21st Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister for Shipping and Transport read the statement in to-day’s Sydney press that the disastrous dock strike in the. United Kingdom, now in its fourth, week,, has cost Australia millions of pounds? Can the Minister say whether any ships whose destination can be controlled by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture or the Department of Shipping and Transport, have been diverted to continental ports ? If so, can any particulars of those diversions be given, and can the Minister say whether any beneficial effects have accrued from such diversions?
– According to the reports we have received from London from time to time, the only cargo that I can remember having been diverted, is eggs. A shipment of eggs was diverted from the United Kingdom to the Continent and disposed of mainly in Germany, at good prices. I shall have an inquiry made to ascertain whether any other commodities have been diverted From the United Kingdom, but it- is quite obvious that the strike is causing considerable embarrassment to exporting industries.
– Whilst I am fully aware that no Minister can be expected to be familiar with all the minor details of the administration of his department, I should like to ask the Minister for
Shipping and Transport whether it is a fact that the senior clerical officers of the Marine Branch of the Department of Shipping and Transport in Queensland who had previously carried out the duties, of regional director efficiently for two years and for other relieving periods, have since been, debarred from performing similar duties by a. policy aimed at excluding such officers from higher positions? Will the Minister take action to stop- the needless waste of public money on flying relief unnecessarily for legions! directors when they are on leave, amd practise economy by having the most senior and experienced officer locally employed perform the relieving duties?
– I think that the term “ regional director “ only came into being during the last th’ree or four months, after an investigation and report by the Public Service Board. Prior to that time,’ the office was styled “ deputy director “. I was under the impression that the duties of deputy director in the six States of the Commonwealth were performed by nautical men. Therefore, I shall have to check the statement of Senator Benn that a clerical man is doing the work of a regional or deputy director. It. is purely an administrative matter for the head of the department, but it raises an interesting point. I shall be pleased to confer with the head of the department and let the honorable senator have a reply. If the points raised by him are worthy of consideration, I shall suggest that appropriate action be taken.
– Did the Minister for Shipping and Transport read an article in Wednesday’s Adelaide Advertiser, which stated that there was on acute shortage in South Australia of plain and corrugated iron, reinforcing steel rod’s, and structural steel? In view of the fact that the Minister recently stated that some thousands of tons of these materials «-ere awaiting shipment on the Australian seaboard, will he take action to have, them transported to South Australia by private shipping companies or as a special s shipment by trie Commonwealth Hue of ships?
– - I have read the press report to which the honorable senator has referred. Representations have been made to me from time to time from Western Australia and Queensland as well as South Australia, to try t« speed up the delivery of processed steel that is awaiting shipment at Port Kembla. The development that has1 taken .place at Port Kembla recently is; considerable, and I regret that the New South Wales authorities have not made adequate provision for the berthing of ships so that the increased output from the Port Kembla Mills can be shifted more quickly. Often ships ave available, but they cannot get a berth at Port Kembla. That is a major problem. I believe that the Premier of New South Wales is inquiring into the matter, but I regret that lack of action on the part of the New South Wales Government is retarding the delivery of steel products, and is causing embarrassment in all parts of Australia.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture consider extending the research activities which are to be undertaken by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture this year into the possibilities of tuna fishing, so that those activities will include the waters along the Western Australian coast, in which tuna abound ?
– I shall he pleased to consider that matter. Nothing, would give me more pleasure than to see that that important area received adequate attention.
– I remind the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation that, some time ago, when I asked him how far the Government had gone with plans for the construction of a modern airport at Port Augusta, which is urgently needed, he promised to make a statement - regarding the matter later in this current sessional period. Can he now inform me of the position? .
– I know that that matter was raised previously by the honorable senator. From memory, I think that my reply was that the provision of an aerodrome at Port Augusta was a matter for the civil authorities of that town.
– The Minister promised he would make a statement about it, and he has never let me down yet.
– If I promised to give the honorable senator a statement, nothing could give me greater pleasure than to honour that promise.
– On the 21st October, Senator Cameron asked whether I could inform the Senate if it were a fact that two wards at the Repatriation General Hospital, Heidelberg, had been closed. I desire to advise that wards are opened or closed at all repatriation general hospitals according to the number of patients requiring in-patient treatment, and the nursing staff available for their care. In January of this year, there were 24 wards open at the Repatriation General Hospital, Heidelberg. This number increased in July to 28, but has now decreased to 25. There has been, for some years, a shortage of trained nursing staff throughout the community, which has affected all hospitals, including those administered by the Repatriation Department. It will, therefore, be seen that, although it is a fact that wards have been closed over the past few months, there is now one more ward open than the number open at the beginning of the year.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Health aware of the great success that has attended the war on tuberculosis that was initiated by the Chifley Labour Government in 1948, -when the present leader of the Opposition in the Senate was Minister for Health and appointed Dr. W. H. Wunderly as Director of the Division of Tuberculosis in the Department of Health? That policy has been continued by the present Government. In view of the great improvement in national health that has followed the properly coordinated attack on tuberculosis, will the Minister consider taking similar action with regard to cancer, with the object, of co-ordinating the activities that are being carried on at present in various parts of Australia to check that painful and dread disease?
– I agree with the honorable senator that the campaign against tuberculosis in Australia has had marked success. Sir Harry Wunderly lias done excellent work as Director of the Division of Tuberculosis. With, regard to cancer, I believe that there is already some co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth. I shall refer the honorable senator’s suggestions to the Minister for Health, and obtain more information for her.
– by leaveHonorable senators will recall that some time ago, I directed tie attention of the Senate to matters in connexion with the appointment of deputy Directors of Navigation. During the course of my remarks, I accused the head of the Department of Shipping and Transport of bad faith and deceit. Since then, I have found that it was not the head of the department who was causing the trouble of which I complained. Indeed, he waa ultimately responsible for the satisfactory settlement of those matters. I wish, therefore, not only to withdraw my accusation, but to apologize publicly to the head of the department, Mr. McFadyen, for the use of the words “ bad faith and deceit “. I also apologise to you, Mr. President, and to the Senate for having unwittingly used the privilege of the Senate to make a false statement.
Motion (by Senator SPICER) - agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Bankruptcy Act 1924-1950.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill to amend the Bankruptcy Act is rendered necessary by a recent decision of the High Court in the case of The Queen v. Davison. The nature of that decision is that the provisions of the Bankruptcy Act, which have been in force for a quarter of a century, and under which Registrars in Bankruptcy are authorized to make an order, for sequestration upon a debtor’s own petition, are invalid. The High Court took the view that to vest that power in the Registrars in Bankruptcy was to confer upon them authority to exercise the judicial power of the Commonwealth. As honorable senators are aware, under the Constitution, the judicial power of the Commonwealth can be exercised only by Federal judges who are appointed for life.
The decision of the High Court has provided us with two problems, and it is to the solution of those problems that this small bill is directed. In the first place, it becomes- necessary to provide some new procedure for dealing with debtors’ petitions in future. We have chosen to make amendments of the act which will have the effect of providing that, in future, debtors’ petitions will be dealt with by the Court of Bankruptcy itself, not by a Registrar. These amendments will be made by clause 3, which amends section 4 of the principal act and also by clause 6, which repeals section 24 of the principal act. Section 4 of the principal act, in denning the Court, included the Registrar. By clause 3, we shall remove from the definition of the Court the reference to the Registrar. Section 24 of the principal act expressly gave the Registrar power to make sequestration orders on debtors’ petitions. Therefore, we are repealing section 24. We shall repeal section 23, which also refers to the Registrar. There will be some re-arrangement of the powers of the Registrar purely consequential on the matters to which I am directing attention.
Perhaps it would have been possible for us to adopt a different method of dealing with the problem. As a matter of fact, another method is suggested in the decision of the High Court.
– Is the judgment available generally?
– I am not sure whether it has been printed. It should be in print by now. If Senator Byrne would like a copy to be made .available to him, I shall see that he gets one. For the benefit of honorable senators, perhaps I should read one passage from the judgment delivered by the Chief Justice and Mr. Justice McTiernan. The passage is as follows: -
Hie power conferred by Section 51 (XVII.) of the Constitution upon the Parliament to moke laws willi respect to bankruptcy and insolvency is wide and there is no reason for doubting that under it the commencement of a voluntary sequestration might be made to depend on any act matter or thing that might be chosen as appropriate. T?or example, it would be open to the legislature to provide that upon making a declaration of his inability to pay bis debts and publishing it in the Gazette a debtor should become bankrupt, and thereupon bis estate should vest in an official receiver.
If we follow that process the debtor would become bankrupt by virtue of the act, and it would not involve any exercise of the judicial power of the Common wealth. In dealing with the act as it at present stands, the learned judge went on to say -
But ii the legislature chooses a judicial order a.s the means of effecting a voluntary sequestration then Chapter III. of the Constitution, relating to the Judicature, comes into play. By judicial order is meant an order which by its nature or description or the character given to it by the legislation involves an exercise of the judicial power of the Commonwealth. It is beyond the constitutional powers of the Parliament to authorize any person or body to make such an order except a court constituted under Sections 71 and 72 of the Constitution.
As I have said, we might have chosen this alternative method of dealing with the problem of debtors’ petitions; that is, we could provide by an act of Parliament that a debtor would become bankrupt upon his declaration of inability to pay his debts and. upon the publication of that declaration of inability in the Gazette. There would be disadvantages in adopting that alternative, because there might be some cases - not very many - in which it would be undesirable for a man to be able to sequestrate his estate upon his mere declaration of inability to pay his debts. In other words, an investigation by a judicial tribunal might disclose that the declaration waa false, and that there was no proper foundation upon which he could claim the sequestration of his own estate. For that and other reasons, we thought the desirable course would be to put the process beyond all doubt, by providing that, in the future, debtors1 petitions shall be dealt with by the court, and that court orders shall be made for the sequestration of estates. We made careful investigations as to whether there were any practical difficulties in the way of that course, and 3 assure the Senate that there are not. I have dealt with the future operation of the legislation. The other problem created by the High Court’s decision arises from the fact that, over the last quarter of a century, some 10,000 or 11,600 sequestration orders have been made by registrars upon debtors’ petitions. In those circumstances, I am sure that honorable senators will appreciate that it is most desirable for us to validate what has been done as a result of those .sequestration orders. There are, at the moment, quite a number of estates that have been sequestrated under debtors’ petitions in which the winding up of the estates has not been completed. We have dealt with the whole of this problem in clause .13 of the bill.
In seeking a solution of the difficulties which it raised, we have rested firmly upon the judgment of the High Court to which I have referred. That judgment indicated that this Parliament does have complete power, by its own act, to declare that, a person has become bankrupt. We cannot declare simply that orders made by registrars shall become valid orders because that would be a case of the legislature exercising the judicial power in place of the registrar. Consequently, where, in the past, a debtor has lodged a petition, unless that petition has been withdrawn or a court which has jurisdiction in bankruptcy, or the registrar, has refused to make a sequestration order, then the debtor who lodged the petition is declared, by virtue of this section, to have become bankrupt by virtue of the presentation of his petition. The presentation of his petition, not the finding of the registrar, is the basis upon which he is declared bankrupt. He is declared to have become bankrupt as from the date when the registrar purported to make the sequestration order. In other words, the bill does not give validity to the sequestration order, but the date of the purported sequestration order is used as the date from which the debtor shall be deemed to have become bankrupt.
The clause also gives validity to acts which have been performed in pursuance of the purported order of sequestration by the registrar. Following on the registrar’s sequestration order, people will have been appointed as assignees and trustees, and transfers and other dealings with property will have taken place. Clause 13 is designed to give validity to all the acts which have been performed under the invalid orders of the registrar, and those acts will have validity by virtue of the operation of this clause.
The rest of the bill is consequential upon those two main matters. I suggest that the bill itself does meet the difficulties which the High Court decision created. Honorable senators may remember that in the speech which the GovernorGeneral delivered at the opening of this Parliament it was indicated that the Bankruptcy Act as a whole was under review and that the Government would introduce legislation to bring it up to date. We are not attempting to do that in this bill. The matters that were raised by the decision of the High Court ca’ for immediate action, and this bill is directed solely to a solution of the problems that have been created by that decision.
– What is the section that is referred to as “ this section “ in clause 13?
– That is new clause 13 itself which will be incorporated in the act. When this measure has been passed it will be an amending act, and the provision referred to will be section 13 of the Bankruptcy Act 1954. When the bankruptcy legislation is consolidated, it will find its proper place in the consolidated act. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 27th October (vide page 1064), on motion by Senator Spicer -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of this bill is to enable resident graziers, other than pastoral companies, to secure sufficient credit for the development of their properties. The bill is more or less, supplementary to an amendment of the Crown Lands Ordinance of the Northern Territory, assented to in April, 1953, which provided for conversion of the balance of the terms of existing pastoral leases for 42 years to new pastoral leases for 50 years, and created a new form of tenure, the pastoral homestead lease, a perpetual lease for resident landholders, limited to an economic area, under which holders of existing pastoral leases can convert to pastoral homestead leases. It is now hoped that pastoral lessees other than companies, of which there are 318, will apply to convert their pastoral leases into pastoral homestead leases which, the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) has stated, are leases in perpetuity. I assume that, “in perpetuity” means 99 years, with the right of transfer to the lessee’s heirs or assignees. Existing pastoral leases have a tenure of 35 or 40 years. So, the 1953 measure conferred a great benefit on the pastoral lessee who is now able to convert from a tenure of 35 or 40 years, to a lease of 99 years or, as the bill expresses it, a lease “ in perpetuity “. This, in itself, very greatly strengthens the credit position of all the Northern Territory pastoral homestead lessees. The pastoral companies, the Attorney-General has informed us, hold 89 pastoral leases, and they have a right of conversion from 35 or 40 years under the present tenure, to 50 years, which will be of great benefit to those companies. Each new instrument of lease will, however, contain covenants requiring definite improvements to be effected to the lease, as a quid pro quo for the substantial extension.
There is one matter which gives me some iittle concern. Pastoral leases are subject to the Northern Territory crown lands ordinance and also to amendments of that ordinance from time to time. It will, therefore, be open to the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory to vary the terms and conditions of a lease after it has been granted, and during its currency. There is a constant, urge in the Northern Territory for greater autonomy. Recent press reports suggest that self-government is one of the liveliest issues in the Territory at present. I have before me a clipping from the Sydney Morning Herald of, I think, the 20th October, which states that territorians have a feeling that the rest of Australia, and particularly some parliamentary representatives at Canberra, are ignorant of their problems. The article was written by a staff correspondent of the newspaper who apparently toured the Northern Territory at about the same time as the official opening of Rum Jungle by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). The article states that Mrs. J. Sargeant, of Newcastle Waters, who serves behind the bar of her husband’s hotel, said to him - “ You wouldn’t believe some of the silly questions tourists ask. A woman came in here the other day and asked me whereabouts nha would see the zebras. And we had a Senator here - from Canberra, mind you - who wouldn’t get over how brown and dead looking the grass is up here. He asked me in all seriousness, whether the grass was that colour when it first came up or whether it turned brown later on “.
I invite the honorable senator concerned to stand up so that we may have a look at him because he is a bad advertisement for Canberra. The correspondent said that Mrs. Sargeant told those stories to show how little the southern visitor knew about the Northern Territory. This all helps to add fuel to the fire and to form the basis of a lively claim for selfgovernment. If self-government should come to pass - and this brings me to the kernel of the matter - the pastoral lessee could become the victim of some hue and cry to reduce the term of his lease, to alter the conditions, to increase the rental, or even te resume his land without adequate compensation. The lessee is running those risks. Should the Terri- tory develop sufficiently over the next few years, I have no doubt that the Government will have to give serious consideration to a demand for selfgovernment by those who are living in the Territory and greatly increasing its wealth. The lessee, in accordance with the terms of his lease, will be called upon to make extensive improvements to his property, and such improvements are very costly indeed in the Northern Territory. The Minister has informed us that some cattle stations of moderate size in the Northern Territory are involved in capital expenditure, spread over a number of years, of up to £120,000. Water facilities, such as bores, cost about £4,000 each, whilst fencing costs about £400 a mile. A homestead, staff quarters, and other station buildings cost, according to the Minister, at least £15,000. In addition, expenditure would be involved in the construction of dips, stockyards and other improvements which would be necessary on a big station area. That expenditure would be quite independent of the cost of acquiring a herd of cattle, which would run into a tremendous sum of money at present prices. The improvements that a pastoral homestead lessee would be obliged to effect, under the terms of his lease, could well amount to between £30,000 and £100,000 over a period.
I submit, for the consideration of the Minister and the Senate, that a lessee who makes an investment of this nature s’hould be entitled to some protection against the whims of political parties and changes in political conditions. I consider, therefore, that the Northern Territory pastoral homestead lessee should have the security of an ordinance authorizing the Minister to enter into a contract which would guarantee the right of the lessee. Should the contract be breached’ by either the Government at Canberra or a Northern Territory Legislative Council, with enhanced autonomous powers in the territory, the lessee would be entitled to sue for damages. No legislative body would be eager to interfere with his lease entitlements if he had power to sue for the maintenance of his rights. The just terms section of the Commonwealth Constitution, which applies in the Australian
States, .does not apply in a Commonwealth territory. In other words, if the property of a citizen of Queensland is resumed against his will, he can claim, in the courts, that he is entitled to a just price and endeavour to establish his right to adequate compensation.
– That is not true of a State acquisition.
– I accept the opinion of the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) in that matter. My understanding is that a citizen of an Australian State can claim a just price in property dealings with the Commonwealth.
– That is so in respect of a Commonwealth acquisition.
– Tes. I understand that that condition does noi apply in the Northern Territory. It is rather odd that a resident of a territory in which the Commonwealth exercises sovereign powers has no claim to protection under that section of the Constitution. An aggrieved lessee, who considered that he had a legal claim to a just amount of compensation for any deprivation of his rights, would be severely handicapped.
In conjunction with my partner, Mr. W. C. Wilkinson, I held a pastoral development lease of 85,000 acres, known as Broadmere Station, near Taroom, in Queensland, for many years. In consideration of the expenditure of a large sum on improvements and development, such as ring-barking, the erection of rabbit-proof and dogproof netting fences, the provision of water facilities, and so on, the Department of Public Lands inserted a special clause in the lease which read, “ There shall be no resumption during the term of the lease “. That provided us with a measure of security, because it assured us that ‘if we expended a large sum of money in improving that property, there would be no interference with our right to the quiet enjoyment of it during the full term of the lease. As I see it, the Northern Territory lessee, who is in a far more isolated area and is pioneering that part of Australia, lacks the same measure of security. I bring that matter to the notice of the Minister, because I think that the bill is weak in that respect.
This matter is worthy of further examination with a view to seeing whether some method cannot be evolved to provide adequate, protection, for pastoral homestead lessees in the Northern Territory, against future demands for variation of the terms and conditions of the leases which have been granted to them. I have no objection at all to the resumption, from pastoral homestead lessees in the Northern Territory, of land for agricultural or other special purposes, provided that the pastoral homestead lessees are assured of adequate compensation for the land of which they are deprived. That is why I urge that a contract between the Minister and lessees would put this matter beyond doubt.
A strong feature of this bill is that, in future, a pastoral homestead lessee will be able to borrow up to 100 per cent, of the value of his station improvements, exclusive of his herd. If we assume, for example, that a Northern Territory pastoral homestead lessee has improvements on his lease to the value of £10,000 and is required to expend £12,000 more on developmental improvements, under the law as it stands at the moment, the banks would not feel disposed to advance him more than 60 per cent., or £6,000, against the existing improvements of £10,000. As insufficiency of capital is the greatest problem confronting lessees, bank advances under the existing law do not provide sufficient money for lessees to develop their properties to the greatest degree possible. This new provision will give substantial assistance in that respectWhen the bill becomes law, the Treasury will guarantee the banks for advances additional to those which the banks would make ordinarily, up to a limit of £30,000. A pastoral homestead lessee with £10,000 worth of existing improvements on his property who required, for the proper development of his lease, a further £12,000, would have £22,000 if that advance were made. If we subtract from that £22,000 the normal 60 per cent, advance against existing improvements, a balance of £16,000 is left, and it is that amount which the Treasury will guarantee to the bank concerned. Boiled down, it means that pastoral homestead lessees, in future, will be in an extraordinarily good position.
The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McKenna) damned the bill with faint praise, and was inclined to~ ridicule- what he- termed “ the tail-end. guarantee of the Crown “.. This is not a tail-end guarantee by the Treasury. The Treasury accepts the major part of the risk involved. I should like the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) to offer me the credit facilities that will be afforded the Northern Territory pastoral homestead lessees. Many other persons- connected with the land and in business will be envious of the position in. which the Government proposes to place the Northern Territory pastoral homestead lessees by means of this measure. The Leader of the Opposition also said that more people were required in the Northern Territory. That is true, but the Northern Territory is a vast area, with sparse rainfall in many parts. It will ‘take a long time to pioneer and develop. The bill will help to expedite the development of the Territory. It should encourage closer settlement and the subdivision of the larger holdings. As time goes on, the men who are engaged in cattle-raising and woolgrowing in the Northern Territory, will be the best judges of the minimum living area that is required there. Of their own accord, and in co-operation with the Department of Lands at Darwin, they will subdivide their properties for their sons. In that way, closer settlement will evolve. That has happened in many other places where areas that were sparsely populated now have a big population. In the early days of development, the lessee who is prepared to go into the Northern Territory, far removed from the amenities of life, is entitled to be assured, as far as possible, against the risk, of failure.
All honorable senators are pleased at the recent evidence of progress and development in the Northern Territory. The cattle population is now stated to be about 1,000,000 head and the turn-off averages about 125,000 head of cattle a year compared with 80,000 head in prewar years. I was particularly pleased to note the expansion of the pastoral, agricultural and mining industries. Much remains to be done in the field of agriculture, and in the provision of housing, health and education services. The Australian.! Government is providing £’5,246,000 in the current financial year for the needs of the Northern Territory,, and that is double the amount that, was provided by this Government’s predecessors in office only five years ago. Northern. Territory officials estimate that tha Territory has a potential equal to an increase of about 50 per cent. in. the carrying capacity of the land that is already in occupation, and that the turn off of stock could be doubled. Therefore, there is ample scope for further expansion of the pastoral industry in the Northern Territory. The provision of ample credit, that this bill makes possible, should help the stock-owners to attain that objective within a measurable period of time. I compliment the Attorney-General on the bill, and welcome it.
Senator TANGNEY (Western Australia) [11.561;. - Any bill for the development of the Northern Territory or the outback areas of Australia that, comes’ before the Senate is welcome. All honorable senators want to see something definite done for the development of areas that are of great value to Australia and, in their undeveloped state, present a challenge to us. When this measure was first mooted, honorable senators looked forward with hope to something being done to attract settlers to the Northern Territory. On reading the bill, however, I have failed to see how it will attract one more permanent settler to the Northern Territory. It will help those who are already established there and we are grateful for that assistance, but the Attorney-General’ (Senator Spicer) and the sponsors of the bill claimed that it would encourage new settlement in the Northern Territory. I do not know how it can do so.
The great problem associated with the development of the Northern Territory is getting settlers established there, particularly in the pastoral industry. Most people seem to be of the opinion that the Northern Territory is valuable ‘only for pastoral purposes. Experiments conducted by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization have proved that that is not so. More work could be done in the agricultural field.. The average young ma.n who- wants to settle on the land in the Northern Territory immediately finds himself faced with a formidable financial problem. After World War LT., many young
Australians who had served in the- forces in the Northern Territory and observed its possibilities, wanted to settle there. It meant hard work,, but. they were not afraid of that. They found, however, that a high degree of capitalization was essential. That is the main point upon which I disagree with the provisions of the bill. A person must have assets before he can obtain a loan against them under the provisions of this bill. He must have guaranteed assets greater than anything that could be obtained in the foreseeable future by most young men. If we are going to attract more families to the Northern Territory,, we must do more to help those who have not the big financial backing that the Minister himself has admitted is necessary for those who settle on the land with some hope of making a reasonable living. The Minister has’ said that about £24,000’ is required. Others who have had long experience of the Northern Territory have stated that anything up to £50,000 is required to settle on the land there. Probably, a number of people who have £50,000 to invest would prefer to put it into more easygoing and assured ventures that are available to them in the industrial or commercial fields in the southern States and the capital cities. The Minister has said that as land becomes available in the Northern Territory, we may be able to attract to the Territory young, energetic and practical people who will make the Territory their home. If the Minister is a practical man, he will realize that new settlers in the Territory, although they m.ay have youth, energy and practical experience, must have yet another asset - adequate finance. Later in bis speech, the Minister said the Government had to ensure that there would be some guarantee that money lent under the scheme would not be wasted, and that inflation would not occur. I am pleased that the Government is interested in inflation in the Northern Territory, and I hope it will turn its attention to infla-tion in other parts of Australia as well. “We have been told that it would cost a young man anything from £24,000 to £50,000 to establish himself in the Northern Territory. The difficulty is that he would be unable to obtain a loan until he had assets- of about that value. More should, be done for young men who are eager to go to the Territory,, but whohave not £24,000 to invest. I should like the Government to give them, some assistance to meet the initial expenditure. In other parts of Australia, the Commonwealth Bank lends money for housebuilding at 3f per cent, interest, and quite rightly so, even though that interest rate is a little high. Why cannot that system be extended to help young people who want to go on the land in the Northern Territory? I know there are peculiar difficulties associated with the Territory. If there were a holding in Victoria as large as the Vestey holding in the Northern Territory, there would be no room for anything else;, but, owing to climatic conditions, especially the uncertainty of rainfall, holdings in the north must be big enough to be profitable. Therefore, a large initial capital expenditure is necessary. One feature of the bill that disturbs me is that it outlines a short-term policy, not a long-term policy. These loans could be called in at short notice. Therefore, a man who wanted to do large developmental works on his property would be reluctant to undertake expensive works, because he would be afraid that his loan would be called in at short notice. That uncertainty will tend to hinder the development of properties in the north, where rainfall and other factors are so uncertain.
We have been told that the cattle population of the Northern Territory is 1,000,000. That is very good, and we should like it to be 2,000,000. We want the Northern Territory to be developed, but I do not see how this bill will assist anybody other than the people who are there now. If they get some help under this measure, good luck to them. But my quarrel with the Government is that the legislation will not assist other people who want to help to develop the Territory. Vast tracts of land there- were leased many years ago, but they have not been developed. They should have been developed long ago. Why is there no ex-servicemen’s land settlement scheme for the Northern Territory?
– A Labour government turned it down after a full inquiry.
– That is the first time I have heard the
Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) agree with anything done by a Labour Government. The matter should be re-investigated. I should like to see an ex-servicemen’s land settlement scheme established in the north, especially as experiments conducted by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization have revealed the agricultural potential there. We were told recently that rice-growing in the Northern Territory would be a practical proposition. About 2,000,000 acres of land are available for rice-growing. Why cannot ex-servicemen be allotted land in tho Territory so that they can grow rice ? Wo have been told by the Government that it is likely that an, American company will come here to grow rice. We hope that rice-growing in the north will be a profitable business. If so, it would be particularly suitable .for ex-servicemen settlers, because it would not require large capital expenditure.
The proposal to grant loans of up to £30,000 to people already established in the Northern Territory relates to only one aspect of the development of the north of Australia. That is another point on which I quarrel with the Government. I believe we are dealing with the problems of the north piecemeal. There should be some plan for the development, not only of the Northern Territory, but also of the north of Australia generally. The north-west of Western Australia and the north-east of Queensland also require to be developed. The development of the northern part of the continent presents a great challenge to us, because we know that millions of people in other countries not far away are looking at our northern lands with hungry eyes. But I fail to see how this bill will assist us materially either to populate or to develop the north. Therefore, I hope the amendment foreshadowed by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) will receive the support of all honorable senators. It will be moved, not in a niggling spirit, but because we want the Government to do everything in its power to secure the maximum development of this very important part of Australia as soon as possible. Wa say that the bill should be regarded only as a part of an overall plan for the development of north Australia.
The provision of adequate transport services is another aspect of the development of the Territory. Recently, the railway service to Alice Springs was improved. We must decide whether it would be an economic proposition to extend the railway line northwards from Alice Springs. We must consider where roads should be built, and what can be clone to improve air services, so that more beef and cattle can be taken out from the Territory by air. Those are all matters that affect the north of Australia very materially. I should like to see an allparty committee of the Senate established to consider the problems of the north, with a view to suggesting some solutions of them.
We have been told that the cattle population of the Northern Territory is 1,000,000, but we have not been told much about the human population. We know there are far too few people in that vast stretch of country. It. is ridiculous to suggest that the development of mining in the Territory would lead to a lasting increase of population. There are too many ghost towns in Australia to-day that once had large populations. We know that if a mineral deposit gives out, a mining town dies. Western Australia has been fortunate in that many of its mining towns have had a life of about 50 years. There are very few mining towns in this country that have had so long a life. I have seen towns in Western Australia that once had a population of about 15,000 but where now there is not a single person. I have been in at the death of many mining towns. I remember going to one town in the outback of Western Australia on the day of its funeral, so to speak. Alas, the only hotel in the town was closed, and the post office had closed some time before. They were the only two buildings left in the town. At one time, that town had a thriving population of from 25,000 to 30,000 people. Therefore, we know from experience that, generally speaking, mining towns cannot be relied upon to establish a permanent population. Those who regard mineral development as the only means of long-range planning do not look very far ahead. In the long-range view, we must provide for people who want to live permanently in the Northern Territory. Having acquired houses, they then need amenities such as are provided in the cities, including health and educational services, so that their isolation will not impose on them such heavy burdens as were borne by people of the Northern Territory in the past. Although this bill will help people who are already in the Territory, I consider that the opportunity should have been taken to encourage new settlers. For instance, the opportunity should have been grasped to break up some of the big estates and settle ex-servicemen on the land. One of the greatest evils of the past has been the absentee land-holder. We want resident land-holders in the Northern Territory - people who will live on, and take a pride in the development of, their properties. People who are prepared to risk droughts and other hazards in the Northern Territory should receive the backing of the financial institutions of this country. They should be freed of the continual fear that the axe hanging over their heads might fall at any time. During the depression of the ‘thirties, the banks foreclosed on many farmers in Western Australia, who then swelled the ranks of the unemployed in the cities. The majority of them have not returned to the land. I do not want to see that happen in the Northern Territory. We should make adequate provision for the security of persons who go on the land. We must not rely on “ wild cat “ mining schemes. Surely the Government does not expect to be able to avoid its responsibilities by this bill. It should adopt a comprehensive policy in relation to the Northern Territory and other parts of northern Australia. The necessity to do so was apparent during the period of World War II., but I am afraid that our enthusiasm waned as soon as the danger receded from our shores. Now, when danger again threatens, northern Australia is still sadly underdeveloped. The Government should be able to make available sufficient money to develop the northern parts of this country. We could make the Northern Territory more attractive to persons of moderate means, without affecting the wealthy landholders to any appreciable degree. We should ensure that the incidence of taxation on the small land-holders shall not be such as to destroy their incentive to carry the job through. In view of the many problems associated with the north, including those relating to transport, development, the provision of social services, and taxation, I should like to see appointed a committee to go into the whole subject and bring in a report based on national considerations. Already, the Australian Labour party has a northern Australia development committee operating within its ranks, but we would like to see an all-party committee appointed for that purpose. Although the bill will help a few people, I shall support an amendment that will be moved, the purpose of which is to give greater assistance to more people. In conclusion, I emphasize that I should like to see introduced a comprehensive measure to provide for the development of the whole of the north of Australia. I am sure that such a measure would be welcomed by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber.
– I support the bill. It represents a further attempt by this Government to encourage people to settle in the Northern Territory, and so increase production. As a first step in that direction, the Government decided to alter the system of land tenure in the Territory, so that people who go there to live shall enjoy undisturbed occupation of their holdings. As I have said before in this chamber, banking institutions are unwilling to advance money to landholders for developmental purposes in the absence of a secure tenure. The old leasehold system has been modified by the introduction of a pastoral homestead lease system, under which the leaseholder will have a perpetual leasehold right to the land. This vital alteration will encourage financial houses to lend money to lease-holders to develop their properties. I have known a number of instances m which men who worked for eight -or ten years as station hands in order to save sufficient money to go on the land, found, after obtaining, a leasehold, that their savings enabled them to buy only a few hundred head of cattle and to instal a windmill, “When they applied to banks for loans to develop their properties, their applications were refused because they did not own the land. The bill will correct that position.
Senator Tangney stated that this measure would not encourage new settlers to go to the Northern Territory because it would not throw open for settlement large areas of land. However, the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) stated in his second-reading speech that the Vestey organization will be surrendering about 8,000,000 acres. In addition, that organization will be compelled to spend about £250,000 during the next four or five years on the development of the large areas that it will retain. To become eligible for a pastoral homestead lease, the prospective lessee must undertake to carry out certain improvements of a permanent nature. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) adopted a realistic approach to the development of the Northern Territory when, about two years ago, he introduced a measure under which property owners were granted a 100 per cent, initial depreciation allowance for taxation purposes, in respect of fixed improvements. Anybody who builds a stock-yard or a house for his employees is entitled to write off the cost of that structure for taxation purposes in the year in which the money is spent. This bill represents another effort by the Government to develop the Northern Territory.
Under this bill it is proposed that the Commonwealth Treasury shall assist settlers to the extent of £30,000, in conjunction with private institutions. If a bank will advance £18,000 to a settler, the Treasurer will guarantee a further £12,000, making a total of £30,000. Despite what Senator Tangney has said, people with a limited amount of capital who desire to develop these areas will be able to commence operations with a few thousand pounds. At present the Government will give the settler two windmills, tanks and equipment and he only has to drive his cattle onto the leasehold. He can then ask a bank for further finance on the security of his leasehold and the bank will advance him money to enable him to put down extra bores because it will know that his leasehold is as good as private ownership. The settler will also have an opportunity to obtain additional finance from stock agents. Having put 10,000 head of cattle on the property, he could ask the stock agent for a further £20,000 for development.
I believe that -this measure will result in an increase in the number of cattle in the Northern Territory. In the Kimberleys, during the last 30 years, the number of cattle has dropped from 1,000,000 to 500,000; but the number of cattle in the Northern Territory has increased from 500,000 to 1,000,000. On the Barkly Tablelands and in the good rainfall areas south of Darwin there are large areas of land that can still be developed. The Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) said that there was no reason why the cattle population of the Northern Territory could not be doubled again. From articles that I have read, I understand that the Barkly Tableland is one of the richest areas in the Northern Territory. A considerable part of that area has been recommended for sheepraising. The Barkly Tableland is now carrying 16,000 sheep and within ten years, provided that the necessary improvements are made, it could carry over 1,000,000 sheep.
I should not like this opportunity to pass without paying tribute to Mr. “Wise, the Administrator of the Northern Territory. I have been to Darwin on a couple of occasions and he has taken me around and shown me the plots that he has developed for agricultural purposes. Mr. Wise has taken a very keen interest in the development of this territory. He has rice plots which appear to bo growing satisfactorily. He is growing tobacco, bananas and pineapples, all of which have a ready sale and which grow profusely in and around Darwin. I believe that, as a result of experiments that have been undertaken by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and Mr. Wise, there will be great expansion in those areas.
I am totally in accord with the Government’s proposal. I believe that this is the first time that an Australian government has taken a real interest in the land tenure system in the Northern Territory. In Western Australia, banks will not advance money on leasehold tenures and they cannot be developed. But the banks will make money available more readily on the proposed .leases in perpetuity, and I sincerely hope that the Governments of Western Australia and ‘Queensland will adopt similar land tenures. Although the granting of perpetual leases, known as pastoral homestead leases, is a .step in the right direction I should like private ownership of land to be introduced in respect of small areas. If a man owns freehold land he knows that it is his. I like the idea of private ownership. A bank is always prepared to make an advance on the security of freehold property. However, as I understand that finance will be just as readily .available on pastoral homestead leases I support the bill. I believe that the Northern Territory has a great future. It has large uranium, deposits and a large amount of money is being spent there on mining. I do not think that there will be many ghost towns in the Northern Territory unless they appear at deserted gold-mines. Senator Tangney was right in claiming that there were many ghost towns throughout Australia. In Western Australia, many towns which once had populations of thousands now have only a few people living in them. But most of them have been gold-mining centres. Ghost towns are not likely to result from the development of coal, oil or uranium resources. Such development makes for the establishment of permanent settlements. This bill will provide a great opportunity for the further development of the Northern Territory, and I give it my whole-hearted support.
.- This bill is primarily designed, as the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) said in his second-reading speech, to make it easier for a resident pastoralist in the Northers Territory to obtain credit to develop his . property. la the past four or five years, we have heard many reports from people who have visited the Northern Territory. I have seen such reports described as the “ pious platitudes of peregrinating politicians “.
– Was that a reference to the honorable senator?
– I have not been to the Northern Territory as a member of a parliamentary delegation, but foi1 ten years I lived in a part of Queensland that is very close to the Northern Territory, and I know the problems associated with the development of land in lowrainfall areas. I know what is needed in the way of fencing, water supply, and other facilities required for the carrying of stock. I also know something about the flies, the heat, the droughts, and the other disabilities that have to be endured by people who live in those areas. Therefore, I believe that I can, with confidence, address myself to various features of Ais measure. I say first that this bill will contribute nothing to the solution of the main problem of the Northern Territory. I refer to the need for the rapid development and for a substantial increase of the population. The bill does attempt to do something for settlers already established in the Territory. It will give them more financial security, and assist them to develop their properties. In effect, it wil ! guarantee advances to lessees made b,v banks and other financial institutions. But the measure goes no further than that. There is no attempt to introduce a developmental scheme for the Northern Territory and although Government supporters in the House of Representatives and in this chamber, including Senator McCallum, have written articles on the needs of the Territory, this measure fail? completely to face up to the Government’s responsibilities in that huge area of the Commonwealth .
Under this bill the accounts of present residents of the Northern Territory will be guaranteed to a maximum of £30,000 for the carrying out of improvements. The Attorney-General has spoken of the kind of settler that the Territory requires. He has told us that, young men of vigour, imagination and initiative are needed. A newcomer who hoped to establish himself in the Northern Territory would require to take with him about 2,000 head of cattle. According to figures given by the Attorney-General, there were about 1.000,000 head of cattle in the Territory last year, and the turn-off was 115,000 head. valued at £2,720,000. Therefore, on the Minister’s own figures, cattle in the Northern Territory have an average value of £23 a head. Thus, a new settler who had to take with him 2,000 head of cattle, would have to outlay £40,000 on the stocking of his property alone. How can new settlers he expected to go to the Northern Territory if they have to pay out that huge sum of money initially and, under this measure, will not be able to borrow any funds on that stock?
– They can start off with a few breeders and breed up.
–That is true, but they have to exist in the meantime, and to put up with all the disabilities of living in the Territory. I doubt very much whether many new settlers could be induced to go to the Northern Territory, even if they were to obtain leases rent free for a number of years, so long as they have to outlay £40,000 on stock initially and are unable to borrow money on that stock. The Government is making it practically impossible under this measure for newcomers to settle in the Northern Territory. The bill is designed to benefit only the man who is already there and wishes to improve his property by sinking new water bores, perhaps subdividing his land further, and employing a few extra men. The population of the Northern Territory has increased in the last seven years by 50 per cent. But let us analyse the figures. There are now 16,489 people in the Territory, but 8,046 of them live in Darwin, and 2,791 in Alice Springs. Therefore, outside those two centres, there are only 5,600 people in an area of 500,000 square miles. In other words, there is a population density of one person to every 56,000 acres or 88 square miles. If measures such as this are indicative of this Government’s policy, how can we convince the people of Australia or the people of the rest of the world, that we are making a genuine attempt to settle our undeveloped areas? This measure is heralded by honorable senators opposite as a great advance, but, as I have said, it does nothing at all to encourage new settlers to go to the Northern Territory, and I cannot see how it can be a source of satisfaction to the Government. At best the measure can be regarded only as a palliative or a gesture.
The development of the Northern Territory .is not a job only for the residents of the Territory. It is a Commonwealth responsibility. As previous speakers from this side of the chamber have pointed out, this Government obviously has no definite land development scheme. For the past 70 years, Vestey’s, a wealthy organization which holds tremendous areas of land, has been skimming the cream off the Northern Territory. It has been taking everything possible out of the Territory and putting as little as possible back into it. Legislation passed last year has given to organizations such as Vesteys an extended lease of their properties. According to the Attorney-General’s second-reading speech, the Vestey organization is now negotiating new leases, has surrendered 8,943 square miles of leasehold and 5,351 square miles held under grazing licences and accepted improvement conditions which will require an expenditure of £250,000 over the next five years. But that is only £50,000 a year ! Mention has been made of the high cost of improvements in the Northern Territory. For instance, a new water bore may cost £4,000. Therefore if Vestey’s were to sink only ten new bores throughout their entire holdings, all the developmental funds for one year would be absorbed. The cost of fencing is stated to be £400 a year. So, the provision of 20 miles or 30 miles of fencing, which would be sufficient only to provide one side of a fence enclosing 150,000 or 200,000 acres, would completely absorb the developmental expenditure for one year. Therefore the Government has failed to compel this wealthy company, which has had a very good run up there for many years, to put more of its profits back into the Northern Territory. The number of cattle in the Northern Territory has actually declined in recent years. In 1949, there were 1,049,000 cattle in the Territory, but the number has been steadily diminishing.
– Due to drought.
– It is true that there have been some bad seasons, but there were good seasons in earlier years, and the fact that the number of cattle has decreased to less than 1,000,000, does not say much for the activities of organizations such as Vesteys. The latest figure available shows that there are 966,000 cattle in the Territory. The policy applied by Vesteys has been to put as little as possible into the Northern Territory, and to take out as much as possible. I believe that the new terms that have been offered to this company are far too generous. It would not be too much to expect the organization to spend £100,000 or even £200,000 a year on development, in return for the security of tenure that has been granted by this Government. Similar stories can he told of many other outback areas of Australia. We know the story of Sir Sidney Kidman’s properties in South Australia, and Jimmy Tyson’s properties in the south-west of Queensland, which I know so well. Those people have flogged the land and shown no sense of community responsibility. Properties have been overstocked and employees sweated. To-day, much of the land is poorer than it was when it was first taken up.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I had directed the attention of the Senate to the very generous terms which the Government proposes to give to Vestey’s. I believe that we should ask that organization to do more for the development of the Territory than the agreement proposed by the Government will require it to do. The Northern Territory is in the front line of our defences, and the eyes of people in other parts of the world are on it. They regard it as an example of what we are doing with our country. I do not think that we are asking Vestey’s, which has accumulated a large amount of capital and reserves from its operations over a long period of years, to do sufficient for the development of the Territory.
The bill provides that the limit of the Government guarantee in respect of advances to lessees, against securities in the form of improvements, shall be £30,000. I understand that the average size of holdings which can be operated economically in the Alice Springs area is approximately 3,000 square miles, whereas in the far north it is 9,000 square miles. In the past, it has been the practice to allow cattle to roam along the river banks during dry periods and to take them back to the holdings in the good seasons. In any organized scheme of settlement of the Territory, adequate fences would be necessary. The Minister stated, during his second-reading speech, that the cost of fencing in the area is as much as £400 a mile. On the basis of an average-sized property of 3,000 square miles, in the Alice Springs area, and taking into account the cost of barbed wire and ordinary fencing wire, and the high cost of labour required to sink holes for posts and strainers, even at £200 a mile the cost of fencing on such a property would involve a capital outlay of at least £40,000. Bearing in mind the fact that the cost of fencing an averagesized property would be £40,000, and having regard, also, to the fact that cattle cost between £15 and £20 a- head in the Territory, and as much as £30 a head if they are brought from Queensland or South Australia, it must be agreed that this bill does not tackle the problems of the Territory on a proper basis.
The eyes of the grazing land, as it were, have been picked out by Vestey’s and others who went to the Northern Territory in the early days. The quality of the land available for settlement there now is much lower than that which is already settled. Naturally, those who were there first secured the best country available. Because of the relatively poor quality of the country now available for settlement, and the inordinately high cost of land development, only the most adventurous and wealthy men can afford to settle in the Northern Territory. The Government must consider the conclusions to be drawn from the economic conditions to which I have referred. It must face the need to populate the Northern Territory and be prepared to expend vast sums of money in that area. The Government will have to determine the best means of raising that money. The measure at present before the Senate is merely a palliative. I believe that the people of Australia genuinely desire to- see the Northern Territory developed. They rely on the Australian . Government to do that. Nevertheless, this Government has presented a bill which makes no attempt to tackle the basic problems of the Territory.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has argued that the Government guarantee in respect of capital advances to lessees represents a shortterm policy. Lessees who wish to develop their properties must consider the returns which they will receive over a long period of years. They make a long-term investment in the land and, at the same time, in the future of the Territory. The Government, on behalf of the nation, is asking those men to expand their capital investment, but it is not offering them suitable terms. A lessee will not be able to borrow money on his stock, although he may have a large amount of money tied up in them. The fact that he will be obliged to work on a daily balance overdraft will not encourage him to take advantage of a guarantee such as that proposed by the bill. The Opposition believes that the Government should have provided for a long-term guarantee in respect of loans to these lessees so that they could be certain, even in time of drought or of falling stock prices, that there would be no foreclosures, such as there were in the past. The tendency in primary production to-day is for the rate of production to increase and for prices to fall, except in the case of wool, which is the only primary commodity with a certain future. A guarantee such as thaienvisaged by the Opposition should be provided in the case of advances to Northern Territory lessees, to enable them to finance the development of their properties over the next 30 or 40 years. The amendment foreshadowed by the Leader of the Opposition, if accepted, would change this legislation into a useful measure, because it would guarantee longterm loans at a low rate of interest. The bill, as it stands, is so limited in its scope, and will affect so few people in the Territory, that it will not alter the present position to any significant degree.
I hope that the Government will consider the problems of the Northern Territory as a whole, instead of considering, only the interests of people who have been established there for many years,, who have obtained the pick of the land and the best water holes, and who are able to make the most use of existing, stock-routes. Such a policy can only retard the development of the Territory. A new approach is necessary if people are to be encouraged to go there and settle on the land. The facilities and amenities in the Territory must be improved. We should regard the Northern Territory as a definite defence project. Its roads alone could be a great asset in time of war. I wish I could believe that the Government intended to approach the problems of the Territory along the line3 that I have indicated, but as far as I can see, this bill merely represents an attempt to evade responsibility for the development of the Territory. For that reason, I shall support the foreshadowed amendment, and hope that it will be approved by honorable senators on the Government side.
.- In making a contribution to the debate, I rise principally to ask several questions, and I hope that the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer) will answer them when he replies to the debate. If this legislation works successfully, as I think it well might do, the number of persons who will be settling in the Northern Territory and entering the cattle industry will be greatly increased. Those new settlers should be helped by the provision in the Northern Territory of as many experimental veterinary stations as it is possible to provide. 1. believe that in the whole of the area there is only one experimental station. That is situated at Alice Springs. I suppose that the pests, diseases and climatic conditions that are encountered in some areas of the Territory differ from those that are found where the present experimental station is situated. I believe that an experimental veterinary station in the Darwin area could be of great assistance to the people who settle in the Northern Territory, and would help in the expansion of the cattle industry. I should like the
Minister to inform the Senate whether any such proposal is in the mind of the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) or the Government. I suggest thai; he should communicate with the Administrator of the Northern Territory, Mr. Wise, to ascertain the Administrator’s thoughts on that proposal. Although I have no official reason for saying so, [ believe that the Administrator would look favorably upon the establishment of such stations in areas other than Alice Springs.
I also wish to impress upon the Government the danger of making holdings too small. I know that the size of holdings must vary, according to geographical situation and climatic conditions, as between one part of th-j Northern Territory and another and portions of Queensland. However, if we are to avoid heartbreak for the settlers, we must err on the side of making tho holdings too large rather than too Small. If a man has an area that he must stock fully to make a living, he will have no reserve of land where he “can move his stock if drought hits the district. His cattle will die, and he will have to restock an eroded property. One of the strong points about well-managed, large stations in the Northern Territory, is that they have reserve country to which herds can be moved in case of drought. I do not know whether it would be possible to provide for the smaller settlers to have areas set aside in the -Channel country or elsewhere to which they could move all or part of their herds in time? of drought. I am not competent to discuss the details, but with all the sincerity at my command, I urge the Government, above all things, not to make the areas on which the settlers are to be established too small. If they are, we can expect only disaster. ‘Senator SPICER (Victoria- AttorneyGeneral) [2.35]. - in reply - I have several comments to make in connexion with the debate that has transpired on this hill. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) attempted, in my opinion, to belittle the nature of the bill unnecessarily. The Government has not submitted this measure as one that will solve all the problems of land settlement in the Northern Territory. The bill is directed to one specific problem. That is, provision for the lessees to obtain finance from banks so that they can carry out their operations on the land properly. The measure has to be submitted to the Parliament because the Treasurer has to have the necessary legislative authority to give the guarantees that the legislation contemplates. This departure, along withseveral other matters towards which the administration is directing its attention, should contribute to the further development of the Northern Territory.
Honorable senators on the Opposition side have made great play of the fact that, in their opinion, the loans will be only temporary loans. That does not follow. The loans that are referred to in the bill include overdraft loans, but the lending of money by a bank for a fixed term is not unknown, by any means. The Government contemplates that, with the assistance of the Government guarantee and the security it provides, the banks will be encouraged to lend money to the settlers on fixed terms, and so assist directly in the financing of the activities of these settlers in that part of Australia.
– That has not been the case in the past.
– Maybe it has not been the case in the Northern Territory, but I am certain that there are many areas in New South Wales where residents have drawn their finances over the period of settlement from some of the banks on fixed terms. There is no reason at all why the banking institutions might not be encouraged to do that kind of business.
– Some of them need encouragement.
– I suggest that they will be encouraged by the fact that the Government is prepared to assist with the guarantees that are provided in the bill. As I have said, the measure is merely directed to the assistance of settlers in the way I have described. Senator -Gorton made some reference to the need for more experimental veterinary stations in the area. I believe it is correct that there is one station of that kind at Alice Springs. The possibility of setting up another station in an other part of the territory, perhaps at Darwin, has received consideration from time to time. However, 1 believe that difficultyhas been experienced in finding the necessary personnel to conduct the station at Alice Springs effectively. While that problem remains, in an area where the number of cattle to be dealt with is much greater than it is elsewhere, naturally there is some hesitation in embarking upon the development of another station in a different area where the need, perhaps,is not so great or so urgent. I assure the honorable senator that I shall direct the attention of the Minister for Territories to his suggestion. -If there are no practical difficulties in the way, I am sure that the honorable senator’s suggestion will not- fall on unsympathetic ears when it is referred to the Minister and the Administrator, Mr. Wise, who has made a valuable contribution to the administration of the Territory.
What I have said about experimental stations is true, in some respects, about the suggestions that Senator Gorton made about the size of holdings. I believe that there is no fixed size for the holdings, because the size must have reference to the conditions in the district where a holding is situated. My attention has been directed to some new Grown land regulations that have been issued under a Crown Lands Ordinance dated the 5th May last. Provision in those regulations indicate that the areas that will be made available in different portions of the Northern Territory will have direct relation to the stock-carrying capacity of the land. If the honorable senator would like to study the regulation, I have a copy and will make it available to him.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I have one amendment to submit to the committee, and if it is agreed to, I shall submit a consequential amendment. The amendment is brief, and relates to clause 4, the relevant part of which reads as follows : - (1.) Where the Treasurer is satisfied that a loan of an amount not exceeding Thirty thousand pounds is proposed to be made by a bank to an eligible person, and that the loan is required, and is intended to be used, by the eligible person -
I move -
That, after paragraph (a), the following new paragraph be inserted: - “ (aa) for the purposes of financing stock and plant; “.
If honorable senators will study the amendment in its proposed context, they will note that if the amendment is agreed to, the Treasurer will be prepared to guarantee portions of loans up to £30,000 for the purposes of providing, not only for physical improvements to leased land, but also to enable a lessee to acquire stock or plant. That merely broadens the scope of the measure. It may be that finance will be required for more than one purpose. It may be needed to improve buildings or fences, or for the erection of buildings and similar works. Many of the lessees might be in need of finance for the purpose of acquiring stock or plant. They are the practical needs of every lessee. Why should that need be excluded from the benefit of this measure? Why should the Government say, “ We will guarantee the loan of a sum that otherwise would not be made available to you, solely if you want to effect physical improvements to your property; but if your need is for money to acquire stock or plant, we are not prepared to give a similar guarantee”? I cannot think of any legitimate reason why the Government should not extend the scope of the bill to cover that phase of the matter. I presented my arguments during another stage of the bill, and I do not propose to elaborate them further at this stage.
If the proposed new paragraph were inserted, a consequential amendment of paragraph (b) of clause 4 (1.) would be necessary, because the word “ paragraph “ in the first line of paragraph (b) would need to be in the plural. Instead of reading “ partly for a purpose specified in the last preceding paragraph “, it would read “ partly for a purpose specified in the last preceding paragraphs”. If this amendment is accepted, I shall move the consequential amendment.
Senator SPICER (Victoria- AttorneyGeneral [2.46]. - The bill is concerned with the problem of long-term finance which settlers in this area might find it difficult to obtain. Similar difficulties do not arise in regard to finance for stock and plant. Such finance is usually provided on a short-term basis. It can be obtained readily from stock and station agents and similar people, who customarily make short-term loans for that purpose. The amendment, if accepted, would introduce into the bill an element quite foreign to its nature. Therefore, I ask the Senate to reject the amendment.
– I direct the attention of the AttorneyGeneral to the fact that the Queensland Government has made arrangements for the Agricultural Bank in that State to finance settlers, particularly those who are allotted subdivisions of land resumed by the Government on the expiration of leases. A loan not exceeding £7,500 can be made immediately to a new settler who goes on to an unimproved block. Provision has been made for loans to settlers of approximately one-third of that sum to finance the purchase of stock. If the Government genuinely desires to attract settlers to the Northern Territory, this legislation will be without purpose unless it makes some provision for money to be made available to purchase stock. For that reason, I urge the Government to accept the amendment. It is necessary to do everything possible to encourage men with ability and initiative to go into the Northern Territory and do the pioneering job that we all hope will be done there.
– I do not accept the proposition that the purpose of the bill is to encourage longterm development. I think it will have the effect only of encouraging short-term development. I say that because I do not believe any private trading bank would lend money, pursuant to this legislation, except at call. That fact of itself will condition the development undertaken by lessees. I do not accept the proposition that the private trading banks would enter into long-term arrangements, because that would be a complete negation of their policy. I should be amazed if any of the private trading banks were prepared to make long-term loans which, in turn, would lead to longterm development. The necessity for settlers to have assets sufficiently liquid to meet a sudden call for the repayment of a loan will restrict their developmental works to short-term works. I regret that the Government is not prepared to accept the amendment which, if adopted, would grant relief additional to that proposed by this measure.
. - I direct attention to the fact that in 1952 we were asked to consider a measure, the object of which was to assist Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. In that case, the Commonwealth indicated its willingness to give a guarantee to the company in respect of money advanced to it by private banks or other financial institutions. The principle involved there was that the Government was prepared to furnish a guarantee for the purchase of what I might call the stock-in-trade of Australian National Airways Proprietary, Limited, the stockintrade in that instance being aircraft. It seems to me there is a reasonable parallel between that case and this case, where the stock-in-trade is not only fixed assets and improvements, but also stock. In measures authorizing Commonwealth financial guarantees, no discrimination should be made between a major airline, such as Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, and a small selector who is trying to make a go of a very difficult venture in a remote part of Australia that requires development. The Opposition appeals to the Government - we think the Government should accept our appeal and act on it - to agree that what is given to very important, wealthy and powerful sections of the community should not be denied to sections of the community that are less wealthy, but equally important and more deserving of our assistance.
– I am amazed that honorable senators opposite are not prepared even to discuss the amendment, because there is great rnerit in it. It expresses the point of view, not only of the Opposition, but also of people in the area concerned, who believe that, if the Government wants: to attain the objective envisaged by the bill, it must do what the Opposition suggests. But when a proposal is made that the Commonwealth give a financial guarantee in respect of loans made to new settlers who want money to buy the stock and plant necessary to enable them to carry on in a part of the country where development is very expensive,, the proposal is. treated by the Government with contempt. Not one honorable senator opposite, other than the Minister, bus spoken to the amendment proposed.
The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) has fought strongly for a better deal for the Territory. He has advanced strong arguments in. the House of Representatives in favour of long-term assistance. He wants greater assistance to be given to the people in the Territory than is envisaged by this bill. The pioneers of this country have always suffered hard,ship as a result of short-term loans. However hard they worked and however much they developed their properties, if a season went against them, they were finished. The Opposition asks the Government to make only a small concession to help people who have not got a great deal of capital but are prepared to go into the Territory and bear the heat and burden of the day there. If they invest a reasonable amount of capital in their properties, it seems to me they should be able to get finance from a bank to buy stock and plant. What is the use of putting a man with only a limited amount of capital on land in a part of the country where the development of properties requires considerable capital, and then saying to him that the Government will give a guarantee only for the loan of a sum equal to the value of his lease and what he has put into it? I urge the Government to accept the amendment, or to explain why it is not prepared to extend the scope of the measure to the degree suggested.
– Apparently the Opposition believes that the insertion of the proposed new paragraph in the bill would enable more money to be made available to lessees. Under the bill in its present form, a lessee would be able to raise up to £30,000 from a financial institution, under guarantee from the Treasury, the actual sum being determined by the value of fixed assets and the value of the lease. The suggestion of the Opposition is that the sum should be determined on. the basis of fixed assets and the value of the lease, plus the value of stock. Under the bill as it stands, a person interested in a holding in the Northern Territory would be able to obtain a maximum loan of £30,000 from private banking institutions, under a guarantee from the Treasury. In addition, he would be able to raise from stock agents asum equal to the value of the stock on his property. Under the bill in its present form, there would beno limitation of the sum that a settler could borrow, but if the amendment were accepted, there would be a limit of £30,000. Therefore, I oppose the amendment.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator McKenna’s amendment) be inserted.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid)
Majority … . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment ; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 26th October (vide page 1012), on motion by Senator Spooner. -
That the hill bo now read a second time.
SenatorTANGNEY (Western Australia) [3.6]. - This bill provides for the borrowing of £32,000,000 to grant to the States for the implementation of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. That falls short, by £4,200,000, of the amount that was provided in the last financial year, which seems to indicate that the housing problem of the nation has been partly overcome, and that there is not now as great a demand for housing as there has been in the past. One could assume, from the smaller amount that will be provided this year, that 20 per cent, fewer people are now waiting for homes than were waiting for them last year. However, that would be a fallacious assumption, as will be conceded by every honorable senator who has endeavoured to have housing commission homes allocated to his constituents. As we all know, there is a terrific backlag in the provision of houses by both State instrumentalities and private enterprise.
The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement was entered into by the Chifley Labour Government in 1945, in an effort to solve one of the biggest social problems of the day. As we all know, bad housing leads to many social problems. Those of ‘us who have had experience in this regard, know that the greatest number of juvenile delinquents come from overcrowded inner metropolitan areas. That has been shown time and time again by court statistics. Children living in slum areas are more likely to fall foul of the law than those who live in decent home? and have their own backyards in which to play. The same is true in relation to tuberculosis. A report that was released about a fortnight ago shows that the incidence of tuberculosis in the inner industrial suburbs of our big cities is greater than elsewhere in. the community.
I come now to a very great social factor in connexion with housing. I refer to the divorce rate in this country. Last year, there were between 70,000 and 80,000 divorces in Australia. As one or two children per marriage are also involved, it is evident that hundreds of thousands of persons are affected by such a large number of divorces. Even when we had no housing problem, there was a large number of divorces in the community, but I believe that the inability of young married couples to obtain homes of their own has been responsible for an increase of the number of divorces. Through being unable to obtain homes of their own, many young married couples are forced to live with their in-laws, and consequently are unable to live their lives adequately. As I have said many times previously in this chamber, where two women have to share a kitchen there is always likely to be a bit of trouble. If they happen to be a young married woman and her mother-in-law, the trouble might be accentuated. Although we are inclined, at times, to treat this matter facetiously, it is tragic that so many young couples have to commence their married lives by living with their in-laws, or in rented rooms, and have very little prospect of getting their own homes. As honorable senators are aware, a person must have a substantial deposit before he can purchase a home from a government instrumentality. In Western Australia, it is apparent from the advertisements in the daily press that a person has little hope of getting a home unless he has a cash deposit of £1,000, although the estate agents say that that amount is only “ chicken feed “. Nevertheless, a lot of hard work and saving is involved in accumulating £1,000. It is not so very long ago that a young fellow who had £l,000 would have been quite a good catch. There was a terrific housing backlag after World War II., due to the fact that relatively few houses were constructed during the war years. In 1945, the government of the day looked at this matter from a national point of view, and realized that adequate housing was essential to our survival as a democracy. That may sound a sweeping statement. However, my authority for it is one who will be acceptable to supporters of the Government. I refer to the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt), who stated recently -
Our failure as a nation to meet the challenge of the housing shortage could, in due time, cost us our occupancy of this country.
That was a very important statement, made by a man who chooses his words well. I think that we can agree with him. If we are to have a happy and contented people, who are prepared to work and make sacrifices in order to maintain, the integrity of Australia, we must provide them with a stake in the country for which they will fight without being urged by any one to do so. The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement provides that the Commonwealth shall supply to the States each year, to carry out their housing programmes, such sums of money as it deems proper. That brings me to a point of difference with the Government in relation to this bill. Although the States themselves should be - and are - in a position to determine the amount of money which they deem proper to meet their housing commitments each year, over the last five years the annual amount provided to them has been whittled down. For instance, Victoria - of which we have heard so much during the last few weeks - submitted that, for the last financial year, it needed £11,500,000 to carry out its housing projects. That State was supplied with only £.10,000,000, which was £1,500,000 less than it needed. In the last five years, Victoria asked for £69,950,000, but received only £52,431,000- £17,000,000 less than the amount that was sought. New South Wales stated that it required £18,150.000 for 1953-54, but received only £12,000,000. In other words, the amount that that State said was a minimum requirement was cut by about onethird. In the last five years, New South Wales asked for £78,632,650, but received only £52,954,000- £17,000,000 less than the amount that was sought. The position in Queensland is not quite so bad. That State asked for £2,115,000 for 1953-54 and received £2,000,000. In the last five years, Queensland asked for £26,406,000 but received only £17,419,000. That was £8,987,000 less than it required. South Australia, which has only recently participated in the scheme, asked for £5,000,000 and received £4,500,000. In the current financial year, the South Australian Government will be the only government that will receive as much as it has asked for. It has asked for, and will receive, £4,000,000. I would not like to say that that was due to the fact that the Premier of South Australia is a Liberal. Apparently he is the only Premier who was able to estimate the exact amount that the Commonwealth would give to his government. The Western Australian Government required £5,576,500, and received £3,500,000, a reduction of almost 40 per cent. During the last five years that Government has requested the sum of £22,293,000 and has received £15,982,500, which is about £7,000,000 less than it asked for.
A clause of the original agreement stated that the Commonwealth would provide the finance needed by the States in each year for the carrying out of the housing programmes that they deemed proper. No strings were attached to that clause. Yet, during the past five years, the States have received £160,000,000 less than they deemed proper to carry out their housing projects. Nevertheless, this agreement has been productive of much good. It has resulted in 68,773 houses having been built. Assuming that the average family would consist of a man, his wife and two children, at least 250,000 people have been housed in homes which have been constructed under the Commonwealth-State housing agreement. That is a fine achievement. We do not know how those people would have found accommodation had not these houses been provided for them. The terrific rise in the cost of houses has been a phenomenon of the post-war period. Because of shortages of labour and material, building costs have become prohibitive for wage-earners.
Another very big factor in the price of houses, in Western Australia particularly, has been the rise in the cost of land. Blocks of land which, a few years ago, sold for £200 in ray suburb, recently sold for £3,000. That terrific rise cannot be justified, being due only to the strength of the demand. The construction of Housing Commission projects has resulted in the development of a number of outer suburban areas in Western Australia. These projects have brought about the construction of utilities such as shops, schools and decent roads, which have created a new picture, in our outer metropolitan areas. I am sorry that many of the new houses throughout Australia have not been built to last. The average cost of a house built under this agreement, judging by the Minister’s figures, has been £2,570. Before the war, it was possible to buy a very fine brick home with three or four bedrooms and a good block of land for that price. Anybody living in a house worth £2,000 in those days was not on the basic wage. Now the meanest house of asbestos or synthetic products with small rooms costs over £2,000. For that reason I consider that some assistance should be given through Commonwealth instrumentalities or the Commonwealth Bank to enable people to buy some of the older houses, which will last longer than some of the houses that have been built in recent years.
I should like to pay a tribute to the officers of the Commonwealth Bank who have to deal with the public in connexion with housing problems. In Western Australia and New South Wales, and probably in other States, these officers have been very helpful. In many cases I have sent to them people with housing problems who have not been customers of the bank. In every instance, those people have received help from the officers of the bank. In some cases, the bank’s officers have saved people hundreds of pounds and in other cases have saved them from putting a noose around their necks for many years. The amount of finance that is being made available by the Commonwealth Bank could be greatly increased. Last year, the bank made £10,000,000 profit. It is one socialistic enterprise that I have not heard attacked. Nobody would be game to abolish it. It has given good service to the community but the Government should enable it to give more help to people who require housing finance. There is a ceiling on the size of loans that can be made available by the Commonwealth Bank and, because of the increasing costs of building, a gap has to be bridged before young people can own their own homes. The defence of any country can best be provided for by arranging for its people to be well housed. A lot of other problems do not arise once that initial problem has been overcome. The present rate of interest on loans under the agreement is too high. Under the agreement, the rental of a house constructed at a cost of £2,750, borrowed on terms extending over 45 years at 4£ per cent., is £2 14s. lOd. a week. At the end of 45 years the occupant of the house will have paid £6,450. This is a terrific problem. The total interest payable is far greater than the price of the house. At the end of 22 years, the original loan will have been repaid. The money paid during the remaining 23 years of the period will represent profit.
In 1949, the late Mr. Chifley sent out a memorandum to the States suggesting an arrangement under which houses could be sold to the tenants. Under the present system, the full price of a house has to be repaid to the Commonwealth by the States if a house is sold. I know that that provision was contained in the original agreement which was drawn up in 1945. It was intended then that the houses should be rented. The Labour party believes that people are entitled to own their own homes but at that time, after six years of war, no money was available for home-building. Even in 1939 the Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, said that no money was available for slum clearance because of the government’s commitments for defence. There was a period of about twenty years, during the depression and the war which followed, in which few homes were built in Australia. This terrific backlag has to be made up. In 1945, when men were returning from overseas, the government decided to build homes to rent, more or less as a temporary expedient. The agreement that was drawn up could have been terminated by the Commonwealth or a State at any time by giving twelve months’ notice. I am very pleased that the present Government has decided ‘ to keep the agreement in force. But in 1949, just before the elections, the late
Mr. Chifley tried to arrange with the States that the tenants of houses constructed under the agreement could purchase the homes on a very small deposit with repayments extending over 45 years. However, the general election came, the Labour Government went and the present Government came, and nothing has come of the proposal.
It would be economic for the Government to implement the proposal of the late Mr. Chifley because, under the present system, the cost of the maintenance of these houses, which is very high in the case of asbestos houses, is paid by the housing authorities. If the houses were purchased by the occupants, maintenance would become the owner’s responsibility. Most people take a pride in their homes and more care would be taken of them if people were able to buy them. I suggest that the rate of interest payable should not be higher than 3 per cent, which would cover administrative costs. Each year many immigrants are brought to this country. Each of them is estimated to cost the Government £1,000. But it is not wise to bring immigrants to this country unless they can be provided with housing. Immigrants should not be brought to Australia while the people who are here already have no prospect of obtaining decent housing. I do not suggest that the Government should give everybody a house before it brings immigrants to the country. But I suggest that the Government should assist young people to procure homes when they marry by giving them a loan of £1,000 free of interest. The loans would be repaid and in the meantime the Government would have the security of the properties. A loan of this kind would encourage young people to have a family. The children would be raised in pleasant surroundings, and would grow up to be valuable citizens of the Commonwealth.
The housing problem is not purely an economic problem. It has many social implications. It touches on every aspect of our national life. Therefore, I regret very much that the Minister was so detached in his second-reading speech. He gave figures of the number of houses built, completed, and so on but I feel that so much more has to be done in this matter, that we should all have welcomed a little more information from the Minister. The payment to Western Australia this year is less than we had hoped. For all States except South Australia, the allocation is less than it was last year. That means that fewer homes can be built by the various governmental instrumentalities, and I venture to suggest that only because of the competition offered by those instrumentalities has the- cost of building not gone even higher than its present figure, and heaven knows that is high enough.
We need many more houses than are being built at present. The marriage rate is approximately 71,000 a year, yet the planning for houses, according to the Minister, is in terms of 60,000 homes a year. In addition to the 70,000 couples who are marrying and looking for homes, we must consider the needs of immigrants. Last year, only 43,000 immigrants came to this country, but in 1949, 150,000 arrived. I do not suggest that 150,000 new homes were needed to accommodate those people. Probably if we were to divide that figure by three, we should be closer to the actual demand. In 1950, the number of immigrants was 152,000 in 1951, it was 111,000; in 1952, 94,000; and in 1953, 43,000. The demand for housing must be assessed on the basis of the number of marriages each year, the annual intake of immigrants, the extent of slum clearance schemes, and the needs of people who require something better than ends of verandahs, garages, and shared accommodation. I believe that ‘I should not be overestimating our housing requirements if I said that the programme’ should envisage the construction of 100,000 homes a year. Even that figure would not take into account the added population that we may expect from- the influx of overseas capital, and the consequent establishment of new industrial undertakings. Therefore, I regret very much that the grants for housing this year have been decreased by £5,000,000. That is a reduction of about 16 or 17 per cent.
We on this side of the chamber do not think that the time has yet arrived for a levelling off of expenditure on housing. Government supporters in the House of Representatives have said, “Leave it to private enterprise. Remove all controls and private enterprise will build the houses.” But there are many thousands of people who have not the initial deposit necessary to enable them to have a house built privately. The only security they have to offer is the continuity of their employment. They have been unable to save £1,000 which, I suggest, is the minimum deposit required to-day to build any reasonable kind of home. It is most difficult for prospective home-builders to obtain finance. Organizations such as building societies have had a pretty tough time for the last few years. I do not suggest that only governments should build houses and that they should provide a home for every person in the Commonwealth who wants one. I believe that government instrumentalities should work side by side with private industry. “We do not want to see everybody housed in identical dwellings; but we maintain that many breadwinners who are doing their best to provide a reasonable living standard for their families, are unable to save money to pay a deposit on a home. How can a basic wage earner be expected to save money with tea, for instance, at 7s. 8d. per lb., and the cost of shoe repairs, clothing, and transport at their presentday high figures? How can any working man with a family be expected to save £1,000? Such a thought is as far beyond his dreams to-day as it was beyond the dreams of the basic wage worker years ago. So, I ask the Government to consider its allocations and to give the States at least what they asked for. Under clause 6 of the original agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, the Commonwealth undertook to provide the finance needed by the States to carry out the housing work that they deem necessary.
Quite a lot has been said in this chamber about the construction of a large block of flats by the State Housing Commission in the suburb of Subiaco, in Perth. 1. do not favour the building of flats in such large numbers anywhere. I prefer to see families housed in their own homes, and with their own back and front yards. But there is another aspect of this problem: To-day, many big houses are occupied by couples whose families have grown up and left them. Some of these parents would prefer to sell or let their houses and to occupy flats, but the rentals being asked for flats are too high. The flats to which I have referred are being built at an average cost of about £1,500 a unit. According to information given by a Liberal member in the House of Representatives, 252. flats are being built at a total cost of £400,000. The flats are provided with all amenities, including lifts, and they have garages and laundries.
– I do not agree with that. I believe that the flats should _be reserved mainly for people who have no families, including elderly folk whose children have left the family home. Although, as I have said, I am opposed altogether to the building of huge blocks of flats anywhere, the block in question will house a large number of people under reasonable living conditions. Also, it is much better to build a block of flats in the locality chosen for this building than in the heart of a city, as is being done even in Perth itself. The flats are near a park, and if the playing space there is not sufficient, King’s Park, one of the most beautiful spots in Australia, is not far away. Presumably, the flats will accommodate between 500 and 600 people. That will be 500 or 600 people fewer to worry about, because they will be adequately housed. It is much better to build comfortable flats than to allow people to remain in occupation of sub-standard, makeshift accommodation. Many new Australians are being taken in by rapacious landlords. They are paying huge sums for properties that are not worth anything like the purchase price. Usually the cost is so high, that no single family can afford to remain in sole occupation of a house. The result is that houses are being shared by two or three families living under slum conditions. All their money has been spent in buying the old properties. That is a deplorable state of affairs. Australians and new Australians alike have a right to good houses, and there is an ultimate obligation on governments to see that such houses are provided. The provision of comfortable and congenial homes plays a significant part in preventing delinquency and reducing the incidence of disease.
The housing problem is not new. There has been a housing problem ever since I can remember. In the depression days, I was a teacher at a school situated not far from a good residential area, yet, in the first class I had at that school, no less than 2S per cent, of the pupils came from an unemployment camp at White Beach, where to-day people are paying £3,000 or £4,000 for blocks of land. In the vicinity of the school there were many empty houses which were unoccupied because people could not afford to rent them. The wheel has made a turn. Now people have money, but they cannot get houses, and one problem is almost as bad as the other. To-day we see the aftermath of the times when unemployment camps were regarded as the only solution of the problem of housing the people. We all remember settlements such as Happy Valley camp in Sydney, and Blackboy Hill and White Beach camps in Western Australia. Those days, I hope, have gone for ever, but in our housing programme we must see that there is no rebuilding of areas which may in future become slums. That is why I am critical of many of the sites that are being chosen for our housing projects. Land is selected because it is cheap, but immediately the public learns a government has decided to acquire land, values in that area go up, and the higher cost of land is an added burden on the person who wishes to build a house. However, I believe that all governments have faced up to the housing problem well. I give them all credit for their honesty in this regard. They have recognized housing as a national problem, which requires close attention. Therefore, I regret very much that, at this stage, the Australian Government has decided to make available to the States for housing £5,000,000 less than they deem adequate to meet their needs.
– I am rather sorry that I have to follow Senator Tangney in the debate, because I have never liked contradicting the opposite sex. However, I feel that I must say something about two or three points made by her, because apart from her generalizations and humane outlook, I find that we do not agree very much on the subject of housing. The honorable senator referred repeatedly to this Government, but most of the actions she attributed to this Government in fact had nothing at all to do with it. For instance, she said that certain housing sites had been chosen by the Government. Those sites were chosen by State governments, not by the Australian Government. Then she spoke about the large deposits, which people who wish to purchase homes built under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, must make. I remind her that, in terms of percentages, the deposits are largely the same as they were before the war. She also spoke about the ‘Commonwealth cutting down the amount of money to be provided for housing this year. It is the States which decide how much money will be spent on housing. The Queensland Government had £3,000,000 left over from last year’s allocation. It is little wonder that the State Premiers got together and decided that they did not need so much money this year.
Senator Tangney also referred to pride in ownership of State-built houses. I suggest that people cannot have any pride in owning the kind of houses which most of the State governments are putting up. I exclude South Australia, and I am not too sure about the position in Western Australia, because I have not been there. However, I ha ve seen something of State housing projects in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, and I certainly would not be very proud if I were obliged to live in certain housing settlements I have seen, particularly in Queensland. It was my unpleasant duty to speak in the Senate about the Zillmere housing project in Queensland some time ago, and the story I had to tell was not a very pretty one.
There has been a housing shortage throughout the world since the end of the war. In the countries which I have visited, shortage of houses has been general. Over the la3t five years the States, with the exception of South Australia, and of Western Australia to a point, have been blaming the Australian Government for the shortage of houses. So much of that has been heard in Queens- land, particularly, that one is rather led to believe that the Government of the State is using an idea adopted by many dictators, including Hitler and Mussolini, to the effect that if a thing is said often enough and loudly enough, eventually the people will begin to believe it. I think that the Government of Queensland, and to a certain extent also that of New South Wales, are using that kind of propaganda Ever since I have been a member of this Parliament, the Government of Queensland has been saying that houses are in short supply because the Australian Government will not make available sufficient money for housing purposes. Every honorable senator knows that the actual building of houses under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is a matter for the State governments. The money alone is provided by the Commonwealth.
Shortly after this Government came to power, it agreed that, if it were impossible, owing to shortage of man-power and materials, for any of the State governments to build houses under the agreement, the Commonwealth would subsidize them to the extent of £300 in respect of each prefabricated house imported. Many States took advantage of that offer. I speak mainly of the housing position in Queensland, because I know more about what is going on there than I do of conditions in the other States. The Queensland authorities imported many thousands of prefabricated houses which, in some instances, were erected by Australian workers and, in other instances, under contract by citizens of the countries from which the houses came.
Despite anything which the Queensland Government may say to the contrary, the Australian Government has only three functions in connexion with housing. It is responsible for the erection of war service homes, for the construction of houses in the territories, and for the allocation of money for housing under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. I do not think that it is necessary for me to refer to the record of this Government in relation to war service homes, because that matter has been spoken about on many occasions. We have built more war service homes during the last five years than were built during the previous 30 years. As far as I have been able to see during my travels, we have also built sufficient houses for the needs of the territories. In respect of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, it is only necessary for the Australian Government to provide the money. It does not have to do the physical work of building the houses. That is a matter for the States. During the period that the agreement has been in force, £210,000,000 has been provided by Australian governments, both Labour and non-Labour, and some 69,000 houses have been built. That works out at between £3,000 and £3,100 for each house. In Queensland, we have found that the houses built under this agreement cannot be sold to-day at more than £1,400 or £1,500. Yet, they cost the State Government more than £3,000 to build.
– Is the honorable senator referring to prefabricated houses ?
– I am referring to all of the houses built by the State Government. In respect of the Zillmere housing settlement, for example, I think that the average cost was approximately £3,250, and the houses are being rented by the State Government, which is the landlord, at about £3 2s. 6d. a week. Yet the State rent collector allows private owners of houses of a similar present-day value to charge no more than £1 10s. a week. That is most inequitable. It is beyond my comprehension that the Government should allow such an anomalous position to exist. As Senator Tangney rightly stated, the people who occupy these houses either had to take them or live out in paddocks. The State Government knows that as well as I do.
During the period that this agreement has been in force, the Queensland Government has sold only about 5 per cent, of the 7,244 houses that have been built in the State. That indicates that people just will not buy them. The position in South Australia, of course, is entirely different, because the South Australian Government tackled the housing problem in a totally different way. In that State, approximately 50 per cent, of the homes built by the Government have been sold.
They are good homes and well constructed. South Australia has come into the Commonwealth a’nd State Housing Agreement only in the last twelve months, and I think that, since it did so, approximately 1,000 houses have been built.
– The honorable senator should get away from South Australia. He is not doing his argument any good by referring to conditions in that State.
– -For my purposes, it is perhaps unfortunate that there is a non-Labour government in South Australia, because honorable senators may think that I am being partisan. I have no intention of stating the position in a one-sided way. I should say precisely the same things about the housing position in South Australia if a Labor government had been in office there for the last 40 years. South Australia has shown what can be done to house the people, and the fact that its efforts have been successful is proved by the eagerness of the people to buy the houses that have been built. In the other States to which I have referred, the tendency has been towards the other direction. I understand that, in New South Wales, less than 1 per cent, of the houses have been sold, due to faulty construction and prohibitive prices.
I do not know a great deal about the position in Western Australia, although when I was there last, it appeared to me that the Government of that State was handling the housing situation fairly well. In Queensland, however, houses constructed under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement at the cost of more than £3,000 are valued to-day at only about £1,500. Even ‘ at that price, they cannot be sold. The consequence will be that the Queensland Labour Government will continue to be a landlord for ever and ever. It will not be able to sell the houses, and the people will not be able to own their homes. In addition, the Government, as landlord, will have to meet all the expenses of maintaining the houses.
As I have said, the State Premiers decided how much money will be expended on housing during the course of a year. In the last twelve months, the Queensland Government bit off more than it could chew, to the extent of £3,000,000, which it still has in hand. This year, it has agreed to take £2,000,000 instead of the £5,000,000 which it received last year. I have an idea, from certain discussions that I have had with members of the Queensland Parliament, that the Government of that State might welcome a suggestion I propose to make later in my speech, because I think that that Government is heartily sick and tired of building houses that nobody likes and that nobody will buy. I think it is also tired of the obloquy that is being heaped upon it because although the Government charges £3 2s. 6d. a week for its houses, it is possible to obtain bouses of a similar value, owned by private individuals, for only £1 10s. a week. At the present time, building contractors prefer not to work for the State Government. Contractors, both large and small, prefer to work for private individuals, for a number of reasons.
I understand that the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement will expire, as far as Queensland is concerned, at the end of next year. I believe that the agreement, as far as some of the other States are concerned, will continue for a few months of next year, but it will certainly not continue beyond the end of the financial year. Honorable senators on both side of the chamber will agree that the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement has become unmanageable and is not performing the functions for which it was designed originally. In order to clean up what is palpably a mess at the present time, I suggest to the Government that instead of wasting any more money next year, let us take the same amount of money and make it available through building societies or the Commonwealth Bank. Let us set up a separate trust account and allow the money to be made available to people who wish to build homes, so that they may build to their own design and with their own contractors. If that plan were adopted, I think it would be found that the number of homes constructed would increase. As honorable senators know, there are terrific delays in building homes for the Government. It is only necessary to look at the large administrative building which is being erected not far from this Parliament House to see how true that is. That building has been in the course of construction since I came to Canberra first five years ago, and it is not finished yet! Similar delays are evident when a government is responsible for the construction of small houses and housing settlements. Whatever a government does, it seems to do slowly. The Empire State Building in New York was built in ten and a-half months, yet the Administrative building in Canberra has been under construction for more than five years. I am certain that the number of houses built in Australia could be doubled if we went about the work in the proper way.
I agree with some of the statements made by Senator Tangney about the humanitarian side of the housing problem and the desire of many people to own homes, but I do not believe we shall reach a solution of those problems if we continue as we are going. We shall end up in a few years’ time with many thousands of houses that will be worth no more than one-third of the cost of construction. I hope that the Government will investigate this matter in the next twelve months before the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement expires. Without going into the matter deeply at this stage, I suggest that perhaps provision might be made through a trust account operated by the Commonwealth Bank, for the construction of houses on a deposit of 10 per cent. Perhaps a block of land could .be accepted as a deposit if its value amounted to 10 per cent, of the value of a completed house. If something were done along those lines, I believe that we might get somewhere.
– The purpose of the bill is to authorize the raising of loans totalling £32,000,000 to finance further advances to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. The £32,000,000 is to be distributed among the States on the basis of £12,000,000 to New South Wales, £10,500,000 to Victoria, £2,000,000 to Queensland, £4,000,000 to South Australia and £3,500,000 to Western Australia. At the 30th June, 1954, £178,209,000 had been advanced to the States under the agreement. The addition of £32,000,000 will bring the total to more than £200,000,000. The total of £32,000,000 was nominated by the States themselves, and will come out of the £200,000,000 loans programme for the current financial year.
It should be emphasized from the outset that the problem of housing is not so much a problem of finance, as of labour and materials. In presenting his Estimates recently, the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Cahill, said that if New South Wales had any more money available for housing loans, houses would not be built because the principal problem was the supply of labour and materials. That is a rebuttal of the statement that was made by Senator Tangney on this matter. Because we are living in a period of prosperity, there is a tendency for many young people not to go into the skilled trades when leaving school. They seek the big money they can get in unskilled occupations.
– We shall have to improve apprenticeship conditions.
– I agree that that matter should receive attention. The conditions of apprenticeship must be improved. After the first impact of the serious economic depression in the 1930’s, a technique was developed in New South Wales of subsidizing employers who would employ additional men. Master plumbers, electricians, bricklayers and carpenters were given a form of subsidy by the Government. The idea was to encourage master tradesmen to engage men who had passed the age when they would normally begin apprenticeships. If a man over 21 years began an apprenticeship, the difference between the apprenticeship rate of pay and the adult wage was paid by the Government. I believe that we should develop a similar scheme so that youths leaving school to go into a skilled trade would have some assistance. A plan of that kind might solve the housing problem.
There is need for some variation of the present agreement to place emphasis on home-ownership rather than upon tenancies. I support Senator Kendall in the statement that it is not desirable or wise to develop a situation where the State becomes a big landlord. A State landlord is not good for the social order or for our way of life. The present Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement makes little provision for ownership of homes because it provides that, in the event of a person purchasing a home, the whole of the capital cost must be repaid to the Commonwealth. Consequently, the agreement has made practically no impact on home-ownership. There is no form of easy finance running parallel with it. The following figures are revealing: -
As there is no provision for easy finance in the agreement, a person who buys a home has to pay cash, and the cash has to be returned to Commonwealth Consolidated Revenue. No emphasis- is placed on the encouragement of home-ownership. Instead, the State becomes a landlord. A further examination of the impact of the agreement, particularly in New South Wales, is revealing. It shows fairly clearly that the agreement, as such, has outlived its usefulness, and that the money provided by the Australian Government could be used to better advantage for the provision of homes for private ownership. Administrative costs of the New South Wales Housing Commission amounted to the staggering sum of more than £1,000,000 last year. That is bad business for the taxpayer. The story is one of waste and inefficiency, and bureaucracy at its worst. Under a scheme of home-ownership, the administrative overhead would be reduced, and would be a charge against the home-ownership scheme. The New South Wales Housing Commission’s report was tabled in the New South Wales Parliament recently. It reveals that arrears of rent for New South Wales Housing Commission homes total £90,906. The figures that I have already read show that there are more than 29,000 Housing Commission homes in New South Wales. The extraordinary point about the matter is that notices to quit served by the New South Wales Housing Commission last year totalled 2,818. That is an average of one notice to quit for every eleven homes.
– Some of those notices would be sent to one home more than once.
– There could be some duplication, but I emphasize that those notices were given in a time of prosperity. That is a staggering revelation. Before I became associated with politics, I was engaged in real estate. During the depression years, I had the doubtful pleasure of managing a real estate agency, and I believe that the figures relating to notices to quit in New South Wales last year are greater than the equivalent figures for the depression at a time of great financial stress. This position has not been created by financial embarrassment. If a tenant of one of the homes to which I have referred gets into financial difficulties, provision is made for an adjustment of the rent to a point where the tenant will pay no more than 8s. a week. Therefore, the notices to quit do not stem from financial problems. There must be some other basis for them. I think it is quite clear that the majority of the notices to quit were issued to tenants who had damaged the houses. The landlord and tenant legislation provides that notices to quit can be issued to tenants for certain reasons, including non-payment of rent and damage to property. The fact that 2,818 tenants have been given notice to quit points quite clearly towards vandalism or damage. In case my remarks are misunderstood, I want to say that I know many Housing Commission tenants who take great care of their houses, but there must be some who neglect them.
That brings me to the real point I want to make. If the result of our housing policy is that Australians become a race of government tenants, we shall create a problem that will eventually cause the scheme to break down. The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement provides that any losses incurred shall be borne as to three-fifths by the Commonwealth and as to two-fifths by the States. People who own their own homes, or are paying off mortgages, keep them in a reasonable state of repair. Building societies and other lending organizations require that the houses on which they have advanced money shall be kept in a reasonable state of repair. They send out inspectors to look at them at regular intervals. The people who are buying the houses are required to paint them externally probably once every three years, and internally probably once every five years. Generally, they are required to keep the houses in good condition. The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement has not yet reached the stage a* which we shall feel the full impact of the cost of maintaining and repairing houses built under the agreement, but if we continue in the way in which we are going, the cost of repairs and maintenance will become staggering. It will reach an astronomical figure. The losses incurred under the agreement will be greater than even the Commonwealth and the States can stand. So there is a good case to be made out for terminating the agreement, or for revising it in such a way as to place the emphasis on home ownership, so that the available money, instead of being used to provide houses for tenants can be used to provide houses for people who wish to purchase them. If loans were made on favorable conditions, especially in regard to deposits, many people who are now tenants would buy their homes. They would have a stake in the community and would realize what it meant to be ratepayers and have civic responsibilities.
Under the present agreement, we have experienced what I describe as the dead hand of land resumptions by State housing commissions. In New South Wales, the bureaucracy which, as I have pointed
Out, is costing the taxpayers £1,000,000 a year rushed around and put a freeze on thousands of building blocks. It gave notice of its intention to resume a huge tract of land. It was estimated that at one stage the commission had given notice of its intention to resume enough building blocks to meet its requirements for another 100 years, at the rate at which it was then building. I want to tell the Senate the story of what is known as Housing Area No. 12. It is situated in North Ryde. very close to the city of Sydney. The New South Wales Housing Commission issued a blanket proclamation that covered about a half of the district, including thousands of acres in semirural and residential areas. Under the terms of the proclamation, no owner, without the consent of the commission, could lease his land, or let, repair or replace his house. Some orchards were affected, and the owners did not know whether to prune their trees and fertilize the soil. For years, the dead hand of that blanket resumption order lay heavily on huge tracts of land. The order was issued because the commission thought it might develop the area as a housing estate at some time in the future. I am happy to say that saner counsels prevailed, and that after three or four years the resumption order was lifted. That is a good example of what the New South Wales Housing Commission is doing.
One result of the agreement is that private enterprise is deterred or prevented from subdividing estates and undertaking home-building projects. Since the New South Wales Housing Commission lifted its blanket resumption order, private enterprise has subdivided the land and building societies have started to build houses on it. To-day, that area in North Ryde is the scene of thriving development, yet while the resumption order was in force, owners could not even paint their houses unless the commission gave them permission to do so. While the order was in force, people approached me and asked what they could do. Orchardists asked whether they should prune their trees or let them run riot. When they approached the Housing Commission, all that the commission said was that it would examine the matter. That went on for years.
I suggest that we are making a wrong approach to this problem. If the money provided to build homes for rental purposes had been channelled into private enterprise, through the building societies or the Commonwealth Bank, there would have been a great development of homeownership. I want to be completely fair in dealing with this subject. I know that we have got to provide a certain number of houses for indigent people and people who, for a variety of reasons, cannot enter into the home-ownership field. Some provision should be made to meet the needs of those people, but that should not be the main objective. We should allot money to provide such houses, and then channel the balance into the various agencies that are promoting homeownership. Senator Kendall has suggested that the money should be put into some kind of revolving fund. He says that the money advanced to the States, instead of being repaid to the Commonwealth over a period of 53 years or, if a house is sold, repaid immediately, should be put into a revolving fund, so that there will always be money available in the community for home-ownership.
However, money need not be a barrier. Some years ago, the Stevens Government gave the greatest impetus to homebuilding that had ever been given to it in the history of the mother State of Australia, and it did not cost the Government anything. The assistance took the form of a government guarantee, so insurance societies and superannuation trustees with money to invest were able to lend money to building societies secure in the knowledge that the loans were guaranteed by the New South Wales Government. If it is not possible to provide money for building through normal budgetary channels, surely money could he channelled into building societies and other building authorities from other sources if this Government gave a guarantee similar to that given by the Stevens Government. If that were done, the rugged individualism of the Australian, the initiative of the Australian businessman and other national characteristics would come into play, and private enterprise would solve our housing problem. I repeat that the solution of the problem depends, not so much on finance as on an adequate supply of building materials and labour.
It is interesting to note that the housing problem in Spain has been solved by doing the direct opposite of what is being done in Australia to-day. The Spanish
Government decreed that if any person provided a house for tenants, the income that he received from the house would not be subject to tax. Consequently, there was a great upsurge of building activity in Spain. Many people began to build houses for tenants, and in that way the Spanish housing problem was solved. In Australia, unfortunately, the position is exactly the opposite. We impose severe restrictions on those persons who otherwise would provide houses for the people. Our landlord and tenant legislation is such that it is no longer profitable for people to build houses for rental. As I have said before in this chamber, I know of people who built a house, raised a mortgage on it, gained a small equity in it, and then let it. Then they started again. They built another house, raised a mortgage and put a tenant into it. They went on in that way until they owned a series of houses. Although all the houses were the subject of mortgages, they had a minor equity in each of them and were getting a reasonable return for their investment. To-day, however, only a lunatic would try to do that, because the landlord and tenant legislation denies landlords any rights and privileges in regard to their houses, and the cost of repairs and maintenance is phenomenal.
I suggest that the time has come for us to look again at the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. I do not say that we should not continue to provide houses that indigent persons and other persons could rent, but I do say that, as far as is practicable, most of the finance available for housing should be used to finance people who want to buy their houses,’ so that we shall become a race, not of tenants, but of people who are proud to own their homes. Senator Tangney talked about the divorce rate. Surely there would be less chance of divorce in a home where there was pride of possession than in a home where the couple were only tenants for the time being of a government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 26th October (vide page 1013), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a. second time.
. - The Opposition raises no objection to this bill, and will facilitate its speedy passage. I shall not criticize the administration of the War Service Land Settlement scheme by the State governments concerned, but shall make some comment in relation to South Australia. There has been an unfortunate tendency on the part of some Government senators to rise in their places and assume the role of adjudicators in relation to the comment that may be made by members of the Opposition on measures under which the Commonwealth will make money available to the States for various purposes. I remind the Government that, as members of the Opposition are elected to the Senate in the same way as honorable senators opposite are elected to this chamber, we reserve to ourselves the right to make speeches in our own way. This bill is a simple and self-explanatory measure. Its purpose, as the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) stated in his secondreading speech, is -
To provide for the raising of loan moneys amounting to £5,000,000 required for the acquisition, development and improvement of properties, and for advances to settlers for stock, plant and working expenses in the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania.
The Minister also stated -
In addition to the amount of £5,000,000 provided for in this bill, it is estimated that about £1,744,000 arising from repayments of advances, &c, by settlers will become available for the same purposes.
That is a very pleasing feature. It indicates that, during the last financial year, ex-servicemen settlers have made a genuine attempt to meet their commitments. Despite the length of time that has elapsed since World War II., many prospective ex-servicemen settlers are still waiting for blocks. I hope that, before long, there will be no need for the Commonwealth to advance money to
South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania for the purposes of this scheme. Extraordinarily good progress has been made with the scheme in South Australia. I know the South Australian Minister who is responsible for administering the scheme in that State. He is, himself, an ex-serviceman and, although at times I have not agreed with his opinions in relation to certain aspects of the scheme, I have never, for a moment, doubted his sincerity. Although, I suppose, I receive as much correspondence in relation to the scheme as do other honorable senators, during the last twelve months I have not received any complaints from exservicemen settlers about the administration of the scheme in South Australia. I understand that some persons in Western Australia and Tasmania have grouches about its operation in those States. However, I can see no reason why the scheme should not progress as smoothly in Western Australia and Tasmania as it has done in the State that I represent. Owing to the scarcity of suitable land in South Australia, the Government of that State was confronted with certain difficulties. I think it can be said, in truth, that the success of the scheme in South Australia has been attributable, at least in part, to the fact that the South Australian Minister to whom I have referred has always given careful and sympathetic consideration to reasonable requests by exservicemen settlers along the Murray and elsewhere.
I urge the Minister to make a full statement about the operation of the scheme to the Senate. Although the crop prospects in South Australia along the Murray were anything but bright a month or so ago, they are now reasonably good, but if the export market for our primary products should collapse, both the Austraiian Government and the State governments could experience embarrassment in continuing the scheme. I am quite sure that honorable senators on both sides of the chamber want it to be continued. Our principal regret is that it has not been possible to allot suitable blocks to many more applicants. Unless progress can be made in this connexion within a measurable time, it will be the unpleasant duty of some one to advise outstanding applicants to make other, arrangements to acquire blocks, because the passage o£ time has taken ite- toll of many of those- exservicemen. If the Minister decides to make a full statement to the Senate in. relation to the scheme, I hope that information will be supplied as to the number of blocks in the three States concerned that the Government expects to be able to make available to applicants in the near future. It would be appreciated, also, if the Auditor-General’s comment in relation to the operation of the scheme could be made known to honorable senators.
– I commend Senator Critchley on his excellent speech. I am sure that every South. Australian senator on the Government side of the chamber admiresthe attitude that he has always adopted in relation to war service land settlement measures, As I, also, know very well the South Australian Minister who administers the scheme in South Australia, I appreciate the honorable senator’s comments. Mr. Hincks has always been most sympathetically inclined to exservicemen settlers. I was pleased to hear the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) state, during his second-reading speech -
From the inception of the scheme to the 30th June, lfl-54, total expenditure of a capital nature in- the three States amounted to £18,805,000.
The provision of £5,000,000 for the purposes of the scheme in this financial year will bring the total expenditure on the scheme since its inception to about. £25,000,000. I do not think that the Australian Government could have made a better investment. In South Australia - and,, presumably, in the other two States also - the money has been expended, in the main, in the development of: areas of virgin country. There has thus been created a national asset, which will stand us in good stead for all time. The settlement areas on Kangaroo Island, in the south-eastern portion of South Australia, on Eyre Peninsula which I know well, and also the river Murray irrigation projects, have developed amazingly. More than 600 ex-servicemen have been settled on the land in South Australia. Of course, it has been costly to develop virgin country. I was disappointed, recently, to hear a Victorian spokesman say that the cost of bringing that land into production had been excessive. He stated that the average cost per block of bringing this land into production in South Australia was £19,233,. compared with £21,894 in “Western Australia and £31,343 in Tasmania. I am sure that T asm an ian senators were astounded to learn that the average expenditure per block, in that State had been so high.
– Who furnished those figures?
– I am afraid that the President would not allow me to mention his name. Apparently the honorable gentleman arrived at those figures by taking the total amount expended in each State and dividing it by the number of people who - presumably at the 30th June last - had been allotted blocks. The average, so calculated, was very misleading. He has divided the total amount spent by the number of people who have been allotted farms. But great areas of land, are currently being brought into production and much of the money has been spent on areas which have not yet been allocated. So the only way in which to arrive at a true answer to the sum that he set is to divide the total amount expended on blocks that, have been allotted by the number of blocks so allotted. The answer to that sum is as follows: - In South Australia, according to the highest authority, the average cost per block of. bringing into- production, the 603 blocks that have been allotted has been approximately £11,000, not £19,230.
– What is the “’ highest authority “ to which the honorable senator referred?
– I could not quote a higher authority than- the high departmental officer who is doing this work. In Western Australia, blocks have been allocated to 695 people at a cost of £10,000 each, not £21,800’ as- was stated. In Tasmania 184 people have been settled on- blocks which have been brought into production- at a cost of about £1’2;000 each, not £31,800, the figure that was cited in another- place.
I welcome the fact that, in the three States concerned, returned men can make their blocks freehold if they so desire after a period of years. It was a mighty good agreement that was originally negotiated by the government of the day, but that government insisted that all land should be held on perpetual lease. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber disagree with that principle. We consider that a man who settles on one of these blocks, intending to hand it down to his family, should be able to make it freehold. Such- an arrangement conforms to the existing land laws in South Australia and in other States in respect of Crown land. It has always been the custom in South Australia that those who take up Crown land shall, have the right to make it freehold. Returned servicemen should be no exception to that rule. In South Australia and, I think, in “Western Australia, ex-servicemen can now make their land freehold after ten years and in Tasmania they can do so after six years. The returned serviceman should not be allowed to cash in on a Crown grant by selling his property and thus take advantage of an unearned increment. It would be possible for him to do that if a reasonable period were not set during which he cannot make his block freehold. I think that ten years is quite .a fair period for a man to wait before he ca.n make his block freehold. If a man passes ten years of his life in working his farm and desires to make it freehold be should not be prevented from doing so.
The South Australian: Minister has told me that frequently,, when propositions are submitted to the Commonwealth for approval, there is a considerable delay on the part of the Commonwealth in making a decision. I think that undue caution is observed in regard to the proposals submitted by South Australia. The Minister who deals with these matters in that. State is assisted by a very competent land board. The members of the board have occupied their positions for years during which time the board has been regarded as highly competent to value land anywhere in South Australia. It is- also highly competent to make recommendations in connexion with soldier settlement. Before any proposition is submitted to the ‘Commonwealth by the South Australian Government it also has to be investigated by a parliamentary land settlement committee which is composed of selected members of the South Australian Parliament. They have to satisfy themselves that the project under consideration is worthy of expenditure in excess of £30,000. I submit that the reputations of the South Australian Minister and of the highly competent members of the land board are at stake. They have had as much experience in these matters as the Commonwealth officers who examine them. I do not suggest that their recommendations should be accepted without examination, but certain circumstances have led me. to consider that the Land Board’s reputation has been treated far too lightly.
The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) said that in this financial year an amount of £1,750,000 would be made available to the States from revenue, mainly in order to provide for Commonwealth contributions to excess costs of acquisition and development, for the payment of living allowances1 and: for repayment to settlers of interest paid during their assisted period. The agreement provides for a writing down of excess costs of production in cases in which the final cost is held to be in excess of the productive value of the block. I give the government of the day full credit for having included that provision in the original agreement. I am also glad that the present Government is not shirking its responsibility in this matter. The Government will make payments to the extent of three-fifths of the excess costs to which I have referred on condition that the States pay the remaining two-fifths. I am pleased that in South Australia that payment is being made in terms of the agreement. I support the bill. The expenditure for which it provides will be a good investment in the States that are the subject of this legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 27 tb October (vide page 106S), on motion by Senator McLEAY -
That the bill lae now read a second time.
– This is a measure to which the Opposition has the utmost hostility. It purports to suspend the operative sections of the Hide and Leather Industries Act which has operated since 1948. The suspension of the act has been proposed with a view to its ultimate abolition. In 1939, under National Security Regulations, control over the hide and leather industry was instituted by a non-Labour government. Obviously, it was a necessary control. When federal price control ceased to operate in 194S, as a result of a referendum in which the people indicated that they desired that control to cease, there was consternation on the part of the States and the Commonwealth. It was considered that, owing to the great difference between the export price and the home-consumption price of leather, if all controls were lifted, there would be a grave shortage of leather because so much would be exported in order to gain the advantage of high export prices. It was considered that great difficulty would he experienced in the leather trade and that greatly increased prices for footwear and leather goods of all kinds would result. Accordingly, the States and the Commonwealth agreed unanimously that the position should be held as it existed under wartime legislations.
When Senator Ashley introduced the relevant measure in this chamber on the 7th December, 194S, he mentioned that the States had unanimously agreed to joint Commonwealth and State legislation in order to maintain the controls. In the course of his speech, Senator Ashley said -
Unless the ulan is implemented it will be difficult, if not impossible, for a homeconsumption price structure to be maintained for leather products in Australia. A failure in that direction would mean a dislocation of important industries, a probable shortage of foot wear for the public and an increase of prices of up to £1 a pair for boots or shoes.
The present Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator O’Sullivan) who was then Deputy Leader of the Opposition, had only one complaint to make about that measure in 1948. The burden of his lament was that there was no guaranteed price to the producers of leather and hides as was the case with the growers of wheat. He concluded his speech with this comment -
The growers should be given a guaranteed price, not only for to-day, but for a period of at least five years. That would be only a reasonable solatium for their being deprived of the opportunity to avail themselves of the higher prices available in overseas markets. That guaranteed price, as I have stated, should be borne by the whole people, because restriction of the sale of hides and leather overseas is imposed upon the producers for the benefit of the whole community. I have no other serious complaint about the bill.
At the instance of the Commonwealth alone and in the teeth of the opposition of the States expressed through their prices commissioners, the 1948 legislation is being suspended by the ex parte action of the Government. In other words, the Government is disrupting a partnership which has existed between the Commonwealth and the States under joint legislation since 1948, and which throughout a difficult period, had the effect, of conserving our supplies and of equating returns to the owners of hides and leather. The Minister claimed in his secondreading speech that there was now little difference between the home consumption price and the overseas price; but he acknowledged immediately that there was a substantially higher price overseas for yearling and calf skins which are used very substantially in the production of footwear. The Minister pointed out that the board set up under the 194S legislation, which included one representative of the cattle raisers in each State, had financed its own operations out of the profits it had made on the sale of leather overseas. The board has conducted appraisal, acquisition and allocation activities, and has made very substantial profits out of its overseas trading. Not only have those profits financed the board’s own operations in Australia, but also, down the years, they have permitted an excellent distribution to the owners of hides and leather in Australia. The Minister has indicated that the board has not sufficient funds from the proceeds of overseas sales to finance its own operations in future. He has given no idea of what those costs are likely to be, but I suggest that they cannot possibly be substantial, and that the Government, in the interests of the community at large, should have done one of two things. It should either have introduced a levy on the owners of hides to enable the operations of the board to be financed, or there should have been a direct payment to the board to enable it to function in the public interest. I think that if the Minister were to disclose to us just how much is involved in the operations of the board, we should find that the amount was relatively insignificant and would impose no strain on the finances of the country. The Minister frankly confessed that the action of the Government in suspending the clauses had been taken largely as a result of pressure from those interested in the hides and leather industry. He put it this way -
During recent years the Commonwealth Government has been under constant pressure from most sections of the industry, including cattle-producers), meat works, brokers, merchants and tanners, to terminate the control scheme.
The plain truth of the matter is that the Government has submitted to pressure exerted by those immediately interested in the hides and leather industry.
– For which we make no apology.
– The Minister is only making the position worse. It is significant that I have been unable to find, in a casual reading of the Minister’s speech, one word about the interests of the consumers of leather. It is quite plain that the interests of the community at large have been utterly disregarded, and I believe that the Minister should apologize to the people of Australia for that omission. The producers are, of course, entitled to protection, and nobody on this side of the House would cavil at a subvention to enable the board to function, nor would we cavil at a guaranteed price, even for a five-year period. A guaranteed price would be in line with our policy, and with what the Government promised the primary producers back in 1949, but there is no guaranteed price. If honorable senators opposite are concerned about what I assume they regard to ‘.be the plight of the cattleraisers and the owners of hides and leather, why did they not put up a scheme in accordance with the policy they propounded in 1949 ? If Senator O’sullivan put the viewpoint of the government in 1948, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) put it to the electors in 1949, why was something not done by this Government during its five years of office to ensure that the owners of hides, if they needed protection, would be given a fair deal? It is idle for the Minister to say that he does not apologize for bowing to the pressure of those interested in the industry when I point out to him that the public of Australia is most vitally interested in leather. Already, since the sections have been suspended, there have been substantial price rises. I am informed that up to the 14th August, the price of sole leather was 4s. 3d. per lb. It has now risen to 4s. lid. per lb. The best hide leather was 2s. per lb. and it is now 2s. 9d. per lb. Similarly, the price of calf leather has risen from 4s. Id. per lb. to 5s. lOd. per lb. All those increases are necessarily reflected in costs. I remind the Minister that if cost-of-living adjustments were still being paid on wages, there would be a corresponding increase in the remuneration of wage and salary earners throughout the Commonwealth.
– What is the percentage rise?
– I have not worked it out.
– Do not forget that sales tax has been removed.
– The sales tax rate was infinitesimal. The price of footwear has risen throughout Australia in the last couple of months. That affects everyone in the community, but most of all, it affects the big family because everybody knows how heavy children are on boots and shoes. The substantial rises in the price of footwearresulting from theactionof this Governmentimposes a really heavy burden on the family unit - theveryelement inthe communitythat should be encouraged most. ‘This action, taken precipitately and contrary to the wishes of the States, is outrageous, and the Minister, byhis interjection,has clearly indicated that hehashad no regard for the over-all (effect onthecommunity, but is chiefly interested to see those immediatelyconcerned in the industryare allowed torun free. Where isone wordin the Minister’s second-reading speech orone line in tie bill to assure the public of Australia that suppliesof leather, badly needed here, will not beexported ? Even if the balance between the homeconsumption price and the overseas price is retained, there will , be an inevitable tendency on the part of theownersof hides tore-establish marketsoverseas, to the detriment of local users. I concede that theproducer of the hides has to be safeguarded, but where is there one word in the bill to protect not only the (consuming public, but also those who use leather in manufacturing processes?
– They (have been protected for five or six years.
SenatorMcKENNA.-That is quite true, but I am talking about now. The Government is abandoningthe legislation that was introduced in 1948 and is still wantedby the States.
– Who is to say that overseas prices will not continue to fall?
– And who is to say they will not rise? If they do rise the position will be infinitely worse. My complaint is that the Minister has shown noconcern for the fact that leather is required in Australia, and that ‘exports may denude the local market. I make the points that the average Australian receives no consideration in this measure the Australian industries that need leather receive no consideration and the States, which want a continuation of thiscontrol, receive no consideration. For those reasons we are opposed to the bill. The Minister has referred to legal challenges tothe legislation. There was achallengein 1951which, ashe said, succeeded inonlyaminor way. In otherways, the jointCommonwealthand State legislationstood.Now,theMinister (claims that because thereis achallengeona wider basis, theGovernment is justified in receding fromitsresponsibility tothis community. Why should the Governmentrun away from this challenge;?Ithasalreadysurvivedone challenge. Why shouldit retreat before thesecond isdisposedof? Why should it lie down andsurrender?Surely that is mot the behaviourof a government that has asenseof responsibility. ‘The Ministerhas given asan additional reason for the suspensionof portionof the existing legislation, the fact thatowing to the High Court challenge a lotof trafficking in hideshas developed behind the back : of the board and in defiance of the regulations. That is a criticism of aboard which is equipped with ample powers to protectitself. Clearly if there is widespread trafficking, there has been neglecton the part of theGovernment and of the board. There has been neglect on the part of theGovernment because if the board is not doing its job, it shouldbereplaced., and there has been neglecton the part of the board in allowing traifficking to develop.
– It may have been encouraged by the Government.
– ‘Thatappears to be so, and I should say that it has been encouraged with a view to ‘allowing the whole scheme to break down, for the benefit of those pressure groups to which the Minister has almost acknowledged in express terms theGovernment has succumbed. We shalloppose the measure. We shall vote against the second reading and we shall carry our opposition toa divisionas a protest against the absolute abdication of responsibility by the Government in this matter.
– The only criticism I have to make of this bill is that it should have been introduced long ago. I am completely at variance with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), who does not seem to have a verygood grip of the situation. I suggest that ifever there was an instance of the futilityof prices control, it was 4be control of prices of hides and leather. The legislation never succeeded in its purpose. Whatever justification may have existed for prices ‘control in the -early ‘days ‘of the war., it certainly did not exist beyond 1950, at Ite latest. In my opinion, the control of hides and leather gave rise to increased prices for leather goods, shortages, and .black markets. I do not think that any legislation has so deserved the condemnation of Australian primary producers as has the Hide and Leather Industries Act. I have no ‘objection at all to the Australian Hide and Leather Industries Board. Although that board costs the taxpayers approximately £35,000 a year, I think that it performs its functions as well as it possibly can. I contend, however, that the producers have not received a penny from the appraisal scheme under which 12ji per cent, of our hides and leather has been exported.
Ninety per cent, of Australian hides are purchased, in the first instance, by dealers in the country. I remember that dealers used to come .around -and offer farmers between 10s. and 15s. a hide, or approximately ‘6d. per lb. Those hides were appraised, and .some of them brought as much as 10-Jd. per lb. from the local tanners. Eighty-seven and a half per cent, -of the hides were allotted to the Australian trade. The industry, however, did not receive the benefits of that appraisement scheme. All of the benefits went to the dealers. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay)., in his second-reading speech, stated that heavy hides brought as much as 61d. per Jb. on the ‘overseas markets, whereas the price in Australia was only 7d. per Ito. A heavy tide weighs between GO Jib. and 70 lb., and after it is trimmed, flayed, and stripped, it comes down to 40 lb. or 50 lb. Such a hide would be worth approximately £10 on the overseas market. Yet, the producer probably received only l’5s. for it.
At the same time as legislation to control the price of hides was introduced, similar legislation was enacted in respect of tallow. Those two industries axe complementary. Primary producers have calculated that this legislation has cost them £100,000,000 since it was :first introduced, and I believe that ito be true. When .tallow was bringing £180 a ton overseas, the price in .Australia was fixed at £32 a ton. .Senator COURTICE - And it was almost impassible to buy :soap in Australia.
– If the honorable senator will give me an opportunity, I .shall tell .him why it was not possible to buy Soap. Tens -oi thousands ‘of hides were wasted in ‘Queensland alone, because of the operation of ‘the control. It did not pay the graziers to .flay .hides, so they simply burnt them. We -reached the stage where it was necessary to .import hides from New Zealand. When the employees in .the boot trade found that the industry was purchasing leather at what they thought were cheap prices, they claimed that they were entitled to higher wages, although they were .already being paid from £3 to £5 a week above the award rates. As honorable senators know, black-marketing in hides has been a common occurrence. After the control was imposed, hides could not be obtained in Australia because of the high prices which were being paid for them overseas. From memory, at that time calf hides were bringing 99d. per lb. on the overseas markets. I myself sold hides to country dealers for 2s. each. Although calf hides were being sold for 2s. each, they were bringing 99d. per lb.,- at an average weight, of 3 to 4 lb. each, overseas. - As I have said, other hides were bringing up to 61d. per lb.
– Of course, the hides that the honorable senator sold were green hides.
– Yes. I .suppose that it would take 3 lb. or 4 lb. of green hide to make a pair of boots. I was in business at that time, and I can remember that we used to buy children’s shoes, made of yearling leather, for 6s., 7s. or 8s. a pair, according to the size. As honorable senators know, similar shoes are sold for as much as £1 7s. ‘6d. a pair to-day. Why did the price rise as much as that? I suggest that black market operations were responsible. Once the price of hides was controlled, blackmarkets started. It has been estimated that approximately 2,000,000 hides have been sold on the black market since the introduction of the controls. Those hides were made up into shoes which sold at five or six times the pre-war values. It is ridiculous for the Leader of the Opposition to contend that it is possible to control hides without giving rise to black markets.
I believe that the price of hides in 1951 was as high as it has ever been in the history of Australia. As I have said, it rose to 61d. per lb. However, the producers received only 10s. or 15s. a hide. I cannot understand why they allowed that state of affairs to continue for so long. Many producers simply allowed hides to rot in the fields, rather than flay them. Even though the board has paid a premium to hide-producers, the black market has continued to operate. Because hides have not been readily available to the Australian leather trades, and because black markets have operated in almost every phase of those trades, I think that this legislation is long overdue. For that reason, I support the bill in its entirety.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Majority .. ..9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
reports on Items.
– I lay on the table reports of the Tariff Board on the following subjects : -
Alkali, chlorine and chlorine products.
Cotton tyre cord, cotton cord fabric and cotton tyre fabric.
Films for children.
Hand and breast drills and carpenters’ braces.
Rayon tyre yarn, rayon tyre cord and raven tyre fabric.
Wristlet watch cases.
Ordered to be printed.
Debate resumed from the 27th October (vide page 1066), on motion by Senator McLeay -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition has no objection to any of the particular provisions of this measure. In fact, some features of it have our approval, notably that relating to admission to the Public Service by examinations other than those conducted by the Public Service Board itself. In his second-reading speech, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) stated the position when he said -
In future, the board will be able to notify in the Gazette the particular examinations and particular subjects the board will require for entrance to the Public Service. The method of fixing an order of appointment or determining an order of merit, and other details required to assure the appointment of the best qualified applicants up to the limit of recruits needed at any time, must also be contained in the notification in the Gazette.
A very good principle is established in that way. If recourse is had to examinations not conducted by the board, then the board must state publicly in the Gazette just what type of examination it will approve, the subjects that it requires to be included, and the marks by which it will decide the order of merit of candidates whom it appoints. In that way, the light of day will be played on the matter, and opportunity for favoritism will be negatived. I approve also the provision under which, in the future, a public servant retired on the ground of ill health and receiving a pension from the superannuation fund, may be reappointed upon regaining his health, even if he is over the age of 51 years. There have been many cases of members of the Public Service who have contracted tuberculosis. They have been retired, but, in due course, the disease has been arrested, and the health of the pensioners has been restored sufficiently to enable them to resume work. Under these new provisions if such pensioners are over the age of 51 years, they may re-enter the Public Service and carry on until the normal retiring age. Sometimes public servants suffering from nervous diseases are retired but recover. In such cases, the persons concerned will be allowed to return to the service.
As the Opposition is not opposing particular provisions of the bill, I have nothing more to add at this stage beyond stating that I notice that section 55 of the Public Service Act, which deals with offences by public servants, is to be amended. At the committee stage, I shall move an amendment to that section on behalf of the Opposition in connexion with the provision for an appeal. As I shall explain later, no appeals against penalties that are inflicted are allowed in certain cases. The Opposition believes that that is a travesty of justice, and every honorable senator should be interested in the rectification of that anomaly. I shall not develop that theme, however, until the bill is being considered in committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I propose to move an amendment to clause 16 of the bill which reads in part as follows : - (1.) Section fifty-five of the principal act is amended -
I move -
That, after the word “ amended “, the following new paragraph be inserted: - ” (aa) by omitting from paragraph (d) of sub-section ( 3 ) the following words : - ‘ if the punishment so imposed or recommended by the Chief Officer be other than a fine not exceeding Two pounds or if, in the case of an officer who has been deprived of bis salary during suspension, the amount of the fine imposed, together with the amount of salary of which he has been deprived, exceeds Two pounds.’ “.
If honorable senators will refer to the principal act, they will note that section 55 deals with offences committed by officers. I direct attention to sub-section (2.) of section 55 at page 3378 of volume 4 of the revised statutes. Sub-section (2.) provides that an officer, other than a chief officer, may make a spot decision and inflict a summary punishment not exceeding a fine of 5s. That type of punishment is particularly applicable to youths in the Postal Department. If honorable senators study that sub-section of the act, they will note that even in the case of a conviction and punishment for what is described there as a minor offence, provision is made for an appeal. The normal principle of justice applies, and an appeal may be made to the chief officer. Sub-section (2.) of section 55 states -
If the Chief Officer, or any officer prescribed as having power to deal with minor offences, has any reason to believe that an officer has committed a minor offence, he may call upon the officer for an explanation as t» the alleged offence, and if, on consideration of the explanation, he is of opinion that the offence has been committed, he may caution or reprimand the offending officer, or fine him a sum not exceeding five shilling’s. Any caution, reprimand, or line by an officer other than the Chief Officer shall be forthwith reported to the Chief Officer, and where the offence has been punished by a fine, the officer affected may appeal to the Chief Officer within forty-eight hours of the notification to him of the punishment. Upon such appeal, the Chief Officer may confirm, annul or reduce the punishment, and his decision shall be final.
Minor offences do not constitute a permanent blot upon the record of the officer concerned, because under Public Service regulations, the record of punishment for a minor offence is expunged after two years. Where there is only a temporary mark against the record of an officer, an appeal is allowed from an officer other than the chief officer to the chief officer. I am primarily concerned with sub-section (3.) of section. 55 to which I have moved an amendment. Sub-section (3.) sets out the procedure for charging am officer other than an officer of the First or Second Division. In paragraph (d), the chief officer is authorized to fine an officer a sum not exceeding £5, reduce his salary, reduce him to a lower division, transfer him to some other position or locality, or recommend to the board! the dismissal of: the officer from! the service. Then there is a proviso, and it is to the proviso that the Opposition’s amendment is directed. The relevant portion of subsection (3.) to which I refer is as follows: -
Provided that if the punishment so imposed of recommended by the Chief Officer be other than a fine not exceeding two pounds or if, in the case, of an officer who has been deprived of his salary during suspension, the amount of the fine imposed, together with the amount of salary of which he has been deprived exceeds two pounds . Those are the words to which the Opposition directs particular attention. Subsection (3) then continues -
The officer may appeal, in such manner and within such time not less than seven days, as is prescribed, against the decision of the Chief Officer, and. the appeal shall, be heard by an Appeal Board constituted as hereinafter prescribed.
The. effect of that provision is that there may be an appeal only when a fine or punishment exceeds £2: Pursuant to that provision,, it is competent for a chief officer, day after day, to make a charge, and establish an offence against a particular officer. As long as he fines him £2 or less, he can repeat that performance every day in the year without any possibility of an appeal by the individual affected. It is quite true that there are likes and dislikes between individuals, and the kind of procedure that I have referred to can occur. In such circumstances, a chief officer can crucify an officer by a series of prosecutions, convictions and punishments.
Consideration interrupted under Sessional Order.
Sitting suspendedfrom5.45 to8 p.m.
Debate: resumed. from the 2lst October (vide page 956);, on motion by Senator GORTON - 1.That a select committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon the justice, and effects of the present formula by which portion of the customs and excise duties collected on petrol is apportioned among thevarious States-. . . . (vide page 648).
-.. - I have already indicated to the Senate that I shall vote against this motion on the ground that the Premiers of the six. States and the Prime Minister have agreed to a certain proposal for the distribution of the petrol tax revenue. In fairness to Senator Gorton, I admit that the Premier of Victoria,, Mr. Cain, suggested that the method of distribution might be altered, but when the other Premiers indicated that they were adamant that the existing method be retained, it was decided, by agreement,, that that should be the approach to the. matter. The Commonwealth Aid Roads Works Bill 1954 is very generous. It will operate retrospectively to the 1st July of this. year. If the proposed committee were appointed and made recommendations about the method of distribution of these moneys, the recommendation might be contrary to what, the representatives of seven parliaments have agreed to do for a period of five years. Therefore, as Leader of the Government in the Senate,I shall oppose the motion.
. - I intervene in the debate in order to reply to statements that have been made by honorable senators on both sides of the House about the formula under which the petrol tax revenue is distributed to the States. I support the motion for an inquiry into the justice and effects of the formula, because I believe that such an inquiry might result in a more equitable allocation being made, to Victoria.
Victoria’scase faranincreaseisbased on the density and weight of the traffic carriedon its roads and the length of the roads it has to maintain. The length of those roads has been stated in precise terms by other honorable senators,so I shall notgointo that matter now.
In speaking against the motion, honorable senators on both sides of the House stressed that they were approaching; the’ matter from a national viewpoint,but I was unable to detect anything of an Australian character intheir speeches. Their attitude was” Wh at wehave, we hold “, irrespective of the justice or injustice done to any States. Ibeleive that under the present formula some of the States receive amounts that are disproportionate to the amount of petrol tax revenue collected inthoseStates.Victoriais well aware of the fact that, being a small andcompact State it has certain natural advantages. Theref ore, it is prepared at all times to agree that justice shall be done to States that have large developmental and defence projects. But Victoria believes that it has a very good claim for further assistances because its roads have been sadly neglected for many years. That remark applies not only to country roads, but also to metropolitan roads; which are totally inadequate at the present time. Many Victorian municipalities are taxing their ratepayers to the limit of 4s in the £1. Therefore, it would be impossible for Victoriato obtain more money for roads by an increase of municipal rates. In some municipalities particularly those in. which new housing estateshave been established, it is impossible, for women to move outside their front gates in wet weather. In many instances’, as soon as there is even moderate rain the streets become almost quagmires.I know that many women are unable to push their prams beyond their front gates in wet weather. Those people lane at least some right to reasonable roads.
Some reference has been made to the area - population, formula.. I remind the Senate that. when the area formula was brought into existence in 1926; there were not so many motor cars in use as there are now. I remind the Senate also thatthe areaformulawas a formula in operation in the United States of A merica and that it was incorporatedin the 1926 agreement, although it really had no relation to Australian conditions. I am sorry that SenatorO’Byrne is absent from the chamber, because I wish to reply to some remarks that he made. He said that Victoria’s problems were more apparent than real. That is not so. He went on to compare the motor regis- tration fees charged in Victoria with those charged in other States but he did not say that in Victoria, municipalities charge owners of land for street-makin: A similar charge is not made by municipalities in Western. Australia and Queensland.I do not thinkNew South Wales makes a charge for street-making, and I know that South Australia makes only a lim ited charge.
Victoria has’ not suggested that the allocation should be made on a vehicle population basis. Although Victorian senators might have been able to make out a very good case for it they have not done so. All that Victoria asks is that it should receive a greater proportion of the money that is being allocated to the States. Under the present formula during the period from 1926 to I950 the States other than Victoria have received nearly 50 per cent, of the duty on petrol consumed in. those States, but in the same period Victoria has received considerably less than a half of the sum collected in Victoria. I summarize the position, brieflyby saying that Victoria receives the lowest allocation per head of population and the lowest allocation per vehicle registered, yet it has to maintain the greatest mileage of roads per unit of area, because the Victorian climate permits of a greater density of settlement than in other States.I hope Senator Gorton’s motion will be carried because I believe a dispassionate examination of the facts would reveal the unfairness to Victoria of the operation of the f ormula.
– One often hears critics of. the Senate assert that the Senate does not perform the function for which it was established. This debate gives the li to that assertion.For that reason, amongst, others, I congratulate Senator Gorton on moving this motion,which relates to a matter that is most appropriate for discussion and consideration by the Senate. I congratulate Senator Gorton also on the very fine case he has put up on behalf of Victoria. If. I were a Victorian, probably I should adopt the same attitude, but my obligation is to protect the rights and explain the problems of Western Australia, the State that I represent in the Senate. Therefore, my remarks will relate to Western Australia. I shall leave the presentation of arguments on behalf of other States in the very capable hands of the honorable senators who represent them.
I was recently in the part of the world known as the Snowy Mountains, where I had the great privilege of inspecting the Snowy Mountains scheme. As I looked at that very fine enterprise, certain thoughts struck me forcibly. The first thought that struck me was that the scheme was a great national project. The second thought that struck me as I considered the national implications of the project was that it would benefit Victoria and New South Wales, and that no other State would derive any benefit from it. The third thought that struck me during my visit to that remarkable area was that the whole of the taxpayers were paying for a national project that would cost in the vicinity of £240,000,000. As I viewed the wonderful national undertaking, I thought it would be a great pity if somebody from, say, Tasmania rose in the Senate and argued that, as Tasmania would get no benefit from it and as New South Wales and Victoria would get the whole of the benefit from it, it would be reasonable to suggest that those two States should share the financial burden of that project. One has only to look at the Snowy Mountains scheme to realize that that would be a rather paltry and deplorable attitude to adopt. The Snowy Mountains scheme is a great national developmental work, and I believe that, as such, the people of Australia are quite prepared to pay for it. Having said that, I say that I should be interested to know what Senator Gorton would say if some one from Tasmania or Queensland suggested that Victoria and New South Wales should pay the whole of the cost of the scheme.
The motion relates to a matter that is not dissimilar to the Snowy Mountains project, because roads also are important to the development of Australia. All honorable senators are aware that the formula for the distribution of the petrol tax revenue is based upon the area and population of each State, so the States with the largest populations and the largest areas get most of the money obtained from the tax. Senator Gorton’s proposition, if I understood it properly, was that he was concerned, not to argue whether the formula was right or equitable, but to advocate a review. I think I have stated the proposition accurately. With the greatest respect to the honorable senator, I say there is a flaw in the proposition. The flaw, of course, is that if the formula is right and equitable, there is no case for a review. In fact, I do not think that Senator Gorton argued that proposition seriously. His submission was reduced to endeavouring to show that the State of Victoria came off rather badly by the working of the formula. His argument developed on statistical lines, and he cited statistics in an endeavour to show that Victoria was badly done by. For example, Senator Gorton stated, inter aiia., that Victoria contributed £16 per motorist in petrol tax, but received back only £5 per motorist. Again, he said that one out of every three motor cars in Australia was registered in Victoria, and that that State contributed one-third of the total amount of petrol tax, but received back only one-sixth of that amount. Then the honorable senator quoted statistics in relation to road mileages, in an endeavour to show that Victoria had a greater mileage of roads than had any of the other States.
He finally made the point that certain States, including Queensland and Western Australia, had large unexpended surpluses of petrol tax moneys. I shall deal with his last argument first, and leave the argument concerning Queensland to the Queensland senators. I must now descend to the statistical argument, because if the States of Western Australia and Queensland have large surpluses, there is something in what Senator Gorton says. Let us have a look at the Western Australian surpluses. In 1943-44, the surplus was £120,520, and in 1944-45, £154,203, or less than one week’s petrol tax money for Western Australia. I shall now state figures in relation to those surpluses that have been supplied to me by the Department of Main Roads in Perth. In 1943-44, the Western Australian Government owed £168,436 to the various local authorities. That money had been applied for, and allocated, but was still owing to them. In 1944-45, the Western Australian Government owed the local authorities no less than £146,000.. So, in fact, there was not a surplus at all. I think that that disposes of Senator Gorton’s argument about large unexpended surpluses of petrol tax moneys, which implied that Western Australia bad been unable to expend all of the petrol tax moneys.
The other arguments that Senator Gorton adduced in regard to the condition of Victoria’s roads did, I think, show one thing. I am quite prepared to admit that the figures that he cited indicated that Victoria was short of money for roads. I shall not argue that proposition at all, because it was quite obvious from what he said that Victoria requires more money for roads. But so do all the other States ! The Western Australian Department of Main Roads expends about 93 per cent, of the petrol tax moneys on rural roads. But I venture to suggest that if the honorable senator, or any person visited country areas in Western Australia he would be told that the Main Roads Board or the municipality was very short of money for roads. Therefore, I suggest, with the greatest respect, that all that the honorable senator did was to prove what we already knew, that is, that all the States are short of money for roads. That was not an argument in favour of altering the present method of petrol tax distribution. It might have been an argument for a larger petrol tax cake, but Senator Gorton did not prove that the cake should be cut differently from the manner in which it is now being cut. The Commonwealth, recognizing that the States required more money for roads, is making available a greatly increased amount of money in this financial year.
Senator Gorton might think that I am quite wrong, and that the figures that he adduced proved that Victoria is short of road money, and that the method of cutting up the cake is inequitable. Therefore, I shall now cite a few more statistics in regard to the relative positions of Victoria and Western Australia. I need to mention only one set of figures in order to illustrate my point. They were included in the figures that were cited by Senator Gorton. According to the honorable senator, and the Year-Boole, Victoria has 14,300 miles of proclaimed roads, which include State highways, trunk roads and ordinary main roads, compared with 15,900 miles of such roads in Western Australia. The Year-Boole indicates that Victoria has 10,200 miles of bitumen roads, compared with 3,600 miles of such roads in Western Australia. That is the whole of the argument in regard to the alleged inequity of the present formula. Western Australia has only 3,600 miles of bitumen roads, out of approximately 15,000 miles, whereas Victoria has 10,000 miles of bitumen roads out of about 14,000 miles of proclaimed roads. This is one very good, reason why the formula should be retained. We have to take into consideration the cost of bitumen surfacing which; engineers say, is between £5,000 and £15,000 a mile. Let us take a mean of £10,000 a mile. The situation would then be that Western Australia would require, on those figures, no less than £120,000,000 to bituminize the surface of all of its proclaimed roads, whereas Victoria would require about £40,000,000 for that purpose. That is the story in a nutshell. Therefore, it might be said that Western Australia is getting a much worse deal than Victoria in relation to the distribution of petrol tax moneys. But I shall not leave the argument there.
The map that I now exhibit to honorable senators shows the roads of Western Australia. The relatively small dark patch that I indicate represents Victoria superimposed on Western Australia. I am quite well aware, of course, that much of Western Australia is desert country, in which roads will never be required. But I shall refer to three regions of Western Australia which will require roads very shortly. In fact, they are required almost immediately. Each of the regions that I indicate are about the size of Victoria. Let us take the
Kimberley region. Honorable senators have been told at various times about the development of theOrd River area. That is an area as big as Victoria, but there is not one road in the area, although roads are badly needed there. Does Senator Gorton believe that this region should not be provided with roads? It is as rich as Victoria, and has a rainfall of 50 inches a year in some parts. There are large rivers, mineral deposits and untold potential wealth in that area. One of the reasons: why this area has. not been developed to any appreciable degree is that there are no roads through it.
I refer now to the north-west portion of Western Australia, which again, is a region larger than Victoria and very wealthy in. minerals and other natural resources. There is some oil there - I hope? I indicate to honorable senators, the position of Exmouth Gulf, to which there is no road.
SenatorCritchley. - Is there any oil there?.
– There may be! This region has not been tapped. There is hardly a track there much less a road. That is one of the reasons why it is still undeveloped.
I now indicate a third, and equally important region of Western Australia, south of Kalgoorlie and Perth, and along the Great Australian Bight. It is. an area of approximately the size of Victoria, but there are very few tracks through it, and no roads. Recently, the Western Australian Government surveyed portions of this area and came to the conclusion that there were available for selection more than 1,000,000 acres suitable for mixed sheep and wheat farming, about 260,000 acres suitable for firstclass dairying,, about 20,000 acres of firstclass orchard country, and about 700,000 acres of land that was most suitable for fat lamb production. All of that area, which enjoys a regular rainfall, has a productive capacity which, I suggest, will one day almost equal the present productive capacity of Victoria.. Yet there are only a few tracks across it. We want roads there..How on earth can we develop Western Australia without the assistance of thericher and more developed States?
I think the proposition is a very simple one. I have endeavoured to show statistically, in respect of mainroads which are not already sealed, that Western Australia needs three times as much money as Victoria. As regards the areas of Western Australia that are not yet developed, that State wants twenty or perhaps 50 times the amount of money that. Victoria needs. For these reasons, I oppose very violently Senator Gorton’s motion. In no circumstances will I ever concede that Western Australia is getting more than its fair share of petrol tax moneys.
.- in reply - The proposition that I put to the Senate was not that the formula at present being used to distribute petrol tax moneys to the States should be altered. It was not that less money or more money should be given to Western Australia or Queensland. It was solely that the formula should be examined in order to ascertain whether it was now working in the way in which it. was intended to work when it was inaugurated: and whether it was just. I suggested that the Senate was a proper body to carry out an investigation of that kind. I attempted to buttress my proposal by showing that there was a prima facie case to show that Victoria was not being treated well and that an injustice was being done which was likely to continue..I did not put that case forward as final because none of us has sufficient evidence on which to base a final judgment. I put it forward purely in order to support the contention that there was. a prima facie case of injustice and that some examination was necessary.
Senator Vincent and honorable senators from Queensland on the other side of. the chamber have, in effect, supported that contention because they have said that, under the formula, they are not now receiving enough to build the roads that they need. It is remarkable that Senator Vincent, af ter stating that Western Australia was not receiving sufficient under the formula, should have said that it was only overhis dead body that the formula, would he examined.
SenatorVincent. - I did not say that.
-Perhaps. I. misunderstood the remark of the honorable senator. But that is. a. reasonable inter.pretation of the. remarks; of other senators from tha less populous States;.
The arguments that have been put forward’ to indicate that this formula, should not be examined have fallen under three main heads. One argument was that this Senate was not a proper body, to undertake such an examination. I think that Senator- Byrne said that tha function of the. Senate was not to protect State, against State but to protect the States; against the Commonwealth. I do not think that many honorable senators will believe that. If they- read the debates that led up to federation they will find that the fear- of the smaller States was that, in a. federal Parliament,, the preponderance of the voting power of the larger States would result in the imposition of the will of the larger States, on. the smaller. For that reason they insisted on there being a. house in which each State, regardless of population, should have the same representation, and without, the concurrence of which.no legislation could become federal law. So I reject the; contention that it is: not, the proper function of this place to protect State- against State as well as- State against Commonwealth.
Another- argument was- that: this formula was drafted in order that the more- populous; States: should help the less populous ; that, it was created- under conditions relating to population which still exists and that, hawing been so drafted, it should’ not be examined, in any way because it, must still, be carrying, out. the purpose, for which, it waa designed.. I think, that Senator Seward read, portion of tha debates’ of 1923, when this, formula was first introduced, to. show, that it had, a national significance and should, not be altered. Senator Seward, quoted the. following; statement, by, Me. Bruce: - iti. the past, it has. been accepted, almost as an axiom,, that, payments, to the States, by the Commonwealth should” be made on a ger.- capita basis; On- tha present occasion we- have departed from- that”: principle, But I think’ the notion- we.- pr.op.ase to take; willi commend itself to. the. House;, irrespective of; party considerations. In the past, tha result of the per capita distribution o± Commonwealth payment t’o- the States- has, always; been that, the; mote thickly populated, andi mow highly developed; States have, received-, the-, major portion of the, money available,, whilst it is, obvious, to everyone that the great, undeveloped and sparsely populated States- are- most in need’ of any assistance we can’ give.
I have no quarrel with that, statement. Mr. Bruce continued -
The. Government propose; in connexion with the- grant now under consideration, to distribute: three-fifths;, of: the amount, on a, per capita basis,, audi two-fifths; upon1, an-, area, basis.
At that point Senator Seward stopped reading; but the next sentence is -
The- effect of this- will be to bring- the amounts received by the great undeveloped States, more into line with, tha amounts, received by States tha.t are compaxa.ti.vely- thickly populated..
The effect of the formula and tha desire that: Mr. Bruce expressed, was, to bring the amount received by the great undeveloped States into, line with the amounts received, by the. more densely populated’ States; In. other words-, the idea, was that a barden- should he borne b$ the more populous! States in order- to help the. less populous:;: but that that hurden should be such that the amounts received by the various. States should be brought; into- lane. The result: was: that there was, a small; discrepancy of only a fere thousand pounds: between the amounts received, by the: various States;, My main contention, which has; not been ref uted, by any honorable senator, is, that that proposition has ceased’ to be valid and that the amounts* paid have got out; of line: In> order to< show that that is so X cite the- discrepancy which- exists as far as Victoria, is concerned. Hast, yeas, Victoria received in road grants,, £300,000 less than, the; States of Western Australia and Queensland1. This- year it will receive £433,000 less; than. Western. Australia and Queensland; As1 the- amount to he distributed increases, the difference in the amounts: received by Victoria and: the other. States willi become even, greater^ Therefore it is quite; clear that, this formula-,, which once* had. the effect, of bringing the amounts* distributed to the States into line,, no-‘ longer accomplishes that purpose. If it is; desired, to.- continue to.- accomplish! the objectives; that were responsible- for- the introduction of the formula,, there- is- a. prima facie; case; far same: examination-..
I do not claim that the more populous States should not have to bear the burden of assisting the less populous States. I merely claim that they should not have to bear too much of that burden. I agree with Senator Vincent and senators from Queensland that the road systems of the larger States need developing. But let that development be financed on the same basis as the Snowy River scheme, which has been financed from loan funds. Merely because there are many roads to be developed in the less populous States, let us not defer an examination of this out-dated formula. Many honorable senators have argued that Victoria should use more self-help. Possibly it should. Senator Seward cited figures none of which I will accept and none of which I shall refute because they related to the years of 1938 and 1939. None of them related to years subsequent to 1950. I am not claiming that the formula should have been examined in 1938 or 1939, but that it should be examined now. These minor arguments merely illustrate that until we have the facts before us, properly corelated, we can come to no reliable conclusion as to whether any State should be helping itself more. Victoria is not the only State concerned in this injustice. As the years go by, South Australia will find that it will drop out of its favoured position. New South “Wales will find, as it is finding now, that its lead over Queensland and Western Australia will be lost. I do not know what the decision of the Senate on this motion will be but if the tendency that has been revealed is continued in the next few years I do not doubt that the Senate will eventually pass a motion such as this because more States than Victoria will be afflicted with a suddenly discovered injustice.
In reply to Senator McLeay I point out that this motion, if it is carried, will not in any way affect the agreement that has been made between the Commonwealth and the States for the next five years. Its value would be that, at the end of the next five years, when another agreement must be made, a full volume of evidence would be available for consideration. For those reasons, and because I think that it would be of value to this country, and because it would eventually help the less populous States to obtain the extra money that they need, I commend this motion to the Senate and I hope for the support of honorable senators.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page G48) he agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator, the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
In committee: Consideration resumed (vide page 1110).
– When we were last on this matter, I was elaborating my argument that there should be an appeal for public service officers who are punished for offences by the imposition of a fine of £2 or le3s. I had pointed to the contrast between the position of those officers and that of officers accused of minor offences. In a great majority of such cases, there is an appeal and, in any event, the record of the offence is expunged after a period of two years. In other words, that record does not pursue an officer throughout his career in the Public Service. However, under the section which deals with penalties imposed by a chief officer, who is accuser, judge, and punisher, if the penalty inflicted is £2 or less, not only is there no appeal, but also the record of the offence, and of the punishment, pursues the officer to the end of his career in the Public Service. Although the record is purely departmental, and is not made in the office of the Public Service Board, as an officer moves from department to department the record of his conviction and punishment pursues him. In other words, a chief officer can literally persecute a man, day after day, year after year, and by keeping his fines at £2 or less, he can prevent that officer from obtaining redress by way of appeal.
Commonwealth Public Service organizations feel very strongly on this matter, and I propose to read to the committee one or two extracts from the Federal Public Service Journal which indicate the strength of their feelings. It is true that the article rather over-emphasizes its argument by the use of extravagant language, but I ask the committee to regard that language only as an expression of the strength of the feelings of public servants about the matter. The following passage is from the issue of July, 1954:-
The plain facts of the present position under Section 55 of the Public Service Act are these -
Any Chief Officer can charge a Public Servant with an offence, try the case, convict the accused and impose a punishment.
The convicted officer has no right of appeal to the independent Appeal Board, even on the grounds of innocence, unless the penalty exceeds £2.
Such a situation is without parallel in modern democratic law.
It contravenes every basic principle of British and Australian justice.
It means that the accuser becomes the Judge and Jury and that there is no appeal against his verdict however unfair or unconscionable his decision may be.
It means that all kinds of charges can be trumped up” against an officer and he has no right of redress.
An officer could be charged every day with faked and invalid offences, and every day he could be fined up to £2 for each offence and this could go on indefinitely, and the Public Service Board would have no power to interfere and the convicted officer would never have a right of appeal even though he protested his innocence on every occasion.
Is this British Justice?
Of course it isn’t!
The article concludes in this rather extravagant way -
Unless an innocent man is given the right of appeal, we can roll up the Bill of Bights, the Magna Charta, the Constitution and all the laws of English and Australian justice and burn them in a roaring bonfire, because we will have reverted to the dark ages of the star chamber, and the bones of freedom-loving democrats down through the ages will rattle in anguish in their graves at this modern affront to human rights.
– Does the association cite any instances?
– It does. It claims that in many cases the punishment is deliberately kept at £2 or less to deny the right of appeal. If one thinks that over for a moment, one realizes that it is the kind of thing that is likely to happen. Even if it is not happening in a multiplicity of cases, if there is a possibility that it will happen at all, it should be guarded against by this chamber. According to the August issue of the journal, the organizations put their case to the Public Service Board and the board replied that it - . . gave careful consideration to the proposal, but taking into account disciplinary practices in other spheres, costs of proceedings and loss of officers’ time, the administrative disadvantages would far outweigh any benefit which would accrue to the majority of officers.
That is the end of the quotation from the board letter. The article continues -
As if costs, time, administrative disadvantages and majority benefits have got anything to do with justice!
If these were the hallmarks of British democratic processes of justice there would be jio laws, no law courts, no judges, no individual rights, no protection for the innocent. There would just be sheer dictatorship sustained by military might.
One cannot argue against the truth of that proposition. It may be claimed that, if a right of appeal were given to all those who were fined £2 or less, the appeal board would be sitting continuously, and great costs would be incurred. Let us canvass that argument for a moment. I submit that there are two answers to it which, added together, give a complete answer. Sub-section 4 of the very section we are now considering provides that when an appeal is made, the a ppeals tribunal may confirm, annual, or vary the decision appealed against by imposing any other punishment specified, andthat itsdecision shall be final. In other words, an officerwho appeals against a punishment, risks incurring a heavier penalty than that originally imposed. That must deter a man who contemplates an appeal. But that is not the only safeguard. Section 17 (3) provides -
If an Appeal Board is of opinion that the appellant officer had no reasonable grounds for appeal, and that the appeal was frivolous or vexatious, it may recommend to the Board of Commissioners that the officerbe required to pay such sum as the Appeal Board thinks fit, but not exceeding the cost of thehearing, and the Board may order the appellant to pay such sum or such less amount as it thinks fit and the sum so ordered shallbe recover- able in the manner prescribed for the recovery offinesfor breaches of the Act or regulations.
Inotherwords, if a man doesnot have reasonable grounds forappealing, or the appeal board considers an appeal to ‘be frivioous or vexatious, it may require the appellant to pay the whole costs of the hearing.Surely that is an effective answer to the argument that there may be a multipliciity of frivolous appeals. I submit that, in these circumstances, there is no danger of the appeal board being cluttered up with appeals. Above all, the fundamental right of an individual who is accused of an offence, tried by his accuser, and convicted and punished by his accuser, is one of appeal. I ask the Government to give earnest consideration to the case I have made out. Sooner or later justice must prevail in this matter. The argument in favour of an appeal is un answerable, and justiceshould be no longer delayed. I do not wish to labour the point, because I think that I have already developed a complete case. I have pointed out that there is no provision for appeal, so that individual officers may be subjected to persecution, and I have also stated my belief that no vexatious or trivial appeals will he launched, for the two reasons that I have indicated to the committee. In those circumstances, I hope that the committee will accept the amendment. I claim that if the Government doesnot do so, a miscarriage of justice will occur. If the amendment is accepted, the proviso to paragraph (d) of section 55 (3.) will read -
Provided that the officer may appeal, in such mannerand within such time, not less than seven days, as is prescribed, against the decision of the Chief Officer, and the appeal shall be heard by an Appeal Board constituted as hereinafter prescribed.
I appreciate that the Minister and the Government may wish to have time to consider this matter. In my opinion, it is a matter which deserves proper consideration.If the Minister agrees that that is so, hut is not authorized at the moment to accept the amendment, I suggest that he defer the matter until such time as theGovernment has had an opportunity to consider it. The Senate will be sitting again next week, and there is no vital matter, in connexion with the bill, which is awaiting attention. Its provisions are all of a machinery nature and could well wait a week longer. If the Minister senses the justice of the case that I have put, but is without authority to accept the amendment,I appeal to him not to reject it out of hand, but to adjourn the proceedings so that the chairman may report to the Senate and ask leave to sit again. Let us discuss this matter again next week, when mature consideration has been given to it. I do not want to embarrass the Minister by pressing the matter now. I hope that he will acknowledge the justice of the case I have made out.
– The Government already has given careful consideration to the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), and is not able to accept it. It is true that this section of the act is the subject of further review by both the Government and the Public Service Board. I assure the honorable senator that the amendment moved by him will be borne in mind when further review of section55 is taking place.
– Can the Minister say whether that review is likely to be made in the near future, or at some distant date ?
– It will be reviewed at a joint council meetingof the Public Service Board in November.
– I listened to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) withgreat interest, and I should like to see the Government accept the honorablesenator’s proposal that the matter fee postponed. I noticed a press report concerning the debate on this bill in the House of Representatives, and although that was not averbatim report of the proceedings, I gained the impression from it that a pointhad been brought forward by a member of the Opposition in the Houseof Representatives, and that the Governmentwas considering it. I suggestthat the proper time to consider such a matter is after the legislation reaches the Senate from the House of Representatives, and while theSenate is debating it. Therefore, I should definitely be prepared to support a move to delay consideration of this (proposition until a later stage, when all honorable senators have had an opportunity to study the matter fully. We then could have the benefit of the Government’s views, also.
I make this observation that although thisGovernment has been in office since 1949, when the Public Service organizations wish to amend a part of the Public Service Act which they do not like, the matter israised in the House of Representativesby a member of the Opposition.In due course, the billcomes to the Senate, and the point is raised in this chamber by theLeader of the Opposition. I am curious to know why backbenchers’ and private members of the Senate havenotbeen made aware of the views of the Public Service organizations onth is matter.It may be that my colleagues havebeen informed, and that . I as a comparatively new member of the Senate, am not yet on the mailing listof the Public Service organizations.However, I should think that those bodies would be doing their job properly if, when they have fault to find with an act of Parliament concerning the Public Service, they put their case to members of both sides of the Parliament here in Canberra. At the moment, I am not prepared to say whether or notI supportthe views of those organizations, butIconsider that the Parliamentowes it to the Pub licService to give full consideration to their views. Although those views, apparently, have beenheld since the middle of the year - the Leader of theOpposition referred to July - they have not been put to me as a member of the Government side of this chamber. I think that the Senate would be acting correctly if it suggested that this matter be delayed, so that all honorable senators could have anopportunity to consider it fully. Perhaps the Public Service organizations will take the tip that I have given and put their views clearly, without exaggeration, so that the Government may consider them. If feat is done, we shallhave anopportunity to perform our task as adjudicators and vote en the matter accordingly.
– I am grateful tothe Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) for his assurance that the matter will be reviewed, but I point out that, if the review is to take place at a meeting of representatives of the Public Service inNovember, consequent legislation, if the suggestionwere accepted,could not be put into operation until well into next year. It might be as lateas February or March before such legslation became operative. The proposition is a simpleone. I take it that theSenatewill be sitting for at least another fortnight. Why wait until November? Why must there bediscussion with the PublicServiceorganizations ? When all is said and done, the case is quite clear. I imagine that all the Government needs to do at this stage is tocanvass the matter with the Public Service Board, and at any time within the next fortnight, bring the matterup again. If theGovernment wouldlike the honour of introducing theamendment,I shall withdraw mine. I am merely concerned to have the principle accepted and the matter righted. I understand that representation has been made to fee Governmentby the Public Service organizations. Surely, it would not take more than a day or two for the legal officers, the Public Service Board, and the Government to get together on this matter. I amconvinced that if the thing is looked atdispassionately, the only possible answer is that the amendment should be accepted.
I think that it would be better for the Government not to sully its record by rejecting the amendment at this stage. If it does that, I shall be forced to call for a division, and I do not want to do that. The request that I make to the Minister is most modest. I merely ask him to defer consideration of the matter until next week or the following week. I imagine that it could be disposed of quite easily by next week. I hope that the Minister will not force me to press for a division. I think it would be better for the Government and for every one concerned if that were not done, and I wish to avoid it. I also make the offer that if the Government does not like the form of the amendment and thinks that it can improve on it, or even if the Government wishes to initiate the amendment, the Opposition will step aside and let the Government take charge of the matter. I do not thinkI can make a fairer offer.
– I appreciate what the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has said. I have already given him an assurance that this matter will be borne in mind, and that it will be considered by the Public Service Board. I very much regret that the Government is not able to accept the amendment immediately.
– Or to defer it?
– The Government is not able to do that.
– I am loath to join in this discussion, but I am sure that the justice of the case made out by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) will appeal to honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. The fact that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), who is in charge of the bill, has admitted that the matter will be reviewed, proves conclusively that the Government itself appreciates that amendment of this section of the act is necessary in the immediate future. I know that this provision has caused considerable dissatisfaction amongst public servants for many years. This is not a nation-rocking problem, but as the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, if the opportunity to rectify the matter is lost to-night, it may be a considerable time before a similar opportunity arrives. The Leader of the Opposition has made a very generous offer to the Government. ‘ Senator Marriott has pointed out that he has not been informed of the views of the Public Service, and other honorable senators may be in a similar position.For that reason, and also because of the dissatisfaction which this provision has caused, I ask the Minister to heed the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition and defer consideration of the matter until next week.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator McKenna’s amendment) be inserted.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid.)
Majority . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cooper) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill has been introduced in pursuance of the Commonwealth’s obligations, as a partner with the States, in the proposed new wheat stabilization plan which has been developed in consultation with State Ministers and the Australian Wheat Growers Federation. The plan has been approved by all Australian governments, and has been submitted to polls of growers in all the mainland States by the respective State governments. The polls which have just been completed have resulted in an overwhelming vote of wheat-growers in favour of the plan. The total vote was 46,584 in favour of the plan, and only 2,934 against it. The act will be proclaimed if the States adopt complementary legislation, or satisfy the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture that they will do so. The intention is that all legislation, both Commonwealth and State, shall be in operation by the start of the 1954-55 wheat season; that is, by the beginning of next December.
The main points of the plan to which the Australian governments and the Australian Wheat Growers Federation have agreed may be briefly stated as follows : - The period of operation of the wheat stabilization plan will be five years, and it will apply to the wheat crops of the seasons 1953-54 to 1957-58, both inclusive. The Australian Wheat Board will be the sole authority for the marketing of wheat within Australia, and for the marketing of wheat and flour for export from Australia for the period of the plan. The Australian Government will guarantee a return to growers of the ascertained cost of production in respect of up to 100,000,000 bushels of wheat exported from Australia from each of the five wheat crops covered by the plan.
A stabilization fund will be established by means of an export tax to be collected at the rate of ls. 6d. a bushel when wheat export prices exceed the cost of production by this amount or more, and by that portion of ls. 6d. by which the export prices exceed the cost of production when the excess is less than ls. 6d. a bushel. The export tax will apply to the 1953-54 and later crops. The maximum amount of the stabilization fund will be £20,000,000. As the moneys in the fund accumulate beyond this figure, repayments from the excess accumulations will bc made, after recommendations by the Australian Wheat Board, to the oldest contributing pool, so as to form a revolving fund.
When average export realizations fall below cost of production, export returns will be raised, in respect of up to 100,000,000 bushels of wheat from each crop, to the cost of production level, first by drawing upon the stabilization fund. When that fund is exhausted, the Commonwealth. Treasury will meet the obligations of the Commonwealth guarantee.
The home-consumption price for f.a.q. wheat will be not less than the cost of production determined for each season. This is fundamental to the plan. Subject to the understanding that at no time will the price fall below the cost of production, however, the home-consumption price for f.a.q. wheat sold for domestic human consumption and for pigs, poultry and dairy stock, will be determined by State legislation at 14s. a bushel, bulk, f.o.r. ports. This price will vary downwards to conform with the International Wheat Agreement price current at the commencement of each season, if the International Wheat Agreement price should be at that time less than 14s. a bushel, bulk, f.o.r. ports.
Similarly, if Australia should not be a party to an international wheat agreement, the home-consumption price of f.a.q. wheat sold for domestic human consumption and for pigs, poultry and dairy stock, will vary downwards in conformity with the current price for export sales by the Australian Wheat Board at the commencement of each season, if the board’s export price should be at that time less than 14s. a bushel, bulk, f.o.r. ports.
A premium from export realizations will be paid on wheat grown in Western Australia and exported from that State, in recognition of the natural freight advantage applying to Western Australia, owing to the proximity of that State to the principal overseas markets for wheat. The premium shall be 3d. per bushel. Provision will be made for a loading on all wheat sold for consumption in Australia to the extent necessary to cover the cost of transporting wheat from the mainland to Tasmania in each season of the plan. This will not affect the pool returns to growers in any way.
These proposals require the passage of the necessary Commonwealth and State complementary legislation. The bill includes the orderly marketing provisions of legislation passed in 1953, and adds the stabilization features. It covers the marketing of the five wheat crops of the seasons from 1953-54 to 1957-58, the first of which is now being marketed. The Commonwealth will guarantee, a return equal to cost of production on exports of up to 100,000,000 bushels from each of the five wheat crops. This provides security in respect’ of exports in any season up to that quantity.
A new wheat prices stabilization fund will be established, as amounts in the old fund have all been returned to growers. An export levy will be collected when average export prices for a season exceed cost of production; and any amount in excess of cost of production, up to but not exceeding ls. 6d. a bushel, will be paid into the fund. The limit of the fund is to be £20,000,000; and if amounts in the fund exceed £20,000,000 the excess will be refunded to the oldest contributing pool. This establishes a revolving fund on the principle of first in, first out. The repayment is mandatory if the excess amount is sufficient to pay out the oldest pool. For lesser amounts, payments are to be made after recommendation by the wheat board, as agreed by the Minister in consultation with the Treasurer. Any balance which may remain in the fund at the end of the period will be retained, pending a decision as to a continuation of the plan. The Government is thinking in terms of a continuing scheme, and before the period of this plan ends, there will be negotiations for a new plan. It is intended that the new plan then should be submitted to a ballot of growers before legislation is introduced. Repayment of any balance in the fund will, therefore, not take place unless the Minister declares that an extension of the plan is not desirable or is impracticable.
The home-consumption price provisions of the new plan are the same as those specified in the 1953 orderly marketing legislation. This provides an assurance for wheat-growers that they will receive not less than cost of production for wheat sold for use in Australia, Local prices are a State responsibility, and the price provisions will be included in the complementary legislation of the States. Wheat in the territories is covered by Commonwealth legislation. The new plan also continues the provisions for the payment of a premium on Western Australian wheat that is exported, and for a loading on home-consumption prices in order to meet the cost of transporting wheat to Tasmania. These are essentially State matters. The premium for Western Australian wheat recognizes the advantage which Western Australia possesses because of a lower freight rate to the main export markets. This is quite separate from the Commonwealth guarantee, and will be paid after the guarantee, and the tax that goes with it, has operated. Freight to Tasmania is to be met by a special loading of the local price. The amount will be kept in a separate fund, in which wheatgrowers have no equity, and will be used solely to meet the costs of transporting wheat to Tasmania.
There is a provision in the bill that will enable the Minister to issue directions to the Wheat Board on wheat-selling policy, if that should prove to be necessary at any time. It is far from the Government’s intention that that provision should open the way to government interference in the wheat-selling operations of the board, but it will be obvious, and it has, in fact, been clearly stated to the Wheat Growers Federation, that as the Commonwealth assumes the financial responsibility of guaranteeing the plan, from public revenue, then, in the interests of the taxpayers generally, it cannot be indifferent, for instance, to the price at which the board may be willing to sell wheat at some particular time or to some particular market.
Advantage has been taken of this opportunity to establish uniformity as regards the period of membership of the grower members of the Australian Wheat Board. It is proposed that the terms of office of all the members of the board shall in future run concurrently. At present, the terms of office of the Victorian and South Australian grower members coincide ; but those of the grower members from other States terminate at different times. This is not a satisfactory arrangement, and it militates against efficient administration. It is proposed that each full board shall have a definite life of three years, commencing from October, 1953, when the Wheat Marketing Act was proclaimed.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator COOPER read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is necessary to authorize a wheat export charge. It is complementary to :the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill. An important feature of the wheat industry stabilization plan is the proposal that there shall be a tax on wheat exported. The tax will apply when the export price obtained for wheat exceeds the guaranteed price, and the proceeds from the tax will form the stabilization fund. The export tax proposal is acceptable to the wheat industry and represents the industry’s contribution to its own stabilization. It means, in effect, that when wheat export prices are high, the growers themselves will provide a financial cushion against a possible future period of low export prices within the stabilization plan period. When funds available from export tax collections are exhausted, the Commonwealth guarantee will operate to ensure that growers will receive the cost of production in respect of up to 100,000,000 bushels exported in each season of the plan. The Commonwealth’s willingness to provide the guarantee has, in fact, been conditional upon the wheat-growers themselves making a contribution. The agreement of the State governments to legislate to bring the wheat crops of their respective States into a common pool, and to provide a fixed home-consumption price for wheat as a part of the plan, is again complementary to the Commonwealth guarantee and the export tax.
The export tax will apply when the export price exceeds the cost of production for the season concerned. The maximum rate of the tax is ls. 6d. a bushel. The tax is to be applied so that it will take the first ls. 6d. .above the cost of production, or the amount up to ls. 6d. a bushel by which export returns for the pool exceed the cost of production. The export charge will apply to the 1953-54 crop now being sold, and will further apply to the four later crops ending with the 1957-58 season. It is inevitable that the application of the tax should be made retrospective to take in the 1953-54 crop. This is a result of the delay which occurred before it was possible to secure the agreement of all State governments to the stabilization plan. It was hoped that the plan would be in operation a year ago, but general agreement was not reached until July of this year.
Wheat exports are effected by the Australian Wheat Board. There is a special provision for the board to pay the export charge each quarter, and to adjust the payments according to the average receipts of the pool concerned. This has been found to be a convenient method of collecting the tax. An appreciable quantity of our wheat is exported each season as flour, and a small part as breakfast foods and other products. These commodities will be taxed according to the wheat content of the item concerned. As the bill is complementary to the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill, it is intended’ that the two acts shall be proclaimed simultaneously.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Cooper) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to Tuesday next at 3.30 p.m.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Commonwealth Telegraphs Agreement -
Commonwealth Telecommunications Board - Third General Report to 31st December, 1953, and Statement of Accounts to 31st March, 1053.
Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of Works - V. L. Sykes.
Repatriation Act - No. 3 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal - Report for year 1953-54.
Senate adjourned at 9.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 October 1954, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1954/19541028_senate_21_s4/>.