined in respect of the bricklayers. . . One of the first disabilities we experienced on the resumption of building activities afterthe war, particularly in connexion with brickwork, was the shortage of builders’ labourers. In many instances we found that men who had been competent builders’ labourers before the war came back from the war looking for better jobs. Those who returned to their former avocation were often disgruntled. It was not long before they had blisters on their hands because they were unaccustomed to pick-and-shovel work. They said, “ This is not what we went through Greece and Crete for “. Their unfitness for the work slowed the bricklayers down.
The Opposition has never suggested that that is one of the disabilities affecting bricklaying to-day. The witness also said -
Some evidence was given on the question of average output. When calculating the average number of bricks laid or the number of doors hung, is the output of all men lumped together, including learners as well as experienced men or are the figures based upon the output of journeymen ? The figures are undoubtedly based on the output of the whole of the men on the job. The Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme trainees can only lay as many bricks as their experience will enable them to lay. Apprentices are in the same position. If the output of all these men is lumped together to arrive at an average, the average will undoubtedly be low. . . Before the war we allowed one apprentice to three carpenters. Other trades follow much the same ratio. We realize now, however, that times are abnormal and that the building industry must be stimulated and, accordingly, we are prepared to abandon orthodox ideas on this subject.
We never hear any commendation from the critics of the home construction scheme of the sacrifices that have been made by organized labour throughout Australia in abandoning certain recognized principles in relation to the employment of men who are not fully qualified tradesmen. The witness continued -
The work of carpenters has been grievously held up because of shortage of materials. . . The unions have gone to the authorities and have made suggestions as a result of which improvements have been effected. . . . The shortage of hardwood has been one of the great bugbears to the building industry. . . The position in relation to the supply of tiles is well known. . . . You say that Mr. Oliphant made a statement that carpenters used to hang twelve doors a day and now they hang only four doors. … I am 41 years of age and have been working in the carpentering trade since I was thirteen, and I have never met the man who could hang twelve doors every day in such a way as toensure that they would function. . . . No carpenter could maintain that rate.
SenatorO’Flaherty. - A man could hang twelve doors a day if he hammerfitted them.
– He could hang twenty doors that did not fit, but we expect to provide the people with comfortable homes, not jerry-built private enterprise structures which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is so keen to have. Thu witness also said - 1 have been employed hanging doors in Canberra when other men have been waiting to get my job if i were not good enough.
That was a very significant remark. That whip was often held over the workers in Australia and other countries many years ago. The evidence continued - [ was then hanging eight soft-wood doors a day. The contractor with whom I was employed., who was reputed to bc the hardest man to work for in Canberra, was quite satisfied with that number. . . . There appears to be an opinion in some quarters that the unions are a drag on the men. Union officials and executives have gone out of their way to speed things up. We have lectured men at meetings ii bout’ the housing position. We have told thom that if the cost of a cottage is higher than it should bc, a working man will be the victim.
The evidence of those two practical tradesmen answers the criticism that has been directed at building industry operators. I had not met either of them before they gave evidence before the Public Works Committee. The fair way in which they answered questions put to them by all members of the committee, and the capable milliner in which they expressed their opinions, indicated that they were genuinely concerned that the best possible results should be achieved in the housing programme, not only in Canberra, but also throughout the rest of Australia.
I again emphasize that the housing authorities of the States are responsible, under the agreement, for constructing houses on behalf of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth is not directly concerned in home construction except in relation to houses that are being erected in the Australian Capital Territory by day labour. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that Professor Copland had declared that there was a shortage of 300,000 houses and that the Government had set a construction target of 50,000 a year. He also said that Professor Copland had expressed the opinion that the housing programme was in a state of stagnation. He then asserted that the rate of production by Government instrumentalities was one-sixth that of private enterprise. I have obtained statistics which show that good progress has been made under the Commonwealth-
States housing agreement. From the date of the inception of the scheme to the 30th June of this year, 2,591 homes had been commenced in Western Australia. Of that number, 1,679 had been completed, leaving 912 und er construction. That rate of construction represented 334 houses per 100,000 of the population on the basis of the 1947 census. T point out that most of the homes built by State housing authorities are rented. The agreement between the Commonwealth and the States provides that homes built under the scheme shall be let initially at economic rentals based on the incomes of the occupants. Ultimately, they will be available for purchase so that the occupants will later be able to buy them at prices that will probably be much more reasonable than those that would be charged by private enterprise.
I understand that, in the five States in which the scheme operates, 25,361 dwellings had been commenced up to the end of June, 1948. Of that number 15,271 had been completed, 10,090 being still under construction. In the base year of 1944-45, 2,787 dwellings were commenced and 1,189 were completed. In 1947-48, 8,131 were commenced and 6,370 were completed. Seventy three per cent, of the houses are in the capital cities and the others are in extrametropolitan areas. Whilst there may be some basis for criticism in a comparison of results achieved under the CommonwealthStates housing agreement and those achieved by private enterprise, the fact remains that this Government, through the instrumentality of State housing authorities, has done a great deal to provide homes for the people. In addition, it is interesting to note that, in New South Wales alone, approximately 3,500 military huts have been converted to provide temporary housing accommodation. The figures for other States arn as follows :- -
I have a son who occupies a converted military hut in Western Australia, and I understand that he is very satisfied with it. Since he entered into occupation he has not been nearly so worried as he was previously about his prospects of securing a home under the Commonwealth-States scheme in the near future.
The present rate of completion of houses under the scheme is between 500 and 600 monthly. That state of affairs contrasts vividly with that which prevailed years ago when £20,000,000 was made available for civilian housing but nothing was done. This Government is a practical government, and it is doing something to assist the people. I refer now to the increased production of building materials, which was the subject of criticism by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. In 1938-39, the average monthly rate of production of bricks was 60,000,000. In 1947, it had dropped to 41,000,000, but in 1948 it had increased to 47,000,000. By July, 1948, it had reached the level of 50,000,000. The rate of production is now about 85 per cent, of the pre-war rate. Reduced production was mainly due to a shortage of labour and a restriction upon the introduction of mechanised methods in brick kilns.
– All brick kilns were closed down for nearly five years.
– Yes, the economic conditions of workers in the industry were so bacl when World War II. broke out that most of the men either enlisted in the armed services or entered other occupations so that they could earn more money. Until conditions of work and rates of pay for employees in the brickmaking industry were greatly improved, is was not possible to obtain enough operators to continue production. At any rate, the rate of production is gradually returning to normal.
The average monthly rate of production of roofiing tiles in 1938-39 was 3,6S0,000. It was 4,140,000 in 1947, and 5,400,000 in 1948. In July, 1948, production totalled 6,040,000. The average monthly production of sawn timber in 1938-39 was 59,000,000 super, feet. That increased to 96,000,000 super, feet in July of this year, which was well above the pre-war level. One of the great difficulties associated with the building industry to-day is the shortage of imported softwoods. In order to increase the local output, the Government recently allotted approximately 500 displaced persons to country sawmills and forestry work. It is doing everything possible to increase the production of building materials, as the figures which I have cited show. For instance, the average monthly production of cement in 1938-39 was 72,000 tons. By July of this year it had increased to 88,000 tons, which nevertheless was still inadequate for requirements. The average monthly production of asbestos cement sheets in 1938-39 was 791,000 square yards. It had increased by July of this year to 1,703,000 square yards. Asbestos fibre is chiefly imported, and there seems to be little prospect of a further increase of production in the near future. In 193S-39, the average monthly production of fibrous plaster sheets was 634,000 square yards. By July, 194S, that figure had increased to 1,144,000 square yards. The average monthly production of galvanized iron in 193S-39 was 9,433 tons; production in July, 194S, was 8,623 tons. The production of galvanized iron in New .South Wales has been seriously retarded by the shortage of zinc, to which reference has been made in this chamber on many occasions.
– And why has zinc been scarce?
– The price of zinc on the world’s markets has been considerably higher than the price, ruling in this country, and of course, private enterprise has preferred to sell its product at the higher price ruling overseas. In addition, the steel industry at Newcastle has been short of labour for a long time, and production has not reached plant capacity. The result has been a lack of adequate supplies of galvanized iron for housing. In many parts of the Commonwealth to-day one can see half-completed houses, awaiting roofing materials. All those are physical difficulties. It is silly for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to complain about shortages which it is not physically impossible to remedy. The figures that I have cited will give to honorable senators an indication of the production of building materials to-day. In my opinion, those figures effectively answer the criticisms that have been offered by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– in reply - I have always had the deepest admiration for the power of words. Sometimes pictures painted with words are even more expressive than those painted with brushes and paints. With undoubted eloquence, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) painted such a picture of desolation that I had to force myself to realize that after all his picture was only one of words.
– I am sorry if I have made the Minister sad.
– The honorable senator has done more than that; he has taken my mind back to my reading of Sheridan’s speech on the impeachment of Warren Hastings. Honorable senators will recall that, describing the state of the province of Oude after the Hastings regime had ended. Sheridan said -
What monster lias stalked over the country, destroying with pestiferous breath what the greedy appetite could not devour?
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition would have us believe that this country to-day presents a similar scene of desolation. Unfortunately, the honorable senator has used his eloquence to misrepresent completely the housing situation in this country. In a place such as this, of course, half-truths play an important part in the game that some people occasionally play. The honorable senator claimed that he was stating facts.
– I even quoted the Prime Minister.
– The honorable senator said many things which presented a picture that was entirely false. With his voice rising to its most impressive crescendo, he referred to the Commonwealth Housing Commission’s “fifty thousand houses programme”, and claimed the failure of the Labour Government to reach’ that target constituted an indictment of that Administration.
– I spoke more in sorrow than in anger.
– And more in half-truths than in truths. What is the true position? The Commonwealth Housing Commission, an advisory body, recommended a certain programme to the Government. That target was never accepted by the Government because, from its own knowledge of the problems involved, it realized that the target could not be reached. But let us look at the Government’s own targets. There -we find an entirely different story. In 1945- 46, the Government’s target was the commencement nf 24,000 houses. Actually 26,000 were commenced. In 1946- 47, the Government announced that 42,000 houses would be commenced, but actually 47,000 were started. The Government did not announce any target for 1947-48, but, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is aware, 52,800 houses were commenced in that year, and 42,000 vere completed. It is interesting to note that the average rate of construction of houses in 1947-48 was 20 per centhigher than it was in 1939. On a. population basis, Australia has equalled the efforts of Great Britain and the United States of America in that field. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition quoted Professor Copland’s statement that if the rate of home construction reached in 1945 were maintained, housing in this country would be a permanent crisis. But the rate of building in 1945 has not been maintained - it has been almost multiplied. In .1945, 11.000 houses were built; in the year ending July 1949, 48,000 homes will be built. So, whether housing will present a .permanent crisis or not, we must ring Professor Copland and get his opinion on tlio.se figures. I agree with Senator O’Byrne who said that if this country is to remain virile and growing, we must always have a housing problem. To-day, we are a nation of 7,500,000 people, but we hope to see that population multiplied many times in the years that lie ahead. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) has announced that in the next three years he will bring 250,000 new citizens to this country. So, the demand for homes must remain. The construction of 48,000 houses in the current financial year will be a creditable achievement.
In an endeavour to show that the Government’s housing record is unimpressive, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition compared New South Wales figures for 1939 with those of the same State for 194S. If the honorable senator really wanted to paint a correct position, why did not he quote figures for the entire Commonwealth? Why did he isolate one State, unless it was to bolster Up a very weak argument? In 1933, 40,000 homes were built in the Commonwealth, whereas, as J. have said, in ibc current financial year 48,000 homes will be built. In the year that the honorable senator selected, we were moving nut. nf a very serious depression, and wc had a superabundance of materials and labour. Within three years of the end of the war which caused complete dislocation in the building industry, the Government has restored, and oven passed, pre-war building production. As I have said, the number of houses completed in the present financial year will be a record. “ Leave it to private enterprise “ seems to be a slogan of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. He issued his challenge in a bell-like voice. He said that the Government should vacate the house-construction field, and leave that work to private enterprise. To support his argument he cited figures comparing the Government’s home construction record with that of private enterprise. I point out, however, that 80 per cent, of the home building carried out by both State and Commonwealth authorities, is actually done by private contractors. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition knows these things, but to avoid ruining his argument, he is prepared to forget some of the facts and give full rein to his mellifluous tongue. He admitted that governments should take an interest in events in times of crises, and he mentioned war-time as being a period of crisis; but later he claimed that housing in this country presented a crisis. That is exactly the manner in which we view the position. Housing is the greatest crisis that we have had to face in the post-war years, and the Government, therefore, has taken a close interest in it. Whether or not this is a new development in home building I do not know, but there is general acceptance in the post-war world that unless there is government interest in home building, no homes will be provided for people in the lower income groups.’ We all have vivid recollections of the types of homes that were built for those people in the years gone by. They were terraced houses, with no gardens, and hardly any backyards. Baths were a rarity, and in many of the larger cities of the world, common lavatories were provided. We are now seeing some of the results of our fight for better standards of living. We ave. providing reasonably designed homes for people in the lower income groups.
I have before me a very interesting report from what is known as the “ International Federation for Housing and Town Planning “, dated September of this year. Discussing world problems for housing the report states -
The general sessions were divided equally between topics of housing and planning. In the meetings on housing, both the papers presented and the discussion from the floor made it abundantly clear that high costs of construction, shortage of labour and materials and the inadequacy of the building industry to function efficiently are the principal impediments to progress. These conditions are not only to lie found in England, France and Poland, which suffered so greatly from war devastation, but hold as well for the United States and the British Dominions which escaped the physical destruction caused by bomb and blitz. Likewise, Sweden and Switzerland, neutral countries during the recent war, are limited in their efforts by these same factors.
While many countries are experimenting with various forms of prefabrication. development of substitute building materials and labour-saving methods, it was freely admitted that housing for the great mass of people to-day is impossible without some kind of state subsidy or public financial support. The amount and form of subsidy varies from one country to another, but wherever volume building is going on government funds are paying part of the economic cost.
In this country we are playing our part as best we can. This measure will not make the Government cither an owner or a tenant of homes. All that the Government will do under it will be to provide the money required by the States to finance housing programmes. Provision is made for the tenant of any home constructed under this agreement to purchase the house that he occupies. Already in Queensland, out of approximately 1,200 homes completed under the scheme over 100 have been purchased by tenants in spite of a delay incurred in ascertaining the final capital expenditure preparatory to fixing the sale price of the dwellings.
That problem has new been cleared up. In Western Australia over 50 per cent, of tenants occupying homes constructed under this agreement have either intimated their intention to buy their homes or are in process of purchasing them. Despite what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said the Government does not want to be a landlord. Its object is to provide homes for people and to enable them not only to rent them but also to own them. I agree with Senator Murray that, although hackneyed the song “ Home Sweet Home “ expresses the ideal of home life in every country in the world. The more comfortable, secure and happy are the homes of the people the more contented and secure is the nation. The Government realizes its fundamental duty to provide homes for the people, but we shall not solve this problem in five minutes. I shall not blame past governments for the things they failed to do in this sphere. I believe that all sections of the community have learnt from the mistakes of the past. Indeed, this measure is evidence that the Government has learned from those mistakes and is now trying to put into practice the lessons it has derived therefrom. After a decision had been made that Canberra was to he the seat of government, and at a time when there was an abundance of man-power and materials available and hundreds of people in the Territory had their names on the waiting lists for homes, the government of the day would not build sufficient of them. This Government is endeavouring to overcome that situation. It is a long up-hill struggle. The Opposition parties must face the fact that the problem is very difficult and must be solved as quickly as possible. However, there is a physical limit to the speed at which that can be done. To-day the Government is moving ahead, planning with foresight and courage to solve the problem. Already it has ear-marked and, indeed, embarked upon, an expenditure of over £2,500,000 on the construction of hostels for migrants. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to the lag in production. The Government is providing those hostels in order to house the tradesmen coming to this country from Great Britain and European coun- tries to help us in our day of need. Those hostels will enable them to be convenient to their place of employment and thus be better able to help Australian workers in producng the goods the nation needs so urgently.
Senator Rankin dealt mainly with th necessity for providing homes for aged couples. Although that aspect is not covered by this measure, I am glad that she raised it. All that the Commonwealth Government will do under this bill will be to provide the money which the States require to finance the construction of houses under this agreement. However, he is not a bad sort of a fellow who provides the money and nothing else. In most instances, when money is provided very stringent conditions are laid down with respect to its expenditure and repayment; but in this instance the Government’s main concern is to have homes constructed. The States are in the best position to undertake that work. They will have the responsibility of allotting these homes, although at the request of the Commonwealth they have agreed to allot 50 per cent, of them to ex-service personnel and, in fact, have made 60 per cent, of the homes already constructed available to ex-members of the forces. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) has written to the State governments requesting them to allot a percentage of the homes to aged couples, but that decision must rest with the States. However, for Senator Rankin’s information I shall outline briefly what the States are doing in the provision of housing for old people. In New South Wales the policy of the State Housing Commission is to erect 5 per cent, of dwellings for old people in triplex houses. These houses are not segregated but are interspersed throughout estates. In Victoria, the State Housing Commission has not made any special provision for elderly persons since the development of its first housing estate in 1938 when one-bedroom flats in groups of four were built. Neither State nor local government bodies in that State have, so far as it is known, provided houses for old people. In Queensland, the State Housing Commission has no special policy for housing old people under this agreement. Each case is considered on its merits. The policy of the South Australian Housing Trust is very limited. It proposes to allot dwelling-units to aged and childless couples, and triple units are being erected for this purpose. In Western Australia apart from erecting “ McNess “ houses, of which 189 have been built, the policy of the State Housing Commission is to leave all other action to the State Government. In Tasmania, a State act, administered by the Agricultural Bank, was passed in 1940 authorizing the erection of homes for aged persons but after the completion of one group of six dwellings, operations were suspended because of war and have not yet been resumed.
That is the picture as it is at present of what is being done in the provision of housing for aged people throughout the States; butI submit that, under this measure, at least for once no criticism canbe levelled against the Commonwealth Government. This Government is making the requisite money available for the construction of houses, and the Minister has asked the States to make provision for aged people. That responsibility rests entirely with the States. The Government realizes its physical limitations in dealing with this problem. I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that, possibly, the easiest thing for the Government to provide at present is money. However, there was a day when money was difficult to obtain for such purposes. Money is the means of bringing man-power and materials together, but those means were not made available in the early 30’s when somuch housing construction could have been undertaken. To-day, the Government is providing those means. It is hoped to. expand this programme considerably. Although the Government is proud of what has been accomplished up to date, we have a long way to go and the problem is most difficult,but it is being faced with courage by every section of the community and I hope that it will not be long before this crisis is softened and that those whoare now obliged to share homes will be able to obtain homes of their own. At the same time, however, we must maintain a high standard of living because the quickest way to solve the housing problem is to deprive the worker of full-time employment. There would bo no shortage of houses if thousands of our workers were searching for employment. Ifthe Government’s policy of full employment is interfered with and workers find it difficult to get continuous employment at reasonable wages, the housing shortage will quickly disappear. For that reason one can almost hope that we shall always be confronted with a shortage of houses so long as we are able to keep the problem within bounds, and that people will have the wherewithal to build bigger and better homes and continue to improve their standard of living.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining’ stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjournto Wednesday next, at 3 p.m.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appoint ments - Department of the Treasury - H. I. Blake,R. G. Martin, D. C. Phillips, H. Webb.
Seat of Government’ Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act-
Ordinances - 1 948 -
No. 3 - Police Offences.
No. 4 - Stock.
No.5 - Liquor (No. 2).
Regulation - 1948- No. 4 (Fish Protection Ordinance).
Senate adjourned at 10.43 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 November 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1948/19481118_senate_18_200/>.