24th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the attention of the Minister for National Development been directed to an article in yesterday’s Sydney “ Sun “ which is headed “ U.S. Oil Bids a Worry “ and which states that the Federal Government is concerned at the large-scale American buying of Australian oil shares and that hundreds of thousands of shares have left the country? If these statements are true, in view of the vital importance of oil to Australia’s future development will the Minister, on behalf of the Government, table a full report for discussion by the Senate?
– I am sorry to have to say that I am not prepared to answer a question of such importance without notice. When I have information to communicate to the Senate, I shall pass it on.
– In view of the very great importance to Australia of the recent discovery of oil, I ask the Minister for National Development whether he has received any information about the second stratum of oil that has been found in the Moonie No. 2 well, which is being drilled by a company in which Australian Oil and Gas Corporation Limited has an interest. If he has, can he communicate any of it to the Senate?
– I can answer the question only in general terms. When I answered a question on this subject about a week ago, I said that we must possess ourselves in patience to see whether indications of the presence of oil were repeated at the 5,800-ft. level, that being the level at which indications were found in the Moonie No. 1 well. During the week-end the company told me that on reaching the 5,800-ft. level, it had again encountered oil-bearing sands. That, of course, is of very great significance. It leads to a pretty clear inference that there are two oil deposits in that area.
– Was there a flow from the second level?
– No. There has been no testing. The company announced that it had received information that at this level there were oil-bearing sands. It announced also that it intended to go on to the original target depth of, I think, 7,000 feet. It said it intended to complete the hole and to conduct tests after it had finished its drilling programme. Having ascertained that there were oil-bearing sands, the company immediately made the information public.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate seen a report in today’s Melbourne “ Age “ to the effect that the sum of £10,408,000 has been paid out by the Commonwealth in unemployment relief in the first eight months of the current financial year, that this sum represents £1,778,000 more than was provided in the Estimates for the full year, and that it is £6,691,000 greater than the expenditure for the corresponding eight months of the previous year? Does he agree that, if the report is correct, this expenditure is quite uneconomic and that it points to a huge loss of production? Does he agree, too, that if this loss of production had been caused by industrial unrest the Government and its supporters would have set up a hue and cry throughout the country?
– I did not see the report in the Melbourne “ Age but I do not dispute the figures that were given. As we have said previously, and as Senator Sandford knows, unemployment is at a higher level than we contemplated or desired. That being so, unemployment relief payments must be at a higher level than was expected. Senator Sandford knows that we have taken strong action to reduce the level of unemployment and to create employment. Legislation for that purpose will be before the Parliament within the next few days.
– If this is the part of Queensland which is called the sandy coastal plain - and I think it is - it has for a number of years been the subject of research and investigation conducted at the Cunningham laboratory, near Brisbane, under the control and direction of Dr. Griffiths Davies. The C.S.I.R.O. has been conducting research not only into that coastal plain area but also into the brigalow country and the spear-grass country of sub-tropical Queensland generally. With regard to the area to which the honorable senator refers, all I know is that the difficulties arising from nutritional deficiencies in the soil have been overcome and that pastures have been developed which will flourish in what was previously almost entirely waste country. I imagine that the use to which the pastures will be put will be a matter for the owners or developers of the land to decide, but clearly what was in the minds of the researchers was the use of the land for beef cattle production. That was also in the minds of the researchers when they carried on simultaneously an investigation to find ways of overcoming similar difficulties in the brigalow country. As a result of brigalow country being sown with Townsville lucerne and with another plant - the name of which I forget - pastures have been developed which can carry one beast to the acre. Previously only one beast was carried to twenty or 40 acres. The position is similar in the spear-grass country, which has been oversown with Townsville lucerne. The researches of the C.S.I.R.O. will probably lead to a threefold increase in the number of cattle that can be carried in these subtropical areas and to a substantial decrease in the time required to: bring cattle to fattening weight or to a condition in which they can be turned off. This will take time because the owners, who will have to put in the pastures, will have to be convinced that that would be the proper and economic thing to do. I cannot tell the honorable senator what it would cost per acre to establish pastures in these areas, but I am confident that an immense contribution has been made to. Australia’s economy by the research carried on by the C.S.I.R.O.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the Minister been advised that on 4th March tobacco leaf worth £10,000 was destroyed by fire in a bulk storage shed on a farm one mile from Mareeba? Is the Minister aware that that fire was the nineteenth to occur in the current tobacco season? Is he aware that the estimated total loss from those fires is £60,000? Will the Minister arrange for an officer of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to visit Mareeba to examine tobacco drying and curing methods adopted by the farmers there and ascertain whether combustible air is being produced within the sheds?
– I have not seen this report of the fire to which Senator Benn has referred, but I have no doubt that the figures he quoted are correct. Those figures represent a very serious loss to an important industry. I cannot say whether the Minister for Primary Industry will arrange for one of his officers to make the investigations suggested by the honorable senator, but I am prepared to place Senator Benn’s views before the Minister for consideration.
– I ask the Minister for National Development a question supplementary to that asked by Senator Wood about the important discovery of oil at Moonie No. 2 well. Is a subsidy being paid by the Commonwealth in respect of Moonie No. 2 well? Will a subsidy be paid in respect of proposed wells within a mile and a quarter of Moonie No. 1 well, at which oil was originally found? How many wells must be drilled in a given area before that area is classified as a commercial field? By whose authority is such a classification made? Will the Minister say how much Australia will save in its overseas commitments if oil is found in this country in sufficient quantity to meet our requirements?
– Moonie No. 2 well will not be subsidized, nor will proposed Moonie No. 3 well or any other wells in the locality of Moonie No. 1 well. The subsidy applies only to the stage at which oil is discovered on a field. Moonie No. 1 well established the presence of oil on the field in question. The additional wells on that field are being drilled in an endeavour to estimate or delineate the size of the oil deposit. Those additional wells do not attract subsidy. Varying considerations apply to the classification of a commercial find of oil. Let us consider the aspect with which the Commonwealth is most immediately concerned - the payment of subsidies. My recollection of the act is that the decision whether oil is present in commercial quantities is a ministerial one. If the Minister decides that oil is present in commercial quantities, the subsidy that has been paid to the relevant company becomes repayable to the Commonwealth. That is a Commonwealth ministerial decision.
But other considerations also apply. Under most State acts the area that is granted to an exploring company diminishes when oil is discovered. I do not know whether I have made that point clear. These companies are given very large areas in which to explore but so soon as they make a discovery the areas are restricted. The companies are allotted smaller areas to leave room for others. That is the principle of the legislation, and that is a matter for determination by the State minister for mines.
As to the third question, if we find oil in Australia sufficient for our own requirements the estimated savings of overseas exchange would be of the order of £130,000,000 a year, about one-eighth of our total overseas expenditure at present.
– That is, if all the shares were held in Australia.
– The saving in exchange would be offset to some extent by the repatriation of profits, but this, in turn, would be offset by the tremendous capital investment required to develop the fields.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Can he inform me when the inquiry into the crash of the Ansett-A.N.A. exchange Viscount will be completed? Has TransAustralia Airlines been compelled under the swap agreement to supply Ansett-A.N.A. with another Viscount to replace the one lost in Botany Bay?
– I think I answered a question somewhat the same as this last week. I then said that the chairman of the board of inquiry - Mr. Justice Spicer - had been appointed and that I hoped quite soon to announce the names of the other members of the board. I am now completing the formalities of the appointment and I hope publicly to announce the names of the remaining members of the panel in a day or two. I understand that the inquiry will commence about the end of April, though that is a matter to be determined by the chairman of the board, having regard, among other things, to the completion of the examination of the wreckage made by the panel of experts who are now inquiring into the crash.
The cross-charter agreement between T.A.A. and Ansett-A.N.A. made no provision in a case such as this for an airliner to be replaced by T.A.A., and since the date of the crash the Ansett-A.N.A. fleet has been reduced by one aircraft.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Reports are abroad that the Government will legislate during the present session of Parliament for a further five-year guaranteed price scheme for the dairy industry. Can the Minister give details of this scheme and say when the legislation will reach the Senate? Will it tackle any of the main problems highlighted in the recent report on the dairy industry? If so, which problems will be dealt with? Will the legislation cover the problem of the future of uneconomic dairy farms in Australia?
– Last week the Minister for Primary Industry announced that the Government would legislate this session for a renewal of the five-year stabilization plan for the dairy industry. He went on to say that he was still having discussions with the representative bodies of the industries concerned and that there were still some points to be clarified before he would be in a position to announce the specific terms of the agreement. Should the honorable senator entertain fears that some of the recommendations of the committee of inquiry might be implemented to the detriment of the industry, I can assure him that this will not be the case.
– T ask the
Minister for National Development a question that arises from earlier questions about the Moonie No. 2 well. I think most members of the Senate will concede that they have very little knowledge of oil drilling. I was under the impression that if a drill penetrated oil sands there would be automatically a flow of oil from the sands, but in what the Minister told us to-day, and on previous occasions, he went only so far as to say that oil sands had been penetrated. In an interjection, I asked him whether there had been a flow of oil from the oil sands, but I do not think he answered ii. His knowledge of this subject is very much greater than ours. Can he tell us whether there has been a flow from the oil sands? If there has not been such a flow, is there any reason for that?
– I would go carefully about saying that I have a much greater knowledge of this subject than others, because it is very much a technical subject. I asked the same question myself. I should have thought that when you struck oil sands there would be some reaction, but I was told that that is not the case. The drill goes through the oil sands, but different equipment has to be used to discover the oil content and to enable oil to flow from the hole. The oil may be there, but it will not be discernible until further tests are carried out. It may be a fortnight or more before the drill gets down to the base of this hole and the further tests can be carried out.
– I address a question to the Minister for National Development, who is responsible for housing. When the
Commonwealth Government grants money to State governments for housing, does it specify that a certain proportion of the money shall go to State housing commissions and a certain proportion to private building societies? It would appear to me that, of the money granted to Queensland for housing, a great deal has been allocated to the State housing commission and very little to building societies. It is the desire of this Government to increase employment wherever possible, and I believe that the allocation of more money to building societies would help to achieve that objective.
– The money that was made available to Queensland was made available under the terms of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Under that agreement, Queensland must allocate to building societies 30 per cent, of the money received. I have had a letter from the Minister for Housing in Queensland specifying the building societies which will receive that 30 per cent, of the allocation. I am certain that the money will be distributed quickly to those Queensland building societies.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer and deals with the sales tax on sporting goods. Does the Minister agree that amateur athletics contribute greatly to national fitness in Australia? Does he agree also that our athletes, whether amateur or professional, have brought great credit to this country as ambassadors, and have earned the admiration of people inside and outside Australia? The imposition of sales tax on sporting goods used by athletes-
– Yes, but I am talking about amateur sport.
– Where would you send racehorses as ambassadors?
– I am thinking of the sports that provide athletic performances. Does the Minister realize that sports, such as rowing, yachting, cricket and many others that are failing to gain public support and are not collecting large amounts of gate money, are finding it very difficult to continue because of the high cost of sporting material and despite great sacrifices of time and money by generous members of the public? ls he aware that on three occasions the Treasurer has promised amateur and other Australian sporting bodies that sympathetic consideration will be given to the removal of sales tax on sporting goods? If the Government does not see fit to remove sales tax from sporting goods entirely, will it give consideration to a formula under which amateur bodies that are required to buy sporting goods may be exempted from sales tax? ls the Minister aware that the Empire Games will be held in Western Australia very shortly and that this subject is embarrassing amateur athletic and other sporting clubs in Western Australia? One very big club in that State has lost thousands of pounds worth of rowing and boating equipment which was to be used in training for the games. That equipment has been destroyed and cannot be replaced for less than double the cost at which it was bought. In addition to the ordinary high cost, the impost of sales tax is crippling. Will this matter be treated as urgent?
– The lengthy question asked by Senator Cooke appears to fall into two parts. First, let me assure him that I have no difficulty at all in agreeing with him when he refers to the beneficial effects on the nation’s physique of sport, including amateur sport. I do not doubt his statement that the feats of Australian sports men and women in all spheres have had a very grand effect on Australia’s prestige overseas. I know that the Empire Games will be held in Perth later this year. I know that not only because I am a Western Australian, as Senator Cooke is, but also because the Commonwealth Government has supported the conduct of these games by a very generous cash grant, by facilitating housing finance and in other ways. That is my answer to the first part of the question.
The second and more important part referred to the imposition of sales tax on sporting goods. As the honorable senator well knows, this matter must necessarily be taken into account when the whole complex of sales taxation is considered by the Government. That task is undertaken at the time of the preparation of the Budget. I have no doubt at all that the Government will consider this matter when it examines the whole complex of sales tax legislation. Nor have I any doubt that this branch and* every other branch of sales taxation will be considered as sympathetically as the finances of the Treasury will permit.
– I ask the Minister for Customs and Excise: Has there been any significant increase in the last twelve months in efforts to smuggle dangerous narcotic drugs into Australia?
– I do not think there has been any significant increase. The matter is kept constantly under review. The number of officers engaged in this work has been increased, and the results of their efforts have been most gratifying. I have been keeping a very watchful eye on the position. I do not think there has been any significant extension of smuggling, but I should like to get detailed information for the honorable senator. I shall furnish him with a reply in writing.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise, relative to the importation into Australia of second-hand motor cars and yachts. Is it correct that a person who goes overseas and purchases a new motor vehicle in Great Britain, may use it in that country, then bring it back to Australia and receive a rebate of customs duty? If the answer to that question is “ Yes “, can the Minister explain why the same policy cannot be applied to a person who goes home and purchases a yacht, and then sails it out to Australia as a second-hand vessel?
– The practice in regard to motor cars is of long-standing It was introduced to assist displaced persons who came to Australia from European countries and other countries and who found that they were unable to bring cash with them. In those early days they were given the opportunity to bring with them items of household equipment, and even such things as motor cars. Some of them brought with them old motor cars which they sold here, the proceeds helping them to establish themselves in Australia. But that position does not apply at the moment. A motor car, to attract the rebate of duty, must have been owned and used continuously overseas for not less than eighteen months. The owner must be returning to Australia to live permanently in this country. Before he may obtain duty-free admission of the vehicle he is required to sign a bond that he will not dispose of it for at least two years. This means that by the time he sells the vehicle it is at least three and a half years old. I stress that it must be owned and used continuously for not less than eighteen months in an overseas country before duty-free admission applies. No such provision has been made for yachts.
– They are made in Australia, in the first place.
– So are motor cars.
– I admit they are, but no similar provision has been made. The honorable senator is referring to a particular case of which I am fully aware. It is under consideration at the present time. Many Western Australians are interested in the project. The matter is being examined, and in due course, when we have had a good look at it, we will make a decision; but there is no such provision in the Customs Act at present. After all, where would we stop? Why stop at yachts? Why not include everything else? What is the customs tariff for if it is not to protect Australian industries?
– I ask the Minister for National Development whether it is a fact that, because of the importance of the discovery of oil in Australia, the Government, in its last Budget, made available to private industry and the Bureau of Mineral Resources an amount of £4,100,000 to help in the search for oil. Also, is it a fact that within the last two or three years the Government has introduced legislation to provide that oil search company calls shall be tax-free? Can the Minister tell me how much of the sum of £4,100,000 which was provided for in the last Budget has been spent? Has that sum been sufficient -to satisfy the needs of companies that have applied for drilling subsidies?
– The present arrangements covering the search for oil provide that all operations up to the stage at which oil is discovered are eligible for subsidy at the rate of approximately SO per cent, of the cost. In addition, companies that are formed to search for oilmay elect to ask that capital subscribed shall be allowed as a deduction for income tax purposes although a company so electing loses certain benefits which it would otherwise enjoy. It is correct, as suggested by Senator Scott, that the sum of £4,100,000 has been made available to assist in the search for oil.
There has been quite a substantial increase in the tempo of the search for oil and in the number of companies which have been formed for this purpose. That is due to this Government’s policy. That policy is paying off, as is illustrated by the Moonie find, which I am optimistic enough to believe will be followed by other finds in other parts of Australia in the fullness of time.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers: -
So far as this particular conference is concerned, it will be of interest to the honorable senator to know that a woman, a Senior Education Officer of the Commonwealth Office of Education, was made- available by Australia to work on the central secretariat of the conference and that she remained in New Delhi to act as an observer on behalf of Australia at the Unesco Conference on Educational Planning in SouthEast Asia.
– On 21st February, Senator Kennelly asked questions relating to the Viscount accident near Sydney last November. I undertook to look at the records and obtain the detailed information which the honorable senator requested. The questions and answers are as follows: -
Motions (by Senator Spooner) - by leave - agreed to -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Accounts Committee Act 1951, the following senators be appointed members of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, namely, Senators Benn, McKellar and Wedgwood.
That a House Committee be appointed, to consist of the President and Senators Arnold, Drake-Brockman, Hannaford, Sandford, Tangney and Wardlaw, with power to act during recess, and to confer or sit as a joint committee with a similar committee of the House of Representatives.
That a Library Committee be appointed, to consist of the President and Senators Arnold, Cant, Kendall, McCallum, Robertson and Tangney, with power to act during recess, and to confer or sit as a joint committee with a similar committee of the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator Spooner) agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Order9 be suspended as would prevent the War Service Homes Bill 1962 being passed through its remaining stages without delay.
Debate resumed from 21st February (vide page 39), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill provides that the maximum amount which an eligible ex-serviceman may borrow from the War Service Homes Division shall be increased by £750 from £2,750 to £3,500, and that the minimum deposit shall be reduced by £750. Loans up to the increased maximum amount will be available immediately the bill receives Royal Assent. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, said that there had been a trend towards a reduction in the demand for war service homes, which could be attributed to the fact that many years have elapsed since the end of World War II. I should like to refer to the annual report of the Director of War Service Homes for the year 1960-61, in which he stated -
In my last annual report I mentioned that there was some evidence of a slackening in the demand for war service homes finance, particularly over the last six months of the financial year. Since that report, the trend towards a reduction in applications has gathered momentum, with the result that applications lodged declined from a total of 20,833 for 1959-60 to 16,040 for 1960-61.
That was a reduction of more than 4,000. The director continued -
The reasons for the reduction in applications cannot be determined with certainty. An analysis of the figures does not indicate any consistent pattern. It has been noted, however, that proportionately greater reductions have taken place in New South Wales and Victoria and in application for assistance to build.
It is significant that the reduction in the number of applications has coincided with the Government’s determined policy of applying a credit squeeze. The director pointed out that the large number of homes already provided since the termination of World War II. had been a very important factor making for a reduction, but it seemed certain that other influences had been at work. He mentioned the economic measures taken in November, 1960, to check the domestic boom, and stated that these appeared to have depressed the rate of receipt of applications.
It is significant that the Minister has now introduced this measure to increase the amount of finance available, in the hope that ex-servicemen will be able to bring to a successful conclusion their endeavours to obtain homes. However, there is a very noticeable omission from the secondreading speech. No reference has been made to the total amount of money allocated to the division this year. On 24th August last year I obtained leave to move an amendment, instructing the committee of the whole to consider amending the legislation to provide for an increase from £2,750 to £3,500 of the maximum loan provided. It was rather a devious use of the forms of the Senate, and the attempt was unsuccessful. In reply, the Minister said that the Government was not prepared to agree to the proposal. He continued -
If the proposal were adopted, it could have a major effect upon the Budget. Of course, honorable senators opposite may well say that the answer to my statement is that the same amount of money could be used with a different formula, but there would be different arrangements generally. I know that what I am about to say is not quite correct, but I do submit that Senator O’Byrne’s submission comes close to the sort of proposal which should not originate in the Senate because its acceptance would increase the appropriation. I know that is not quite right, because this proposal does not affect the overall amount budgeted for, but such a material change in war service homes arrangements would be made that Senator O’Byrne’s submission comes close to it.
I should like to ask the Minister: What is the significance of the measure that is now before the chamber? As there has been no mention whatever of any increase in the total amount available to the division, which remains at £35,000,000 under the last Budget, how is the proposed increase in individual loans to come about without reducing the number of ex-servicemen who will receive assistance during the remainder of this financial year?
On 24th August, 1961, the Minister continued - Under the existing arrangements, from the present allocation of £35,000,000 the Government is giving assistance to 14,150 applicants annually. If the maximum loan were increased to £3,500, the servicing of the same number of applicants in a comparable manner would require an increase of expenditure from £35,000,000 to £47,000,000.
Exactly the same set of conditions exist now as existed on 24th August, 1961, but no mention has been made by the Minister of the increased funds that will inevitably be needed to cater for the proposed increase in the maximum loan from £2,750 to £3,500. As the Minister pointed out, the increase may involve a reduction from 14,150 to 10,700 in the number of applicants assisted annually.
We on this side of the chamber believe that an increase to £3,500 has been very long delayed. The number of people in a position to apply for war service homes loans is decreasing because of the financial conditions in which they find themselves. The director’s report contains a comparison of the average cost of a dwelling house and land in each year since 1st July, 1955. In New South Wales the average cost increased from £3,483 in 1955-56 to £4,503 in 1961, an amount of nearly £1,100. That indicates that the inflationary process is proceeding at a rate much more rapid than the rate at which the Government is prepared to increase the amount available under the Act. In Victoria, there was an increase from £3,374 to £4,256; in South Australia from £3,448 to £4,650; and in the Australian Capital Territory from £4,225 to £6,375. It is shocking that here in Canberra, where the Government has full authority - it cannot hide behind the skirts of the States and say that it has not sufficient constitutional authority - inflation has increased the cost of an average home from £4,225 to £6,375. Referring to the land boom, the Director of the War Service Homes Division said -
Over the past years many ex-servicemen have benefited by the allocation of a block of land in one of the Division’s estates or by the allocation of a home erected on an allotment owned by the Division.
That could have been done here in the Australian Capital Territory, but unfortunately the Department of the Interior has seen fit to create a scarcity of land in the Territory. As a consequence land here has a completely unreal value. The cost of the land is added to the cost of the dwelling constructed on it. Public servants, forced to come to Canberra from Sydney and Melbourne, are faced with heavy expense in the purchase of building blocks. I understand that the situation has eased somewhat in the last few land sales conducted by the Department of the Interior and that the premiums paid have been slightly less than at former sales. Be that as it may, Government policy is responsible for this heavy impost on the general public and ex-servicemen in particular.
In his report the Director states -
The gain to ex-servicemen from the allocation of one of the Division’s blocks of land is strikingly illustrated by an examination of the prices paid by applicants for allotments in one of the Division’s estates at Bentleigh, Victoria, which were allocated to applicants during the year. In all, 137 allotments in the estate were sold to applicants for an average price of £549 per block. The average Taxation value of each block was £2,289. The average price of £549 covered the full development of each allotment, including tar sealed roads, curbing and guttering with crossovers, water, gas and electricity.
The action of the War Service Homes Division in Bentleigh, Victoria, reflects great discredit on the Government’s policy of allowing the cost of land in Canberra to become unduly inflated. I do not think the division was able to consult with the National Capital Development Commission with a view to having suitable land allocated for war service homes in Canberra. If that bad been done it would have led to a reduction in the price of dwellings in the Australian Capital Territory.
A limit of 3,500 is still insufficient to permit the average man to apply confidently for a loan. In New South Wales he would need an extra £1,000 at least before he could buy or build a reasonable home. It is all very well to say that he could easily obtain 1,000 or that he should save £1,000, but all of us know that overtime in industry has been drastically curtailed and that quarterly adjustments of the basic wage have been discontinued. Those factors, and others, make it impossible for the average man to save money. He is having an uphill battle even to pay his way. Indeed, £1,000 may not be sufficient to enable a man to get his own home. Not many homes are available in New South Wales for £4,500. I am informed that the average price of an eleven or twelve square home in New South Wales is about £6,000.
What happens when a man tries to obtain a second mortgage loan of £1,000? Invariably the organizations dealing in that kind of business charge interest at 7i per cent, or 8 per cent. On a loan of £1,000 a man would have to pay £80 a year in interest. That would increase his weekly repayments by 32s. 6d. So the vicious circle proceeds. The amount to be provided under this legislation is not sufficient. The original intention of the War Service Homes Act was to enable every man who offered himself in the defence of his country to obtain a stake in the country, to own his own home. But many ex-servicemen are having difficulty in availing themselves of a war service loan. We on this side of the Senate will not oppose this amending legislation. We are thankful for small mercies, but that is all we can say about the bill. In the short time that has elapsed since last August the trend has been for fewer people to apply for a war service loan.
There has been a decline in the demand for group homes under the war service homes scheme. In. northern Tasmania, where I live, not one group home has been built for three or four years. A home may be obtained in two other ways. One is for an owner of a block of land to submit plans . for a house and apply for a loan. In that case the process involved is protracted. I cannot see why there should be as much delay as there is. The other method is for a person to seek a loan for the purchase of an existing home. Here again the applicant meets with delay, and often by the time his application is approved the home that he wishes to purchase has been sold to somebody else. If a house is worth the price being asked for it there will probably be more than one interested party, and the owner cannot be expected to wait while the War Service Homes Division takes its time about the matter. In those cases the house goes to those who have money available. The result is that many ex-servicemen who are desperately in need of homes borrow from other institutions. Since 1952 ministerial consent has been necessary before- a mortgage on an existing house may be discharged. Not only that, but the waiting time for the discharge of an existing mortgage is from eighteen to twenty months. This time factor is all-important when you are living in a tough, competitive business world. People will not bother about exservicemen and their needs if they have to wait so long for the settling of a deal such as the purchase of a house.
The bill, to some extent, meets the case that the Opposition put up last August. It is by no means self-explanatory because one of two propositions must be the consequence of this legislation. Either the number of applicants that can be satisfied will be reduced, or the Government will have to make more funds available. The Government would have the public believe that it is not only increasing the amount of the advance, but also providing extra funds to be made available for the scheme. I should like the Minister to say without equivocation whether any extra funds are to be allocated for this purpose or whether, as he said on the previous occasion, the number of satisfied applicants will be reduced.
A lot of play is being made on the big advance in Government thinking that this legislation represents. Clearly the Government has changed its mind very quickly - over a period of only a few months - about the urgent necessity to increase the maximum loan to an ex-serviceman for the purchase of a home. Yet, despite the fanfare of trumpets and all the publicity surrounding the announcement of the increase in the loan there has been no assurance that provision is being made for the extra funds that will be required.
I want to touch now upon the form of financing the war service homes scheme. Each year the Commonwealth Government receives about £20,000,000 in revenue from interest charges and redemption payments on previous war service homes commitments. In 1959-60 approximately £35,000,000 was allocated for the scheme, but consolidated revenue benefited by £19,000,000 from repayments, so that only the remaining £16,000,000 was made available out of Commonwealth funds for war service homes in that year. In the following year £35,000,000 was allocated, but £21,000,000 was paid into consolidated revenue in interest and redemption payments. Therefore, the net allocation that year to war service homes was only £14,000,000. As interest and capital payments on war service homes are increasing by £1,250,000 each year, within ten years the funds will be self-supporting.
I contend that if only 30 per cent, of eligible ex-servicemen are availing themselves of the terms of the War Service
Homes Act to obtain homes, much more generous treatment could be offered, either in the form of increased loans - say up to £5,000 - or a reduction in the waiting time. These incentives would induce a much higher proportion of ex-servicemen to avail themselves of the benefits of the act. In addition, an accelerated war service homes programme could be part of a plan to get people back to work. I understand from the publicity surrounding this measure that it is part of the Government’s effort to prime the economy. But if only the same amount of money is to be made available, how will it put more people to work?
I have always maintained here that the key to our economy is home-building. Once the O.K. is given, the building of homes can go ahead and this will start a chain reaction, beginning in the forests where the timber getters fell the trees and the loggers drag them to the sawmills, and continuing to the dry kilns, the carpenters’ workshops, and right through to the manufacturing of furniture for homes. Similarly, work will be given in the brick kilns where the clay has to be dug, cured and made into bricks which are then transported to building sites. In the same way, home-building benefits cement manufacturers and sellers of all kinds of building supplies and household equipment. In effect this vast chain reaction extends through the whole field of human endeavour. There is no more obvious way of putting some drive into the economy than by encouraging homebuilding.
Every member of a family that goes into its .own home is embarking on a richer life. The prestige of the man of the house is enhanced among his own family, and, ,£s a unit in a democracy, he becomes a, much stronger person. However, when we” see home-building approached in a niggardly way so that, as in this instance, the task facing an ex-serviceman who wants to acquire a home of his own borders on the difficult and, with a little more trouble, could be made impossible, it is obvious that the attitude of the Government should be completely changed, especially as the Minister himself has said that the purpose of the Government is to stimulate the economy. I believe that the £20,000,000 that comes back to Consolidated Revenue each year from interest and redemption payments on war service loans should be added to the Government’s contribution of £35,000,000 a year. If that were done, we would be making a real effort to relieve unemployment and so to foster a happier community.
I have canvassed those points to emphasize that the Government’s effort is not good enough and that merely to increase the maximum loan is not sufficient. It is the responsibility of the Government to ‘ensure that waiting times are reduced, and especially that the present delay of from eighteen to twenty months ‘in discharging existing mortgages or in making advances for the purchase of existing homes is reduced to a more reasonable period.
The Government must honour the basic principle that is implicit in the act. As 1 have said, many hundreds of thousands of persons throughout the country are eligible for war service homes but for various reasons have just not bothered to apply, although it is their right to obtain a war service home. Therefore, Mr. Deputy President, my colleagues and I do not propose to oppose the bill. The quicker it is implemented the better it will be for all. We hope that the higher maximum loan will encourage many more exservicemen to apply for homes. A war service home is not a charity, every exserviceman has a right to obtain a home for himself and his family and, for that matter, for his grandchildren, so that they all may be able to enjoy the happiness that can only come from ownership of a home.
Senator- MATTNER (South Australia) 4f4’:l5].- I agree with some of the remarks “made by Senator O’Byrne about this bill to ame’nd the War Service Homes Act. He will agree with me that the act has given returned servicemen an opportunity to own their homes and to have a stake in the country. We must remember that a generous Australian public has made enormous sums df money available for this purpose. The legislation before us will reduce by £750 the minimum deposit required from a purchaser when a home is sold to an eligible person under the rent-purchase conditions contained in Part IV. of the act and will increase by a like amount the maximum advance available to borrowers under Part V. of the act. Where the Director of War
Service Homes sells a home to an applicant under contract, the director- k>r, if you wish, the department - holds the title deeds of the property. To my way of thinking, there is better security for the department in that case than there is when ‘ the department, acting under its power under Part V. of the act, advances money on a mortgage. In that case, the title is still held by the purchaser.
It is well known that the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia has advocated for some time the lifting from £2,750 to £3,500 of the maximum amount that can be borrowed. It is : true that the Opposition advocated (hat also, and it is equally true that members on this side of the Senate advocated it-
– They voted against it.
– They advocated it.
– You voted against it in August.
– It is easy to say that we voted against it, but let us be factual. It is very nice for the Opposition to fly kites and to say what it would do and what it would not do. I shall deal later with some of the things that we advocated when we were in opposition, and which the Labour Government did not do. The Labour Government said, “ We control the national purse and we are responsible to the people “. At the time when we voted against what is now proposed, things were a little different from what they are to-day. As Senator Sandford has often said, “ When things are different, they are not the same “. It is well known that Labour senators have advocated this increase. If they were sincere, they should be pleased that the Government is granting the increase now. They should congratulate the Government on what it is doing rather than condemn it. Because the Labour Party has advocated this increase, because the R.S.L. has advocated it, and because Government supporters have advocated it. I should think that this excellent bill would have a speedy passage through this House. For that reason, I shall not speak for very long on it.
Between 1950 and 1961 the Government has financed the erection of 161,839 homes. That is not a bad record. In fact, 10 per cent, of the homes built in Australia during that period have been built with finance made available by the War Service Homes
Division. Will honorable senators opposite quibble at that? As this number of homes has been built, it is only reasonable to expect a slackening in the demand for homes. However, we must exercise a certain amount of caution, because only 22 per cent, of those eligible have applied for loans under the War Service Homes Act. It is possible that there will be an increased demand for these loans. Increased building costs and the small maximum advance of £2,750 may have inconvenienced some ex-servicemen. I was interested to hear Senator O’Byrne mention the cost of building materials such as clay, stone and timber. The royalties on clay, stone and timber have not increased very much. The honorable senator did not mention the increased costs due to higher wages and shorter working hours. They were the main factors involved in the increase of the cost of home-building. Does he advocate anything in that connexion? Will he say that that, perhaps, is the cause of increased building costs?
During the last few years £35,000,000 has been allocated to the War Service Homes Division annually, but not all of that money has been availed of. Previously, in view of the great numbers of people seeking loans, it was considered wise to spread the available money over as many people as possible, and that is why the maximum loan was kept down to £2,750. Now that the number of applicants has fallen off,’ and money is available, it is possible to raise the maximum loan to £3,500. The Government is being realistic in this matter, and should be commended for bringing down this bill so early in the session. There is virtually no waiting time at present for a loan from the division for a new home or for one already built.
There has been some misunderstanding about the finance available to purchase an old home - by which I mean one already built. Perhaps, in their zeal, people have proceeded a little too hastily. The best advice I can offer to any eligible exserviceman who is considering the purchase of one of these homes is that, before committing himself, he seek the aid of the War Service Homes Division as to valuation of the property, the amount of the advance that can be made, and the deposit required.
The greatest assistance the department can give is to make an advance of £3,500 at 31 per cent. - a good advance and a fair rate of interest. As Senator O’Byrne said, the purchaser must find any amount in excess of £3,500. In other words, for a house costing £4,500, the division provides £3,500 and the purchaser has to find the extra £1,000. If a purchaser avails himself of the loan of £3,500, of course, he has to agree to the terms and conditions laid down by the division.
– Do you think the deposit needed is too high?
– I am given to understand that for a loan of £3,500 there are two classes - £169 and £306. I would not like’ those figures to be cited as exact, but I believe they are the correct figures. I am sorry that 1 did not verify them; they were given to me over the telephone.
I suggest that intending purchasers under Part IV. or Part V. of the act are well advised to take the division into their confidence. If that is done, the division will give every assistance to enable applicants to obtain the maximum advance at 3$ per cent, interest. I believe that the division is endeavouring and has always endeavoured to do its utmost. It has had to deal with difficult situations, including the great demand for houses. It has succeeded in doing an enormous amount of good for the people who are eligible for these homes.
If the granting of the extra £750 increases the rate of home building under the act - I hope it will - the whole community will benefit. I agree with Senator O’Byrne that home building, together with furnishing, is the greatest employer of labour in the land. From the demand for homes stems each and every labour demand in our community. I believe that there is a bright spot on the horizon. I believe that in the future building costs will tend to fall. I hope that I am correct. I congratulate the Government on increasing the maximum loan by £750 at once. I support the bill and wish it a speedy passage through the Senate.
– In this bill I see an amazing about-face by the Government and its supporters. When I look at “ Hansard “ I find that within the last six months the Australian Labour Party proposed an -amendment similar to the main provision of this bill and the chamber divided on that amendment. Twenty-eight supporters of the Government refused to accept the amendment put forward by the Labour Party, which was designed to increase the maximum loan to £3,500. Among those Government supporters were Senator Mattner and Senator Spooner. Yet now they tell us that it is appropriate to increase the maximum loan to . £3,500. I say quite frankly to the Senate that this is a classic example of piracy of Australian Labour’ Party policy. The Government -was not prepared to accept the amendment that was put forward in August last year. It was defeated on 24th August. When the Labour Party, in its policy for the election on 9th December, said that it would increase the allocation for war service homes if elected, that was one of the measures that Government candidates criticized as being inflationary. Yet it now becomes a measure that is not inflationary.
Honorable senators should remember that when the Labour Party put forward its amendment there was no question of increasing the total allocation of £35,000,000; the only question then was that the amount available to each eligible ex-serviceman should be increased by £750. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), who was in charge of the bill that was passed in the Twentythird Parliament, advanced very many reasons why the amendment proposed by the Opposition should not be accepted. He said that that bill did not deal with a major matter of policy. He went on to say that major matters of policy are dealt with in the Budget. Do we take it that at present we are dealing with Budget matters, or are we dealing with something that is designed to alleviate the hostility of the Australian electorate to the actions of the Government? I suggest that the latter is what we are dealing with. Over the years the Government has made a lot of party political capital out of exservicemen’s organizations. Now it finds that it is not as popular as it was with the members of those organizations. Therefore, it attempts to do a complete somersault and brings in this measure at this time, not at Budget-time.
In August last year, when the Budget matters were before the Parliament and we proposed our amendment, the Minister said that was not the appropriate time to deal with this matter. In his reply he said that the appropriate time to deal with dissatisfaction in relation to war service homes is during the Estimates debate. I suggest that the appropriate time is when a bill dealing with the specific matter is before the chamber, if it is within the power of the chamber to consider the matter. At that time the Minister, although he played around with a lot of j words to the effect that the amendment was’ getting dangerously close to a matter with which this chamber could not deal, knew while he was speaking that the amendment was a matter with which the chamber could deal because we were not attempting to appropriate funds. Quite a deal of time was wasted on a roundabout explanation of that point.
At that time the Government said that it was assisting 14,150 applicants annually and in order to continue to service that number of applicants the total allocation would have to be increased from £35,000,000 to £47,000,000. The amendment moved by the Australian Labour Party did not attempt at any time to increase the allocation. The Minister’s reply on that occasion was not valid. He also said that if the allocation was retained at £35,000,000 and the maximum loan was increased to £3,500, the number of people able to receive assistance would be reduced to 10,700. In regard to this legislation, has he told the Senate how many people will be able to be assisted? I suggest that he has not. Are we to accept the figure of 10,700. Are we to accept the position that within a period of six months the number of applications has fallen off so drastically - in fact, by approximately onethird - that the maximum loan to each eligible ex-serviceman can be increased? The Minister went on to say that, on the average, the present maximum loan of £2,750 was not being used. He stated that in the last three years the average loan for new homes was £2,691, £2,684 and £2,701 respectively, the figures being similar in regard to other categories of advances.
If the figures given by the Minister are correct, and if the maximum amount of loan was not being utilized, there are two propositions that we must look at. First, on the Minister’s own figures, is it not unnecessary for the maximum amount of the advance to be increased? Secondly, must we not question the Government’s prating about stability in the economy? If the Minister’s figures are correct, in view of the fact that the maximum advance to ex-servicemen to enable them to build homes is to be increased to £3,500, there must have been a major rise in ,building costs within a period of six months. I suggest that there has been a period of stability caused by the economic policies of the Government and that there has not been any fantastic rise in building costs. There has been no major rise in wages. We are always told that wages are a large factor in costs, but there has been no increase within the last six months. It therefore becomes obvious that the Government is trying to win votes. I hope it will look at the results of elections in two States last week-end and will note how its policies are faring.
The Minister said in August last that, as the number of applications was falling off, it was better to eliminate the waiting time than to raise the amount of the loan; that the elimination of the waiting time meant a saving of £200 to each applicant; and that the maximum loan of £2,750 was greater than the average amount made available by the Commonwealth Bank. The Government has, of course, announced an economic policy, and this measure is a part of it. Much of the economic policy is directed towards home-building. Yet, while the amount of the maximum advance to ex-servicemen is to be increased to £3,500 under this bill, the amount made available to the general public from Commonwealth Savings Bank loans is to remain at £2,750. The Government apparently is of the opinion that ex-servicemen require £3,500 while members of the general public require only £2,750. Obviously, therefore, either the increase of the advance to exservicemen is not based on an increase of costs, or the Government is continuing the policy of forcing members of the general public, if they wish to build a home, to obtain additional finance from the hire-purchase com panies, at high rates of interest. The Government cannot have it both ways.
After giving thirteen reasons in August last why the amount available to an exserviceman should not be increased to £3,500, the Minister on this occasion has found eleven reasons why the amount should be increased to £3,500. The first reason that he now finds is that in recent times there has been a reduction in the demand for loans. What does the Minister mean by recent times? Is he speaking of the last six months? Does he mean that during that period applications for loans have been falling’ off, or that there has been a falling off for a considerable time? Honorable senators will recall that the Minister gave figures for the previous three years in which the average amount of advance had not reached £2,750. The Minister has advanced, as another reason, that it is sixteen years since the war ended and that it is therefore reasonable to expect a falling off in demand. What is the difference, so far as the number of applications is concerned, between fifteen and a half years and sixteen years?
If it is reasonable to expect a falling off in demand in sixteen years, is it not also reasonable to expect a falling off in demand in fifteen and a half years? A falling off does not suddenly occur. It happens gradually. I say that the falling off in applications was associated with something other than the reason given by the Minister, and that it was occurring over a longer period. But in Australia, of course, the Government was not aware of the temper of the Australian electorate. It was completely out of touch with the Australian people and did not know what was required. Therefore, it treated this legislation, and the amendment moved on behalf of the Australian Labour Party, in a cavalier fashion. It simply found reasons to support its contention that the amount could not be increased at that time.
The Minister went on to say that the falling off in demand was greater than could be expected in view of the passage of time. What did he mean by that? I suggest to the Senate that all he meant was that, in respect of the figures stated by him, the amount of the loan was not sufficient at that time. Any one who has had anything to do with home-building knows very well that there is no State in Australia in which a house can be built for £2,750. In most instances, if a person wishes to build in a locality that is fairly accessible to his work place, the cost of the land alone will be about half of that amount. The Minister tacitly admits on this occasion that that is so. He says it is apparent that applications have declined because ex-servicemen cannot bridge the gap between the cost of a home and the maximum amount of the advance. Again I ask; Has the increase in costs been so great over the last six months that this position has arisen within that time? Was the gap capable-of being bridged “by ex*servicemen six months ago? Were the working people of Australia more prosperous six months ago than they are to-day? They are questions which the Government must answer. If the gap cannot be bridged to-day, surely it is reasonable to say that there is no appreciable difference between the width of that gap to-day and its width six months ago.
In advancing the sixth reason for this increase in the amount of the loan, the Minister said that an increase in the rate of home building was desirable. The proposal now before us is one of the short-term measures which the Government has adopted to improve the Australian economy. Obviously, if the Government proposes to reduce from 14,150 to 10,700, the number of people who will be able to get assistance, the sum of £35,000,000 provided will be used much more quickly. A greater number of homes will be built in a particular period, but overall home building will not receive an impetus. I repeat that the rate of home building will be increased for a short period, but in the final analysis fewer homes will be built with the money that will be made available to ex-servicemen. If the Government wanted to increase the rate of home building and the total number of homes built, the obvious thing to do would have been to increase the total sum of money to be made available as well as the amount of the loan. By doing that, the Government would have been able to allow more exservicemen to enjoy the benefits of the scheme, because more of them would have been able to bridge the gap between the maximum war service homes loan and the cost of their homes. If the Government is of the opinion that because of the effluxion of time the number of applicants will be permanently reduced by approximately onethird, then it has reversed its opinion.
The Minister said also that the Government took into account the views of exservicemen’s organizations. As I said earlier, the Government has not been in touch with the people of Australia. Over the years it made great use of ex-servicemen’s organizations, but it discovered in 1961 that it had become unpopular with them. As happens in all capitalist societies, it now seeks to buy the votes of the ex-servicemen. 5- Senator Vincent. - Are you speaking on behalf of the ex-servicemen’s organizations when you say that?
– I am speaking of the Government. I am accusing it of trying to buy the votes of Australian ex-servicemen. I do not withdraw the accusation.
– Well, what about proving it?
– The proof is in the legislation now before you. If you cannot see it, that is your fault.
The Minister said, further, that family life was the foundation of a vigorous; progressive and happy community. He advanced that as one of the reasons for having a greater number of homes. Let me repeat that, under the proposal now before us, we will have a greater number of homes but that the building of them will be compressed into a shorter period. Again we are reminded of this Government’s shortterm policies. This Government is not capable of looking sufficiently far ahead to be able to formulate a long-term policy to cure Australia’s economic ills. All it can produce is a stop-and-go policy. The electorate has become tired of that policy. The Government has discovered that it has been doing an injustice to not only exservicemen but also Australian families. It is to remove that injustice that the Government has decided to increase the maximum amount of the loan.
A further reason which the Government has advanced for introducing this legislation is that it believes in the principle of home ownership. The Government is not alone in entertaining that belief. The Australian Labour Party, too, believes in the principle of home ownership, even though perhaps we advocate a different method of implementing it. We believe that the Australian people should be able to obtain a home on the most advantageous terms. Over the years, this Government, by keeping down the amount of the loan and by refusing to agree to amendments of the legislation, has forced people who would be eligible for a war service homes loan to go to the hire purchase and finance companies and pay high rates of interest. The policy of the Labour Party included a proposal for the reduction of interest rates on home building loans. The Government was not interested in such a proposal at the time of the last general election, but it has quickly become interested since then.
The final reason advanced by the Minister for the introduction of this legislation at this time was that the increase in the amount of the loan would allow the War Service Homes Division to continue to make a vitally important contribution to the national welfare. The division will be able to give greater assistance to applicants for war service homes, but that assistance will be given to a reduced number of applicants. I do not know why there should be a ceiling on the amount of money that is made available to ex-servicemen to build homes. I am sure that, if there has been a falling off in the demand for war service homes because of the effluxion of time since the end of the war, there would be no rush for government finance if there were no ceiling on the amount of the loan available. To limit the total sum available to ex-servicemen to £35,000,000 a year and to increase the amount of the loan available to each applicant simply means saying to the ex-servicemen, “ You may build a home, but only a certain number of you may do so “. As time passes the cost of building a home increases. So we shall find that the amount of the loan will have to be increased again to enable the exserviceman to bridge the gap between the maximum loan and the cost of his home. If the Government had said, or even now were to say, that it would allow as many ex-servicemen as possible to build homes for themselves within the shortest possible time, it would give a great impetus to the building industry and would save exservicemen many thousands of pounds.
– I rise to support the bill. Before I proceed to do so, I should like to reply to several of the statements made by Senator Cant. It is deplorable that in this place political capital should be made out of the ex-servicemen. Very little profit is to be derived from saying who gave this or who withheld that. It is a fact that since the inception of the war service homes scheme over £400,000,000 has been made available to ex-servicemen for the purchase of homes. Whilst the honorable senator was talking, I made a rapid calculation, on a little graph that appears in the report of the Director of War Service Homes for 1960-61. From it we find that between the inception of the scheme on 6th March, 1919, and 30th June, 1950 - that is, six months after the Menzies Government came into office - there occurred 29.3 per cent, of all the applications that have been granted by the division, covering 60,350 homes, but between 1st July, 1950, and 30th June, 1961, there occurred 70.7 per cent, of all the applications granted, covering 145,806 homes. If anybody disputes that the Menzies Government has provided more homes for exservicemen in its term of office than have been provided at any other time, he is not speaking the truth.
– How many exservicemen got married in that period?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Anderson). - Order!
– I was just asking a question.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - You are not entitled to ask questions.
– Senator. Cant went on to say that the Australian Labour Party believed in home-ownership.
– That is news.
– I should say that it would be welcome news for the people of Australia, because Mr. Dedman had a very different argument.
– Have a look at what the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ stated this morning. Do not go back to Mr. Dedman.
– The honorable senator does not like history when the facts are against him. He likes to go back to the depression.
– I went back six months.
– He likes to go back to the depression if he thinks he can gain a point. As the Minister said -
This bill has only one purpose and that is to amend the War Services Homes Act to reduce by £750 the minimum deposit required from purchasers . . . and to increase by that amount the maximum amount available . . .
I commend the Government upon taking this action. At all times, it has sought to spread its available funds over as many people as possible.
– Your name was among the “ Noes “ last year.
– Can you not listen. That was the reason for the Minister’s attitude last year. For all the points that Senator Cant tried to make, he did not impress anybody. The Minister stated quite clearly the reasons why the Government considered this action to be necessary.
– He gave reasons why it was not necessary six months ago - ‘thirteen of them.
– You could say that about every reform, but it would not make it any the less good.
Senator WEDGWOOD__ Of course, it would not. What the Minister actually did say was -
It is apparent that, to some extent, applications have declined because some ex-servicemen .can no longer bridge the gap between the maximum amount of the war service homes loan and the prevailing costs of acquiring a home.
Senator Mattner made a very pertinent point when he said that the Opposition had at no time mentioned that the cost of acquiring a home was the reason why the deposit gap had borne so heavily not only upon ex-servicemen but, indeed, on all people who are desirous of purchasing homes.
– Has that just happened? Did it happen to-day, last week or six months ago?
– I do not think that any one seeks to deny that until about 1954 it was possible to purchase a home on a deposit of 10 per cent., although in some cases 25 per cent, was required. However, the ruling deposit payable on war service homes was 10 per cent. But from that time onward the percentage deposit increased. As I said earlier, this is why young people and, in fact, soma older people have experienced great difficulty in raising the deposit. The Government has recognized this. One of the major reasons, I believe, for its decision to reduce the deposit and increase the loan, is to make it easier for people to obtain a home.
The question of housing, and particularly of war service homes, requires objective thinking by all of us. Everybody, whether in the ranks of the Government or of the Opposition, will agree that housing is of primary importance to the people of a nation. The people of Australia are committed voluntarily to provide exservicemen with the best housing that the nation can afford. I should like to point out, though, that borrowers for war service homes have had an advantage over most other borrowers in the purchase of land. Senator O’Byrne referred to this matter, which must be taken into calculation when assessing the value of government assistance to ex-servicemen. The latest report of the director stated -
Over, past years many ex-servicemen have benefited by the allocation of a block of land in one of the Division’s estates or by the allocation of a home erected on an allotment owned by the Division.
Land acquired by the Division is usually purchased in broad acres and developed for the purposes of the Act as circumstances require. Land made available to ex-servicemen is charged out at its capital cost, which includes developmental costs. Ex-servicemen benefit because the amount charged for the land does not include the normal profit of a sub-divider. Moreover, no amount is added to cover the appreciation in value since the land was acquired and the applicant, therefore, obtains the benefit of the unearned increment on the land.
The director went on to explain, in another two paragraphs, the benefits that accrue to purchasers of war service homes because they are able to buy land, not at market value, but at cost.
I should like to say something now about a matter of real importance to all people who are interested in housing, and particularly in war service homes. The Minister stressed the inability of people to find the amount of deposit necessary, thereby creating a deposit gap which is causing great hardship to and imposing a burden on the people who have had to raise secondary finance or are in the course of arranging it now. If prospective home purchasers do not have sufficient deposit, various courses of action are open to them. They may seek to borrow the money from parents or relatives. They may seek to raise a registered second mortgage loan. They may have recourse to finance companies and hire purchase companies. It is extraordinary that as far as Victoria is concerned no statistical records are available to show how much secondary finance has been raised for home purchase through second mortgage on hire purchase companies. The only figures available group all second mortgages together. It is impossible to ascertain how the figures relate to commercial buildings, ordinary homes and war service homes. But one figure shows how heavily people have had to rely on secondary finance. From 1956 to 1960 registered second mortgages have increased from 2.5 per cent, to 5 per cent, of all mortgages.
The increase of £750 in the amount of loan available to applicants for war service homes will reduce by half the amount of deposit that they have been required to find in Victoria.
– Is that happening now?
– It would be happening in Victoria, I think. According to the figures that I have before me, in 1961 the average deposit required for a war service home was 35.3 per cent, of the total cost of the home. Originally the deposit was 10 per cent. This legislation will reduce the deposit required in Victoria to a little more than 17 per cent. In Victoria, which is the only State about which I can speak, the average cost of a war service home has increased by £900 since 1956 to £4,256 in 1960-61, which leaves about £1,500 deposit to be found by the applicant.
It is very easy for honorable senators opposite to ask why the Government is not increasing the war service homes loan further than is provided under this legislation. Honorable senators opposite had their chance when they were in office. The graph to which I have referred proves beyond doubt that the Menzies Government has done more to house ex-servicemen than any other govern- ment since federation. Anything that helps people, particularly young people, to purchase a home and anything that eases the burden of obtaining secondary finance will always obtain my support. This legislation does that and should help to keep young people away from those organizations that charge excessive interest rates. I heartily commend the Government on bringing down this bill.
– As an ex-serviceman I have great pleasure in supporting the bill. I anticipate that honorable senators opposite will’ interject during the course of my remarks and I intend to answer their interjections by’ posing a question. I am interested to know whether Labour when in office, ever accepted an Opposition amendment when it had a majority in the Senate. 1 cannot remember that ever happening.
In his second-reading speech the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) said -
Though there has been a steady and consistent demand for war service homes loans . . .
I direct attention to the words “steady and consistent demand “ -
Let me refer now to the report of the Director of the War Service Homes Division, which reads - . . the trend towards a reduction in applications has gathered momentum with the result that applications lodged declined from a total of 20,833 for 1959-60 to 16,040 for 1960-61
The reasons for the reduction in applications cannot be determined with certainly. An analysis of the figure does not indicate any consistent pattern. It has been noted, however, that proportionately greater reductions have taken place in New South Wales and Victoria and in applications for assistance to build.
The average cost of building a war service home in Australia is £4,050. I have checked the figures in relation to Western Australia and New South Wales. In Western Australia the average cost of building a home, including the price of the land, is £3,762. An applicant for a war service loan in Western Australia theoretically would need £262 as deposit. In New South Wales the average cost of land and a home is £4,503. There an applicant would need £1,003. I telephoned the War Service Homes Division to-day to check the statistics that I now propose to quote. On page 8 of his report the director states -
Whilst inquiries have been received from a large number of eligible persons, it is apparent that many are not in a position to provide the necessary deposit to finance the acquisition of a home.
Clause 4 of the amending bill refers to section 21 of the principal act. Sub-section (1.) of that section reads -
The amount of the advance which may be made to an eligible person under this Part is the amount (not exceeding 90 per centum of tha total value of the property in respect of which the advance is made) which the Director considers necessary in order to give effect to the purpose for which the advance is made, but no such advance shall exceed Two,. thousand seven hundred and fifty pounds.’
The amending legislation lifts that figure to £3,500 and the director must still not exceed 90 per cent, of the value of the property. Let us see what happened under the old system with a maximum advance of £2,750. That amount could be advanced only if the value of the property was £3,056. The loan figure of £2,750 is nine-tenths of the value of the house and the applicant in this instance had to find the difference of £306. The increased maximum loan of £3,500 will be available if the value of the property is £3,880 and here again, it represents ninetenths of the value of the property. But the deposit which the applicant must find increases by £82 from £306 under the earlier maximum figure to £388 to-day. This is offset to a large extent if we accept the fact - as we must - that home-building costs in Australia average £4,050 a cottage. Under the earlier maximum advance of £2,750 a gap of about £1,300 had to be bridged by way of a second mortgage. With the new maximum loan of £3,500, the gap drops from £1,300 to £550. That is an important point. Though an applicant for the maximum loan would have to provide an additional £82 in his deposit, his second mortgage has been reduced by £750.
Some confusion often exists in people’s minds when figures about war service home building are quoted. The difficulty arises because there are two sets of figures. The first concern loans advanced after the First World War from 1918 onward; the second set relates specifically to ex-servicemen from the Second World War and from the Korean and Malayan operations. From this latter group of ex-servicemen about 800,000 would be eligible for war service homes, though it is estimated that probably only 30 per cent, of them will eventually seek assistance. If that is so, some 240,000 eligible ex-servicemen will be provided with homes under the scheme. Up to 30th June, 1961, 170,000 ex-servicemen from the Second World War and from the campaigns in Korea and Malaya had claimed eligibility under the scheme. This means that an additional 70,000 persons are still eligible to make their claims for assistance. The Director of War Service Homes in his Report for 1960-61 states that he would expect 70,000 homes to be provided at a progressively diminishing rate over the next ten years and he adds that perhaps the bulk of these will be provided within the next five years. I certainly think that raising the maximum loan by £750 to £3,500 will speed up the rate of building.
Though the figures that I have already quoted relate only to ex-servicemen from the Second World War and the Korean and Malayan campaigns, since the inception of this scheme in 1918, 224,775 persons have been granted assistance under the scheme. Of this number, 54,000 were ex-servicemen from the First World War.
Page 12 of the Director’s report contains some pertinent comments on costs, to which Senator Mattner referred. The report reads -
In my last Report-
That was the report for the year 1959-60 -
I indicated that the building programme was being retarded to a certain extent by shortages of some materials and of skilled labour to soma extent and in some areas; that competition for tenders was weak - in other words, there was no competition- and that there was a strong upward trend in prices. These conditions continued during the first half of 1960-61 and, indeed, tended to gain cumulative force.
As a Government supporter, I draw attention to the part of the report which states that the Government’s economic measures of November 1960 checked and halted this trend. Labour and materials are now in full supply. There is strong competition for the Division’s jobs - in other words there are tenders for the jobs, and tender prices have stabilized. In New South Wales and Queensland, where high building costs prevail, ex-servicemen have benefitted by quite substantial reductions in tender prices. For example, the cost of group homes erected by the Division in Brisbane has fallen by £300 a home since the Government introduced its economic measures in 1960 and in the same period the cost of building a group home in Sydney has dropped by £125. These are substantial reductions and of great benefit to exservicemen. I do not have similar figures for the other States but I have no doubt that they followed the same trend. An ex-serviceman applicant in Queensland has had his costs reduced by £300 as a result of the Government’s economic measures in 1960 and he is now to gain the advantage of an increase of £750 in the maximum loan that can be made available. This is an excellent piece of legislation and I have no hesitation in giving it my complete approval.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I should like the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to give the Senate some information about the financial questions involved in these proposals. Will an annual appropriation of £35,000,000 be adequate in future? The “number of applications has fallen, but the expectation is that the number will increase greatly by reason of the increase of the maximum loan and, accordingly the reduction of the deposit required. Is the Minister in a position to say whether £35,000,000 will be adequate, having regard to the expected increase of the number of applications? If applications do increase, and the £35,000,000 does not go as far as the Government thinks it will go, will the Government increase the allocation?
– Because of the decline in the number of applications, the Government thinks that the programme for this year can be financed from within the limits of the £35,000,000 that was appropriated. I cannot go much beyond that at this stage. It is now early in March. We shall have to wait and see what the result of the Government’s policy will be in the next three months. We shall then review the situation and consider the circumstances at Budget time. I do not think I can say more than that. Many factors have to be considered - the volume of applications, and whether they are for new or old homes. We can only look at the facts as they become apparent.
Senator COOKE (Western Australia [5.27]. - Has the Minister observed over a period of time the embarrassment suffered by applicants for war service homes loans who have had loans approved but have had to wait for inordinate lengths of time to get the money which the Government has promised to make available? These exservicemen have been forced to pay inordinately high rates of interest - 15 per cent, and over - for short-term loans on the money market which has been operating in this country. What has happened to remove the objections that the Minister had when he opposed the Opposition’s proposal to allow war service homes to be purchased on smaller deposits as a result of greater advances being made? The Opposition’s proposal was in virtually the same terms as this bill.
The Opposition contends that its proposal, if adopted, would have overcome the long waiting period which has forced returned soldiers to go on to a vicious short-term money-lending market. The Minister used forceful arguments when, on behalf of the Government, he turned down the proposition submitted by the Opposition. I do not think the Minister can plead that the Government has not considered the position, now that it has made this switch in policy. The amendment moved by the Opposition last year must have been seriously considered by the Government. The proposal was being continually put up by the Opposition, and the Government continually said that it would not change the status quo.
If the Minister is capable of doing so, or if the policy of the Government allows him to do so, I should like him to state - now that the Government has changed its policy - whether this legislation will overcome the necessity for returned soldiers to negotiate short-term loans at high rates of interest. Or is this legislation just, as it were, a veneer to cover the Government’s real intentions - namely, to accept the proposal made by the Labour Party but not, in fact, to change the position in relation to the financing of war service homes?
– I have two queries for the Minister. Can he explain why the State Housing Commission in Sydney can sell a house on a £50 deposit and the War Service Homes Division cannot? Secondly, I understand that some applicants for these loans raise second mortgages to cover the deposit with the building firms which are actually building their homes. I have the impression that if a second mortgage is necessary because a person has not sufficient finance for a deposit, no better source for a second mortgage could be found than the company building the home, yet the department seems to have objected to loans of this type. Apparently the department does not mind where a person finds the extra money he needs, provided it is not through a mortgage. He can use a dozen different methods of raising the money for the initial deposit, but if a second mortgage is required the department says that it should not be with the company building the house.
– I should like the Minister to clear up a matter about which a number of requests have been made to me for information. I think quite a few people are under an entirely wrong impression about the possibility of obtaining a further £750 in a case where a loan of £2,750 has already been obtained. A number of people are under the impression that they have only to make application and they will receive a further £750. I should like the Minister in his reply to state the circumstances in which a person can obtain a further advance of £750.
– I am obliged to the Minister for his answer to the question I asked. I appreciate the Government’s need to look at the new picture, in the light of the applications that will be forthcoming. I remind the Minister that, in August last, he advanced reasons against the granting of our proposal. One of his most powerful reasons - certainly it was put most powerfully - was that if the size of the loan were increased the number of people who could be accommodated would be reduced from about 14,700 to 10,000. He said at that stage that the Government had decided not to increase the total appropriation of £35,000,000. That indicated a belief by the Minister, even then, that there would be more applications. Surely the Government has not made this change without having regard to the financial implications and without considering the total amount that will be required.
I know it is not usual for a Minister to answer hypothetical questions, but this situation seems to emerge so plainly that I can hardly believe that Cabinet has not already addressed its mind to it. I refer to what would happen in relation to the allocation of funds if, as may be expected, there were a relative flood of applications. I would like the Minister to indicate, if he can, whether the members of Cabinet considered that, or whether they did not. If they did consider it, have they even a sympathetic outlook on increasing the total amount if the number of applications does grow appreciably?
– I will reply to Senator McKenna first. There is no question about a sympathetic outlook. The Government has more than a sympathetic outlook. It has the very good record of what it has done already. From memory, some £400,000,000 has been provided for war service homes. I will run the answer to Senator McKenna alongside the answer to Senater Cooke. One cannot put this matter down in exact terms because there aTe so many variables, such as the number of applications and the various classes of applications. The Government has provided these great sums of money in changing circumstances. On the whole, over a period of time the demand has shown a gradual decline.
The views that one expresses at one time can be proved wrong by the trend of events in a subsequent period. I remind Senator Cooke that if he looks back over the last twelve months he will find that in
May, I think, of last year the situation had improved to such an extent that we eliminated altogether the waiting time for new homes. In about May of last year we said to ex-servicemen, “There will be no waiting time for new homes; you can come in and make your arrangements without delay “. Of coure, that was a tremendous concession - not a concession-
– It was an improvement in efficiency.
– It was a tremendous benefit for ex-servicemen to be able to obtain a loan of £2,750 at 3i per cent, interest without waiting time. That saved them the trouble of getting temporary finance and all that went with it. From memory, my computation at that time was that it really meant a saving of the order of £200 in each transaction.
A few months later we eliminated the waiting time on loans for additions to houses. Ex-servicemen are allowed to borrow additional moneys for certain specific purposes. When we take these steps we cannot foretell exactly what result will be obtained. From memory, the elimination of the waiting time for additions to premises resulted in a surprisingly large additional expenditure. I think it involved an additional £1,000,000. We did not expect that there would be as big a demand as that. That is the best answer I .can give. The act has been amended; it makes these additional benefits available; and .we look at the matter in the light of the results that are obtained. We will not walk away from our responsibilities. The present arrangement is a maximum loan of £3,500 for new buildings, with no waiting time.
I do not think it would be profitable to engage in a discussion with Senator Ormonde about what the New South Wales Housing Commission does on deposits of £50. The War Service Homes Act has been in operation since 1919. It has contained these terms and conditions which are extraordinarily favorable. With respect, I do not think we should compare just one part of two different schemes. In our war service homes scheme there is not only the deposit but also the insurance arrangements, the protection of the widow and the variations that are made to meet ( ex -servicemen’s conditions.
Senator Ormonde may be getting the question of second mortgages confused with this position: The act contains statutory arrangements as to the amount of the deposit. We found that instead of exservicemen providing the amount of the deposit in cash, all sorts of things were happening. They were providing refrigerators, other electrical appliances, this, that, and the other thing, as part of the deposit. These articles were being bought on hire purchase and the applicant was not finding the deposit. We dealt with- that’ problem in a pretty sympathetic way. But’ the War Service Homes Division still -experienced some difficulty because people were taking on obligations that were heavier than they expected. We were finding some difficulty in administering the arrangements; so we tightened up. I think we did that with the approval of every person who is interested in war service homes.
In reply to Senator Branson, I say that this provision is not applicable to people who have loans already. . This will apply only in the future. Advances totalling about £400,000,000 have been made and, -from memory, £312,000,000 of that amount remains unpaid. This is not carte blanche in respect of that £312,000,000. This provision applies only to new applications and additions to war service homes, provided they come within the special category - for instance, people who want to build additional bedrooms, bathrooms-
– They have to be able to prove need.
– They have, to prove need and eligibility. This provision applies to those applications.
.- I should like to ask the Minister whether he believes that the Government should make available the full Budget allocation of £35,000,000 and then, on an occasion such as this, when the expressed wish of the Government is to prime the economy in order to get people back to work, divert to this purpose part of the £19,000,000 or £20,000,000 that it is receiving as a result of the lending of previous governments over the last 30 years at very low rates of interest. War service homes were built after the First World War, Some of those loans have now been repaid in full and the Government is receiving repayments as people reduce the amounts owed on war service homes that have been built over the years.
Why cannot the Government be straightforward and completely honest about the amount of money that it is putting into war service homes in each Budget? Year after year it gives fictitious figures to the Australian public. It says that it is giving £35,000,000 for war service homes when, in -facts it is not giving that amount. It is giving ‘ only about £14,000,000 because £i 9,000,000 or £20,000,000 comes back in the form of revenue which is put away in the Consolidated Revenue Fund year after year. That revenue is increasing at the rate of £1,500,000 a year.
– Where does that money go?
– Into the National Debt Sinking Fund.
– I am reminded that that money goes into the National Debt Sinking Fund. The fact is that it is not being made available for homes. It is recurring income that could quite easily be diverted to this very important phase of the life of ex-servicemen.
It would seem, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that the ex-serviceman who wants to buy a home is iti a different category from one who wants to build a home, although the end result in both cases is to put a roof over an ex-serviceman’s head. It is fantastic that the Minister should get up in this place and fail to refer to the delay of :’ eighteen months or twenty months that occurs between the time an ex-serviceman applies for an advance and the time that he receives it. Ex-servicemen wonder, and so do other people, why this is necessary. The Government tolerates that position, although it could easily correct it in one year. It could do so by diverting to its proper use the amount now paid each year into the National Debt Sinking Fund. That money could be given to the War Service Homes Division to enable it to clean its slate. That would be an ideal way to deal with the matter, if the Government really wanted to stimulate the economy. It has full control over the money.
Senator Branson has claimed that costs have fallen and that it does not cost as much now to build or buy a home in Queensland and New South Wales as it did previously. There are pools of unemployed in all the various trades associated with building, and repayments of war service loans are coming in every fortnight or every month.
– If you buy a secondhand home instead of building a new one, there is no alteration at all.
– The purpose of this legislation is to provide homes for exservicemen. If an ex-serviceman purchases a home that has already been built, someone else is not able to purchase that home and therefore must build one. The demand for homes exists in every section of the community. There are people seeking homes already built, and there are others seeking new homes through the State housing authorities, the War Service Homes Division, and private industry. The end result is that that demand is not being satisfied.
If the amount of war service homes repayments were diverted to the War Service Homes Division, that would be an ideal way to prime the economic pump. At the same time it would help the division to clean its slate of the inordinate waiting list. Many people will buy only homes already erected, because they cannot obtain plans or land. They will take any home that is available. The War Service Homes Division has capable assessors who run the rule, as it were, over homes that exservicemen wish to purchase. They do not pass slipshod construction. If an exserviceman proposes to build or buy a home, he has to have almost a palace before the War Service Homes Division is satisfied. It is very particular about the type of home that it will accept. So there need be no worry on that score. Whether an ex-serviceman proposes to build or to buy an existing home, he has to get pretty good value for his money.
The Government claims to be expending £35,000,000 a year on war service homes, but in fact only £14,000,000 of revenue is being devoted to that purpose. About £20,000,000 each year- and the amount is increasing annually - is going back into the Commonwealth coffers. The National Debt Sinking Fund seems to be one of those indefinable funds, a bottomless pit, a bucket with a hole in it. Everything runs through it. If, for one year at least, all the revenue that came to the War Service Homes Division were to be held by it, it could overcome the long waiting list and obviate the waiting period for loans. Then we could say to the Government, “You are on the ball. You are doing something to honour the purpose of this act”. As it is, the delay continues. As far as I can see, all that this measure will succeed in doing is reduce the number of applicants whose claims will be satisfied and increase the amount available to individual applicants. I hope the Minister will explain why the Government cannot divert to the division more of the funds that are in its hands periodically, instead of placing them in the National Debt Sinking Fund.
– According to the report I have in front of me, there is still £220,000,000 outstanding.
– I thank Senator Wedgwood for her interjection while Senator O’Byrne was speaking. It is very helpful. I should like the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) to tell me how much is being collected in interest each year from war service homes advances. Senator O’Byrne had suggested to the committee that it would be much better for the Government and for the country if the amount of interest received by the War Service Homes Division was credited to the department for future spending, instead of its being lost in the National Debt Sinking Fund. It is all very well to say that these are debts that are owed and must be serviced, but I think the Minister appreciates that if money did not come in by way of interest from occupants of war service homes, similar amounts would have to be made available from Consolidated Revenue in one form or another. As Senator O’Byrne said, the National Debt Sinking Fund is becoming a bottomless pit. It is there to swallow anything and everything that comes its way, or that the Government, with the slightest excuse, can put into it.
We know, of course, that in this respect we are confronted by one of the great problems of government.
The Commonwealth set out to do a good thing by providing money for war service homes at very reasonable rates of interest. In fact, I do not know of any other organization that provides money at such cheap interest. The idea of thus giving an ex-serviceman an opportunity to acquire a home is a good one, but because of the long delays that have occurred down the years, the implementation of the scheme has been bad. Ex-servicemen have been forced into the hands of usurers and have been obliged to pay interest rates of 18 or 19 per cent., and sometimes more, until money has become available from the division. It became the normal thing for ex-servicemen to go to financial organizations and borrow money at high rates of interest because they could not wait for fourteen months or sixteen months for loans from the War Service Homes Division to become available. Their problem was already great, but they were nevertheless forced into transactions of that kind. I can only congratulate the Government on the fact that that kind of thing is no longer necessary, at least so far as new homes are concerned.
It was bad from the Government’s point of view to encourage ex-servicemen to borrow money at usurers’ rates of interest. It was no credit to the Government that that occurred. Now, because of other matters, the Government has a great wish and urge to stimulate employment in the community. One of the means of doing so is to get more building done, to encourage ex-servicemen to apply for loans and to give them a guarantee that for new homes there will be no delay. I can only hope that home building will be stimulated as a result of the introduction of this legislation.
Senator O’Byrne adverted to the fact that there was still a long wait in the provision of money for the purchase of old homes. Perhaps some honorable senator opposite is tempted to ask, “If you encourage an ex-serviceman to buy an existing dwelling, what have you achieved?” Surely a person who sells an existing dwelling to an ex-serviceman must have to make other arrangements for his accommodation. He would not go out and sleep in the park but would build another house or perhaps rent a flat. At least he would play a part in the development of home building activity, the lack of which has been one of the chief causes of- trouble during the last twelve or eighteen months.
– You have learned a lot since you ceased to be a Minister.
– I hope that will be true of the present Ministers. I hope they will learn a lot when they leave office. Their education may have been retarded during the twelve years this Government has been in office, but it may not be retarded too much longer. It is to be hoped that the Government will succeed in stimulating in the community the confidence that is necessary for the creation of more employment. I should say that, despite all the Government’s efforts, private industry must shoulder the major portion of the burden of providing employment for the people who are now out of work.
I return to the point I was making a little earlier. If an ex-serviceman buys a home that has been occupied by somebody else, the vendor, unless he is a disappointed migrant who is returning to his home country - there would not be many such cases - would build another home for himself. I should like the Minister to consider this aspect of the matter. Also, I should like to see the method of book-keeping changed so that the interest received may be credited to the War Service Homes Division. If that were done, additional money could be made available to stimulate the building and purchase of homes. More ex-servicemen would then be able to settle down in a permanent home and rear their families in conditions to which they are entitled.
– I have one more question that I should like to address to the Minister. He indicated that the Government had made a flexible approach to the use of money allocated for war service homes. He said that, as the number of applications fell off, benefits such as the elimination of waiting time for finance for new homes and additions to existing buildings became available. If, following the introduction of this legislation, the number of applications for homes increases, is it likely that the elimination of waiting time will be lost and that, to meet that increase, the Government will decide to re-introduce a waiting time? Is the Minister able to assure the committee that there will continue to be an absence of waiting time for finance for new homes or for additions to existing buildings?
– Senator McKenna has dealt adequately with the subject of waiting time, which I initially raised and which I do not wish to press further. There is another matter about which the Minister should satisfy the committee. It has been clearly stated that a limited amount of money is available for war service homes and that it is the policy of the Government to adhere to that limited allocation. Can the Minister assure us that, if under the existing system of allocating funds the War Service Homes Division could satisfy, say, ten applicants, under the proposed legislation that number will not be reduced?
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– In August, the proposals that are before us now in this measure were put forward by Labour. In reply, the Minister told the Senate that the amount of money that could be devoted to this purpose was limited by the vote, and that the Government could see no good purpose in altering the legislation when the result would be that, although many ex-servicemen would be applicants for loans, few would be chosen. He said, in other words, that if the concession sought by Labour were granted, fewer applicants would be satisfied and there would be repercussions that would lead to delays.
Can the Minister now assure the Senate that, because of the alteration of the Government’s policy, there will not be a reduction in the number of applications approved, and that the Government will increase the amount allocated to meet the improved loan conditions for which we pressed in August?
– I said earlier that 1 would not give an assurance, because this is a very big matter indeed. Under the war service homes legislation, we have in the last four years provided more for the housing of ex-servicemen than for the housing of the the whole of the civilian population under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Under the war service homes legislation, we are financing about 10 per cent, of all the homes being built in Australia each year. I put it to Senator Cooke, through you, Mr. Chairman, that it is not fair, in respect of such a large budgetary item, to ask a Minister to talk in terms of what will be in the next Budget. The bill provides for an increase of £750 in the maximum amount advanced, and we shall carry out that obligation.
– To a smaller number of applicants?
– That may be so. On the contrary, it may not be so. The history of war service homes administration is one of constantly improving arrangements for ex-servicemen. Over the years we have found very large sums of money for the purpose. We have made these sums available to ex-servicemen under more favorable conditions than was previously the case, and I hope that that will continue, but in respect of an item of £35,000,000 one cannot expect any Minister to say what will be the position in the near future.
It is a constantly changing scene. True it is that last August we opposed an increase in the maximum amount of advance, but the scene has changed materially since then. Many exservicemen have been satisfied by being given loans. The number of applicants has been reduced. There is a constant change in the way in which assistance is obtained, with a swing from old to new homes, and then from new to old homes, with a greater or lesser number of applications for additional accommodation. The bill provides for the maximum amount of advance to be increased by £750. That has been the No. 1 plank in the platform of the Returned Servicemen’s League, which is as happy that this arrangement is being brought to pass as I am in being the Minister to sponsor it.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 1st March (vide page 315), on motion by Senator Sir Neil O’sullivan-
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to: -
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
, - When the Senate rose last Thursday evening I had been talking about the unemployment existing throughout Australia and had given illustrations of what the Government has done and will do to bring about full employment once again. I do not want to touch again on unemployment except to say that I believe that, with great developmental projects throughout the length and breadth of Australia, we shall find a condition of full employment obtaining within a period of, possibly, less than twelve months. I am sure that the successes of Moonie No. 1 well and Moonie No. 2 well will lead to the discovery of a commercial oil-field. Rapid development of the field will follow. The oil will be taken to the nearest port and refined or shipped to a refinery. The private companies engaged in this venture will spend about £100,000,000. More than half that sum will be spent on labour. A big work force of technicians and other classes of labour will be needed to place the refined product on the Australian market. If our oil resources are sufficiently large we will be able to export the refined product, particularly to markets that are readily available in South-East Asia and New Zealand.
Earlier to-day the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) told us that the discovery of oil in Australia in sufficiently large quantities could save this country £130,000,000 a year in overseas payments. That sum represents about oneeighth of . our present, overseas payments. In addition to the amount saved, a large amount could be earned from the export of refined oil. In view of the large sedimentary basins in Australia I will be surprised if oil is found in one locality only in this country. A year or two ago only two stratigraphic survey teams were operating in this country. This year about sixteen teams will be operating. The number will have doubled in the next twelve or eighteen months. I am sure that we are on the threshold of big oil discoveries not only in Queensland but in other States as well. This is an indication of the sound policy that has been pursued by this Government for many years. When I compare this Government’s effort with that of the Labour Party when it was the Government, I wonder why, at the last elections, the people ever considered voting for a party that has no clue how to develop the oil industry. When this Government came to office in 1949 what was the picture as far as oil search is concerned? In 1946-47 the Labour Government had purchased one drilling rig at a cost of about £390,000.
– And your government gave it away.
– I will answer that interjection in good time - not to-night. I want to continue my argument. If I remember correctly, the rig was purchased in 1947 at a cost of about £390,000. I am not sure of the figure but I am told that it was about £390,000. In 1949, almost three years later, the Labour Government had not managed to get the rig together. This was the Labour Party - anxious, of course, to find oil in Australia. It was doing everything in its power, but it could not get the rig working. This was the great party of which some people in Australia are so proud. When the Menzies Government took over in 1949 - 10th December, you remember? - it sold the rig because it believed that by doing so it would give encouragement-
– You sell everything.
– We are not socialists. We get rid of anything that smacks of socialism. The rig. was sold for about the sum paid for it.
– Oh no, we made a decent profit.
– So we have a picture of the Labour Party scrambling around in an endeavour to find oil.
– The rig struck oil the first time it was used.
– That is right. The Labour Party, wishing to find oil, decided that the only thing to do was to buy an oil rig. But it did not have the brains to know how to put the rig together. After almost three years the rig still was not functioning. It was packed away. You cannot find oil that way. When this Government assumed office it realized that our overseas balances needed assistance and it took steps to find oil’ in this country. It sold the rig that had been purchased by the Labour Government and it encouraged private companies to search for oil in Australia. As encouragement it told the companies that if they obtained sufficient capital the Government would subsidize their drilling programmes on approved sites. The companies agreed to that proposition. Wapet was set up to explore for oil in the north-western sector of Western Australia. It held large leases covering large areas of the State. It set about a determined search for oil and it made its first drilling with the rig that the Labour Government had bought about three and a half years earlier.
– The rig was not sold to Wapet. The rig never bored a hole.
– I am informed that the first oil struck in Western Australia was found with the rig originally purchased’ by the party that calls itself the great Australian Labour Party but which did not have a clue how to go about searching for oil. In 1953, within three years of becoming a government, the Menzies Administration had found oil in Australia. Everybody was excited. Honorable senators will remember how shares jumped in price from 5s. to £5.
– Did you have any shares?
– I do not own any shares in any oil company. Because I am a keen Government supporter members of the Labour Party are only too anxious to get something on me. I do not have any shares, and honorable senators opposite know where I stand.
After the first drilling disclosed oil, eight other bores were put down round Rough
Range No. 1, but not one struck oil and the great expectations of an oil-field at Rough Range vanished. Then came a period of three or four years when the search for oil went on in this country and in Papua and New Guinea. Though many holes were drilled no oil could be found. Again the Government came to the rescue and provided in legislation that anybody who invested in the search for oil by buying shares or paying calls on shares of companies engaged in the search for oil would be granted a complete taxation rebate on the amount that they so expended. This action encouraged investment in this risky enterprise, oil search in Australia. It also kept the Australian people interested in the search. Australian Oil and Gas Corporation Limited has a 20 per cent, interest in the company that struck oil at Moonie No. 1.
– Where is the rest of the interest held?
– The fact remains that A.O.G. is a wholly Australian owned company.
– Why not tell the Senate where the rest of the interest is held?
– I shall do so. UnionKern is the American company concerned. It has spent many millions of pounds here in the search for oil. The same thing has been done by the Texas oil company, the Shell oil company and others. I understand that the search for oil in Western Australia alone has cost £17,000,000 to date, and that most of this has been American capital. I am not worried about that aspect. Indeed, I hope that some of these American companies will find additional oil deposits in Australia. The honorable senator who interjected appears to be worried about this possibility but I believe the more oil that we find in Australia the better it will be for this country. It will considerably assist our export income.
Honorable senators should not forget that all the expenditure on the production and refining of oil will be made in Australia. Only the profits can go out of Australia and these will be taxed at up to 7s. or 8s. in the £1. Obviously, therefore, any overseas company that finds oil in Australia will pay quite a large sum in taxes and wages in this country. I suppose that, as a last resort, the Government could limit the amount of money that a company could send out of Australia.
That is the oil picture in Australia at present. I have drawn it to compare what the Labour government did for oil search in Australia with what this Government has done. As a result of the policy that has been adopted by the Government, oil has been found in Australia in what I believe will prove to be commercial quantities. Much labour will be required to develop these new fields if they are commercial propositions.
My next point is in relation to the Government’s policy on the export of iron ore from Australia. As far back as the 1930’s a policy of banning the export of iron ore was adopted by various governments, but within the past two years this Government announced the lifting of this restriction. This action was taken partly to ensure that there would be sufficient proven deposits of iron ore in this country for local use. The Government announced that any company finding a new deposit of iron ore here would be permitted to export 50 per cent, of its production from the new field. Previous governments and, for a long time, the present Government, accepted the estimate that high-grade iron ore deposits throughout Australia were less than 300,000,000 tons. I refer to ore with an iron content of 60 per cent, or more. This view was accepted until the Government lifted the embargo on the export of iron ore. Many Government supporters believed that large additional quantities of iron ore were to be found in Australia, and that they would be found if encouragement was given to private enterprise to make the explorations. They believed that while the embargo on the export of iron ore remained and while Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited held most of the known deposits of high-grade iron ore, prospectors would have no encouragement to seek new deposits.
As soon as the announcement lifting the embargo on the export of iron ore was made, search parties were formed by companies and they went to work. As a result, one find at Duck Creek in the north-west of Western Australia is expected to yield over 2,000,000,000 tons of high-grade iron ore. Then we have the Scott River deposits to the south and further deposits in the north, as well as others elsewhere in the Commonwealth. At present, this country has more iron ore than we know what to do with. Our estimate of our potential resources has risen in two years from 300,000,000 tons to well over 3,000,000,000 tons and we may well have not yet found all deposits. I mention this because these discoveries will create much employment. When the Government recently announced the lifting of the embargo on the export of iron ore, members of the Labour Party criticized it and said that our iron ore should be made into steel by Australian workers.
– That was not always the policy of the Western Australian Government.
– No, it was not, but that is what members of the Labour Party said on this occasion. Now we find that the Western Australian Government has granted permission for three separate companies to develop the Mr Goldsworthy deposits and to export iron ore from Depuch Island, a small island near Port Hedland on the north-west coast. It is estimated that £12,000,000 will be expended in the development of port and rail facilities to export the ore from the port at the rate of 1,000,000 tons a year. As most of this expenditure will be in wages, here is an additional source of employment. There will be two towns, one at Mr Goldsworthy and one at Depuch Island. One will have a work force of from 200 to 300 and the other about 500. Most of these men will be employed on the construction of the necessary machinery to develop the iron ore deposits and on the necessary port and rail facilities. I cannot understand how the Government, having lifted the embargo on the export of iron ore and having thus created additional employment in Australia, can be accused by the Labour Party of entertaining a policy of a pool of unemployment. It is completely ridiculous. The action that we have taken will stimulate employment. In case any honorable senator opposite gets up and suggests that our iron ore should be manufactured into steel before it is exported, I will reply to that suggestion now. Surely it cannot be deemed to be sensible for a government to expect a com pany to come to Australia and to establish facilities in outback areas for manufacturing steel. The correct procedure for a sensible and responsible government to adopt is to encourage the export of iron ore, in an endeavour to get the companies exporting iron ore to plough back their profits with the object of establishing, eventually, an integrated steel industry. That is what may happen and, in my opinion, it is what will happen.
When we talk of iron ore and steel we are talking in terms of big money. Let us compare Australia with our sister dominion, Canada. In 1934 Canada lifted its export embargo on iron ore. Is that right?
– That is right; I checked it.
– As a result of the lifting of that export embargo, Canada is now exporting 15,000,000 tons of iron ore a year. At a value of approximately £4 a ton f.o.b., those exports are worth £60,000,000. By the middle of the 1960’s, Canada, owing to the development of its iron ore deposits, will probably be exporting at the rate of 35,000,000 tons a year. Canada has no more iron ore than we have. If we export 35,000,000 tons of iron ore a year, we shall have £140,000,000 a year export income over and above what we have to-day. In a few years, provided that coal can be found adjacent to the iron ore deposits - and even if it is not - we can expect the companies concerned, having regard to the profits made from their iron ore activities, to be looking around to see if they can, first, improve the quality of the ore exports, and secondly, establish a steel industry in or adjacent to the ore deposits. I think that is the way it will go. I do not believe we can, as it were, approach an overseas company and say, “We have 25,000,000 tons or 100,000,000 tons of iron ore; we want you. to come here and establish a steel industry “. That does not happen. You have to crawl before you can walk. The approach of the present Government is the sensible one.
In conclusion, let me say that I have listened intently to most of the speeches made in this Address-in-Reply debate, and I am amazed at the weakness of the attack made by the Opposition. I wish to congratulate Government supporters on their approach to the very complex questions associated with the development of Australia.
. - Most of the speakers tonight, and most of those who have taken part in the debate on the Address-in-Reply in this and another place, have stressed their loyalty. It seems to be the regular thing to do that. I do not know why we should stress the obvious. I do not know of any party or section of the community in Australia that is disloyal to the Crown, although here and there there may be a crank who is disloyal. The present regime undoubtedly is popular and is respected, even by those who have recently left the Commonwealth and by the economic and national opponents of the Commonwealth.
There is no doubt that the Queen and her Consort have fitted in with democracy. Things were different when I was a boy, many years ago. I remember that at the turn of the century many thousands of people in England were republicans. They were opposed to royalty and to the royal regime. The early Georges were very unpopular indeed. Of course, we always looked up to Queen Victoria, but she was far from being a democrat. She was very different from our royal rulers today. She was a very conservative lady. I remember my father telling me that Queen Victoria was bitterly opposed to Gladstone, who was a Liberal. There were no Labour people in those days; there were Liberals and Conservatives. Queen Victoria had a great spot in her heart for Disraeli, who was a Conservative. I do not know what Queen Victoria would have thought of Princess Margaret’s husband joining a union. The aristocracy of my early youth was bitterly opposed to unions, to workers and to anything that was not aristocratic. However, I am glad to see that royalty is now very close to the workers and that Lord Snowdon has joined a union. My one hope is that it will not become a Communistcontrolled union. I am afraid that Mr. Killen would stop dead in his tracks if it became so.
I want to say a few words tonight about the selling of honours. I remember reading the report of a royal commission which sat to deal with the question of the sale of honours. During my study of it - this was some time ago - I was looking through “ Who’9 Who “ and I found that the kings of the old days - different from those of today - were very fond of making a few pounds by the sale of honours. As a matter of fact, I think it was James I. who established the baronetcy. Ostensibly the money was to be used for keeping numbers of our soldiers in Ireland. Every man who became a baronet had to pay for 80 soldiers at 8d. a day for three years, but that was very soon forgotten and King James, to put it vulgarly, clouted on to the money. Personally, I think the sale of honours is grossly unfair to royalty. In the report of the royal commission to which I have referred I read of one .lord who told of an occasion when the king was opening a hospital near London, and a certain gentleman, well lined with this world’s wealth, said to my lord, “Do you think if, during the ceremony I stood up and offered to pay £50,000 to the hospital, I would get a knighthood?” My lord said, “Brother”, or words to that effect, “ I think you would do better if you paid it into the party funds “. He did that, and three months later he was knighted. At one time Lloyd George was sitting on more than half a million pounds that had been paid into the party funds for these honours. I say that it is most unfair to royalty that such things should be done. All parties did them; do not make any mistake about that. It was not confined to one party. However, we do not do such things in Australia, of course. I would not suggest that we do.
I wish to say a word about the GovernorGeneral. We on this side of the Senate would prefer a Governor-General selected from the men of high integrity and ability in the ranks of our Australian people. When Sir Isaac Isaacs was GovernorGeneral he carried out his duties in a splendid way. He was one of nature’s gentlemen. On several occasions I had the privilege of listening to him. I remember one occasion when he spoke on that dry subject, erosion, and one could have listened to him all night, such was the beauty of his language.
– Who appointed him?
– He was appointed by a Labour government. Sir William McKell did very well indeed. In our opinion there was no need to go overseas for a Governor-General. But let me hasten to say that we welcome the present Governor-General and we hope that he has a pleasant stay in Australia. We have nothing against him because he happens to be a “ choom “. I am one, too.
Let me get down to politics now. I do not like getting down to politics because after 30 years one is extremely bored by the somewhat infantile remarks of members of the Parliament when they are debating what Labour did or what the Liberals did so many years ago. Our friend, Senator Scott, is very good at doing that. I hand it to him; he certainly investigates old “ Hansards” to find out what Labour did many years ago. In my opinion, in the face of the threats to our democracy in the world to-day, a political party that concentrates on politics all the time and tries to discredit the other side of politics is not doing its duty to Australia. The problems to-day are so intricate, severe ‘ and terrible that every member of this Parliament has a duty to think out ways and means of solving those problems, or at least doing something in conjunction with people who are seeking to keep the world free, rather than to indulge in petty, infantile discussion of what Ben Chifley did, what Scullin did, what Joe Lyons did not do, what Senator Spooner has done and what Mr. Menzies has not done. What is - the reason for the Liberal debacle?
– There has been no debacle.
– I’ believe I used the proper pronunciation, but I will change it to suit our friend, Senator McCallum
– We are winning, but by a narrow margin.
– That is the type of paltry interjection that comes from men with little minds.
– I am trying to help you.
– I have no need of your help. I have been at this game since I was a boy of fifteen-years; that is 62 years ago. I have been talking -all that time, so
I do not want any help from you or anybody else. I am not receiving any help from my friend and comrade, Senator Dittmer, who occasionally is in the chamber trying to help me.
I ask myself what is the real reason for the Liberal debacle. In my opinion, three men run this Government. The triumvirate consists of Robert Gordon Menzies, John McEwen and William Spooner.
– I wish that were true.
– I have read in the Sydney newspapers - I will not mention the particular newspaper - that Senator Spooner has a very strong place in the Liberal Party in New South Wales. I am told that he controls that party to a great extent. I am afraid that his control did not bring the party much good on Saturday last. Undoubtedly, those three men control the Government’s activities. If my information is right, a rather heated meeting was held1 a few days ago when Mr. Menzies took a number of his supporters to task. I was not inside the room, but I have been told that the air was very hot indeed.
I listened to Mr. Menzies’s speech last Thursday night. I still hold, as I have held all these years, that he is a master of political rhetoric. Of course, some of the rude proletarians have a different description of him. The derivation of that description - it would be unparliamentary for me to use it - it is both bovine and coprolitic. I believe that Mr. Menzies is influenced a great deal by Mr. McEwen. I know - I will not say by private conversation - that in his heart Mr. Menzies would have been pleased indeed had he had a party strong enough in numbers to rule as a Liberal government without having to rely upon the Australian Country Party. We know that the Country Party is naturally antagonistic to many of the city interests. I have referred to this statement before; I have it at home in black and white. A former member of this Government, Sir Arthur Fadden, when he was first a candidate for this Parliament, said that the Liberal Party was governed by the business interests which sucked the life-blood of the country people.
– Was he knighted?
– Yes, he was knighted. He is one of the greatest raconteurs - not racketeers - that it has been my pleasure to know. I wish I could tell honorable senators all about a delightful evening that I spent at Government House with the Duke of Gloucester, Sir Arthur Fadden, and a gentleman named Minter, the charge d’affaires from the American Embassy, who was almost as good as Sir Arthur. Of course, Mr. President, if I digressed in that direction you would1 call me to order because I could not tell honorable senators many of the stories that were told.
Let us try for a moment to find the reason why this debacle has taken place. After all, behind the Government is a number of public servants. There are men who carry on the work of government. In the financial world, for instance, we have Dr. Coombs.
– One of our socialist boys.
– Yes. The same men will be behind the government when Labour takes control shortly. I want to point to the reason why the policies that have been carried on during the last few years have failed so miserably. Is it because these men behind the Government, the public servants, of great mental equipment and knowledge, have failed, or is it because they have been grossly misled by the triumvirate of Spooner, McEwen and Menzies?
– In that order?
– I put the senator first because I believe the Senate is the principal chamber. I have always thought so. Senator Spooner, besides being the Barry Jones of the Senate quiz section, is also the beau ideal of the financial capitalists of Australia. He is the greatest apologist for modern capitalism and he has often said in this chamber, sneeringly, that capitalism would always outpace socialism. He boasts continually of what private enterprise, which I prefer to call private monopoly, has done, and of the achievements of these gentlemen of the capitalist world.
Senator Spooner is completely obsessed with the idea that if financial capitalism is given a free rein all will be well in the best of all possible worlds. Evidently, there is some little kink, some small hitch, obstacle or break, whichever way we choose to express it, in this particular theory of my good friend Senator Spooner, because we have seen here in Australia private capitalism, or monopoly capitalism, at work. We have seen it producing morally the grossest form of materialism in every part of this country, because capitalism is a gross materialistic force. I know that I hurt honorable senators opposite when I say that. How is it that when this country, the United States of America, Great Britain and a few other countries, are fighting totalitarianism, the greatest menace of modern times or any other times, and when every man and woman that could be utilized in a productive capacity should be so employed, we have such a huge number of unemployed? Let us put the figure at 130,000. If we reckon on an average wage of £20 a week, or only £15 a week, we can gauge the terrific cost, the huge loss, running into hundreds of millions of pounds in money values, that occurs because they are unemployed.
There is something radically wrong here in Australia. I am not going to condemn the Government in the ordinary way. I say that, as far as its light takes it, it is doing its best. I think the Government really believed that by its policy it was doing the best for Australia. But it is living in the past. This is a time when the greatest effort should be made and every ounce of imagination should be brought to bear to promote the economic development of Australia. I know that Senator Spooner naturally is proud of the Department of National Development, and I can understand his pride. I have a certain admiration for the honorable senator because he does try to give us the truth concerning his department. In view of the changing conditions that face the Government of Australia, the work that is being done to-day is not enough. No matter which political party is in power, whether Liberal or Labour, in the face of the terrific changes that are taking place on this earth, a country like Australia, with only about 10,000,000 people, should be doing far more than it is doing to-day.
Senator Scott referred recently to the search for oil. Admittedly, after the war Labour had to put back to work hundreds of thousands of men and women. There is no doubt that the Labour Government of the day did a wonderful job. I say now, as I have said before, that had Mr. Chifley and Labour been returned to office, they would have experienced a number of good seasons, as the Menzies Government has, and the Labour Government would have increased the economic development of Australia to the same extent, if not more than that, of the Liberal Government. So, it is childish continually to say, “ In 1949 we did not have an oil well “, or to say that we did not have this and we did not have that. It is foolish to say that in those days there was only one oil rig, which was sold, and so on. Twelve years have gone by, and in that time there have been rapid changes of circumstances and swift developments. We in this country have drilled about twenty oil wells, I think.
– More than that.
– We are all very pleased indeed that oil has been found in Queensland. That will be a help to Mr. Nicklin, if he stays in office long enough. I am informed, however, that in Canada about 900 wells have been drilled, and in the United States, about 2,000. The point I want to make is that although the Government may be proud of the fact that so many wells are being drilled, that is not enough.
I know I have to be careful, because of the intense prejudice in the minds of the people of Australia, and especially in the minds of their tory representatives, when I mention Russia. There is not the least shadow of doubt that Russia, with its totalitarian system and the complete power of the government over the lives of the men and women of that country, has advanced at a tremendous rate and far in excess of that of the United States.
– That is ridiculous.
– It is not ridiculous. Let us take 1917, when the Russian revolution broke out and the revolutionaries smashed through the capitalist barrier.
– They did not have capitalism then.
– Listen to me for a moment. I am not supporting Russia or the methods of the Russian Government, because many hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of people died in the revolutionary process; but from 1917 to 1962, the rate of development has been intense. It has been greater than that in any other country of the world.
– So much so that the Russians cannot feed themselves to-day.
– Brother Mattner, I am not justifying Russia’s methods. I am only saying that we, as a democracy, have to take stock. Instead of playing the game of politics and sneering at one another, every man in this Parliament should be thinking of how to increase rapidly the development of Australia, to make Australia safe for democracy, if you like. To-day, after 61 years of federation, we have only 10,000,000 people. I am not saying that that is the result of Liberalism or the tory system of government. It is due to the conservatism of our people and a lack of understanding of what could and should be done by a people who are determined to develop at the most rapid rate possible.
– We introduced child endowment. That is an incentive.
- Senator “ Judge “ Hannan says that this Government introduced child endowment. I offer my congratulations. The honorable senator is leading me off the track a little, but I remind him that Mr. Lang introduced child endowment in New South Wales. I should like to have seen the Australian Labour Party introduce it in the federal sphere. I am sorry to have to say in passing, Mr. President, that the Liberal-Australian Country Party Government had a glorious opportunity to do something for the mothers of Australia, but it failed grossly. For many years nothing has been done to improve child endowment payments.
Recently I have moved amongst a number of executives of firms, every one of whom has bitterly criticized the Menzies Government. I have spoken to men who fought for years to develop their industries only to find, when success was near, that the stupid policy which emanated from the brains of the triumvirate threw them back. They started to lose money and had to sack workers. On the main page of to-day’s “ Sydney Morning Herald “ appears a statement about a firm which is seeking special relief per medium of the avenues that have recently been opened up by the Government to afford tariff protection. The spokesman of the firm in question said that in May, 1960, they were working to 90 per cent, capacity and 903 men were employed. To-day they have 396 employees and they expect that by May production will be down to 34 per cent, of capacity and they will have only 341 employees.
This Government is still in control of the affairs of this country, even though it has a majority of only one or two in another place. I do not intend to criticize the Government stupidly but I do say that it should get busy. When a firm like this is losing its employees, its business and its profit, is it not time for members of the Government to use their intelligence and to institute some system that will produce a better result than has been produced by the go-and-stop policies of the last few years? I know of one firm which has many employees and has reduced the price on all its contracts by 10 per cent. As far as it knows, that firm will not make one penny profit; but at least it is keeping the workers busy. It is very good of the firm to do that.
Now let us turn for a few moments to the speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral Viscount De L’Isle. His Excellency said -
The Parliament meets at a time when there are still great tensions in international relations.
I have spoken about that. He continued -
My advisers believe that the security of Australia depends upon reliance on three central principles of international policy.
The first is that we should be faithful and contributing members of the United Nations, upholding the principles of the Charter.
We on this side of the Senate thoroughly agree with the Governor-General and his advisers. His Excellency then said -
Australia’s voice will always be raised in support of the peaceful settlement, on a just basis, of international disputes.
That is a very fine sentiment indeed, which every member of the Parliament will support. Then His Excellency said -
The second is that we should cultivate, and maintain, friendly and helpful relations with our neighbours, seeking wherever we can to help in the peaceful removal of avoidable causes of difference; and encouraging wherever possible, the development of free institutions of government in those many nations which have recently achieved political independence.
I wish to go further than that. Not only should we aim to do that in respect of nations which have recently achieved political independence. We should also pursue a policy that will bring hope to the nations that are dominated and controlled by dictators.
His Excellency further said -
The third is that, to guard against resort to wai by those who reject these principles, Australia should have powerful and friendly mutual association with those nations which are best equipped to defend a free peace.
Associated with, and of course giving a special character to, these principles of policy is a further central principle - steadfast membership of and support for the Commonwealth of Nations.
We all add “Hear, hear”. Then His Excellency proceeded to say -
My advisers desire that the issue relating to West New Guinea should be settled without force or the threat of force, and upon a basis which will give the indigenous inhabitants, at an appropriate time, an effective voice in the determination of their own future.
Let me say here and now that Australia is almost completely dependent upon the United States of America. We know that circumstances have changed and that Great Britain can no longer be depended upon to supply the power and forces that are necessary to ensure our freedom and security. Although Australia is in the position militarily of having to rely upon America, we believe it is essential at times to criticize the activities of that mighty nation. America has tried to stem the onrush of modern communism throughout the world; but in many countries into which America has poured her wealth in support of those who are fighting communism she is anathematized and hated by the populace. Not many years have elapsed since the United States of America helped China when she was in the grip of a great famine, and from one end of China to the other America’s praises were sung. To-day, according to members of the Parliament who have been to China, in every part of that country America is vilified and abused. I think it was Denis Warner who said that America has always supported the ancient regimes In an effort to establish some semblance of democratic control, wealth was poured into China to support those who wanted to dominate the people of that nation.
I say this sadly, because I should have liked to see the United States of America, that great protagonist of freedom, act in such a way that Cuba and South American nations would lay the foundations of democratic governments. When one mentions Cuba, intense dissatisfaction and hatred are envisaged. I have a pamphlet issued by a political party in Queensland. A copy of this pamphlet was placed in every letterbox in Brisbane. The party to which I refer is Mr. Gair’s party, the Queensland Labour Party. The pamphlet shows a number of nuns deplaning in New York and states that if Labour were returned, Australia would see events similar to those in Cuba, when nuns were driven out. The Labour Party, it was said, would do to women of that religion the same as Castro had done. This was a terrible thing to put round among the populace. The pamphlet also quoted, out of context, words uttered by Dr. Cairns and words printed in a Labour paper. The pamphlet did not have any effect upon voting, because, as we know, Queensland stood by Labour and we gained about eight seats. I think it is sad in these days, when there is need for concerted action to develop Australia to the full, that people should be so prejudiced as to use even religion for the purpose of defeating the Labour Party. However, there it is. Any one who wishes to see a copy of this leaflet may do so afterwards.
There is tremendous prejudice against countries that overthrow their governments. For many years Cuba was governed by bloodthirsty dictators, first by Machado and then by Batista. Mrs. Hart Phillips, for many years after the death of her husband, was in Cuba as correspondent, I think, of the “New York Times”. In book form she has published what is almost a day-to-day diary of what happened in Cuba. In it, she wrote -
I am an American believing in the American way of life but if my countrymen had thought as much of the social conditions of the people of Cuba as they did of their dividends, then to-day Cuba would not be a problem.
People condemn Castro, but they have not read his life story or of the conditions that operated in Cuba. On one occasion he was arrested and would have been shot if his identity had become known. He had a friend among the soldiers who captured him. The soldier told Castro to keep his mouth shut and not say who he was, or he would be shot. Castro was tried and, in the face of death, he defied the court. He was not allowed a free trial in the open in an ordinary court of justice. There were only a few judges and a few soldiers to look after the court. I think it is necessary that, before we condemn the man or the revolution in Cuba to overthrow the bloodthirsty Batista who was supported by America, we should know what Castro was fighting for. He made an extempore speech of five hours in which he told of the sufferings of the Cuban people. No report of the meeting was allowed out at the time. Censorship was exercised over it. Castro said -
The people we counted on in our struggle were these: Seven hundred thousand Cubans without work, who desire to earn their daily bread honestly without having to emigrate in search of a livelihood; 500,000 farm labourers inhabiting miserable shacks who work four months of the year and starve for the rest of the year, sharing their misery with their children, who have not an inch of land to cultivate and whose existence inspires compassion in any heart not made of stone; 400,000 industrial labourers and stevedores whose retirement funds have been embezzled; 100,000 small farmers who live and die working on land that is not theirs; 30,000 teachers and professors who are so devoted, dedicated and necessary to the better destiny of future generations and who are so badly treated and paid; 20,000 small businessmen weighed down by debts, ruined by crisis and harangued by a plague of filibusters and venal officials; 10,000 young professionals, doctors, engineers, lawyers, veterinarians, school teachers, dentists, pharmacists, newspaper men, painters, sculptors, &c, who come forth from school with their degrees, anxious to work and full of hope, only to find themselves at a dead end with all doors closed and where no ear hears their clamour or supplication.
These were the people who knew misfortune, whose desperate roads through life were paved with the bricks of betrayal and false promises, whom Castro called on to fight so that liberty and happiness could be theirs. When we read of the conditions of these people, of the thousands of children with no shoes, suffering from a species of parasite that enters through the feet and in time causes agonizing death; when we read that not one school was built for over 30 years; when we read that land was taken by American capitalists, sugar became virtually the only commodity produced, and men who were farmers were made into derelicts, we can understand why a young man like Castro, son of a wealthy family, seeing the misery of his people and what was being done to his country by Batista and American capitalists, decided to fight.
He took, with him, in a ship, 82 men. Something went wrong with the ship, 70 of the men were destroyed, and only twelve escaped. But he knew that the people would be with him and in due course by organization, by propaganda, and by using not frontal warfare but the only methods of warfare that could succeed, he got hold of the country and the crowd was with him. America is only 80 miles from Cuba and, while the revolution was on, United States Senator Allen J. Ellender of Louisiana, went to Havana and held a press conference at the embassy. All the rich people of Havana were assembled. They did not understand the hatred that existed in the hearts of the Cuban peasants. Senator Ellender declared that he was in favour of selling arms to the Batista Government to enable it to maintain internal security. I am quoting from a book written by R. Hart Phillips and titled “ Cuba -Island of Paradox “. Mrs. Hart Phillips writes -
The foreign press and one reporter from each newspaper had been invited. The embassy had taken care that the local reporters invited spoke English so there would be no need for an interpreter. The press looked at Ellender in surprise after that statement. One Cuban reporter ventured to ask him if he thought that was a correct policy in the present civil war in Cuba. Ellender replied promptly: “I haven’t heard of any fighting “, and added that he hoped *’ civil war does not break out “. The Cuban reporters were stunned.
Here was an American senator who knew nothing of conditions in Cuba. We can hardly blame the people of America if they are prejudiced against the Cubans. I honestly believe that if America had made some effort to support those people who wanted to form a democratic government and overthrow the dictators, to-day Castro would not be in the hands of Khrushchev and the Kremlin. I hope that the United States Government will not support brutal dictators in South America but will turn its attention towards those people who, while not wanting communism want some form of democratic government.
– Democratic socialism.
– My friend mentioned democratic socialism. At least a start can be made with democratic government, which may put an end to the bloody actions of dictators who think nothing of taking the lives of thousands of people, including children.
In “ Muster “, the official journal of the Graziers’ Association of New South Wales, an article appeared on 7th February written by Stewart Howard, who writes regularly for this magazine. The article reads -
The news of the banning, by President Kennedy, of all United States imports from Cuba faces one with the choice of two equally dispiriting conclusions.
Either President Kennedy has a chronic “ blind spot “ in regard to Cuba - a blind spot which involved him, earlier, in the debacle of the invasion attempt-
It was a debacle, a stupid thing if ever there was one - or fanatical reactionary pressures in Washington are still so strong as to make it appear politically necessary to persist in strong-arm tactics against Castro - irrespective of forebodings as to what the outcome is likely to be.
However it may be looked at, the United States attitude towards Cuba - like the attitude it adopted until quite recently in certain Asian areas - simply can’t pay off in anything but loss, not only to the United States itself but to the Western democratic alliance in general.
Although the United States is our great and strong friend, the day has arrived when our voices should be raised in an endeavour to persuade that great country to alter its tactics towards those who are fighting for a democratic form of government.
American capitalists were given a free hand in Cuba by Batista. They built giant sugar-mills and 9,000 miles of railways. The Cuban Government built 4,800 miles of railways to connect the sugar-mills with ports. Small planters were at the mercy of giant corporations. Independent owners were made dependent. Peasants who formerly made a living out of the land became wage slaves. They exchanged the simple life - ignorant but virtuous - for a vassalage to a foreign colossus. The peasants’ future was no longer their own. It was determined for them in a director’s room in New York. One of the tragedies of Cuba was the fact that American capital on a large scale took control and the peasants were driven off the land. The Americans had a stranglehold on sugar production and a firm grip on other industries. In 1956, the United States Department of Commerce reported in a brochure -
The only foreign investors pf importance are those of the United States. They have an investment that exceeds 90 per cent, in telephones, more than SO per cent, in railways and more than 40 per cent, in raw sugar. American banks are entrusted with one-fourth of all bank deposits. Cuba ranked third iri Latin America in the value of all United States direct investments in 1953, outranked only by Venezuela and Brazil.
I understand that when Columbus reached Cuba he said that it was the most beautiful land human eyes had ever seen. Apparently Castro’s supporters decided that it should belong to the Cuban people. The point I make is that although none of us agrees with Communist methods and although we are appalled at the loss of freedom of millions of people and their domination by a few Communists in various parts of the world, we feel that there should be a greater understanding and a greater knowledge of these people who take the sword in their hands to destroy the dictators. In Australia we of the Labour Party believe in the policies of that party. We honestly believe that the implementation of those policies will bring security to our people. We are prepared to fight in the political and industrial arenas for that security and freedom.
I may have told this story before: On one occasion I was addressing a crowd. After I had finished two young Catholic gentlemen came to me and said: “ Senator, you have done a wonderful job to-night. Where we work there are a number of Communists. They are continually attacking us and the Labour Party. To-night you have shown us the difference between Labour and communism.” I told the story of how for several months I was the darling of the gods. I had men to look after me. I had a doctor to prescribe for me. I had attendants who took me gently to my room at night and awakened me in the morning. My food was provided for me. My clothes were washed for me. I did not have to pay one penny for food or rent. This was a wonderful example that I place before you. There was only one thing wrong with it - I was in gaol!
I said that because of mass inertia and the methods employed to control men’s minds it is possible to-day in this world for a country to be dominated by a few persons and for its people to lose their freedom, at the same time having security. As far as Labour is concerned, we who made the idealists in the movement feel that through our policy we shall be able to maintain those freedoms so hardly won in the past and to develop further freedoms for our people, at the same time assuring for them the security that is rightly theirs. We have no desire for domination by one party. We have no desire for the control by a few in any way - socially, religiously or politically. We want to maintain the democratic freedoms of every man and women in this country to-day. We believe that we have to have understanding and enlightenment and to this end we must sink our prejudices and try to learn more about these peoples who are being dominated by dictators in other parts of the world.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland) [9.32]. - I rise to-night to support the motion before the Senate and, like other senators on both sides, to associate myself with the message of loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen. This has been once more an historic opening of Parliament for it was the first occasion of the official opening by our Governor-General, Viscount de L’Isle. I should like to say, Sir, how very pleased we are to welcome His Excellency and his family among us. They come to us with a great record of service and a fine family tradition. I believe that we in Australia are, indeed, specially favoured people to have once more with us a Governor-General as representative of Her Majesty in the person of Viscount De L’Isle and Viscountess De L’Isle. This country has been fortunate in the wonderful men who have come here as representatives of Her Majesty, with their wives, and in the great service that they have rendered to this country, keeping us so closely united in the great Commonwealth of Nations. Throughout the Commonwealth, State Governors and, of course, in Canberra, Governors-General have represented Her Majesty so splendidly and as she has journeyed through different Commonwealth countries we, as members of her Commonwealth family have said many times, as we say again on this occasion, a heartfelt prayer of “ God Save the Queen “.
To-night I should also like to pay a special tribute to those two senators who moved and seconded the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. First, may I speak of one whom I have known so very many years, Senator Sir Neil O’sullivan. I was very pleased indeed when he and Senator Robertson were chosen by the Leader of the Government in the Senate to move and to second this very important motion, for we all know - and it is with sorrow that I make this reference - that their term of office will end at the conclusion of June next and that this will be the last occasion on which they will take part in the debate on such a motion. Senator O’sullivan, Senator Cooper and I were, as you, Sir, well know, the entire Opposition for a period. We talked hard and we talked often, and though I could be corrected on this point I think we had rather a good expression, something like this - “After all, we represent over 52± per cent, of the Australian people “. My Opposition friends might correct me if I am wrong; but if I am not quite right, it was something like that. In those days we felt, as I know every senator on either side of the chamber feels, the importance of the very great task that is always the work of Her Majesty’s Opposition, and, of course, of Her Majesty’s Government.
Sir Neil O’sullivan and I have as well as a long parliamentary association, a long family association, for the names of Rankin and O’sullivan have been associated not only in federal politics in Canberra. Sir Neil’s uncle and my father in the State House many years ago closely associated their names with particular legislation, as is recorded in the history of Queensland politics. If you look at the early sugar legislation - and I know that Sir Neil will support me here - you will find that those two names played a considerable part. The name O’sullivan is respected and admired throughout the length and breadth of Queensland, for it is a name well established in the history of that State, in law, in politics and in every good cause that has needed support. I doubt whether I can pay any higher tribute to Senator Sir Neil O’sullivan than to say that he always found the kind word to say and the helping hand to give to those in need. Sir Neil will also always be remembered in this chamber for his tremendous respect for parliamentary tradition and for all that the institution of Parliament stands for. It was always his desire to help at the highest level the parliamentary institution, and I believe that we who believe in this institution will constantly remember the dignity that he displayed in office.
I come now to Senator Robertson, who seconded the motion. To her I also pay my tribute. Her life also has been one of distinguished service to the community. Every charitable and needy cause has had her complete support, and the cause of women, whether in Australia or in other countries, has had a most able and constant champion in Senator Robertson. I refer particularly to her efforts in the international field through the Pan-Pacific Association. Her work for the causes in which she has believed has been untiring. We shall miss these two colleagues, as we shall miss other senators who will not be here after June. But the Parliament, to which, in the words of His Excellency, all British peoples look to safeguard their freedoms and to advance their welfare, is the richer for the service of these two senators. To-night I want particularly to pay a tribute to them. They played the first part in this debate but they have already played such a splendid part in our Australian history.
Now let me turn to the Speech by His Excellency the Governor-General. One of the great things that stands out in my mind is that this is a forward-looking Speech. This is a Speech which, I believe, looks down and along the road ahead of this Parliament. It is a realistic appreciation of the position facing us within our country as well as outside Australia. I particularly like the comments in the Speech that the security of Australia depends upon three central principles of international policy. His Excellency said -
The first is that we should be faithful and contributing members of the United Nations, upholding the principles of the Charter.
The second is that we should cultivate, and maintain, friendly and helpful relations with our neighbours, . . . encouraging wherever possible the development of free institutions of government in those many nations which have recently achieved political independence.
The third is that, to guard against resort to war by those who reject these principles . and to maintain steadfast membership of and support for the Commonwealth of Nations.
That is the very important family of which we are a part.
Let me turn now to the home front. Grave problems have confronted the Government, but .it is facing up to them with real, courage and is doing the best for the people of Australia. The Australian economy has been reviewed and special measures have been brought in by the Government that will be for the benefit of Australia and the people who live in it. The Opposition has made a great feature of the unemployment problem. Mr. Acting President, I say with all sincerity that every one of us, on both sides of the chamber, is always gravely disturbed about unemployment. No greater tragedy can happen in any family than for the breadwinner or members of the family to be out of work. Of course, we are tremendously disturbed and worried over this issue, and the Government has already brought in legislation to deal with it. Last week in this chamber we passed a bill to increase unemployment benefits and considerably increase and extend1 payments to the children of unemployed people. Those benefits came into effect on the first day of the present month, and I believe that they will mean a great deal to the families of Australia who need them most. But unemployment benefits are not enough. We want very much more than that. We want the best kind of future for the families of Australia that they can possibly have. As well as shortterm measures we must look ahead to long-term measures. We want our people to have the best possible employment opportunities. We want employment to be available to young people leaving school, and because of this the Government has given special consideration to ensuring more and more employment opportunities.
The Government has a very fine housing record, and it appreciates the problems that face many people who have no house in which to live. We have already approved of legislation to make greater loans available under the War Service Homes Act. Further legislation will be introduced to make other moneys available for housing. An extra £5,000,000 is to be granted to the States during the remaining months of 1961-62. This additional money will stimulate employment in the building industry. It will provide work for hundreds of Australians and homes for those who need them. It is good for us to remind ourselves at all times that our housing record in Australia is one of the best in the world.
At present 75 per cent, of the homes in Australia are either owned by the people living in them or are in the process of being purchased by their occupiers. The further assistance to be given by the Government will bring home-ownership to many more people, and, I repeat, many more jobs will be available for those who need them. Those are two important things.
Another measure the Government intends to bring down is one dealing with a rebate of 5 per cent, on income tax. This will be also of great assistance because it will mean more money in the pay envelopes to purchase goods made by Australians, which in turn will increase employment and assure the prosperity of the nation. The sales tax on motor vehicles has been considered by the Government and the reduction that has been made will be of great assistance to the motor car industry. It too will help to solve the unemployment problem. Surely every one must recognize that the Government is making a very realistic approach to its problems and is doing the best it can for those Australians who need help.
I think we are all aware, too, that a special effort has been made in the field of trade promotion, in which the Government is strenuously engaged. This will mean increased employment and income for Australians. Under the guidance of this Government, Australia is one of the first ten trading nations in the world. We have increased our trade commissioner service, and trade ships and delegations are selling our goods to country after country. The growth and development taking place in this field must be of tremendous importance to Australia and to its future economy. At this moment, of course, there is in all our minds the thought of the European Common Market negotiations. Mr. McEwen is, as we know, on his way overseas to take part in these very important discussions. I believe that all Australians wish him well.
Immigration was mentioned by His Excellency. I am very pleased that negotiations are being renewed for assisted passage agreements with the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, West Germany, Italy and Malta. The programme of immigration is of tremendous importance to Australia. I am sure that every honorable senator was pleased to-day when in the gallery of this chamber we had a new Australian who has already contributed, in her own particular way, to Australia. 1 refer to Miss Australia. This very charming young lady has had the opportunity already to go overseas to talk about Australia and to unite the people of other countries in friendship with us. These things are important, and I know that she will always be a great ambassador for Australia.
I am very pleased also that recently legislation was passed to make pension benefits available to new Australians by reducing the residential qualification from twenty years to ten years. The period of twenty years has presented a problem and caused hardship to many new Australians. The action of the Government will be of real assistance. The same residential qualification applies to invalid pensioners who were incapacitated before coming to Australia. The legislation is of tremendous importance and will be of great assistance to these people.
In the Governor-General’s Speech I was pleased to see reference again to the Colombo Plan. It is good to see that we are sending increasing numbers of experts, with the co-operation of the States, to advise and teach a wide range of subjects, and particularly to assist in the field of teacher-training. This is a tremendously important field of endeavour. I believe that the importance of the Colombo Plan can never really be assessed. How can one assess friendship and how can one measure good will? It cannot be done with the measuring sticks that we have for ordinary commodities. These things can never be measured or assessed; but I believe that the influence of the Colombo Plan is so great that it could mean a better future for Australia and her neighbours than, perhaps, anything else that can be done. It must mean a unity and friendship among people which will be for the enduring welfare of all concerned. I hope that always we will be able to do the very best we can in that important field.
The words of the Governor-General, when he spoke again of development, must have indeed thrilled and excited every
Australian. He said -
My Government is pressing on with the vital task of the development of the nation’s resources.
Australia is a very young country; it is not yet 200 years old. We have done a very great deal, but there is still much to do. There is still a need to look forward in this great work of development. All of us, as we travel the length and breadth of Australia and as we travel the great distances between the various centres in our own States, must feel that there are still many jobs untouched and many resources untapped. We want to see the growth and development of this very great country of ours.
I wish to refer to one matter which, although not mentioned in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, well merits a tribute. I do this particularly as the responsible Minister is in the chamber at present. I am referring to the work that has been done in providing and improving country airstrips. This work has meant much in transport throughout the country districts of my own State and elsewhere in the Commonwealth. It has done and is doing much to develop the outback. The all-weather airstrips bring our country cities and towns much closer together. They make a very great difference to the security of families and the possibility of obtaining special medical care and help. When we look at the map and see the vast distances, particularly in Queensland and Western Australia, and then we see the pattern of country airstrips, we realize that improved air services represent one more step in the great story of development and growth.
Of course, development means more work; it means more jobs; it means more opportunities for employment; it means new and exciting types of employment; it means new tasks that lie ahead of our young people leaving school; and I believe it means prosperity and security for us all. In the last little while the word “ oil “ has been blazoned across our newspapers. We have heard it on the radio, and it has been mentioned constantly in conversation. It seems to be almost a magic word. The discovery of oil could be the very greatest thing to happen in our country, but in the excitement of these discoveries let us not forget the encouragement that has been given by this Government through subsidies and the outstanding work of the experts in the Bureau of Mineral Resources. Those things have meant much in the great discoveries that are now taking place.
I should like to give the Senate some interesting figures. Honorable senators will recall that in 1957 the Parliament passed the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act. Since then the Commonwealth Government has approved subsidies amounting to between f 5,000,000 and £6,000,000 for oil exploration by private companies. In the year to 30th June last the Government provided £3,300,000 in financial assistance for the search for oil. That amount was made up of £900,000 in direct expenditure, £1,399,180 in drilling and geophysical survey subsidy, and about £1,000,000 in tax concessions on capital subscribed by investors. Those things have all helped this great plan and this great work of finding oil. Aid to oil exploration could well exceed £5,000,000 in this financial year. These are things that this Government has done. These are forms of practical assistance that this Government has given because it wants this country to grow and develop, because it wants Australia to have more employment opportunities for its people and because it wants to fight and overcome the problem of unemployment. These things are tremendously important.
Then let us think of the development of the north of Australia and the north of Queensland. We well know the importance that this could have to all Australia, because no State lives entirely unto itself. Development and prosperity in one State must, of course, mean something to the whole Commonwealth of Australia. This Government already has done a great deal in the field of national development. Let me look again at references to these matters in the Governor-General’s Speech. He told us of work on the reconstruction of the Mount Isa-Collinsville railway line which will be assisted vitally by the agreement of this Government to find £20,000,000 towards the cost. There is also the work that is being done in connexion with beef roads in Western Australia and Queensland, the improvement of coal-loading facilities at Gladstone in Queensland, and the improvement of certain New South Wales coal ports.
All these things are for the development of Australia. They are all of vital importance to its future and they are all part of the looking-forward story of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech.
So we will see this vast development taking place. Where now there are no roads we will see roads which will open up the country and develop it. Those roads will mean a great deal to the people interested in the cattle industry and in various other industries, and they will mean riches to the States and great benefit to the Commonwealth. These things are of tremendous importance.
I should like to make a plea in this Senate, as I have done before, for special assistance for those people in Townsville and north Queensland who are less happily placed than others because they are either handicapped or disabled by injury. First of all, may I pay tribute to our excellent Commonwealth rehabilitation centres in various parts of the States. Because I know it best, may I pay a special tribute to the Brisbane centre. There, men and women are given hope again. There, once more they can feel that they are doing some particular thing that they wish to do. They are able to go out and feel that they are part of the community and need not be afraid any more. As honorable senators know, Townsville is now the second city of Queensland; It has its university facilities and it has fine medical centres. It is growing and it is part of the great story of north Queensland. It has a very fine crippled children’s home. Sad to say, many children come to that home for treatment and care. But Townsville has no rehabilitation centre such as we have in Brisbane and other capital cities. So, when those children need particular rehabilitation care, they must travel the long journey of about 1,000 miles to Brisbane. They may not have come originally from Townsville. They may have come from places many hundreds of miles further north or west and so for these children, who are away from their families, the distance to be travelled is even greater. In the areas beyond Townsville occupations of all kinds are being carried on, some of them hazardous. Perhaps I should say that many of them are hazardous, but in any event there are all kinds of accident risks and possibilities. If men are injured at their occupations, there are no rehabilitation facilities. They have to journey south, many hundreds of miles. That means that their families must go with them, and there may be difficulty in obtaining employment when they return. There are many different kinds of problems.
If you look at the map of Australia, Mr. President, you will realize that we are asking these incapacitated or injured people in Townsville and in places farther north - some of the children come from islands in the Torres Strait - to travel farther than if we were sending them for treatment from Sydney to Adelaide. I ask the Minister for Social Services to consider the idea of having in north Queensland, I suggest at Townsville, a rehabilitation centre to assist these people, because I believe most sincerely that it would be of the greatest benefit. It would mean that children who to-day are in the crippled children’s home could go on from there to the rehabilitation centre. It would mean that people who were incapacitated or injured would not have to travel that very long distance. They would not face the problem involved in the upsetting of their whole family unit by bringing the family to Brisbane, or by other arrangements they might have to make. They would be rehabilitated, helped, trained and advised within the district in which they were living and in which they could take up their employment again. I feel that this is of tremendous importance and I hope that some consideration will be given to it, for this is a work of very great human assistance. It means much to those who are injured or stricken. If this could be done, there would be men and women who would be grateful to the Government and to the Minister in a way which we at this moment may not even appreciate.
So, Mr. President, and members of the Senate, once more we come to discuss an Address-in-Reply. Once more we start off with a new Parliament. Once more we start the task that lies ahead of us, as Australians, as members of a government, and as members of the Senate. I believe that this country, at this point in its history, has before it perhaps the greatest opportunities that it has ever had before it, and I believe that this Government has shown what it can achieve for Australia and for its people, in a record term of office. There have been record achievements in building this our country and, indeed, in playing the part that we have to play among the nations of the world. So, we face a serious time in our history. We also face an important time in history. While we see and take part in those events which concern our country as well as other countries, we have also, within our own shores, very important tasks to do. I believe that this Government will achieve the very best possible things for Australia. It will make more jobs available and provide more opportunities. It will develop and ensure the growth of this country. I believe, Mr. President, that in this chamber and throughout the nation, people will look back on this time and say, “ This was surely the beginning of a great period of growth and development in Australia “. They will realize that it was indeed a time of development for Australians and also of importance to the world in general, because of the part that Australia played amongst the nations of the world.
– If there is one thing that may be said in my favour, Mr. President, it is that 1 am flexible. I had proposed to adopt a certain approach in my speech to-night, but realizing the lateness of the hour, I have changed the approach. I hope I do not misquote Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin when I say that she spoke of the great help given by the present Menzies Government and previous Menzies Governments in the search for oil. No one denies that those governments have, in some measure, given real assistance. The honorable senator said that such assistance could easily amount to £5,000,000 or more in the coming year. But in the light of what has occurred in recent months, and in the light of thebrilliant contributions on this subject that-‘ have been made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), we realize just how niggardly the Government has been in its approach to this problem.
We remember that the Chifley Government brought to this country two modern oil drilling rigs. One of the first actions of the incoming Menzies Government was to sell those rigs to private enterprise. Only last year, £136,000,000 had to be paid out in overseas credits to bring in the raw products to be refined here, to meet our requirements of petroleum and associated products.
When we remember those things we realize how miserly, how niggardly and how shortsighted the Menzies Government, of which Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin boasts so much, has been. It must be remembered that within ten years our overseas spending on the raw products that I have mentioned could have amounted to £175,000,000 which, incidentally, we might not have been able to provide because of the shortsightedness again exhibited by the Menzies Government in not realizing the possible effects for Australia of the United Kingdom joining the European Economic Community. We hear honorable senators opposite boasting without justification. I do not mind people claiming credit for something that is worthwhile, or espousing a real quality that they possess, but when these representatives in the Parliament, whether in the House of Representatives or in this august chamber, go before the people and claim credit where it is not due, it certainly irritates those who have a capacity for real thought and a sense of responsibility.
What will the position be if oil is found in Australia in commercial quantities? I think there is little doubt that in relation to a particular area, at least, there is a commercial deposit of oil. As has been published widely, at least 80 per cent, of it is owned by outside interests, by overseas capital in the form of the Union Oil and Kern interests. Of the remaining 20 per cent, allegedly owned by an Australian company, overseas interests, through their nominees in Australia, admittedly, have been buying up the shares. So, in effect, the real percentage that we own, of what appears to be the first discovery in Australia of oil in commercial quantities, is extremely doubtful. Yet, we have Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin boasting of what her Government and previous Menzies Governments have done to sponsor the search for oil.
I have listened to Senator McKenna repeatedly speaking on this subject, and I have always been interested in what he has had to say. Repeatedly there has been this cold, analytical approach to a problem that is of great importance to the economy of Australia, not only because of the possibility of saving overseas credits, but also from the point of view of transport. It is essential that we should have our own oil resources here in Australia. Year after year Senator
McKenna has pleaded with the Minister for National Development in regard to this matter. On occasions the Minister displays a real sense of responsibility; sometimes he does not, as was evident last Thursday night.
Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin has been a member of the Senate since 1946 and has held a responsible office in this place. At one stage, fortunately for Australia, she was one member of a team of three; subsequently, unfortunately, she became part and parcel of the Government parties. In spite of that, she has been prepared to stand on her feet to-night and in all sincerity-
– It is best to stand on one’s feet. Do you think she would have stood on her head?
– I gave you a fair go when you spoke. The nation will be grateful for your absence from this place after 1st July. You will then enter upon your retirement. I hope you enjoy your leisure; no one would begrudge that. I appreciate your friendship, but I do not appreciate your rude intrusion. Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin said that the Government had done a great job in assisting the search for oil. But I remind her that this Government sold two modern oil drilling rigs which the Chifley Government had imported. This Government, which claims to be a businessman’s government, originally made available £1,000,000 to assist the search for oil and gradually increased that sum to £4,000,000. Now Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin boasts that in the coming year the subsidy could be more than £5,000,000. A sum of £50,000,000 would not be too much.
The main thing for us to remember is that when oil is discovered here in commercial quantities, it will not be owned by Australian people or controlled by Australian companies, but will be owned and controlled by overseas interests. If, in the . process of time, those interests see fit not to extract the .product and if another Menzies Government, or a government of that ilk, is then in office, that government will not quarrel with those overseas interests. But one thing about which we can be certain is that if Labour is returned to the treasury bench-
– Not if, but when.
– I am a modest person. I simply postulate conditions. If we are to take cognizance of the results of last Saturday’s elections in New South Wales and South Australia, it does seem inevitable that Labour will be returned to the treasury bench in the near future. But if and when Labour is returned to the treasury bench, oil is one product with which there will be no tinkering, irrespective of the absence of any desire on our part to interfere with the actions or wishes of other people. I am not a lawyer, but I have been advised by lawyers that, if the overseas interests decided not to produce oil in Australia from wells which contain commercial quantities, the government of the day would be quite justified in nationalizing the wells in order to be prepared for a state of war and to facilitate mobilization of transport. I repeat that the Government has been remiss in not taking a much greater interest in the production of oil.
Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin referred also to what the Government had done for the development of north Queensland, and in passing she mentioned north Australia. She almost brushed that part of the country aside. What have the successive Menzies Governments done for the development of north Queensland or north Australia? Admittedly, they have spent some millions of pounds a year in the Northern Territory. But north Queensland really owes those governments nothing. Ever since sugar was first grown southerners have accepted the demands of the people of north Queensland for a price which on occasions has been above world parity. That has largely been because of the white population that the industry has attracted. On occasions, particularly during the war and just subsequent to it, southerners got the cheapest sugar in the world. So it has worked both ways.
I may be remiss, but I cannot recall one developmental project in north Queensland for which this Government can claim credit. If my memory has failed me, I hope some honorable senator opposite will correct me. In her reference to developmental works, Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin mentioned the Mount Isa-Townsville-Collinsville railway. I should have thought that supporters of the Government would be the last to speak about that project, particularly when we take into account the foundation that has been laid for the standardization of the gauge. The Minister for National Development has always referred to the need for the standardization of gauges as justification of the provision of extraordinary financial assistance for the Melbourne-Albury railway, the railways in South Australia and the proposed rail project between Kalgoorlie and Kwinana. But for the Mount IsaTownsvilleCollinsville railway Queensland received no grant at all. All that State received was a loan of £20,000,000, with no special consideration being extended because of the provision that is being made to facilitate ultimately the standardization of the gauge. That loan, which bears a high rate of interest, will be repayable over twenty years.
It took from 1956 to the dying days of the last Parliament, when the Menzies Government feared for its political hide - justifiably so, as the electors of Queensland showed - for this money to be made available. I have just referred to what the electors of Queensland thought about the consideration that had been given to the development of north Queensland by this Government. To illustrate that, I point out that eleven of the eighteen Queensland members of the House of Representatives belong to the Australian Labour Party, that two Ministers were thrown overboard, and that some of the most popular men personally in that House were defeated. Surely Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin is not so blind politically that she does not realize that Queenslanders have rejected the Government’s plea for support because of its consideration of developmental projects in north Queensland.
Incidentally, it is interesting to recall that, after a lag of five years, we had to come back into the chamber after six o’clock on the last day of the last Parliament to ensure that the necessary legislation would be passed to enable Queensland to get the £20,000,000 that it needed. Let us contrast that with the attitude of this Government to the Snowy Mountains scheme, as to the real value of which some doubt has been expressed by an economist named Herbert. It was no trouble for the Menzies Govern- ment to go to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development to obtain £42,000,000 for that project. But when it was a matter of finding £20,000,000 for a really worthwhile project which could pay its way, which would earn overseas credits and which would serve not only the pastoral industry but also the mining industry, nothing could be done. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) went to Washington himself and interviewed the directors of the bank. He interviewed the chairman, Mr. Black, but nothing could be done to obtain finance for this rail project in north Queensland. Mr. Hiley, the Liberal Treasurer of Queensland, went to America in company with Mr. George Fisher, chairman of directors of Mount Isa Mines Limited, allegedly with the blessing of this so-called beneficient Menzies Government, which has done so much for north Queensland and northern Australia, but nothing could be done about this matter. Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin has sympathetic listeners on her side, but there are critical ears on this side, and she has spoken to critical ears in Queensland. Queenslanders have experienced neglect and they have registered .their awareness of it as recently as 9th December, 1961.
The honorable senator made great play of the beef roads in Queensland and the £5,000,000 that, after many years, is to be granted. Let us recall what Mr. Wally Rae, Country Party member for the State electorate of Gregory, an area to be served by the beef roads, had to say. He said that Mr. McEwen and his associates had gone up there on a social jaunt and that they might as well not have gone. We must remember that over half of Australia’s beef cattle are in Queensland and that with the exception of the beef and wool industry, all of our primary industries, by and large, are in danger, again because of the shortsightedness of the Menzies Government in not visualizing the probability that the United Kingdom would join the European Economic Community. That was in spite of the fact that General de Gaulle and Dr. Adenauer had some time ago, in 1959, told the Prime Minister, on his own admission, that they thought it inevitable that the United Kingdom would join the Common Market. Yet now the Government talks of contributing £5,000,000 towards one of our major industries. When the Chifley Government introduced legislation to encourage beef production it provided money not only for roads but also for loading facilities and watering places. The Menzies Government introduced its legislation as a preelection gesture, not on the last day but on the second-last day of the last Parliament. It was a last-minute stab in order to capture the sympathetic vote of Queenslanders. But the people were not hoodwinked.
When we think of the 6,000,000 cattle involved, we know how far £5,000,000 would go. An amount of £1,000,000 is to be provided in respect of the road between Normanton and Julia Creek. This amounts to a little more than £2,000 a mile. What sort of a road would that provide? You, Sir, are associated with primary industry, admittedly in a State more settled and better served. You would appreciate how far a little more than £2,000 a mile would go in establishing an all-weather road. Men engaged in the industry have suggested that much of this expenditure will be wasted. The Government is chastened but not repentant, humiliated but not humbled. When speaking to the legislation, I said that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) had, in his arrogance, abrogated to himself the right to determine the quality of the roads and where they would go. There was no recognition of possession of knowledge and responsibility by the people of Queensland, the men who knew the industry, the Government in power, its advisers or any one else. Since the election it has been announced by a responsible member of the Government - if it has any responsible members - that the selection of roads will be left to the Queensland Government, which as early as next year will be a Labour Government. At least, the people of Queensland hope so, just as the Australian people need a Labour Government in Canberra. There is a Labour Government in New South Wales and it appears likely that there will be one in South Australia.
Let us remember that Queensland is not negligible from the point of view of wool production, as 15 per cent, of Australia’s sheep are in that State. Although the roads in question are called beef roads, they will serve sheep country also. Apart from metals, beef and wool are the primary products on which Australia may have to depend again, because of the short-sightedness of the
Menzies Government. An amount of £5,000,000 is not very much to spend for this purpose. Queensland is one of the few States that earns- almost £60,000,000- more than it expends overseas.
Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin referred also to the assistance rendered by the Commonwealth towards the establishment of coal-loading facilities at Gladstone. I am very pleased that Senator Spooner is here, and I am most appreciative of the attention and courtesy that he usually extends to me. Do honorable senators know what the Government intends to do? If I am wrong, the Minister will correct me. The Government will provide for these facilities an amount of £200,000, although it provided, before the election, £2,500,000 for the harbours of New South Wales. Of that £200,000, the sum of £100,000 will be provided by way of loan and will be repayable, and £100,000 will be provided by way of grant. Only recently, Thiess Brothers, in association with the Peabody organization of America, executed a contract to supply to Japan 2,000,000 tons of coking coal valued at £13,000,000. Yet Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin speaks of the beneficence, the munificence of the Menzies Government in giving Gladstone £100,000, although £13,000,000 is coming in from overseas. We need external credits to maintain the standard way of life in Australia. We need them also to maintain develop ment, settlement, migration and everything that goes with it. Yet this Government will grant only £100,000 for the improvement of coal-loading and general harbour facilities at Gladstone. How paltry can it be? How mean is it to claim credit for such expenditure?
In central Queensland, at Moura and Kianga, and from Blair Athol to Callide, is one of the major coal deposits in the world. It is a good, hard, coking coal. Outside New South Wales, apart from the brown coal deposits of Victoria, there are no real coal deposits in Australia except those in Queensland. Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin should know coal very well, because her father was a distinguished man in the coal industry in Queensland many years ago. She should have a real appreciation of it and should realize its value to the nation. She should realize what it means to Queensland.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIIin). - Order! In conformtiy with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 March 1962, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1962/19620306_senate_24_s21/>.