25th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the lion. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation indicate a firm date for the completion of the Tullamarine jet airport? As the proposed freeway to serve that airport is essential for the successful operation of the airport, will the Commonwealth Government give some special assistance in the construction of that freeway?
– The nearest 1 can get to a firm date at the moment is the end of 1967 or early 1968. 1 point out. however, that the date is not firm for two reasons. First, the Public Works Committee suggested that, if possible, and if the resources were available, the target date should be advanced by some six months. Secondly, tenders are now in the course of being called, and until my colleague, the Minister for Works, has those lenders a target date would be an estimate rather than a firm date. We shall have a clearer idea when the lenders have been examined and the contract awarded.
The second pari of the question refers to the provision of a freeway from the city of Melbourne to the airport itself. The Commonwealth has made quite clear to the Victorian Government that this is regarded as a project which properly should bc undertaken by the State. The Commonwealth makes grants to the States for roads. In view of the special circumstances surrounding the clamour for the establishment by the Commonwealth of an airport at Tullamarine, it is not loo much to expect that, a first-class airport being provided by the Commonwealth, the State should fulfil its normal functions and provide the road.
Negotiations, which took some time, were brought to a conclusion which was satisfactory to the Union - Kern and Australian Oil and Gas organizations. The companies have obtained the price for which they asked during the course of the negotiations, as well as other terms and conditions. Some time was taken to complete the contract, but 1 am now advised that the first shipment of oil will leave Brisbane on or about 23rd May. to the order of the Shell Company of Australia Limited, which is one of the companies in .he purchasing group. 1 have no doubt that this will be followed by regular shipments of Moonie oil to the market.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to she Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, by pointing cu! that the Commonwealth has found it necessary to prosecute in a case of restriction of trade. In view of the clear indication that Australia is suffering from this type of activity, will the Minister for Shipping and Transport consider asking the Australian National Line lo extend its activities in order to defeat this form of restriction?
– Overseas shipping falls within the administration of my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Industry. I suggest that the honorable senator should place his question on the noticepaper and address it to Mr McEwen.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry say when the report of the committee that was set up by the Tasmanian Government and the Federal Government to inquire into soldier settlement on King Island will bc available? If it becomes available during the recess, can it be forwarded to honorable senators and members of another place?
– My understanding is that the committee was set up by the Tasmanian Government and that it will report to the Tasmanian Parliament. I have no precise knowledge of when the report will bc available, but I am led to believe that the preparation of it is in the final stages.
If it becomes available during the recess, I shall see whether copies can be made available and whether one can be made available to Senator Lillico in particular.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry: What is the present situation at Mareeba in respect of the sale of this year’s tobacco crop? Has a request been made to have the percentage of Australian grown tobacco used in the manufacture of cigarettes increased?
– I shall answer the question. Tobacco interests throughout Australia met the Minister for Trade and Industry, the Minister for Primary Industry and myself last week and placed before us certain difficulties that had arisen in the sale of this year’s crop. They also put forward certain long-term proposals which they believed would overcome the difficulties that arise occasionally as a result of a sudden increase in the size of the crop. As the honorable senator will realize, these difficulties are of a seasonal nature. A very good season will produce a crop that is much bigger than that estimated and an adverse season will sometimes produce a crop that is below the estimate. These matters are now being considered by the departments concerned and the tobacco interests. A statement on these lines was made recently by the Minister for Trade and Industry, I think, after that interview.
– Has the Minister for Health noticed a recent report that eye drops on sale in Melbourne were unsterile and could cause serious eye damage? Attention has been focused on the fact that South Australia is the only State which has regulations covering unsterile eye drops. Can the Minister indicate whether his department has taken any action in relation to the sterility of eye drops?
– I answered a similar question in this place yesterday. I informed the Senate that my department had no jurisdication over drugs not listed under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. I emphasized that so far as these preparations were concerned - they are not listed preparations - the States themselves had sole authority to prohibit their sale and preparation. We have no jurisdiction whatsoever.
– What about the National Health and Medical Research Council?
– It is a matter entirely for the States. We have a responsibility in the Australian Capital Territory, and we are taking appropriate action there. The honorable senator, by way of interjection, suggested that the National Health and Medical Research Council might investigate this type of problem. It might, if it were asked to do so by the various co-ordinating bodies in the States. We do not take unilateral action in this field because, as I have emphasized, we have no jurisdiction. I think I can assure the honorable senator that the States are alive to their responsibilities in this sphere. There is a trend - one to be encouraged - whereby the various State health ministers come together to seek a uniform approach to problems that arise from time to time in order to get uniform policy throughout the Commonwealth. This is a most encouraging sign.
– Earlier this session I asked the Minister for National Development about the National Materials Handling Bureau the setting up of which was promised by the Government during the Budget session last year. He indicated then that the bureau had not commenced work, but that the establishment of the staff had been approved by the Public Service Board. Will the Minister state whether that is the position?
– I gave a reply on this matter to Senator Murphy some little time ago, but it was incorrect. At that time I told him that the Public Service Board had approved the establishment. Naturally one tries to find excuses for mistakes. 1 looked back and found that I gave an answer to a question on notice in another place in which I said that steps had been taken to obtain Public Service Board approval. In my recollection I thought that was a statement that the Public Service Board approval had been obtained. The matter is still awaiting Public Service Board approval.
– 1 direct the following questions to the Minister representing thi Minister for Shipping and Transport: -
– The honorable senator indicated his interest in this matter and I took the opportunity of conferring with the Department of Shipping and Transport which has provided rather comprehensive answers as follows: - 1 and 2. The freight rate for any particular commodity shipped to Hong Kong is the same irrespective of the port of shipment in Australia.
It is pointed out, however, that this is only a theoretical exercise as, in practice, cargo liners do not operate only from one Australian port to Hong Kong or Port Moresby but call at several intermediate pons. The length of each voyage, with calls at the same ports on each occasion, varies as the time spent in the various Australian and overseas ports differs according to the amount of cargo to be loaded and unloaded, availability of berths and labour, delays due to industrial disputes, weather, &c.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. Will the proposed installation of micro-wave radio telephone equipment as announced by the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs, Mr. F. P. O’Grady, in Adelaide on 16th May provide technically satisfactory reception of long-range television relayed programmes in Adelaide? Arc the proposed installations merely for telephone services or is there an anticipated or specified allocation of television stations’ time on the system under consideration by the Postmaster-General?
– I am sorry I do not know the answers to the honorable senator’s questions. Rather than ask him to put them on notice, I will direct the attention of the Postmaster-General to them and ask him to supply an answer to the honorable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services. Whilst congratulating the Minister on the excellent work that is being done in the rehabilitation section of his department, I ask: Can he tell me whether there is a section anywhere in Australia which copes with physically handicapped housewives who are very needy members of the community? Would the Minister consider, at least in South Australia where 1 am told that nothing is being done for physically handicapped housewives, having incorporated in the rehabilitation side of his department a section where these very worthy people could be shown how they might play an active part in their homes and therefore in the community, and thus avoid the obvious results which now ensue from mental and neurological upsets?
I shall have to ask Senator Buttfield to put the question on the notice-paper because my recollection is not good enough to enable me to state the present arrangements. There are two matters to be considered. The first is whether the housekeeper service operates in South Australia and, if so, whether its provisions would be applicable to these people. I think the answer to that question is, “ No. “. The second is whether my recollection is correct that the rehabilitation service, which is excellently run by the Department of Social Services, is restricted only to those people who are in receipt of social service benefits. I have a feeling that that is the position. If the question is placed on the notice-paper I shall ascertain the facts.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. In view of the instructions issued by the Minister which will mean the end of garbage dumping at St. Peters, near the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) airport, by the municipal councils of Randwick, Waverley, Woollahra and Botany, is the Minister aware that whilst the councils are eager to co-operate, they are very concerned and worried about the extra expenditure that will be incurred? I ask the Minister whether the Government will consider making some contribution to the councils for the added expenditure that will immediately be involved in carrying out his recommendations.
– I make it clear again that, as far as the Department of Civil Aviation is concerned, it is interested and determined to see that the dumping of food waste shall not continue. I emphasize again that the department is not interested in hard garbage which may continue to be dumped there. The honorable senator raises the question of the possibility of some Commonwealth financial support being given to the councils to compensate them for whatever additional expenditure may be incurred. I repeat that this is a question apart from that of the safety factor. I am interested in the safety factor and the safety factor only. It may be that at some subsequent date the councils will make a claim upon either the State Government or the Commonwealth Government. At that time the matter will be looked at, but I do not enter into any commitment whatever at the present time. There are one or two factors which will have to be considered. The first is on whose land the garbage is being dumped, which raises a nice point. Secondly, I would want to be satisfied that the councils themselves were not trespassers, they having begun to dump garbage on this site long after Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) airport was developed as an airport. I make it clear to the honorable senator, as 1 hope I make it clear to the councils, that I am interested at this time in the safety factor. The other matter is one which may or may not arise as a result of the information which is thrown up.
– 1 wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry a question. Here I ask the indulgence of the Senate because it may bc necessary for me to be a little longer than 1 would like to be in asking this question. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a statement issued by the Irrigation Research and Extension Committee, Murrumbidgee and Coleambally Irrigation Areas. New South Wales? This statement has been issued to correct any mistaken impression created by the report on “ The Development of Australia “, issued by the Australian Development Research Foundation. I understand that some £48,000 was made available to bring out a Dr. J. B. Condliffe, a senior economist at Stanford University, United States of America, and two colleagues to write the report. In seeking material on irrigation for the report these people did not near the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, nor any of the State Departments of Agriculture. Apparently only two references were quoted, one from the “ Quarterly Review “ of the Australia and New Zealand Bank Limited and one from Mr. H. W. Herbert, who also compiled the comments in the “ Quarterly Review “. One of the criticisms contained in “ The Development of Australia “ was-
– Order! I think you stc giving far too much information.
– If I may I will finish with this quotation. The report contains the words, “ Maybe the best thing to do wilh some of the Snowy water is to let it run inexpensively away to the sea “. If the Minister has not seen this publication I will obtain it for him so that he can bring it to the notice of the Minister in another place whom be represents in this chamber.
– I have not seen the report referred to, but I am disturbed at the suggestion that the easy way out might be to let the water run away inexpensively (o the sea. That is something which is anathema to Australians; we are always searching for ways and means to conserve our water resources. I will get the report and have comments on it prepared for the honorable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Yesterday 1 asked him a question concerning the crash of a Cessna aircraft at Rutherford. He then stated that the information conveyed to him had not so far indicated any evidence of sabotage. I now ask him whether this is still the position or has he received from his officers investigating the crash any later information, which might indicate otherwise?
– Information reaching me since yesterday morning makes the position at this stage as follows: - At 0615 hours, eastern standard time, on 15th May, a Cessna 182 aircraft, owned by Rex Aviation Limited and flown by Mr. R. A. Brown was involved in an accident at Rutherford, which is near Maitland, New South Wales. The aircraft was about to make a private flight and when at a height of about 200 feet the pilot saw flames issuing from beneath the engine cowl. The pilot turned the fuel off and landed the aircraft straight ahead on fairly rough ground. The aircraft suffered only minor damage in the landing and the pilot was unhurt, but the aircraft was subsequently destroyed by fire. The investigation of the accident has revealed some evidence that the aircraft may have been interfered with prior to the flight. It is possible that the drain cock of the fuel filter had been removed or loosened and that a fuel line had been similarly tampered with. The investigation of this possibility is continuing, because of its obvious relevance to the outbreak of fire in the aircraft.
– I ask the Minister for National Development: Will he please advise of the progress that has been made in relation to the appointment of officers to the Northern Division of his department?
– Good progress is being made. My recollection is that we started off with an establishment of about eighteen officers. When I last spoke to Sir Harold Raggatt he left me with the impression that twelve or fifteen of the posts had been filled. But what pleased me most was that from what he said I gathered that there was strong competition for the positions and a number of people were coming forward, most obviously with the desire to do interesting work in the northern area. I think we have been lucky to obtain as leader of the section Dr. Patterson, who came from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, and really knows the north of Australia in detail as a result of his years of service with the bureau. I believe it is equally important that he is favorably known by people living in the north.
– Some time ago I asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral a question in relation to the attempt by the Commonwealth Government to acquire portion of the Rippon Lea estate in Victoria. Has he a reply to that question?
– The PostmasterGeneral has now furnished me with the following information: -
Notice of the compulsory acquisition by the Commonwealth Government, of an area of 4 acres 9.6 perches on the Rippon Len estate, pursuant to the provisions of the Lands Acquisition Act 1955- 1957, appeared in the Commonwealth Gazette No. 83a of 15th October, 1963.
The former owner has taken out a High court writ against the Commonwealth Government challenging its right to acquire this land. The High Court sitting at which the action will be heard has not yet been announced.
– My question to the Minister for National Development is related to a question asked by Senator Morris about the establishment of a northern division in the Department of National Development.
Will one of the first tasks of the division be to look into the economics of the establishment of an irrigation scheme on the Ord River? Will the division make a report immediately to the Government so that a decision can be made on whether the Commonwealth Government will help Western Australia complete the Ord River project? Will that report be made available to members of the Senate?
Investigation into Western Australia’s application for financial assistance for the Ord River proposal is already in hand. When the northern division of the Department of National Development makes reports on applications to the Commonwealth for financial assistance for State projects I do not think it would be practicable for those reports to be made public. The reports would be similar to those made by a department to a Minister. Senator Scott has suggested that one of the first tasks of the new division should be to investigate the Ord River proposal. I have already said that the investigation into the proposal has started, but I should like to place on record that the great strength of the new northern division will be its ability to work on all fronts at the same time. One section of the division will investigate proposals such as that which has been mentioned by Senator Scott. Another section will consider policy matters on taxation or transport including an inquiry into freight costs into northern Australia. A third section will be concerned with the evaluation of resources, exploration programmes and other matters related to the natural resources of the north. I repeat that the strength of the organization will be its ability to approach the development of the north on all three fronts at the one time and continuously. It is an organization that will do nothing else other than consider the needs of the north.
– I direct a question to the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research. What has been achieved by the Yass valley project? To what extent can this kind of Commonwealth-State teamwork approach to the study of a relatively developed area be applied in other areas?
– I shall find out as soon as I can what the Yass valley project is. When I have found that out,I shall write to the honorable senator, giving him a reply to his question.
(Question No. 92.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister forImmigration, upon notice -
What, if anything, is being done to encourage immigration from South America?
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answer: -
Active recruitment of migrants for settlement in Australia is not undertaken in the countries of South America because they are, in general, seeking skilled and semi-skilled workers lor their own needs, especially in Europe under the auspices of theInter-Governmental Committee for European Migration of which many of them are members as also is Australia. Whilst we do not actively recruit in South American countries, residents there wishing to emigrate individually to Australia may do so, if they are sponsored by relatives already settled here or apply direct, and are found able to meet Australian immigration requirements. In individual cases where applicants represent a particular migration gain to Australia, they may come under the provisions of the general assisted passage scheme which provides for financial assistance amounting to £71 8s. 6d. to be contributed by the Australian Government towards the passage costs of adults and pro rata contributions for children travelling at concessional fare rates.
(Question No. 112.)
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
-I now furnish the following replies: -
(Question No. 121.)
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– The answers to the questions are as follows: -
Whilst it is true that some time will elapse before the Tariff Board inquiries are completed and its recommendations implemented, the Government is confident that significant increases in the Australian content of motor vehicles manufactured or assembled in Australia will be achieved by this new policy during the interim period.
(Question No. 135.)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has furnished the following replies: -
(Question No. 136.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has furnished the following reply -
(Question No. 142.)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. Further representations have recently been received and these will be given fresh consideration.
(Question No. 145.)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is as follows: -
I and 2. Representations have been made in the past for the establishment of a Commonwealth music fund along the lines of the Commonwealth Literary Fund but, after careful consideration of all aspects of the proposals, it was decided not to adopt them. Further representations have now been made and these will be given fresh consideration.
Report of the Public Accounts Committee.
– On behalf of the Public Accounts Committee,I present the following report: -
Sixty-sixth Report - The Reports of the AuditorGeneral - Financial Year, 1962-63.
Ordered to be printed.
– I ask for leave to make a statement.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
- Mr. President, your committee is specifically directed by the Public Accounts Committee Act 1951 to examine each statement and report of the Auditor-General. This sixtysixth report relates to a detailed examination of criticisms raised by the Auditor-General in his reports for the financial year 1962-63 and public inquiries subsequently held by the committee. The Auditor-General referred to several instances of inadequate internal audits. In this report we have directed the attention of departments to the desirability of maintaining internal audit sections as near to full strength as is reasonable in the circumstances.
The committee has expressed concern at the procedure adopted by the Department of Primary Industry of making very substantial payments in excess of written ministerial approvals. The payments concerned were not in direct compliance with the Audit Act provisions and the action, therefore, displayed disregard for legislative safeguards. This report also refers to an apparent laxity on the part of the Department of Trade and Industry in regard to Treasury Regulation 77 (2)(b), which deals with temporary advances. We have recommended that specific instructions be sent from the Secretary to the Treasury to all chief officers pointing out that this regulation should be observed implicitly.
The committee has expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of effort on the part of the Stores Supply and Tender Board in regard to the obvious need for revision of its constitution and related instructions, not withstanding that these matters have been the subject of comment by the AuditorGeneral over many years. This matter will be pursued by the committee at an early date.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time. .
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is designed to make provision for the terms and conditions under which certain employees in the branches of the Royal Mint in Melbourne and Perth are to be offered an opportunity to transfer to the Commonwealth Public Service for duties in the new mint which is being established in Canberra. The mint will be a division of the Commonwealth Treasury.
I am sure that all honorable senators will be pleased to learn that Her Majesty the Queen has graciously given her consent to the new mint being known as the Royal Australian Mint. There have, of course, been branches of the British Royal Mint in Australia for many years. The first was opened in Sydney in 1855. The name which is being given to the new mint in Canberra continues the close association which the monarchy has always had with coinage matters. It also emphasizes the fact that we are now, 63 years after federation, finally establishing the first mint to be administered by the Commonwealth Government. The traditional association between coinage and the monarchy will also be preserved in our new decimal coins. They will continue to display the Queen’s effigy as their obverse or “ head “ design.
I have just said that, more than 60 years after federation, we are finally very close to setting up the first purely Australian mint. But that does not mean that the Government has suddenly made a policy decision to move into a new field of activity, perhaps spurred on by the imminent changeover to a decimal currency system in Australia. The framers of the Constitution clearly envisaged that the Commonwealth would eventually have its own mint. Section 51 (xii) of the Constitution gives the Commonwealth powers over currency, coinage and legal tender, and there have been many moves over the past 50 or 60 years towards establishing a locally controlled Australian mint. Until 1909, all coins which were legal tender in the new Commonwealth were British coins. These were issued through the three branches of the London mint which had been established in Sydney in 1855, in Melbourne in 1872 and in Perth in 1899. These three Royal Mint branches had been set up primarily to serve the interests of the gold-mining industry in what were then the three main goldproducing colonics. In addition to assaying and refining gold, the three branches minted gold sovereigns and half-sovereigns on behalf of the British Government. The Sydney branch was closed in 1926. but the branches in Melbourne and Perth are still functioning.
The first coins for use exclusively in Australia, and employing a distinctive Australian reverse or “ tail “ design, were not minted until the passage of the Australian Coinage Act 1909. However, until 1916 these coins were produced mainly in the London mint and partly in the Calcutta mint. After that the production of Australian silver coins was commenced in the Melbourne branch of the Royal Mint. Australian bronze coins were first minted locally in .1919 at the Sydney and Melbourne mint branches, and the Perth branch has been producing bronze coins since 1940. Since 1940, most of our silver coins have been minted in Melbourne and most of our bronze coins in Perth, In the early I940’s and the earl I950’s, when these two mints were unable to keep up with public demand, large orders for Australian coins had to be placed with mints in London, India or the United States.
Since federation, moves have been made from time to time by various Commonwealth and State Governments to have the Commonwealth take sole responsibility for Australian coinage requirements, as envisaged in the Constitution. As a result of one such move, a meeting of State Premiers in April, 1 914 - 50 years ago last month - approved the “ taking over of the mint and of gold coinage by the Commonwealth “s In the event, it proved extremely difficult to reach an agreement on satisfactory terms and conditions for the changeover. The
Acting Prime Minister wrote to the Premiers in June, 1916, confirming the Commonwealth Government’s desire to take over all mints in Australia immediately, but the proposal was eventually deferred until the end of World War I.
After that war, it became Commonwealth Government policy that there should be one mint only in Australia. It was in fact decided that a new mint would be one of the first buildings constructed at the new seat of government in Canberra. The decision to establish a mint in Canberra was reaffirmed by the Commonwealth Prime Minister in June, 1928, in a letter to the Premier of Victoria, but no positive action was taken to plan for the new mint. This decision was again endorsed during World War II., when the Acting Prime Minister wrote to the Premier of Victoria in December, 1944.
So there is a long history behind our decision to go ahead with the Royal Australian Mint in Canberra. Preliminary investigations on the nature of the building, on the type of equipment which should be installed, and on an appropriate site in the national capital commenced more than ten years ago. More recently, a great deal of exploratory work was undertaken both in Australia and overseas by a planning group. After examining the results of these investigations, Cabinet gave its approval in April, 1962, to a construction timetable for the new mint which would permit it to produce an adequate number of our new decimal coins before the planned changeover to decimal currency in Australia in February, 1966.
Although the construction of the Commonwealth mint has been long delayed, at least it will be all the more efficient because of the introduction of modern equipment and techniques. Indeed, we have been fortunate in our timing in that we are constructing our new mint following a period when minting techniques have undergone a radical transformation. It can be said with confidence that no mint in the world employs equipment for any phase of is operations which will be more efficient than the equipment being installed in Canberra. This applies through the whole cycle from the melting, annealling and rolling of metals, to the cutting of coin blanks, and to the stamping of these blanks with the appropriate coin designs by means of precisionbuilt dies. It ends with a process which is understood to be unique in the world - the wrapping of coins in paper rolls for despatch from the mint to the banking system. I may add that the establishment of an institution of this nature will provide new and interesting employment opportunities which have hitherto not been available in Canberra. These include positions requiring experience and qualifications in the heavy industrial field. There will be opportunities for the practical application of professional skills in metallurgy and other related sciences. Specialists will be required for coin and medal design, engraving, die making and many other minting operations of a similar nature. Minting techniques have certainly come a long way since the Lydians and Ionian Greeks produced the first coins about 3,000 years ago. They stamped a design on one side only of a lump of gold and silver alloy on an anvil. An additional feature of the new mint will be the special facilities we are providing for members of the public. They will be able to view the complete operation from a specially constructed observation gallery. This will make the new mint a decided attraction to the large number of tourists who visit Canberra each year.
In case any honorable senators still have the idea that a mint is a factory which is adorned by ugly smoke-stacks and which exudes noxious fumes, I invite them to have a look for themselves at the new building, which is already taking its final shape. To all intents and purposes, it is no different in general design principles and appearance from any other large administrative building in Canberra. The administrative section of the building is already complete, and it will already be obvious that the process building will have nothing remotely resembling a smoke-stack. Special arrangements are being made to avoid any form of unpleasant fumes. Our task is being made easier in this regard by our already-announced decision not to establish a gold refinery in Canberra.
Work at the mint is progressing according to the timetable which we drew up two years ago. Only last week about one-third of the process building was handed over, on schedule, to receive the rolling mills, the high frequency electric furnaces, and certain other heavy equipment. These items will be installed over the next few months in a programme designed to have ali equipment installed and commissioned about the same time as the building itself is completed late this year. But it is one thing to build and equip a new mint - it is another matter entirely to find qualified and experienced staff to operate it. Under the existing arrangements, the buildings and equipment used by the Melbourne and Perth branches of the Royal Mint are owned by the Governments of Victoria and Western Australia respectively. The two State Governments provide funds to run the two mint branches, including staff salaries and general operating expenses. The Commonwealth Government orders its coin requirements from the two mints as a purely commercial transaction. It purchases and provides the necessary metals, and pays for the work performed by the mints on a basis negotiated from time to time. The Commonwealth Government therefore exercises no control over the operations of the two mints, or over their arrangements for staff or equipment. Its only role has been similar to that of an ordinary commercial customer concerned with the quality, the quantity, and the cost of the end product.
I have said that the employees of the Melbourne and Perth mints are paid out of funds provided by the two State Governments concerned. However, they are, in effect, British civil servants whose conditions of employment, including superannuation, are based on the appropriate British acts and regulations. They look for their instructions and technical guidance to the Royal Mint authorities in London. These arrangements have continued undisturbed for over 100 years, and the Commonwealth has no share in any of them. With the establishment of the Royal Australian Mint in Canberra, the Commonwealth has an urgent need for specialized minting staff. The obvious place to look for people with the necessary expertise is in the two existing mint branches. Coinage operations in Melbourne and Perth will eventually cease when the Royal Australian Mint gets into full production and breaks the back of the problem of replacing all existing coins by new decimal coins. It is therefore in the interests of both the Commonwealth Government and the Royal Mint authorities that the Commonwealth should offer employment opportunities in its new mint to all suitable Royal Mint employees.
The Commonwealth officially informed the British, Victorian and Western Australian Governments and the Royal Mint authorities in London, Melbourne and Perth last year of its intention to offer employment to suitable Royal Mint personnel. Negotiations then commenced to determine the precise terms and conditions under which selected Royal Mint employees might transfer to the Commonwealth Public Service. This has been a most complicated exercise. The main difficulty has been that the conditions of service and (he superannuation arrangements for existing Royal Mint personnel are based on those ruling in the British Civil Service. These vary substantially from those applying in the Commonwealth Public Service. For example, the British Civil Service has a non-contributory superannuation scheme which incorporates a lump sum benefit on retirement, in addition to an annual pension, but there is no long service leave. The conditions for recreation leave and sick leave are also quite different from those applying within the Commonwealth Public Service.
There have, of course, been several precedents in the past for employees of other governments being transferred to the service of the Commonwealth. I mention, for example, the transfer of State taxation officers, and employees of the Williamstown dockyard. The superannuation arrangements for these officers are covered by Parts VI and VII of the Superannuation Act 1922-1963. Then there were arrangements for the transfer of State statistical officers, which are set out in the Statistics (Arrangements with States) Act 1956. We have kept the principles established in those cases in mind in our negotiations for the transfer of the Royal Mint officers. The scheme which has been worked out now has the full acceptance of the British, Victorian and Western Australian Governments, the Royal Mint authorities, and the Royal Mint Staff Associations.
In brief outline, the bill provides that Royal Mint employees who are offered and who accept transfer to the Royal Australian Mint will become Commonwealth public servants. They will receive the full benefits prescribed by the Public Service Act. Their salaries at the Royal Australian Mint will be no less than the salaries to which they are at present entitled in the Royal Mint branches. Their past service in the Royal Mint branches will count as
Commonwealth service. Transferees will be given the benefit of this aggregate service in the calculation of their entitlement to benefits under the Public Service Act, such as long service leave and sick leave. They will be offered the choice of two alternative superannuation schemes. Either they will continue with a non-contributory superannuation scheme similar to that which they at present enjoy, or they will transfer to the Commonwealth superannuation scheme. If they choose the latter course, they will be credited with a number of paid-up units calculated actuarially to be the equivalent of the benefits which have accrued to them so far under their existing superannuation scheme. They will in addition have the right to contribute to further units where appropriate, in accordance with the normal provisions of the Commonwealth Superannuation Act.
Part I. of the bill is mainly concerned with definitions. It ensures that the provisions of the bill will apply to Royal Mint personnel already loaned for service on the mint project in Canberra, as well as to those still employed at the two Royal Mint branches. Part II. of the bill establishes the conditions upon which Royal Mint employees may transfer to the Commonwealth Public Service, either by permanent appointment or by employment in a temporary capacity. This part is to be read in conjunction with the Public Service Act. It ensures that all transferees immediately become entitled to the normal benefits available under that act. Where appropriate, they can also bring with them any entitlements to recreation leave which have accrued to them under their existing arrangements. Special arrangements are made regarding sick leave.
The superannuation aspects are covered by Part III. of the bill. This provides that, if a transferee elects not to contribute to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund, there shall be payable out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund similar benefits to those to which he or his dependents would be entitled under the Royal Mint superannuation scheme. If, on the other hand, a transferee elects to contribute to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund, he will be credited with a number of paid-up units equivalent to the benefits to which he is already entitled under the existing Royal Mint scheme. He will also be able to contribute for additional units where appropriate. When he or his dependants eventually become entitled to the benefits, the amounts covered by the paid-up units originally credited to the transferee will be met out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The balance - the amount attributable to any additional contributions made by the transferee to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund - will be shared in the usual way between Consolidated Revenue and the Superannuation Fund. This part of the bill is to be read in conjunction with the Commonwealth Superannuation Act.
In addition to the arrangements provided for in the new legislation, the Commonwealth is offering assistance to transferees in housing and in the movement of their families and personal effects to Canberra. It will in fact be helping them as far as possible to settle into the Canberra community wilh a minimum of personal hardship and family problems. Perhaps I should make it clear that the Commonwealth is not taking over the operations of either of the Royal Mint branches. It is merely making an offer of employment to selected Royal Mint personnel. Some Royal Mint employees have already been seconded to Canberra. Others will arrive progressively over the next six months. It seems likely that the total number transferring will be of the order of 65 - say, approximately 50 from Melbourne and 15 from Perth. Generally speaking, every employee at either mint branch who is qualified in the art of minting, who is of suitable age, and who can materially assist in the establishment of the new mint is being given an opportunity to transfer.
After these Royal Mint employees have transferred to Canberra, the Melbourne and Perth mints are going to find it increasingly difficult to maintain production at something approaching the current rate. The planned annual one-shift production rate at the Royal Australian Mint is 300,000,000 coins. There are 2,500,000,000 Australian coins still theoretically in circulation. It would take many years to replace them, even if only two-thirds of them, or thereabouts, actually required replacement. Negotiations will be undertaken with the State Governments and the Royal Mint authorities to maintain production at the Melbourne and Perth mints at the highest possible rate as long as this is an economic proposition.
While a large proportion of the skilled tradesmen required at the Royal Australian Mint will be coming from the Melbourne and Perth mints, the transferees will only constitute approximately one-third of the mint’s total staff. The other members of the staff, ranging from engineers and accountants to semi-skilled process workers and cafeteria assistants, will be mainly recruited from other Public Service departments and from Canberra’s own labour force.
The assistance we have been given by the Royal Mint authorities in London, Melbourne and Perth has been invaluable to us in helping to meet a very tight time-table. Three senior officers of the Melbourne branch of the Royal Mint have been working continuously with the mint planning group since 1962. It is difficult to see how we could have made such excellent progress without their assistance. Several oversea mints have already given us most generous assistance by permitting Royal Mint personnel who will be transferring to Canberra to familiarize themselves with new minting techniques. In this connexion, I am glad to place on record a special tribute to the United Slates Bureau of the Mint. The bureau provided us with the services of its Assistant Director in 1959 to report on a suitable lay-out for the new mint. It has also given valuable experience to future Royal Australian Mint staff, by agreeing to their spending several weeks at the Denver and Philadelphia mints. These officers have in addition spent extremely useful periods at the London mint. Tn its capacity as the “ head office “ of the two Australian branch mints the London mint has kept officers stationed in Melbourne and Perth fully posted on developments overseas. It has generally provided them with all the guidance and assistance necessary to ensure that Australian coins have measured up to the high standards which have always been maintained in London.
The Royal Australian Mint should be producing new decimal coins by the end of 1964. However, it is not yet equipped to produce the necessary master coinage dies. These are the original dies used in the manufacture of the actual working dies which stamp the “ head “ and “ tail “ designs on to the coin blanks.
The designs for the reverse, or “ tail “, side of the new decimal coins are being prepared in Australia and will feature a number of most attractive Australian motifs. The new designs are being translated into master coinage dies by the London mint authorities, working closely in conjunction wilh the Australian designer. The mint authorities have been most generous in providing the type of technical advice which (he London mint is peculiarly qualified to give by virtue of its long experience over many hundreds of years. The Australian designers who worked with the Advisory Panel on Coin Design greatly benefited from this advice. The master dies for two of the new coins are sufficiently advanced for production to commence within the next month or two at either the Melbourne or the Perth mints. The Treasurer has received many requests to release details of the designs approved so far but hs has decided instead to wait until details of the designs of all coins can be released as a “ family “. This should be possible in a few months’ time.
As I have said, this bill will enable the Commonwealth to proceed immediately with firm arrangements for transferring skilled mint officers and craftsmen from the Melbourne and Perth mints to work in the new Royal Australian Mint. Highly specialized plant and equipment is already arriving at the new mint and requires the services of these people during the installation and testing period. It is therefore becoming a matter of considerable urgency that we should have the legislative power necessary to formalize the arrangements for their transfer. I have great pleasure in commending the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Willesee) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second lime.
This bill proposes amendments to provisions of the income tax law. The provisions to be amended permit deductions, in specified circumstances, for share capital subscribed to petroleum exploration companies, and to other companies carrying on a business of mining or prospecting for minerals other than gold, uranium or oil. For these deductions to be available it is necessary for a company to lodge with the Commissioner of Taxation a declaration that capital received by it has been expended, or will be expended, in mining or prospecting. It is also necessary for the Commissioner to be satisfied that the company has spent, or intends to spend, the money in this way. At present these deductions are available up to 30th June, 1964. It is proposed by the bill that they continue to be available for a further three years to 30th June, 1967.
Following a review by the Government of the general scope of the provisions that authorize the deductions, a number of other amendments are also proposed. Among the matters considered in the review was the sale of mining or prospecting rights to petroleum exploration companies and other mining or prospecting companies. Money spent by a company to purchase these rights is not accepted as being expended in actual mining or prospecting. A common situation when rights are sold to a company is for the company to pay the vendor by issuing paid-up shares to him. When there is a straightforward issue of shares, the vendor does not receive a deduction for their value. The deductions available to members of the general public who have subscribed capital to the company are not affected by the transaction. In some cases, however, the transaction is not arranged in this manner. Instead, the company pays cash to the vendor for the rights. The vendor undertakes to return the cash to the company as share capital and shares are issued to him. In substance the two types of transaction do not differ. Neither results in any additional money being available to the company for mining or prospecting. The taxation consequences are, however, quite different. In the transaction where money is received by a seller of rights and handed back to the company as share capital, the seller may technically be entitled to a deduction for the amount. Moreover, the deductions otherwise available to members of the public may have to be reduced. The basic objective of the provisions is to provide an incentive to the general public to invest in oil exploration and other mining companies. Arrangements of the type I have described tend to lessen this incentive.
In these circumstances it is proposed by the bill to amend the law so that a vendor of rights does not become entitled to a deduction through an arrangement to receive moneys from a company and return them to the company as share capital. This amendment will encourage companies to make declarations enabling members of the general public to obtain deductions for the full amount of capital subscribed by them. Similar situations also arise in relation to the sale of technical information about mining or prospecting areas, and to the sale of shares in a company that owns rights or technical information. It is proposed that the amendment should also apply to these transactions. As honorable senators will recall, last year the provisions authorizing deductions for share capital subscribed to petroleum exploration companies were amended. One purpose of these amendments was to make it clear that the provisions do not apply to capital spent by a company to acquire mining or prospecting rights or technical information about mining or prospecting areas. This bill proposes a corresponding clarification of the provisions that apply to capital subscribed to other mining or prospecting companies.
A further amendment proposed by the bill affects an exemption from tax available to shareholders in a prospecting company. This exemption applies to dividends that the company pays out of income derived from the sale of certain rights to mine. The company itself is, I should mention, exempt from tax on this income. These dividends were first made exempt many years ago. At that time the shareholders in a prospecting company were not entitled to deductions for capital subscribed to the company. It has now been found that the two concessions together may confer a benefit on shareholders that was not intended when the deductions were introduced. This may happen when a company spends capital on mining or prospecting in an area the rights to which it then sells. In this case the shareholders may be entitled not only to tax-free dividends but also to deductions for capital that has, in effect, been spent in producing the dividends. To preclude this dual benefit being obtained the Government has decided to reduce the mount from which tax-free dividends may be paid by the amount of capital spent on mining or prospecting on the rights. The reduction will apply only when shareholders have been allowed deductions for thi amount of the capital. The bill incorporates the amendment necessary to give effect to this decision of the Government. More detailed explanations of the provisions of the bill are contained in a memorandum to be circulated to honorable senators, and I do not propose to comment at any greater length at this stage. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator 0’Byrne’ adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Gorton) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Gorton) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Gorton) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Gorton) read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Gorton) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspendedas would prevent the questions with regard to the remaining stages for the passage through the Senate of all or several of the following bills, namely -
Acts Interpretation Bill 1964,
Evidence Bill 1964,
Slate and Territorial Laws and Records Recognition Bill 1964,
Rules Publication Bill 1964, being but put in one motion, at each stage, of the consideration of all or several of such bills together in committee of the whole, and as would prevent the reading of the short titles only on each order for the reading of the bills.
Acts Interpretation Bill 1964.
Evidence Bill 1964.
Stale and Territorial Laws and Records Recognition Bill 1964.
Rules Publication Bill 1964.
11 1.59].-I move-
That the bills be now read a secondtime.
The first bill will amend the Acts Interpretation Act at three points, and at one of those points, the other three bills are complementary. The purpose and relevance of those other bills will appear when I reach the point of the Acts Interpretation Bill that they affect.
The first purpose of the present amendments is to amend the Acts Interpretation Act to clarify the circumstances in which regulations may prescribe matters by reference to other instruments. The point came to particular attention recently when it was desired to adopt the High Court scale of witnesses’ expenses, as in force from time to time, for the purpose of standardizing witnesses’ expenses in other Commonwealth courts and tribunals. The expenses were currently allowable or payable under separate scales in respect of each court or tribunal. It was inconvenient to make separate regulations amending each relevant scale every time the High Court scalewas altered. The desirable course was to provide that any alteration to the High Court scale should automatically operate to vary the other relevant scales. The question was whether regulations could do this, because it would be a prescription by reference to a scale that might change from time to time thereafter. It might be thought that this was not sufficiently precise to be a prescription. Parliament could be asked to amend the Acts Interpretation Act to permit prescription by reference in this way, but a point of principle immediately arose. The power sought should be limited in such a way that parliamentary control is retained. It seems proper to be able to prescribe by reference to instruments in the form in which they exist at the time of the prescription, because this does no more than save re-stating in the regulation what is already set out in an identified source elsewhere. Consequently, prescriptions like this should be permissible by reference to any existing standard, such for example as an Australian standard specification. On the other hand, where it is intended that a prescription shall adopt not only the material referred to, but also any changes thereafter in that material, this should only be permitted where the changes are under the control of the Parliament. This means, and the amendment so provides, that ambulatory prescriptions should only be permitted to refer to Commonwealth legislative instruments.
The second purpose of the present amendments is to provide for judicial notice to be taken of regulations under Commonwealth acts and Territory ordinances. It is anomalous that, at present, judicial notice is taken of Territory ordinances, and of proclamations and orders under Commonwealth acts, but not of regulations under Commonwealth acts. In consequence, regulations have to be produced and proved, and the need for this has been criticized in the courts and judicial suggestion made that the legislature should review the matter. The bills will take out of the Acts Interpretation Act, the Rules Publication Act and the State and Territorial Laws and Records Recognition Act, the provisions dealing with proof of, and judicial notice of, subordinate Commonwealth legislation, and will replace them with a new comprehensive provision in the Evidence Act. The new provision will provide for judicial notice of regulations under Commonwealth acts and Territory ordinances.
The third purpose of the amendments is to take the opportunity to strengthen section 34b inserted in the Acts Interpretation Act last year. That section sought to remove difficulty from the way of implementation of any Standing Orders, that either House might adopt, that would permit papers to bc delivered to the Clerk of the House instead of being presented to the House. The section provided, in effect, that compliance with such Standing Orders is compliance with any statutory provision that requires or permits the presentation of papers for example, regulations, to the House. The section should go further than this. It should remove any doubt that the Standing Order procedure is quite effective for the purposes of any other statutory provision. There are provisions that do not themselves require or permit the presentation of papers, but simply refer to, and act on, the fact of presentation. For example, section 7 of the Evidence Act makes papers presented to either House admissible in evidence in all courts without formal proof. The present amendment to the Acts Interpretation Act would put beyond doubt that this rule applies to papers not literally laid before the House, but instead delivered to the Clerk under the Standing Orders.
I commend the bills to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Murphy) adjourned.
STATES GRANTS (SCIENCE LABORATORIES AND TECHNICAL TRAINING) BILL 1964.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Gorton) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill now introduced to the Senate is one to appropriate £10,000,000 for use in specifically defined areas of education in Australia. The money so appropriated will bc made available to States, by virtue of section 96 of the Constitution, and will be used for these purposes under certain conditions which have already been made known to the Senate. Of the total amount £5,000,000 will bc devoted by State education departments to the provision of buildings, and the provision of equipment, for the purpose of increasing in Australia the facilities necessary for technical education. The remaining £5,000,000 will be used, as to £3,618,900, for the provision by the States in government schools of science teaching laboratories, and for the equipping of these laboratories; and as to £1,334,000 for the provision of, and equipment of, science teaching laboratories in nongovernment schools.
A good deal of the discussion of these proposals has so far centred about the one-eighth of the total sum which is going to assist the education of children whose parents, for one reason or another, do not send them to government schools. To this I shall refer later. But this discussion should not be allowed to obscure the very great advance made possible in the fields of technical and scientific teaching as a result of this bill. And it is to these advances, and to the need for them, that 1 first wish to refer. It will, I think, be generally agreed that there is a need already apparent in Australia for the provision of more and more skilled technicians, and a requirement that a greater and greater proportion of the work force should, to the top of their bent, bc trained in technical fields. Just as the industrial revolution transformed the bulk of the English population from being agricultural workers and from working in cottage industries to being artisans or workers tending machines in factories, so to-day the introduction of electronics, and of automation, and the harnessing of many complicated scientific and technological principles for production, will work a transformation in Australia. There will be less and less need for the semi-skilled and the unskilled and more and more need for the trained technician and technologist - men who are required in the present and will be even more, in the future, required - men and women to operate, to service, to repair, and to improve upon the scientific and mechanical aids now becoming available to production.
This transformation will provide, as the industrial revolution provided in England, more leisure, more material prosperity, and more interest and variety in the lives of citizens of Australia but it will come about because of training and re-training, without the misery and dislocation which has occurred in the past under a completely laisser-faire economy. But the provision of technical institutions, properly equipped to provide the required training and to impart the required knowledge, is an essential pre-requisite for this change. And when I speak of training I do not speak only of training the young but of re-training the more mature as old skills become obsolete and new skills must be imparted. It is against this background that the grants for technical education made possible by this bill must be considered.
The assistance provided will be massive. In total it will enable the amount previously spent in this field throughout Australia to be doubled and in some States it will enable more than three times the amount previously spent in this field to be provided. I remind honorable senators, since the grant will be made on condition that a State’s expenditure in this field will not be reduced, expenditure will, indeed, be doubled, or more than doubled. As illustrations of the kind of developments this will make possible, let me give some examples of projects now being considered by the various States. All of them are projects which have been discussed with the Commonwealth and to which the Commonwealth has agreed, though the selection to be made from among them will remain, as it ought, with the States concerned. The projects listed are not all of the projects which have been discussed.
In Victoria projects being considered include -
Additions to the Melbourne School of Printing.
A new foundry school at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.
New workshops at the Ballarat School of Mines.
Extensions to the diploma block at the Caulfield Technical College.
In New South Wales projects being considered include -
Greatly needed improvements to the Sydney Technical College.
General purpose and instructional blocks at Cooma and Parkes.
Workshop and instruction block at Wollongong.
An automotive and panel beating workshop at Newcastle.
In Queensland projects include -
The Central Technical College in Brisbane and the Gatton Agricultural College.
In Tasmania they include -
Assistance for the technical colleges at Hobart, Launceston, Devonport and Burnie - assistance which could, in particular, be vital to the Hobart Technical College which will eventually require expenditure of some £1,500,000.
In Western Australia projects include -
Extension to the Carlisle Technical School.
Additional training facilities including a laboratory, a workshop for fitting and machining, linotype machines, process engraving equipment and a cyanide salt furnace for Fremantle Technical School.
In South Australia projects include -
Assistance to the South Australian Institute of Technology.
Assistance to the Adelaide Technical College.
In addition to the buildings mentioned in all the cases above, new equipment for training, and replacement of obsolete equipment will be made possible.
Bearing in mind these illustrations of the methods by which this money can be spent, remembering that each year £5,000,000 will be provided for these purposes from the Commonwealth Government, recalling that existing State expenditure is not to be reduced, and understanding that the next financial year and subsequent years this means that twice as much money will be spent each year as was ever spent in a year before, I think it is not too much to say that this bill does introduce a revolutionary change in the important field of technical education, and that Australia will benefit greatly thereby.
I turn now to the grants to be made under this bill for the building and equipping of science teaching laboratories. Honorable senators will observe that the amount sought to be appropriated for these purposes is £47,100 less than a full £5,000,000. This is because this sum will be appropriated later for schools in the Commonwealth territories. They will know also, although it does not appear in the bill, that, of the money appropriated, £3,618,900 is intended for use by State Governments in government schools and £1,334,000 is intended for use by non-government schools.
Splitting the funds available on the formula which I have already announced to the Senate, and to which we propose to work as closely as practicable during 1964-65, funds would be divided as set out in a table which, with the concurrence of the Senate, I shall incorporate in “ Hansard “.
Here again, the amounts to be provided to State Governments for their purposes will prove immensely stimulating to the provision of science teaching facilities in the States.
Some attempts have been made to indicate that the grants for these purposes will not be of great moment. But if anyone should be misled by this argument they need only look, for a true picture, to the circular recently sent out by the New South Wales Teachers Federation, which is an organization the leaders of which are hostile to this Government and to these proposals. They will see in that circular that there are some 300 government schools in New South Wales which, according to the New South Wales Teachers Federation, lack proper science teaching laboratories. They will also see from that circular that the amounts to bc provided by this Government will provide all those schools with proper laboratories, at a cost calculated by the New South Wales Teachers Federation, in four years. A grant which can have this dramatic effect, and without which this dramatic effect could not bc achieved is surely of major significance in providing that scientific training, the results of which, along with the results of technical training, will be so much in demand in the world of tomorrow. I do not pretend that what is to be done here is all that will eventually need to be done in the provision of facilities to teach science and in the provision of sufficient teachers properly qualified to use those facilities. But 1 do contend that here, as in the field of technical education, the grant will enable States to undertake new and imaginative projects, will enable the standards of students to be raised, and will better prepare students for work at the tertiary level. This is surely well worth doing.
I turn now to that portion of the grant which is to be devoted to assisting private schools. The result of the use of this money by such schools will be, of course, that children will not be denied proper facilities for scientific education merely because their parents, for one reason or another, do not send them to government schools. But a subsidiary effect will be that the nation will not lose the service, in scientific fields, of people who might otherwise be lost because of lack of proper training. Arguments have been advanced against the proposal which ignore the interests of the children themselves, which ignore the requirements of the nation, and which in themselves have no validity.
For instance, an attempt has been made to suggest that some principle is infringed if the Commonwealth assists private institutions in the area of education. Yet denominational colleges in universities have been receiving direct government aid for years with this principle never being invoked. An attempt has been made to suggest that non-government schools might lose some independence if they accepted, not a recurrent grant for normal running, but a capital grant for the construction of a specific building which they will own outright and which is given with no strings or conditions attached whatever, except the condition that the building provided must be of adequate standard. This is patently absurd.
An attempt has been made to suggest that this approach to non-government schools is an approach which says, “ Here is some assistance for science teaching if you wish it; take it or leave it,” and in a sense this is so. We would be glad if schools took this proffered assistance but we have neither the wish nor the power to compel them to take it if they wish to leave it. But what we do have the wish and power to do is to offer this assistance to these schools, to give them the opportunity to take it, which is an opportunity the opponents of this measure would deny them altogether.
In truth it is impossible to avoid the suspicion that some of those who most vociferously oppose this proposition are moved to do so by a desire to rekindle the embers of past suspicion and hostilities and to continue into the present day “ old unhappy far off things and battles long ago. “ But, when all is said and done, the nub and centre of this proposition is that it will help schools and, more importantly, help Australian children attending those schools. They will be advantaged in their scientific studies, as they should be. They will be helped no more and no less than children who attend Government schools. They and Australia must benefit. And if there is anything unfair or unjust in the proposition J am totally unable to see it. It has the imprimatur of the Australian people given at the last election and I commend to the Senate the bill which enables this proposition to become reality.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 7th May (vide page 1026), on motion by Senator Wade -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The main purpose of the bill is to amend the Apple and Pear Organization Act to give the Australian Apple and Pear Board power to control the marketing of apples and pears overseas. As the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) pointed out in his second-reading speech, that control has been exercised under regulations which, to say the least, were of doubtful value. The legislation is different in its application from many other pieces of legislation which govern the marketing of primary products. For instance, some products are delivered to a board which is responsible for their marketing, but under the Apple and Pear Organization Act those products are marketed under the direction of the board, without the board having any power whatsoever to purchase and market the fruit. This is purely a directive board.
It is important that some control be exercised over the marketing of apples and pears. If such control is used wisely, it should be of great value to the industry generally and particularly to the growers. It is well known that Tasmania is one of the greatest apple-growing States in the Commonwealth. As a Tasmanian, I naturally have considerable interest in the bill. I cannot find in it any provision which should be amended or to which anything should be added. The bill covers the situation fairly well.
It is apparent that this season between 22,000,000 and 23,000,000 cases of apples and pears will go onto the overseas and home markets. It is important to the economy of Australia and particularly of Tasmania that the marketing, of apples and pears be properly regulated so as not to cause a glut on any overseas market. An important factor is that the income from these exports is of great assistance to the Australian balance of payments position. The sixteenth annual report of the Australian Apple and Pear Board, for the year ended 30th June, 1962, states that in 1961 3,877,000 cases of apples were shipped from Tasmania. The quantity rose in 1962 to 5,534,237. I appreciate that some other Stales, particularly Western Australia, also have quite a big export market. I have quoted those figures merely to indicate to the Senate the importance of this industry to Tasmania. Its importance cannot be over-emphasized.
The success of this industry demands a high degree of skill. To become a successful orchardist one must apply himself to a study of the industry for a considerable number of years and acquire a thorough knowledge of it. He must, apply himself to the clearing and preparation of the ground and the planting of the trees. A considerable amount of time and a lot of patience are needed to acquire the skill that is required for the successful grafting of trees, pruning, spraying and the control of pests and diseases. Attention must be given to the cleaning of the orchard, the maintenance of plant and equipment and the engagement of labour for the harvesting of the crop. In many instances in Tasmania the orchardist must cut his own timber for the boxes and then make the boxes.
The industry has to face many hazards, including wet weather and drought. Probably one of the worst hazards that has to be faced by the apple orchardist is hail. On many occasions in Tasmania orchardists have produced what promised to be bumper crops for the particular year or the particular district, as the case may be, but a hail storm has occurred and >a lot of fruit has been lost to the export market. Quite often the fruit has been ruined altogether and the orchardist has suffered a severe loss. Over the past few years many orchardists in the Huon Valley have fired rockets to break up hail storms. I understand that they have been moderately successful in their efforts. But often hail storms occur unexpectedly and the orchardists do not obtain from the firing of rockets the results that they expect. Orchardists must apply themselves to all these problems to ensure that they receive a maximum return.
The bill is designed to amend section 4 of the principal act in certain respects. I do not intend to read the proposed new sub-sections, because the bill has been circulated to honorable senators and is readily available for them to peruse. One aspect of the measure which exercises my mind is the provision that the Australian Apple and Pear Board must arrive at a unanimous decision in respect of any matter before it can be referred to the Minister for Primary Industry. Lel me say in passing that I am happy to note that it is proposed that in future members of the board who are not elected shall be appointed by the Minister and not the Governor-General. 1 come back to the provision requiring a unanimous decision in respect of any matter to be referred to the Minister. This provision is different from that which applies to many other boards and authorities. Normally a majority decision prevails. When one looks at the composition of the board, one wonders why a unanimous decision should be necessary. 1 note that five members of the. board will be nominated by the Government and that others shall be elected by the growers and, in the case of Tasmania, shall be appointed on the nomination of the State Fruit Board. I should have thought that with such wide representation on the board a majority decision would have been satisfactory. Probably the Minister for Health will offer some reason for this decision when he replies.
It is very pleasing to me to note that the Government proposes to retain an employees’ representative on the board. I believe that all such boards should include an employees’ representative. My experience in industry has taught me that, where employers’ representatives and employees’ representatives are able to sit down to a round table discussion much more is gained for the industry concerned. We want to do the most we can for particular industries. To do so it is not only important but almost imperative that employees should be represented on such boards.
The availability of shipping to ports where the fruit is loaded, whether they be in Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia ot any other State, is very important to the industry. To preserve stability in the industry it is important to maintain shipping schedules. It is well known that in Tasmania - and in this instance I speak of
Tasmania because I know the shipping conditions that exist there - often considerable difficulty is experienced in securing ships when the fruit is available for shipment overseas. Frequently approaches have to bc made by the board to the Government to obtain sufficient ships to take the crop when the crop is ready. Seasons have a bearing on whether a crop will be early or late and it is sometimes difficult for the shipping people to arrange schedules. One way in which the growers could be assisted in overcoming these shipping problems would be for the Australian National Line to establish an overseas shipping line for shipping fruit and other cargoes that are available in Australia for overseas markets.
One point that exercises my mind, perhaps more than any other in this bill, is the necessity to allocate specific quantities of apples and pears from each State or from among the States as the case may be. I feel that whilst the board’s composition is particularly good, in Tasmania we must be particularly diligent to see that Tasmania gets a fair share of the allocation of the quantity of apples and pears exported from Australia. There are odd occasions when, for shipping or overseas marketing purposes, it is necessary to take a particular fruit shipment from Victoria or Western Australia leaving the Tasmanian crop to wait a few weeks before it can supply its allocated quantity. Provided Tasmania gets a fair share of the specific quantity, which will be determined by the board or the Minister as the case may be, I believe Tasmania will be well served. We offer no opposition to the bill.
– in reply - I am delighted with the reception the bill has had from both sides of the chamber. It is designed in the main to control the quantities of fruit which may be shipped to a particular country or countries. As Senator Poke has pointed out, it also has the dual purpose of tidying up the present legislation. I think it is good to remind the people of Australia that this is a pretty big industry. When one realizes that 22,000,000 to 23,000,000 cases of fruit are packed for export annually it is obvious that this represents a tremendous labour force. It is good to remind the Australian public that while this industry does not get the publicity and highlighting that the wool industry and 01 her primary industries get, it is a very valuable industry to the Australian economy - particularly to Tasmania. I am certain that this bill will do much to strengthen the industry.
Senator Poke referred to a clause in the bill which requires a unanimous decision of the board. It is more than of passing interest to recall that this provision was written into the legislation in 1947 by a Labour government and that it is being retained in the present bill in response to representations made by the present board. In other words the board is quite sure that the present conditions required of it are in the best interests of the board and of the industry generally. Having said that, I welcome the support that has been given to the bill and I am confident that it will do what it is designed to do for this very valuable industry.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 12th May (vide page 1053), on motion by Senator Wade -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill deals with processed milk products and the bounty payable on them. The exportation of our processed milk products is becoming a considerable factor in our overseas balance position. The records for the 1962-63 financial year show that the income from processed milk products amounted to over £8,250,000, being an increase of £1,250,000 on the income for the previous year. Figures show that this year that income can be exceeded. This legislation arises as a result of a compromise on Labour’s policy of organized marketing. The dairying industry is gradually getting out of the trough of inefficiency and alternating depression into a place in our whole primary industry set-up where it is reaching satisfactory targets and standards of efficiency. In my view many improvements still need to be made.
I believe that as the scene unfolds and the situation develops those people who are responsible in the various sections of research and advice in the industry can ensure that even greater progress is made, particularly with a more prosperous community to work on and possibly a more enlightened dairying community. The products that we are specifically considering for export at present arc sweetened and unsweetened condensed milk, full cream milk powder, infants’ and invalids’ foods, malted milk and other minor products of Whole milk. The purpose of the legislation is to assist Australian processors to compete on overseas markets with other countries which are very competitive and, in turn, provide similar bounties and subsidies. Another important factor involved in this legislation is that it is designed to encourage a diversion of butter fat from butter and cheese manufacture to other products which include full cream milk and powdered milk. Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended, I was referring to the fact that this bill indicated that a greater measure of stability was being brought to the dairying industry. In his second-reading speech, the Minister for Health (Senator Wade) said -
The maximum amount of bounty was fixed al £350,000 for 1962-63 but, by an amendment of the act last year, the amount was increased to £500,000 for the current year 1963-64.
The purpose of the legislation is to provide for an extension of the bounty on processed milk products but the upshot of the bill is that for the twelve months from 1st July, 1964, it is necessary to provide only a maximum amount of £400,000 for the purposes of the bounty. So it can be seen that, through the organization of the dairying industry along various lines, this section of the industry has found that a bounty of £400,000 will be sufficient as far as Government advisers and experts can estimate. That is very pleasing because it indicates that a measure of prosperity is coming to the industry. In the absence of the usual trend towards an increase in the amounts of bounty and subsidy that so many industries have needed in the past, this is a sign that the dairying industry can be organized efficiently and that, providing it has the support of modern and effective trade promotion and publicity and appropriate markets, great benefits can accrue to it.
It is interesting to note that the diversion of butter fat from the manufacture of butter and cheese which have been in surplus supply has encouraged the development of industries which are processing milk products. The 38th annual report of the Australian Dairy Produce Board for the year ended 30th June, J 963, shows that at 31st March, 1963, dairy cows in Australia numbered 3,263,000 compared with 3,230,000 in 1962. Production of milk per cow increased from 452 gallons in 1.962-63 to 456 gallons. That, in itself, indicates that, going back to the grass roots of this industry, individual farmers are specializing in high quality cows with a higher output. The increase is not large but there has been a rise in production from each cow on the average. I believe it is in that direction that more efficiency can be achieved in the industry.
In the final analysis, the bounties and subsidies come from the taxpayers. They realize the importance of the dairying industry and the excellent but arduous work that is done by dairy farmers. They recognize the place of the dairying industry in the national economy. Nevertheless, I believe that the taxpayers expect dairy farmers to accept the challenge to examine every aspect of the industry. It is interesting to note that total milk production in Australia for all purposes during 1962-63 amounted to the record figure of 1,480,000,000 gallons or 36,600,000 gallons more than the previous record production of 1.443,600,00 gallons in 1961-62. This bill is designed to continue the diversion of milk from the production of butter. The report of the board shows that the proportion of total milk production used in the manufacture of butter has declined from 63.7 per cent, in 1961-62 to 63.2 per cent. This shows a trend away from the production of milk for butter to milk production for other processed products.
On the other hand, milk utilized for preserved milk products rose to 6 per cent, of total production in 1962-63 from 5.4 per cent, in 1961-62. This is a very pleasing trend. The Senate will be interested in other relevant figures relating to production. Production of full cream sweetened condensed milk amounted to 35,183 tons in 1962-63 compared with 27,699 tons in 1961-62. That was an increase of more than 7,000 tons. The output of unsweetened condensed milk remained about the same as the previous year at 34,243 tons. Production of full cream powdered milk declined to 17,562 tons in 1962-63 from 19,548 tons in the previous year. Infants’ and invalids’ foods are important processed milk products. Infants’ food is of value nol only to Australian babies but to those in countries overseas which previously had a shortage of such products or could not obtain them at economic prices. Production of infants’ and invalids’ foods in Australia increased in 1962-63 to 18,231 tons compared with 16,975 tons in the previous year. A similar increase can be seen in the production of powdered skim milk. The output of casein has risen from 13,979 tons in 1961-62 to 15,869 tons. So this diversionary process is going on throughout the dairying industry away from production of butter and cheese.
It is interesting to note that in the various countries where price support schemes are used, the problems are similar to those of the Australian dairying industry. These are problems of small farmers who are undercapitalized and who have not sufficient stock to warrant the labour and expense involved in embarking on a competitive market. Many other factors which apply to the dairying industry in Australia and overseas were brought to the fore by the Dairy Industry Committee of Enquiry which presented a report in August 1960. In its observations on the situation abroad, the committee stated -
It is interesting just to note that in the Netherlands where the Government’s objective is to guarantee farmers o minimum return for all marketed milk, the guarantee is based on the average cost of production of socially and economically justified well-managed farms.
I believe it is in this direction that we must focus our attention to ensure that we have “ socially and economically justified well-managed farms “.
I have not seen figures recently which indicate a move to encourage farmers who are running their farms uneconomically to move out of the dairy industry into other sections of primary production. The report of the Dairy Industry Committee of Enquiry showed that many farmers are struggling along in a hopeless battle to try to make a living from small farms and a very small number of milking cows. Nevertheless, in calculating the degree of assistance which the dairy industry needs, these farmers have always to be considered. Anomalies arise because, on one hand, a man with an efficiently-run dairy farm, with good quality high-producing cows and well-improved pastures, is reaping a harvest of prosperity from the bounties and subsidies associated with the dairy industry, while, on the other hand, there is the struggling farmer who will never make a success of his farm. The sooner an authority of some kind is able to advise the struggling farmer of the hopelessness of his struggle and to divert his efforts to more lucrative purposes, the better it will be for every one concerned.
Great encouragement is given to the industry by a measure of this description, along with the other complementary legislation relating to research and promotion. As yet we have not achieved anywhere near the target with relation to the quality of dairy cows and total milk production. On many dairy farms there are cross-bred cows that produce the required quantity of milk and butterfat each year, but the crossing of dairy breeds is, in my view, a negative approach to the problems of the industry. On the other hand, there have been criticisms throughout the industry regarding the laxity of dairy stud breeders in not carrying out accurate herd testing of the progeny of their stud stock. It is a grave fault in the whole of the industry that closer attention is not given to these matters.
I turn now to the use of research and the bringing of scientists on to the farms. In order that primary industries may receive all possible assistance to enable them successfully to compete on international markets, we must bring the scientist, with all his knowledge and facilities for research, right on to the farm. The use of high quality stock has been a hobby-horse of mine for as long as I have been in this Parliament. I reiterate that the answer to this problem is for dairy farmers to improve the quality of their herds. Usually the farmer does not worry about the long-range impact on the industry of using poor quality bulls. If he is able to obtain a bull of any description, whether he buys it from a neighbour or breeds it himself, that is good enough. It takes from seven to ten years to undo the harm that is caused to a herd by using a poor quality bull.
Another aspect of the matter is the use of artificial breeding in the industry. In my view this has not been publicized enough, but there seem to be many bottle necks, even in areas where it is possible for artificial breeding to be carried out.
There are difficulties in the provision of officers who are qualified to assist the farmer in refrigeration and other matters. The whole industry is suffering because of this position. 1 would like to see the £100,000, which is in effect the amount of the saving by the Government on the subsidy, used for research into the wider use of high quality strains of dairy cattle. After all, there is wastefulness in a dairy farmer running a bull that is not of good quality, lt will not give him long-range returns in higher butter fat production or whole milk production. The bull will consume the same quantity of fodder as a highly productive cow. Facilities should be made available to permit farmers to acquire the best strains of tried and tested dairy cattle. 1 hope that the people responsible will look into this matter of artificial breeding very closely. Other countries have expanded the activities of artificial breeding and good results are being achieved.
As a primary-producing country and one which is generous in the amount of assistance that is given to the dairy industry, Australia looks to the dairy industry to repeat the great initiative it has shown in improvization in meeting adversity.and in handling the problems associated with the industry. If the industry is able to improve its economic position it will be not only doing itself a lot of good but also helping the nation. Each additional gallon of milk and pound of butter fat that is produced from individual cows makes a contribution to that end.
The measure is designed to provide a bounty on processed milk products for one year. The matter will be reviewed in the light of the conditions prevailing at the end of that period despite the fact that some of the advisers consider that a three-year period should have been adopted.
I am quite certain :hat the £400,000 for which the bill provides will help to continue the trend that I have indicated. It is pleasing to see the improvement, but it is not good enough. When this legislation comes up again for debate next year it will be our duty to see that the work that is being put into this industry achieves the best results for the dairy farmers. We hope that their production will be up and their costs down. We hope, too, that the efficient farmers will be able to maintain their present level of prosperity and that many of the inefficient men who are on the outer fringe of the industry, will be encouraged to apply their talents in another direction. This measure, being one facet of organized marketing, has the support of the Opposition. When the two complementary measures, the Dairy Produce Levy Bill and the Dairy Produce Research and Sales Promotion Bill are debated we, on this side of the chamber, will not oppose their passage.
– in reply - The unanimous support of this measure from both sides of the House prompts me to believe there is little I need add to what I said in my secondreading speech. I am indeed grateful for the speedy passage which the bill is receiving.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 12th May (vide page 1054), on motion by Senator Wade -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
.- This bill is designed to amend the act of 1958 which imposed a levy on butter and cheese manufactured in Australia to finance research into and the sales promotion of dairy products. The Minister for Health (Senator Wade) has drawn attention to the fact that a new process has been devised for the production of butteroil and ghee. Previously these products were manufactured from butter on which the levy had already been paid. The new process, which will produce butteroil and ghee direct from milk or cream, will make the production more efficient and will lower costs. The purpose of this bill is to correct an anomaly by amending the principal act to provide for the levy to be imposed on butteroil and ghee, irrespective of the method of manufacture. The bill provides also that the levy shall be imposed on butter powder, a new product developed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Correction of these anomalies is in the interests of the industry and the bill is not opposed by the Opposition.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 12th May (vide page 1054), on motion by Senator Wade -
That the bill be now read a second lime.
– This machinery measure is complementary to the Dairy Produce Levy Bill and enables the levy imposed on butteroil and ghee and on butter powder, which are made by relatively new processes, to be paid into the Dairy Produce Research Trust Account and also into the Dairy Produce Sales Promotion Fund. As this is purely a machinery measure we do not oppose it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 13th May (vide page 1124), on motion by Senator Wade -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Senator TOOHEY (South Australia) [2.43). - I want to confine my remarks on this measure, in the main, to the secondreading debate; 1 do not propose, at least at this stage, to say anything in committee. The purpose of the bill is to stabilize the dried fruit industry by providing an assured return to the growers for a period of live years, commencing with the 1964 crop. Let me say at the beginning that the Opposition applauds the fact that action is being taken to stabilize an industry which is so important to this country, both at home and abroad. There is no doubt that (he growers themselves desire to see the industry stabilized. That is clearly demonstrated by the result of the growers’ poll, in which 88 per cent, of those enrolled participated. Of that 88 per cent. 91 per cent, voted for stabilization. Perhaps I should pause at this stage and remind the Senate that honorable senators on both sides of the chamber have, over the years - I use the words “ over the years “ advisedly - agitated for the stabilization of this industry.
I do not want to convey the impression to the Senate, or indeed to anybody who may be listening to this debate, that this agitation has been confined to the Opposition. I know that honorable senators on the Government side have taken a very keen interest in the problems of the dried vine fruits industry. The fact that action has now been taken along the lines suggested in this bill will be of great gratification not only to those in certain districts in Victoria and South Australia in particular, but also to those in other parts which may be affected.
It would be true to say that no industry in Australia, of the importance of the dried vine fruits industry, has suffered so many disabilities over the years. It would be equally true to say that no primary industry has so many uncertainties associated with its operations. Perhaps the Senate might bear with me whilst I touch briefly on one or two points raised in the second-reading speech of the Minister for Health (Senator Wade). The Minister said -
Since a very large proportion of Australian dried vine fruits is sold on overesas markets, overall returns are subject to wide fluctuations. These stem from [he large changes in world supply, to which Australia is only one of four major contributors. Because of climatic conditions and varying yields in Australia, the United Slates of America, Greece and Turkey, and a tendency towards a normal position of oversupply, prices realized on overseas markets are highly sensitive to changes in production. Because of the heavy dependence of the Australian industry upon exports, this has resulted in a good deal of uncertainty in growers’ income.
The Minister went on to say - nic Australian dried vine fruits industry is far too important an industry for this situation to be allowed to continue.
The Minister mentioned also that most of the people engaged in this industry are soldier settlers of the first and second world wars, and he referred in particular to the Sunraysia area near Mildura. If the Minister had wanted to be specific he could have mentioned also areas around the upper Murray and in South Australia which, I believe, are as important in the scheme of things as the Sunraysia district in Victoria.
I mentioned earlier that no primary industry suffers such disabilities and uncertainties as the dried vine fruits industry. Perhaps we can gain an idea of some of its problems if we refer to the thirty-ninth annual report of the Australian Dried Fruits Control Board for the year 1962-63. The report states -
It is doubtful whether any other agricultural producer in Australia faces as many of the risks to his production as does the Dried Fruit Grower. Adverse conditions during the harvesting of the previous season’s crop, due to hail, etc., can considerably reduce the next season’s production. During the budding and early growing stage in September and October, frost and hail can be extreme. In addition to the damage from diseases to the vines caused by adverse weather conditions, periods of considerable danger occur during the months of February and March when grapes on the vines are approaching the picking and, after harvesting, the drying stages. Also there have been excellent bearings on Currant, Sultana and Raisin variety vines in many seasons past but frequently the expected sizes and qualities of the crops have been reduced by heavy rain and humidity.
That paragraph sets out clearly some of the disabilities with which the dried vine fruit grower has to contend, which, I believe, make so necessary the stabilization measures proposed in this bill.
The industry is faced with other problems. Climatic conditions can wreak havoc on the crops, but one must remember that the expenses associated with the maintenance of a block go on whether the grower receives any return for his crop or not. We must add to that difficulty the very grave problem of overseas competition on world markets. Some other dried vine fruit producing countries have heavily subsidized their industries to the detriment of the Australian grower. On more than one occasion in the Senate I have asked that some specific action be taken by the Government to protect the Australian producers of dried vine fruits against the growing tendency of those countries which compete wilh Australia heavily to subsidize their producers. This is one of the factors that has on occasions brought the industry to a very low level and reduced the income and prosperity of those engaged in it.
There is no need for me to detain the Senate by repeating what I have said on a number of occasions - that the dried vine fruits industry has helped to solve one of Australia’s greatest problems. I refer to the problem of decentralization. Everybody knows that the people who occupy the fruit growing areas in various parts of the Commonwealth - in South Australia and New South Wales particularly - have a very highly developed community spirit. That community spirit is reflected in the cooperative enterprises associated with the industry which have done so much to develop country towns and provide work for people living in those areas. It must be gratifying indeed to both State and Federal governments to see the endeavour of those associated with the dried vine fruits industry to solve the problem of decentralization which is one of the greatest that faces Australia. All credit is due to those engaged in the industry for the great contribution they make towards solving one of our greatest national problems.
Under the bill the Government is prepared to guarantee, each season, the price of a maximum of 13,500 tons of currants, 75,000 tons of sultanas and 11,000 tons of raisins received for packing. I do not wish to create the impression that insufficient latitude is being extended by the Government because those limitations are prescribed in the bill. The only observation I make is to express the hope - and I believe others may agree with me - that the possible expansion of the dried vine fruits industry will not render those figures inadequate before an opportunity for review occurs. From my examination of the figures over recent years, it appears that the figures struck by the Government should be adequate, but we should be vigilant, and I hope that the Government will keep this aspect constantly under review.
I note some rather curious omissions from the bill. I hope that the Minister will give us some information in respect of the cost of production. We all know that the Bureau of Agricultural Economics arrived at the production cost figures in respect of the three varieties of dried vine fruits, but we have little or no information on the methods used. On a measure so important as this, which sets out for the first time to stabilize the dried vine fruits industry, I suggest that the second-reading speech should have given this information, because the manner in which the cost of production is arrived at is of the utmost importance. I hope that the Minister will provide an explanation of the manner in which the amounts of £113 a ton for currants, £109 5s. for sultanas, and £101 a ton for raisins were arrived at by the bureau. I heard on the grape vine a very strong rumour that the bureau arrived at these figures by reference to income tax returns relating to 50 blocks at Mildura which are solely devoted to the production of dried vine fruits, and that it used as the average production figure a yield of 30 cwt. an acre. 1 understand that that was the basis on which cost of production was arrived at. 1 cannot guarantee that, but I heard a very strong rumour to that effect, lt may or may not bc true, but the Senate is entitled to know in just what way these figures were compiled. 1 want to know, and 1 hope that the Minister will give some information on this matter, which 1 regard as one of the most important aspects of the bill.
There is another omission from the information conveyed to us. In the secondreading speech there is no reference to the owner-operator allowance. I am informed, also on the grape vins, that the allowance will be £1,085. If this is so, I should like to know whether it compares favorably with the corresponding provision under the wheat stabilization scheme. This is an important aspect upon which I hope the Minister will provide the Senate wilh some information.
The final point upon which I want to comment relates to publicity and promolion. The 1962-63 report of the Australian Dried Fruits Control Board refers at page 9 to sales promotion, setting out the countries wherein Australia takes action to promote the sale of dried vine fruits. It continues -
In addition to the abovementioned countries, Australian dried fruit receives favorable tariff treatment by the following countries: Barbados, Bermuda, British Guiana, Fiji, India, Jamaica, Mauritius, Pakistan, Rhodesia and Nyasaland, the Seychelles, Trinidad and Tobago, Ireland, and Switzerland.
I should like the Minister to say to what extent we have engaged in sales promotion in those countries which extend favorable treatment to the Australian product. I think that there will be a considerable expansion in the dried vine fruits industry in Australia in the next ten years. I know that every endeavour is being made to find new markets, but perhaps we are not look ing for them quickly enough. Without criticizing where no criticism is due, 1 suggest that perhaps we are lagging a little in respect of the areas where we engage in sales promotion. I think that there is a tendency for us to spend too much on sales promotion in countries where we have established the Australian product and too little in countries where opportunities perhaps exist for selling greater quantities, namely, those countries where we would receive favorable tariff consideration. I should like the Minister to give some views on that subject. They would be of considerable interest to the Senate.
In conclusion, I repeat that this measure should receive the approval not only of those people engaged in the dried vine fruits industry but also of honorable senators on both sides of the chamber. I know that there will be teething troubles in the scheme, just as there have been teething troubles wilh stabilization schemes introduced in other industries from time to time. It will be necessary at the end of twelve months to undertake some review of the situation in the light of problems which will surely present themselves as time goes on. Those problems must engage the attention of the Senate. The people concerned in this great industry, after having the opportunity to see the scheme in operation, will know whether there are any deficiencies in it. We have an obligation to see that any deficiencies that exist are corrected. 1 am not carried away to the extent of thinking that the scheme outlined by the Government will solve all the immediate and future problems of the dried vine fruits industry. I commend the scheme as a very substantial step in the right direction. I know that honorable senators on both sides will watch with interest the immediate future of the industry.
– in reply - I am grateful to Senator Toohey for his enthusiastic support of the measure, and 1 appreciated his very thoughtful contribution on behalf of the Opposition. As he rightly says, this is an important industry. It has been trying for some years to provide for itself a stabilization scheme. Of all the primary industries that we have tried to stabilize, few suffer from the vagaries of the weather as much as this industry does. I live within a reasonable distance from Mildura and I have often heard it said that when the wheat farmer or the wool-grower is rejoicing because of early autumn rains, the plight of the dried fruit grower is very serious, because these rains often do irreparable damage to his crop. The vagaries of the weather are a hazard which makes this a very chancy industry. Perhaps it will benefit more from stabilization than some other primary industries have benefited. Unquestionably the benefits derived by other industries from stabilization have been immeasurable. The bill has been tailored to meet the needs and wishes of the grower. That is in line with Government policy. In all that we do for the primary industries we seek their advice and if possible introduce legislation suggested by them.
Senator Toohey sought information about what he described as two omissions from the bill. He was concerned, first, about the method by which the cost of production was arrived at by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. I shall outline the basis of the bureau’s investigations. The costs of 50 farms in the Mildura area were investigated. The first requirement was that each farm must have a minimum area of 15 acres. The second requirement was that the property had to be employed 100 per cent, in the production of dried vine fruits. In other words, there could not be any subsidiary industries or undertakings to supplement the income from the growing of dried vine fruits. Thirdly, there had to be continuity of ownership from 1960-61 to 1962-63. In other words, the grower had to establish that he was entitled to be regarded as a grower of dried vine fruits and had had some experience in that sphere. The fourth requirement was that the grower had to be in a position to supply complete records of his costs, income, overheads and all relevant matters that would give an indication of his return. Industry representatives accepted those criteria as the basis for the survey conducted by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. So I can assure Senator Toohey that the method of ascertaining the cost of production was acceptable to the growers themselves. They agreed to the principles which were set down and in collaboration with the bureau arrived at the figures which are to be seen in the bill.
The owner operation allowance has been fixed at £1,085. This is not quite as high as that fixed for the wheat industry, but there are some compensating although completely unrelated factors to be taken into account. I emphasize the words “ completely unrelated “. After a very thorough investigation, the- Bureau of Agricultural Economics discovered that the average cost of production for all three varieties of fruit was £106 a ton. In the interests of stabilization, the Government increased that figure to £109. That was not a quid pro quo. When one sets out to have an authoritative, competent, official investigation, if one is wise he will accept the findings of the investigating body.
I think I have answered all the points v that were raised by Senator Toohey. I hope that the bill, which I am sure will bring great benefits to the dried vine fruits industry, will receive a speedy passage through the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 13th May (vide page 1 124), on motion by Senator Wade -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition regards this bill as being purely a machinery measure and wholeheartedly concurs in the passage of it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Debate resumed from 13th May (vide page 1 125), on motion by Senator Wade - That the bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition concurs in the passage of this measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed (vide page 1323).
– All these bills are technical measures. The Opposition does not oppose any of them. They are designed to achieve three main purposes which have been set out in the second-reading speech of the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton). The first purpose is to deal with the prescription of matters by reference to other instruments under regulations made under authority delegated by this Parliament. The first purpose is to ensure that the parliamentary control over the changing content of that prescription is retained, and in that respect the bill is commendable. Its second purpose is to overcome an anomaly which has existed for many years under which judicial notice is not taken of regulations made under Commonwealth acts, although proclamations and orders under Commonwealth acts are documents of which judicial notice is taken. This merely facilitates the proof of those documents. It means a saving in expense and convenience to those who may be concerned with the administration of the law. lt also is commendable.
The third purpose relates to the amendments that have been made to the Standing Orders and the bills concerned, which enable the presentation of papers in either House to be done in a notional way. If in future this notional way is accepted under the Standing Orders of a House, then for all purposes that will be treated as if it were a real presentation. This has been done in the House of Representatives and the House has provided that in addition to a real presentation of papers in the House of Representatives there may be a notional or fictional presentation to the House by delivering the documents to the Clerk of the House and then recording the tabling of the documents in the records of the
House. The purpose of this bill is to ensure that in all the acts and regulations which concern the presentation of papers to a House, such a presentation, though not a real presentation, will be treated as effective for the purposes of all acts. This flows from the amendments that were made to the bills last year and it carries out the desires of the House of Representatives. It does not touch the position of the Senate because the Senate has not departed from its previous practice of requiring that a presentation be an actual presentation. I should like to see what happens with the changed procedure in the House of Representatives before any move is made to change the Standing Orders of this Senate or to avail ourselves of the provisions of these acts, because on the face of it there is a very great danger in the use of these proceedings. It means that now documents may be tabled in a House of the Parliament for the purposes of enactments although they are not really tabled. If a practice grows up, under these enactments and under these Standing Orders of the House of Representatives, whereby documents may be tabled in the House, perhaps in periods when the House is not going to be sitting for a long time, it will mean that the discussion of important papers will be initiated in some place other than where it ought to be initiated, namely, in the Parliament itself.
We have seen some tendency for statements to be made outside the Parliament concerning matters which have arisen inside the Parliament. It is not desirable that matters concerning the Parliament should bc dealt with outside and that discussion on them should take place outside and, in effect, the matter become dead before it is brought before the Parliament. If misused, these provisions could be another step in making a dead letter or a dead instrument of the Parliament. One of the important functions of Parliament is that it is a place where papers of importance, containing statements by Ministers, are tabled and where discussions are initiated on them. If there is to be a departure from that, it will mean that the importance of Parliament will be lessened; and that would be detrimental to our democracy. But it is provided that a function of the Parliament may be carried on in the actual absence of a real Parliament. We are taking a step, which has not been found necessary previously in the long history of Parliament, to treat the delivery of a document to the Clerk and the subsequent recording of it in the “Votes and Proceedings” as if it were a presentation to the Parliament.
Parliament means an assembly. It means not senators and members meeting separately. The Senate may note that in the report which has been made on parliamentary and government publications and which was presented to this Senate there is some discussion of this matter and some provision that when documents are to be tabled as ministerial papers and are delivered to the Clerk when Parliament is not sitting it is to be expected that copies will be sent to each senator and member. But, however that may be, the individual senators and members are not in parliament assembled. I would suggest that it would be very much in the interests of the Parliament if these provisions were used only when it was absolutely necessary. It is important that, as far as possible, documents concerning the Parliament, and which are sufficiently important to the Parliament, ought to be tabled when the Parliament is assembled. It ought to be done in the regular way and we ought not adopt the practice of treating the presentation of papers to Parliament as being a fictional presentation, because if we start uponthat course it will not be very long before we have a fictional Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills together read a second time.
– I wish to refer to proposed new section 4a. contained in clause 3 of the Evidence Bill 1964 providing for certain instruments to be judicially noted. I am thoroughly in accord with the provision contained in this clause but I invite the attention of the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) to a problem that arises in the lower courts in South Australia. The proposed new section provides -
Judicial notice shall be taken of all -
regulations, rules or by-laws made, or purporting to be made, under an Act;
The problem is that under the old procedure, it was necessary to produce and prove these things. The jurisdiction of Commonwealth courts in States such as South Australia is exercised by a number of local courts throughout the country areas. It is now to be essential to have bound copies of Commonwealth legislation and regulations available to those courts. From my experience in the courts in South Australia, very few of them outside the city of Adelaide have extensive copies of Commonwealth statutes and regulations. The amendment to the act before the committee suggests that from now on it will be of major importance that every court exercising Commonwealth jurisdiction has the regulations and Commonwealth acts available. I should like the Minister to ask his colleague, the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden) to make a survey, limiting it in the first instance to South Australia, to make sure that in all the courts exercising the federal jurisdiction there are copies of Commonwealth acts and Commonwealth regulations because my experience shows that a number of courts have not copies of these acts and regulations. The bill focuses attention on this shortage since a new method of proof is required. I think the Minister will find that possibly all over Australia it will be necessary to see that the State courts helping out the Commonwealth by allowing their magistrates to exercise Commonwealth jurisdiction are adequately provided for in the matter of bound copies of acts and regulations.
.- Senator Laught will realize that I cannot give an undertaking that what he asks to be done will be done, but I can give him an undertaking that I will bring to the notice of the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden) the arguments the honorable senator has advanced. I think that those arguments would not be confined to South Australia but would apply to any State in a similar position. It will be for the AttorneyGeneral to look into the matter and see whether, in his view, it is for the Commonwealth or the States to do what Senator Laught has suggested.
Bills agreed to.
Bills reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bills (on motion by Senator Gorton) together read a third time.
Debate resumed (vide page 1320).
– In his second-reading speech on this bill, the Minister for Defence and Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) stressed that this was a matter of great urgency. The relevant statement was as follows: -
It is therefore becoming a matter of considerable urgency that we should have the legislative power necessary to formalize the arrangements for their transfer.
In the words of Shakespeare, “ he can say that again “. The bill was introduced at a late hour this morning. The sitting was resumed at 2.15 p.m. and an hour later the bill is being debated although we have not had a decent opportunity to examine what could be a pretty complicated industrial agreement.I hate to make the observation I have made on the last two or three occasions when I have had to deal with superannuation bills, but it is a fact that invariably they hit the Parliament in the last 36 hours of the sessional period. Generally we have reasons of some sort given for this. Different reasons are given each year when a superannuation bill arrives in the Parliament without adequate time for it to be examined.
The Superannuation Act is complicated. I had a lot to do with it long before I came to this place and it bears quite a lot of watching. However, as the Government has the numbers and has declared that it wants this bill, we have nothing to do but debate it even though preparation for its consideration has been inadequate.
We have the interesting situation that for all these years, the mints in Australia have been branches of the Royal Mint in London. As the Minister stated in his second-reading speech, at long last Australia is to mint its own coins under its own charter. It is interesting that over all these years, some Australian Government has not acted upon the fact that power over the currency is specifically written into the Constitution. It is surprising that no government has done anything about it and that, without doing the physical work of erecting buildings in Canberra, no government has taken over the operations of the mints in Melbourne and Perth.
I should like the Minister to answer several questions. He has stated that 65 actual bodies are to be transferred to Canberra to work in the Royal Australian Mint. Of these 50 are to be transferred from Melbourne and fifteen from Perth. How many will be left? Several times we were told in the second-reading speech of the Minister that skilled people and others were given an opportunity to come to Canberra but the speech did not state how many people were already employed at Melbourne and Perth. I have no idea whether the 65 will come from a staff of 70 or 700. I wonder how generous is the change-over from the peculiar British industrial laws under which these people are working. They have been paid by State governments and now they arc to have, broadly speaking, the conditions of employment of Commonwealth civil servants, permanent or temporary.
The Minister has mentioned suitable age qualifications. I should like a clarification of that matter. What are considered to be suitable age qualifications? The maximum age for joining the Commonwealth Public Service as a permanent officer is 51 years. Is that the age to which the Minister has referred? Was anybody over that age ineligible to come to Canberra as a permanent public servant or was there a fairly elastic approach to this provision? I cannot see that it could be anything but clastic. The Government might even have been looking at each individual case.
– These are State employees coming into the Federal field - is that your point?
– That is an oversimplification of the matter. They are British employees working in the Slates and paid by State governments. This is not a simple matter. The Government proposes to transfer 65 persons. How many will be left? What are the age qualifications to which reference has been made? I notice that, up to now, the production of coin has been a normal commercial transaction. The mint in Perth has made pennies. The mint in Melbourne has made all coins andthey have been purchased by the Commonwealth Government. The mint in Perth also has done an important job in processing gold. The Commonwealth has bought its coins, too.
What are the financial arrangements, par- ticularly in Western Australia which is a claimant State? This has been a pretty profitable piece of business for the Melbourne and Perth mints. Is the fact that they arc no longer in the business of selling coins to the Commonwealth going to make any difference at all to Victoria and Western Australia? What is being left for these two mints to do? The Government says that it is proposed to manufacture the coins in Canberra. We know that in Western Australia the mint will still have the very important job of processing gold. Western Australia is now the only significant gold producing State in the Commonwealth. Will there be reduced turn-over in the Western Australia mint in future? I appreciate that fairly large buildings and machinery will have to he maintained for the gold processing work
I refer now to the two systems of superannuation which will be available for the employees to join. Some of the officers now belong to the British scheme. Under that scheme they receive a lump sum payment and a small pension as well. Under the system which operates in Australia, as the salary of a Commonwealth public servant increases he takes out extra units and when he retires he receives a pension commensurate with the number of units he has taken out. The Government was confronted with a similar situation in regard to superannuation at the turn of the century when it took over the administration of customs and excise and postal services. I remember that at one time an employee who retired received a pension of £208 a year under a non-contributory scheme. That amount became laughable when inflation got under way. Obviously the Commonwealth had to increase the amount. I foresee the same situation arising here in regard to an employee who might retire after 25 years’ service. The amount of money that he will receive will not be sufficient when inflation is considered. Every honorable senator in this chamber has lived during periods of inflation of varying degrees of intensity, and I think that all of us will live in such a situation until the day we die.
I am speaking at a tremendous disadvantage in this regard because I have only had a couple of hours in which to look at the bill. I ask the Minister whether he can answer the queries I have posed to him in order to make the picture clearer. The second-reading speech of the Minister was a rather good historical document and gave us some indication of the conditions under which the employees will be employed in the Public Service, but every industrial arrangement has some complications in it. and I am not completely satisfied that all the eventualities have been covered in this bill. There will be people, who have been working under State acts and who have been paid by the Stales, coming into a totally different sphere. We have the Minister’s assurance that the State Governments, the Commonwealth Government, the British Government and the unions are completely satisfied with this measure. Therefore we offer no objection to it. but if the questionsI have raised can be answered I shall be grateful.
– Senator Willesee asked first about the staff that will be left in Perth and Melbourne after the transfers have been made to Canberra. I understand that there will be approximately 70 employees left in Melbourne and between 50 and 60 left in Perth. The functions that will be carried out in those two mints have not been finally determined. The matter is rather up in the air at the present time and I cannot give a proper answer to that question. There will still be the function of smelting gold, to which Senator Willesee referred, and there will be other functions thatI am not aware of at the moment. There is no age limit imposed on employees wishing to join the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund. They may elect to stay under the present system, which is a noncontributory system, or elect to transfer to our superannuation scheme. If they elect to transfer to this scheme they will receive credit for contributions made under the other system.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I wish to refer briefly to clause 12 Which deals with the preservation of sick leave credits. If sick leave was allowed to accumulate under the State system or the British system, will the accumulated sick leave be cancelled when the officers transfer to the Canberra mint and a fresh start have to be made under the Commonwealth scheme?
– Sick leave was provided for under the British system and the officers concerned will receive credit for accumulated sick leave under that system.
– I refer the Minister to clause 18, sub-clauses (11.), (12.) and (13.). This clause applies to the superannuation scheme. Sub-clause (13.) provides -
For the purposes of the last two preceding subsections, any service of a person as a Royal Mint employee that is not continuous with his service as an officer or as a temporary employee shall be disregarded.
This provision is one that is used in the Commonwealth Public Service in respect of people coming out of the armed forces and resuming duty in the Public Service. But it is something with which I have had a lot of trouble. For instance, when a person comes out of the Army, the service has to be continuous. That is, he has to leave the Army one day and join the Public Service the next. In some cases the Public Service Board has been very good in this regard, but I do not like a system under which a decision of this kind is left to boards or to civil servants. I do not think it is fair to them. Such matters should be covered by legislation. To be a little more explicit, if this provision is not applied broadly, it does apply to retrenchments under section 39 of the Superannuation Act. That section lays down that it shall be deemed to be retrenchment if you have a situation where there are too many people of a particular category and you say to them, “ There is no longer need for your services and we want you to go. It is no fault of yours “. If they go, then, under section 50 of the act they will receive, in respect of their period of service, not only the two-sevenths superannuation contribu tion that they have paid during their employment, but also the five-sevenths that has been paid by the Commonwealth.
In this situation, if a person has not had continuous service, both in his old employment with the mint and in his new employment, he will not be able to receive the benefit of that section. I shall take a hypothetical case: A man who has worked for many years in the Melbourne mint leaves his job but later returns to it. Everybody is happy about that, but when he joins the Commonwealth Public Service the only part of his service that will be considered will be that immediately preceding his entry. If he was out of the government service for a week, a day, or an hour, and if he is later retrenched from the Public Service, the provisions of section 50 of the Superannuation Act will be nullified in his case.
These are the aspects which worry me because we have not had time this afternoon to examine the proposals completely. Technically speaking - I do not suggest that the mint authorities or the Public Service Board would do or want to do such a thing - these people could be brought over and could be here for one day and be retrenched. Then, if their service had not been continuous they would get virtually nothing. I am sure the Minister will agree that that would be the complete antithesis of the spirit of the legislation. I realize that such happenings are unlikely because the Commonwealth is seeking skilled people, but these are some of the weaknesses that may be creeping into this arrangement which we have not had a chance properly to examine.
– This clause deals with the position of an employee who leaves employment in the mint and is paid his full entitlement at that stage, goes to work somewhere else and then returns to the mint. On his return, he starts as if he had not previously been employed by the mint because he has already been paid his entitlement. His service as an employee is counted from the second time he joins the mint. Senator Willesee mentioned a hypothetical case. Wc arc not bringing these people here to sack them, but because we want them, and even in the honorable senator’s hypothetical case 1 am sure that if an employee had an industrial advocate as good as he is, some way around the difficulty would be found.
Bill agreed (o.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a third time.
Debate resumed (vide page 1321).
.- This bill is designed to amend the provisions in the principal act which provide for taxation deductions in special circumstances in respect of share capital subscribed to companies engaging in petroleum exploration or in mining or prospecting for minerals other than oil. gold and uranium. The introduction of the measure indicates that the Government and the Treasury have found it necessary to legislate to overcome one of the infinite variety of methods which people devise in order to avoid paying income tax. This is a very lucrative field, particularly because of its relative novelty in Australia. Great leniency has been exercised by the Government in its efforts to encourage the search for oil and other minerals, and many companies have cmbarked on programmes of prospecting or exploration in a very businesslike way.
Unfortunately, many people look on mining as Pitt-street or Collins-street mining; they feel that there is more to bc made hy the manipulation of books than in the field where the actual hard work is done. However, the Taxation Branch is very much alive to these possibilities and, with due alacrity, has introduced this plug into the widening hole in the ship of consolidated revenue.
The deductions concerned are already available up to 30th June, 1964, and this legislation seeks to make them available for a further three years, to the legitimate prospector or the company that goes to the public for funds with which to continue the search, particularly the search for oil. This measure can be of great assistance to those people. The main purpose of the legislation is to remove some of the obvious anomalies pointed out by the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) in his secondreading speech. The bill deals, for instance, with the sale of mining and prospecting rights to petroleum exploration companies and other mining an prospecting companies. The Government insists, quite rightly, that money expended by a company to purchase these rights cannot be accepted as being expended in actual mining or prospecting. Some rather enlightening figures are available in the annual reports of various companies in regard to the inflated prices that have been paid for mining rights and for shares in subsidiary companies. These, in the overall balance-sheet, can be very profitable transactions.
The Minister pointed out that when rights are sold to a company and the company, instead of paying the vendor, issues paid-up shares to him, the vendor is not entitled to an income tax deduction in respect of the value, of the shares. However, deductions available to members of the general public who subscribe capital to the company arc not affected.
It is pointed out, also, that, in some cases, transactions are not arranged in a straightforward manner and the legislation seeks to overcome these irregularities. Apparently a little bit of skulduggery goes on. The company pays the vendor of prospecting rights with shares in a subsidiary company. Cash is passed over but there is an agreement between the vendor and the company for the vendor immediately to reinvest the money in the company. That is a roundabout way of getting around the taxation laws. The result is that these transactions do not result in additional money being made available to a company for mining or prospecting purposes. We know, of course, that the whole purpose of this legislation is to encourage mining operations. I believe that the Government is seeking to close up the gap by the amendments it is introducing. These transactions will not only be brought under surveillance but the incentive for people to engage in these types of transactions will be reduced as near to nil as is possible.
The general public will be given the incentive to invest in oil exploration companies and any benefits or concessions will be given to those who are legitimately entitled to them. In future, companies will not include figures in their balance sheets which could be responsible for concessions being gained by those who might be classified as the manipulators of subsidiary companies. These people arrange take-overs and the sale of prospecting rights at inflated values. The bill will amend the law so that the vendor of these prospecting rights will not become entitled to a tax deduction through an arrangement to receive moneys from a company and then return the money to the company as share capital. As has been mentioned, companies will be encouraged to be forthright and open in their declarations to the Commissioner of Taxation. Members of the general public will be able to obtain tax deductions for the full amount of capital subscribed by them.
Further, it is proposed that the amendment should apply to the sale of technical information about mining or prospecting areas. Such transactions will be covered. Another amendment proposed by the bill affects an exemption from tax available to shareholders in a prospecting company. The exemption applies to dividends that the company pays out of income derived from the sale of certain rights to mine. The company itself is exempted from taxation on this income. Finally, to prevent a double benefit being obtained, the Government has decided to reduce the amount of tax-free dividends by the amount of capital spent on mining or prospecting rights. The reduction will apply only when shareholders have been allowed deductions for the amount of the capital. The bill contains amendments to give effect to these decisions of the Government.
The explanatory memorandum that has been circulated explains in great detail the technical aspects of the amendment. It is expressed in plain language designed to help companies that are legitimately searching for oil and prospecting for minerals other than gold or uranium. The bill will give the fullest legitimate consideration to those who are entitled to tax deductions, but on the other hand it will close the loopholes open to those persons who always attempt to find a way round any new legislation. After all, the oil industry may be regarded as an abstract one except in the case of Moonie and Cabawin where oil has been found and its value has been reflected in stock exchange fluctuations. In nearly every other place throughout Australia oil is, as it were, a will-o’-the-wisp, but people with a gambling spirit will search for this wonderful commodity on which the wheels of the modern world revolve, and without which they will grind to a stop. If given the incentive, people are prepared to take the risks involved and invest in legitimate companies. I believe that they should be given every incentive to invest in these ventures, but at the same time given every protection against unfair practices. The Opposition supports the measure and will not impede its speedy passage through the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Reports on Items.
– I present a report by the Tariff Board on the following subject: -
I also present reports by the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Caterpillar Tractor-Scrapers (By-law).
Copies of correspondence between the Minister for Trade and Industry and the Chairman of the Tariff Board on the shipbuilding report accompany the reports.
Sitting suspended from 4.5 to 4.37 p.m.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Paltridge) read a first time.
– I move -
Thai the bill be now read a second time. This bill introduces proposed amendments to the Explosives Act 1961 to provide for four separate matters. Firstly, to ensure that the provisions of the Explosives Act and regulations extend to defence explosives intended for dumping at sea, secondly to provide power to make orders for the carriage of Commonwealth explosives by rail similar to the power that already exists in relation to handling explosives through ports, thirdly to provide for the necessary regulatory control of the storage, handling and transport of Commonwealth-owned or controlled explosives which are not for defence purposes, and finally to provide that explosives manufactured by the Commonwealth and intended to be supplied to the governments of other countries can be transported and handled on the same basis us other Commonwealth explosives.
Since the enactment of the Explosives Act. 1961, some doubts have arisen as to whether defence explosives which are to bc dumped at sea are explosives to which Part II. of the Explosives Act applies. The proposed amendments to the act will remove any doubts that might exist in this regard and ensure that the services can continue to load their obsolete or surplus explosives in merchant vessels in ports for disposal by dumping at sea, and indemnify the port authority concerned by the making of an order. The need for dumping is brought about by changes in weapon design and other technological considerations, and the necessity to clear unwanted stores from magazines to make space available for usable explosives. I might add that condemned explosives, which may be more dangerous to transport than other explosives, arc not dumped at sea but are destroyed by the service concerned in the vicinity of *C 1 magazines where they are stored.
The need to provide the Commonwealth with the same power to direct the carriage of Commonwealth explosives by rail as already exists in relation to handling through ports arises from the fact that in an emergency situation a substantial proportion of the Commonwealth explosives that may have to be transported in Australia will of necessity have to bc carried by rail. The proposed amendment will provide the Commonwealth with the power to direct by order in emergency conditions the carriage by rail of greater quantities of Commonwealth explosives than are authorized by State regulations, which arc intended to cover the transport of relatively small consignments of commercially owned explosives. The making of an order on a State railway authority will ensure that the system concerned is fully indemnified by the Commonwealth.
In proposing the extension of the provisions of the principal act to cover safety measures to be observed in respect of the storage, handling and transport of nondefence explosives owned by the Commonwealth, the Government has been guided by the findings of an inter-departmental committee, which has reported that explosives of non-defence types are used by a number of Commonwealth departments and instrumentalities throughout all States of Australia, with quite a substantial proportion being transported in Victoria and South Australia. In these two States, existing legislation is specifically worded so as not to apply to Commonwealth owned explosives. Additionally, there are considerable variations in the provisions of the laws in the different States covering the transport of explosives, particularly in relation to vehicle requirements, load limitations and other important matters. It is regarded as most important that some form of regulatory control over Commonwealthowned explosives, including those that are not intended for defence purposes, should exist and that it should be uniform for the whole of Australia. The amendments proposed will allow for the introduction of regulations providing necessary controls on handling Commonwealth owned explosives in the interests of safety and will facilitate transport between States.
Because of the Commonwealth’s commitments overseas, it may be necessary on occasions to export explosives manufactured in Australia to other countries and. to facilitate transport arrangements in such a case, a clause has been included in the bill to provide for the explosives concerned to bc transported within Australia and handled through ports on the same basis as any other Commonwealth explosives.
I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
It is proposed to extend the period of operation of the Cellulose Acetate Flake Bounty Act 1956-1961, which expires on 30th June, 1964, for a further six months to 31st December, 1964, and it is the purpose of this bill to implement this proposal. The Tariff Board is currently reviewing the cellulose acetate flake industry and related products. Sufficient time does . not remain, before the current parliamentary sittings end, to enable the Government to receive, study and act on the board’s report. To allow such steps to be taken, it is necessary that the operation of the Cellulose Acetate Flake Bounty Act 1956-1961 be extended to 31st December, 1964.
I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
[4.48]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The introduction of this bill marks the first stage in the implementation of the Government’s new housing policy announced by the Prime Minister last November. Its purpose is to authorize the putting into effect of what is coming to be known as the home savings grant scheme. A further bill will be introduced at a later date to give effect to the Government’s second proposal, namely, the establishment of a home mortgage insurance scheme.
The bill now before the Senate provides for the payment of tax-free grants to young married couples who have saved to own a home of their own. Its purpose is to help young people to buy their own home by the offer of a reward for thrift. It is an encouragement to young Australians to start saving for this purpose as soon as they are in a position to save. Saving should commence as early as possible. There is no limit to the number of years a person may save except that a person must be aged less than 36 years when he or she applies for the grant. Saving need not be compressed into three years. The three years so frequently mentioned is merely the minimum period of saving to become eligible for the grant.
I am sure that the grant scheme will increase the amount of finance available for housing by inducing young people to save more and to deposit their savings with institutions that provide funds for investment in housing generally. It should lead to large numbers of new accounts being opened with savings banks and permanent building societies. Although the building society movement does much excellent work in assisting people to save and in providing long-term loans for the acquisition of homes, further development of the activities of permanent building societies in Australia is necessary to allow the movement to make its full contribution. The home savings grant scheme provides a new foundation on which the permanent societies may build.
The Government believes housing to be a matter of national importance. Adequate housing is essential to the welfare and the happiness of the people. If people are not properly housed, early marriage is discouraged and population growth declines. Steady population growth is vital to Australia’s development and prosperity. It is of the utmost importance, therefore, that an adequate volume and standard of housing be maintained. Adequate housing is essential, too, in attracting to our shores the migrants who are so necessary to our continued growth. This bill is one of the special measures which the Government is putting in hand to ensure that a shortage of housing will not become a factor limiting our population growth.
Home ownership is a feature of the Australian way of life, and the Government is fully aware of the desire of most young married couples to obtain a home of their own early in marriage. We are approaching a period in which the marriage rate of our existing population is likely to increase appreciably. We are ready to meet this situation when it arises. Australia, under the present Government, is a fastdeveloping, prosperous nation with a relatively high standard of housing. Although the population is well house*) overall, many young married couples still experience difficulty in obtaining a home of their own early in marriage. There are numerous calls on savings during these early years and many couples are forced to postpone home ownership. The Government believes that it should help those young people who help themselves to own a home by continuous saving before they are married and during the early difficult years of marriage.
Broadly, the bill defines persons eligible for the grant, the homes that will be eligible and the forms of acceptable savings, and sets out the method of calculating the grant, the manner and timing of payment, and the necessary administrative arrangements. A new scheme such as this will inevitably give rise to interim difficulties until the details are generally understood and the people affected have had time to adjust their affairs to .meet the requirements. To ease these difficulties, interim provisions have been made to accept savings in a wide variety of forms until they can be put into one of the continuing acceptable forms. However, not all the temporary difficulties will have been foreseen. For this reason, a measure of administrative discretion must be left with the Department of Housing. This is a social welfare measure, and the proposed administrative arrangements follow closely the procedures under the Social Services Act.
When it becomes law, this bill will authorize the payment of a Commonwealth grant of £1 for every £3 of acceptable savings by a person aged less than 36 years. The savings of each partner of the marriage will be eligible for the grant, but the total grant payable in respect of a home will be £250. The grant will be an addition to savings made over a number of years and will he payable in respect of a home anywhere in Australia.
The bill provides that a person eligible for the grant must be under 36 years of age, not only at the date of marriage, but also at the date of entry into a contract to buy or build the home, or the commencement of its construction Although a grant will not be paid to an unmarried person, young people contemplating marriage may take steps to acquire a home and become eligible for the grant when they are married. But if they do this, they must marry and submit a claim for the grant within twelve months of taking steps to acquire the home. To be eligible a person must have lived in Australia and have accumulated acceptable savings in Australia for at least three years. There is, of course, no maximum savings period. The sooner saving commences, the easier it will be to accumulate maximum acceptable savings of £750. A person need not have been born in Australia nor have become naturalized. Newcomers to Australia who have lived here for at least three years, who are married and who intend to continue to live here, will be eligible.
Once a person has received a home savings grant, both that person and his wife, or her husband, will be ineligible for a further grant. However, if a person who has received a grant, or the husband or wife of that person, remarries, the person he or she marries will be eligible provided that person has not received a grant, or has not previously been married to a person who received a grant. As this sounds very complicated, may I quote an example? Let us suppose that a young bachelor who has saved for a home marries a widow or divorcee who has received a grant or whose former husband received a grant. That bachelor will become eligible for the grant when he marries.
Before a person may become eligible, he or his marriage partner must have taken steps to acquire a home. Home ownership is the objective of the scheme. To be eligible, a person or his wife or her husband, or both of them jointly, on or after 2nd December, 1963, the commencement date of the scheme must - and 1 wish to emphasize the word “ must “ - have entered into a contract in writing to buy an existing house and land or the right to occupy a flat or home unit: or have entered into a contract in writing with a building contractor for the erection of a home on land held by one or both of them in an approved form; or if an owner-builder, have commenced the construction of a home on land held by one or both of them in an approved form.
The husband or the wife or both may bc eligible persons provided each has saved for at least three years. Although the savings of the husband and the wife will be treated as separate individual savings, the maximum acceptable savings in respect of one home will be £750, and the maximum grant to husband or wife or both will be £250. If the husband and wife have deposited their savings in a joint account in both their names, one-half of these savings will be deemed to be those of the husband and the other one-half those of the wife. If only one of them is eligible, onehalf of the joint savings will be deemed to be those of the eligible person.
Broadly speaking, a home, to be eligible for purposes of the grant, must be the first home owned by either or both of the married couple upon or after marriage. It may be either a house or a home unit. It is not, however, our intention to deny payment of the grant to eligible young people who buy or build before they are married the home they intend to live in after marriage. If one or both of a married couple signed a contract to buy or build the home, or commenced the construction of the home prior to marriage, and this home is occupied as the matrimonial home, it will be eligible provided neither of the couple owned another home in. Australia upon or after marriage.
For obvious reasons, a building condemned as unfit for human habitation or listed for demolition will not be eligible. If the home is being newly constructed, the plans must have been approved by the local authority. The home must also be built on land which one or both of the married couple are, or are entitled to be, registered as the proprietor, or on land which one or both of the married couple holds on lease or as a life interest. There are, however, certain classes of dwellings which, when purchased, will not be eligible for the grant. As honorable senators know, the Commonwealth is already providing significant assistance to people seeking a home. We are currently subsidizing the interest payable for more than 50 years on soma £50,000,000 per annum of loan money available to the States for home building under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement. The Commonwealth is also building a large number of homes in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. These homes are offered for sale on a deposit as low as 5 per cent, of the total purchase price with the assistance of a long-term loan from the Commonwealth at a relatively favorable rate of interest. If purchasers of these homes were to receive the grant, they would, in effect, be. receiving a double subsidy. We do not believe that most Australians would wish us to do this.
A home built by a State housing authority and paid for with money made available under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement will not be eligible for the grant, where it is sold by a State housing authority, or it is being purchased with the assistance of a loan by a State or State authority out of moneys made available under the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement. We consider that subsidized homes built by the States with funds provided under the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement ought to be reserved for those with very small means and on low incomes. The homes savings grants scheme is designed to help those who help themselves by saving appreciable sums. Likewise, a home built by the Commonwealth or a Commonwealth authority in one of the Territories will be ineligible when it is first sold or when its purchase is being financed by a loan by the Commonwealth or a Commonwealth authority. However, the many homes being bought or built by young people in Canberra with the assistance of a loan of Commonwealth money from the Commissioner for Housing, will be eligible for the grant.
Houses built through co-operative societies who receive moneys under CommonwealthState Housing Agreement in the States or direct from the Commonwealth in Canberra or the Northern Territory will be eligible. Homes acquired with the assistance of War Service Homes loans will be eligible even though these loans are offered on exceptionally favorable terms and conditions. The reason for this decision, and I am sure it is one with which all honorable senators will agree, is that Commonwealth financial assistance to ex-servicemen and war widows in home ownership is a repatriation benefit in the nature of a post hoc payment for services rendered to the nation. A War Service Homes loan is not a social welfare payment and should not debar its recipient from social welfare benefits available to young persons throughout the community.
The home savings grant is aimed at assisting those who need and merit financial aid in acquiring a home. Those acquiring expensive homes stand in less need of assistance from the taxpayer whose interests must also be weighed. For this reason, a home, which together with the land costs more than £7,000, will be ineligible for the grant.
It is intended that the scheme should apply equally to homes in rural and urban areas. If the £7,000 limit were to apply to the cost of the whole of the land and all improvements, many people living on rural holdings would be ineligible for the grant, because the value of their land, their main business asset, would usually exceed £7,000. We will therefore take into account for purposes of the £7,000 limit only the cost of the home and of the land immediately appropriate to the home. There are also other cases where, if we were to take as the cost of the land and the house the value of the land and all improvements on it, such as a shop or a surgery, the couple owning the land would be ineligible for the grant. Where the overall cost of the land and all the building improvements will exceed £7,000, it is proposed that the Department of Housing be given a discretionary power to identify “ the home “ and to have regard only to its assessed value in applying the £7,000 limit.
As honorable senators would expect, a great deal of thought has been given to determining the acceptable forms of saving, bearing in mind the purposes of the scheme. The forms chosen are in aggregate those in which the great bulk of personal saving for a home is accumulated. Moreover, the institutions chosen are those which provide a very large proportion of the finance for private home building.
The acceptable forms of savings for the purposes of the scheme are -
Moneys deposited in a home savings account with a savings bank. These will include moneys placed on fixed deposit and moneys invested in deposit stock issued by some savings banks, provided the account is designated a home savings account. An eligible person may have home savings accounts with more than one bank.
Moneys placed on fixed deposit with a trading bank, provided such deposits are designated a home savings account; moneys deposited with a building or cooperative housing society registered under a law of a State or Territory; moneys paid to a building or co-operative housing society as subscriptions towards the purchase of shares in such a society, provided the shares are not quoted on any stock exchange.
Moneys paid for the purchase or lease of land on which the eligible home is being, or is to be, built.
I wish to stress than on and after 1st January, 1965, these will be the only acceptable forms of new - let me repeat, new - savings for purposes of the grant scheme.
Because many young people have been, and are depositing savings for a home in a variety of other forms, the Department of
Housing, if satisfied that these people have been saving to acquire a home, will for a period regard these savings as acceptable. Accordingly the bill proposes that money deposited in the following ways on or before 31st December, 1964, will also be treated as acceptable savings up to the 31st December, 1967: -
Moneys deposited in any savings bank account, not being a home savings account.
Moneys deposited in a current account or on fixed deposit with a trading bank.
Moneys deposited with a friendly society or credit union registered or incorporated under a law of a State or a Territory.
However, savings in these forms up to 3 1st December next, to remain acceptable after that date, must either be maintained in the form in which they are held at the end of this year or be transferred to one or more of the forms in which acceptable new savings must be made from 1st January next. This means that any money saved and deposited in any bank account up to the end of this year will be acceptable up to 31st December. 1967, if it is maintained in its present form. Such savings will also be acceptable after 31st December, 1967, if before that date they are transferred into one of the acceptable forms of new saving. The same conditions will apply to savings deposited with a friendly society or credit union. They may be left with the society or union and be acceptable up to 31st December, 1967.
T believe I should make it quite clear that the bill now before the Senate, which defines savings deposited with building and cooperative housing societies, friendly societies and credit unions as acceptable savings, is in no way intended to imply that the Commonwealth is, or will be. responsible for the financial soundness and solvency of any of these institutions.
Because, until the bill was introduced, there had been no definite statement of acceptable forms of saving, the Government is proposing that money saved and accumulated in any form for home purchase up to the end of this year will also be acceptable, provided the savings are deposited or invested before then in any of the approved forms of saving. Home sav ings accounts will not be blocked accounts, in the sense that the owner of the account may not withdraw money for any purpose. However a withdrawal will in most cases reduce the amount of acceptable savings. Obviously, any moneys borrowed - not saved - will not be treated as acceptable savings.
As the scheme is aimed at encouraging personal saving by young people before they enter into a commitment to acquire their own home, the bill proposes that the period of saving will conclude on the day one or both of the married couple, or a person intending to marry, signs a contract to buy the home, or signs a contract to build the home provided this is not later than the day construction commences, or, in the case of an owner-builder, the day on which construction commences. As soon as the contract has been entered into or construction of the home commenced, the period of acceptable savings concludes for both the husband and wife, and for both partners of a subsequent marriage. This significant date is described in the bill as the “ prescribed date “.
As the grant is intended to be a reward for continuous saving over a period of years, not for the deposit of a single lump sum and no further saving, there should obviously be a limit on the amount of acceptable saving in a year. To give effect to this, it is necessary to define savings years. The savings years of an eligible person will be the twelve months periods dating back from the day on which the period of acceptable savings concluded. May I make this clear by quoting a hypothetical example. Suppose Mr. Jones signed a contract to buy or build, or commenced the construction of his home on 20th February, 1964. The years of saving of Mr. and Mrs. Jones would be 21st February, 1963, to 20th February, 1964; 21st February, 1962, to 20th February, 1963; 21st February, 1961, to 20th February, 1962, and so on into the past, but information will not be sought beyond seven years. In respect of any year of saving beginning on or after 1st January, 1965, the savings of each eligible person in any year will be acceptable up to £250.
I now wish to explain briefly the way in which the bill proposes that acceptable savings be calculated. The amount of acceptable savings of an eligible person during any savings year will be the amount by which his or her total savings at the end of the year exceed savings at the beginning of the year. Total savings will include, in addition to balances held in an acceptable form with a bank, building society, friendly society and credit union, the amount of any payment or payments made to purchase the land on which the home is being, or is to be, built. If, however, the total of an eligible person’s acceptable savings at the end of the year is less than the total at the begnning of the year, the acceptable savings at the beginning of the year will be reduced by the amount of the decreases during the year.
If a person, in any year of saving beginning on or after 1st January, 1965, saves more than £250 in a year, the excess will not be acceptable. However, if a person reduces his savings in any year following a year in which he had excess savings, the amount of the reduction will be treated first as a withdrawal of excess saving, and only if the reduction in saving exceeds the amount of excess savings will the total acceptable savings in earlier years be reduced.
As the grant is a reward for saving to acquire a home, the department must be reasonably sure that the young people will obtain the home and will live in it. It is proposed that the grant be paid as soon as the department is satisfied that the home will be bought or built and lived in by the married couple.
We appreciate that there will be many young people who will wish to know in advance of entering into a commitment to acquire a home, whether or not they are eligible for the grant and, if so, the approximate amount of the grant they may expect to receive. It is the intention of the Minister for Housing to arrange Australia-wide distribution of a pamphlet that will answer most questions on who is eligible, what homes are eligible, what are acceptable savings and how the grant will be calculated, together with advice on how to complete the application form. Officers of the Department of Housing will also be instructed to supply the maximum feasible amount of information in response to inquiries. Offices of the department are being established in each capital city under the charge of regional directors. However, as honorable senators will under stand, it will be impracticable to determine the amount of acceptable savings and of the grant payable to an eligible person in advance of entry into a contract to buy or build the home or the commencement of its construction.
It is our intention that the scheme be administered as sympathetically as the bill permits. Partly to cover the unforeseen, but also to permit the sympathetic treatment of unusual cases, the bill, as already mentioned, has been drafted to give substantial discretionary powers to the Secretary of the Department of Housing and his delegates in administering the scheme. I am quite satisfied that these discretionary powers, similar in most respects to those of the directorgeneral and his delegates under the Social Services Act, are necessary to permit the smooth and effective introduction of the scheme.
We believe this bill will encourage young people to save and that these savings; increased by the grant, will enable more young married couples to obtain a home of their own or acquire it sooner than they otherwise would. I commend it to honorable senators.
.- -Pe bill that has just been described to Us by the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner) at least has the charm of novelty. We have never before encountered a bill of this type providing for grants for housing by the Commonwealth Government to selected individuals throughout the Commonwealth of Australia. I suppose one might look upon it as the brainchild of somebody. If one looks at it in that light, one may describe it as the child of a premature election for the House of Representatives on 30th November last. I would say it was conceived in electoral terror which ultimately proved to be completely unjustified. I have no doubt that this rather dramatic proposal would never have been submitted to the people of Australia but for the electoral terror or panic of the Government in the pre-election period.
Now the child is delivered after a six months’ labour period. Its stepfather, the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury), seems to think it will have growing pains for the next 50 years, if I correctly interpret a comment that he made in the course of his secondreading speech. I note that the passage to which I refer was omitted from the speech which the Minister for National Development presented to the Senate. Mr. Bury said -
It will be readily recalled by honorable members that the procedures under our social services legislation - those most closely akin to these - have been refined by practical experience over 50 years.
He has commenced with what is admittedly an inchoate proposal which still leaves many gaps. He obviously considers it may have a long period of development and growth, as had the social service programme.
When this notable proposal was put before the people during the election campaign, the Leader of the Government in the Senate said, as reported in the press on 16th November, that he was adopting the principle of refusing to answer questions in detail regarding the scheme. After offering a scheme which had been set out in a few lines, ‘he refused to answer questions about it. He is also reported to have said, according to the newspaper I have before me -
I don’t think you can produce a scheme in the middle of an election campaign for your opponents to take no notice of the good points and attack the points they think they can make capital of.
It will be a good scheme when it comes out in detail.
– I had forgotten I said that. It was not a bad statement
– It was not a bad attitude, either, but I should say it was prompted by a complete lack of knowledge of what the details would be, rather than anything else.
– By a complete knowledge of what the Opposition would do in an election campaign.
– If the full details had been put before the people, 1 venture to say that nobody but an astute lawyer would have been able to understand them, as I hope to demonstrate in some detail, if not in the course of this speech, certainly at the committee stage. To show that the Minister did .not realize all the implications of the scheme that had been placed before the people by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), I remind him of a com ment he made immediately after the election when he had thawed out a little. The following statements appeared in the press on 2nd December, 1963: -
The Menzies Government will make ils subsidized housing programme one of the first orders of business in the new Parliament.
The Minister for National Development, Sir William Spooner, said to-day he expected the necessary legislation to be introduced in February. “The basic work has already been done,” Sir William said. “ We -will fix the details well before the parliamentary sitting begins.”
That forecast was completely wrong. Taking the statements together, I do not think it can be argued other than that the Government had no real conception of the implications and complications that were involved in bringing this proposal to fruition.
This is a novel bill which was conceived and developed in the conditions I have mentioned, and we have it before us almost on the last day before we adjourn for the winter recess. How did this scheme emerge in such inchoate and sudden form? The answer is that on 6th November Mr. Calwell had put before the nation the Australian Labour Party’s policy on housing, amongst other things. It was a dynamic policy, compelling the Commonwealth to take a national role in relation to housing and not to seek refuge behind the proposition, which we had heard for fourteen years from this Government, that housing was primarily a matter for the States and that the Commonwealth lacked constitutional jurisdiction to deal with it. All of a sudden we have the Commonwealth coming directly into the housing field by this novel proposal, not per medium of the States or pursuant to a grant under section 96 of the Constitution, but in a direct dealing between the Commonwealth and prospective home builders. It is certain that the Labour Party’s policy on housing, which was put before the people by Mr. Calwell, really captured the imagination, not only of the people, but also of the Prime Minister.
We made five specific proposals in regard to housing. At this stage I shall refer only to three of them. We indicated that we would establish a homes finance commission to provide finance for home construction and to guarantee loans from those willing to lend at low interest rates and on low deposits amounting to not more than from 5 to 10 per cent, of the capital cost. We proposed also to make increased grants to the States of £20,000,000 for public housing, with emphasis on slum clearance and re-developmental projects. We also proposed to hold an inquiry into Australia’s housing needs at every level, as had been requested by the State Ministers for Housing for many years, a request that had been rejected time and again by the Menzies Government. I suggest that the real stimulus to the Government to conceive this novel and electorally attractive proposal, in all its beautiful simplicity and brevity, was the policy put forward by the Labour Party. 1 come to the speech of the Prime Minister who, almost word for word, copied the proposal we had put forward, whereby homes were to be financed on 5 per cent, deposit, at low rates of interest and over a long period. The body that would administer our scheme was to be the national housing insurance corporation.
In the course of his policy speech the Prime Minister said -
The Government will, up to a high percentage of valuation, ranging up to 95 per cent, in appropriate cases, insure the repayment of such loans by approved lenders at approved rates of interest, which, under the guarantee, should be reasonable.
That proposal was identical with Labour’s proposal and I venture to suggest that we should never have heard anything about it from the Government except for the policy which Labour put before the people.
It is interesting to see the Commonwealth now coming into this field to give effect to only one of the proposals which it. put to the people on 12th November last. Here we are, late in May, getting only the first of those proposals - the one providing a subsidy to savings on the part of young people who are married, who have committed themselves to the acquisition of a home either bv purchase or construction, and who are under 36 years of age. We had not heard another word of the other and wider proposal to make available loans of up to 95 per cent, of the cost of a home - leaving a deposit of only 5 per cent. - until the. Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner) indicated in the first paragraph of his second-reading speech on this measure, in the broadest terms, that a bill will be introduced at a later date to give effect to this second proposal, namely, to establish a home mortgage insurance scheme. I would be interested to get from the Minister some more precise information as to how much later that proposal will be coming forward.
I make this challenge to the Government: Had it concerned itself with the broader proposal, which would have embraced a vastly greater number of people than those who will benefit under this hill, there would have been no need at all for this measure except as an encouragement to thrift in the community, because the deposit problem would have been solved. Assuming that the same limit is to be preserved - I imagine it will be and that only homes costing £7,000 or less will attract assistance - 5 per cent, of £7,000 will be £350, so that there will be no need for the purchaser to find £750 in order to receive the subsidy of £250. He will need a deposit of only £350. However, more than six months have passed since the election promise was made and there is still no firm date for the introduction of the mortgage insurance scheme. All we know is that it will be brought before us at a later date. I impress on the Senate that had that proposal been implemented first there would have been no need for the bill now before us except to give more encouragement to saving by the younger people in the community.
As I have indicated, the subsidy proposal sounded very simple when it was put to the nation by the Prime Minister last November, but it has grown into a closely printed bill of some twenty pages, and to-day it took the Minister nineteen closely typed pages to explain it. It is a most complex bill. In my long experience I have found the initial reading of few of the bills to which 1 have addressed myself more difficult to understand than this, and yet it has been drafted with great ingenuity and skill. An understanding of its provisions requires prolonged study. I defy anybody who has looked at sub-clause 7. of clause 22 to understand it at one reading - or two readings or three readings - unless he has addressed his mind to practically the whole of the bill. 1 am not critical of the drafting, lt is a highly complex measure, but like Einstein’s theory of relativity, it is quite simple, once you understand it. The trouble is to reach an understanding of it. I will read sub-clause 7. to the Senate as an example of a longdistance sentence. The Senate may be horrified to know that when I first read the subclause I wrote alongside it the words “ Oh yeah! “. I will come back to the explanation of my seeming inelegance later. The subclause reads -
A reference in this section to an adjusted decrease in acceptable savings of an eligible person, in relation to a savings year, shall be read as a reference to a decrease in acceptable savings of the person in that year reduced, if there were any excess savings of the person in preceding savings year that are not required by this subsection to be taken into account in ascertaining adjusted decreases in acceptable savings of the person in relation to any of those preceding savings years, by so much of those excess savings as does not exceed the decrease in acceptance savings of the person in the first-mentioned savings year.
That is completely clear once you understand it but, I repeat it, it is like Einstein’s theory of relativity. In explanation of the two words I wrote in the margin beside that sub-clause I will repeat a story that 1 am rather fond of telling. A witness before a judge in an English court, having had a certain submission made to him, replied with the expression “ Sez you “. His Honour, completely horrified, asked, “ What is the meaning of that expression?” A bright young man at the bar rose and said, “ It is a term of American origin which has, owing to the insidious influence of the cinema, gained regrettable currency in the language of our people and is, I am given to understand, intended to convey a state of dubiety in the mind of the speaker regarding the veracity or credibility of the person spoken to “. Whereupon His Honour shifted his glasses down another notch and said “ Oh yeah “.
I have dwelt on this clause merely to drive home the point that this is an exceedingly complex and difficult scheme. This is not the only difficult clause in the bill. I am not criticizing the draftsman. I think he showed tremendous ingenuity in taking short cuts, but I advise any applicant who contemplates making an application under this legislation, not to bother reading it.
There are so many discretions vested in the administration that this measure should be called “The bill of discretions”. An applicant might just as well float his application and do whatever the department tells him to do, trusting that one or perhaps all of the thirteen or fourteen discretions provided for will be exercised in his favour. He will find it very difficult to discover any legal right to establish, or any firm ground to stand on in pressing his claim.
On looking at clause 14, which deals with eligible persons, I find that to become eligible a person must have some high qualifications or lack certain disqualifications. He must be married; he must not have attained an age of 36 years before marriage; he must not have attained the age of 36 years before entering into a contract for the purchase of a dwelling house or the construction of a house, or before he himself commences construction. In the case of an Australian citizen of three years’ standing, he must reside in Australia for three months continuously before entering into any such contract or commencing construction. In any case he must have resided in Australia for the three years immediately preceding his entering into any such contract. Then the secretary - that is the secretary of the Department of Housing - must be satisfied that the applicant has saved the money in Australia throughout a period of not less than three years. His savings must have been .built up, as the Minister explained, in Australia in substantial forms over a period of at least three years. Acceptable savings in each year are not allowed to exceed £250 except in the complicated situation that I read out a while ago in relation to clause 22, subclause (7.). Neither the applicant nor his spouse or former spouse must have had an earlier grant under the act. The applicant and his spouse must have, on or after 2nd December, 1963, entered into a contract to purchase or to build, or they must have commenced to construct a dwelling house which, since that date, has been completed or substantially built. The applicant must not be an undischarged bankrupt and he must not be serving a term of imprisonment. Even to be eligible for the grant at all, one must have quite a few qualifications and not possess certain disqualifications.
The provisions dealing with acceptable savings are really complicated. They are contained in clauses 15, 16 and 17. I think that the Minister accurately, but with brevity, recorded what the position is. We must look at the position under varying conditions. If the prescribed date is prior to 31st December, 1964 - and the prescribed date means the date of entry into a contract to build - then the acceptable savings may comprise savings in any general form of investment at all which, by . any reasonable count, might be called savings, whether by way of investment or otherwise. Acceptable deposits before 31st December, 1964, need not be earmarked to a home savings account but can be deposited in a savings bank or a trading bank. The deposits need not necessarily be fixed deposits. Four types of deposits are envisaged. These are investments in a building society, a friendly society, or a Credit union, or subscriptions for share capital in a building society which have not been repaid, provided that the shares of the society are not listed on a stock exchange.
Clause 16 deals with the position operating from 1st January, 1965, to 31st December, 1967. During this period savings of the kind I have described which have been deposited on or before 3 1st December, 1964, will be acceptable. The savings need not be averaged prior to the 31st December, 1964. During the three-year period I have mentioned a person cannot acquire acceptable savings by putting money into a friendly society or a credit unit. The credit union is a type of body that has flourished in New South Wales under the co-operation legislation which was brought up-to-date as late as 1963. It provides a most useful and constantly-growing facility for people who want to make savings to apply to a particular purpose.
Savings as fixed up to 31st December, 1964, may hold good as acceptable savings over the whole ensuing three year period but, as I have said, any new moneys that are put into friendly societies or credit unions after 1st January, 1965, will not count as part of the savings. Those moneys must go into a savings bank account, a trading bank account, a home savings account so specified in the books of the bank or be deposited with a building society to be used to provide subscriptions for the share capital of a building society of th8 type to which I have already referred.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension, I had made my preliminary remarks. I had said sufficient, I think, to indicate the great complexity of the proposed legislation, which deals with a matter that was put so simply in a few sentences by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) last November. I was dealing with the subject of the savings that were deemed to be acceptable savings for the purposes of the bill. I had indicated that in respect of savings that had to be calculated retrospectively from some date prior to the end of the current year, the definition, included savings of any kind, whether invested or not, and in particular moneys on deposit with a bank, whether a savings bank or a trading band, and, although not earmarked for housing purposes, moneys deposited with a friendly society, with a credit union, and with a building society by way of purchase of shares, as long as the moneys had not been repaid and as long as. the shares were not listed on the stock exchange. That gives a very wide scope for savings in that period.
In relation to the next three-year period, that is, from 1st January next year until the end of December, 1967, the situation is quite complicated. Moneys that, prior to December, 1964, had been invested or deposited with a friendly society or with a credit union prior to December, 1964, may remain in that form throughout the threeyear period to which I have referred. But from 1st January, 1965, no more moneys may be deposited with a friendly society, invested generally, or paid to a credit union, and be regarded as acceptable savings for the purposes of this bill so as to attract the subsidy for which the bill provides. Of course, if by December, 1967, these investments with friendly societies and with credit unions, made prior to December, 1964, have not been translated into forms of deposit acceptable to the Government under this bill, they may no longer be regarded as acceptable savings attracting any portion of subsidy under the bill. These changes raise a question as to why deposits with friendly societies and credit unions will cease to be acceptable as savings, if they are made after 1st January next year.
I have seen the controversy in the press on behalf of credit unions. Their spokesman and the New South Wales Minister for Housing have both expressed themselves very strongly against the ousting of friendly societies and credit unions from the field of acceptable savings after 1st January next year. J know that representations were made to the Government and that the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) indicated that he would consider them sympathetically. So far as I can see, the sympathy has not been reflected in the bill that is before us. I should like the Minister, when replying to the second-reading debate, to be so good as to address himself to the case that has been put on behalf of friendly societies and credit unions and on behalf of the State Government through its own Minister of Housing.
I refer now to a phase of the bill that is certainly not simple; it is complicated. This is the question of the grants themselves. There is to be an overall limit of £250 in respect of one home. Regardless of whether or not both husband and wife are eligible persons, each attracting some portion of a subsidy, the absolute limit is £250 in respect of one house. The amount could be less but a subsidy of up to £250 will be paid on the basis of £1 for each £3 saved.
I come now to a rather intriguing phase of the bill. 1 direct the attention of the Senate to sub-clause (5.) of clause 20, which slates -
A reference … to land on which a dwelling-house is. or is being, erected includes a reference to ‘ the land comprising the curtilage of the dwelling-house but does not include a reference to any part of the land or dwelling-house that the Secretary is satisfied is not, or will not be, used by the eligible person and his or her spouse as a dwelling-house or for purposes connected with the use by those persons of the dwelling-house as a dwelling-house.
I suppose not many people in Australia know what the word “ curtilage “ means, f shall not attempt to define it with any precision. 1 put it generally as that part of the land surrounding a dwelling which is more or less continuously used in conjunction with the home - the immediate surround of the home. That sounds innocent enough, until one probes a little further.
The Minister said that in assessing whether or not the value of a home exceeds £7,000 - if it does, it is not available for subsidy - only the curtilage is taken into account. He said that a shop or a surgery migh be associated with the dwelling, and that, for the purposes of determining whether or not the value of the property was under or over £7,000, the shop or surgery would be disregarded. Let us carry that on logically. The shop might be a large one or it might be a small one. The surgery, no doubt, would have a waiting room in addition. If the medical practitioner were a radiologist, he would have not only a waiting room and rooms to house the radiological equipment but also dark rooms and photographic rooms of various types. In all, there would be quite a menage, quite a large number of rooms, possibly, used in connexion with the medical practice. Attached would be a flat or a unit of some kind that would be classed as a dwelling-house. The value of everything except the dwelling-house would be disregarded. The total value of the dwelling, the Jiving quarters and the quarters required for the medical practice, could run to £25,000 or £30,000. As long as the living quarters, as it were, cost no more than £7,000, that place would attract a subsidy of £250.
Let us take the matter one stage further. Why stop at a shop? Let us assume that a man who was otherwise eligible under the bill, that is in respect of age, marriage and savings, decided to put up a business establishment which cost £100,000 and he incorporated in the establishment living quarters for himself and his family, those quarters having cost no more than £7,000. Under this bill, that unit would attract a subsidy of £250. Let us consider the case of rural land. There was a distinct reference to that matter in the second-reading speech delivered by Senator Sir William Spooner. But there was deleted from his speech a most significant passage that appeared in the roneoed copy of the second-reading speech that was distributed by the Minister for Housing in another place. The Minister for Housing pointed out that there was a desire to help people in rural areas, but that lt would be quite unfair to take in broad acres with a home which cost no more than £7,000 and that a discretion was reserved to the secretary of the department to settle the curtilage. When the Minister for Housing explained the situation, he concluded by saying -
For purposes of the scheme, the cost of that portion of the farm on which the dwelling has been, or is being, built will be the value of half on acre of the land at the average value per acre of the farm.
Let us take the case of a farm of 1,000 acres worth £100 an acre, or altogether £100,000. A home under the terms of this bill which cost no more than £7,000, the land being reckoned at only £50 and the owner otherwise being eligible under the act, would attract a subsidy of £250. One cannot get away from that situation.
Let me state an even more extreme case. Let us assume that the half acre is reckoned in. as staled by the Minister for Housing himself, thus showing what was in his mind. Why could not that half acre be surrounded by magnificent parkland? Why could it not be surrounded by quarters for the staff, barns and all the usual appurtenances and appendages of a luxurious farm? As long as the cost of the house itself and the £50 wor.h of land did not run to more than £7,000. the Government would be prepared to subsidize that set-up. Let me take the matter one point further, lt is possible that a two-story building might be erected, with the living quarters of the farmer-applicant on the top floor and the quarters for staff and sundry appurtenances below. For the purpose of determining whether the subsidy should be paid to the proprietor, account would be taken only of the upper portion which constituted the dwelling house or living quarters. I find considerable significance in the fact (hat, although the second-reading speech delivered in this place to-day. in dealing with the curtilage, otherwise followed the exact words used by the Minister for Housing in another place, there was deliberately omitted from it the following passage which I quoted earlier: -
For purposes of the scheme, the cost of that portion of the farm on which the dwelling has been, or is being, built will bc the value of half an acre of the land at the average value per acre of the farm. 1 want the Senate to understand that, according to my reading of the bill and in the view that the Opposition takes, what I have put is quite possible, ls that the result which the Senate wants? Is that the socially desirable result? It may be argued that I have quoted an extreme case. Perhaps it is extreme. But if it is legally possible, it is also practically possible. I put it very strongly to the Senate that that is the situation.
Let me deal with another contrast between the speech delivered by the Minister for Housing and that delivered in this place by the Minister for National Development. The Minister for Housing referred to the fact that the people who are covered by this bill are generally better off than are the people who are waiting for homes from the States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. He said -
We consider that subsidized homes built by the Slates with funds provided under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement ought to be reserved for those with very small means and on low incomes. This housing is made available at below its true economic cost for social reasons.
The following passage occurs in the same paragraph, but it does not appear in the second-reading speech that was delivered in this place: -
In some States there arc long waiting lists for these housing commission houses, largely because they are relatively so cheap. It would be wrong to inflate these lists and disadvantage the most needy elements of the community by adding those who can better afford to look after themselves.
As I. said, that passage in the secondreading speech of the Minister for Housing was completely ignored in the speech that was delivered here.
Why was the blue pencil run through that passage? If it was done because the person concerned thought that the Minister for National Development might feel ashamed about being as frank as was the Minister for Housing and admitting that the kind of thing which I have been outlining for the last few minutes was possible under the bill, then I respect his action. But if it was done because of a desire to conceal from the Senate what was in the mind of the Minister for Housing, then I say it was quite wrong to do it. I engaged in a little exercise, to some profit, by making a rapid comparison of the second-reading speech that was delivered here by the Minister for National Development and the roncoed copy of the speech that was delivered by the Minister for Housing. I express my keen disappointment at our not having observed the same frankness in this place as was exhibited in another place. It is significant that there have been deleted from the speech delivered by the Minister for National Development passages which tend to hide the fact that this bill can be used for the rather extraordinary purpose that I have outlined.
I wish to refer now to the calculation of savings. 1 have indicated that the amount of the grant will be limited to £250. That will involve the saving of £750 over a period of at least three years. There is no limit to the time for which one may go back. In determining the savings, the date of entering into the contract or of the actual commencement of the building will be taken and from that date one will calculate backwards year by year. The Department of Housing will not go back further than seven years. If need be, it will look at the savings seven years ago and then see whether they increased or decreased by looking at the amount shown at the end of each year. If in any year the savings have risen above £250, the surplus will be deemed to be excess and will not be counted for the purpose of determining the savings. However, if in a later year the savings go down, any surplus in a prior year can be applied to offset the decrease, unless it has been already applied to some earlier decrease. That is the purport of the rather complicated section that I read to the Senate earlier this evening. Again we encounter a set of great complications where one has to calculate the savings year by year. For the purpose of being acceptable the savings must not exceed £250 in a year except that a surplus above £250 may be used to offset a decrease, under conditions, in a later year.
One must look at who is excluded from the provisions of the bill. The bill certainly excludes the 75,000 persons who are waiitng to get houses under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Obviously they are in the category of persons who cannot save £750 in three years, or in any term of years. It is obvious, too, that the bill would not include the 182,000 taxpayers - according to the Commissioner of Taxation’s report - who, with dependants, are earning less than £20 a week. It is perfectly clear that Chey could not save at the rate of approximately £5 a week for a consecutive period of three years.
– They are not asked to do that.
– No, but let mo finish my speech. They could not save £750 even over a period of seven years: They are in the category where every penny is required for day to day living commitments.
– Yet I should think that that class would comprise the great majority of members of building societies throughout Australia who have proved that they can and do save.
– I should like to know on what the Minister bases his calculation - on what statistics. Can he point to any particular statistics on that point? I am certain that he cannot. I do not doubt that he believes what he says; and it may be true, but I do not know. I should be more disposed to accept it if he could present reliable statistics vouched for by someone with actual knowledge of the facts rather than to accept an estimate based on one’s feeling in the matter.
– I think there is an answer in the records of the Senate relating to the income of members of building societies. I am certain I have given that information in past years.
– The honorable senator will concede that events move rapidly in this chamber. I do not carry in my mind all that the honorable senator has said during past years. If, in the course of his second-reading reply, he can indicate the figures and their source, I shall be. happy to study them. 1 come now to the question of interest r&tss. One of the fears that many people have about this scheme to provide a grant’ of £250 to people who have accumulated savings up to £750 is that the £250 will simply be added to the cost of land. If that happens, that will be serious and it. will mean that the purchaser will be no better off. However. I think there is a far more serious aspect to consider if we are concerned .about helping people to get homes, and that is the question of the major part that interest plays in the ultimate cost of a home to the purchaser, lt is unquestionable that people who are not dealing with savings banks generally pay at least 1 per cent, more than the current overdraft rates of trading banks. That can be a colossal burden over the years. People who are forced, through lack of adequate deposit, into the second mortgage market are called upon to pay really usurious and crushing rates of interest. We have had many examples of that cited in this chamber down the years.
The Minister for Housing indicated that there was little he could do about land prices, but I suggest that if the Government is concerned about helping people to own their homes and to get them as cheaply as possible, there is something positive that it can do. This lies in one of the recommendations of the Constitutional Review Committee which was supported by eleven of the twelve members. The recommendation was that the Commonwealth, by referendum, should seek power to control interest on mortagages and documents of that type secured upon land. By “ land “ I mean land and buildings. The Commonwealth Parliament plainly has power over bank interest. I believe, however, that it is true to say that it has no power over anything outside that field of interest. The Commonwealth Parliament could not at the moment embark on the regulation of interest rates on mortgages. But if we want to help the people buying homes surely that is one of the first approaches that we should make. A simple referendum would clarify the position. This is the type of proposal that the Labour Party is committed to supporting. It would require only a few members from the Government side to enable a referendum on this issue to be held. If the Government were sincere in making a major contribution to help people in their housing problem it would at least lay the position before the people by referendum.
A referendum could be held simultaneously with the next Senate election. No major issues will be involved in that election, because the form of government for the next three years has been determined regardless of what the position is or may be in this chamber. In a relatively calm political atmosphere this question could be considered, and I have no doubt that it would be decided in favour of ceding that great important economic power to the Commonwealth. Rather than schemes of this exotic type that the Government has put before us in this bill, it should be concerned with the tens of thousands of people who are waiting for the cheap Commonwealth-State subsidized homes. Most of these people are in receipt of less than £20 a week. Unless both spouses are working they are not in a position to save anything of substance; and it would be a marvellous help to those people who are obliged to pay a deposit and arrange terms if there could be Commonwealth supervision of interest rates in that field throughout Australia. That would be a major contribution to the housing situation.
One other feature of the bill is the extraordinary wide discretionary powers that are conceded to the administration. I found, on a casual look through the bill, some thirteen or fourteen discretionary powers that I should like placed on record. I said earlier that there are so many of them that this should be called a bill of discretions. In clause 6 the general administration of the act is vested in the secretary of the department, subject only to the directions of the Minister. In clause 9 the secretary determines the applications. In clause 10 the secretary has a discretion to review any decision of one of his delegates. Nobody else has that right of review. He has discretion to review his own decisions, and there is no appeal against his decision. In clause 14 the secretary is to be satisfied that savings have been effected for not less than three years. In clause 20 there is the extraordinary provision that the making of any grant at all is subject to the secretary’s discretion. There is no right that an individual can assert in a court. No right is conferred. He is given the right to apply to the secretary of the department and the secretary in his discretion decides whether an applicant gets a grant or does not get a grant.
Clause 20 (2.) (a) provides that the secretary is to be satisfied as to the financial resources of the applicant to complete the building. Clause 20 (2.) (b) provides that the secretary has to be satisfied that either the cost or the value of the dwelling does not exceed £7,000 and he has a discretion to select one or the other. Under clause 20 (2.) (d) the secretary has to be satisfied that the applicant intends to make his home in the dwelling. Clause 20 (2.) (e) provides that the secretary has to bc satisfied that the transaction is not one of four specified types. Clause 20 (§.) provides that the secretary has to be satisfied as to the limits of the curtilage and I have already dealt at some length with that extraordinary power vested in him.
Under clause 21 (c.) the secretary has the power to extend the time for making an application from three months to twelve months. He has another extraordinary power under clause 23 which allows him to determine the time of payment. He can make it whenever he wishes and at whatever stage he wishes. Finally, under clause 24, the secretary has the right to determine whether circumstances have arisen that justify him in requiring that the grant be paid. He is just bristling with discretions.
I do not think any one need have any fear of the present secretary of the Department of Housing. He is a most estimable man, but he has a lot of discretions to exercise and vast power is vested in him. He has to report to the Parliament annually. Frankly, I think he should be required under the legislation to indicate the principle and the bases upon which he exercises each one of those very great discretions. Otherwise, unless this Parliament exercises very close supervision over that power, we shall be abdicating our responsibility. Everything is left almost completely to the discretion of the secretary of the Department of Housing. It becomes almost a purely administrative procedure.
– But surely when the bill names the secretary of the department, the secretary is only the mouthpiece of the Minister.
– That was the very first point I made. Under clause 6, the general administration of the act is vested in the secretary subject to the directions of the Minister. I invite Senator Anderson to say whether it is to be expected that the Minister for Housing is going to investigate every decision. He would never have time to do it. It will involve quite a staff to service all the applications that one must anticipate will come in.
– I merely point out that your argument that the power will be getting away from the Parliament is not valid because it is vested in the Minister who is responsible to the Parliament.
– The Minister would not see many of these cases.
– 1 agree with the point put by Senator Willesee. The Minister would not have one-half of 1 per cent, of the cases before him so that he could see how the discretions were being exercised. 1 give this advice to those making an application: The bill is so complex and there are so many discretions surrounding the grant that anybody who wants to make an application should coast along, answer all the questionnaires and hope for the best. In the ultimate analysis, he has no legal rights and there is not much he can do about it.
– He can praise the Lord and keep his ammunition dry.
– That is so. AH he can do is pray every night that he will be successful. I should like the Minister for National Development to refer to the first page of his secondreading speech in which he stated that the grants were tax-free. I find nothing in the bill before us to assure that position. I take it that the Minister is relying upon something in the Income Tax Act. If you invest savings, of course they earn money and that is taxable. I see the possibility that savings which attract a subsidy of this kind could be deemed to be attracting earnings. I should like to have this point clearly explained to me. It might be shown by reference to the Income Tax Act that these grants will be plainly tax-free as the Minister has claimed but I should like the Minister to say on what authority he relies for that proposition. I do not doubt for a moment that he will be able to do it. Because of the way in which this scheme has been developed, it will create a dilemma for a person who is on the margin between finding his deposit and failing to find it.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wedgwood). - Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I have listened to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) with much interest and have followed him through his strictures on thc bill. I was particularly interested in the case he cited as to what would happen, in his opinion, arising from the provisions of the bill.
I believe that this is the first housing bill to apply to primary producers and to rural areas. The Leader of the Opposition cited the case of a man who built a home on a farm which was valued at £50 an acre. 1 gathered that he was concerned about the disparity that would exist between the price of a half-acre of that land and the price of a half-acre in an urban area. Of course, one would expect that there would bc a terrific disparity in the initial cost of the two blocks. But it must be remembered that a person who built a house in a rural area, far from the amenities of a town, would himself have to make provision for water, install a septic tank, and, in all probability, would have to build his own road. Therefore, there seems to be a lot of substance in the contention that the block should be valued on the same basis as the surrounding farm land.
However that may be. 1 remind honorable senators that the Leader of the Opposition was most caustic at the beginning of his speech about the Government’s introduction of this measure. He made reference to its conception prior to the last general election campaign and went so far as to say that it was a child of a premature election which was conceived in election terror. That is a criticism that could be levelled at any proposition brought forward by any party, whether Government or Opposition, before a general election. If that is to bc used as a yardstick, and if this bill is the product of election terror, by comparison the Opposition’s promises and the programme it proposed during the last election campaign leave the Governments’ proposals standing.
Senator McKenna went on to castigate the Government and the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner) for refusing to give details of this measure when they were sought. The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) outlined, as he was required to do, the bare essentials of the proposed scheme that was to be placed before the people. The
Minister for National Development is not Mandrake. He could not produce the bill out of the air and say, “ Here are the provisions that we propose to put forward.” The questions dealt with matters of detail and most certainly could not be answered. Senator McKenna said that there was no need for this bill at all except as an encouragement to thrift in the community, and that the other bill, which it is proposed to introduce and which was envisaged by the Prime Minister in his policy speech, would have covered the whole position. In my opinion the other bill which has been foreshadowed is entirely complementary to the present measure. This bil] is designed to help the person who is prepared to help himself. There is nothing more futile - not only in respect of housing, but also in respect of a lot of other things in life - than to try to help a person who will not help himself. The encouragement of thrift is one of the most worthwhile things that a government could do in this day and age. As Senator Hannaford reminds me. that is the greatest tribute that could be paid to the measure.
In Senator McKenna’s speech there was tremendous concentration upon the provisions in the bill. In fact, he devoted practically the whole of his time to the pro.isions. He referred to the provisions relating to eligibility. While he criticized them, he did not for one moment suggest that they should be deleted. He went on to criticize the recognized institutions through which savings could be effected. Whilst I cannot see why friendly societies and credit unions should be excluded. I think that that position was adequately covered by the Minister in his second.reading speech. It should bc .apparent to every honorable senator and to everybody who has thought at all about this measure, that a new scheme such as this inevitably will give rise to interim difficulties until the details are generally understood and the people have had time to adjust their affairs to meet the requirements. The Minister said that interim provision had been made to accept savings in a wide variety of forms until they could be put into one of the continuing acceptable forms. It must be apparent that in a measure such as this, which is an innovation so far as housing in the Commonwealth is concerned, there must be teething troubles for an initial term.
Despite the criticism and strictures levelled at the provisions in regard to eligibility and those which define savings, Senator McKenna knows perfectly well that the Minister was correct when he said that the proposed administrative arrangements followed closely the procedures under the Social Services Act. It is necessary to embody in the bill provisions that will ensure that people who apply for assistance are bona fide applicants.
As I said before, this bill appeals to me immensely inasmuch as, for the first time in the history of housing in the Commonwealth, it makes provision for the benefits to be derived from it to be carried into rural areas. The discretionary powers referred to by Senator McKenna are necessary in my opinion because in the initial stages there must be border-line cases on which somebody has to adjudicate. You cannot specify in black and white whether one person will be eligible and another person ineligible, because there will be cases which do not come exactly within the scope of this measure. In housing generally, we have entered a new era since the war ended in 1945. Since the end of the war the Commonwealth Government, through the agency of the State governments, has become the great landlord of the Commonwealth. That is a departure at which some of us look askance. There was a time when a lot of people built houses for investment purposes. I call to mind that in Tasmania, the smallest State in the Commonwealth, many houses were once built for investment purposes. So far from the idea which is usually held that landlords are people who grind down their tenants, the average house-owner in the Commonwealth who lets premises for rental purposes owns two houses. The rent control exercised after the war ended caused that class of people - the small landlord - to go out of existence.
I remember that for years after the war, when I was a member of the Tasmanian Parliament, house rents were pegged at the 1939 level in spite of the fact that all other prices had increased. We had by then entered into the inflationary spiral, but rents were kept down to the 1939 level and the Labour Government in Tasmania always put forward the argument, “ If you do not hold your rents down, you will cause an increase in the basic wage “. Of course, that meant that one section of the community was subsidizing rentals in order to prevent any increase in the basic wage in Tasmania. The unfairness of that system was clear, but so far as I am aware that sort of thing went on in most States of the Commonwealth, with the result that the Commonwealth Government, in order to overcome the housing shortage, had to become the greatest landlord and home-builder in Australia. That is a departure that I, for one, do not like; but this bill does encourage the thrifty person in the community to do something about owning his own home. Apart from that, this Government has done a mighty good job in meeting the housing shortage which was largely thrown into its lap by the action of the State Governments in the imposition of rent control.
The Commonwealth has done a wonderful job in the housing field and, at present, somewhere near 100,000 houses are being built each year. That is a very good rate pf home-building. Do not forget that every country has its own housing problems - some of them more acute than ours. Many of the older established countries in Europe and other parts of the world have housing problems. Nevertheless, as I have said, we are proceeding now with home-building at the rate of 100,000 dwellings a year, and if that pace is maintained a lot of the housing lag in the Commonwealth will be overcome. At the rate of four persons per house, a building rate of 100,000 houses per year means that 400,000 persons are being provided with new homes each year, and that number must be substantially more than the increase in population by migration and natural increase. This state of affairs also indicates the great prosperity that has been attained in Australia over the past decade or more.
The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), in his policy speech, had this to say -
Indeed, nf all the dwellings in Australia. 36 per cent, have been built during the term of office of the present government, while 76 per cent, of Australian homes are owned or in process of ownership by the occupiers.
And the Prime Minister could have added “ compared with 59 per cent, in 1947 “j That is a tremendous difference. This measure, which is aimed at helping the thrifty person, is aimed also at increasing that 76 per cent, to an even better figure. This is a subject which cannot be too thoroughly canvassed during this debate. I am one of those who have been concerned that the 100.000 homes being built each year are, in the main, being erected in the already over-crowded capital cities of the Commonwealth, which are not a true reflection of the aggregate population of Australia. This is a subject which cannot be canvassed very widely during this discussion, nevertheless it is a problem which must sooner or later be faced, because we cannot go on for ever adding to the number of houses in the big cities while the countryside is left without adequate housing. I believe that in Great Britain steps arc being taken to rectify a similar position there, and that the United Kingdom Government is financing efforts to move people away from the large cities. H is finding some of the cost of new buildings, offices, homes and all the rest of it, to attract people away from the over-crowded areas. There is a prime and pressing need for that to be done in Australia and sooner or later the position will have to be faced. I support the measure and I realize, as I think everybody else should, that because of its very nature, because it sets out to confer a benefit upon a section of the community which is prepared to help itself, this legislation must be hedged around with provisions, as are all social service measures, to make sure of the bona fides of the people who apply for assistance.
Of course there are a lot of provisions. One would expect that in the very nature of things. This is a measure which is complementary to another one which has been foreshadowed. In the policy speech delivered by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), which has already been quoted by Senator McKenna, the Prime Minister said -
To meet this problem, we will assist the obtaining of low deposit loans related to the income and reasonable credit-worthiness of the borrower. We will do this by a system of insurance by a National Mousing Insurance Corporation.
Loans, the subject of the guarantee, would extend to something like three times the borrower’s established income, with some reasonable total ceiling. The Government will, up to a high percentage of valuation, ranging up to 95 per cent, in appropriate cases, insure the repayment of such loans by approved lenders at approved rates of interest, which, under guarantee, should be reasonable.
I repeat that the measure foreshadowed in that speech is complementary to the one with which we are now dealing, lt is an alternative. Both measures, working together will certainly, in spite of the criticism which has been levelled and in spite of initial defects of initiation, confer a very distinct and lasting benefit upon people seeking homes in this community.
.- When one examines the present homebuilding costs one is inclined to wonder whether the average, or typical, home seeker will obtain any great amount of good from this bill. The Government is saying, in effect, to people under the age of 36, who wish either to buy or to build their own homes, “ If you manage to save £750 in a period of three years at the rate of £250 per year, we will give you £250 “. As an ordinary business arrangement or proposal that sounds very good to me. I hope that some good will come out of the Government’s proposal but when one considers how rapidly building costs have been increasing over recent years, one wonders whether the proposal of the Government will do the good that the Government thinks it will. 1 wish now to point out how building costs have increased in the Brisbane area during the last few years. The information I have is authentic. The average cost of a home in the Brisbane area in 1961 was £3,336. When I speak of average cost I am referring to the typical house of the typical citizen. We all know (hat such a house comprises probably three bedrooms, a hall, a dining-room, kitchen and so forth. It would have a laundry and, perhaps, in the city from which I come, the laundry would be underneath the house. I repeat that in 1961 the average cost of a house was £3.336, but by 1962 the average cost had increased to £3,415. By last year it had increased to £3,596. The average cost for the three months ended March this year was £3,817. Let me put the proposition in a simple way so that it will be easily understood. The average cost per home in 1961 in the metropolitan area of Brisbane was £3,336, but in the first three months of this year the average cost was £3,817. It had increased by nearly £500 during that brief period.
– Twice the amount of the subsidy.
– Yes. Unforunately - and I want to stress this - there is no evidence to show that the existing cost will remain static. It might be said that Brisbane suffered from a wave of high costs which could have been avoided. It might be suggested that probably it rained heavily while the workmen were building these homes and that the cost of the homes increased because the extra wages of the men had to be added. But when we take the costs for the provincial cities and towns in Queensland we find that the increase is almost identical. The average cost of a home in 1962 throughout the provincial cities and towns was £3,160. For the first three months of this year the average costs have increased to £3,514. I leave honorable senators with that information in their minds.
The Australian Labour Party regards housing as, first of all, a social problem. It likes to stress the importance of the family unit being housed. Members of the party say that it is most essential for the welfare of people generally, and children in particular, that they have a home. Furthermore, we always stress that it is futile to talk about a living standard if the family unit is not efficiently housed. We have the situation then, that not only is the provision of homes for people a social problem but it is also an economic problem and one which. T am sorry, to say. the present proposal of the Government will not solve. 1 shall show in a moment or two just how this proposal will not solve the problem.
For years the Labour Party has had a special policy on housing. Never mind what we say when we are out on the hustings trying to win an election. Our policy is written into our constitution and rule book just as the objectives of the Liberal Party are written into its platform. Labour’s policy is, in effect, that the security of the family unit should be the first aim of a government, and that the ownership of a home will contribute to this situation. The party says also that national credit should be provided to achieve the building of homes and the replacement of private mortgages on homes with mortgages guaranteed by the Commonwealth. There is nothing wrong with that. 1 am sure that those listening to me to-night will endorse that as a sound proposition.
Now let me quote the objective of the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party has stated that one of its objectives is to have a Commonwealth in which family life is seen as fundamental to the well-being of society, and in which every family is enabled to live in, and preferably to own, a comfortable home at reasonable cost and with adequate amenities. It is just a good wish, unless the Government is prepared to do something to implement the objective.
I have referred to building costs in metropolitan areas. I shall refer now to a matter which indicates that there is virtually no escape from high building costs. Only nine or ten years ago, building sites on the Queensland Gold Coast could be bought at reasonable prices. The prices now are almost prohibitive. When new industries commence in metropolitan areas is Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne, they may engage several hundred or several thousand workers, who can be seen going to their place of employment in the morning and returning from it in the evening. A company then starts to look around the neighbourhood for vacant areas which it may purchase for subdivision purposes. What happens then is rather sad to relate. I have in my hand some small measure of evidence to show exactly what occurs when a company acquires land for subdivision and sale to home seekers. This is a report furnished by Mr. Peter Connolly, Q.C., who was appointed by tha Queensland Government in April, 1963, to inspect the records, accounts and affairs of a subdividing company known as Reid Murray Developments (Queensland) Proprietary Limited. Some portions of the report are very illuminating. Some property was acquired on a thoroughfare called Anzac Avenue. The cost of the land to the company was £103,000. The vendor had paid £24,000 for it, and the valuation of an independent valuer was £20,617. This :s what the report states - lt is plain in virtually every case the company paid prices for the land they acquired which were far in excess of the general level of the market. Indeed, even at this stage, the former managing director seems disposed to defend the buying policy in many respects. Ft is fair to say that in assessing the value of land for development. Reid Murray were quite unconcerned with the general market. Their approach was to estimate what the land would bring on subdivision, subtract the estimated costs of subdivision and thereby arrive at a figure which they considered they could afford to pay for the land and still obtain a reasonable profit. In fairness to them it must be said that this is a standard method of valuation of subdivisional land for purposes both of compensation and revenue statutes. Unless it is applied most conservatively, with the imponderables such as the period of realization, estimated selling price of blocks, and the risk factor all heavily loaded, it is likely to lead to unsatisfactory results commercially. The evidence of the former managing director indicated that Reid Murray was never concerned with the price at which their vendors had obtained the lands which they were reselling: He plainly regarded this as quite irrelevant. The result, however, is that no land speculator lost on a sale of land to Reid Murray and indeed none failed to make a spectacular profit.
The report then sets out a table to illustrate the point. I commend this document to honorable senators. A copy of it may be obtained in the Library. That report of a Queen’s Counsel shows that this subdividing company was not in the least concerned about the high price that it paid for land for subdivision, because all it had to do was to add its costs to the price paid, and calculate what price it would obtain for allotments from home seekers.
– Is that why it went broke?
– It is not the only company that went broke doing this sort of thing, and it was not its policy in regard to subdividing land that made it go broke. Among the costs known as associated costs brought into account are interest, administration expenses, contractors’ fees, water reticulation, stamp duty, legal expenses, surveying expenses, advertising, commissions, rates and taxes, land excluded for streets, footpaths, channels and kerbing. The cost of all of these items is capitalized and added to the purchase price. A proportion is added to the cost of each building site. There we have in a nutshell the reason why land sold by subdividers is so costly at present. There is really no escape from these high costs. These conditions are likely to continue. The Government does not offer anything in their place. It does not deal with the real problem of providing homes for home seekers. It did not deal with the problem, as it should have done, yeaTS ago. I can remember advocating ten or twelve years ago that the Government should follow a different course, which would not have cost any more than the Government is now paying. However, nothing was done.
An agreement between the Commonwealth Government and six States operates in relation to the construction of homes. The Government earnestly desires, it says, that all home seekers should have homes. It could easily solve the problem within a week or two. All seven governments have power to acquire land. There is nothing whatever wrong with a State Government’s acquiring land for subdivision, especially as the building sites will go to the needy in the community. If the Commonwealth requires land, it has no hesitation in acquiring it. It uses his powers of acquisition to obtain land for post office purposes and for the purposes of its other departments. The Commonwealth constantly has before it an acquisition programme. The States have similar powers - in fact, they are stronger - and can acquire land for their own purposes. We are entitled to “look at the powers of the Government when we are dealing with the housing situation.
As I pointed out a while ago, subdividers will pay any sum for land they require for subdivisional purposes. They add to their purchase price the associated expenses which I have enumerated. The poor unfortunate home-seeker has to pay what they ask or else do without the land. Some of the high costs that are being incurred flow from the unnecessarily high price that is paid for building sites. When I suggest that the State Governments should use their powers of acquisition to obtain sufficient sites to build homes for all the people who require them, I do not suggest that they should not pay a fair price for that land. If the Government really wanted to do something of importance to relieve the housing situation, it could set itself the task of having the necessary land acquired. It could ask the State Governments to acquire the building sites. There would be nothing wrong with its doing that.
I really rose to point out the extent to which home costs have increased and the manner in which subdividers arrange their business so that they can exploit people who require homes. I am not hopeful that the Government’s proposals will have the effect of relieving the burden that is borne by young couples who are seeking homes. The Government could do more than to pay out a sum of £250 to those who are able to save £750. I advocate, as strongly as 1 possibly can, the acquisition of building sites in the first instance.
– Mr. Deputy President, I compliment the Government and especially the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) upon the introduction of this very interesting bill. It has been criticized in various ways by members of the Opposition. It was criticized by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), who addressed himself very closely to the terms of the bill. We have just listened to a speech that went far afield from the terms of the measure. As I have indicated, this is one of the most interesting pieces of legislation that I have been fortunate enough to examine. I commend the adventurous, pioneering spirit which has been displayed. The bill has been criticized as not being a measure that will solve all our housing problems. I do not think it was ever intended to solve all our housing problems, lt was designed to do certain things. If later T offer some criticism of the measure, I hope that that Criticism will be confined to the purpose of the bill and the things which it will fail to achieve.
I should like to quote the opening remarks of the Minister for Housing when he introduced the bill in another place. They seem to me to be admirable. He said -
The purpose of this bill is to help young married couples obtain a .home of their own by authorizing payment to them by the Commonwealth of taxfree grants to supplement their ‘own savings, lt is designed to increase the proportion of national resources available for housing purposes by providing a strong inducement to young people to save in ways which provide funds for investment in housing.
I cannot imagine a more desirable purpose for a bill of this kind. There is a very great need for Australians to try to find more capital of their own for development. We often hear criticism of the inflow of overseas capital to Australia, lt is regarded as being undesirable. If we want to develop this country but do not want to welcome overseas capital, we must find the capital ourselves. The only sound way in which we can do that is to promote saving by our own people. The bill seeks to do that.
Saving is a good habit, a good discipline, which all young people would do well to acquire. The discipline of saving does not do anybody any harm. I speak from experience. But this discipline needs to be learned by people when they are young. Young people face a great danger in this respect, because when they are single their wages have much greater purchasing power than they have after marriage. Young single people are apt to spend unwisely. This bill provides an incentive for them to commence saving at an early age. When they commence to earn they should commence to save. The bill provides young people who have foresight or any idea of providing for the future with an incentive to save.
It has been suggested that the proposed saving scheme will create a demand for houses and will produce an inflationary effect because the price of land for housing will rise. 1 cannot see how it will have that effect, lt will not lead to an increase of the number of people requiring houses, but rather will it create a diversion of money - that is part of the purpose of the bill - from other expenditures to expenditure on housing. If it does that, it will do well, especially if it diverts some of the money that is being spent freely by young people on motor cars which, if we are to judge by the accident rate among young people, they do not seem able to handle adequately.
The Government has a wonderful record in the field of housing. The figures which reveal the number of commencements in the building of houses and flats in Australia over the last three years tell their own story. In 1961, 80,000-odd houses were built; in 1962, 86,422; in 1963, 95,619; and the figure to March, 1964 was 26,756 - an annual rale of 111,000 dwellings. This is a splendid record, but while we are pleased with it I do not think any one is satisfied because it still does not meet all our housing demands. There has been talk of rising housing costs. To my mind there is only one sound way of checking rising housing costs, and that is to continue building houses until there is a surplus. A very small surplus would have a considerable effect in steadying any rise in housing costs.
I said that I had some criticism to offer of the bill. I do not think it is the prerogative only of the Opposition to criticize a measure introduced by the Government.
This bill is a piece of legislative machinery. As a farmer 1 am familiar with the introduction of a new machine into a field. The machine may look wonderful in design and construction, but when it goes into the field it develops various faults. Its faults are disclosed when it commences to work. I think that legislative machinery - especially the more or less experimental and new legislation of the type we arc now considering - must inevitably have some faults in construction which can be revealed only when it is put to work. I venture to suggest that one deficiency may be the decision to exclude from the ambit of this subsidy those people who want to qualify for CommonwealthStale housing.
Let us consider the case of a young couple who are faced with deciding whether or not to save sufficient to qualify for this maximum grant of £250. This is a decision of some consequence. If they are persons of the type whom this bill seeks to help, then they are people who think of their future. They will have to decide whether to save and so put themselves outside the ambit of the Commonwealth-State housing field into the field of more expensive housing with higher interest rates. They will have to calculate the relative value of the two propositions. If they find that they are excluded from qualifying for the cheaper type of houses provided by Commonwealth-State housing instrumentalities, they will realize that it is not worth while and that they will be worse off through trying to qualify for the £250 subsidy. Remember, these are young people and young people generally are on the lower level of wages. They cannot cope with the high weekly cost of housing. If they are contemplating marriage and they have foresight, they must consider the probability, after marriage, of having to provide for a family. A family will, of course, lessen their ability to meet payments.
Let us examine the Government’s side of the question. I know that the Government has said that people should not be able to qualify for a double benefit. Let us consider the circumstances of young people who would otherwise qualify. The total advances under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreements were £281.800.000 from the 1st July, 1956, to the 30th June, 1963 - a period of seven years. During that time 99.495 dwellings were financed. This works out at an average cost a building of £2.830. The 1 per cent, interest concession that the Government provides under this agreement calculated over the term of 45 years represents on £3,000 for a house a concession of £1,110. However, if these people can obtain the subsidy and come in with a deposit of £1.000, then over the 45-year period, on the basis of £2,000, which would be the amount owing, the concessional interest would be £740. Therefore, by granting the £250 subsidy in this case the Government saves £370 in concessional interest. This is an aspect that the Government should examine. More important, with the same amount of money used for this type of housing the Government will be able to build one-third more houses. These are weighty considerations which I submit will come into the picture when this legislative machinery goes into action.
We are indebted to the Minister for his statement regarding the availability of this scheme for rural housing. The Minister has made it clear in reply to questions and_ in discussion with supporters of the’ Government that it is his desire, and the intention of this legislation, that the provisions should apply equally to the field of rural housing. This is a landmark in housing legislation - the acceptance of the principle that the legislation should apply equally to rural people as well as to those in urban areas. I am concerned about the young farmer who is trying to establish himself. I am not concerned about the young man who can buy £100,000 worth of land - the instance quoted by the Leader of the Opposition. I think that the type of house that man would want tq build would never come within the ambit of this legislation. I am thinking of the man of whom this country is in dire need - 1 the young man who is prepared to devote all his savings, strength and energy to developing new country.
This consideration applies with tremendous force in Western Australia where we are developing about 1,000,000 acres of new land every year. Under this legislation this 3’oung farmer must show that over seven years he has saved sufficient money’ to qualify for the scheme. If there is no house on the property which he is trying to develop - and there are many such properties - he will be dependent upon gaining the goodwill of his bank manager to create a special account rather than reducing his overdraft.
There is no way in which a young man trying to develop a property can save money. He needs all available cash to develop the property. If he can qualify for a grant under this bill, he must commence to build a house before he can collect £250. That is the point where we come to a dead stop. How does he commence to build a house? I can find no provision that would enable a man in that position to get finance to build a house except from his own resources. He cannot go to any bank to get finance other than that needed for clearing, fencing, water supplies and other farm needs.
Women who go out on to farms face hope deferred year after year. I have had letters from some of them. Many begin to hate the farm because each year they see the farm resources go into the development of the farm. There is no money available for anything else and there is no source from which the money can be obtained except at the expense of the farm and its development. There is a very great need for complementary legislation for some new approach to this question of rural finance. At present, with the best will in the world I cannot see how this legislation will operate in the field of rural finance except in the case of a man who does not need it because he is relatively wealthy.
In most of the pioneering areas, particularly in Western Australia, the prospect for a young man trying to get a house of adequate standard is hopeless. This problem of rural housing extends beyond the man who is developing a farm, lt extends to the man working on a farm and people living in small country towns. Only last week I had information from an unimpeachable source that there was a problem in the town of Wagin. At that town there is a firm interested in making agricultural machinery and repairing it. This firm has orders for machinery which would require it to increase the staff by twelve, but there is no hope of the industry expanding because the company cannot get housing for its employees. I have learned that the Housing Commission in Western Australia has said that it has no money available to build houses in Wagin but I notice that there has been no cessation of its building in Perth.
I think we will reach a position with our Commonwealth and State housing agreements similar to the situation we have reached with roads. A definite proportion of the money that is made available will have to be devoted to housing in rural areas. Otherwise, our claim to bc interested in decentralization is but a mockery. Here we have one of the root causes of centralization - the difficulty in finding means to provide houses on farms and in small rural communities. There seems to be no formula whatever for a satisfactory solution of the problems there. Other spokesmen for other areras and sections of the community have taken all the opportunities available to them to state the case in which they are interested. 1 am glad to have this opportunity to emphasize the great and real housing needs in Australian rural communities. In conclusion I repeat what I said earlier: I support this bill because it represents an attempt to increase or to improve the housing facilities available to. young people. It is a sincere attempt to assist young people to save and it is an interesting experiment in housing legislation. In the process of time 1 believe that it will become a very useful piece of legislation.
.- This bill is styled the Homes Savings Grant Bill 1964 and, according to the second-reading speech of the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner) the purpose of the legislation is to help young married couples obtain a home of their own by authorizing payment to them by the Commonwealth of tax-free grants to supplement their own savings. This bill, with qualifications, carries out the first part of the Government’s policy on housing enunciated at the 1963 general election. I suggest it would have been of much more value to the ordinary home seeker if’ the Government were introducing the second part of its policy on housing. For the purpose of the record, I quote from the second part of the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) on this very important national problem. In his policy speech, the right honorable gentleman said -
Second, there is the problem, which bears heavily upon many people, of filling, frequently on oppressive terms-
And 1 emphasize those words - of borrowing the gap between available housing loans and the buying need of the purchaser. Among these people are many - sometimes overlooked - who want a house which is in size or quality better than the average.
Might I interpolate that there are also those - the vast majority of people in the community - who merely want a reasonable roof over their heads to shelter themselves and their families. The Prime Minister continued -
We must not encourage too much uniformity of dwellings in a refreshing individualistic country.
To meet this problem we will assist the obtaining of low deposit loans related to the income and reasonable credit-worthiness of the borrower. We will do this by a system of insurance by a National Housing Insurance Corporation.
Loans, the subject of the guarantee, would extend to something like three times the borrower’s established income, with some reasonable total ceiling. The Government will, up to a high percentage of valuation, ranging up to 95% in appropriate cases, insure the repayment of such loans by approved lenders at approved rates of interest, which, under guarantee, should be reasonable.
As I have already said, I suggest that the second part of the Prime Minister’s policy speech is more apposite to the problems of the vast majority of people who are concerned with obtaining a home. For the purposes of the bill under discussion, let us take the case of a couple purchasing a home which will cost £5,000. I suggest that the deposit on such a place could well be of the order of £1,500. If the couple have £750, this bill, when it becomes an act, will be of very little help to them. Despite the £250 grant to them under this legislation, in such circumstances the couple would still be £500 short of the deposit required. That is why we of the Opposition say that whilst this bill may do something to help some of the people, it certainly will not do everything to help all of the people. We suggest it will not help to any great extent people who want to bridge the deposit gap.
I have read the Minister’s second-reading speech two or three times in an endeavour to ascertain the estimated cost of the proposal now under discussion, and the actual number of people who it is expected will be beneficiaries under the scheme when it comes into effect. Nowhere, either in the second-reading speech of the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury), or in the second- reading speech of the Minister who introduced the legislation into this chamber, can I find such information. I suggest that the reason for this is obvious. As Senator McKenna said, there are so many ifs and buts in the bill that one really wonders how far, if at all, the bill will go towards meeting the housing problems of the Australian community.
As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, the bill is designed for the 36 years and under age group. They must have lived in Australia and accumulated acceptable savings for three years. They must - the Minister emphasized the word “ must “ in his second-reading speech and I do likewise - have entered into a contract in writing to buy an existing house and land or the right to occupy a flat or home unit; or have entered into a contract in writing with a building contractor for the erection of a home on land held by one or both of them in an approved form; or if an owner-builder, have commenced the construction ot a home on land held by one or both of them in an approved form.
I suggest that the legislation as it is framed is restrictive in character.
I have read out certain stipulations. There is the further stipulation that subsidized homes built by the States with funds provided under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement will not be covered by this legislation. The scheme is restricted to homes costing less than £7,000. Then there are restrictions so far as acceptable, forms of savings are concerned. There is to be a limit on the amount of acceptable savings in a year. As further evidence that the legislation has been drafted in haste, I point out that the Minister for Housing, towards the conclusion of his second-reading speech, said -
I do not pretend that, in the time we have had to examine the ramifications of the scheme, wo may not have overlooked some minor aspects.
He went on to say that discretionary powers would be vested in the secretary of the department and his delegates in the administration of the scheme. As Senator McKenna pointed out, it is significant that that passage occurred in the second-reading speech of the Minister in another place but did not occur in the speech presented to this chamber.
Frankly, I should have liked to see an estimate of the anticipated number of beneficiaries under the scheme and of the expected total cost. As I said earlier, nowhere can such information be found in the second-reading spech because obviously there are so many ifs and bute about the legislation that it is virtually impossible to say “ Yea “ or “ Nay “ to any member of the community who might think he was eligible for a grant under the proposal. I think it can be gleaned, from a phrase appearing in the Minister’s second-reading speech, that the bill is of a very restrictive nature. I refer to the following passage, which occurs in both the second-reading speech of the Minister for Housing and that of the Minister for National Development: -
The homes savings grant scheme is designed to help those who help themselves by saving appreciable sums. 1 underline the word “ appreciable “. I suggest that to save £750 over a period of three years, or £250 in a year, is quite an achievement for a young married couple. 1 think it is fair to say. that Senator Prowse criticized the proposals as they may affect country people and suggested that the discipline of saving can do no one any harm. With that, particularly as it applies to young people contemplating marriage or who have just embarked on marriage, I certainly would agree. Of course, there are many young people in the community who are either about to contemplate marriage or have just embarked on marriage, who are not in a position, because of their financial circumstances, to save much money, if any at all. I suggest that in future years this legislation will be very frustrating for them.
The 1961 census revealed that the number of married women in the work force had almost doubled between 1954 and 1961. Having regard to the trend in the community, this number will continue to increase substantially. People are marrying at an earlier age these days than in days gone by. From records in the Parliamentary Library it can be seen that the average age of brides is 24 years and of bridegrooms 27 years. It is estimated that some 21,000 women get married before they reach the age of twenty years, and that most women marry between the ages of twenty and 24 years. Having regard to the fact that young married people are trying to acquire furniture and effects for a future home, that they may be paying rent of £5, £6 or £7 per week, and especially that a new arrival may be expected, I suggest that they will be hardput to satisfy the savings requirements of this legislation.
The New South Wales Minister for Housing was reported in the “ Daily Mirror “ of 7th May last as saying -
The Menzies-Bury scheme will help only young people who can get substantial aid from their parents or who are in a higher income bracket.
Having regard to the number of people who are inadequately housed to-day, and to the number of young people, middle aged people and elderly people who are looking for homes within their means, I venture the prediction that the number of beneficiaries under this proposal will be comparatively low. When one takes into account the fact that Australia’s total hirepurchase debt is of the order of £600,000,000 and that the work force numbers some 4,000,000 - 3,000,000 males and 1,000,000 females; when one realizes that the average take-home pay of a worker in industry to-day is about £22 per week or £1,200 a year, and that he is asked to save £5 a week out of his pay in order to qualify under this scheme, one reasonably asks how such a person can save £250 a year - if anything at all. Even if the man concerned were single, I suggest that he would be flat out to qualify.
A newly married man, paying £5 or £6 a week in rent, and perhaps providing for a new-born infant and contemplating in future educating this and subsequent children, would, I suggest, find the benefits to be derived under this scheme beyond his reach. I believe that any proposal to encourage home building in Australia should cover all sections of the community. This bill certainly does not bring the average fellow within its scope. Only last week a young man of 24, with a wife and a child some four months old, rang me concerning his housing difficulties. He earns £25 a week and is paying £6 10s. a week for what seemed to me to be inadequate accommodation. He has hire-purchase commitments of nearly £3 a week and so, in round figures, he is left with about £15 a week with which to feed and clothe himself and his family. I suggest that he could not qualify under this scheme because, in point of fact, he would be hard put to it to save anything. The only alternative for such a man would be to put his name down on the long housing commission waiting list, where the waiting period extends to four, five or six years. That man would not be in a position to place a deposit on a block of land, let alone pay it off, particularly if he were subjected to the conditions described by the Prime Minister in his policy speech in the words “frequently on oppressive terms of borrowing”. The young man about whom I have just spoken admitted having been taken in by the Government’s policy at the last election. But when 1 explained to him the qualifications proposed by the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) in the legislation now under discussion, he certainly had other thoughts about the effectiveness of the Government’s policy for solving people’s housing difficulties.
The average family man - let alone the man on a low income - will find it practically a physical impossibility to qualify for any benefit under this bill. The main problem faced by the younger generation in trying to overcome their housing difficulties is usually the astronomically high cost of land, and their inability to bridge the gap between the cost of the initial deposit and the amount of their savings. As 1 said in my earlier remarks on this subject, it would have been of much more value to the people of Australia had the Government at this time been introducing legislation dealing with the second aspect of its housing policy mentioned during the election campaign. The average Australian is as keen as is anyone to do all he can for his wife and family.
This bill fails to tackle the real housing problem, which is the exorbitant price of land and the “ oppressive terms of borrowing “ - to use the Prime Minister’s phrase once again. As I instanced in my maiden speech in this chamber some two years ago, a block of land in Sydney or Melbourne is dearer than a comparable block in the city of New York. Land speculation is very keen and, I believe, rather rife. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pounds are being milked from the people by speculators in land. Only last week I was told of a firm which advertised over the radio in Sydney, that it would fly people to Port Macquarie at its expense, without obligation, to inspect blocks of land in an area which -is being opened up for developmental purposes. Although the firm advertises that a person who makes the trip is under no obligation, some people have complained to me that when they flew to Port Macquarie, found that the land was not suitable, and decided to return home by plane, they were told that the obligation was only to fly them there and not to return them to their homes.
Another case which came to my notice recently was in the Blacktown district, a large suburban area on the outskirts of Sydney where, in a particular subdivision, some sixty homes were erected. When an individual purchased a home he was told by the vendor that when he received the rate notice from the local council he should send it to the office of the vendor company, which would recoup to the purchaser the amount of rates accruing over the time during which the property was in the name of the vendor company. I think that in each instance the rates amounted to about £16. In at least two or three cases the bill, having been received by the purchaser, was sent to the vendor company, but the purchaser heard nothing more from the company. If this is occurring to any extent, or if it went on in regard to all of the sixty homes in the subdivision, there is not a bad little profit involved.
The only hope that the purchaser has of recovering the money in such circumstances, is to go to the expense and worry of threatening legal action. These are only some of the malpractices that are indulged in to-day in what might be referred to, overall, as the general housing racket. This bill will do little, if anything, to solve Australia’s housing problems, but, inasmuch as it may do something, we of the Opposition welcome it. The Minister rightly said that the legislation is designed to help those who’ help themselves, but I suggest that he could more aptly have said that it is designed to help those who can help themselves by saving appreciable sums. The bill isrestrictive and fails to tackle constructivelyand equitably the housing problems of Australia’s young, middle-aged and elderly people. I trust that many persons will qualify for assistance under the legislation, but I regret that iri my opinion, having regard to the conditions laid down in the measure, its benefits will be restricted to an insignificant few.
– I rise to support the bill. If 1 may make an observation on the Opposition’s approach to this bill let me say that it is becoming increasingly apparent that whilst the Opposition is going to support the bill its general attitude is to try to kill it with faint praise. I think that the whole of the submissions of Senator McClelland were based on a misunderstanding of the bill. He seemed to build a case around the proposition that to qualify for the subsidy a person had, in some way to save £250 in three successive years. Of course, that is not so. If his argument depends on that conception it falls to the ground. I wish to refer to the second-reading speech of the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner) in which he said -
Saving need not be compressed into three years. The three years so frequently mentioned is merely the minimum period of saving to become eligible for the grant. 1 have taken the time tt: read very briefly some of the criticisms made of the bill in another place and I have .listened fairly attentively to the criticisms made here tonight. I think it would be true to say that the Opposition has fallen into an error in relation to this bill throughout the debate here and in another place.
The purpose of the bill, of .course, is to help young married couples to obtain a home of their own. To use an expression which I have not yet heard used in the debate, one of the purposes is to bridge the deposit gap. I venture to suggest that the bill makes a great contribution towards bridging the deposit gap for people who want to acquire a home. It helps them obtain a home by making the Commonwealth tax-free grant available to supplement their savings. It is proper to place on record that this bill represents a fulfilment of the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) prior to the last general election. It is consistent with the behaviour and conduct of this Government since 1949 when it came into office, to honour, at the earliest opportunity, the promises it makes to the people at the time of a general election.
The Government believes that adequate housing is necessary for Australia’s progress. It recognizes that, because of the population growth, a vigorous housing policy is necessary. Particularly is this so when you bear in mind the great immigra tion programme that Australia has pursued. I think it is proper to place on record also that since 1950, during the life of this Government, more than 1,000,000 houses have been build in Australia. More than 36 per cent, of all dwellings have been built during the term of office of the present Government. I think that is a very fine record.
In 1947, when the Labour Government was in office, 59 per cent, of the houses in Australia were owned or were being purchased by their occupants. To-day the proportion is 76 per cent. It is the attitude of mind of the Government in relation to housing, which has contributed to the encouragement of home ownership and has made such a tremendous contribution to the welfare of the Australian people. The legislation with which we are dealing tonight and which, perhaps, before morning, as far as the Parliament is concerned, will bc on the statute-book follows the pattern that this Government has always pursued in its encouragement of home ownership. By this bill, the Government is encouraging young people under the age of 36 years to help themselves to bridge the deposit gap and thus have the necessary finance to purchase a home of their choice. The Government has always been active in developing the principle of home ownership and it is a principle of which it can be proud.
The bill provides an incentive to young people to save for a home. It provides a Commonwealth grant of £1 for every £3 of acceptable savings. To be eligible for the grant a person must be under 36 years of age and married. At least, one of a married couple must be under 36 years of age. The maximum amount of savings required is £750 which will attract a subsidy of £250 from Commonwealth sources.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), who very properly led for the Opposition in the debate on this bill, which is a most important one, started off by describing the bill as a child of electoral terror. We dispute that, but, be that as it may, the child will bring great joy to many young married people in the future.
– You were not very happy before the election.
– Because we are Liberal-minded we are always happy. It is part of our philosophy of life.
– Even at 4 o’clock in the morning.
– Even at 4 o’clock in the morning. I do not think the Leader of the Opposition’s description was accurate when he said the bill was a child of electoral terror. It was a child of electoral genius on the part of the Government parties and it will bring great joy to the people who get homes by the use of the deposit that the Government is providing. Senator McKenna then went on to criticize the Leader of the Government because, during the period of the election campaign, he said that he could not answer questions about the details of the scheme. For my part, I think that was a very logical thing to say. No matter what bill might be foreshadowed in a policy speech, in the very nature of things a government could not work out the details to meet every situation. It was interesting that, in this case, the proposal captured the imagination of people right across the face of the Commonwealth. Right, across Australia young people related the proposed legislation to their own particular problems. Very understandably they were saying, “How does this apply to my particular case?” That was a very human reaction and nobody would criticize them for doing that. Clearly, in the field of politics and in the field of government, it was proper for the Leader of the Government in his capacity as Minister in charge of housing to say, during the campaign, that matters of detail would be worked out when the election was over.
Senator McKenna gave a lengthy enumeration of the Labour Party’s policy and then went on to suggest that that policy was the stimulus which caused the Government to bring forward this proposal. That is absolutely sheer nonsense. I have never heard anything so untenable in my experience in this Parliament. It was ridiculous for Senator McKenna to criticize this proposition almost from go to whoa, and then, in the same speech to set out the Labour Party’s policy and say that this was the stimulus for the Government’s proposition. You cannot have it both ways - least of all in politics. The fact is that a Liberal-Country Party Government, conscious of the needs of the people, and aware of the particular needs of a section of the community which had a particular housing problem, set out to try to help that section with the result that the proposal received overwhelming acclaim across the face of the Commonwealth. Within the short period of three or four months, the proposal is being implemented. The Leader of the Opposition - quite unreasonably I thought - criticized the delay in implementation. A new Minister had to be appointed and a new housing department established. A bill to embody the proposal had to be drawn widely to give discretionary power to the Minister and his officers. Difficulties had to be encompassed in producing legislation to embody the broad principles enunciated in the policy speech.
– Are you prepared lo allow everybody in the Senate lo come back next week and have a go at it?
– I should be delighted. This is the place where our duty lies. If the honorable senator is prepared to come, I shall be here. While there is a legislative programme ahead of us, there should be no falling away in the sense of responsibility that prevails on both sides of the Parliament, particularly in the Senate. I want to deal briefly with some of the fundamentals of the bill. We have had a good debate on it. The acceptable forms of savings for the purposes of the scheme include moneys deposited in home savings accounts with a savings bank. These may include moneys placed on fixed deposit and moneys invested in deposit stock issued by some savings banks, provided the account is designated a home savings account. An eligible person may have home savings accounts with more than one bank. Moneys placed on fixed deposits with a trading bank, provided such deposits are designated a home savings account, will be acceptable. Moneys deposited with a building or co-operative housing society registered under a law of a Slate or Territory will also be acceptable. We are delighted with that provision. It will enable participation by the co-operative building society movement which has, during the life of this Government, made tremendous progress across Australia. Moneys paid to a building or co-operative housing society as subscriptions towards the purchase of shares in such a society, provided the shares are not quoted on any stock exchange, will be acceptable, as also will moneys paid for the purchase or lease of land on which the eligible home is being, or is to be, built.
The bill proposes that up to 31st December, 1967, moneys deposited in various ways on or before 31st December, 1964, will also be treated as acceptable savings. This is the point at which Senator McClelland went off the rails. He appeared to have a fixation that the £750 savings would have to be accumulated over this period of three years. That is quite wrong. Within this period, moneys deposited in any savings bank account, not being a home savings account, moneys deposited in a current account or on fixed deposit with a trading bank, and moneys deposited with a friendly society or credit union registered or incorporated under a law of a State or a Territory, will be regarded as acceptable savings. This is the operative provision: Savings in these forms up to 31st December next, to remain acceptable after that date, must either be maintained in the form in which they are held at the end of this year or be transferred to one or more of the forms in which acceptable new savings must be made from 1st January next.
I wish to refer to only one other question, namely whether or not homes built with moneys provided under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement will be eligible for subsidy. The second-reading speech made quite clear that these homes will not qualify, because persons buying them are already getting a substantial advantage. Senator Prowse produced a mathematical argument in this connexion. Purchasers of homes built under the agreement receive an immediate advantage in the form of much longer terms than they could get under ordinary borrowing arrangements. These terms are much longer than will be available to persons who will qualify for the subsidy of £250 and who will borrow through normal channels. Purchasers of homes built under the agreement pay a much lower rate of interest, which is a benefit applying from the very first repayment which they make. This rate is 1 per cent, below the bank rate. In New South Wales, particularly, purchases of housing commission homes may be made on deposits as low as £50. These are real concessions.
I conclude by saying that I support this bill, which will receive the approbation of people throughout Australia. It indicates the Government’s desire to help young people become home-owners and it will assist in bridging the deposit gap. It will also encourage saving. If it did only that, it would be tremendously valuable. But it will make a very real contribution to the policy of home ownership which has been a feature of the administration of the Menzies Government since it assumed office in 1949.
– Mr. Acting Deputy President, the attitude of the Australian Labour Party to this bill is not as has been suggested by Senator Anderson. The Labour Party realizes that a section of the community will derive some benefit from the measure and therefore is not prepared to oppose it. The bill simply cries out for amendment. It is so corrupt and incapable of interpretation that the Labour Party knows of no method by which it can profitably be amended in order to achieve the desired purpose other than to have it withdrawn and redrafted.
Senator Anderson has told us of the benefits that are enjoyed by people who receive assistance under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. People who receive assistance under this agreement, other than through the building societies, will be denied any benefit under this legislation. I think the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner) said in his second-reading speech that people who received finance through building societies did not really enjoy a very great benefit from lower interest rates as the societies charge an administration fee on the money they lend.
That brings me to the situation that exists in South Australia. The question may arise as to whether South Australia has been playing the game in the lending of Commonwealth housing moneys. Of course, the’ Labour Party would take no responsibility for that. The Honorable Sir Thomas Playford, the Premier and Treasurer of South Australia, said in regard to State loan estimates for 1963-64 -
Of this total £9,400,000 is to be borrowed under the terms of the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement, and, with the addition of some £250,000’ repayments of previous advances, £9,650,000 will be available for distribution for housing, lt is proposed to allocate £4,600,000 to the Housing Trust, £4,625,000 to the Slate Bank, and £425,000 to building societies.
The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement provides, in relation to States other than South Australia, that one-third of the money shall be made available to the building societies. Probably that requirement does not apply to South Australia because that State has not the same proportion of building societies as have the other States. Although in the other States one-third of the people who receive money under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement will qualify for assistance under the legislation now before us, only a very small proportion of the people in South Australia who receive assistance under the agreement will benefit under this measure.
The South Australian Housing Trust has two policies for the provision of housing assistance. The trust makes moneys available other than under the terms of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, lt builds homes for sale to purchasers who provide their own finance in the same way as do spec builders. With funds made available under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement the trust has built, in decreasing numbers in recent years, rental-purchase homes which are sold to the public upon a deposit of £50. The trust arranges second mortgages for the difference between the deposit of £50 and the deposit normally required for the purchase of a home. The second mortgage finance is provided from moneys made available under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Persons who qualify for that benefit - they constitute a most deserving section of the community - will not be entitled to the benefits of the legislation now before us.
As I indicated earlier, in South Australia the largest proportion of the funds made available under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement goes to the State Bank, which is one of the main lenders of money for housing in that State. Mr. Galloway, the manager of the bank, told me that the bank derives its housing funds from two sources, the main one being Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement moneys. It has another small source from which it lends money under a guarantee system. The State guarantees the repayment of loans to the extent of 90 per cent.
Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement moneys are made available at an interest rate of 5 per cent., which is increased by one-half of 1 per cent, if payment is not made on the due date. Moneys made available under the State guarantee scheme attract an interest rate of 51 per cent., which is reduced to 5 per cent, if the money is paid on the due date. So the difference is really the same as that between Tweedledum and Tweedledee. It will be noted that under this legislation no benefit will be enjoyed by people who obtain loans from the State Bank of South Australia and very little benefit will be enjoyed by those who obtain loans from the South Australian Housing Trust.
As I said earlier, it is almost impossible to interpret the bill. It could really be described as a legal curio. A fortune awaits solicitors if ever the legislation comes before the court for interpretation. The Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) himself said that if he had not been the author of the proposals he would not know what they were about. Nobody other than the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has displayed any knowledge of the meaning of the Government proposals. If the second-reading speech delivered by the Minister for National Development could be accepted as setting forth the meaning of the proposals, at first blush it would appeal. However, it is doubtful whether the author of that speech had a full knowledge of the meaning of the proposals. I do not say that disparagingly. I repeat that I do not think it is possible to interpret the bill properly. We will have to wait, perhaps until the legislation comes before the court, to ascertain what it means. If we try to reduce the measure to layman’s language we find that it contains five separate parts. The first describes the prescribed date from which savings are calculated and from which the grant becomes available. The second part relates to eligible persons, the third to acceptable savings, the fourth to the grant from the Commonwealth, and the fifth, which has not been mentioned yet, relates to the question of the refunding of a grant paid in circumstances in which the Commonwealth deems it should not have been paid. The inability to interpret this legislation is passed over in the secondreading explanation with the statement that the Minister and the secretary of the department are being given wide discretion. Of course, the Minister must conform to the act and this wide discretion might be more imaginary than real.
Let us examine the five parts that I have referred to. First, the prescribed date is the date on which an eligible person or his spouse signs up with a contractor to build a dwelling house or to purchase a dwelling house. This is the date on which an eligible person qualifies for the grant. The eligible person need not have any intention of building a house. The prescribed date can be the date on which the eligible person or his spouse contracts to buy or to have constructed a house. This is the date from which the grant will be made. An eligible person must be married. It is not a question of a person getting a home ready for the time when he marries. To be eligible a person must be married. This provision could also be the subject of legal interpretation as to whether savings before marriage could be acceptable savings. A person must be under 36 years of age on the prescribed date and at the time of marriage. This is bad legislation which discriminates between individuals on an agc basis. A person is eligible for a grant if he has been an Australian citizen throughout a period of three years immediately preceding the prescribed date and has resided in Australia for three months immediately preceding that date. A migrant must have resided in Australia for three years immediately preceding the prescribed date. The Minister said that the grant would be available to migrants who intended to settle in Australia, but thc bill does not say that specifically. A migrant might never intend to become an Australian and settle here permanently. He may not be acceptable as an Australian citizen, yet he can qualify for a grant if he has lived here for three years. How will the Minister ever be able to determine a migrant’s intention of settling in Australia and owning his own home? If a migrant wants to get a return of £250 on an investment all he need do is convince the Minister of his intention to settle here and buy his own home.
A representative of the housing department who appeared before a sub-committee of which I was a member was asked, “ How do you know whether a migrant intends to live in the home? “ and “ What happens if he receives the grant and then leaves his home?” The answer was that once the grant was made to an eligible person and residence was taken up, that was the end nf the contract and no further policing took place. The only time the Government would take further interest in the home would be if it were sold to an eligible person. The Government, in these circumstances, could pay a grant of £250 every time a property changed hands from one eligible person to another. This will not result in the provision of more homes. It is simply a handout without any means test as to maximum assets. An eligible person has to take up residence within three months of the completion of a dwelling, but he can go and live in one room and meet the requirements of the legislation. Another qualification relating to eligibility is the provision that the secretary must be satisfied that the person has saved moneys in Australia throughout a period of not less than three years preceding the prescribed date, and that the person, his spouse, or his former spouse has not received a previous grant. This is a significant provision. From the Minister’s second-reading speech it appeared that an eligible person and his spouse could both receive a grant. I do not know whether that is a proper interpretation of the Minister’s remarks. It is. difficult to find anything in the bill to support that interpretation. The Minister said -
The husband or the wife or both may be eligible persons provided each has saved for at least three years. Although the savings of the husband and the wife will be treated as separate individual savings, the maximum acceptable savings in respect’ of one home will bc £750, and the maximum grant to husband or wife or both will be £250. If the husband and wife have deposited their savings in a joint account in both their names, half of these savings will be deemed to be those of the husband and the other half those of the wife. If only one of them is eligible, half of the joint savings will be deemed to be those of the eligible person.
It would appear to me that there is an implication in that passage that they can both get the grant. However, clause 14 (e) of the bill is as follows: - a grant under this Act has not been made to the person, or to the spouse or to a former spouse of the person during his or her marriage to the person;
The Minister raised the question of a bachelor who married a woman who had previously received a grant. The Minister made this sound attractive. The bachelor qualified for a grant, too. However, a married nian might never enjoy that benefit because his spouse may have received a grant, the partnership may have been dissolved, and he may have married again. He is not entitled to any benefits under this legislation because his former spouse bad received a grant. The only reference to a joint grant is contained in clause 22 (2.), which states -
The amounts of any grants under this Act to an eligible person and his or her spouse shall not exceed, in the aggregate, Two hundred and fifty pounds. lt is suggested that there could be a grant to a spouse although one is not provided in the bill. Clause 22(10.) states -
A reference in this section to the spouse of an eligible person does not include a reference lo a spouse who is not himself or herself an eligible person. 1 do not know what that means and these are some of the problems for which 1 have not found an explanation. The bill provides that an eligible person must have entered into a contract to commence building, or to buy a building or must have commenced a home by putting down a foundation after 31st December, 1963. No one has mentioned this. Immediately a person does those things, he becomes entitled to the grant from the Government. His savings, however, have to be acceptable savings and the word “acceptable” is pertinent to the entire interpretation of the clause.
Reference has already been made to acceptable savings during the debate. In determining acceptable savings a differentiation is made between those people who have saved their money before 3 J st December, 1964, and those who may save it after that date. Money saved prior to 31st December, 1964, is regarded as acceptable savings if it has been invested in a bank, a friendly society or a credit union. A man who in February had £750 and signed a contract to build or buy a house would qualify for the grant if he had the money in one of the institutions to which 1 have referred. But a next-door neighbour whose circumstances are similar except that his savings are not in one of these institutions would not qualify. So the bill differentiates between two individuals in similar circumstances.
I do not know whether the actual application of the bill has ever been considered. On a prescribed date, the money has to be in a certain institution, no matter how it was saved. There is provision that if a person has the money saved at the end of December, 1964, and it is in the approved institutions, he may get a grant. The bill makes it easy for anybody with £750 in the appropriate institutions. However, those who do not know the requirements of the bill but who thought they qualified in accordance with the Prime Minister’s policy speech are penalized because they did not know the machinery provisions in the bill. They miss out although in some respects they have the same qualifications as those who are eligible for assistance. Surely the Minister will not allow these things to go past unaltered. There should not be such discrimination.
The bill provides that to be eligible for a grant, a man must not be an undischarged bankrupt. I suppose that has some importance. An applicant must not be serving a term of imprisonment. A man who has been in prison for a misdemeanour might not be a criminal. He might be in gaol for some traffic offence and he might need rehabilitation. One would think that the hand of the Government would be extended to help him but it seems that anybody who has served a term of imprisonment is beyond the pale.
There, are various meanings of the term “ acceptable savings “ and I have mentioned some of these. Those who sign a contract between now and the end of the year and place their accounts in approved institutions become eligible for the grant. There is no question in such a case of a person actually saving money. This legislation actually is not designed to encourage saving. It provides for a gift of £250. Any one who is an eligible person, who is married, has not owned a home before or had a grant under the bill and who has £750 can put the money in . an approved bank, sign a contract for a house and get £250 from the Commonwealth Government. The only requirement is that he or his wife live in the house or in a portion of the house. He can then sell the house to some one else who is eligible for an amount to which the Government, will also subscribe £250. Surely, therefore, this legislation serves no helpful purpose.
Clause 16 covers acceptable savings and provides that the savings must be maintained on deposit with a savings bank or on fixed deposit with prescribed banks. The person who has the money cannot take a gamble on the investment. The banks must get their interest through the good offices of a government which believes in the sanctity of private enterprise and usury. The person who wants a grant must place his savings in a prescribed bank. There are two clauses which apply if the money is in a joint account. I have discussed these with Senator Cohen and they need explanation to show that there is no contradiction in the bill itself.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Sandford). - Order! In conformity 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 negative.
– I refer to clause 1 6, sub-clause (4.) of which reads -
For the purpose of this Act, the acceptable savings of a person to whom this section applies as at a time after the thirty-first day of December, One thousand nine hundred and sixty-seven, are, subject to this Act, the moneys that were saved in Australia before that time by the person and -
were maintained at that time by the person, or by the person jointly with his or her spouse, on deposit with a branch in Australia of a savings bank or on fixed deposit with a branch in Australia of a trading bank, being a deposit that was described in the books or records of the savings bank or the trading bank, as the case may be, as a Home Savings Account;
That sub-clause refers to savings in a person’s account or in a joint account with his spouse. Clause 18 which, to my mind, is a contradictory clause, reads -
Where moneys are maintained on deposit at any time by an eligible person and his or her spouse jointly with a branch in Australia of a savings bank or of a trading bank, then, for the purposes of this Act, one-half of the moneys shall be deemed to be moneys maintained on deposit at that time by the eligible person and one-half by his or her spouse.
I have not been able to find any reason for the contradiction. The bill is so full of anomalies that time will not permit me to go into all of them. There are many questions which I shall raise in the committee stage. I hope that the points I have raised to-night will cause the Minister to give a further explanation of the actual meaning of the bill.
[11.3]. - in reply - I think that the best way to reply to the criticism that has been levelled at the bill is to commence at the beginning and read what was said in the policy speech on the matter to refresh the memories of honorable senators who are present. The proposal was put in the following quite simple terms: -
First there is a special difficulty experienced by young married people, particularly in the age group up to 35, in financing the purchase of a dwelling. We will provide a Commonwealth subsidy of £1 for every £3 which a person in this age group deposits or shall have deposited, over a period of at least three years in an identifiable account at an approved institution, to be released, upon or after marriage, for home building or purchasing purposes. The maximum subsidy for one house will be £250. Thus by the Commonwealth subsidy, £750 saved in this age group for a home after marriage will be increased to £l,000. For obvious reasons, this will not extend to the purchase of State houses, or for the purchase of house and land costing more than £7,000.
No one can say that the promise contained in the policy speech is not being carried out in this legislation. It attracted great public interest and it was very much commended.
The point I make to the Senate is that the final scheme in this legislation goes far beyond the promise that was made in the policy speech. I shall amplify that statement in a few minutes. This bill will provide a substantial contribution to young people purchasing homes and thus will help future welfare. It is a very attractive proposal to them. It will help them in their efforts to lead a better life.
The Minister in another place said that 40,000 young couples are expected to benefit from this proposal each year. In other words, it is expected that 80,000 Australians will get the benefit of this grant each year. In an ordinary year the cost of the grant will be between £7,000,000 and £8,000,000. In the first year of its application, because of the need to cover past transactions, it will cost £10,000,000. That is a simple outline of the scheme as given in the policy speech.
If the Opposition does not believe in the bill it should oppose it, which would be the honest thing to do. Instead, it is trying to decry the bill. It is not dealing with the bill in a fair, open, critical manner. The Opposition is saying that it cannot understand the provisions in the bill; that this hypothetical situation and that hypothetical situation will arise; that one clause can be construed in this way and that another clause can be construed in another way. I am glad that I am not a member of the Opposition having to make such a mean and paltry approach to a first-class contribution to the happiness of the young people of Australia.
Let me state again in the simplest of terms that: there is a maximum subsidy available provided that young people up to the age of 36 years have £750, and that when they purchase their first home its cost docs not exceed £7,000. The Opposition’s attack on this bill has been an attempt to cloud the issue by speaking about complicated clauses. The bill has been drawn up by the Crown Law authorities to give effect to the Government’s election policy. The purpose of the bill is to put into legal terms that which the Government promised in its policy speech. The purpose and the objective of the Parliamentary Draftsman has been to include in the bill provisions which will survive legally in the future. That is not the responsibility of the Government under the terms of this bill. One could become quite confused listening to honorable senators opposite who, with no” more legal qualification than 1 have, stand up and say what they think the clauses of the bill might or might not mean. They have not the courage to attack the principles of the bill, but they adopt the subterfuge of saying that the wording of the measure means this, that or the other thing. They have no qualifications at all to say what it means, and they lack the courage to say that they oppose its principles.
– They may know what they are talking about, too.
Yours was a pathetic attempt to construe the meaning of the bill. Let us look at the main complications in the legislation and see how they arise. They are due to the fact that the scheme goes far beyond what was promised in the Prime Minister’s policy speech. A reasonable interpretation of what was said in that speech would be that legislation would be brought down in due course and would become operative as from the time when it was brought down. A reasonable interpretation of acceptable, savings would be savings accumulated after the commencement of operation of the legislation. But that is not the approach made in the bill.
In this measure the whole scheme is made retrospective to the day upon which this Government was re-elected to power. I do not recollect that being done often in the history of Australian politics. The young people of Australia treated us generously at the election and we have returned their generosity with a generous interpretation of the promises contained in our policy speech. And that is where most of the complications occur. We could have stipulated that acceptable savings would be those commencing from to-day’s date - 20th May, 1964 - but we said “No. We will let past savings qualify.” We were under no moral or political obligation to do that, but we have done it. When the bill becomes law a great number of young people will have to establish their position under this and other provisions, but the fundamental issue remains simple.
The promise contained in our policy speech is as simple to-day as it was when it was made. The bill may contain rather difficult wording in order to cover the arrangements for retrospectivity. These arrangements were made out of a sense of fairness, and because we believe the scheme will make such a substantial contribution to the welfare of young Australians. It would have been much cheaper for the Government to make the provisions in the measure apply from to-morrow instead of giving them retrospective effect.
Honorable senators opposite claim that people will not be able to save sufficient to qualify for assistance under this measure. But one can already see the advertisements which savings banks and building societies are displaying in order to attract the savings of young people. Are they doing that only to attract a particular type of savings? What kind of people have the bulk of the savings in the banks? They are the very people who are likely to benefit under this scheme. I hope and believe that this measure will result in young people having a more responsible approach to life than they have had in the. past.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) said - I hope I have the figures correctly - that there were 182,000 people earning £20 a week who will not be able to claim assistance under this legislation. Let us wait and see. I apparently have much greater faith in my fellow Australians than has the Leader of the Opposition. I believe it is correct to say that people with a taxable income of £20 a week are probably the main depositors in savings banks and the main supporters of the building society movement. Honorable senators opposite talk about people not being able to save and so being unable to take advantage of the benefits of this bill. My reply to them is that they are really out of touch with the young Australia and modern Australian life. When one thinks of all the young people of from 18 to perhaps 25 years of age who own their own cars, all the young Australian lasses who work their way around the world, and all those others who are able to take expensive holidays, it is obvious that these people are great savers. They all have saving bank accounts and this legislation will be a further inducement to them to put their money to one side. Basically, Australians are home-loving people and they will put their money to one side and take a greater interest in the building society movement as a result of this legislation. It will induce them to save for their future homes.
The Leader of the Opposition said that this legislation will have growing pains for the next 50 years. Any growing pains that the scheme may have will be mainly due to its retrospective provisions. Let us get the next two or three years over and the complications in the legislation will pass. Honorable senators opposite complain that the legislation has come forward late in the session instead of early in the session. What difference does that make, when the measure is retrospective to 2nd December last - the date upon which we were elected? It is a much more extensive scheme than we promised in our policy speech. What does it matter whether it is a month, a forthnight or a week later in being introduced than might have been expected? It is a retrospective and much more generous scheme than was promised.
The Leader of the Opposition, in his despair and inability to criticize the principles involved in the bill, even talked about a referendum to obtain constitutional power to control interest rates. What in the name of heaven has that to do with the problem now before the Senate? Then he complained about the wide discretion given to the secretary of the Department of Housing. Both he and I are former Ministers for Social Services, and the discretions contained in this bill are based on practical experience of the Social Services Act. The Leader of the Opposition finished up with quite a poetic touch about applicants going home to pray that their applications would be successful. He said they would not know whether they would be successful or not because of the conplexities of the measure. In reply to that I say that if we are to talk about praying, I think 40,000 young Australian couples who will get the benefit of this legislation each year will be offering up a short prayer of thanks for assistance at such a critical time in their lives.
The question was raised as to whether the grant could be regarded as a tax-free allowance. It is tax-free in accordance with the general principles of the income tax law. This is not income that has been earned. This is a gift and is in the same category as a gift from a father to a son, which is not taxable, or a capital win in a lottery, which is not taxable. This is a grant that can be received by a person only once in a lifetime. It cannot assume any of the characteristics of income. It does not fall into a taxable group. I think I have answered, to the best of my capacity, most of the points that were raised by Opposition members.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Interpretation).
– Clause 4 is a very lengthy interpretation clause. An understanding of it is essential to an understanding of the subsequent clauses of the bill. 1 want to raise a number of matters on it. I do not propose to move an amendment and I will try to cover each of the matters as briefly as I can.
The first definition relates to “ approved interest “ in relation to land or to a dwelling house of a kind commonly known as a flat or a home unit. An estate in fee simple would be such an approved interest. In paragraph (b) it is provided that an approved interest means -
An interest as purchaser of an estate in fee simple from the Crown in right of a Stale where payment of the purchase price is to be made by instalments over a period of years;
There is no objection to that. But my question to the Minister is this: Why is every other vendor excluded? If there is an agreement between the purchaser and a private vendor to run over a term of years and, if you like, providing for the payment of an acceptable deposit or percentage of deposit, why should not such a contract made between two individuals be an approved interest for the purposes of this bill? If the Minister will refer to paragraph (e) he will find that even a lease not only from the Crown but also from the owner of any estate in fee simple is an approved interest. Why is not an agreement on terms over a period with a private individual provided for in the list of approved interests?
– Did you look at paragraph (e)?
– Yes, I point to that.
– That includes the owner of an estate in fee simple.
– No, that is a lease. Paragraph (e) provides that an approved interest is a lease for a term of years from the Crown in right of the Commonwealth or a State or from the owner of an estate in fee simple. I point out that the Government is prepared to treat a lease - not a contract to buy a place but merely to lease it - as an approved interest. I would think that a very much better form of title would be held if there were a proper contract to purchase an estate in fee simple. The interests of the purchaser can be protected by registration of the agreement or by the lodging of a caveat. It seems to be remarkable that only an agreement on terms over a period of years is acceptable under the bill and that any contract made between two private individuals or a private individual and a company is excluded as an approved interest under the bill. If it is not covered, I think the Minister would concede that it ought to be covered.
Let us take the items one by one. Let us take an estate in fee simple. That is a clear title in the name of the purchaser. I have pointed out that paragraph (b) provides that an approved interest is an interest as purchaser of an estate in fee simple from the Crown. I ask why this should not extend also to a purchase from any other person. The most common transaction between people is to have a contract to purchase over a term of years. All the department ought to be concerned about is that the person has a reasonable equity and that his equitable interest is protected by one of the many forms of registration, caveat and that type of procedure, that is open to him. It does seem extraordinary to me that any agreement between a person under 36 years and an individual or a company is out but a lease either from a State government or from any other person is approved. Quite frankly, I cannot see where any provision is made for the contract I have mentioned. It does seem to me that the Government ought to give very serious consideration to this, because a vast number of transactions will fall into this category. In my personal experience, I know this to be so. It is a routine transaction. Friends make a deal between themselves.
I realize the difficulty that the Minister faces when questions such as this are thrown to him across the table. Perhaps he would be satisfied to hear me run through the points I have to make on this clause, if time permits, and take some little time to be advised. Does the Minister clearly understand the point I am putting? I think an approved interest should clearly include an agreement for sale between a vendor and an ordinary person and that the approved transaction should not be confined to an agreement between the purchaser and a government instrumentality. It seems to me to be a most common category of transaction.
[11.28]. - I would like to put the point of view that I have in my notes. The definition of approved interest sets out the types of land tenure that will be acceptable for the purposes of the scheme. The approved forms are an estate in fee simple, a freehold title. I do not have the right of interpretation, but I would think that a freehold title or title in fee simple would include a property which was being purchased by instalments. Then we go on to a freehold title being bought from the Crown by the payment of instalments, a life interest in an estate, a lease in perpetuity from the Crown and a lease for a term of years from the Crown or from the owner of freehold land. They are the classifications.
– T appreciate what the Minister said. If I may put what he has said in other terms, he relies on the provision “ an estate in fee simple “ in clause 4 (1 .) (a). I do not want to go into the legalities with him as to what would be an equitable interest in relation to a contract of sale. When the Minister expresses the provision baldly as “ an estate in fee simple “, it conveys to my mind an estate where there is a clear title. In a contract of sale the estate in fee simple has not passed. 1 suggest to the Minister that he ask his advisers to consider seriously whether there should not be a specific heading to cover agreement for sale.
On that answer that the Minister has given one could argue that there is no need at all for paragraph (b) which provides for-
An interest as purchaser of an estate in fee simple from the Crown in right of a Slate where payment of the purchase price is to be made by instalments over a period of years.
If paragraph (ja) includes every kind of estate relating to fee simple, why do you need to provide specifically for an agreement between the purchaser and the Crown? On the argument that the Minister has addressed to me, that would be included under paragraph (a). There would be no need for paragraph (b) if the argument which the Minister has addressed to me is correct.
I do not want to labour the matter any further. My purpose in raising these matters is to direct attention to the things that, as it were, hit my mind. They are matters which I think need consideration and on which I want information.
I refer now to paragraph (c) -
An estate for life approved by the Secretary for the purposes of this Act.
I should like to know what criteria are likely to be adopted by the secretary in determining approval. Will he need an actuarial valuation based on the life of the person concerned? Will a medical examination be necessary? I ask also the third and obvious question: Will the applicant have to bear the cost to establish his title?
I bracket with those questions an allied question in relation to paragraph (e) which provides -
A lease for a term of years from the Crown in Tight of the Commonwealth or a State or from the owner of an estate in fee simple if the Secretary is satisfied that the term, covenants and conditions of the lease give reasonable security of tenure to the lessee for a substantial period.
We are now dealing with a lease for a term of years from the Crown or from any person on an estate in fee simple. Is the Minister in a position to tell the committee what is regarded by the department as a reasonable security of tenure? Would five years, ten years or fifteen years be reasonable? What is meant by a substantial period? ls it one year or ten years? I point out the extreme vagueness of these terms, and the fact that the committee cannot have any real appreciation of what is intended.
I turn then to the definition of savings bank. The definition states that a savings bank means -
There are five names of banks set out in Part II. of the First Schedule. I was under the impression that they were inclusive and covered them all. but I notice that paragraph (0 reads -
Any other bank determined by the Secretary, by notice published in the Gazette, to be a savings bank for the purposes of this Act.
I wonder why that provision is necessary. What type of bank is it anticipated will come into the firmament? Is this provision inserted in case other trading banks establish new savings banks? I would think that under the Banking Act, if that were done, the bank would be deemed to be included in the schedule of savings banks under the act.
I ask the same question in relation to the definition of trading bank. Again, the. definition provides the same list of banks.
– I desire to raise a few points in relation to clause 4, but before doing so I am anxious, as Senator McKenna is, to know What is meant by a substantial period. In clause 24 (4.) the value of a property includes the value of the house plus the approved interest in the land. Does the value alter in accordance with the meaning of the word “ substantial “ if there is a change?
– May I ask to which paragraph of clause 4 you are referring?
– Senator McKenna made reference to clause 4 (I.)(e) and asked about the meaning of the word “ substantial “. I, too, should like some information on the point. The expression “ approved interest “ in clause 20 (4.) has an important meaning when the value of the property is assessed on the value of the building plus an approved interest in the land. Does the land have a different value according to the interpretation that is placed on the word “ substantia] “? 1 should like the Minister also to take into consideration the representations 1 made in relation to the position in South Australia in relation to the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. I understand that a certain proviso is made under that agreement. 1 apologize for my inability to place a legal interpretation on any document. I would like the Minister to tell me exactly what the words “ prescribed date “ in clause 4 of the bill mean. I do not want him to rely on the fact that the definition has been prepared by a Commonwealth legal officer because if every piece of legislation prepared by a Commonwealth legal officer were perfect the Commonwealth would never lose a case in the courts, and we all know that it does sometimes lose cases. The fact that the definition was prepared by a legal officer does not necessarily mean that it will be interpreted as the Parliamentary Draftsman intended it should be interpreted. The relevant part of clause 4 reads -
. “ the prescribed date “, in relation to an eligible person, means -
It appears to me that the person need not enter into a contract. The eligible person is the one to whom the money is given, but his or her spouse may enter into the contract. The couple may separate a week after entering into the contract. Sub-clause (2.) of clause 4 reads -
A reference in this Act, in relation to any time, to the spouse of an eligible person shall be read as a reference to a person who was a spouse of the eligible person at the date of application by the eligible person for a grant under this Act . . .
Wherever the word “ spouse “ appears throughout the bill it refers to some one who was a spouse at the time of the application. I think this could lead to trouble subsequently because the grant could be given in respect of a home that is not purchased for the purpose of accommodating a couple who ar.e legally man and wife. The husband and wife may have been living together when the application was made, but may have separated subsequently. Sub-clause (6.) of clause 4 reads -
For the purposes of this Act, a person shall be deemed not to have received a grant under this Act if the person or his or her spouse has paid to the Commonwealth, or the Commonwealth has recovered from the person or his or her spouse, an amount equal to the amount of the grant in pursuance of sub-section (2.) of section twenty-four or section twenty-eight, or of an order under subsection (2.) of section twenty-six, of this Act.
If the couple obtain a loan and repay it they are deemed not to have a loan and they may apply for a loan on a future occasion. Why is the Commonwealth concerned to have this loan repaid direct by the person or his or her spouse? Surely the Commonwealth would be satisfied if the parent of the person concerned repaid the money in order to help-
Chairman, I find it impossible to follow the proceedings if honorable senators insist on skipping from one page of the bill to another. We must deal with the bill page by page. It is difficult also, owing to the bad acoustics of the chamber, to hear the honorable senator. Could we deal with the bill page by page?
– 1 rise to order! Is an honorable senator entitled to interrupt another honorable senator while he is speaking?
– The Minister certainly may interrupt.
– I disagree with that.
– I call Senator Sir William Spooner.
– It is not right to interrupt another honorable senator while he is speaking.
– I would like to hear Senator Cavanagh.
– 1 will do my best to co-operate. With all due respect to Senator O’ Byrne, I do not take exception to what has happened. If the Minister is unable to give me a full answer to all of the matters I have raised, I will bring them to his attention later.
Senator BISHOP (South Australia) [1 1.47J. - Perhaps the matters that I intend to raise will be answered when we are dealing with other clauses but 1 raise them now because they are similar to the matters raised by Senator Cavanagh. I would like to refer to the South Australian Housing Trust. I propose to make some remarks about the definition of Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement moneys, but if this is a matter that is belter dealt with under clause 20 I will reserve my rights. I refer to the way in which money received by the South Australian Housing Trust is channelled to two projects. The first is the building of rental-purchase homes on very small deposits in relation to which moneys from the Commonwealth are used exclusively. The second relates to certain moneys being channelled from the State loan fund to the South Australian Housing Trust for the building of purchase homes. When the bill was introduced it was thought that purchasers of homes built by the trust would not be eligible” for the grant. Perhaps the Minister can tell me what is the position now; or perhaps he would rather wait until we are dealing with clause 20, in which case I will reserve by right to speak again.
Senator Sir WILLIAM SPOONER (New South Wales - Vice-President of the Executive Council and Minister for National Development) [11.49]. - I can answer Senator Bishop at this stage because the circumstance’s to which he has referred are well in my mind. Whether the matters he has raised may be dealt with more appropriately under a later clause does not matter. The essence of the definition is whether moneys that are being used are moneys that are provided under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. A house that is built by a State instrumentality with money provided under the agreement is not eligible for the subsidy because money provided under the agreement has already been subsidized by means of the interest rate charged on it which, at present, is about 31 per cent, per annum. If, on the other hand, a State instrumentality is building houses with money provided by the State, which it may have raised on semi-governmental terms, that is not a use of moneys that have already been once subsidized by the Commonwealth. Purchase of the resultant houses will become eligible for subsidy.
– I press this matter because I understand that the South Australian Government has made representations to the Commonwealth Government on the question. There has been a clear statement as to the position of South Australian Housing Trust homes. Those under the rental purchase plan, on a low deposit of £50, which are provided from moneys subscribed entirely by the Commonwealth, are excluded. The purchasers of such homes will be excluded from qualification for subsidy but the purchasers of 2,500 homes built for purchase normally from loan moneys provided by the South Australian Government will be eligible to receive the subsidy. This has not been placed on record either in the other place or in this place, although questions have been asked. I have directed the attention of Senator Sir William Spooner to a statement on the matter by Mr. Cartledge, chairman of the South Australian Housing Trust.
If representations have been made to Cabinet or to the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury), and if there is a clear line on the question of moneys provided by the South Australian Housing Trust, I submit that a statement to this effect should be included in “Hansard” so that anybody may read what has been decided. On 7th May, 1964, the following statement, attributed to Mr. Cartledge, appeared in the Adelaide “ News “: -
South Australian Housing Trust homes offered for sale are not excluded from the Federal Government’s housing subsidy. All homes built by the trust under its house sales schemes qualified for the subsidy, with the exception of those sold under the £50 deposit scheme.
According to the report, Mr. Cartledge went on to say - ( . This is a great victory for South Australia . . This has been brought about by strong representations to the Prime Minister by the Premier, Sir Thomas Playford.
In another place the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Birrell) raised the l question. He has also seen the Minister for Housing privately. But there is no record of this clear definition, except in the South Australian press. From looking at the balance sheet of the South Australian Housing Trust, I am satisfied that finance is channelled in the way that I have mentioned and that purchasers of these homes will be entitled to the subsidy. May we have a clear statement of the position from the Minister?
– I should like to express some thoughts on other provisions of clause 4, so that the Minister may have an opportunity to consider them at leisure and perhaps deal with them tomorrow. I merely want to make some comments. Sub-clause (3.) of clause 4 provides -
A reference in this Act to money saved by a person docs not include a reference to moneys borrowed by the person.
I suggest the addition of the words “ and which have not been repaid “. It is conceivable that a young couple may borrow money to pay to a building society and then, leaving those moneys there, identifiable possibly as borrowed moneys, pay off the loan by instalments.
– Is there not a prohibition in the bill against borrowing money?
– Yes. I am dealwilh the interpretation clause. In relation to sub-clause (4.), I seek an expression of opinion on the meaning of the term “ temporary absence from Australia.” Subclause (5.)(a) provides - . . a person who has, . . . during a period when he was an Australian citizen, saved moneys by depositing those moneys, and maintaining them on deposit, with a branch of a savings bank or of a trading bank in a Territory of the Commonwealth not forming part of the Commonwealth shall be deemed to have saved those moneys in Australia during that period . . .
It occurs to me that the provision, as expressed, requires not only the deposit of moneys but also the maintaining of the moneys on deposit at all times. It does not permit of withdrawal. I invite consideration of the suggestion that after the word “ deposit “ the words “ at the prescribed date “ be added. I suggest that that may be necessary to give elasticity to the account. It is provided for elsewhere, but the provision is put on a very fixed base in this sub-clause.
.- In relation to clause 4 (1.) (b), I want to support a point that has been raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna). I do not see why an approved interest should be limited to an interest as purchaser of an estate in fee simple from the Crown in right of a State. The sub-clause seems to me to contemplate a case of purchase by instalments over a period of years, in other words, purchase on terms. I cannot see, any more than the Leader of the Opposition could see, why it is necessary to limit the application of the sub-clause to purchase from the Crown in right of a State. Rather, it would seem to me that the case would be well made by leaving out the words “ from the Crown in right of a State “. 1 think that what I am putting is consistent with what Leader of the Opposition put. There is no warrant for limiting the definition in the way suggested in the sub-clause.
I refer next to the definition of “ share “. It is defined only by excluding a particular element. The definition reads - “ Share 55, in relation to the capital of a building society, docs not include a share in the capital of that society that is quoted for sale or purchase on a Stock Exchange.
I should like to know what “ share “ does include, and what is the reason for the exclusion.
I suggest that the language of the draftsman in sub-clause (2.) of clause 4 is slightly cumbersome and that the reference to “ the spouse of the eligible person “ is not entirely clear. I submit that the case would be met simply by stating that the spouse was the spouse of the eligible person at the date of the application.
Thursday, 2lst May 1964.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Henty) read a first time.
– 1 move -
Thai the bill be now read a second time.
I have just tabled the Tariff Board report on nitrogenous fertilizers in which the board has recommended an increase in the rate of bounty on sulphate of ammonia from £2 to £4 a ton and that the increased bounty should operate for three years. The Government has adopted the board’s recommendation for the increase in the rate of bounty to £4 per ton, but considers that the new rate should operate only until 31st March, 1966. The bill now before the House is designed to put this proposal into effect. The bill also provides that the bounty may be terminated by proclamation at an earlier date, but not before 1st April, 1965. However, such action would only be taken by the Government should circumstances in the industry warrant it. The question will, in any case, be reconsidered by the Tariff Board and the Government before the expiration of the extended bounty. The bounty is payable to Australian producers on domestic sales of sulphate of ammonia for use in Australia as a fertilizer, as under the present act. The increased rate of bounty is to operate on sales as from 2 1st May. Based on present production of just over 100,000 tons per annum, the cost of the measure is estimated at between £400,000 and £450,000 a year. The bill prescribes an annual limitation on bounty of £450,000 in a full year. The 10 per cent, profit limitation prescribed in the present act will continue.
The industry representations which led to the Tariff Board report were on the basis that increased assistance was needed because prices of imported sulphate of ammonia fell soon after the last inquiry. Imports have, in fact, increased considerably and the industry claims that it has been forced to reduce i:s prices by £2 10s. per ton because of import competition. In making its report, the board was conscious that a duty on imports of sulphate of ammonia would adversely affect the costs of primary products competing on world markets and therefore considered that an increased bounty was the most appropriate form of assistance. Approximately £3,000,000 is invested in Australia in the sulphate of ammonia industry which gives employment to about 400 people. The manufacturers are: Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited, Risdon, Tasmania; Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. Port Kembla and Newcastle; Australian Gas Light Company Limited, Sydney; and, in a relatively small way, Australian Fertilizers Limited, Port Kembla. In the manufacture of sulphate of ammonia all companies, except the last named, use industrial byproducts which otherwise would be wasted.
I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator 0’Byrne adjourned.
The following bills were returned from the House of Representatives without amendment: -
Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies Bill 1964.
Petroleum Search Subsidy Bill 1964.
Motion (by Senator Sir William Spooner) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn i ill this day, at 10.30 a.m.
Senate adjourned at 12.6 a.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 May 1964, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1964/19640520_senate_25_s25/>.