27 March 1957

22nd Parliament · 2nd Session

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.

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– I have received a letter from the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McKenna) nominating Senators Nicholls and Ryan to be members of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory.

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Debate resumed from 26th March (vide page 1 82), on motion by Senator Hannan -

That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to: -

Mayit Please Your Excellency -

We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.

Upon which Senator McKenna had moved by way of amendment -

That the following paragraphs be added to the Address-in-Reply, viz.: - “2. The Government is censured for the statement of housing policy announced by the Prime Minister on 7th March last and for the acute social ills caused by its continued failure to establish, in conjunction with the States, a national housing plan.

This failure has been largely caused by the provision of inadequate finance for home-building for-

State governments;

war service homes;

co-operative building societies;

Australians seeking to build their own homes.

The national plan should have regard to -

immediate reduction of migrant intake;

employment of the maximum work force in the home-building industry;

availability of materials.

It should provide for -

priority to home-building over less essential private investment;

provision of sufficient finance to promote home-ownership at low rates of interest.”.

And upon the following amendment by Senator Cole to Senator McKenna’s proposed amendment -

That paragraph 4 of the amendment be amended by leaving out the words “ (a) immediate reduction of migrant intake; “ and inserting in lieu thereof the following words: - “ (a) the establishment of a Commonwealth-State Housing Authority to coordinate its activities with the various State housing bodies; “.

Senator SHEEHAN:

– When the debate was interrupted last night under Standing Orders, I was replying to arguments that had been put forward by Senator Kendall. The honorable senator had referred to the action of the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Gair, in trying to curb the activities of the oil companies in that State to ensure that petrol users there would get petrol at a fair and reasonable price. Honorable senators will remember that the petrol suppliers objected to the Queensland Government’s attitude, and had threatened to withhold petrol from the Queensland consumers. Senator Maher also referred to the fight by the Premier of Queensland. In rather satirical fashion, he said that all that had been gained was a reduction of a farthing a gallon in the price of petrol. Senator Maher said it was a pyrrhic victory.

I remind Senator Maher, and those who think as he does, that although they may regard a reduction of a farthing a gallon as infinitesimal, the petrol companies were anxious to get the extra farthing. Obviously, it would make a considerable difference to their profits. I am sure that big consumers of petrol, like the Snowy Mountains Authority, would be very pleased indeed if they could get a reduction of a farthing a gallon on the petrol they use. That authority has complained of the joint action by the petrol companies as a result of which it is useless to call tenders for the supply of petrol. I know that from my own experience as a municipal councillor. Recently, we called tenders for the supply of petrol to our municipality. When the tenders were opened, we found that there was absolutely no difference in the prices submitted by the major oil companies. It was just a matter of Tweedledum and Tweedledee; it was simply a matter of our accepting which tender we wished. There is no competition in connexion with this very essential commodity.

As I said last night, many of the resellers of petrol in other States were anxious to see the Queensland Premier win in this contest against the oil companies because, at the moment, the resellers are virtually in the hands of the major oil companies. The companies determine what profits the resellers shall- make, where their service stations shall be located and exactly what they are to do in all matters connected with the conduct of their businesses. Our friends on the Government side talk about free enterprise and competition in business. When the people had put before them the great question of price control, they said, “ Leave it to private enterprise. Let us have free competition; then prices will be reduced “, and so on. That is the attitude honorable senators on the Government side have adopted towards this important question.

We have before us an amendment which asks the Senate to censure the Government for the manner in which it has neglected the housing problem of this country. And what do we find? Have those who have spoken on behalf of the Government replied to the allegations made from this side of the Senate? Have they done so even in another place? Has any spokesman for the Government attempted to reply to the arguments put forward by the sponsors of the amendment? They certainly have not. They have simply treated the whole question in a most cavalier fashion. Instead of proving that the Opposition is wrong in its submission, those who have spoken on behalf of the Government have hurled a diatribe of abuse at the Labour party. Senator Kendall, and others, during the discussion of this most important question, which affects the lives of the whole community, wanted to enter into a discussion of democratic socialism; indeed, they sought to discuss any question except the one before the Senate.

In another place last evening, the spokesman for the Government, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) got right away from the question. The only thing he did was suggest that the Labour party were not the people to place in government at the moment. According to the report of his speech in to-day’s press, he likened the Australian Labour party to the atom in that he said that it had been split. To support his contention, he mentioned that our party was divided into three sections, first, those of us who claim to be the official party and are recognized as the Opposition;- secondly, the Anti-Communist Labour Party; and thirdly, the Democratic Labour party. He said that there was also dissension on the industrial side of the movement. My point is that possibly the Minister for Labour and National Service was correct in likening the split in the Australian Labour movement to the splitting of the atom. What has the splitting of the atom meant to the community, indeed to the whole of the world? It has meant the unleashing of a great force which humanity can either apply to the creation of great benefits which the world can enjoy or, if it so desires, utilize it for purposes of destruction. I believe, that Mr. Harold Holt thinks that, like the atomic bomb, the great Labour movement will attain even greater power than it has to-day. Doubtless, he thought that his remarks would cause discomfiture to the Australian Labour party. I venture to predict, however, that this party, instead of being destroyed and ceasing to function in the interests of the Australian people, will develop into a greater and nobler body fully capable of undertaking the tremendous task that is ahead of it. I am sure that every one who heard the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in the House of Representatives and the speech of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) in this chamber would agree that they made particularly heavy going in defending the Government against the attack that was launched against it by the Opposition. Although the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber (Senator McKenna) allowed plenty of time for Senator Spooner, the Government’s spokesman in this matter, to prepare a reply to our challenge, which was based on facts and figures, the Minister has not yet supplied a complete answer.

Senator McKenna directed attention to the following statement that appeared in the “ Daily Telegraph “ of 9th March: -

Mr. Landa, New South Wales Housing Minister, yesterday produced this evidence of decline in the State’s building industry:

About 70 saw-mills had closed.

There has been no refutation of that assertion. The newspaper statement goes on -

Huge stacks of sawn timber were lying in their yards.

Brickyards had limited production because of accumulated stocks.

They could step up output overnight.

Manufacture of baths, stoves and sinks was down 20 per cent.

The fibrous plaster industry had cut -production by 10 per cent.

The home-building slow-down had hit the furniture trade.

Fewer new homes meant fewer furniture and fittings buyers.

None of those assertions has been refuted by the Minister for National Development.

My leader then went on to cite figures that had been furnished by the union leaders. In the hope that, eventually, the Government will attempt to refute the statements that have been made by union representatives, 1 shall mention them again. Mr. Greaves, the Newcastle secretary of the Building Workers Industrial Union, stated publicly in the press that, in Newcastle, 100 carpenters formerly employed in heavy industry were out of work. He said, also, that another 50 were employed only intermittently. Mr. Souter, the secretary of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, the man who has his finger on the pulse of the Australian industrial movement, said publicly that the number of men working on new buildings had dropped by 5,500 in Melbourne since September. Let us contrast this statement by a responsible trade union official with the statements that have been made by the Prime Minister and other Government spokesmen that there is no crisis in the building industry. If the fact is that over 5,500 workmen on new buildings in the City of Melbourne have dropped out since September, surely that is a crisis, and something of which the Government should take notice. Surely, that warrants intervention or investigation, if it is true.

All the criticism of the Prime Minister and the Minister for National Development has not emanated from the trade unions. The charges levelled by the Opposition against the Government did not originate in the Parliament. Nor have they been levelled just for the sake of something to say, or to enable an amendment to be moved to the Address-in-Reply. This question has been a live topic of discussion for months past. It originated in the ranks of the employers, the people we might assume would support this Government. We would assume that the employers who have organized themselves as the Building Trades Congress would not be supporting

Labour, and, of course, we know that Mi. Petty, the Minister for Housing in the Victorian State Government, is not a member of the Labour party. He is a member of a Liberal administration. These people have consistently attacked this Government for its failure to have a proper appreciation of the position which exists in regard to the housing of our people to-day.

Senator Maher last evening exclaimed, “ Why, this Government has spent some thing like £500,000,000 “, and he suggested that was a colossal sum. I have said previously that on the first occasion I took part in a budget discussion in this chamber, the amount voted under that budget was £100,000,000; and, at that time, we thought that was a colossal sum. We wondered how the people of Australia could supply £100.000,000 for a Commonwealth budget. What is the position to-day? In the last budget we provided £200,000,000 for one item of expenditure, that of defence. If the government of the day feels that it is necessary to spend £200.000.000 a year on defence for the protection of this country and the people living in it, surely it is a proper demand to make that the same Government should see to it that sufficient funds are made available to house properly the inhabitants of the country on which we are prepared to spend this colossal sum for its defence. What can be of greater benefit for a nation than to have its people well housed?

The Prime Minister in his statement said that this was a human question. If it is a human question, surely it is the Government’s duty to see that the housing needed is provided. Criticism has appeared in the press and elsewhere of the conditions under which many new Australians are living in our cities. By innuendo, to a certain extent, it has been suggested that that is the type of life these people enjoy, being herded together in vast numbers in tenements in the industrial suburbs of our cities. No one can tell me that these people would have left their native lands, and the conditions under which they were existing there, if they had not thought they could enjoy life under good conditions in Australia. They have come here because they believed Australia offered them something better than their native land could give them. Would they put up with the living conditions in Australia that have been described in the press, if better facilities were available to them in their homeland? Certainly not. Honorable senators are all aware, from personal observation and knowledge, that as soon as a new Australian comes to this country he tries to obtain a home for himself and his family. If it is not available to him he is forced to live under conditions such as have been reported in the press.

Housing conditions tend to reflect the standard of living in any society. Much has been said about what is happening in other countries, and it is suggested that the standard of living in some of them is falling - that it has, in fact, reached a very low level. This fact underlines how imperative it is that the Government should regard good housing as essential to the welfare of the people.

Government senators, in an attempt to escape criticism, suggest that housing is a State matter and that each State government has its housing Minister. Let us be practical. For some time past, it has been the policy of this Government, and for Australians generally, to subscribe to the system of uniform taxation. This Parliament is the taxing authority of the nation. lt has the right to levy taxes from the people, and it is the duty of the Parliament, after collecting the revenue, to see that it is properly distributed among the States. Honorable senators will understand, of course, that the Government arranges the details of collection and distribution of taxation revenue, but in the final analysis it is this Parliament which sanctions the Government’s proposals. It is for the Government to recommend to Parliament that adequate sums of money should be returned to the States in order that they may carry on the necessary work of housing.

Senator Kendall:

– That depends on what the honorable senator means by “ necessary “.

Senator SHEEHAN:

– It is necessary that the demand for housing should be met. No one can say that the work of housing is not necessary at the present time. There is a lag and, consequently, a tremendous demand for housing. It has been estimated that approximately 70,000 new homes a year are needed to meet ordinary requirements. If the States have not sufficient money to undertake the work of providing homes, they cannot give effect to a proper housing policy. Whatever specious argument may be advanced by the Government in its own defence, the fact remains that the statements of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and of the Minister for National’ Development (Senator Spooner) have not been accepted by any responsible newspaper or by any authority engaged in the building industry, or by any one else who is aware of the need to have this matter attended to straight away.

Although the Government has the numbers, I suggest that on this occasion it has experienced one of the most severe castigations that have been levelled against it since it assumed office. Criticism has fallen from the lips not only of its opponents but also of its friends. Instead of denying that there is a crisis and suggesting that not finance but building materials are in short supply, let it accept the facts that have been presented by responsible people who have stated that building materials are available and that all that is needed is for the necessary finance to be placed in circulation.

One of the greatest smoke screens that have been put up by spokesmen for the Government was seen in another chamber last night when it was suggested that the big bad wolf in the whole matter, was the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, that he was the man responsible for the present situation. It is well known that the private banks have decided that their funds shall not be made available for the building of houses, simply because the interest returnable is not sufficient. Those institutions are hampering not only the housing of the people, but also the development of the country by refusing loans to primary producers who wish to increase their production. The banking institutions say to those people, “ Instead of obtaining an overdraft from us, go to the hire-purchase organizations “. That is where the private banking institutions have placed their money. Unless the Government is prepared to grapple with the problem and ensure that finance is made available, in the very near future conditions generally in Australia will deteriorate and it will experience chaos. The people will then destroy the Government, and it will be left to a Labour government to clean up the mess. I support the amendment. I believe that it expresses the opinions not only of members of the Opposition but also of other persons who are eager to see Australia develop and a contented and well-housed people living in this country.

Senator SEWARD:
Western Australia

– I desire to associate myself with the loyal sentiments that have been expressed by the mover and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply and, if I may, to offer my congratulations to those honorable senators upon the very fine speeches they delivered. In times like the present, I believe we should regard ourselves as being particularly fortunate in having the Royal Family. In a world that is torn and in which every effort seems to be made to destroy family life, we have the Royal Family as a model. If anything can bind the various sections of the British Commonwealth of Nations together and bring the Crown closer to the people, it is the exemplary family life of the Royal Family. I hope that the Queen will be spared for many years to reign over her people.

In this debate, we again find ourselves in a most extraordinary situation that seems to arise in this chamber from time to time. We have before us the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Speech that was delivered by the GovernorGeneral when he opened this session of the Parliament. In addition, we have an amendment to that motion and, as if that were not enough, we have to consider an amendment on the amendment. This is the first time that I can remember more than one motion being before a deliberative assembly for discussion at one time. We should dispose of the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). If it were carried, it would take the place of the original motion. If it were rejected, we would resume discussion on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply.

During the course of this debate, the subject of housing has loomed large, as it would necessarily do because of the terms of the amendment. However, I do not intend to take up very much time on that subject, because it must be perfectly obvious that if everybody debated the matter of housing - and it has already been debated very extensively by those honorable senators who have spoken - there would be a great deal of repetition. Senator McKenna was answered very effectively by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) and certain aspects of the subject have already been discussed by other speakers. Another consideration that moves me to refrain from devoting very much time to this subject is that housing problems do not exist in Western Australia to the same degree as they do, apparently, in the eastern States. Therefore, not being au fait with conditions in the eastern States, I shall not enter upon a discussion of them. When I say that, I do not mean to imply that this matter is not of the utmost importance. I agree that it is important, but I leave it to those who have already discussed it.

However, one aspect of it concerns me. So long as the present financial relationship exists between the Commonwealth and the States, we shall have these interminable arguments, this pressing for more money to be made available by the Commonwealth to the States for housing or for other purposes with which the States are concerned. I know, of course, that a committee has been appointed to inquire into the workings of the Constitution, including the financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States. Personally, I have no confidence whatever in the committee, and I shall be surprised if it makes any worthwhile recommendations, because it is composed exclusively of Commonwealth representatives. Does anybody suppose that the States are not vitally interested in the Constitution? As a matter of fact, the States gave birth to the Constitution by surrendering certain of their powers to the Federal Parliament. Consequently, they are just as much interested in the Constitution and its workings, and probably just as competent to offer advice on it. as are federal representatives. Therefore, any committee that reviews the Constitution should be composed equally of Federal and State representatives. I know it will be said that the committee is. in the course of its inquiries, interviewing State representatives, but that will not be very satisfactory because it interviews the representatives of each State separately and, more particularly, the State representatives will not be able to take part in the framing of any recommendations that the committee may see fit to make. If the committee does make recommendations which are debated in this Parliament, and the matter goes to a referendum,. I can foresee a most glorious fight occurring in the course of the campaign, in which I may be very pleased to take part.

Before leaving the subject of housing, there is one other aspect to which 1 should like to refer, and which is particularly regrettable. In Western Australia, I have noticed several instances where oil companies have bought houses, pulled them down and erected service stations. As a matter of fact, I read in the “ Herald “ last night that one oil company has bought five houses in Melbourne. I contend that any State that allows that kind of thing to continue when a housing shortage exists is not deserving of very much sympathy. Service stations blot the landscape everywhere, and are almost as numerous as houses.

Senator Kendall said last night that there were 49 per cent, more petrol stations now than in 1949 and they were catering for 102 per cent, more motor vehicles. In 1949, on an average, 106 vehicles used each service station, but now there are 143 vehicles for each petrol station. I have never had any difficulty in getting attention at a service station. Generally, they are almost empty. In the cities, there are two or three in a street and one on each corner of the cross streets. We do not want so many service stations. It is absurd. Obviously, large amounts of money are being expended to buy sites and erect petrol stations. While that is going on, the States do not deserve much sympathy when they say they cannot cater for housing.

Legislation is to come into force in Western Australia which will close down the petrol stations after 1 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, and after 7 p.m. during the week. There is a proviso that one station will be able to remain open until 1 a.m. in each zone. What is the use of having one-brand petrol stations when they are to be closed down at week-ends? The motorist will be able to get only one brand.

Senator Ryan:

– It is all the same petrol.

Senator SEWARD:

– I believe that is true. I am not convinced that the companies need to buy so many sites and spend so much money on buildings. Another honorable senator pleaded for a uniform price for petrol in Australia. I cannot see any reason for a difference between costs for delivering petrol at

Geraldton, Albany and Fremantle. Certainly, there must be an added cost in getting it to country districts, but even that difficulty could be overcome also by charging a uniform price. The same position exists in all States. Petrol is delivered at the main ports from tankers, and the same price should prevail at all ports. This is a ticklish matter, and it can be tackled successfully only by the States acting in co-operation with the Commonwealth Government.

Two important matters to which I wish to refer now are import licencing and the export trade. Ever since it was introduced, import licencing has been very unpopular for two reasons. When one person treads on another person’s corns, the victim becomes offended. In the same way, if the activities of a business man are restricted, he does not like it. I believe that the Government could have made import licencing much easier if it had shown more consideration for business people, and had made its own organization more efficient. The difficulty in getting any communication from those in charge of import licencing is very annoying. Surely when an application is received, ordinary business practice could be followed and a postcard sent acknowledging the receipt of the application, but applicants do not get a reply for months.

Western Australian businessmen spend about £100 to travel to Sydney to interview somebody connected with import licensing, but when they arrive there, they cannot find anybody who can give a decision. They are referred from one to another and, eventually, if they wait long enough, a decision is conveyed to them. That is most exasperating, and it is bringing some discredit upon the Commonwealth Government in Western Australia, although the Administration is held in high esteem there generally. I hope the Department of Trade will introduce a better system to deal with import licences.

When Commonwealth officials visit Western Australia, they should realize that such visits are infrequent, and that many persons are anxious to interview them. Some of these visiting officers spend only a couple of days in Western Australia, and they cannot possibly see all those who wish to interview them. Tt is a big State, and visiting officials should stay at least a week to do their work properly. If that cooperation were forthcoming, import licensing, distasteful as it is, would be more acceptable to the people of Western Australia.

We are anxious to see the system brought to an end, and the only way to do that is to f osier our exports so as to build up our overseas balance. We shall then have enough credits to meet our commitments for imports. Australia’s export trade depends principally upon its primary products. Attempts have been made to send our manufactured goods abroad, and a trade mission left recently for Ceylon and India. Some firms in Western Australia have obtained contracts for the construction of railway wagons for South Africa and oil tanks for India and Malaya but, generally speaking, we must look to primary industries for an increase of our export trade. From time to time, we are told that primary production is increasing, but that is due only to favorable seasons. Our population is also increasing, and on the basis of population our production is decreasing. A warning to that effect was given recently by Sir Douglas Copland, who said -

Australia’s resources were being directed into less essential industry while the basic industries suffered.

Last year, when I spoke on this matter, I produced figures to show that the number of persons engaged in primary production had declined to the same extent that employment in secondary industries had increased. That shows a drift from primary production. Sir Douglas Copland also said -

Assuming we maintain our immigration programme for ten years so that we have a population of 11,000,000 in 1960, we would by that time have to increase our production of beef and veal by 40 per cent., mutton by 58 per cent., Jamb by 23 per cent., pig meats by 78 per cent., eggs by 31 per cent., sugar by 28 per cent., citrus fruits by 61 per cent., milk products by 37i per cent, and wool and wheat by 10 per cent.

That would be necesary to enable us to feed our population and to preserve our export trade. If we continue to expand exports, those percentages will have to be increased. Similar warnings have been given by Directors of Agriculture.

I should like to get some idea of the agricultural policy of this Government. With that object in view, I applied to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) for the minutes of the meetings of the Australian

Agricultural Council. He replied that the Ministers who formed the Australian Agricultural Council were not in favour of making that information available to me or to anybody else. They wished to retain it for themselves. Since then, however, the Minister has made one or two press statements relating to some matters that were agreed to by the council, and what 1 look upon as a gem of a statement came to me under date 20th February. It was a statement of the results of certain deliberations of the Australian Agricultural Council and reads -

The Australian Agricultural Council, meeting in Sydney this week, supported a proposal that the Australian Meat Board should undertake a campaign to promote the sale of meat in Australia.

The proposal had .been made by the Graziers Federal Council and endorsed at a conference of all sections of the meat industry.

It was pointed out that Australian meat consumption per head had fallen by about 12% compared with the prewar level.

At present, the Australian Meat Board is empowered to promote the sale of meat overseas, but not on the Australian market.

If the average person is asked to attempt to consume the average quality of the meat that I get, I do not wonder that Australia’s consumption of meat has fallen. It is only very rarely that one gets a decent piece of tender meat. Most times we get some stuff that might be from an old gummy ewe, or a cow or bullock that has had the whip liberally applied to it. If the Australian Meat Board kept more in touch with this side of the matter and embarked upon a campaign for the marketing of better quality meat there would be no question of a falling off in the Australian consumption of meat. I know perfectly well from my own experience that we can produce excellent meat. I remember that the Westralian swandown lamb was equal to any lamb sent to the London market, even including the New Zealand lamb, and the meat exported from other States was also good. That meat, of course, goes overseas and I presume it is the best meat. I am talking now about the average meat supplied to the Australian consumer. Its quality leaves much to be desired. If the Australian Meat Board would concentrate on improving the quality of the meat marketed in Australia, I do not think any campaign to induce people to eat more meat would be needed.

Had the Australian Agricultural Council decided to conduct an “ Eat more butter” campaign, I could have understood it, because we produce excellent butter. The Australian market is the best one for the butter producer; but wherever one goes, whether it be to a hotel, restaurant or any other place, one is given a tiny, miserable piece of butter, a piece so small that one might be pardoned for believing that it has to be imported from the other end of the world and then rationed when it gets here. If the Australian Agricultural Council would only do something to promote the use of more butter, it would do our dairy-farmers a great deal of good, and it would probably be to the benefit of the Australian Government, because Australia is the butter-producers’ best market. I am surprised that the dairy organizations have not taken that matter up. There is mention of the dairying industry in His Excellency’s Speech, but it is confined really 10 the stabilization plan.

We, in Western Australia, are differently situated from the other States in that our dairying industry is situated in the southwestern corner of the State where the rainfall is heaviest, where the timber is heaviest and where clearing expenses are by far the heaviest of any part of the State. The area was settled largely after the end of World War 1. as a group settlement scheme. Little is known of costs in those days, and the result to-day is that many of the dairymen there, particularly those who are returned soldiers, find that they have an insufficient area cleared to enable them to carry the minimum number of cows necessary to make a reasonable living. They have not the money to do the clearing themselves. Some years ago, the board controlling dairy prices made a survey of conditions there and recommended that more land should be cleared in order to give the dairy-farmers there an opportunity of making a reasonable living. In one section at Northcliffe, 27 blocks have been standing idle for years. Commonwealth money is invested in those blocks, and I. am surprised that nobody in the Commonwealth sphere has been sufficiently alive to investigate whether something could be done about them. I am certain that something could be done to bring them into production. As yet, nothing has resulted from the recommendation made by the board which conducted the survey. The other day, I received a letter from the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) stating that he intended to have a talk with the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), and I sincerely hope that the Commonwealth Government, in conjunction with the State Government, will be able to do something to get these unfortunate people out of the undesirable position in which they are. 1 was inquiring about the position of these people not so very long ago, and the manager of one of the banks there told me that 90 per cent, of the people in his district did not get sufficient income to render them liable to payment of income tax. He pointed out that everybody in the family is working for a very small return. After having spent years on these properties, the farmers cannot simply walk off and start in another place, and for that reason I hope that something will be done to give them an opportunity to carry on in reasonable comfort.

Another matter which, although a State matter, also has federal implications, is the decision of the Labour Government of Western Australia to close certain railway lines. As is the case with all other States, the railways department in Western Australia is incurring colossal losses. The Western Australian Government conducted an inquiry into its railways and decided to close 2,000 of the 4,000 miles of line in that State. That will not be done all at once, but it is intended to start with the closing of 820 miles of railway. Afterwards, other lines will be closed down. I wrote to the Minister for Trade and the Minister for Primary Industry directing attention to what was proposed and stated that as it was my opinion that the closing of these lines must inevitably lead to a reduction in the production of agricultural produce, I thought the Commonwealth Government would be interested. I did not suggest that the Commonwealth should tell the Western Australian Government that it must not close down these railway lines, nor did I suggest that the Commonwealth should provide sufficient money to compensate for the deficiency in the railways; but I did think that the Commonwealth authorities might confer with the State government with a view to pointing out the effect the closing of these lines was likely to have on agricultural production and with a view to seeing if something could be done to rectify the position.

If these lines are closed, certain of the farmers in Western Australia will be situated anything from 60 to 80 miles from a railway. This means that their produce will have to be taken by road over that distance. If the produce happens to be wheat, I can visualize that I shall be getting up in this chamber in a year or two, like honorable senators from Victoria, and pleading for more money to rehabilitate our ruined roads. Apart from that factor, the closing of the lines will definitely mean a reduction in production and a reduction of the value of those properties to nil. Nobody is interested in buying a property that is situated from 60 to 80 miles from a railway line. Those people are suffering enough hardship now. Some of them settled there in 1929, and recently they told me that if they had an accident or an illness that prevented their continuing as farmers they would simply have to walk off their properties and let them go because they could not sell them. As they have assisted in the development of the State, I hope that the Commonwealth Government will take up this matter with the State authorities to see if something can be done to overcome this deterioration in railway finances and to prevent the cutting off of all these properties from railway communication in Western Australia, especially as the closing of the lines will have a serious effect on the production of wheat in particular.

Another matter that affects primary production is taxation. 1 am not unmindful of the fact that the primary producer has received a very good deal from the present Commonwealth Government in connexion with taxation. Various concessions have been made to him, and, I think, rightly so, for it has to be remembered that many of these people are living in outback areas. I have been trying for some time to have the telephone connected to the returned soldiers settlement at South Sterling. Those settlers are from 25 to 35 miles from the nearest telephone now; and honorable senators can imagine what their plight must be when sickness overtakes a family. They can understand the position of a settler there if his child took ill in the middle of the night and he had to get out a truck, or some other vehicle, to drive 30 or 40 miles to the nearest telephone to ring for a nurse and then drive back. Most people would not put up with such inconvenience and hard- ship. The people just will not put up with that kind of thing. When they want to be connected to the telephone service, they have to put up poles and instal a line themselves to within a mile and a half of the post office. In addition, they are required to pay the recently introduced £10 connexion fee. I consider that people who are engaged in the development of our country are entitled to receive better consideration than this.

At present, the incidence of taxation has a retarding effect on development. Many farmers whose properties have been only about one-third developed take the view that, due to heavy taxation, it is not worth their while to develop the properties fully. I believe that the time has come for the Government to review certain aspects of taxation. I do not thing that it is fair to require the taxpayers of to-day to bear the full cost of works that will benefit future generations. I consider that loan money should be used for such purposes. The matters that I have raised are seriously affecting our agricultural industry. As I said before, we depend so greatly on that industry to bolster the export market, that steps should be taken to remove the disabilities under which the industry is at present functioning. I should like to be informed of the agricultural policy of the Government, and the means by which it seeks to increase production. If the Senate were fully informed on this matter, we could consider whether the policy is likely to yield better results.

To-day, I was very pleased to receive from the Minister for Defence Production (Mr. Beale) a statement in relation to sulphuric acid. The Minister stated that the Tariff Board would be asked to recommend an appropriate bounty under an extension of the Sulphuric Acid Bounty Act 1954, and an appropriate period for such an extension. He stated also that the Government intends to remove from the act the present ceiling of £600,000 as the annual appropriation for such bounty. The statement continues -

Because sulphur purchases involve a substantial drain upon dollar funds, each manufacturer desiring to import brimstone would have to seek an import licence from the Department of Trade. Before a licence could be granted, it would be necessary to consider whether conversion of existing or proposed plants to the use of indigenous materials would be practicable, taking into account the supply, demand and competitive position in particular areas.

The Western Australian manufacturers of sulphuric acid feel particularly sore about this matter because,, in 1949, an interdepartmental committee recommended that sulphuric acid producing plant be converted to use 65 per cent, of pyrites, and only 35 per cent, of brimstone, such conversion to be completed by the end of 1956. However, less pyrites is now being used, and increased quantities of brimstone are being used for this purpose. lt is well known that, when the Commonwealth Government requests the people in the west to do certain things, we do our best to comply with the request. Consequently, the Western Australian sulphuric acid manufacturers converted their plant so as to use, ultimately, 65 per cent, of pyrites; at present, they are using from 49 to 50 per cent. But certain manufacturers in other States are still using large quantities of brimstone. As a result, the primary producers in Western Australia have to pay more for superphosphate than those in other States. We do not think that that is fair. It is rather late in the piece for the Government to be considering whether the plant in other States can be converted to use increased quantities of pyrites within a certain period, because during that period the owners of that plant will be able to continue to use the cheaper commodity, brimstone. That is not fair to the Western Australian manufacturers. I hope, therefore, that when the Tariff Board completes its inquiry, a more equitable arrangement will be made. I know that, under the Constitution, the bounty payable in the various States must be equal. However, as the Tariff Board pointed out in its last report, the bounty at present payable is unequal in its application. This inequality should be rectified.

I come now to the proposal to lay down a broad gauge railway between Fremantle and Kalgoorlie, which was mentioned in this chamber last night.

Senator Maher:

– Hear, hear!

Senator SEWARD:

Senator Maher’s timely interjection reminds me of the fact that separate inquiries in relation to the standardization of railway gauges have been conducted by a Government parties committee and an Opposition committee. I was disappointed to hear Senator Maher say last night that the Government parties com mittee did. not have an opportunity during the recess to visit. Mount Isa. I cannot understand the reason for the proposal to lay down a standard gauge railway from Broken Hill to Adelaide.

Senator Maher:

– The idea is to connect the Australian capital cities by standard gauge railways.

Senator SEWARD:

– Would it not be better to lay down a standard gauge railway from Perth to Kalgoorlie, and from Port Pirie to Adelaide and on to Melbourne? I point out that both Melbourne and Adelaide are distributing centres, from which many Western Australian business people obtain goods. Does Senator Maher think that they would order their goods from Sydney, instead of from Melbourne or Adelaide, in order to get them through on the broad gauge all the way, via Broken Hill?

Senator Maher:

– That is the direct route.

Senator SEWARD:

– I consider that the direct route is through Melbourne and Adelaide. I hope that the Government parties committee will have another look at the proposal. I am astounded at the reluctance of the Western Australian Government to strive for the laying down of a standard gauge railway from Perth to Kalgoorlie because, in addition to the provision of this line being imperative from a transportation point of view, the work involved would relieve the unemployment situation in Western Australia. Furthermore, if this conversion were undertaken in accordance with the provisions that have applied in respect of other railway conversion jobs, very little inroad would be made on Western Australian funds. I understand ‘ that the usual practice is that the Commonwealth provides the money, and that the State government concerned repays its share of the cost over a period of years. The conversion to standard gauge of the railway between Kalgoorlie and Perth would enable rail traffic over this section to travel at 60 miles an hour instead of 35 miles an hour as at present. It would also give rail passengers a clear run through to Port Pirie, and so reduce the overall travelling time for both passengers and freight. Any proposal to increase railway patronage should appeal to the Government. I hope that the Western Australian Government will apply to the Commonwealth Government for this work to be carried out as early as possible. At present, there is an awful stretch between Port Pirie and Adelaide. [ cannot understand why the Commonwealth does not insist that the South Australian Government permit the Melbourne express to run through to Port Pirie, in accordance with the agreement. In conclusion, I support the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, and I hope that the Government will continue in office for many years to come.

Senator BROWN:

– This debate took its rise from the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, which was prepared by the Government. It is usual, in the Address-in-Reply debate, to speak of loyalty. I should not have thought that there was any need to stress the obvious. I have been here now for 25 years and I am satisfied that as far as the Parliament is concerned, representing the people of Australia, there is no doubt about its loyalty. Of course, there are all kinds of loyalties. There is such a thing as loyalty to the people. Listening to our friends opposite - and I do not want to show any rancour or bitterness in any way - I am satisfied that they have a very strong loyalty to the monopolists and 17-percenters and their capitalist friends. We, on this side, feel that we should give our loyalty to the mass of the people. I do not see anything wrong with that.

Some very good speeches have been made in the Senate and in another place. I cannot say the House of Representatives, because that is not permitted; I must say in another place. I regret that those speeches are not brought before the people of Australia. There may be a few hundred, or a few thousand, listening when we are on the air; but most of the time in this Senate we are speaking to one another within the four walls of this chamber. It is regrettable, for instance, that “the speech of our charming Senator, Miss Annabelle Rankin, was not heard, or at least certain parts of it to which I listened. She spoke of the Reverend Wheller and what he was doing for the aged people. I agree entirely with what Senator Annabelle Rankin said. From what 1 know of the Reverend Wheller, he is a good and practical Christian, and my heart warms towards those who are practical Christians. There are other kinds.

At the end of the article to which Senator Rankin referred, he made this statement -

As a nation we cannot honorably allow this problem to get out of hand. Old age should carry the marks of dignity and honour, lt will be to our shame if we allow it to become a bedraggled affair. Now is the time to act.

I should like to remind the honorable senator who spoke so emotionally on this subject that she is a member of a Government party that could do very much for the aged. I should also like to remind honorable senators opposite that, on occasions, many of our party have brought the matter of the aged before this Parliament. I, myself, asked a question only a few months ago, when the winter was with us and thousands of our aged were suffering from cold, whether some army blankets could be given to them. I again make that plea, because there is nothing worse than to lie at night poverty stricken and, because of the inclemency of the weather, feel cold all night. It is only a small matter, and I am sure Senator Annabelle Rankin will support me in that request. I mention that matter because the aged should be remembered at all times so that something can be done for them. Senator Annabelle Rankin also said she wanted ideas from our side. Well, of course, when a government is failing and is no longer a force, it generally asks the Opposition to give it ideas. We could, of course, give it a lot of ideas, but it would not accept them.

The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) made a splendid speech on this amendment which censures the Government for not establishing, in conjunction with the States, a national housing plan. Our imperturbable, cool, calm senator, a man of great erudition, and a splendid debater, put it all over our friends on the Government side. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), of course, is a rock of Gibraltar, or he may be the rock that Moses struck. Moses, in the form of Senator McKenna, struck the ro:k; and not water, but a torrent of invective from our dear Senator Spooner gushed forth. I am not going to follow along that line. I do not like to call honorable senators who are sitting opposite me dishonorable, nor would I like for one moment to refer to the housing Ministers who met a few days ago as having politically prostituted their work. I think the Minister for National

Development became too angry with himself, and 1 believe he is a victim of his own personality. I intended to say a lot more in that respect, but 1 want to refer to our dear genial friend, Senator Maher.

We all like and admire the genial senator who for many years carried out his work with not too much success. I do not think he ever became the leader of the Government in Queensland but he worked hard for his party there. Let me say this: When 1 was in America,some 45 years ago I had a friend who was a lawyer. He came from Alabama. He was a senator and his name was Bla Bla. He was a member of the firm of Bla Bla, Bla Bla, and Bla Bla. solicitors, but he was a genial soul and a splendid mixer who loved life, laughter and lemonade. He was always decrying Alabama because the government was democratic and he was a Republican. When I think of my friend from Alabama and his decrying his State, my mind goes to our good friend Ted Maher. 1 am sorry that he is not here just now. I would say that he is one of our most genial senators. Like the other fellow, he is a genial soul and he loves life, laughter and good Scotch whisky - like a lot of us do. The honorable senator is similar to the senator from Alabama who hated Alabama because the governor was not of his own political kidney. Senator Maher, along with other tory senators from Queensland, seems to hate Queensland because, forsooth, for over 42 years, with the exception of three years when a poor political soul in the form of Arthur Moore was Premier and made a mess of Queensland - he was a tory - a Labour government has been in power. Our friends opposite always get bitter when they speak or think of Queensland. It reminds me of Lobsang Rampa, a Tibetan Lama, who wrote a book. He underwent an operation and they bored a hole in the centre of his head and, according to his story, afterwards he could see the aura that surrounds all of us. He was engaged “by the Dalai Lama to hide behind a screen when certain emissaries came from Peking to see the Dalai Lama. He reported to the Dalai Lama that their auras were very thick and muddy and they were out for no good. If Lobsang Rampa were to have a good look at our good friend Senator Maher he would say that he had a beautiful aura - red, white and blue - but that whenever he discussed Queensland it turned to a muddy yellow.

Let me deal with Senator Maher. He raised laughter from his friends when he was decrying Queensland. One of the things that raised laughter was his statement that the Queensland Government had stood by its Prices Commissioner and had fought the big oil companies in an attempt to retain a fair price for petrol for the public; and because of this and the charge that the Labour government believed in socialization, investors would not risk their money in Queensland. I never heard such a puerile argument coming from any senator or politician who had spent so many years in the service of his country. I should like to say to Senator Maher, and to those who let their facial muscles slip the other day and laughed immoderately because they look upon Vince Gair, the Premier of Queensland, and other members of the Labour party as peculiar individuals who are closely allied with communism or something of that sort, that there is a tremendous work going on in Queensland. Indeed, one oil company proposes to spend something like £2,000,000 there. 1 do not know how many millions of pounds other oil companies are prepared to spend in the search for oil. In the Mount Isa and the Mary Kathleen mines, millions of pounds are being spent on development, and they will shortly be building their own treatment works. There is not a shadow of doubt that in northern Queensland, the development of bauxite will create one of the greatest centres of industry in this wonderful country of Australia.

Queensland is developing rapidly, but it has not had much assistance from the Tory Commonwealth Government led by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). Indeed, some twelve months ago, Mr. Vince Gair said that Queensland had not received one penny towards the cost of development of any project in that State. Queensland has received its usual share of taxation revenue, but no development project has been supported, financially, by this Government in the way that it has financed and supported them in other States. Queensland has been left to itself.

From 1915 until the present time, the Labour party has been in office in Queensland, with the exception of a three-year period when Arthur Moore and his party were in power. He was a peculiar man who believed in going backwards. His main slogan was, “ Back to the farm. Back to the land. Back to the horse “. On one occasion, he rode down the streets of Brisbane, seated on a horse, followed by his Minister for Railways, Godfrey Morgan, also riding a horse. In my opinion, they should have had another Minister following pushing a wheelbarrow. That was Arthur Moore’s idea of economics, and during his regime, men walked the streets without money in their pockets or food in their stomachs. They were compelled to go to Ipswich, 25 miles away, for a feed. If any one gave them a lift in a motor car, he was prosecuted. Dear old Arthur Moore, of blessed memory

I invite honorable senators to examine the condition of industrial development in Queensland at the moment. I have mentioned Mount Isa and the Mary Kathleen mine. Senator Maher is not present, but I should like to mention a few places to him where development is going on. A ?5,000,000 paper project is nearing completion at Petrie, a ?250,000 cement works expansion is under way at Darra, ?100,000 is being spent to make welded mesh at Geebung, a ?1,000,000 powdered milk factory is now ready at Gympie, a new fertilizer factory, costing ?300,000, has now been declared open at Cairns, and a ?1,000,000 hardboard factory at Dinmore is under construction. These are a few of the projects that Senator Maher says we cannot possibly have because we are socialists. The people of Queensland would never have returned a Labour government to office time and again unless it had been giving good service to the community.

I deplore the fact that men of the intelligence of Senator Maher should sink so low in their political attacks on the Labour party and make such puerile statements as the honorable senator did yesterday. It is time, in this National Parliament, that we approached these matters with a firm conviction that it is essential that every man should be battling for the advancement of Australia instead of trying to take a political rise out of the other fellow.

As to housing, with which the amendment deals, it must be admitted by all thinking men - and it would be a good thing if

Mr. Menzies and his colleagues admitted it that one of the real causes of our housing trouble to-day is the lack of finance. That has been said here and in another place time and again, and business men and the press have said it also in every part of Australia. Alan Reid, writing in the “ Daily Telegraph “, says that Mr. Menzies knows that he is wrong but he is trying to save his face. I am not trying to be vicious, but I think that leaders should, on occasion, admit that they are wrong. Even the Communists, on occasions, will admit they are wrong, and it would be a good thing if the Prime Minister and his colleagues did likewise.

In New South Wales, the State Liberal party is proposing a six-point programme, and is suggesting that a joint move be made by the Commonwealth and State Governments, and by banks and insurance companies, to provide more finance for housing. In another place, recently, the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) said that the contraction of finance had gone too far. Of course, he had to blame somebody, and he blamed Dr. Coombs, the Governor of the central bank. I think we should try to ger at the truth. That is what the people want to know. The Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) said that the housing situation was a national problem. In his opinion, there was nothing in the Commonwealth credit policy to prevent trading banks from giving credit within the limits of their investible funds. Why cannot the capitalists’ financial institutions see to it that the building industry has sufficient finance? The arguments from the Government side have been about as shadowy as the falling stones at Pumphery Bridge. A few stones have been falling on the Government from this side of the House as well as from the Government side.

As far as Queensland is concerned, one action that the Commonwealth Government should take is to grant ?278,000 to that’ State to re-employ the men who are now out of work. I do not see why that could not be done. The Government has budgeted for a surplus of more than ?100,000000. I believe that the Government has lent ?2,000,000 to Western Australia. I am not blaming the Government for doing that or the Western Australian Government for accepting it, but the situation in Queensland is tragic. I agree with the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), who said that Australia was suffering from a tragic housing’ shortage. His remedy, however, is most peculiar. He wants to apply the Communist remedy as it is applied in Moscow, Petrograd and Ninji Novgorod. When there is a shortage of houses the authorities pack a few dozen more people into the rooms of the houses that are already crowded. Mr. Cramer suggests that people without housing should be pushed into other homes, and then there would be no housing shortage. Some Government supporters consider that if there were a certain number of unemployed, the workers would be compelled to go into other homes because they could not pay the rent for homes of their own.

The Labour party does not stand for anything of that kind. As the amendment suggests, we believe that the State and Commonwealth Governments should come together in an organized way and launch out on a plan to build houses with the labour force that is available. We, as well as Mr. Menzies, know that as a nation we cannot build more houses than the capacity of our staff of workers will permit; but it is absurd to say that we are short of manpower when men are being dismissed in Brisbane. One or two firms with whom I have been in communication have told me that all the material required is available. So the men and the material are available, but Mr. Menzies pathetically says that we are short of finance. Are we in Australia a lot of morons? Surely not!

There is a need to get together. I - and I am sure the Opposition as a whole - would support the appointment of a committee consisting of members from both sides of the Parliament to inquire into this matter, but there must be an immediate release of cash so that these men can be employed. Money is released for the 17 per centers - those who deal in time payment or hire-purchase and charge an interest rate of up to 17 per cent. I repeat that all the money in the world is available to those people, but under the aegis of the Menzies-Fadden coalition we cannot get money for the purpose of building homes.

I have before me a copy of a statement by my good friend, Mr. Walsh, the Queensland Treasurer. It is very interesting, and I am sorry that “ the rock “ is not here, the great protagonist of private capitalism or, shall I say, monopoly capitalism, which has been misnamed private capitalism. Private capitalism is dying, but monopoly capitalism is growing. I do not wish to say a word against Senator Spooner as a man. I like him and admire him because of his tenacity and force of character; and I should like to see quite a few more like Senator Spooner battling on this side of the chamber. However, his mind has been conditioned by the work that he has performed in the past, and to-day, looking through his capitalist’s spectacles, he can see nothing but finance at 17 per cent, and 20 per cent. Mr. H. F. Robinson, a member of the Legislative Assembly of Queensland, recently directed to the Queensland Treasurer a question which was similar to one that I directed to Senator Spooner and when replying to which he got hot under the collar and described us as being dishonorable, dishonest and all the rest of it. I regret that he fell so far from grace as to say those things, but perhaps he has repented since then. Mr. Robinson’s question contained the following passage: -

The Commonwealth Treasurer’s statement went on to say that this money-

Namely, £500,000- could have been drawn- long ago so that the crisis in Queensland’s housing scheme had been manufactured by the State Government.

Senator Maher made the most stupid, unmanly and ungenerous statement that members of the Queensland Government met in solemn conclave, put their heads together and said, “We can dish the federal Government if we sack 450 men and then say that we have had to sack them because brother Spooner- “


– Order! The honorable senator must not refer to Senator Spooner in that way.

Senator BROWN:

– If it is against the Standing Orders to refer to the Minister in that way, I shall refer to him as Senator Spooner and not call him “ brother “. When I referred to him in that way, my Christian spirit was working; but, of course, we must not show such a spirit in this chamber! I want honorable senators to listen while 1 read the reply of the Queensland Treasurer to Mr. Robinson’s question. He said -

Yes, I am aware of the statement of the Federal Treasurer.

He further said that, although Senator Spooner had been reported in the press as saying that £500,000 was there ready for the Queensland Government, and it had not drawn upon it -

Queensland has drawn every penny of loan money offered by the Commonwealth for the current financial year.

That is the lie direct to Senator Spooner. Mr. Walsh continued -

At the Loan Council Meeting held in June, 1956, it was resolved, with the Commonwealth dissenting, that the amount to be borrowed by the Commonwealth and States in 1956-57 would be £210,000,000. 1 remind the Senate that that was the unanimous decision of the States, but that the Commonwealth reduced the sum to £190,000,000. Naturally, that had its effect upon allocations for housing, and Queensland was compelled to split up between housing and works less money than it had had previously. There was a reduction of £290,000. The Queensland Treasurer further stated -

It will be noted that this is only £12,000 in excess of the amount being asked by the Housing Commission to enable it to continue in employment 400 building workers about to be dismissed.

By letter dated 25th July, 1956, the Common’ wealth Treasury offered to make a monthly advance to Queensland of £1,833,000, based on a total Loan Programme of £190,000,000-

Not the £210,000,000 asked for - of which Queensland would receive £19,250,000 for works and £2,750,000 for housing.

These advances are received about the 15th of each month. The practice is for the State to notify the Commonwealth the manner in which the advance of £1,833,000 is to be allocated between works and housing.

The 1945 Housing Agreement was continued until 30th June, 1956, and negotiations relative to the new agreement were protracted beyond that date, dm to new conditions imposed by the Commonwealth. The new agreement -

Mark this - was not ratified by the State Parliament until 9th November, 1956, and in fact was not signed by all parties until 13th February, 1957.

It can be readily understood by the public that the present situation occurred because the money that Queensland expected to get was short by £290,000. Mr. Walsh, in his reply, put these questions to Senator Spooner -

Is it not a fact that the total Governmental Loan Borrowing Programme for Queensland for 1956-57, under the conditions imposed by the Commonwealth Government, is £22,000,000?

page 199



Did not the Commonwealth offer to make advances to Queensland of this amount - at the rate of £1,833,000 per month?

Has not Queensland accepted every penny due to it under the Commonwealth’s offer?

That is a different story from what we were told by honorable senators opposite. Queensland has accepted every penny. Mr. Walsh further said -

T might also draw the attention of honorable members to the fact that the loan moneys made available for the construction of homes under the State Housing Acts, as distinct from homes erected in accordance with the Commonwealth States Housing Agreement, are not sufficient to enable the Housing Commission to make advances for the completion of existing contracts and contract* in the process of being signed or in the various stages of preparation. . . .

Cabinet has therefore approved that the Housing Commission will be authorized to go into overdraft to the extent of £102,000 so that existing contracts and contracts in process of . being signed may be proceeded with.

Unless sufficient funds are made available, this £102,000 will have to be deducted from next year’s allocation, thus reducing the amount available during that year.

I am sorry, Mr. President, that I cannot go further into this matter, because my time is almost up and I do not want to infringe upon the rules. In conclusion, I say that Queensland has done a magnificent job. Despite what Senator Maher said, it has been done without dependence on private .persons, co-operative societies and bankers, because the Government of that State has been able to build houses and provide them at a cheap rental. A few years ago a house costing £700 could be bought on instalments of £1 a week over twenty years. Of all the houses in Queensland, 74.4 per cent, are owned by the people or are in the. process of being purchased. Because of the shortage of funds available to it, the Queensland Government had had to reduce its employees by the following numbers: - 416 in the Forestry Department, 508 in the Irrigation Department, 300 in the Public Works Department and 550 in the Railways Department. I think that a case has been made out. The fact is that finance is one of the main causes of the trouble to-day, but because this Government wants to boost its friends, the capitalist financiers, the country has to suffer. We of the Australian Labour party stand by the amendment that we have proposed and we hope that it will be carried.

Senator WRIGHT:

.- On this occasion, one addresses oneself to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General with great need for thought. It is a privilege for me, on behalf of those persons I represent, to associate myself with the expressions of loyalty to the person and the institution of the Throne, in circumstances in which 1 hope parliamentary institutions do make a contribution appropriate to the contribution of the Queen, but 1 believe they may in some moods to-day give cause for disquiet. In what I have to say but briefly, I shall refer to two aspects of public issues at the present time: First, the Constitution, particularly focussing, in its working, the government; and secondly, the economy, with particular reference to agriculture.

I am prompted to indulge in these reflections by the fact that last week we received news from London of a decision in which the Privy Council affirmed a decision of the High Court of Australia, which, in my opinion, is of the most fundamental importance from the point of view of politics to which I am devoted. I speak, as it will appear from what I say, with no inhibitions of the party line, but from a deep sense of devotion to a principle. The decision in the Boilermakers case has established in the Australian Constitution the permanent independence of the federal judiciary. When I recall that, over the last decade, we have engaged within this Commonwealth in acute constitutional contests, I select four as being of outstanding significance because in each instance the cause of individual liberty and the cause of a free and independent judiciary had to survive a most sustained attack on the part of the Executive of the day which sought to expand its authority at the expense of individual liberty and judicial independence. When we realize that, true to British tradition, the courts - not only the federal courts, but those courts pre-eminently - have stood as four-square guardians of British justice, which symbolizes individual liberty according to law, we perceive that we must not regard this principle casually but should record our consciousness of its significance.

About ten years ago the High Court of Australia was faced with the responsibility of deciding whether or not the bill for the nationalization of banking conformed to the

Australian Constitution. That bill sought to establish a governmental monopoly bank within Australia and to prohibit any private bank from engaging in competitive trade. The private banks’ right to that trade was simply symbolic of the ordinary individual’s right of trade; and it was because of that fact that the issue assumed such importance in the minds of the far-seeing Australian public. The High Court established an interpretation of section 92 which guaranteed for persons participating in interstate trade freedom from executive or legislative interference, hindrance, or handicaps; and upon that cause, when the people spoke, there was no doubt that they understood what was involved in the attack. The Executive of that day, supported by its parliamentary majority, fought strongly to restrict freedom.

Then, of very great significance, in the Australian Communist party’s case in 1950-51, the High Court had to deal with most important issues, probably as fundamental, politically and philosophically, as any a court could be asked to deal with. That case raised the issue of individual liberty from another point of view, because the Executive was given, according to the statute, power to declare persons and institutions; and that declaration had the effect, according to the legislation, of depriving those persons and institutions of the right to engage in certain occupations. On that occasion, Mr. Justice Dixon, as he then was, made this arresting statement -

History and not only ancient history, shows that in countries where democratic institutions have been unconstitutionally superseded, it has been done not seldom by those holding the executive power. Forms of government may need protection from dangers likely to arise from within the institution to be protected. In point of constitutional theory the power to legislate for the protection of an existing form of government ought not to be based on a conception, if otherwise adequate, adequate only to assist those holding power to resist or suppress obstruction or opposition or attempts to displace them or the form of government they defend.

The significance of that statement appears from a mere reading of it. In due course, the Transport case went for decision before the High Court of Australia. The High Court put forward a view that had been propounded by the present Chief Justice of the High Court for some fifteen or eighteen years. An appeal was taken to the Privy Council, and the Commonwealth Government saw fit to intervene in the cause of restricting the interpretation of section 92, although it must be remembered that it was the interpretation of section 92 which prevented the bank nationalization proposal from becoming constitutionally effective. The Privy Council, gladdening the souls of those who love liberty, decided in favour of freedom of interstate trade, despite the fact that argument was offered against that interpretation by counsel for the Commonwealth Government as well as counsel for most of the State governments.

Finally, in the Boilermakers case, the High Court laid down a principle that the judiciary of the federal system of government should be completely independent, so that the legislature should be incapable of embarrassing the federal judiciary with duties other than judicial duties. On the other hand, it was ruled that the legislature should be incapable of subtracting from the authority of the federal courts in the judicial sphere.

For some reason that is completely unacceptable to me, as I. stated at the time in this chamber, the present Government intervened in the appeal before the Privy Council and offered the contention that that proposition, which established the permanent independence of the federal judiciary, should not be established. It is some little satisfaction to stand here and record that that principle is established within the Constitution.

But throughout this decade, pregnant with constitutional significance, all four of those experiences have indicated an evercontinuing contest to withstand the expansion of the executive power. That does not apply only from the point of view of political representatives within the Parliament. They are supported - indeed, they are superseded in some respects, if the truth were expressed - by a tremendously powerful bureaucracy upon whom they are dependent in an individual sense and in varying degrees. That bureaucracy is impelled to some degree by goodwill within its own bounds and, on the other hand, by self-interest. The process is becoming insidious in this Parliament, and is reaching the stage of undermining the very independence of the Parliament.

I speak of this matter in this context because the decision in the Boilermakers case reached a robust and independent establishment of the courts as the final interpreter and arbitrator between the individual citizen and any government when a decision is required upon the rights and liberties of the citizens within Australia. I speak not merely as one with an interest in the law, but also as one wilh an interest in general affairs, and with a particular affection for the power of the Parliament.

At present, one of the most, dynamic forces operating within the Commonwealth set-up is a system of import restrictions, lt has been made necessary by an imbalance of the economy of Australia in relation to external trade. Probably all of us will admit that the system was made necessary by the need to protect the currency when other defences are unavailable. But that system of import restrictions is operating to stimulate the inflationary processes that are going on in our economy, and those inflationary processes are having a cruel effect upon many sections of our people. Every member of this Parliament who has expressed his views in this assembly has declared that it is a matter of urgent national duty to dampen down and arrest inflation.

That aspect of import restrictions does not concern me chiefly to-day. I am concerned now with the system by which the restrictions operate, because no measure has been through this Parliament to justify them. So far as 1 can discover, their ambit and operation are the complete prerogative of a Minister although he is, no doubt, in consultation with the Cabinet or a subcommittee of Cabinet. That executive power determines the volume of national trade that is permitted. It has the authority to vary that volume of trade from time to time. Moreover, it seems to be empowered to discriminate between essentials and nonessentials according to the conception of those terms held by the Minister or, in other words, the department he administers.

When we take our minds from the general matter of trade and focus upon the individual’s share in the trade, we find that delay confronts those concerned. There is discrimination, and no rule whereby all persons of the one interest are entitled to equal treatment. The Minister’s ipse dixit is the last word on the ‘subject. It is not subject to any review for which there is constitutional provision. One does not need to do any more than state these bleak facts to excite the liberal-minded members of the Senate to the challenge, because that system presents a challenge to anybody who is jealous of either individual .rights or parliamentary authority.

To illustrate how this practice is growing, I remind honorable senators that last week the newspapers reported that the permissible volume of imports had been varied by increasing the amount by £50,000,000 or £60,000,’000. It was stated, in the usual way, “ It is understood that Cabinet has decided . . . “ This morning’s press brings us the news that one important member of the Public Service, addressing a public gathering in Canberra yesterday, gave expression to the statement that it was understood that it was expected to become officially stated this week. Those are the procedures that no self-respecting Parliament can allow to pass by without attention. That system, I think, presents a challenge that would never survive scrutiny by a Liberal member of responsibility in public affairs.

There is another matter that I think is one for anxiety. It stems from another agency of the Government which has a particular effect at this time upon the agricultural community.. I refer to banking. During this debate, I have heard repeated references to its impact upon housing. It dismays me to hear all the references to housing from the viewpoint of the cities. It is equally important that there should be an ample supply of finance to follow the farmers into the country and to enable them to drive back the margin of the bush and develop it into fruitful and fertile agriculture. To my way of thinking, it is important that we have a central banking system which is above any suspicion of partisanship arising out of any direct or indirect trade interest with any unit of the competitive trading bank system. It seems to me that it is inherent in anybody’s idea of equity that if a central bank has an interest in developing a Commonwealth trading bank, there must naturally be generated a want of confidence in it on the part of the trading banks which are to come under its authority and jurisdiction. To my way of thinking, the central bank should be disembarrassed of the inhibitions that come from a sense of conflict between its own interest in respect of its trading bank and its duty either to expand or restrict credit as the occasion requires.

Senator Willesee:

– J understand the Government does not agree with that viewpoint.

Senator WRIGHT:

– I am saying that the central bank has such transcendant responsibilities that its judgment should not be prejudiced by any idea that it has an interest in a trading unit of the very banking group whose activities it is bound to control. Tt should also be free from any suggestion of partiality to any one particular unit arising out of that interest.

When we realize the necessity, in relation to the expansion of agriculture, to provide adequate finance for the development of agriculture, from which the main expansion of our export income must come - for the next few years at any rate, in my judgment - we must appreciate the importance, from the point of view of equity in the banking system, of giving immediate attention to the matters of disquiet I have mentioned. At the same time, we are facing this upward trend of costs, and when we realize that the export volume produced by the farmers has risen magnificently over the last two or three years, while their price index has remained about stable at what it was in 1952 - this year, after suffering an acute decline in the intervening years, I think it approximated that figure - we must appreciate the imperative necessity for this Commonwealth, which is so dependent upon the farmer for its export income, to save him from being suffocated or throttled by rising costs.

The greatest single factor in this process was the Arbitration Court’s irresponsible decision in October. 1950, to increase the basic wage by £1, supplemented by the ever-recurring statistical increments that took place in the form of cost of living adjustments. That decision was a product of three judges, two being for it and one against it. I have raised my voice before in a plea that the Parliament should not expose this country to the risk of such a tremendously important decision being repeated on the responsibility of three persons only. Yet, after de-grading the court last year to a commission, we reduced its members from six to three, and we are now complacently exposing the economy to a repetition of the judge ment that was given upon this very issue of the restoration of cost of living adjustments and revision of the basic wage. I plead that so long as we maintain this system of wage adjustment in Australia we should base it more broadly on a tribunal that has such nation-wide responsibility, and 1 plead that we take steps to prevent any such agency from being completely irresponsible to Parliament in regard to decisions that may have such a direct effect upon the economy.

As to the Tariff Board, it suits both parties in the Parliament, of course, to commit complete and almost unquestioned responsibilities for the development of the tariff to the board. I cannot but express my indebtedness to and admiration of the board after reading its report for last year. That report shows that the board is acutely conscious of the forces that are working within the economy. By that report, the board shows itself to be very mindful of the needs of agriculture and very sensitive of the importance of agriculture as a contributor to our economy. At the same time, the board, in that report, dismally expresses its impotence, within the jurisdiction it has, to redress the imbalance that is developing between manufacturing interests and great monopolists and the diminishing incomes of the farmers.

Do not let me be misunderstood. We all know that wool has revived not only from the point of view of price, but also from the point of view of volume; but it is the only product within agriculture that has shown a revival of anything like prospective prosperity within the last year or two. If we look at prices to see how they are affected by import restrictions and arbitration court awards - if we look at how the farmers are being denied a sufficient flow of finance because of lack of equilibrium in our banking system, neither section of which can acquit itself of blame in that respect - if we realize the dependence of this country upon expanding and improving agriculture from the point of view of redressing our external balances, the importance of all those agencies of the Commonwealth Government from that point of view should be apparent.


.- The Labour party’s censure motion is directed against this Administration on two points. The main one, of course, relates to the Government’s failure to provide adequate funds for housing. It also suggests that, until the present acute housing situation has eased considerably, fewer immigrants should be encouraged to come to this country. I should like it to be clearly understood that Labour is not advocating a cessation of immigration. The Australian Labour party is proud of its record in the immigration field, but it believes that we must adopt a practical attitude on this matter and that there should be a reduction of the immigrant intake to enable some of the leeway in housing to be overtaken. It is wrong to continue to bring large numbers of immigrants to Australia at a time when there are insufficient houses for our own people. For that reason, I oppose Senator Cole’s amendment, which is designed to negative paragraph 3 (a) of Senator McKenna’s amendment, under which the national housing plan should have regard to an immediate reduction of the rate of intake of immigrants. 1 do not think that any member of this chamber believes that immigrants, particularly our own kith and kin, should be compelled to remain for lengthy periods in hostels. The three principal hostels for British immigrants in Victoria are located at Williamstown, Brooklyn, and Yallourn. I have visited each of them, and 1 do not support many of the complaints that have been made by the immigrants, particularly in relation to the food, although 1 concede that there is a certain sameness about it, and a more varied menu is desirable. I do not think that the housing of women and kiddies in quarters not originally designed as homes, the division walls of which are made of only very thin wood, which is not conducive to privacy, reflects credit on the Australian Government.

I have attempted to obtain from the Department of Immigration the official figures of the number of British immigrants who have come to this country and the number who have subsequently returned to their homeland. Although more than £10,000,000 is appropriated annually for this department, it could not supply me with the necessary information. Unless one is able to obtain authoritative information on this subject, he is not able to present a factual case. However, I do not think any member of this chamber would disagree with my assertion that many British immigrants have decided to leave Australia and return to their homeland principally because of the housing position. The conversations that I have had with British immigrants have left no doubt in my mind on this score. I base my contention that we should reduce the rate of intake of immigrants until the back-lag of housing has been overtaken on the facts that I have elicited by mixing with large numbers of immigrants - not the facts of isolated cases. I do not think there can be any worse advertisement for Australia than for British immigrants to return to England bearing a grudge. Therefore, as I have said, the Australian Labour party cannot support Senator Cole’s amendment, insofar as it is designed to preserve the present rate of immigrant intake.

The Australian Labour party would support the establishment of a CommonwealthState housing authority to coordinate the activities of the various State housing bodies, as envisaged by Senator Cole’s amendment. As Senator Sheehan has said, this Parliament controls the purse and, apart from war service homes, we should take a greater interest in housing than merely providing money for the purpose. It is well known that, invariably, there is a cutting-down by the Commonwealth of financial proposals submitted by the States. If the amount sought by a State for housing purposes is cut down, automatically the proposed housing programme of that State is reduced.

The only member of the government parties who has attempted to defend the Government against the Opposition’s censure amendment is the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), and I am delighted that he is present in the chamber. He made some remarkable statements during his speech on this subject. He asked whether there were people in the world in which we live who did not think that the master builders had had a whale of a time in recent years, and that, if there were, they were sadly unrealistic. I should like the Minister to tell me who was responsible for permitting the master builders to have a whale of a time. It is not much good, after the door has been opened and the horse has bolted, to worry about the position. Honorable senators opposite told the people of Australia during the prices referendum that it was a States’ responsibility, whereas we on this side said that the States would not be able to protect the people. Now, in 1957, the Minister for National Development comes along and says, in effect, that the master builders, who I think I am right in claiming would not in the main support the people on this side of the chamber but would in the main support the Minister’s party, have been overcharging the people and making excessive profits. I ask him at least to reflect on that position.

His second statement was that he agrees with the Prime Minister who said that 700 people were unemployed but, in effect, there are 700 jobs to which they can go. I do not wish to get into the position of quoting people whom the Minister for National Development says have a vested interest in this matter. 1 will leave him to fight the matter out with Mr. Fraser, M.L.A., a Liberal member of the New South Wales Parliament. He may have a vested interest. It is true that the Minister qualified what he meant by vested interest, but he went on to accuse secretaries of trade unions also of having such an interest. I am sure that he would be the first, along with every other person, to join with me in criticizing the secretaries of unions if they did not at least attempt to protect their own people. 1 leave them and turn to the Melbourne “ Herald “. I know that the Minister for National Development is not as friendly with sections of the press as he used to be, but he will agree with me that when election time comes the press will again be on his side as it has always been.

Senator Spooner:

– I hope so.


– The Ministerknows it will be. At the moment, he may be feeling the lash. Let us have a look at what the Melbourne “ Herald “ says about unemployment in the building industry. I quote from an article written by one John Eddy, the “ Herald “ economist, published in the Melbourne “ Herald “ of 23rd March, 1957, not so many days ago. He writes -

Victoria’s carpenters in new building jobs, which include buildings other than flats and houses, numbered 13,149, or a drop of 340 for the quarter and S82 since March.

He goes on to say that the drop would have been greater had it not been for the industrial and city buildings and also buildings such- as schools and hospitals. He says further that the number of bricklayers employed is down by 58, painters by 154, electricians by 54, plumbers by 37 and builders’ labourers by 278.

Now, let us have a look at some more of the Minister’s friends to see what they think. The Minister has not accused Mr. Bolte, the Premier of Victoria, of having a vested interest. He is one who must have missed the net.

Senator Spooner:

– 1 think 1 very carefully stated that there was nothing wrong in my use of the word “ vested “.


– 1 admit that, and i have already said so. I am not saying that the word “ vested “ is used in an improper sense, and I made that clear two or three minutes ago. However, Mr. Bolte seems to have escaped the net altogether. He is quoted in the Melbourne “ Age “ of 19th March, 1957, as saying that 300 skilled building tradesmen were unemployed. What is more, he says that from £2,000,000 to £3,000,000 is needed to stabilize the industry.

I shall not mention the people who make baths and stoves, as my friend did. I turn now to those engaged in the building industry, in the brick kilns and cement works. Any one who is willing to take the trouble to find out the facts knows as well as I do that the unemployment position is as bad now as it has ever been, possibly, since 1951, when we had a bad spasm for a few months or longer. Apart from that period, it is worse to-day than it has ever been. I say that at this moment, because the Minister for National Development quoted the statement of the Prime Minister and said that he fully supported it. However, the facts do not agree with what the Minister for National Development or his leader said.

Senator Spooner:

– Then the Government Statistician is wrong?


– In this instance, he is wrong. I do not think that any one can hide behind a statistician in these days. One needs to mix among the people. I know my friend has a lot of work to do and I believe he does it very capably; but he does not mix among the people.

Senator Spooner:

– How does the honorable senator know that?


– Otherwise, he would not have made the statement he did. His statement was contrary to the facts. From what he said, it would appear that every one who has made any comments in the press in recent weeks is wrong and that the Minister is the only one who is right.

Senator Spooner:

– What about the Statistician?


– Oh, the Statistician! The facts show that in this case the Minister knows he has blundered, and rather than admit his blunder he is trying to bluff his way through. However, what he says does not add up. 1 am not worried about his friends in New South Wales; but his blunder in the first instance was in saying that housing had slowed up because of the shortage of materials and men. That is not a fact.

Senator Vincent:

– That was not said.


– It has not been denied up to date. It was reported in the press. God forbid that I should claim that the press do not make mistakes or do not misquote a person, because, with the greatest of respect, the members of the press will write what their bosses want. According to newspaper reports the Prime Minister, at a press conference, said that the slowing up in the building of houses was not due to lack of money but of materials and labour. Subsequently, facts were stated which proved that the Prime Minister was wrong, but at no time since his statement, made some weeks ago, has there been one word of contradiction from the Government side. On the contrary, Senator Spooner, the spokesman for the Prime Minister in this House, has supported his statement. Then my friend says it was wrong. That will not go over. I could go on, if I had the time, to quote several other people. One of them is Mr. Petty, the Minister of Housing in Victoria. He is in no way connected with the Labour party. 1 am not adopting Senator Spooner’s line. He said that a committee of Labour members in New South Wales attempted to elicit the facts about housing in that State but their report was coloured and biased. Instead of resorting to that sort of argument I am quoting the statements of the Minister’s own colleagues.

Senator Spooner:

– The honorable senator is surely not trying to suggest that the committee in New South Wales would report in favour of the Government?


– All I am saying is that Senator Spooner implied that the report of that committee was biased. I am leaving his statement aside and quoting the statements of his own colleagues. Would the Minister suggest that they are biased? He said that the State housing Ministers have a vested interest in housing, but I cannot use that expression as he used it. When a responsible State housing Minister, of the same political colour as the Minister, criticized the Government the Minister’s reply was that that Minister had a vested interest in housing. But he said more than that. Senator Spooner said that as far as State housing Ministers were concerned - he included them all - they were prostituting their functions as housing Ministers and converting their conferences into a political gathering.

Senator Vincent:

– That is right.


– That is right? 1 am amazed to think that a responsible Minister in this Parliament would use such terms against responsible Ministers in other Parliaments, some of them being of his own political faith. Obviously it is an example of “ when you haven’t got a case, it seems the easiest way out is to condemn and abuse “. I referred to one word used there, and I regret that it was said. Certainly the housing Ministers in the States want money. To whom can they come, through their Premiers or Treasurers, except to the Commonwealth Government? The Commonwealth gathers all the money - and I am a believer in uniform taxation - but the States have responsibilities, and if the Commonwealth expects them to carry them out it should at least give them a fair share of the revenue. The Commonwealth should not take the stand that it has taken at meetings of the Australian Loan Council in the past, when States have said they wanted a certain sum, of cutting down the amount requested. The Commonwealth has done that in the past without rhyme or reason and has told the States that they can have only the sum it suggests because that is all the money there is in the pool.

Senator Hannaford:

– The Commonwealth has taken that stand for a very good reason.


– For a very good reason?

Senator Hannaford:

– It has not taken that stand without rhyme or reason.


– If the honorable senator will recall the Loan Council meeting before last he will remember that when the States asked for £282,000,000 the Commonwealth Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) said, “ You can have £200,000,000; take it or leave it “.

Senator Hannaford:

– The Commonwealth was realistic; that is more than can be said about some of the States.


– It is easy for my friend to talk like that. He represents South Australia and he has little cause for worry because his State has access to the Commonwealth Grants Commission.

Senator Hannaford:

– Does not the honorable senator agree with the Commonwealth Grants Commission?


– I am not disagreeing with it. I am saying that South Australia is in a good position so far as that commission is concerned. The States of Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland are not favorably placed. Under the Constitution they may have the right to go to the Commonwealth Grants Commission but they have never done so and consequently have received nothing from it. It, is easy for the honorable senator to back the Commonwealth although it has not allocated sufficient money to the States. He says that South Australia is not affected and I agree that the people of that State are not affected half so much as are 60 per cent, or 65 per cent, of the people in the two larger States of New South Wales and Queensland.

Senator Mattner:

– An amount of £200,000,000 is a fairly large sum.


– I ask the honorable senator not to interrupt because 1 have only a quarter of an hour left.

Senator Spooner:

– Surely the honorable senator is not suggesting that he does not welcome interjections?


– I do and I want to have a go at the Minister. Senator Spooner spent some time in his speech in discussing the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement of 1945. He complained that -

It offended every principle for which we, as a government, stood.

He added that the only reason that the Government kept to the agreement was that it believed in the sanctity of the contract.

Senator Hannaford:

– Hear, hear!


– Very well. Who does not believe in that? However, I direct the Minister’s attention to clause 16 (2.) of the agreement which provides -

Either the Commonwealth or a State may give to the other twelve calendar months’ notice in writing that this Agreement shall not as between the Commonwealth and that State apply to any housing project commenced after the expiration of a period of twelve calendar months after the date of the notice and thereupon this Agreement shall not apply . . .

I am not suggesting that that agreement did not have faults, but if it was as bad as Senator Spooner suggests, in view of the fact that it contained such a provision, the Minister’s duty was plain - he should have scrapped it. The Minister sponsored a new agreement. He does not say that it has no defects. The rent rebate system was not included in it, but the Minister told the States that if they wanted to operate a rent rebate system they could do it themselves. The 1945 agreement should have contained a clause under which a person could have bought a home by paying a deposit and the balance over a number of years. I think that was a bad omission, but when my party discovered that fault it appealed to the Government to amend the agreement under the terms of clause 16 (2.). But nothing was done. Therefore, it ill becomes Senator Spooner to come into this chamber and spend so much time in discussing an agreement that he could have amended if he haJ so desired.

He prides himself on the number of houses that have been built under the war service homes scheme. I do not challenge the figures that he has quoted, but what are the facts in relation to those people who have not yet obtained houses? Information obtained from the department on Tuesday, 26th March, showed that there were 23,631 unsatisfied applicants for war service homes finance as at 28th February. Of that number, 3,708 applications are in the process of being approved, leaving 19,923 unsatisfied applicants. In that information there is no reference whatever to labour or materials; the only thing referred to was finance.

Senator Maher:

– If they were all to be built within the next twelve months, what would become of the building industry?


– I do not ask hypothetical questions. After the honorable senator’s great exposition last night of the petrol situation in Queensland, I shall let him examine the matter. It is not a question of the constitutional position; it is only a matter of providing the money.

Senator Spooner:

– The honorable senator kn’ows that when the money becomes available 50 per cent, of the applicants do not want to go on with their houses.


– I am not arguing about that. Let us say that 20 per cent, or even 40 per cent, of them do not wish to proceed: What about the remainder? How long have they to wait to get a home? Have a couple to go to the mother of the bride or of the bridegroom and say, “ Will you give us a room in the house? “ What a wonderful case Senator Spooner has advanced! It is not a question of labour; it is a question of money being made available.

Senator Spooner:

– Has the honorable senator just discovered that?


– Why does not the Government make it available? I thought the classic was the Minister’s statement that the housing Ministers had fallen down on their job-

Senator Spooner:

– Will the honorable senator give us his thoughts?


– This is my thought. I thought the classic was his statement that the housing Ministers had fallen down on their job because they had not told people who had more rooms than they needed that they should make room for somebody else.

Senator Spooner:

– Who said that?


– Have a look at it in “ Hansard “. I shall read exactly what you said.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Pearson). - Order! The honorable senator will address the Chair.


– I am sorry. I shall do so in a moment when I find the

Minister’s statement. He seems to think that he did not say whatI am saying he said. He said -

There are great problems ahead of the housing Ministers.I should have liked to see them approach and consider various matters and produce measures to deal with one of the greatest problems connected with the provision of adequate homes for the people of Australia - that is, use of the existing stock of houses to the best advantage. There are many houses with a comparatively small number of people living in them.

What can any one deduce from that?I do not know where Senator Spooner resides. I do not know whether his statement applies to Bellevue Hill in New South Wales, to Toorak in Victoria, or even to where he resides.If it does, will he go outside and tell these people who have reared children who have married that they must take some one else into their homes?

Senator Vincent:

– Oh!


– What else does it mean? What other interpretation can be placed on it?

Senator Henty:

– The honorable senator knows perfectly well that, if rent controls were lifted, they would do so.


– Is the position any better where rent controls have been lifted?

Government Supporters. - Yes.


– Where?

Senator Vincent:

– In Western Australia.


– The Minister said that 80 per cent. of the shortage existed in the two largest States in which more than half of the population lives. The trouble in Victoria is that we are getting more than our share of the new arrivals. Any one who has taken any interest in the matter knows about the shocking conditions under which these people are living and under which they will, no doubt, be forced to continue to live under the administration of Senator Spooner.

The case submitted by the Opposition is unanswerable. There is not one responsible Minister in the six States, irrespective of his political colour, who is not saying. “ Help us with money. We have the men and materials “. Before I resume my sent I wish to refer to another contribution to the debate - a contribution by the Leader of the Government in this chamber. Never in my life haveI listened to or read such a deplorable contribution to a debate on the important question of housing. The honorable senator left the burden on the broad shoulders of Senator Spooner and never said a word about the matter. I do not wish to be personal, because I havea high regard for Senator O’Sullivan, but I have yet to hear a more–

Senator Spooner:

– This is good, clean fun.


– The honorable senator will get as much as he gives. I doubt ifI have ever read a more puerile contribution than was made by Senator O’Sullivan. One would have expected him to support Senator Spooner or at least stick to his leader, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in the fight.

Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.

New South Wales

– I rise to support the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, and at the outset I want to congratulate the mover and seconder of the motion for their contributions to this debate.I also want to join with senators on all sides of the chamber in their expressions of loyalty to our Most Gracious Majesty and to the Prince Philip.

I should like to tell the Senate that during the recess I had the honour to go, with Mr. Barnard, M.P., from another place, to represent the Commonwealth of Australia at a pilgrimage to the Kranji war cemetery. Singapore. On 2nd March we joined other representatives of the British Commonwealth in a service of consecration and dedication of this most beautiful memorial, and on the following Sunday the Australian delegation and the Australian community of Singapore revisited that hallowed land and paid special homage to those lads who gave their lives in the Singapore and Malayan theatre, to the 1.437 soldiers, and eight airmen, who fell in that campaign or who died in captivity and have no known graves. In addition, we paid our respects in the cemetery to three naval men, fifteen airmen, and 1,103 soldiers whose graves are there.

The memorial, and the Kranji war cemetery, are particularly well placed. They are on high ground, overlooking the Straits of Johore and the battlefield where the Australian men of the 8th Division were completely overwhelmed by superior numbers, although their spirit and courage never faltered. I know that the Senate would like me to take this opportunity to say to the next of kin that at Kranji there is a part of Australian soil which is receiving loving care and will continue to do so for ever and a day. If there is some comfort for the next of kin, perhaps it can be found in the fact that there are some graves there of unknown soldiers, on which are written the words, “ Known to God “. I think that it may be some comfort to those next of kin to know that the names of all the men who fought so valiantly and who are buried there are known to God.

His Excellency’s Speech covers a wide range of Government endeavour and foreshadowed legislation. The Opposition has moved an amendment, in the nature of a censure motion, to the Address-in-Reply, to which amendment Senator Cole has moved an amendment. It is impossible, therefore, for me to deal with more than two items in His Excellency’s Speech, because I, too, want to make some reference to the amendment.

It is very significant that the first operative paragraph in His Excellency’s Speech refers to the intention of the Government to reconstitute, as a matter of urgency and priority, the Constitution Review Committee. This nation of ours, which was created over 50 years ago, operates under a federal system. Our nationhood has been solidified through two world wars, through our endeavours and activities in trade and commerce, and, indeed, more recently through our prowess at the Olympic Games. But internally, our federal system is hamstrung by constitutional barriers, and the position is becoming increasingly difficult and complicated as between the States and the Commonwealth.

We must, as a matter of urgent priority, resolve a proper basis of financial relationships between the States and the Commonwealth, and in the Constitution review committee I see possibilities of this being accomplished. We must devise a situation whereunder the States, in addition to having the opportunity to spend funds, must have the responsibility of raising revenue. We must solve the problem of the allocation of loan funds and the difficulties of the Australian Loan Council in stopping the waste of our substance by a proper rationalization of our loan programme. We must solve the problem of transport and overcome the difficulty which has arisen in connexion with section 92 of the Constitution, whereby interstate road hauliers are pounding our road system to pieces and making no contribution to the cost of its maintenance. We must find some solution of the problem of unification of our rail systems. I recently read in the press that the Premiers - or perhaps it was the Ministers for Railways in the various States - had produced a plan to provide for the unification of our rail systems. The only flaw in their plan was that they made no provision in any shape or form for the manner in which this project was to be financed, beyond the fact that the Commonwealth was to be called upon to provide the money.

So 1 say that we must attempt at an early date to resolve, at the constitutional level, problems of that nature. In almost every field of Commonwealth and State governmental endeavour, including the field of housing which has come under considerable discussion in this debate, there is a constitutional bar in some form or other, and we are confronted with constitutional problems. I say that we have to resolve them, and more especially we have to resolve the part that the third tier of government, namely, local government, must play in the scheme of things in this country. It is true to say that local government in Australia is being absolutely strangled at the present time, because of lack of adequate funds to enable them to cope with added responsibilities that are placed upon them. So I see some hope in the Constitution Review Committee and in the task which it has ahead of it. His Excellency, in the ultimate paragraph of his Speech expressed a hope that 1 think might well extend to the members of the all-party Constitution Review Committee. He said - :

In the earnest hope that Divine Providence may guide your deliberations and further the welfare of the people of the Commonwealth . . .

Above all else, that committee must carry the blessing of us all, because as true Australians, apart from party considerations, we are confronted in our daily endeavours here with constitutional difficulties, after 50 years of federal government. I believe that there is a solution and that the committee may lead us to it.

The: second point in His Excellency’s Speech to which I want to refer relates to the improved balance of payments position in our economy, lt is revealed that in the first half of the financial year 1956-57 our income increased by £70,000,000, largely because of an increase in wool prices and a greater volume of wheat and wool production. The wool price for the first six months of the financial year represents an increase of about 15 per cent, on the price in the corresponding six months of the previous year.

Most Australians, I feel, have come to a better understanding of the problem that confronts us in regard to overseas balances. Briefly stated, we pay for our imports by exports. In other words, if our imports exceed our exports we are living on our reserves. It is a simple equation. If a person earning £20 a week lives at the rate of £25 a week, he must, quite obviously, have reserves, and when he ceases to have reserves he “ goes broke “.

Previously we were living beyond our means on the large funds that we had accumulated in our overseas reserves as a consequence of the war years. In the short term, we have attempted to end this imbalance of the economy by import restrictions. In the long term, the Government has attempted very properly to improve our situation by an expansion of export markets.

While we are proud of our wool industry and the wool cheque, there are grave dangers to Australia in the present situation in which we are so largely dependent on wool. While we should try to expand the wool industry, we should also endeavour to build up a diversity of primary production. Our economy is faced with terrible dangers while we are so dependent upon one industry. We have only to consider what would have happened if our wool cheque had been 15 per cent, less than it was in the previous year instead of being 15 per cent. more. Obviously, there is a danger, particularly while we are trying to bring many immigrants into Australia, with a consequent measure of inflation.

I was pleased to read in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech that, because of the action taken by the Government, the economy is in a more balanced state than it was several years ago. His Excellency said -

My advisers- report that the economy is- now in a more balanced state; our trade position has improved, and our overseas reserves are growing.

A few days ago, I spoke’ to a young lady who had just returned from England. She had taken part-time employment in England through Australia House, assisting to promote the sale of Australian commodities. She said that Australian goods were being distributed everywhere throughout the United Kingdom. That is a move in the right direction.

The short-term imposition of import restrictions is necessary but distasteful. The application of the restrictions is open to grave doubts. Senator Wright referred to the methods by which import restrictions were administered. Time will not permit me to discuss the matter fully, but I do say that we should have a proper system under which a firm or an individual can state a grievance, be it real or imaginary, and have an injustice removed. The principles under which the restrictions are imposed should be set down in the first place by this Parliament. At the moment, we are. in the hands of a Minister who must, of necessity, be in the hands of his responsible officers to some extent. There is no appeal now unless it be from Caesar to Caesar. There should be a proper authority to deal with import licences.

Since this debate began, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator McKenna) has moved an amendment to the motion for the Address-in-Reply. The amendment is, in effect, a censure of the Government. The case put by the Leader of the Opposition was based upon a press statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). Senator McKenna admitted that he did not have a copy of the record of the relevant press conference. This is an unusual procedure. The Leader of the Opposition has launched a censure motion based upon a press report although he did not have the full draft of the. Prime Minister’s statement. The. Leader of the AntiCommunist Labour party (Senator Cole) has moved an amendment to the Opposition’s amendment. Altogether, the device that has been employed by the parties on the Opposition side is most unwieldy.

Senator McKenna has presented a case on housing, and it has been answered completely by the Minister for National Dervelopment (Senator Spooner). In another place, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) submitted a similar motion of censure, and the Prime Minister has replied to him by stating the Government’s case. In those circumstances, I do not think it is necessary for me to chase the Opposition down all the alley-ways and by-ways of this debate. Perhaps it would be sufficient for me to say that the “ Hansard “ report shows that Senator McKenna devoted much time to the alleged difficulties of housing in the Australian Capital Territory. His criticism looks unreal in the light of the statement by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) that flats costing £1,282,342 are to be built in Canberra. I asked the Minister to-day on what basis the contract had been let. He assured me that it had not been let on the vicious cost-plus system. The contract for 23 blocks of flats had been let on a firm, competitive tender. That is an important step in housing in the Australian Capital Territory, and it takes much of the sting out of Senator McKenna’s attack.

In general; I want to rest the Government’s case on three significant statements. The first statement was made by the Prime Minister, who said, when dealing with housing -

The plain truth is the Commonwealth Government is very proud of the rate of home construction in Australia. The plain fact is that the Commonwealth Government will not willingly see it fall away. We shall not rest until we find that this greatest human need has been satisfied.

Another statement which is significant was made by the Minister for Labour and

National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) last night, when he said -

I say this with the full authority of the Government: Assuming the maintenance of satisfactory levels of employment generally, and in the building industry in particular, the central bank’s policy will continue to aim- at ensuring that a reasonable proportion of increased savings in Australia becomes available for investment in housing and is employed in housing loans. The Government will form the best judgment that it can, not only from the best official advice it can secure, but also from the best expert advice that it can secure from any- quarter, as to the level of home-building activity that our economy can reasonably sustain. I can give an assurance on the part of the Government that if, at any time, it seems to us that there are resources available for home-building which have nor been taken up, we shall give speedy consideration to any further central bank action necessary to take up that slack.

Those are words upon which any supporter of the Government can stand. There is another matter to which I should like to make reference in passing. Senator Maher mentioned it yesterday. All sorts of figures have been given during the course of this debate, including figures which are hard to verify because they have no basis of statistical value in respect of the volume of unemployment in the building industry. I presume they refer to unemployment in that industry in New South Wales. During the course of his speech, the Prime Minister said -

At this moment, out of the many thousands of people who are normally employed in the building industry, there are 693 applicants for employment and 618 vacancies registered with the department.

The reason why I mention that is because it has been suggested by some during the course of this debate that all men do not register immediately they become unemployed, that they may have, perhaps, built up a certain reserve fund over the years and therefore do not register. The true position is that they register immediately, not for the purpose of receiving sustenance but because that is the very point of pick-up for another j’ob. It is obvious that if a man employed in the building trade finishes one job on Friday night, the very place to which he would go on Monday morning, in addition perhaps to his own industry or union would be the place at which he registers for employment. One of the musts for him on Monday morning, after finishing on Friday night, would be to register; and an employee in the building industry would do so because he would know that every builder or employer in the industry who wanted labour would ring the registrar and ask for it. For that reason, great significance must be attached to the figures given by the Prime Minister relating to the volume of employment in the building industry itself.

In the short time left to me, I want, to make two points in connexion with housing. First, I shall generalize - we are all. prone to do that - and then I should like to deal more particularly with the cost factor. To my knowledge, there has always been, at least since 1918, an unbalance in some form or another in connexion with housing. The demand has never been satisfied since the end of World War I. It is true that the position has improved since 1949 under this Government. Proof of that is on record in statistical form, and has been referred to during the course of this debate. lt should never be forgotten that there are four ingredients in this problem. They are labour, materials, finance and demand. Any mathematical person can take a pencil, play around with those four ingredients and get all sorts of different equations from them. The perfect situation, of course, would be one in which labour, materials and finance were equated with demand. They never have been, to my knowledge, since 1918. The function of governments, both State and’ Commonwealth, is to create the climate necessary to co-ordinate those ingredients in such a way as to help the industry. This is done in connexion with materials and the intelligent use of an immigration programme which encourages people in specialized trades to come to Australia and enter certain industries. I think it was Senator Cole who cited some illuminating statistics the other night. He took them from the report on housing furnished by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). They showed the great contribution that had been made in the production of housing materials by directing immigrants into the industries manufacturing those materials.

Another way in which governments can help is by refraining from entering the industry themselves, by keeping clear and not employing all available labour on government projects. They can also help by the intelligent encouragement of investment in this field. The States, no less than the Commonwealth, have a responsibility in this matter. I point out that New South Wales in particular did not help the climate of the building industry when it poured something like £800,000 down the drain on some fancy project for making tiles when everybody in the building trade laughed and said that the project was impracticable. That £800,000 would have built a lot of houses. The States, along with the Commonwealth, have a responsibility to create the proper climate in connexion with housing. If we create such a climate in this free economy, then under our system private industry will do the job. The Opposition would have us believe that the solution to the housing problem is to be found in some form of complete socialism. Only a mental adolescent would put forward such .a . proposal, because I believe that the workers in any industry, and .in the building industry above all others, are rugged individualists who are most successful when they are working for themselves.

In the few minutes left to me, the only other point I wish to raise relates to the more specific problem of the cost of housing. If we could reduce the cost of housing by something like 10 per cent., bearing in mind that we spend on housing, from all sources, something like £230,000,000 a year, clearly we would help the building industry tremendously. The money that would be saved could be used to provide additional finance for homes. It is interesting to note that in New South Wales the building industry is operating under Ordinance 71 of the Local Government Act, which, I believe, was introduced in 1919. I understand that the ordinance itself was last amended in 1921. In that respect there is clearly room for improvement. If that ordinance were amended to conform to present-day conditions, a tremendous saving in building costs would be effected. Recently, a Sydney architect. Mr. Harry Seidler, stated in the press that with more liberal by-laws and an alteration of the local government building ordinance, up to 10 per cent, of building costs could be saved.

Imagine what the position would be if we had to build motor cars, aeroplanes or anything else to specifications drawn up to suit requirements in 1919 and 1921! The State of New South Wales has the greatest responsibility in this direction. T understand that a saving of 10 per cent, in building costs would mean a saving of something like £25,000,000 a year, although I have not worked it out precisely; and this would provide finance with which to build, perhaps, some thousands more houses each year. The New South Wales Government has a big responsibility to bring up to date its local government act and its building ordinance in order to provide an opportunity for those engaged in the building industry to erect homes in conformity with modern standards. That could be done in many ways. I have not the time to detail them now, because I am about to conclude; but there are many ways in which we could alter that ordinance and thereby save a tremendous amount in building costs. I commend that suggestion to the Government of New South Wales.

I conclude where I started. I refer again to the question of constitutional reform.

Australia is a wonderful country, lt is rich and bountiful, but the path by which we must travel to reach our goal is constitutional reform. I believe that we shall not reach the golden age, that we shall not be able to get all those things we believe we are entitled to have, until we solve the problem of constitutional reform which is hamstringing our existence to-day. For that reason, I believe that members of this Parliament from all parties who are seised of the responsibility of making recommendations on constitutional reform have, perhaps, the opportunity to provide the foundation upon which Australia can bc enabled to attain the future which we all so earnestly hope it will enjoy.

Senator McMANUS:

.- In continuing this debate upon the AddressinReply, I desire to associate myself with the many expressions of loyalty to the Crown which have been heard from both sides of the Senate. As partners in the great British Commonwealth of Nations, we are indeed fortunate that at a time when in many countries the head of the State is a controversial figure, we owe allegiance to a Queen who is above controversy, who inspires universal trust and affection, and who sets an inspiring example of Christian family life.

The address delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General covered a wide field. In view of the fact that it is understood that we shall have an opportunity later in this session to discuss such matters as foreign affairs, defence, and the general economic situation I do not propose to attempt to deal with them in the short space of time at my disposal this evening. I intend, instead, to concentrate mainly on some matters of internal interest. I make no apology for discussing first, the position of the pensioners, particularly the age pensioners, in this country to-day. Last year, it was the opinion of my party that the pensioners received a raw deal in the budget, and from what I heard I had the feeling that some honorable senators on the other side shared that opinion. Since then, a spokesman for the Government, I understand, has hinted to a deputation from the Australian Council of Trades Unions that the Government has in view some remedial action in the next budget.

In the Governor-General’s Speech there occur the following words which I, rightly or wrongly, interpret as a similar hint -

My Government has a lively sense of the needs of the social services, and particularly of the difficulties of pensioners of all types who have no other source of income. It will continue to review its legislation. 1 can only say that 1 earnestly hope that the implied promise will be redeemed when the next budget is brought down.

In reply to a question that I asked during the last session, it was stated that it would be possible to give the pensioners an increase of 10s. a week, at a cost of £14,500,000, or an increase of £1 a week, at a cost of £29,000,000. Those sums may seem large in one sense, but they are not unduly large having regard to the amount of human unhappiness that is involved in the present situation of the pensioners. I hope, therefore, that the Government will do something for them; and .1 hope that it will go further - that it will conduct inquiries and endeavour to bring before this chamber some scheme which will take pensions out of politics. My party has suggested that there should be set up an independent tribunal to determine a just rate of pension and that, when a just rate has been determined, the pension should rise and fall in accordance with the cost of living figures. If the Government does not think that a suitable scheme, it may be able to think of a better one. In West Germany, pensions rise or fall in accordance with the prosperity of the country. That may not be suitable here, but I hope that the Government will ask its experienced advisers to try to evolve some scheme that will take pensions out of politics, and that will obviate the need for men and women, at an advanced stage of their careers, to come to this .building . to lobby members in circumstances which cannot be for the good of their health.

They should not be placed in the situation of having to force political action.

I hope also that the Government will give its attention to unemployment payments. The present unemployment benefit has been calculated on .the basis, of the cost of living figures of some years ago. There have been big increases in the cost of living since then, and I suggest that, however much we may differ as to whether there is serious unemployment, we cannot differ on the fact that the amount, at present provided for an unemployed man, his wife and one child, is far too small.

In regard to child endowment, I point out that the elimination of the quarterly adjustments of the basic wage has had a bad effect on the situation of family men. I am one of those who do not think that the system of quarterly adjustments was a very good one, or that it worked out particularly well. At the best, it was a rough and ready way of giving wage justice, but it should never have been altered or eliminated unless some better system of ensuring wage justice were put in its place. However, it has been abolished, and family men, in view of the increases in the cost of living, have suffered. I hope, therefore, that the Government will give consideration to child endowment, which is long overdue for an increase. I suggest f1,at the plan of the Australian Council oi Trades Unions, which Senator Cole outlined the other night, is an excellent basis for such increases. I also suggest that it should not be left there but that, in an endeavour to bring about wage justice, consideration should be given to producing a productivity index to which we could relate wages - a system in which the trade unions and the employers are interested at the present time.

I turn now to the question that has been largely debated during the course of the Address-in-Reply debate, that is, the question of housing. Related to it, of course, is the subject of immigration. There has been a good deal of discussion, but I do not think that anybody Could deny that at the present time in this country there are thousands of people who have not a home of their own; there are thousands more who are living in homes which, in some respects, are unfit to be lived in. While that situation exists, there can be no complacency and no satisfaction. I am one of those who believe that even if there were only one person not suitably housed at the present times that would be one too many.

During the last week-end, in an endeavour to discover the. facts of the situation in Victoria, I contacted union leaders, some of whom are associated with the party to which I belong, as well as co-operative housing leaders and other persons interested in the building trade in Victoria. The information that they gave me-1 produce it for what it is worth - points to the fact that there is still a housing shortage, but it is not as serious, of course, as it was tea years ago. Nevertheless, it is still at a stage that could be classified as serious. Secondly, I am told that there is unemployment among those who are producing building materials, such as timber workers and the like, because these people have worked so well and so successfully that there is now a surplus of building materials. There is no serious unemployment among those who are actually engaged in building, because there is a considerable amount of work available on the construction of big commercial buildings in the cities, but the union leaders and the housing leaders informed me that there has been a very serious falling-off in the building of homes. When I asked them for their opinion on the situation, they told me that there was no shortage of labour and there was no shortage of materials. They said that they attributed the trouble to a shortage of finance and that, I think, boiling it all down, is the real basis of the difficulty in which we find ourselves.

The private banks and the insurance companies have, to a big extent, ‘ devoted themselves to winning the big profits that can be made out of such avenues of investment as hire purchase, and they are not prepared, while those avenues of investment continue to return big profits, to divert their money into the most important thing of all, that is, into housing. So it is that we have reached the remarkable situation that, in a civilized country, priority is given to the provision of television sets and radio sets and things of that sort to the neglect of housing, upon which so many of our human values depend.

I am told, and I believe it is true, that it would be possible for the banking institutions and the insurance companies, if they would, or if they could be made, to diver’ considerable sums at reasonable rates of interest for the purpose of housing. The situation therefore arises that it is up to the Government, if it has the power to take action, to see that the money is made avail able. In the meantime, the Government itself could relieve the situation to some extent by endeavouring, through its control of the central bank, to make more money available. However, the situation has obviously been reached when something must be done about hire-purchase finance. One finds not only people who are seeking homes complaining about the present situation. Nobody would describe Mr. Stott of South Australia, the secretary of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, as being anti-Government; yet he told the annual conference of that body that farmers had gone to banks for advances to buy essential machinery and had been refused. He said, however, that it had been suggested to them that they see specific hire-purchase companies and that those companies had then made money available at exorbitant rates of interest from 9 per cent, to 16 per cent. That, 1 suggest, calls for the attention of this Government, particularly when thousands of people are still not adequately or properly housed.

One other suggestion I would make is that every encouragement, from the point of view of reducing costs, should be given to the very valuable research work of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. People to whom I spoke during the week-end, some of them experts on building techniques, told me that the work that is being done by that organization is invaluable. They said it has great possibilities and des”erved to be given every encouragement. I am pleased to be able to say that, because I am an admirer of the work of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. I hope that every encouragement will be given to that body in the work that it is doing at the present time.

One honorable senator opposite suggested that my party has adopted a rather cumbersome method of attacking the problem of housing. After pointing out that there is now before us a motion for adoption of the Address-in-Reply, an amendment put forward by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) and also an amendment to that proposed amendment, he said that it was unnecessary for us to move that further amendment. We are not prepared, in view of the fact that the question of housing has been raised, to allow our vote to suggest that we are satisfied with what the Government is doing. We are equally not prepared to agree with the suggestion of the Opposition that to a big extent immigration has been responsible for the present housing situation. the present housing situation. In our estimation, it is wrong to attempt to place the blame for the housing shortage upon the shoulders of the immigrant. We had housing troubles in this country before any immigration scheme was ever put into operation. Anybody who was associated with the Labour party in past years knows that it is only ten years since the housing crisis was twice as serious as it is to-day. In that very period, what was the attitude of the leader of the Labour party in those days? At that time, Mr. Chifley used these words -

Immigration means security. Even more than that it means the full development of untapped resources. It means greater production of goods and services. It means a better, happier and more prosperous life for every Australian.

The great immigration drive launched by the Labour Government in 1945 and carried out with remarkable success will be continued vigorously until Australia has the population she needs to achieve the development of all her resources and guarantee her security.

That was a statement made by Mr. Chifley in the days, of course, when the Labour party was a Labour party, in the days when its policies were not determined by those whom Senator Ashley has aptly described as eggheads. Nor did it then accept its instructions from those whom Mr. Dougherty has described as boofheads. At that time, in a leaflet which I had the duty of distributing, Mr. Calwell, who was then Minister for Immigration, acting with the full approval of Mr. Chifley, at a time when the housing situation was twice as bad as it is to-day, called for 20,000,000 Australians in our time. Whilst I have some difficulty in working out just what “ our time “ would be, from the investigations I have been able to make it appears to me that at a conservative estimate the Chifley Government, with Mr. Calwell as Minister for Immigration, was proposing that we would embark upon and continue a vigorous immigration policy involving the introduction into this country each year of at least 300,000 or 400,000 people. The present Government proposes to introduce about 100,000 a year. Of course, Mr. Chifley had confidence in Australia; and he had confidence in the Labour party. That was why he was prepared to take risks for the future of Australia.

We have pointed out that the contribution made by immigrants to this country has been no negligible one. Senator Cole, the other night, pointed out that they have entered to a very large extent into those trades which manufacture materials for housing, and that they have probably produced far more material than has been used in the houses that they themselves are occupying. If it is a fact that immigration is having this tremendous influence on the housing problem, why is the housing situation worst in New South Wales, which of all the States has the lowest percentage of immigrants, and best in Western Australia, which has the largest percentage of immigrants?

I regret that the plea for a better housing plan - which is a good plea and must bc supported - has been damned by being tied up with this attack upon immigration. I have been appalled at the suggestion that it should be good Labour policy to attack people because of the country from which they come or because of the way they might vote when they come into Australia. We have been bringing some people into this country from other lands to help them get away from places where they have been told how to vote. On behalf of my party, I give the pledge that we will never attempt to stop any immigrant from coming into this country on the ground that when he gets here he may vote against us. I am sorry that there have been suggestions singling out certain sections of the European community. I regret the insulting references to southern Europeans. I think that a man should be judged on his suitability as an immigrant, on what he is, on his character and his skill, if you like; but he should not be judged on his race or on the country from which he comes. I am very sorry that attacks upon the principle of European immigration should have come from men with names like Schmella, Bukowski and Tripovich.

I proceed now to the subject of industrial relations. In regard to it, the Government has made the definite claim that we are continuing to enjoy comparative industrial peace. Last year, in the manufacturing industries, workers lost on the average about one-seventh of a working day as a result of industrial disputes. That is true, and the Government would not be human if it did not take to itself the credit for that very satisfactory state of affairs. But as one who saw the situation inside the trade union movement from 1945 to 1950, I say that the good industrial relations that existed during the period from 1950 to 1955 were due to the fact that the trade unions of this country were generally in good hands. That was so in the case of a number of unions that had been viciously engaged in sabotaging the economy of the country from 1945 to 1950, and the improvement was brought about by the work that was done to defeat communism in those unions by men and women in the Australian Labour party industrial groups. They did a great job for their country, and they received no gratitude for it. They did not expect gratitude. I knew many of them, and the work that they did. They were criticized, but 1 never noticed any eagerness on the part of their opponents to go and do the job instead of them. 1 have seen a young man brought into an office at the Trades Hall who had been waylaid and beaten up on his way home because, as a member of an industrial group he had attended a union meeting and opposed communism. I have seen young girls from good homes, in the belief that they could fight communism, go to trade union meetings despite the fact that every endeavour was made by members of the Communist party to keep them away. The vilest of threats and the filthiest of bad language were used to intimidate them. Any suggestion that those people were bad Australians or that they had evil motives is, to me, extremely repugnant. I regard them as the salt of the earth. Two things enabled them to achieve their success. One was the adoption of the clean ballot system, and the other the banning by the Australian Labour party of unity tickets.

I cannot cover the whole subject of clean ballot in the short time at my disposal, but I shall make my point by relating what happened in one trade union, the Building Workers Industrial Union of Victoria. A group of labour men banded together to fight the Communist leaders of that union. Their candidates contested an election and everybody knew that they had won it, but they were deprived of success by the fact that 800 forged ballot-papers were included in the count. These men tried every means to get justice. They went to the Melbourne Trades Hall Council, and asked it to do something. The council called Chandler, the secretary of the union, to appear before it, but he refused to come and they did nothing about it because they could do nothing. That showed at once that an official body of the trade union movement could do nothing in the case of a rigged ballot in a trade union election. They then went to the Victorian Supreme Court and were told, once again, that there was no remedy available to them. They then had two alternatives left. One was to try to get a clean ballot, and the other was to defy the officials who ran the Building Workers Industrial Union and form their own trade union. I was one who advised them not to do that. I said that the trade union movement did not like that kind of thing. They replied that they had no other remedy. They formed their own union, the Carpenters and Joiners Society, and to-day, in Victoria, it has more members than the other union. Many of the carpenters, as decent Australians, trust it and the officials who control it.

After this, the Victorian executive of the Australian Labour party decided to send a deputation to Canberra to the federal conference of the Australian Labour party. They attended and stated their case. The late Mr. Chifley and Senator McKenna were fair-minded enough to realize the position. No one could suggest that they were anti-union or wanted to interfere in trade union affairs, but they put through legislation - and I honour them for it - which was the first measure to give the worker a chance of electing the officers of his union by a properly conducted ballot. In the light of that experience I say that if any one wants to return to conditions such as obtained from 1945 to 1950 when, in certain unions, industrial sabotage was conducted on a large scale because the officials of those unions knew that no matter what they did the rank and file could never turn them out of office by a vote, then do away with the legislation for clean ballots. Suppose the Opposition became the government, if it thinks it will be able to govern with the big, key trade unions of this country in the hands of the Thorntons, the Browns and the McPhillips, I say that they are indulging in a pipe dream. No one could accuse Mr. Chifley of being antiunion, ,but under the previous system of election when ballots could be rigged to make the leaders of Communist-controlled unions immune from attack, Mr. Chifley found that the only way he could govern the country was to send those trade union leaders to gaol.

The other matter I want to refer to is that of unit)’ tickets, the second means by which the grip of the Communists on trade unions was broken. Unity tickets were banned. 1 was on the central executive of the Australian Labour party together with men who are prominent members of that party, and we expelled men who stood in trade union elections on the same tickets as Communists, because we said that by doing so they were working against the interests of Australia and of the Labour movement. We had no objection to their standing against officials of the union with other Labour men or any others. We simply said that they could not stand with Communists. I suppose it can be said that the recent Brisbane confer.ance of the Evatt Labour party vindicated that stand because it, too, has imposed a ban upon unity tickets. The success of that ban, of course, depends on whether it is enforced.

Last November, the federal executive of the Evatt Labour party placed a ban upon unity tickets. Under the rules, that ban holds good until the conference meets. Within a fortnight of the ban being imposed, unity tickets, of which the one 1 hold in my hand is a copy, were being given out at tramway depots on the occasion of the election of officials of the Tramway Union in Melbourne. Tramway employees were asked to vote for C. O’Shea, a leading Communist in Victoria, as general president. For industrial officer G. C. Grace was recommended, a leading member of the Evatt party, and one of its candidates at the last State elections. Looking down the list of names on this card, which was issued a fortnight after the ban on unity tickets was imposed by the Brisbane conference, 1 see the names of prominent members of the Communist party, men who speak on the Yarra bank every week, and who glory in their membership of that party. I see the names also of men who were expelled from the Australian Labour party because of their association with communism. On the same ticket I see also the names of prominent members of the Evatt Labour party.

In connexion with the election of officials of the Victorian Branch of the Australian Railways Union,I have here a circular advertising a special meeting to discuss the election of officers of that union. The notice reads -

Calling all militant Labour supporters!! !

MEETING. Board Room 3rd Floor

page 218



FRIDAY, 1 February 8pm

The meeting was adjourned to the 15th. The notice also has the following information: -

CHAIRMAN: State President Bill Donald

State Secretary, J. J. Brown

The first is a member of the Evatt Labour party. The second is a Communist. The names of those who called the meeting appear on the notice as convenors. Two of them were members of the Evatt Labour party, and one was a member of the Communist party. They proceeded to select the persons whose names would appear on the unity ticket which will be used in the railway union election this year. The unity ticket that was produced contained the names of Evatt Labour candidates and Communist party candidates. The Communist party, of course, is very shrewd. It has exacted its price. Three candidates are standing for the positions of organizers. The organizers are in a very special position. They go about among the members of the union and can tell them a story to influence them. They are the key men. Two of those three positions will be filled by Communists - Messrs. Leno and Booley - and one will be filled by a member of the Evatt party.

Now let us consider the position in the Amalgamated Engineering Union, for which an election is now being held. A unity ticket was arranged in this union, too. I have in my hand the following circular: -

Fellow members,

A meeting of the A.E.U Rights Committee will be held in the Savoy Theatre, Russell Street, on Thursday, 14th February, at 8 p.m. to discuss future activities of the Committee and important current affairs within the organization.

The convenor was Mr. W. Butler, a member of the State executive of the Victorian branch of the Evatt party, and the chairman was Mr. Jack Arter, a Communist organizer in the union. They proceeded to select the ticket, which contained the names of Evatt men and Communists. The name of Mr.

Carmichael, one of the most notorious Communists in Melbourne, is on that ticket, together with the names of members of the Evatt party. I repeat that a ban was imposed on unity tickets in Brisbane a fortnight ago.

There are the facts. The party is entitled to be judged on what it does. Let me say this to Opposition senators; The split and the differences in the Labour party were justified on their side of the fence because they said they had to preserve the integrity of their party. What do they intend to do to preserve that integrity?

Senator VINCENT:
Western Australia

Mr. President, I wish to associate myself with the many expressions of loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen and the Throne that have been made by honorable senators during this debate. I also wish to congratulate Senator Hannan, who in my opinion bears a very famous name, and Senator Wade, who respectively very ably moved and seconded the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. In one sense, I feel that it is a pity that the Opposition thought fit to superimpose a motion of censure upon the Government. I suggest it has the effect of confining the debate to the question of housing, whereas traditionally this has been a debate during which one may ramble from China to Peru, as it were.

However, in another sense I welcome the censure motion, because during my speech I wish to defend the Government’s housing policy.

To my mind, the Government has nothing to be ashamed of in its housing policy or in the way in which it has been implemented. During the past seven years, it has accepted an enormous responsibility in financing house-building. We have been told that it has provided £500,000,000, an astronomical sum, for the purpose of building homes. It has accepted an additional burden as a result of two factors that I wish to mention. First, as we all know, the private investor has forsaken the field of investment in houses for rental, particularly in the eastern States. Very rarely nowadays do we find a person who is prepared to invest his money in that way. That has created an additional housing burden, which this Government has accepted. It had to accept it; regrettably, there was no alternative. There is another factor which has increased the housing burden, and which this Government has accepted. I refer to a rather important social change that has occurred during the life of this Government, lt is now the accepted belief, in which incidentally I concur, that the Government must accept responsibility for the provision of a house for every wage-earner, every husband, whether he can pay for it or not and irrespective of how long it takes to pay for it. I suggest that the new social order, if I may so describe it, has imposed a very serious additional burden upon this Government, which it has accepted without question. Therefore, I for one do not apologize for either the housing policy of the Government or the way it has been implemented.

The Opposition has rested its censure motion upon a statement alleged to have been made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and which was referred to by the Leader of the Opposition in another place. I shall quote from Dr. Evatt’s speech. He said - the Prime Minister said that the factor limiting home-building in Australia was not money but man-power and materials. [f the Prime Minister had said that and nothing else, I would have been quite prepared to rise and criticize his statement; but he said a lot more than that. This is what the Prime Minister said as reported in “ Hansard “ -

  1. . the limitation on a housing programme in Australia is the limitation of man-power and the limitation of materials and anybody -

And this is the significant part of the statement, to which the Opposition has neglected to refer - who is so naive as to believe that new man-power and new materials can be created by increasing the supply of money is merely adding to inflation.

Of course, any one can take remarks out of their context. It has been done many times, and I have no doubt will be done frequently again in an attempt to make a man appear to be either a liar or a fool. That is what is being done now. It is the foundation of this censure motion moved by the Opposition.

The Prime Minister was talking about the national housing programme, which involves the construction of some 105,000 houses to overcome the present deficiency, together with the provision of houses to overcome an annual demand of approximately 56,000 houses. The Prime Minis ter’s words were uttered in that context’ but the Opposition has twisted the meaning of his observation and has contended that the analysis, as put forward by him, relates exclusively to the present somewhat small and temporary recession in building in the eastern States. Having started off on that false scent and having misrepresented the real purport of the Prime Minister’s remarks, the Opposition proceeds to chase the red herring across the trail, as it were, and to arrive at some remarkable conclusions to which I will refer in a moment.

Assuming the Prime Minister’s statement means what the Opposition contends, does it alter certain very fundamental facts associated with the Government’s housing programme? Does it alter the fact that at the moment fewer houses are wanted in Australia than ever before since the conclusion of World War I.? Does it alter the fact that the deficiency of houses has been reduced from the astronomical figure of 250,000 to 105,000 in the short space of approximately nine years? Does the Prime Minister’s statement alter the fact that the rate of house-building in this country is better than the rate in almost every other democratic country in the world? It is better than the rate in Great Britain, America, Canada. South Africa and Sweden. In fact, it is better than the rate in every democracy other than New Zealand. Irrespective of what construction is placed upon the Prime Minister’s statement, those facts cannot be controverted by the Opposition, nor can the Prime Minister’s words alter the plain fact that in three of the Australian States there is now no serious housing problem at all. The housing deficiency has almost been overtaken in the States of Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia.

The words of the Prime Minister cannot alter the fact that all these things have been achieved in the face of some very adverse legislation by the State socialist governments, to which I have already referred. Because of that legislation, construction by the private entrepreneur of dwellings for rental has almost ceased, and we face the rather sobering position. I suggest, that for evermore will the taxpayers of Australia be obliged to finance the Sydney home-owner, the Melbourne home-owner, and everybody else who desires, a house. It is a rather serious thought, but it is a fact. 1 am afraid that that position will last for a very long time.

I mention these achievements not with any sense of complacency. I believe that they are achievements of which we can well be proud, particularly if we place them in their true perspective against a background of government enterprise, and government contributions in the fields of social services, expensive public works and health schemes, a very large defence programme, and some huge sums devoted to national development. In that context. I suggest that the Government’s contribution towards solving the housing problem of this country has been profound. Certainly, it is something that creates no panic in my mind, although honorable senators opposite all appear to have become very seriously perturbed at a stage when our housing position has actually never looked healthier.

I repeat that I do not by any means accept the situation with complacency. There is room neither for complacency on the one hand nor serious panic on the other. There is plenty of room for other sentiments to intrude. As I suggested, there are still over 100,000 houses to build, plus a commitment of some 50,000 odd houses a year, which amounts to a national housing problem - the problem that was referred to by the Prime Minister when he suggested that the answer was not money but additional man-power and additional materials. And who can deny that proposition? It is surely sane horse-sense, but the Opposition has endeavoured to provide an answer in another way. It is contained in the second proposition in paragraph 5 of Labour’s censure motion.

The Opposition has suggested that the only real answer to the problem is finance. Will some Opposition senator answer one or two questions in regard to that contention? Will one of them explain whether or not the additional finance is to come from the taxpayer’s pocket? If not, from where is it to come? Will an honorable senator from Western Australia be prepared to go back to Perth and say, “ Although we have overcome our housing deficiency in Western Australia, in Canberra I am advocating an increase in taxation so as to pay for the housing deficiency in Sydney “ ? Is an honorable senator from Western Australia prepared to return to Perth and advocate that policy? If he is not, 1 suggest that the only other answer actually rests with the States themselves. In this respect, I wish to quote from the departmental paper which has been issued in connexion with the policy relating to advances from loan money to the States for housing. It reads -

Loan Council determines overall total to be raised for public works and Housing Agreement expenditure, Commonwealth support usually being necessary to bring the figure beyond what the loan market is expected to yield.

Then follows this very significant observation -

The States then agree on the apportionment of the total amount as between themselves and each State then nominates what part of this allocation is to be for housing. The total of the amounts which the States stipulate are to be for housing is treated as the Commonwealth share of the year’s loan funds and is paid by the Commonwealth to the States under the Housing Agreement.

It is as plain as a pikestaff. If the States, as individual sovereign bodies, contend that they are not receiving enough money for housing, the responsibility lies very squarely on the shoulders of the State governments. In pursuance of the policy that I have just read, they are perfectly entitled to nominate, as the departmental brochure sets out - quite correctly, I understand - what part of the allocation is to be for housing. That is a sovereign and absolute right of the States. If my friends in Opposition are not prepared to agree that this additional money which they suggest is required for housing has to come from the taxpayer’s pocket, it must come from the loan allocation to be decided by the respective States. So, in reply to the Opposition’s suggestions that the answer to this question of housing is purely the provision of money, I suggest that, if the money is not to come from taxation, the responsibility rests with the States and not with the Commonwealth. If Victoria and New South Wales, the heaviest sufferers in regard to housing deficiencies, want more finance for housing, the responsibility is theirs.

There is a corollary of the argument that I have so far developed. If the Commonwealth is responsible, as the Opposition implies, to provide additional funds, I say emphatically, in reply to that suggestion, that the Commonwealth is already providing enough money for housing. From the figures compiled by the department, it will be seen that since 1951, when the Commonwealth provided £21.000.000 for housing. the amount made available has risen to some £32,000,000 per annum. Of course, one cannot get a proper comprehension of what that really means, but I do suggest, quite sincerely, that at times - and I fully expect that this remark will be taken out of its context by somebody - the Commonwealth Government has actually provided loo much money for housing. For many years we have had the experience of too much money for housing chasing a shortage of labour and materials, and it has had this catastrophic effect, that we have now arrived at a situation where the price of a house is becoming too high. We are actually defeating our own objectives if we pour too much money into the housing programme. We are, in short, inflating the housing programme, andI think that we have at times - not at all times - inflated the housing programme to the extent that we have made houses too dear, and we will be in a very parlous situation in this country if we reach the stage where no one can ever afford to buy a house.

The second paragraph of the Labour party’s censure motion suggests that more money will solve the problem. I ask the Opposition squarely whether it wishes to make the position worse, because that would be the definite consequence if its proposal were put into force. What would happen if £50,000,000 or even £25,000,000 were suddenly injected into the housing programme? It is all very well to grow sentimental about those who do not own houses, but somebody has to build these houses. Are there sufficient materials and labour available to meet a substantial injection of money into the housing programme? Are they available in Australia? Of course not. Can we get them from overseas? Again the answer is in the negative. In any case, the third proposition presented in the Opposition’s censure motion states -

The national plan should have regard to -

immediate reduction of migrant intake;

While the Labour movement is asking for the injection of a substantial sum of money to overcome the housing lag, it would deny the country the means by which its proposal could be put into effect. The consequence would be more serious inflation. Actually, if we injected £25,000,000 into the housing programme overnight, it would not build one more house, but it would certainly increase the prices of existing houses and of buildings yet to be constructed.

The Labour movement has endeavoured to start a panic over housing by deliberately misinterpreting the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in relation to the housing programme. As a remedy for the housing shortage, the Opposition has suggested something that would be calamitous to the economy.

I pass now to the present situation of the building trades in the eastern States. I am quite prepared to admit that, at the moment, there is a temporary lull in building. It is purely temporary and by no means serious. The figures speak for themselves. More than 120,000 men are engaged in the building industries in Australia, and there are fewer than 1,000 out of work in Sydney and Melbourne. Does that make a crisis? We should not be carried away by the panic of the Australian Labour movement.

There are causes for the present situation in the building trades. They are temporary, and will be overcome with reasonable expedition. One of the difficulties has been the transition from one Commonwealth and State housing agreement to another. That has held up the provision of funds purely because of machinery delays. The second temporary reason for the situation is the small but definite restriction by the Commonwealth and the trading banks on the release of credit. That is temporary and it will pass. Only1, 000 men are out of work compared with 120,000 men who are in work. We have to build 105,000 houses in addition to the annual commitment of 50,000 houses. The present temporary lull is insignificant when studied against the background of the housing programme.

That brings me to these concluding remarks: What are we going to do to complete the housing programme? In the first place, I say there is no need for any new plan, as has been suggested by the Opposition in its amendment. In my opinion, the present plan has worked very well. It is a partnership between the Commonwealth and the States, and has accomplished more than has been achieved in any other country in the housing field. The only alternative is a plan which would make the Commonwealth Government directly responsible for the financing and construction of the housing requirements bf the whole of Australia. To that proposition I would say, “ Heaven forbid! “.. The result would probably be fewer houses. Certainly it would not mean that more houses would be built unless men and materials were procured for the purpose.

Surely we do not want a new plan. We merely want a little support from all sides of the community to carry on the existing plan. In time, we shall have no housing problem in Australia, and I venture to suggest that we shall be one of the few countries without such a problem.

Two factors govern the completion of the great housing task that has been carried out so well by the Commonwealth Government. The first is obvious: The finance made available for the completion of the task must relate at all times to other resources, such as the supply of manpower and materials. Once they get out of step, there will be trouble. The other factor is a little more complicated, but 1 crave the indulgence of the Senate to expound it. I suggest that our overall building programme must at all times be in a state of. balance with the rest of the nation’s economy.

I have some figures from the Department of National Development which show the percentage of the gross national income invested in the construction of dwellings. The figures have remained astonishingly level. In 1952-53, the percentage of the gross income invested in dwelling construction was 4.5 per cent., and it remained constant in the next year. The following year it was 4.7 per cent, and in 1955-56 it was 4.47 per cent. That percentage must remain constant at all times. That is the significant factor that must be observed in the maintenance of a sensible housing programme. Once the percentages vary substantially and we try to build too many houses at the one time, the economy will get into a state of imbalance. Disruption will be caused in other quarters, and could result in serious unemployment in industries not related to housing.

Not only should we try to correlate the money factor and the other factors in relation to the housing programme; we must also correlate the combined housing factors with gross national production. If we do not do that, we shall have serious trouble. In other words, there is no quick way out of trying to build 105,000 houses; there is no easy remedy, lt is not as simple as the Opposition would have us believe. It is not simply a matter of finding £100,000,000. That can be done, but it will not build the 105,000 houses that we want. Actually, any injection of a substantia] sum of money into the economy will not build one more house, so that we get back to the Prime Minister’s contention, upon which I will close, when he says -

The limitation on a housing programme in Australia is the limitation of man-power and the limitation of materials and anybody who is so naive as to believe that new man-power and new materials can be created by increasing the supply of money is merely adding to inflation.

I heartily concur with that statement.

Senator TOOHEY:
South Australia

– I begin by wholeheartedly endorsing those references to Her Majesty the Queen which have been made by honorable senators on both sides.

In speaking to the Governor-General’s Speech and the amendment before the Senate, I feel that perhaps I should make some reference to some of the statements that have been made by preceding speakers. I intend to deal first with some of those made by Senator McManus, who, 1 regret, is not in the chamber at the moment. There is an eternal sameness about all the speeches that honorable senator has made since he entered this Senate. I was under the impression that he and his colleague, Senator Cole, were officially listed as an Opposition party to the Government; but when those two honorable senators rise to speak, we listen in vain for some opposition or criticism of the Government to spring from them. What we hear instead is a hymn of hate directed against the Australian Labour party.

Senator Pearson:

– Was the honorable senator here at the beginning of Senator McManus’s speech?

Senator TOOHEY:

– I was here right through his speech and probably listened to it with much more interest than Senator Pearson did because he probably had a very good idea of what Senator McManus intended to say.

Senator McManus had something to say about ballots. He was somewhat critical of the Australian Labour party in that respect. He belongs to a political organization which has a branch in South Australia and, to the best knowledge of political observers in that State, although candidates have represented this microscopic political organization in various State and Federal elections from time to time, there is no evidence that any ballot has ever been held by that particular party. That means, of course, that it practises the very thing for which it unjustly criticizes the Australian Labour party, lt practises some form of top-level executive control. A classic example of this was provided not so long ago when a gentleman from New South Wales, who occupies a leading position in what is known as the new Democratic Labour party, visited South Australia for the purpose of ascertaining whether the so-called Anti-Communist Labour party in that State would affiliate on a national basis with the Democratic Labour party, and in so doing sink its identity and its individuality. The president of the Anti-Communist Labour party of South Australia stated in the press that his executive had decided that such an affiliation would take place. Where are the rank and file of that organization? Where are the rights of the rank and file of that organization? If we were to believe some of the high-sounding phrases that have been uttered by Senator McManus in this Senate to-night, we should be led to believe that in the carrying out of the functions of that organization the utmost degree of democracy prevails. We find, however, that exactly the opposite prevails. That organization is now operating, and has always operated, purely on executive decision without any rights whatever being granted to the rank and file.

It is interesting to note also that although these two honorable senators purport to represent the same political party it so happened during the last week or so, that while Senator McManus has represented the AntiCommunist Labour party, Senator Cole suddenly represented the Democratic Labour party. This means that this microscopic organization, already dreadfully small in numbers, is now divided by two. lt is pleasing to know that Senator Cole is travelling at least part of the way towards democracy. Senator McManus, apparently, has not caught up with him yet in that direction. That is a matter of interest and one to which the Government should give some consideration, for Senator Cole, who is listed as the Leader of the Anti-Communist Labour party in this Senate, can no longer be regarded as holding that position, and, perhaps, some adjustment might be made to the lettering on a certain door in this building in order to convey clearly to all concerned just where this rather peculiar party stands.

While I am on the subject of the gentleman from New South Wales, I see no reason why I should not mention his name. He is Mr. Alan Manning, who has emerged as a new Messiah of the new AntiCommunist Labour party - cum Democratic Labour party. I am afraid he will find himself somewhat out of step with his newfound political companion, because when he stood as an official Labour party candidate for Lawson this big-shot in Senator McManus’s executive had this to say about socialism -

My approach to this problem endeavours to embody the basic principle of that form of democratic socialism to which the Australian Labour party subscribes.

I do not know whether that gentleman has since renounced those views, or whether he has given some assurance in writing to the leaders of the respective political parties I have mentioned that he no longer believes in democratic socialism, because they have been very critical about it. Of course, it is not unusual for Mr. Manning to find himself revising his political views from time to time, sometimes with astonishing rapidity. He has already embraced three political philosophies and has flirted with a fourth; and I am afraid that if the lessons of the past are to be taken as a guide he will not be long in the ranks of the two party political organizations I have mentioned.

Reverting to some of the remarks made by Senator McManus, most of which were completely misleading, I remind the Senate that he said on one occasion that we must not place all the blame on the migrants for the housing shortage; and he then went on to say that the Australian Labour party, in its amendment, was using the immigration position as an argument and a reason why a housing shortage existed in this country. The amendment has no such intention, nor was any such intention mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). There was an incidental reference to the question of immigration in relation to housing; but it was a perfectly legitimate observation which simply stated that it was not fit and proper for a government to bring, in uncontrolled numbers, people to this country when homes could not be found for them. To that extent, and to that extent only, have we of the Labour party in the Senate made reference to immigration as related to the censure motion now before us. I do not think anybody would dispute the assertion that in the great cities of Australia to-day numbers of immigrants are congested under the most indescribable living conditions because of the housing shortage. We claim to be a Christian country and to have a Christian attitude towards the welfare of the people. Therefore, I say that it is a crime to bring immigrants 10 this country to live under such conditions.

Senator McManus had something to say about a statement made by Mr. Chifley some considerable time ago, and about a statement that was made by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who was at that time, of course, the Minister Ibr Immigration in the Chifley Labour Government. It is perfectly true that such statements were made at the time, but I think that any person who could bring himself to a reasonable frame of mind and permit himself to assess conditions as they apply from time to time, would recognize that such statements were made in the first burst of enthusiasm that was associated with the intake of immigrants into this country. There is no need for me to remind Government senators that it was not the antiLabour parties that embarked on a wide and comprehensive immigration programme, but the party to which I belong. In the first flush of such a great task as bringing people to this country in great numbers, it is possible to make mistakes; it is possible to overlook the contingencies and troubles that might arise in the future if unrestricted immigration becomes the order of the day. The Australian Labour party, at least, has the facility to say that if it failed to foresee such circumstances in the past it can see them now; it has the courage and forthrightness to say that if the immigration programme has the effect of worsening the already serious unemployment situation in this country and also the position as it relates to the housing shortage we should, not only in the interests of the Australian people, but also in the interests of immigrants who are already here, say that there must be some re-assessment of the ^position, and that consideration should be given to the number of immigrants that we can take each year, having regard to the two factors that I have mentioned. I suggest that any criticism of such a proposal is ill-founded in the extreme, and not based in any way on reality.

I am sure that every member of the Senate agrees that this country needs immigrants, but we have to be careful that, in our enthusiasm to populate Australia as quickly as we may, we do not make mistakes that will be irreparable in the future. There is another danger to which we must give consideration. We have a small population, and if we engage upon an unrestricted programme of immigration there is a serious danger that we might lose our national characteristics. I believe that every honorable senator would agree that it is essential that we do not lose our traditions through an influx of people who hold different views and have known different ways ot life. I do not say that in a critical sense, but I say that this is a situation which must be closely watched by the Government.

Having established the fact that Senator McManus misled the Senate when he said that it was the intention of honorable senators on this side to make an issue of the immigration question as it applied to the amendment relating to housing, 1 now turn to the speech that was made by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator O’sullivan). I am glad that the Minister is in the chamber at the moment, because I have some very uncomplimentary things to say about him which I should like him to hear. Senator O’sullivan spoke last week during this debate. His speech was probably one of the most disgusting exhibitions that I have witnessed during the time that I have been a member of the Senate. I believe that those who sit behind him - if their expressions could be taken as a guide - were as acutely uncomfortable and as disgusted as senators on this side. An amendment was being debated by the Senate. Except for a brief, passing reference the Leader of the Government made no mention of the subject-matter of the amendment or of the Address-in-Reply. He went on with a diatribe against the

Australian Labour party. I feel that a legitimate observation was made by a senator on this side when he said that the Leader of the Government was reading his speech; anyway, he appeared to me to be reading it. Not only did he fail to refer to the amendment, but he also failed to deal in any shape or form with the AddressinReply. When this was related to his attitude in regard to dispensing with questions, he admitted that the amendment was a most important matter and that, in consequence, questions should not be allowed. Yet, he was not prepared to devote any more than about two minutes to the amendment. The rest of his time he spent in criticizing and vilifying my party. During the course of his statements, many of which were wild, and most of which were completely unfounded, he made some fantastic allegations. One of the most interesting was in respect to the federal conference of the Australian Labour party in Brisbane which, he said, was the second Brisbane line. That statement is interesting when we recall what was the first Brisbane line. The first Brisbane line, as most honorable senators know, was a hypothetical line drawn across the northern part of Australia during the regime of the previous Menzies Government. During the worst days of World War II., that Government was prepared to abandon the part of Australia north of that line to the invaders.

Senator O’sullivan:

– That statement is completely false.

Senator Maher:

– lt was debunked years ago.

Senator TOOHEY:

– By referring to the second Brisbane line, Senator O’sullivan admitted that there was a first Brisbane line.

Senator O’sullivan:

– That is bunkum.

Senator TOOHEY:

– If honorable senators will read the “ Hansard “ report of the Minister’s speech, they will see that he devoted most of his time to voicing wild, stupid, and unfounded criticism of the Australian Labour party’s federal conference in Brisbane. We have no objection to being criticized because, being the largest single political force in this country, whatever our party does is news. We are quite used to being unjustly criticized by the press, which is usually well disposed to the present Government. What we do expect from responsible Parliamentarians on the Government side is a better assessment of the position as it applies to the party 1 represent. To suggest that every move we make and every action we take is in some way associated with the Communists will be of the greatest assistance to the Communists. The Attorney-General made a very interesting statement in reply to a question I asked during his diatribe - I will not call it an address. I asked him how he could be sure that there was not a Communist cell among the Government members behind him, and he replied, “ I do not know “. What that meant, of course, was that he was not certain. I suppose, if we carried this atmosphere of suspicion, this climate of stupidity, far enough, we could start assessing whether Senator Hannaford is a Communist, and we could have a look at one of our newer Ministers, Senator Henty. We might suggest that he is a member of this Communist cell. Then, we might have a look at Senator Wright who might be regarded as an intellectual; and we know the Communist party likes intellectuals. That would make Senator Wright a natural for membership of this Communist cell. I am only using this illustration to show how stupid is this talk about communism. One of these days some one on the Government side with an adult mind will wake up. I think some of them are doing so now. I think they regret that some of the more intolerant members of their party are making these statements in regard to Communists. Quite frankly, most of them would not know what a Communist was like, even if they fell over one.

Senator O’sullivan:

– Explain the unity ticket.

Senator TOOHEY:

– I can tell the Leader of the Government that as far as the Australia Labour party is concerned, and as far as its federal authority is concerned, there are no unity tickets.

Senator O’sullivan:

– What about the one quoted to-night?

Senator TOOHEY:

– 1 am not interested in what was quoted here by Senator McManus, who had a lot to say about the Australian Labour party and nothing about the Government’s deficiencies, and for a very good reason. The statement he made, when reading allegedly from some document T did not see, is completely unsupported as far as I am concerned. As a consequence, I do not feel it is necessary at this stage to comment on what he said. There is plenty of time to do that.

I have only one more reference to make to remarkable speech of the Leader of the Government. He had something to say about gerrymandering by the Labour party. If he were to go to South Australia he would see classic examples of gerrymandering equal to any to be found anywhere in the world. The person responsible for them is the leader of the Liberal party in South Australia, Sir Thomas Playford. I suggest that the Minister visit that State and examine those examples for himself.

Senator O’sullivan:

– I did not use the word “ gerrymander “.

Senator TOOHEY:

– Yes, the Minister did. Returning now to the Speech of the Governor-General, I desire to refer to the subject of defence which I think is most important. A lot of criticism was levelled at the party I represent because, at its recent conference it deleted the clause of its policy relating to compulsory military training. What we said, in effect, was that this farce should cease. The Government is also learning the hard way that national service training is not only frightfully expensive but also in no way useful to the defence of this country. Facts prove that the attitude of the average young fellow to national service training is that it is a big joke; is something that stops him from playing football or from seeing his girl friend. He is not interested in the fact that it is intended to enable him to equip himself for the defence of this country. Millions of pounds have been thrown down the drain in financing this farcical type of military training. What we need to do is to make the armed forces of this country more attractive on an enlistment basis for the young men of this country. If we do that, we will find that it will not only be far cheaper than the present wasteful and useless compulsory military training, but also produce and equip a better type of young man for the defence of Australia. I should like to see some of the millions that have been wasted in this direction - and I use the word “ wasted “ advisedly - spent on civil defence. Senator Hannaford sounded a very timely note in the Senate when he spoke on the Governor-General’s Speech. He said that consideration ought to be given to civil defence preparations against a possible atomic attack.

If this country were attacked by a power using atomic weapons at any time within the next three years, the Government would not be able to give any consideration whatever to the protection of its citizens. Some of the money which we would save as the result of a complete cessation of the present farcical national service training scheme could well be spent in that direction. It is interesting to note that since 1950 the colossal amount of £361,000,000 has been spent on the Army. The Army to-day, in my opinion, is possibly the least important of the services. While we are spending millions on outmoded methods of warfare, as exemplified by the Army, at the same time, we are cutting down expenditure on one of the most essential of the services, the Air Force. In the State which I represent in the Senate, during the last twelve months 900 men have been dismissed from aircraft production factories. What has happened in South Australia has happened also in the other States. Highly skilled men, who have taken years to acquire the particular type of skill that is needed for aircraft construction, have been thrown on the labour market. They have been told that if this Government ever gets moving a pain in aircraft construction, which I doubt, because it has done nothing in the last twelve months, they will be re-employed. There is no future in that type of occupation. It is tragic that, &s a result of thi bungling and hopelessness of this Government in relation to the aircraft programme, ;he skill of all these men has been Jost to the country.

In the few moments left to me I want to say something about the amendment, that has been moved in regard to housing. A lot has been said in defence of the Government’s policy on housing, but one fact which the Government cannot escape is that the press of this country, which is usually kind to it and treats it with such consideration, has been united against it on this issue. In their editorials and special articles on this subject, the newspapers, for the first time in the last twelve months, have been completely united on a political issue and have been completely convinced that this Government has bungled the housing problem in this country. The comparison that has been made by Government senators to show what happened in regard to housing during the last year or two that the Chifley Labour Government Waa iii office is misleading and dishonest. At that time, the Chifley Government had on its shoulders all the great problems associated with post-war rehabilitation. When comparisons are made, they should relate to some feature of the situation that exists to-day. There is no doubt that the amendment, which highlights the inefficiency of the Government, expresses the viewpoint of the people of this nation.

Senator HENTY:
Minister for Customs and Excise · Tasmania · LP

– I join with honorable senators from both sides of the House who have taken the opportunity of this debate to renew and reaffirm our loyalty to our sovereign, Queen Elizabeth the Second. I join also with my predecessors in this debate in congratulating the mover and seconder of the motton. They are two of the newer senators on the Government side, and I felt that they acquitted themselves remarkably well in their speeches. I join, wholeheartedly, with senators on this side of the House in rejecting the amendment moved by the Opposition. I am not interested in the rights or wrongs of the matter or in who is to blame for the present housing situation. At the outset I say, with great emphasis, that the Menzies Government has a great record in housing and in providing the States with finance to build houses. It is a record of which I am proud. Since the Menzies Government has been in office, 388,000 houses have been built and the lag of 250,000 that existed when this Government was elected has been reduced to 105,000. I do not read those figures complacently. The Government does not suggest that it could not do better, and it intends to make every effort to improve that record. Nevertheless, what has been achieved is a cause for justifiable pride on the part of the Government.

In the matter of war service homes the Government has a splendid achievement to its credit. In the last seven years it has built 90,775 war service homes. That is a greater number of houses of this type than was built by all other governments since World War I. If that is not a record for this Government to be proud of, I do not know what is. However, the Government does not regard that achievement with complacency either, and will try to better it. The greater part of this debate has revolved around the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on housing, but I direct the attention of honorable senators to the fact that at no time did the Prime Minister suggest that the Government could not do better in regard to housing.

I wish to reply to several points raised by honorable senators opposite. Oddly enough, Senator Toohey, to whom I wish particularly to reply, has left the chamber. I noticed that when he rose to speak he said that he wished to reply to remarks that Senator McManus had made, and he twitted Senator McManus for leaving the chamber before he had an opportunity to reply to him. Now, blow me down, if this bloke has not gone out of the House, too! What do you know? Senator Toohey spent the whole of his time on what he described as “ this immensely important amendment “ in having a dog-fight with his own opposition party, the Anti-Communist Labour party. He then engaged in a dogfight with the Leader of the Government (Senator O’sullivan), and ultimately did not spend even three minutes on the “ tremendously important amendment “ which the Labour party has put forward to cloud discussion on the Governor-General’s Speech. Senator Toohey said, “ In the last few moments of my address I will now refer to the amendment “. The honorable senator criticized Senator O’sullivan for not devoting the whole of his speech to housing.

Senator BYRNE:
QUEENSLAND · ALP; QLP from 1957; DLP from 1968

– He said that he could not spend more than two minutes on it.

Senator HENTY:

– That is so. and Senator Toohey did not spend more than a couple of minutes on it himself. It is a grand thing to be able to see ourselves as others see us, and I shall take the opportunity of sending Senator Toohey a copy of my speech and directing his attention to what I said about senators going out of the chamber.

Senator Willesee:

– The honorable senator had better make a start or his time will have expired.

Senator HENTY:

– I will make a start, all right, because I want to reply to one or two things that Senator Willesee said.

Senator Willesee:

– I ask the Minister to hurry because I want to go out.

Senator HENTY:

– This discussion has related largely to methods for overcoming the lag in the construction of houses; According to the departmental report which Senator Spooner read, that lag is 105,000. Honorable senators opposite say that the lag can be overcome simply by providing finance. Honorable senators on the Government side rebut that argument, and say that it cannot be overcome simply by supplying finance; that the available materials and labour must also be taken into account. We argue that, by providing finance only, there is a danger of reviving the vast inflation in respect of housing that has had to be dealt with in recent years.

If anything has been misrepresented in this debate it is the comments of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) which were first taken up by the press. Then the Opposition jumped on the bandwagon and tried to use the press criticism of the Prime Minister’s speech as the basis for a censure motion against the Government. The Opposition, however, has had few facts to support its arguments. I shall read what the Prime Minister said on 7th March, at the conclusion of his remarks on housing. These sentences were highlighted by the press. He said -

We’ve been engaged in a very close analysis of these matters with our advisers whom we met subsequently in Cabinet and myself as recently as this morning. We are still working on them.

That is the most significant part of the Prime Minister’s remarks, because it has been taken for granted that since the Government has a fine record in housing it has ceased to be interested in the subject. Nothing is farther from the truth. I thoroughly agree with the arguments put forward by my colleague, Senator Vincent, who dealt with this subject very effectively. If additional finance is needed it will be made available, but only in relation to materials and labour which can be used in the building of more houses.

I wish to deal with some of the mistakes that have been made in regard to this matter. I do not wish to lay the blame at the door of the States, but 1 hope that these mistakes will not be repeated.

The first one to which I refer is the locking up of an immense amount of money in the purchase of acres and acres of land which will not be needed for the building of houses for years to come. The States have locked up many hundreds of thousands of pounds in that way. I have noted with great pleasure that Victoria is offering some blocks for sale in order to obtain sufficient cash to get houses built. I think it is a great mistake to try to look too far ahead and to lock up capital which can be used for providing more houses. 1 hope that mistake will not be repeated in any future housing agreements.

Secondly, for a long time the socialist States would not sell houses to people who wanted to buy them. They were bound by the Dedman philosophy about the creation of little capitalists. If they had let the people into the houses upon the payment of a low deposit, the payments made over the years could have been utilized to build more houses. Instead ot new capital having to be injected into the housing field, a lot of the moneyinvolved could have been recirculated and have helped to overcome the problem.

Thirdly, surely the time has arrived when the narrow and ill-advised rent controls that are in existence in some of the States could be reviewed. In any fair analysis of the problem, such controls must be seen to be largely responsible for the locking up of so many houses. I know many people - they do not live in Toorak and such places, as has been suggested by the Opposition - whose families have grown up, whose husbands or wives are dead, who have a big house which they would let if they could obtain a reasonable rental for it, and who would take a smaller house and thus let a big family occupy the larger house. Many of them could build small houses for themselves. But under the system of rent control, they cannot get enough rent for the larger house to keep it in decent repair. Rent controls have led to the creation of the greatest race of parasites this nation has ever seen - people who get a house. divide it, let rooms, obtain exorbitant rentals for them, and then let the property go to ruin.

Senator Kennelly:

– In what State does that happen?

Senator HENTY:

-I think Victoria provides the worst example I have ever seen.

Senator Kennelly:

– But those conditions do not operate, because either the owner or the tenant can go to the fair rents court.

Senator HENTY:

– Let the honorable senator have another look at the definition of “ business undertakings “ and he will realize that he is off the beam.I repeat that, in my opinion, Victoria provides the worst example.I now wish to refer to some of the statements made by Senator Willesee. He makes a very interesting speech and I always like to listen to him. On this occasion, I listened with great interest to what he said. He said that in Western Australia building costs had declined by 20 per cent.I do not think that is to the discredit of the Government; butI should have thought that, with the money that has been made available by the Commonwealth to that State, it could have built 120 houses where formerly it built 100. I should have thought that the money would have gone much further if building costs were 20 per cent. lower. Perhaps that is one of the reasons why Western Australia is better served with houses than some of the other States.

Then, quite wrongly I thought, the honorable senator tried to tie up that fact with the unemployment situation in Western Australia, the blame for which he tried to attribute directly to the Commonwealth Government. Of course, he never mentioned that this Government gave to the Premier of that State an additional £2,000,000 to help him out of a situation for which he largely was responsible. Private enterprise is the largest employer in Western Australia, as it is throughout Australia. In spite of that, the Western Australian Premier attempted to have placed on the statute-book the most pernicious piece of legislation ever to have been introduced in peace-time in Australia. I refer to his attempt to establish a profit-limiting commission against whose decisions there would be no appeal. The sense of the Legislative

Council came to bear on the situation and the legislation was modified; but that had nothing to do with Premier Hawke, because the bill he introduced clearly demonstrated what he had in mind. I repeat that private enterprise is the greatest employer of labour, but do honorable senators opposite think that private enterprise is interested in investment in Western Australia? Premier Hawke assumed office when the State was at its zenith, but within a short period of two or three years he has driven out private enterprise and has almost brought industrial development to a standstill. I repeat that this Government provided £2,000,000 to help him out of the mess in which he found himself, but Senator Willesee did not have the decency to refer to that. No private enterprise group in the eastern States has the slightest interest in Western. Australia, andI do not blame them in the slightest degree.

Senator Willesee:

– Has the Minister heard of the American Chase group that has come to Western Australia?

Senator HENTY:

– I have heard it rumoured on the Bourse that new industry can make its deal with the Labour government of that State; but the Premier has existing industry there and intends to clamp down on it. I do not like that kind of thing.

When I was in Western Australia recently. I discovered one other thing that was of great interest. To bolster up the State brickworks and State timber-mills, which cannot compete with private enterprise, the Premier has had inserted in all public works contracts a clause which makes it mandatory for all contractors to the Government to purchase bricks and timber from the State works. People wonder why private enterprise is not interested in that State. I was interested, too, in the speech delivered by Senator Benn. One or two of his points were very good.

Senator Willesee:

– May I leave the chamber now?

Senator HENTY:

– You may please yourself, laddie. I always thought that you were a man and would like to learn a bit. I suggest that you wait a little longer. Senator Benn referred to housing in other countries, particularly Germany. Many times I have enthusiastically stressed what has been done in other countries and have directed attention to the great incentive that has been given by the Adenauer Government. It told industry that any part of its profits which was invested in housing projects would be tax-free, with the result that Germany is now able to house its people under much better conditions than obtain in any other country, lt is good to see private enterprise respond in that way.

I wish to refute what I thought was a very stupid reference by Senator Benn to the present lot of the Australian worker. The other day I. had the great pleasure of visiting Dandenong, a suburb of Melbourne, where I saw, perhaps, some of the greatest development that has taken place in Australia - fine factories, with workers working under splendid conditions, and canteens which would compare with anything of their kind in the world. Coming out of one of those factories just at 5 p.m., as the workers were knocking off, I had the great pleasure of joining a queue of cars making their way from the factory to the Dandenongroad. Two policemen were on point duty there to direct cars from the factories into that road. I thought what a great advertisement it was for the exploitation of the Australian worker by the enlightened Australian capitalist. I thought what a magnificent film could be made of this dynamic, creative capitalism of Australia, what it has done for the Australian workers, the standard of living it has given to them, when I saw all of those fellows, not in ones or twos but in hundreds - almost 1,000 - driving the cars they owned. That is a grand thing and it is a grand country in which that sort of thing happens. Two policemen directed them on their way home every day at 5 p.m.

Senator Grant:

– It is an isolated case.

Senator HENTY:

– The honorable senator does not like that sort of thing. That is why so many of the workers are forsaking the socialists - I beg your pardon, the democratic socialists - opposite. So many of the workers are forsaking the cause of the democratic socialists, who are pledged to the nationalization of industry and banking and resistance to courtcontrolled ballots, who are supporters of Communist-rigged ballots, who are opposed to compulsory military training and to a sound immigration policy. Even in this debate Senator Armstrong has come out of his monastic silence to criticize our immigration policy, for initiating which I have always given great credit to the Australian Labour party. At last, they are forsaking what, 1 believe, was one of the greatest things they have done for this country. Since the Hobart conference, we had not heard from Senator Armstrong; until this debate he has been silent. 1 do not know what has taken place, but there we are.

Having seen those workers, their conditions, and their motor cars, I can understand why they are forsaking the Australian Labour party, lt is a bleak and dreary day for the Opposition. I do not think that it will be back in government for the next 30 years, the way it is going. Honorable senators opposite are opposed to the home defence of this country. They favour a ditching of our allies in Seato. They want to bring our boys back from Malaya. They want to weaken our population by reducing immigration. All they are offering in place of these things are the fleshpots an abolition of the means test, free health services, and increased social services, lt is a reversion to the conditions that existed during the last decades of the Roman Empire, when its political leaders, after having killed initiative and stifled all enterprise, presented a morally softened people as an easy prey to invaders from the north. Is that the real policy behind the Brisbane conference? Is that the real purpose behind the lamentable policies which emanated from the Brisbane conference? The people of Australia are rejecting this democratic socialist nonsense, because they can see the vast development that is taking place here.

We are on the brink of the greatest industrial development that we have ever seen. Why? I put it down to two factors: First, we have an intelligent work force of sturdy independent men and women who can think for themselves, and that is a tremendous asset in any country, and, secondly, we have the cheapest and the best steel in the world. These two factors combined will make this country one of the greatest manufacturing nations in the world. I have listened to that great American industrialist from the Lincoln Electric Company. He said, “ I am not talking through my neck. I have factories in every part of the world, and the men in my Australian factory give me better results than I get anywhere else. You have the cheapest steel and, with sane government, nothing can stop you; and you have sane government “. The only thing 1 deplore is that in this great industrial development the British have been so slow to realize the potentialities of Australia; much of our industrial potential which has been coming from overseas has not come from Great Britain.

I was greatly interested to read a speech in the House of Lords by Lord Crookshank who recently returned to Great Britain from Australia, in which he berated the British industrialists. He said -

You are missing your opportunities in Australia. You have lcl the other fellows in. Il is lime that you became more conversant wilh the vast development that is taking place in that country. It is time thai you gol out 10 Australia, had a look, and placed your money there.

Britain has investments all over the world.

Senator Kennelly:

– Had them.

Senator HENTY:

– Yes, she had them; and she has seen them crumble one after another, and she has lost them all. The worst that could happen in Australia would be for the Australian Labour party to get into power and nationalize industry; but at least the industry would still be in Australia.

I want to point to the great economic development which has taken place in Australia during the last twelve months. I have a collection of speeches which Senator McKenna has made on the subject of the economic crisis that was just around the corner under our Government. He has been going on for years. I have quite a collection of his speeches now and it will be interesting to quote from them one of these days, because the economic crisis still has not come and we are now seeing our overseas balances being greatly increased. ( am not one to give credit to the Government because the price of wool has increased. That price has been of great assistance, but there are other heartening factors in this particular facet. We are not only selling more primary products at higher prices, but are also at last breaking into the field of export from secondary industry. Australian cars are being sold in Singapore, Malaya, Hong Kong, and New Zealand. Great works are being built in India of steel supplied by Australia. It is heartening, indeed, to see secondary industry coming to the assistance of the great primary industries of Australia which have, in the years gone by, provided every penny of the money we have paid for imports. Australia owes a tremendous debt to the primary producers, because without them we could not have existed during the last decade. It is a healthy sign that our economy is being spread; more and more profitable exports from secondary industry are now joining the exports from our great primary industries. I have the greatest faith in Australia. Those who advocate a reduction of our intake of immigrants do Australia a great disservice. As we develop, we have a greater treasure to hold, and we shall not hold it unless we have others to help us.

Senator ASHLEY:
The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty · New South Wales/ [10.31].

, who has just resumed his seat, did not see fit to affirm his loyalty to Queen Elizabeth the Second, so I suppose that at this late hour I shall be excused for not doing so. I have a record of public service to Australia, and I do not believe that there will be any question of my loyalty.

Senator Henty:

– I rise to order. Did’ Senator Ashley say that I did not affirm my loyalty to Queen Elizabeth the Second? If he said that he is out of order, because I did so affirm my loyalty.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Anderson). - Order! What is the Minister’s point of order?

Senator Henty:

– I shall make further reference to it at an appropriate time.

Senator ASHLEY:

– The Minister for Customs and Excise has stated that he did affirm his loyalty to the Queen. I did not hear him. He must have spoken in a very low tone of voice, and that is unusual for him.

Senator Henty:

– As Senator Ashley apparently has withdrawn, his statement, I shall not make a personal explanation.

Senator ASHLEY:

– Many, skeletons have been taken out of the cupboard to-night. We have even had confirmation of “ the Brisbane line “. There has been much com-, ment about dissension in political affairs.

I judge from press reports that dissension is not limited to the Opposition. One report is headed -


Liberal Minister says there is a Housing Crisis.

The Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) stated last night that there was a housing crisis, thereby contradicting the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies).

That indicates that there has been some dissension in the Government parties. The major contribution to the lag in the housing programme in Australia is the brake that has been put on credit. It was too severe to enable construction to keep pace with inflated costs. Only 63,000 houses and flats were under construction in June, 1956, compared with 86,000 at the end of June, 1951. An outlay of £215,000,000 was necessary to finance the commencement of 73,000 houses and flats in 1955-56. In 1950-51, only £166,000,000 was required to commence the considerably larger total of houses and flats in that year. Last year, £49,000,000 more than was required in 1951 was needed, but, despite that huge increase, £35,000,000 more would have been required to bring the number of houses commenced to the same level as 1950-51. That indicates the inflated condition of the currency.

Homes have been placed beyond the reach of the average wage-earner because of the Government’s encouragement of high interest rates and inflation. The alarming revelation by the Australian Commonwealth Statistician of the number of homes built in 1956 is a scathing indictment of the Commonwealth Government’s monetary policy. The responsibility for the grave housing position in Australia rests squarely upon the shoulders of the Menzies-Fadden Government. It is useless for the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to practise his usual technique of figure mesmerization. He has successfully deceived the Senate in the past with this technique. The farcically designated Minister for National Development can only cite figures and tell the thousands of persons living in sub-standard emergency accommodation that all will be well in the sweet by and by.

In June last year, the Minister heatedly denied my charges that the Commonwealth Government’s policy would mean a reduction in the housing programme. That statement was based upon the reduced allocation of funds for the States, a reduction of 20 per cent, in the first year and 30 per cent, in the next year. The money so deducted was to be allocated to the co-operative building societies. In fact, arrangements have been made to allocate only £1,000,000. That indicates that if the money had been available, particularly in Queensland where 400 breadwinners have lost their employment, the position might have been improved. In New South Wales, an attempt is being made to finance the builders so that they may carry on their work until an allocation is made in the next financial year.

I take no exception to the allocation to the co-operative building societies, but I point out that they have not the machinery that was at the disposal of the Housing Commission in New South Wales. The Housing Commission had the plant and the material and everything needed to continue with its housing plan. The reduction of funds meant that the Housing Commission could not build as many homes as it had planned.

Meanwhile, the Government has continued is immigration programme. I have no objection to the immigration policy. As a matter of fact, the previous Labour Government should get full credit for the part played by its Minister for Immigration, Mr. Calwell, in launching the programme. One of the major contributing factors to the present position is, undoubtedly, the restriction of finance.

I wish to deal briefly with the way in which this Government has manipulated funds and used them for the purposes of Government loans and so on. I remind the Senate that pay-roll tax was imposed originally for the purpose of obtaining part of the finance required for child endowment. A perusal of page 602 of the “ Year Book “ for 1955 will disclose that under the Pay-roll Tax Assessment Act 1941-1942, tax at the rate of 2i per cent, was imposed on all incomes in excess of £20 a week.

Honorable senators will remember that in 1945-46 the Chifley Labour Government introduced a social services tax for the purpose of financing its health plan and other social services. Until 1953, the moneys collected under that heading were paid into the National Welfare Fund; and at the end of that year, that fund had a credit balance of £186,000,000. The Government became alarmed at the huge credit being built up in that fund. In the year 1950-51, it merged the social services tax with individual income tax. In the last year of the social services tax, 1949-50, £100,000,000 was collected under this heading as against a collection of £95,000,000 by way of individual income tax. Last year, the amalgamated social services tax and individual income tax returned £387,000,000 to the Government; and I think it would be fair to say that had the collections been made separately, as they were in 1949-50, the amount contributed by way of social services tax would have been £200,000,000. The amount collected by way of pay-roll tax in 1955-56 was £45,000,000. So, in all, the Government had £245,000,000 with which to pay for social services amounting to £215,000,000. It, therefore, had a surplus of £30,000,000. During the intervening years, the Government had accumulated a total surplus of £250,000,000 from revenue collected by way of social service tax and pay-roll tax.

In June, 1956, the Commonwealth Government raised a loan of £100,000,000 the proceeds of which amounted to £92,700,000. The whole of that money came from Commonwealth sources. The sum of £61,000,000 came from the Consolidated Loan and Investment Account, £10,700,000 from the National Debt Sinking Fund, £6,400,000 from the Canadian Loan Trust Account and £13,900,000 from General Trust Funds. Of that total amount, the States received £48,600,000 for their loan programmes whilst £8,300,000 was allocated to war service land settlement and £3,100,000 was utilized for emergency wheat storage. Advances to the States amounted to £32,700,000. Of a loan of £49,000,000 to the States, £40,000,000 was made available for a short term at 3$ per cent, while the balance of £9,000,000 was loaned at 5 per cent. Thus, it will be seen that the huge surpluses accumulated from taxation taken from the people have been lent back to the State governments and the taxpayers of the country have been required to pay interest on money which they have already contributed to the Commonwealth Government by way of taxation for special purposes.

The amount collected by way of social services tax in 1953-54 was £394,000,000. Again, I suggest that it is fair to assume that £200,000,000 of that sum would represent what was paid formerly by way of social services contribution. The point I emphasize is that these huge surpluses indicate either that taxation is too heavy, thai pay-roll tax should be abolished or there should be a considerable reduction in taxation generally.

I come now to the housing programme. Owing to the restrictive policy of the Menzies-Fadden Administration, last year’s building figures were the lowest since 1951. Yet, we have the spectacle of brickworks closing down and over 80 saw-mills ceasing operations in New South Wales alone. There is now 80,000,000 super, feet of timber stacked in New South Wales. The president of the Sawmillers Association, when giving evidence a couple of weeks ago before the fact-finding committee set up by the Australian Labour party, said that he was prepared to take the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), or the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), or any one else and show them 80,000,000 super, feet of timber stacked in that State.

Senator Sheehan:

– They will not go and look at it.

Senator ASHLEY:

– No. They do not want to see it. Both the Prime Minister and the Minister for National Development have denied that there is a crisis in the building industry; but this is not the first time that the Minister for National Development has denied that a crisis has existed in an industry. A few months ago. he had the audacity to declare that there was no crisis in the coal-mining industry. Yet, at that time thousands of men had lost their employment in the industry as a result of the maladministration of this Government and the control it exercised over the Joint Coal Board. There was a definite crisis in the coal-mining industry.

Senator Vincent:

– They have been reemployed.

Senator ASHLEY:

– It is all very well foi Senator Vincent to say that they have been re-employed. How would he like to have to leave his home and go to another State in order to obtain employment? Recently, the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) posed certain questions to the New South Wales Government, through the press, because that Government had complained of a shortage of money for home-building. The honorable senator abandoned, temporarily, his technique of bluster and bounce. He asked why the president of the co-operative building societies had stated that housing costs in New South Wales had placed homes beyond the reach of the average wageearner. I have endeavoured to answer that question. He asked, also, why New South Wales was constructing proportionately fewer houses than other States. Both the Premier of New South Wales and the Minister of Housing in that State have denied the implication. I do not think that it is right for Senator Spooner to ask such questions unless he is able to substantiate the implications that they contain.

According to last Saturday’s press, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) said recently that he had no doubt that credit would be eased sufficiently to enable the building trade to be fully occupied. As we know, Mr. Cramer fell into disgrace for contradicting the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in relation to the housing crisis. In an effort to make his marble good again, he apparently took it upon himself to. make this statement in order to save the Prime Minister and the Minister for National Development from the ignominy of having to say that, as a result of the pressure that has been brought to bear through press criticism, more money will be made available for home-building.

Mr. Cramer also directed attention to the fact that each of about 40,000 homes is occupied by only one person. Some honorable senators opposite have also referred to that matter during this debate, lt has been implied that the surplus accommodation in those homes should be made available to people who need it. Do honorable senators opposite believe that the Government should have power to decide by whom such houses shall be occupied? Do they envisage the establishment of a bureaucratic organization with power to decide whether a bachelor shall be provided with a room at a spinster’s home, or vice versa, or that certain families shall be accommodated in the 40,000 homes that I have mentioned? As we know, a man’s home is his castle. This is true equally in relation to a home occupied by a spinster. No government should have power to determine by whom homes shall be occupied. In many instances, large homes are occupied by elderly couples whose children have grown up, married, . and established homes of their own. Do supporters of the Government really believe that other people should be packed into those homes? If that were done, we should see an extension of the practice that prevails in some of the industrial suburbs of the capital cities to-day; of 30 or 40 southern European immigrants living in one house. They even sleep in the beds in shifts.

When attention was first directed to the acute housing crisis, the Commonwealth Government endeavoured to pass the buck on to the States. Housing is a national, not a State, responsibility. Action at the national level is required to overcome it. As I said earlier this week, in order to improve the housing situation, there should be a financial blood transfusion. A national housing trust should be established, and its activities financed by means of a national homes loan guaranteed by the Commonwealth Bank. The Government should make available to the trust, at a low rate of interest, a proportion of the huge funds that it has at its command.

I believe that one of the fundamental causes of the present housing crisis is the high rate of interest that is charged on housing loans. A house that cost £1,500 to build in 1951 would now cost more than double that amount. Every effort should be made to ensure that the people can obtain homes. During World War II., the community subscribed readily to war loans and supported the war savings certificate scheme. I am convinced that the people would readily, respond to an appeal to invest money in a public loan for housing purposes. Many people - not only young couples - are in need of homes. They are living in fowlhouses, shanties, garages, and other substandard accommodation. The Government, in order to encourage good citizenship, should provide more money for housing. It can make its greatest contribution to society by enabling the people to obtain a stake in their own country.

Debate interrupted.

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The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin). - Order! In .conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, 1 formally put the question -

That the Senate do now adjourn.


.- 1 understand that the Government desires that the debate shall go on for another quarter of an hour to-night. That being so, and looking into the future, outside the House, we agree.

Question resolved in the negative.

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Debate resumed.

Western Australia

– I rise to support the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. 1 congratulate my colleagues, Senator Hannan and Senator Wade, on the very fine speeches which they delivered in moving and seconding the motion. I join with other honorable senators in their expressions of our loyalty to the Throne and to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. I should like to express my loyalty to the British Commonwealth of Nations, which, 1 am sure we are all glad to know, is gradually expanding. We welcome to it the new African State of Ghana.

The first subject on which His Excellency touched in his Speech was the constitutional aspect of the relations between the two Houses of this Parliament - a very important subject. I join with Senator Wright and Senator Anderson in expressing the opinion that a great deal of work will be required to be done before that problem is finally solved. The committee which was appointed last year to consider the problem did a great deal of fine work. 1 hope that it will be re-appointed this year and that it will bring at least some of the work to a satisfactory conclusion.

I am sure that the improved state of our economy is a cause of great gratification to all of us. There is a prospect of a generous lifting of the import restrictions, which would be very welcome. To a State such as Western Australia, which is largely dependent upon the importation of raw materials and goods, the restrictions have been unduly hard. As a matter of fact, they have been ruinous to many small businesses.

It is a matter for congratulation that our export trade has been expanded and that we have a number of new markets overseas. A tribute should be paid to the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) for his part in negotiating the excellent new trade agreement with the United Kingdom that was signed quite recently. It is an agreement that will benefit not only our manufacturing industries and our export trade, but also our primary producers.

The promise of the Government that the bank credit restrictions will be lifted is very heartening. The severity of the bank squeeze certainly has had a bad effect, especially on housing, which is still a very serious problem. The Opposition has tried to make out that there is a housing crisis, but that is extravagant language. There is a housing problem, but 1 express my complete surprise that the Opposition has chosen to attack the Government on the subject of housing. Most of the honorable senators on the Government side who have spoken in this debate have contrasted the situation that existed in 1949, when, under a Labour government, there was an estimated shortage of 250,200 houses, with the position in June, 1956, when the shortage had been reduced to 1 15,350 houses - an improvement of 134,850 houses. The percentage improvement per head of population in Western Australia was far greater than in any other State. In Western Australia the sum being provided per head of population for home-building by the State Government and under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement was £8.3. In South Australia, it was £7.8; in Tasmania. £7.6; in Victoria, £4.2; in Queensland, £3.4; and in New South Wales, £3.2.

The housing shortage in Western Australia is not so severe as it is in the larger States. Let me quote from “ The West Australian”, of 12th March, 1957, which expressed the opinion on this subject of those who should know - that is, those who are interested in the building industry. The quotation is as follows: -

More loan money could be used readily in this State for home-building but credit restrictions are not affecting us as seriously as the Eastern States, which are clamouring for the relaxation of existing controls.

The next paragraph is significant. It is -

Leaders in the building industry in this State consider that the housing position is now steady and that the current rate of building will almost keep pace with need.

That is contrary to some of the statements on housing that have been made by Opposition speakers. I believe that the record of the Menzies-Fadden Government in connexion with housing is very good. Advances to the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement in 1955-56 amounted to £33,200,000, compared with £17,200,000 in 1949-50, the last year of office of the Chifley Government. During the five years that ended on 30th June, 1956, the Menzies-Fadden Government made available to the States under that agreement £156,000,000. During the last five years of office of the Chifley Government, in which Dr. Evatt participated, federal advances to the States were approximately £63,000,000.

This Government has liberalized the housing policy in several ways. First, a scheme for the sale of houses on terms - a minimum deposit of 5 per cent., a maximum advance of £2,750, and an interest rate of 4i per cent, per annum - was introduced in 1955. Secondly, in 1954-55 the Commonwealth agreed to provide annually up to £1,500,000 for assistance on a £l-for-£l basis to approved organizations building homes for the aged. Thirdly, war service homes expenditure has been raised from £14.600,000 in 1949-50 to over £30,000,000 in recent years. The maximum advance for building purposes was raised from £2,000 to £2,750 in 1951, and a similar increase was made for the purchase of existing properties in 1954.

During the five years from 1945-46 to 1949-50, the total sum provided by the Commonwealth for housing, including payments under the war service homes legislation and under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement as well as payments for houses in Federal Territories, was £106,500,000. During the subsequent fiveyear period, this Government provided no less than £329,000,000 for housing, or three times as much as was allocated by the Labour government in the preceding fiveyear period. In addition, Commonwealth Bank agencies have provided housing finance to the extent of £185,000,000 since 1944, of which £100,000,000 has been provided in the last five years.

That wonderful record of this Government will not suggest to thinking people that there is a housing crisis. Nevertheless, we all realize that housing presents a problem. It is impossible to inject 1,000,000 people into our economy, so to speak, without causing disturbances in some places. Adequate housing, of course, is immediately needed when a great increase in population occurs. It is rather intriguing to contrast the attitude of the Opposition to-day with its attitude a few years ago. To-day, it is anxious to see that everybody owns a house: but honorable senators well remember when a prominent Labour Minister made the astonishing statement that he did not want workers to own their homes because that would make them little capitalists. Only the other day, in another place, an Opposition member said that everybody would agree that the best Australian citizen is the man who works and buys his home. Of course, that is what the Menzies-Fadden Government believes. It believes that it is a good thing for a person to have a stake in the country. However, I ask honorable senators to consider the attitude of the Opposition to-day in contrast to its attitude when it was in power, when it was not anxious to make a home available to workers because they might become little capitalists.

Let me remind honorable senators that socialism means something different from a person owning his home. The countries that have tried socialism have collective ownership of farms, houses and properties, with the State owning all. Until that part of the Labour party which is now advocating democratic socialism explains to us just what such socialism really means, we must be forgiven if we adopt our own views on the matter. From my reading of history there has been only one logical end to socialism; it has been either fascism or communism. In Russia and its satellite countries we have all the evidence we need, and it is not surprising to hear of rebellions of the peoples who have suffered under so-called socialism. “ Labour in transition “ Dr. Burton has aptly called the Opposition party. To-day, it seems to be groping for a title that is palatable; but the Australian people will not be deluded by the nebulous and fantastic title which the Labour party has now given to itself. Refugees from Europe, new Australians who have come to us from overseas and have lived in countries where socialism has been tried, and where it has ended in fascism or communism, will not rush into trade unions here when they discover that the policy of the Labour party is democratic socialism. It is a case of once bitten, twice shy. They have come in search of freedom, and they do not intend to let that freedom slip from their hands in this land of golden opportunities.

Russia’s experiment in Marxist socialism ended in communism. Germany’s experiment led to fascism and gave to us that man of horrible memory, Hitler, and also the inhuman annihilation of thousands of innocent people who suffered because they would not become socialists. It also originated a war in which many of our finest Australians gave their lives fighting against an iniquitous system. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later date.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

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Telephone Services

Motion (by Senator O’sullivan) proposed -

That the Senate do now adjourn.

Western Australia

– I direct attention to a matter which affects the Postmaster-General’s Department. All honorable senators will remember, I am sure, that last year the Government decided to introduce a new charge in connexion with telephone services, namely, a £10 special charge for the connexion of a new telephone service. I should have thought that by this time the Minister would have made a recommendation to his Cabinet, and that a measure would have been introduced to amend what has obviously turned out to be a very bad mistake.

In a moment or two, I shall quote what the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) said when this charge was introduced. I am perfectly sure that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) did not know exactly what was required to be done by the department when he got the Treasurer to write this item into the budget speech delivered last year.

Obviously, it has turned out to be very distasteful and completely unfair in its working, and the department itself has no relish in carrying it out. I am afraid, however, that it is one of those things which, because it is on the statute-book, nobody is moving to have removed. I shall read what the Treasurer said in his budget speech, and then ask the Minister whether he agrees that what was said is being applied to-day. The relevant words of the Treasurer’s speech were as follows: -

It is also proposed to charge a service connexion fee of £10 for each new telephone service provided. The average cost incurred by the department in providing equipment and line work for a new telephone service is more than £250 and new subscribers make no direct contribution to this capital outlay.

I say in fairness that that is meant to apply to people who have a new service connected for the first time. I do not even agree that that is a sound practice, but that is not the point to which I direct attention to-night. In order to be quite fair, I intend to quote more of what the Treasurer said; but what is happening now, because of the way this provision is being interpreted, is that if a person buys a new home in a new suburb and has a telephone connected he has to pay a fee of £10. Also, if a person who has been a telephone subscriber for the whole of his adult life, sells his home and moves into another house and desires a telephone connected, he is charged a connexion fee. In this respect, I shall quote from the budget speech, but I do not think this was intended to apply to a case such as I have just mentioned. The Treasurer said -

The Government has decided that, in future, subscribers should make a contribution to the cost of installing or removing a telephone line-

I underline the word “ line “ - to another address.

Obviously, what is meant there is that when a telephone is being removed to an area where substantial line construction has been necessary, the subscriber should make some contribution. However, the position at present is that if one person sells a house in which there is a telephone and advises the department of the fact, the handset is undipped and disconnected. Ten minutes later, the new occupier of the house may come in and say, “ I want to keep that telephone “. If so, it will cost him £10 to have it connected, although the point for it may still be intact in the house. If, on the other hand, he comes in ten minutes before the mechanic arrives to take away the handset and makes his request, it will not cost him the £10. In fairness to the Minister and the department, I do not think it was ever intended that that should be so. They were worried about the capital cost of constructing telephones and they felt that the person who had been sitting back for years and suddenly decided he wanted a telephone should be charged a cash fee. It was never intended, surely, that any person who had been a telephone subscriber for perhaps 30 years, if he moved from one house to another, should be charged that fee. It is also applied to people who have been waiting years for a telephone. Because of the official delay in supplying them with a telephone they now face this extra charge. Although I feel that the increase of £1 a year in telephone rentals which was provided for in the last budget was a very modest increase because of the increased costs faced by the department as a result of inflation over the years, I think it is about time that the Postmaster-General reviewed the necessity for, and the justice of the installation fee of £10.I am sure that this charge has been imposed in a routine fashion by the department, and has not been properly brought to the PostmasterGeneral’s notice. I think that once it had been brought to its notice he would take the necessary action. Probably the worst feature of this matter is that it constitutes a complete misleading of the House of Representatives and the Senate in that we were given to understand that the charge was to apply to new telephones only, whereas we now find that it is to apply also to removals of telephones. It is even to apply to cases where the removal of the telephone involves only the unclipping of the instrument. I ask the Minister for Repatriation to bring this matter to the attention of the PostmasterGeneral.

Senator COOPER:
Minister for Repatriation · Queensland · CP

– I have been very interested in the remarks of Senator Willesee, and I assure him thatI will bring them to the notice of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson).

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Senate adjourned at 11.22 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 March 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.