25th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Minister for Civil Aviation aware that the Senate would be greatly assisted in its deliberations during the debate on the estimates for the Department of Civil Aviation if the annual report of Trans-Australia Airlines were available at that time? Is he aware also that, in the past, the report has not been available when the Department’s estimates have been discussed? If he is aware of this, what steps has he taken to ensure that the report will be available on this occasion?
– After the honorable senator raised this matter last year I immediately contacted T.A.A. and I have been in contact with the airline on at least two or three occasions since then seeking to have the report available for honorable senators before discussion of the estimates for the Department of Civil Aviation this year. I understand that the report is almost ready but has yet to go before the AuditorGeneral. That is the present position. I hope that the Senate will have the report before the Estimates debate, but I cannot give any guarantee on that because I have been unable to get any undertaking about it. I have pushed this matter assiduously in the hope that honorable senators will be able to read and digest the report before the debate commences.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation give the Senate any further details on the cracks which were detected some months ago in the Boeing 727 jet airliners which are operating in Australia?
– Yes. Because I felt that this would be of interest to honorable senators I sought some information from the Department. I have been informed that the cracks which were discovered are of a stress corrosion type. These can develop in metal used in the construction of most modern airliners. They usually occur, as in this case, in a direction which is not critical from a strength point of view unless they are allowed to progress unchecked. I emphasise that in this case there is no . safety problem involved. The defects were discovered in one of the 727’s several months ago during a routine maintenance inspection. I think this speaks very highly for the efficiency of the maintenance and inspection system which is used - by Australian airlines under the supervision of the Department of Civil Aviation.
Further inspections at the time showed that three of the four 727’s had these stress corrosion cracks. As I said in my report covering the period to 30th June, which I tabled in the Senate yesterday, the cracks were immediately repaired and daily inspections were carried out as a further precautionary measure. The situation now. is that two of the aircraft have been permanently repaired and the other is to be permanently repaired. In the meantime, the third aircraft has had quite satisfactory temporary repairs carried out with the agreement of my Department and the aircraft manufacturer, Boeing.
I understand that regular inspections of the area concerned are still being carried out, but no longer on a daily basis because of the corrective action that has been taken. This is a normal and very sensible maintenance precaution. In fact, as most honorable senators will know, a great many systems and components of every airline aircraft are inspected at regular intervals. I can assure honorable senators that the problem is well under control and that the aircraft fully meet all safety standards. If they did not they would not be flying. I think I should emphasise that defects of this sort occur in any type of structure orvehicle. We should be very satisfied that we have such a vigilant and competent technical aviation industry in Australia. I think this technical competence and vigilance has played a very significant part in helping the Australian airline industry to achieve and maintain its excellent safety record.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister in Charge of Commonwealth Activities in Education and Research. Previously I have asked questions, regarding the nationally important investigations into desalination processes. 1 now ask the Minister: Is he able to say whether the talks with the manufacturers referred to in the very interesting report of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation for 1964-65 have yet produced a decision on the commercial production of solar distillation equipment on which experimental work by the C.S.I.R.O. has aroused so much interest?
– I do not know of any arrangements wilh a firm of manufacturers to produce this distillation equipment under licence or royalty or something of that kind, but I shall find out whether there are any and let the honorable senator know.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Customs and Excise, refers to the recent drug smuggling which has occurred in Australian ports. I ask: Have shipping companies any liabilities in regard to smuggling?
– As the honorable senator has indicated, there have been some quite extraordinary activities in relation to the seizure of narcotics on ships at first entry into Australia. Two weeks ago I was able to make on successive days announcements about the hauls that had been made on the ship “ Straat Lombok “. Had the sessional period continued without a break I would have been able to make a further announcement about an additional haul on the same ship in Melbourne on 6th September. As to the specific question asked by the honorable senator, there is in the Customs Act a provision in relation to penalties whereby responsibility and liability in certain circumstances are placed upon the owner of a ship or ships. This, of course, is a legal matter. The question has legal implications, but the general answer is that there is provision in the Act.
– I wish to direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I noticed recently a statement attributed to the Treasurer to the effect that an overseas shipping line, as a possession of this nation, was overdue. I ask: Was the Minister’s statement preceded by any assessment of the cost of an overseas shipping line to the nation, first, in its construction. and, secondly, in its operation? I also ask whether we are to take that statement as implying a decision by the Government either to investigate the possibility of such a shipping line or to establish one.
– The question is of such importance, I think, that it should be directed to the Treasurer himself. If the honorable senator will place it on the notice paper I shall get an answer for him from the Treasurer. It may take two or three weeks, because the Treasurer is going overseas, but there is no hurry about it.
Senator KEEFFE__ I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Territories. When a political party was established in Papua and New Guinea recently, a statement was made in the local House of Assembly by a European elected member that five persons elected to the provisional executive of the new party were of unsavoury character. I understand that this was subsequently denied by the Minister. However, in view of the fact that the denial did not receive the same Press coverage as did the accusation, will the Minister consider the immediate release of a Press statement clearing all members of the provisional executive of the new party of the apparently unfounded charges directed against them? A further Press report indicated that security police were in attendance at the inaugural meeting of the new party. Is it the intention of the Minister and the Administration to have security police in attendance at all future meetings of the party, or will the party be allowed to conduct its own affairs in a free and democratic manner?
– In reply to the last part of the honorable senator’s question, I say that no security police are directed by the Government or the Administration to attend the meetings to which he referred. In connection with the first part of the question, all that I can do is to bring the honorable senator’s comments to the notice of the responsible Minister and to see whether he feels that he can issue a statement along the lines requested by tha honorable senator.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation tell the Senate the lengths of the runways at Kennedy International Airport in New York, in order that this may serve as a guide to those who are concerned about the proposed lengths of the runways at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport and at the proposed airport at Tullamarine in Victoria?
– As far as I am aware, the longest fully instrumented runway at the Kennedy International Airport in New York is 8,400 feet, which is about 100 feet shorter than the proposed extension to the north-south runway at Sydney (KingsfordSmith) Airport. 1 should think that winter weather conditions at Kennedy International Airport would be far worse than those that are ever experienced at the very fine port of Sydney.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs ascertain from departmental officers the latest reports on the whereabouts of Ahmed Ben Bella, the former ruler of Algeria?
– I do not know whether or not 1 can obtain that information. 1 do not know whether or not the departmental officers know; but I shall ask them.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Is Australia at war, declared or undeclared? If so, with whom?
– I think that the only answer that I can give to the honorable senator is that armed conflict is taking place in various places. Whether the Australians engaged in that armed conflict are legally at war or not, I do not know, but I do know that if they are fatally hit they are legally dead.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Housing a question. In view of the grave alarm that has been widely expressed throughout Australia at the decline of home building, can the Minister advise whether any action is contemplated by the Government to force banks and other legitimate lending authorities to invest a just proportion of their deposits in home building?
– I think the recent record rate of home building in Australia is a credit to all concerned. There has been a great deal of investment in the home building programme and while at present a little tendency towards consolidation is being shown, I believe that because of the demand for homes in Australia the home building industry will always be a field for investment and progress.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Are delays occurring in telephone installations due to the nonavailability of equipment from other countries? If so, could not such technical equipment be manufactured in Australia, thus obviating the delay in installations?
– As the honorable senator’s question is technical and the answer requires detailed information from the Postmaster-General, I ask that it be put on the notice paper.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration: Is he aware of discontent among the migrants who recently arrived in Australia on board the “ Australis “? Will he inform the Senate whether inspections are made before vessels are booked for the conveying of migrants to Australia? In view of the high cost of the obligation assumed by the Government to transport migrants to Australia, will he assure the Senate that when old vessels are reconditioned for this purpose in future the ordinary standards of comfort and safety will be complied with before a voyage is begun?
– I commend to the honorable senator the statement which the Minister for Immigration made in relation to this incident. However, as the question goes beyond the ambit of the Minister’s statement I suggest that it be placed on the notice paper. I recall that the Minister pointed out that there had been teething troubles on the “ Australis “; that this was its maiden voyage as a migrant ship and certain difficulties had arisen. That, of course, is not peculiar to the “Australis”. It has happened before and will no doubt happen again, but as there are other matters implicit in the question I ask that it be placed on the notice paper.
(Question No. 510.)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question -
(Question No. 512.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
In the light of a statement appearing on page 21 of the report of the New South Wales Fauna Protection Panel that negotiations were in progress between that body and the Commonwealth Film Unit for the latter to produce a short film on wildlife conservation, can the Minister advise whether this film production is under way?
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answer -
Yes. The Commonwealth Film Unit is producing, as one of a series of films being televised under the title “ Australia Today “, a half-hour film on fauna protection. In the preparation of the film, the Unit sought and is receiving the co-operation of many interested bodies including the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the New South Wales Fauna Protection Panel. Production of this film is well advanced.
(Question No. 514.)
asked the Minister re presenting the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions -
(Question No. 517.)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Army has provided the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions -
(Question No. 518.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answers - 1, 2 and 3. A total of 5,635 young men was medically examined for consideration for call-up in the first Army intake of national servicemen during the week beginning 28th June 1965. Of that number 29 per cent, were classified at the initial examination as not fit for service duties and 17 per cent, were deferred for further consideration.
The standards of fitness required for national servicemen are the same as’ those required of volunteers for the Regular Army and are necessarily high, because the men are required to perform two years’ full-time service in the permanent forces in Australia, and overseas if required. The first group examined was by no means fully representative of all young men who registered; for example, it did not include any of those granted deferment of call-up as members of the Citizen Military Forces or as students and apprentices. My Department has already begun a study of the data revealed by the medical examinations and is consulting with the Department of Health regarding a more detailed examination of the implications of the data.
(Question No. 533.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Army has provided the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions - 1, 2, 3 and 4. So that a correct assessment of the expenses incurred by servicemen in Vietnam could be made, each member of a sample group in each unit there was asked to record his daily expenses over a given period. In addition each unit was required to complete a prices questionnaire from buying sources. This questionnaire was adapted, from standard form, to cover the possible patterns of expenditure of soldiers serving in the areas concerned. It contained no reference at all to dinner jackets, but it did call for costs of meals obtained from any hotels, restaurants or cafes frequented by servicemen and requested inclusion of specimen menus and wine lists if possible. The form as adapted was completely appropriate. For any subsequent reviews, forms will be adapted or developed to suit the particular circumstances.
(Question No. 539.)
asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Supply, upon notice -
– The Acting Minister for Supply has provided the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions -
The stoppages referred to in the reply to Question 3 have resulted in the loss of man-hours, as follows: -
At the Commonwealth Aircraft Corpora tion-About 56,000.
(Question No. 540.)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions-
– On 25th August Senator Cavanagh asked me the following question -
My question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General relates to the question asked by Senator O’Byrne. In view of the interference with television reception by families living on main highways, will the Minister consider introducing legislation similar to the legislation in the United Kingdom which makes compulsory the fitting of suppressors on motor vehicles which cause this interference?
The Postmaster-General has now supplied me with the following information -
The number of complaints of interference to television reception due to ignition systems of motor vehicles has been quite small - for example, for the year 1964-65 of a total of some 11,493 complaints of television interference received by the Post Office, only 47 related to motor car and miscellaneous ignition systems. The number of complaints lodged may not be a true indication of the extent of this type of interference but it is not thought that such interference is of an extent which would justify any general legislative requirement for suppression of vehicle ignition systems. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board has co-operated from time to time with motor vehicle manufacturers with a view to keeping such interference in check and the matter will continue to receive attention.
– On 25th August, Senator Breen asked me the following question -
Has the attention of the Postmaster-General been directed to a London newspaper report of 20th August to the effect that there has been an alteration of the times for showing crime stories and westerns on television, the Independent Television Authority having decided that such programmes at peak hour viewing on British commercial television should be reduced to three a week because it is desired that there should be more high quality programmes at this hour of family viewing? Will the Postmaster-General consider taking similar action in Australia? It would accord with the recommendation contained in paragraph 151 (3) ofthe report of the Senate Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television.
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply -
I am aware of the newspaper report to which the honorable senator refers.I would prefer to see an authoritative statement from the Authority before making any comment. However, as far as the Australian position is concerned, the programme standards determined by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board contain adequate provisions for suitable programmes during the family and children’s viewing period which is defined as from 5.00 p.m. to 7.30 p.m. The recommendation of the Senate Committee in paragraph 151 (3) of its report was that family viewing time, as defined in the Board’s standards, should be extended by half an hour. This is rather different from the reported action of the Independent Television Authority. As I have stated previously, the recommendations of the Senate Committee arc under consideration and the particular recommendation to which the honorable senator refers will be examined.
– by leave - Mr. President, last night Senator O’Byrne asked me a question about pilot fatigue which was mentioned in the annual report of the Department of Civil Aviation. I advised him that if I had any further information I would make it available today. I now advise him that the report in question has been made available to all the parties directly involved, as I said it had, and will be discussed in detail with them. However, this is only a preliminary report and it will be supplemented by further investigation. When a final report is prepared it will be published and at that stage I shall be quite happy to table it in the Parliament.
I present the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works relating to the following proposed work -
Ground preparation for instrument landing system at Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport.
I ask for leave to make a statement in connection with the report.
– There being no objection, leave is granted;
– The summary of the Committee’s recommendations and conclusions is as follows -
Debate resumed from 25th August (vide page 120), on motion by Senator Gorton -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill, which originates in the Senate, is a minor Bill relating to a most important institution, the Australian Universities Commission. The Bill seeks to amend the existing Australian Universities Commission Act. At present, the Commission has a full time chairman and six part time members. The Bill proposes to increase the number of part time members from six to eight and to bring about consequential changes in the quorum of members necessary to ‘ constitute a meeting of the Commission.
Since the last amendment of the Act in 1962, there has been a great expansion in the number of universities and of students. We now have 13 universities, 2 university colleges and 83,000 students. The reasons advanced by the Government for this Bill are that the expansion involves more detailed work, more travelling and more time from the part time members, all of whom have other responsibilities. The increase in numbers will enable special committees to make inquiries and will permit a better rationalisation of the work of the Commission.
This raises the question: What is the work of the Commission? The function of the Commission is to furnish information and advice to the Minister in connection with grants by the Commonwealth of financial assistance to universities established by the Commonwealth, or to the States in relation to their universities. Included in the advice is information on what assistance is necessary, how much should be given, in what manner it should be given and what conditions should be imposed. The functions of the Commission do not include the furnishing of advice on matters upon which the Commonwealth Office of Education is required, under the Education Act, to advise the Minister. The Commission is required by section 14 of the Australian Universities Commission Act to perform its functions with a view to promoting the balanced development of universities so that their resources can be used to the greatest possible advantage of Australia. It is also required, in carrying out its functions, to consult with universities and the States concerned.
These are very important functions in this time of educational crisis. Examples of the importance of the work of the Commission are to be found in the famous Martin report on the pattern and future development of tertiary education in Australia, and the two reports on the teaching costs of medical hospitals. It should be remembered that these reports were made to the Australian Universities Commission to assist it in its function of advising the Minister and of course, through the Minister, this Parliament on how assistance should be granted to the universities and to the States in the field of tertiary education.
Australia faces great problems in tertiary education. There is a world wide shortage of university staff. This is likely to continue and it will create difficulties for Australian universities. Many classes are too large. Academic staffs have done their best to meet these difficulties. We have had to suffer quotas and we, along with the Australian Universities Commission, would like to see an end to all quotas in universities. They mean a wastage of human talent, and any such wastage is a tragedy- Many persons will live in frustration because of their inability to gain the education they desire. Australia needs more post graduate students, not only to provide those who will contribute directly to our science, culture and commerce, but also to provide the staff for universities in the next decades. The Commission has given great service in a period of high rate of growth in Australian universities. It has given advice so as to achieve the balanced development which is envisaged by the Bill. The Opposition accepts the reasons advanced by the Government for the amendment. We support the Bill.
Senator LAUGHT (South Australia) [3.46J. - I rise to support the Bill and to welcome the attitude taken by the Opposition in supporting it. I listened with great interest to Senator Murphy. He has quite accurately put to the Senate the reason for the increase in the number of part time members of the Australian Universities Commission. 1 would like to join him in paying a tribute to the work done by the Commission over the years. It should be borne in mind that Sir Keith Murray was called upon by the Commonwealth Government in the middle of the last decade to come to Australia and make a report on universities. The Murray report has formed the basis for all the thinking on universities of this Government and this Parliament since about 1956. I would like to mention one or two details of the report of the Australian Universities- Commission that was rendered to the Parliament in October 1960.
The. Commission was appointed in 1959 as a result of the report of Sir Keith Murray. It busily got to work. It visited all the universities in Australia and had a look at the residential colleges. In its report to the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) on 28th October 1960, it acknowledged the generous co-operation of all universities, residential colleges, State Governments and Commonwealth departments and instrumentalities. The Commission also acknowledged that it was particularly grateful for the advice it had received from the Commonwealth Office of Education. So the Australian Universities Commission got off, as it were, on the right foot. It received great co-operation from the existing State universities. The first report covered a triennial period. The second report was delivered on 27th August 1963 and it is of great current importance to us. I would like to mention one or two significant matters contained in it.
The Australian Universities Commission gave great attention to electronic data processing facilities as an important component of research. It saw to it that the universities that were to be granted the facilities were to be properly educated to take this special responsibility, in regard not only to meeting the needs of scientific research but also to training students in the use of computers. I mention that to illustrate how the Commission has kept up to date in its inquiries. Another matter dealt with in the report made in 1963 was the need to meet the increasing demands of students for residential accommodation. The Commission encouraged the . Government and those responsible for the running of the universities throughout Australia to provide increased residential accommodation for students. The goal is that by 1966 16 per cent, of the full time students will be in residence.
As Senator’ Murphy quite rightly highlighted; the Martin Report, which was received by the Senate a few months ago, is the result of the work of a sub-committee of the Commission. Sir Leslie Martin, Chairman of the Commission was also Chairman of the sub-committee which brought forward the report which bears his name. These matters illustrate that the Commission has kept up to date with very modern developments in connection with Australian tertiary education. I compliment it on doing this. I have the’ honour to represent this Senate on the Council of the Australian National University. As a member of that Council, I am as it were on the receiving end of the administration of the. Commission. I think I can properly inform the Senate that the questionnaire sent out by the Commission to the Australian National University is one of the most inquisitive and interrogative documents that I have ever seen. It takes the University Council and its officers many weeks of very close work to answer the inquiries - rightful inquiries - of the Commission. I pay tribute to the detailed investigation made by members of the Commission. It is quite right that they should be entitled to increase the number of part time members from six to eight, in view of the work involved in the inquiries by the Martin Committee and the sub-committee on the requirements of teaching hospitals, and in the two triennium reports to which I have referred. It is quite fair and proper that this Parliament should sanction the increase of part time members from six to eight.
It is of great national importance that the whole question of tertiary education should be adequately provided for. The Prime Minister, as head of the department responsible for the granting of moneys to Australian universities, was most prudent in causing a commission of such a high standard as the Australian Universities Commission to be brought into function and in ensuring that only the best men drawn from the academic, commercial, primary production and professional spheres of the nation should form the Commission. I therefore pay this tribute to the work done by the Commission. I support - entirely and without reservation - the Bill before the Senate and wish the Commission well in its sphere of activity.
– It is an established principle in properly democratic countries that, as far as possible, universities shall be free from government control, or. supervision. It is, therefore, only natural that a Bill of this nature, which involves a certain amount of governmental examination, regulation or supervision of universities should be closely scrutinised. I have looked at the objectives of the original legislation and it appears that the committees referred to have, as their duties, merely to advise the Minister on matters of financial assistance and to promote the balanced development of our universities. The amount of supervision involved, therefore, is only what would, be normally expected, so the Bill can. be approved and I and my colleague will vote for it.
I want to sound one note of warning. Some recent events in connection with our universities have created in the community a feeling of profound uneasiness which, unless the universities are careful to arrest what appears to be a trend, could lead to demands for a greater degree of supervision or governmental interference than is provided for in this Bill: If I might quote an analogy, the trade unions in this country have always’ been ‘ jealous of any interference by the Government and the Australian Labour Party has always opposed any such interference. But when, before 1949, certain trade union officials misused their powers and- the unions were not themselves prepared to take action, the Chifley Labour Government took action and, as the result, we have the legislation for clean ballots in trade unions and the legislation against victimisation of trade unionists.
I hope that very careful regard will be paid to the fact that there is, among a section of the community, a feeling that there is now being imposed a kind of political test for appointment to or advancement in certain faculties in our universities. I do not want to stress these cases to too great a degree, but I think we had a conspicuous example within recent months. When a gentleman was nominated for appointment to a certain position by the committee of the faculty concerned at Sydney University, an organised campaign was undertaken by two academics not connected with the faculty where this man was to teach. The campaign succeeded in depriving him of the position. Not being associated with a university, it is not for me to pronounce upon the rights or wrongs of what was done, although I have my own strong opinions in that regard. I will rely on the view of Sir John Eccles, an Australian Rhodes Scholar and an Australian Nobel Prize Winner who, at a meeting in Sydney, said that in his opinion the discrimination exercised on political grounds in that particular universitycould only be described as revolting.
The universities, of course, take the stand that they are entitled to academic freedom. But they are not entitled by academic freedom to commit gross injustices. Some years ago my colleague, Senator Gair, was so impressed by a similar case in Queensland, that he put forward a proposal for an appeal board - something which I would have expected to be regarded as normal Labour policy. We believe that a person who is considered for and is entitled to a position but is unjustly deprived of it, should have the right of appeal to a board. My colleague’s view was not accepted. If there are to be cases of this nature, there must be a demand by the community for the right of appeal for people who consider that they have been unfairly treated.
I stress that it is my hope that Government supervision of universities will not be increased and that we will confine ourselves to the type of assistance provided for in this legislation. However, on the plea of academic freedom, universities cannot ignore occasions where it appears obvious that a gross injustice has been done. The remedy is in their hands. If the universities take action to ensure that the sole ground on which a person shall” be appointed to a position is his fitness for that position, and that political tests of the character imposed in the Sydney case will not be imposed, they will be putting their house in order and obviating the necessity for anybody else to interfere. But if people are to be dealt with unjustly, academic freedom will not be able to stay the demand of fair-minded people in the community that there should be some form of appeal board.
– in reply - I wish to express my satisfaction to the Senate that this Bill has received the approbation of all sides or, at least, has not drawn any objections from any quarter of the Senate.
I do not think any points were raised during the debate to which I need reply or upon which I need to comment, other than, perhaps, to make it perfectly clear - as we should all be perfectly clear - that the function of the Australian Universities Commission in this field is not to make decisions. It does not make decisions. Its function is merely to give advice to the Government. The Government makes decisions which it puts to Parliament for its approval. The advice tendered by the Australian Universities Commission has been of the utmost value and the Government has usually, but not always, followed it. It should be clear that the final responsibility for what is granted financially to universities lies with the Parliament and with the Executive responsible to this Parliament, acting upon the expert advice presented to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 25th August (vide page 122), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Senator CAVANAGH (South Australia) [4.5J. - The purpose of the Bill before the Senate is to authorise the payment by the Commonwealth to the States of £51 million under the Housing Agreement Act 1961, as this year’s allocation for housing. New South Wales is to receive £17,750,000, Victoria £13,650,000, Queensland £3,300,000, South Australia £9,500,000, Western Australia £3,600,000 and Tasmania £3,200,000. The total amount to be advanced is £350,000 less than was granted to the States last year for housing. I think that this decrease needs consideration.
In his second reading speech the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge), said that £51 million is the amount agreed to by the State Premiers. He also stated that following the usual procedure the advances will be repayable over 53 years at an interest rate of 1 per cent, per annum below the long term bond rate. Of the amount advanced to each State, at least 30 per cent, must be allocated to what is called the “ Home Builders’ Account “. Five per cent, of the advance, or such other amount as is requested, must be made available to build accommodation for service personnel, should the Federal Government so desire.
The Opposition usually moves an amendment or amendments to this type of housing legislation when it comes before the Senate. On this occasion it is not the intention of the Opposition to move an amendment, but to support the Bill in its entirety so that it may be given as quick a passage as is possible. However, the Opposition is concerned that this year’s advances total £350,000 less than those of last year, at a time when the housing position throughout Australia has not improved. The annual reports of the State housing authorities show that between 70,000 and 80,000 applications for homes are outstanding. This figure does not seem to decrease. In trying to hasten the passage of the Bill, the Opposition is taking cognisance of the fact that these are the last advances under the existing agreement and that a new agreement will have to be drawn up before June of next year. The Opposition is also mindful of the fact that the amounts to be allocated are those requested by the State Premiers. This raises the question of whether the Commonwealth has done all it could in the field of housing simply by meeting the requests of the State Premiers,
without taking into consideration what amount would be necessary to provide the facilities associated with the building of homes.
Many States are handicapped today - this is particularly true of South Australia - because of their inability to provide the facilities necessary for -homes. I refer to roads, sewerage, lighting and water reticulation. While the Opposition does not oppose this Bill, we make a strong plea to the Government for a complete inquiry into the housing needs of the community before a new agreement is drawn up. When the Loan (Housing) Bill 1963 was before Parliament, the Opposition moved an amendment seeking an inquiry into housing. The Government refused to accept the amendment, with the result that today we must debate the Bill without having the information that a full inquiry would have given us. It is expected that there will be reference to the housing situation in the Vernon committee’s report on the Australian economy. However, we are forced to discuss this measure without the benefit of having that report before us. Most discussions upon our housing requirements seem to follow what has been said from time to time by Dr. Hall of the Australian National University. But, as has been pointed out in this House, Dr. Hall has considered only the demands that will be made for housing from time to time but not our housing needs. As I have stated, the State housing authorities have reported that more than 70,000 applicants are waiting for homes. Most politicians receive requests from time to time from people who ask whether they can obtain more advantageous treatment for them in the allocation of homes for either rental or purchase.
– As has just been stated, there is a waiting period of up to four years. It is obvious that we are not meeting the housing requirements of the Australian population. We have a responsibility to meet these requirements.
I have said that it is of no use making money available for housing unless we make funds available for the facilities that accompany the provision of housing. The reason that is advanced now for the shortage of houses is not a lack of finance for houses or lor other facilities but a shortage of labour. For some reason that I do not know, part of the second reading speech that was delivered in another place was omitted from the second reading speech that was delivered in this chamber by Senator Paltridge. It is very important that we should consider it. The Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) included this passage in his second reading speech in another place -
Developments in the housing situation in Australia were recently examined at a conference of Commonwealth and State housing officers. They found that the industry was relatively fully occupied in all States, and that available labour, especially the growing requirements of labour for non-residential building, rather than a scarcity of effective demand was, in general, the main factor limiting the further expansion of home building.
So it will be observed that the availability of labour is one of the factors that is limiting expansion in this field. The Minister said further -
In the coming months many of those wishing to build houses and flats may find that they are competing increasingly for the available labour wilh those wishing to build shops, factories and offices and, in a few areas, with defence building.
The officers also made a close examination of the housing needs of those on the lower incomes, and especially of the persons whose needs are greatest. The information obtained from this conference will be of very great benefit to me and, 1 believe, to the State Ministers for Housing when we meet. . . .
Two points emerge from the Minister’s speech. First, the amount that has been requested by the States is approximately £350,000 less than was made available in 1964-65. The reason advanced is that this is a result of the demand for available labour for the erection of industrial buildings and so forth. Honorable senators will recall that during my speech on the Budget I made the point that industry had to move forward, even if it meant sacrifice on the part of deserving members of the community. Now we find that there is to be a reduction of home building funds so that industrial expansion may take place. This matter calls for some consideration, especially when we think of the hardships that are inflicted upon many families because of the shortage of housing.
The Minister pointed out that Commonwealth and State housing officers had made a close examination of the housing needs of persons on lower incomes. While the information obtained will be of benefit to the Commonwealth and State Ministers concerned, unfortunately it has not been made available to honorable senators. That information could have assisted us in our discussion of this subject.
I do not doubt that during this debate we shall hear about what this Government has done in the housing field as compared to what was done by the Labour Government some considerable time ago. I have always maintained that such comparisons are not just. I remind the Senate that the Agreement we are discussing today originated with the Chifley Government in 1945. The Agreement was entered into to enable the Commonwealth to enter the housing field. In accordance wilh the policy of the Chifley Labour Government, it was designed to provide for a more equal distribution of wealth to permit the provision of a subsidy for those who could not afford to build their own homes. The original Agreement provided for a reduction of 1 per cent, in the rate of interest chargeable on funds that were to be made available for rental homes. It was not designed to make funds available for the construction of homes for sale. Because the legislation provided that the States should be reimbursed for any losses incurred in implementing the Federal Government’s policy of providing homes at rentals which were based on a percentage of the occupant’s wages, at that time it was possible for pensioners to obtain new homes for as little as 8s. a week. I repeat that the grant was made for the express purpose of providing housing for people who could not afford to house themselves. The legislation before us provides that at least 30 per cent, of the amount advanced to each State must be allocated for the purchase of homes and that up to 5 per cent, must be used for the construction of dwellings for serving members of the Forces.
An examination of the Commonwealth “Year Book” reveals that in 1945-46 a sum of £6,795,000 was made available for housing purposes. A total of 4,047 dwellings were completed at a cost of £.1,679 each. That figure may not indicate the real cost of a house at that time, because we do not know the kind of dwelling that was provided. In 1962-63 a total of 17,070 houses were completed, the approximate cost of each dwelling being £2,927; or very close to £3,000. Again, the average cost of an ordinary home may be affected by the fact that many of the dwellings erected were rental homes or pensioners’ flats. In 1962- 63 the Commonwealth’s allocation provided for 22.52 per cent, of the total of 75,796 homes that were constructed. In 1958-59, the relevant figure was 18 per cent. It will be seen that the Commonwealth’s allocation sets the target for the construction of homes for sale in each State.
About a month ago I made representations to the South Australian Housing Trust on behalf of a family that had submitted an application some time previously for a Housing Trust home. The reply received from the Housing Trust revealed that for rental homes there was a waiting period of from four to five years but that it could arrange the availability of a home for purchase within a much shorter period. Possibly people who have the necessary money would not have to wait a long time to get a home. In South Australia spec homes are being built which could be obtained quite easily if one had the necessary money. We are defeating the whole purpose of this legislation. No provision is being made in the various States for those people who cannot afford to buy a home. The man on whose behalf I approached the Trust did nol have the deposit to buy a house and could not afford repayments. A man on a low income with a wife and children to keep is not. in a position to purchase a home.
Some States, including South Australia, have tried to meet the needs of such people by providing for second mortgages with the funds made available to them. Under this arrangement, a man can buy a home on £50 deposit. If a man on a small income has not saved money before a family arrives, it is impossible for him to raise £50. But if a man raises £50 for a deposit, he then has to repay two mortgages in addition to meeting rates and taxes and the maintenance of the dwelling. Many commit themselves to the purchase of a home under these conditions when the family is small and they are able to meet commitments. But as the family grows and wages fail to keep pace with expenses, the buyer finds himself struggling to meet repayments so that he can retain possession of the property. After he has met these commitments and paid rates and taxes, there is nothing left for maintenance. The property is neglected and deteriorates with consequent loss of value. Money lent by the Commonwealth Government to the States is being used in this system.
We on the Opposition side have criticised the Commonwealth Government in the past for its housing programme. I do not intend to enter into such criticism on this occasion but I appeal for planning in accordance with future housing requirements. I would like to see the 1966 agreement based on findings from a full inquiry into the housing needs df the Australian people. We should know who will require homes and whether they want to buy or rent them so that we can provide for the requirements of the various sections of the community. It is not our job simply to hand to the States an allocation of funds so that the number of homes will be increased. We should go further than basic requirements and providing for those who can buy houses. We should also provide for those who cannot afford to buy and those who want to rent homes.
On the evidence, there should be an increase in home construction. It is essential, therefore, that we ascertain whether we have the labour force necessary to build the homes we require. In his second reading speech the Minister indicated that the allocation to the Premiers had been restricted because much of the labour available would be used on construction other than homes. If there is to be an expansion of home construction, there must be an expansion of the labour force also. There has been no assessment of the labour requirements of the building industry since the Chifley Labour Government made a survey in connection with post-war rehabilitation and inaugurated a scheme to train labour to meet the future requirements revealed by the survey. If we assess future requirements now, we must set in motion some plan for training a labour force.
The building industry requires thorough training of tradesmen through an apprenticeship system, but statistics for the various States show that there has been a reduction each year in the number of apprentices learning the trade. I was a union official in South Australia for some years and I found the problem was not so much lack of youths seeking training as lack of facilities to train them. Competition in construction of housing has led to the wide adoption of the subcontract system. At one time a builder relied for continuity of contracts on his reputation as a master builder. Now the builders look for continuity of work on the basis of prices. They do not employ day labour and therefore they cannot employ apprentices. The sub-contractor who employs day labour cannot employ apprentices because he has no guarantee of continuity of work. His contract is from one job to another. Therefore fewer employees are able to train apprentices in the building trade. This is one of the faults of the present system and is depriving the community of the trained labour force required for construction of homes.
The sub-contract system has other weaknesses also. Sub-contractors engage in cutthroat competition hoping that they will come out on the right side but statistics show an increase in the number of bankruptcies. Suppliers of building materials have revolted against the inability of subcontractors to meet their bills. Some countries have taken action to solve this problem. Model legislation has been enacted in California where there is a system of registration for contractors and subcontractors. This prevents persons without finance, business acumen or trade qualifications from entering the industry when obviously their efforts would be doomed to failure with a consequent adverse reaction on the public. Standards are set and must be maintained if the persons registered are to retain their registration. I suggest that the Commonwealth Government should investigate these matters. If something is not done along these lines, it will be useless making grants for housing to the States. The labour force will be inadequate and we can expect more bankruptcies among subcontractors and suppliers of building materials.
T want to comment on one other matter. Under section 96 of the Constitution, we have power to stipulate the conditions under which grants are made to the States. We can also set the conditions under which homes are built and purchased. We are not insisting on the standard of home to be built at this particular stage. I do not know the position in other States but in South Australia, where I live, while homes constructed under the supervision of the State Bank and the War Service Homes Division are a reasonable job, the homes available to the worker which are constructed by the South Australian Housing Trust are a disgrace. The present method of the construction of the homes and the results achieved in construction under that authority are a disgrace.
I have received complaints from all sections of the community who have purchased such homes. At Tonsley Park there is a whole street in which the Trust has been patching up houses which people have purchased. Now, wilh the threat of prosecution for recovery, it has granted another home to a particular occupier at the price paid for the original home. 1 heard of a case last week concerning the faulty construction of brick veneer homes. The timber is twisting and the walls are leaving the ceiling as a result of foundations being laid below the crown level of the road. There is no method of getting water away from the area. This Trust was an organisation established under the Playford Government to construct homes. It was established as election propaganda so that that Government could say that homes had been erected more cheaply in South Australia than in the eastern States. There was some success while the Trust was building homes from Adelaide to Port Adelaide in areas where there were 12 ft. deposits of clay and where it was possible to construct on top of the ground. But other homes erected by the Trust have not been built on solid foundations in the way homes are built by other constructing authorities. Today the Trust is building on areas which were formerly dairy farms, market gardens and other kinds of farms and it is building on top of the ground, without seeking a solid foundation, for the sake of cheapness. This is being done for the purpose of competing with other States. As a result, the Trust or someone must pay the penalty. When the maintenance cost of homes became too high for the Trust to meet, it adopted the system of placing responsibility for the maintenance of homes bought on a deposit of £50 on the purchaser or occupier at that particular time. Many people are today left with a home which is a disgrace and a source of constant expense in order to keep it in repair. There is no guarantee that the home will last for even the life of the present occupier.
I think that if the Commonwealth is to give money to the States it should stipulate building standards. I know that the position in South Australia is well known to the Labour Government there, and, even though this is an early stage of its history, I know that it will rectify the position. The questions of whether or not homes in South Australia compare with those in Victoria and whether or not a government shall be returned, are not as important as the requirements of the public for good solid homes and the housing of our population. I think that this Government, when lending money for homes, should insist on certain standards. I request that an inquiry be held which, amongst other things, would consider construction requirements, the ability of the occupier to pay, the man-power situation - which also affects the type of construction - and the standards that have to be complied with when spending the money which this Government allocates for homes from time to time. Although all the requirements of good building construction are not being met, in view of the fact that this will be the last grant made under the existing agreement and as the amount provided meets the requirements of the Premiers, the Opposition will support the passage of the legislation without further comment.
– Mr. Acting Deputy President, I rise to support the Loan (Housing) Bill which is now before us. I noticed with interest the comments made by Senator Cavanagh who has led the debate from the Opposition’s angle. I noted also, with satisfaction, that the Opposition has no intention of opposing this Bill. The Bill is designed to grant approval for the borrowing of £51 million which is to be advanced by the Commonwealth to the States for housing. I think that Senator Cavanagh, at the beginning of his speech, deplored the amount of money being made available by the Commonwealth to the States and stated that the amount this year was £350,000 less than the amount granted in the previous year.
– At whose request was it reduced?
– I was about to refer to the procedure in relation to Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement whereby the Loan Council meets prior to the bringing down of the Budget. The Loan Council decides the amount of borrowing that will be incurred in the ensuing year. The States, among themselves, once this agreement is reached, arrive at the amounts they are prepared to spend for housing out of the total loan funds allocated.
– That is admitted.
– That is right. Despite the fact that the total Loan Council borrowings are estimated at some £295 million for this financial year as against £247.5 million for the previous financial year, this allocation for housing will be £350,000 less than the States received in the previous year because the States requested that the amount be reduced. It is for the States to decide the amount of money they require for housing. It is then granted to them provided that the Loan Council agrees to allow the States and the Commonwealth to borrow the total sum required.
It. is interesting to note the recent proportions of total loan funds which the States have elected to take as housing advances. The figures have moved as follows: In 1961-62, housing advances were 20.4 per cent, of the total; in 1962-63 they were 19.1 per cent.; in 1963-64 they were 18.4 per cent.; in 1964-65 they were 17.7 per cent, and in 1965-66 they are 17.3 per cent. Honorable senators can see that the States, although getting more loan moneys each year, have decided to spend a lower percentage of the total amount received on homes as the years go by. Therefore I do not believe that this aspect is the real concern of the Commonwealth as far as this particular measure is concerned. Senator Cavanagh expressed regret at the delay of the Government in finding sufficient finance to alleviate the terrific housing shortage which he stated exists throughout the Commonwealth. Let me tell him that 116,000 or 117,000 new homes will be commenced this year.
Apart from the forms of financial assistance for housing covered by the Bill we are now discussing, the Government has taken particular interest in the activities of savings banks in the field of housing. Over the last two or three years it has increased by some 5 per cent, the amount that the savings banks shall make available by way of loans to home builders. The Bill also provides for a certain allocation to building societies. Under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, which was introduced some years ago by this Government, some 30 per cent, of the amounts advanced to each State must be allocated by the State to what is called the Home Builders’ Account from which advances are then made to building societies and other approved institutions which, in turn, make loans to persons wishing to buy or build a home. That is another step taken by this Government to encourage the building of homes. Statistics have proved that finance made available to building societies produces about 11 per cent, more homes than does finance made available to Stale housing authorities.
– Why is that?
– There are several reasons. The chief one is that loans made by building societies to home builders do not carry such a lengthy repayment period. They range up to 35 or 36 years whereas the repayment period of loans made by the State housing authorities ranges up to 53 years. Therefore, there is a quicker turn round of the funds allocated to building societies. If the State housing authorities decided to adopt the shorter repayment period, although repayment instalments would be a bit higher, many more homes would be built because the loans repaid to the Commonwealth by the States could be reallocated for further building programmes. The housing shortage would thus be reduced much more quickly than is the case at present.
– There would be higher deposits too.
– Yes. Building societies require higher deposits than do State housing authorities. Senator Cavanagh, as a member of the Labour Party, gave- credit to the Labour Government of the day for introducing the original Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement in 1945 which, he said, provided for the allocation of funds at a lower rate of interest. I query his claim. From the information I have, I understand that the 1945 agreement provided for an interest charge at a rate not exceeding the long term bond rate. When we became the Government in 1949, we amended the
Agreement that was to operate from 1956 to 1961 to provide a concessional rate of interest of up to 1 per cent, below the long term bond rate, such concession to open te for 53 years, which is the period allowed a home builder to repay a loan to the Slate housing authorities.
– But the rales of interest-^ -
– The interest rate of 3i per cent, meant a saving of about £1,720 on a loan of £4,000 which was approximately sufficient to finance the construction of one dwelling. I think Senator Toohey was about to mention the rates of interest that applied between 1945 and 1950. I have anticipated his question. If my figures are correct - 1 have nothing definite on this and I am speaking, off the cuff - the interest rate in 1945 was about 3i per cent, but it must be remembered that the war was still in progress in 1945, that there was control on capital issues, and that no-one could borrow , money except with the approval of. certain instrumentalities. This gave the Government of the day the opportunity to channel whatever funds it required into its own purse.
– But that does not prove Senator Cavanagh wrong.
– I am not saying that Senator Cavanagh is wrong, but I got the impression that he said that in 1949 the Commonwealth Government of the day loaned money to the States for housing and for other purposes at 1 per cent, less than the rate at which it was borrowed.
– That is not right. The Government gave the States a rebate on losses - subsidised rents.
– When the honorable senator reads the transcript of his speech I think he will find that I have quoted him correctly. However, if I have not I apologise. Today we make finance available to the States at 1 per cent, less than the long term bond rate. This enables people on lower incomes to take advantage of the finance made available to them through the State housing authorities to purchase a home at a relatively lower rate of interest than was available to them in 1945. We must remember, however, that borrowing ‘atea are higher now than they were in 1945.
The honorable senator said that nothing ls being done by the Commonwealth or the States to make finance available to those people in the lower income group who need a home. Let me tell him that in Western Australia - I cannot speak for other States - ‘the State Government, out of money it receives or raises, constructs homes and rents them at very low rentals to home seekers who have not sufficient finance to build their own homes. When fixing these rentals the State Government takes into consideration the weekly earnings of the home seeker. It pays no regard whatever to the value of the home. The amount of wages that he earns per week and the size of his family governs the rental that is charged by the State.
– What percentage does the Government take if he is on the basic wage?
– I cannot give the figures, but I know that this is the practice adopted by the State to help people in the lower income brackets. Senator Cavanagh also mentioned that there were many outstanding applications for homes. I want to try to correct the impression that he made. Although it might appear from the figures obtained from the Statistician that there is quite a number of applicants for homes, my information is that when the housing authorities check through their lists of applicants usually they find that a considerable proportion of them have obtained dwellings or tor some reason or other do not wish to continue with their applications.
The annual reports of the New South Wales and Victorian Housing Commissions for 1963-64 show that although a total of 25,1.10 new applications were received during the year, nearly 16,000, or more than half, were likely to be removed from the waiting list because the applicants failed to keep appointments or answer correspondence, because they were found to be ineligible, or for other reasons. This shows that although there are quite a number of applicants for homes, when the time comes for the applications to be considered, the applicants do not keep the appointments. Any one can apply for a home.
– The honorable senator said that names are removed from the waiting list because the applicants are in eligible. What are the grounds of ineligibility? Are they that the applicants have not a high enough points rating?
– The honorable senator can make a speech if he wishes. I am making my speech. 1 am trying to point out that this Government is doing more in the housing field than was ever thought of by the previous Government.
Honorable senators opposite say that the Labour Government introduced the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. I give it credit for that. But the Labour Government advanced the money at the flat bond rate of interest. It did not say: “ We will reduce it to 1 per cent.” Not only have we done a great deal, but also we have taken notice of the needs of the people. Today there is a record number of people employed in the building industry. I think there are 7,000 more people employed in building homes for people who need them in Australia than there were 12 months ago. We are building 1 16,000 homes a year at the present time.
Senator Cavanagh said that we are not taking notice of the needs of the people of Australia and we are . not making a survey of those needs. I have some information here that may enlighten him. In October 1961 Dr. A. R. Hall of the Australian National University produced .a document which was published by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia. It gives the following estimates of the trend in the demand for dwellings in Australia. Dr. Hall estimated that there should be 89,000 homes built in 1961 and 93,000 in 1964- 65. In a further paper that he produced in 1962 he revised his previous estimates. He increased his estimate for 1964- 65 from 93,000 to 106,000 homes, for 1965- 66 from 105,000 to 111,000 homes. In the present year we are to build 115,000 or 116,000 homes.
– That is still insufficient.
– The honorable senator can always say it is insufficient. I read only this morning in the Press that the Government has decided that blocks of land in Canberra have been bringing too much money at auction and that more blocks of land should be made available. It was interesting to read that one block was sold under the hammer yesterday for £16, and I think that 10s. was the highest bid for another block.
– And the bidder got it for 10s.
– Yes. This is how we are overcoming the problem of housing. One of the reasons given for this very low bid was that there were more houses in Canberra than were needed by the people.
– The honorable senator does not believe that.
– I have not said whether or not I believe it. That was the reason given by the Press. I do not believe that everything published by the Press is correct, but in this instance I understand that the number of houses available is greater than the needs of the people of Canberra, and that 3,000 or 4,000 homes can be bought quite cheaply in this area.
– The people cannot afford to buy them.
– Senator Cavanagh has put up the proposition that people in Australia today cannot afford to buy homes. There is a far higher standard of living for the work force in the whole of the community than was ever dreamed of by people living in Australia under the previous Government. Between 1945 and 1949 people were not nearly so well off as they are today. Various instances can be given. I believe that there is one motor car for every three people in Australia today. In 1948-49 I understand there was one for every eight or nine people. So the position has improved 300 per cent. The standard of the homes that we are building in Australia today is much higher than was the case prior to our coming into office.
– That is open to question.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wedgwood). - Order! Senator Cavanagh has made his speech.
– I want to make only one or two further comments and they do not relate to the previous Administration. Although we are happy with the number of homes that are being built, I am a little concerned because of the terrific increase in the number of flat dwellers and of people who are anxious to live in flats in prefer ence to houses. This is a trend that is apparent throughout the world. It was seen in Sweden. From 1945 onwards the Swedish people showed a distinct preference for flats and multi-unit home buildings. With a higher standard of living they got to the stage of wanting to get away from flats. With our wide open spaces, surely each family in Australia can have a separate single unit home. Multi-unit home buildings are probably cheaper, but I should like the Government to have a look at this matter. It is a fact that at present although the demand for houses is falling off a little the demand for flats is increasing rapidly. I do not think it is a good thing for the Government to promote a system under which a big percentage of our people would be flat dwellers. I like to drive through capital cities and look at the beautiful gardens that are looked after by people who own their homes. In Perth, my home capital, 98 per cent, of the people own their homes, and those people have beautiful gardens. This is acknowledged by most people who come to Perth. No doubt a similar situation exists in other capital cities. I hope that we do not encourage people to live in flats.
– Would the honorable senator stop them?
– I do not want to stop them, but I do not think that we should encourage them. We should encourage the building of single home units as against flats.
– If you got land values down, you might.
– I do not know the answer, but the Government may be able to do this. Recently I went to Brasilia. The idea of a capital city there was to have the whole of the population in multi-unit dwellings. I would not like to see the same conditions in Canberra. In conclusion, I congratulate the Government on the efforts that it has made in regard to housing. This is the last of the Loan (Housing) Bills to be introduced before the new agreement is reached. I believe that our people are housed as well as if not better than any other people in the world.
.- I should like to congratulate Senator Cavanagh on the very constructive speech that he made on the bill before the Senate.
Only a gentleman who had acquired considerable knowledge of the building industry and who was fully aware of all the problems associated with housing the people in the State of South Australia and in the Commonwealth would be able to make the speech which Senator Cavanagh made this afternoon.
There are certain things which, perhaps, should be said now so that we may see to what extent the Australian Labour Party is on common ground with the Government. It is admitted that housing is, firstly, a social problem and, secondly, an economic problem. We on this side of the chamber have always said that it is futile to strive for higher living standards unless the family unit is housed. If the family unit is not provided with a home, it is useless even to calculate living standards. I believe that we are on common ground with the Liberal Party in that respect. It may be just as well at this stage to read the housing policies of the two parties. The Liberal Party’s written policy reads -
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 wellbeing of society and in which every family is enabled to live in and preferably own a comfortable home.
That is more or less idealistic. It is a desire that we all endorse. Let me now read the policy of the Australian Labour Party -
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. We also say that there should be national credit to achieve the building of homes and the replacement of private mortgages on homes with mortgages granted by the Commonwealth.
I feel sure that Government supporters would find nothing in that with which to quarrel. Perhaps they would support it wholeheartedly. Now let us have a look at the Bill to see how far it goes towards achieving the objective of providing adequate housing for the people. Might I say at this stage that if the sum of £51 million is inadequate, the Commonwealth Government is absolved from blame because the sums of money nominated by the six States total £51 million; and it was only a simple duty for the Commonwealth Government to introduce this Bill to authorise the lending of the various amounts to the States so that they may, according to their policies, through the instrumentalities for building houses which they have established, expend the money in providing people with homes.
An amount of £51 million for housing does not sound very much, but if it is insufficient the Commonwealth Government is absolved from blame. Actually, the Commonwealth is not closely associated with the problem of providing housing for the people. The State Governments are more closely associated with it. The States have to do the operative work. The granting of loans to the States is only a simple matter. After the legislation is passed, the Treasury will credit the States with the sums which they have sought. It is quite simple up to this stage, but as we proceed to deal with the problem of housing the matter becomes more imvolved. The cost of houses and the means of home seekers to acquire them must be considered. The Commonwealth does not make housing funds available to the States in the form of grants. Nobody should be deluded in that regard. It is purely a business transaction and the States have to pay the Commonwealth a certain rate of interest. One cannot say that the Commonwealth acts magnanimously in making this money available to the States.
– It is made available from loan funds, is it not?
– It is not listed in the loan funds. It could be from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Having acquired the money, the States have to reticulate it according to their operative programmes. They have certain standards which have to be observed. The Government of Queensland sells houses on small deposits and must be given credit for that. But the people who really require assistance today are those on low incomes who are married and have families, and particularly those who have experienced unemployment or sickness. They are the people who require assistance from a government under any housing scheme. The Si per cent, which the borrowers have to pay to the Commonwealth or the States is a high rate of interest. I am fully conscious of the fact that the savings banks are doing a good job in making their funds available to home builders or those who wish to purchase homes. But it is good business from their point of view, because what better security is there than bricks and mortar or a wooden home which has been built with loan money made available by a savings bank or some other lending institution? lt has been pointed out during the debate that the Commonwealth Government makes certain stipulations, and ensures that they are followed meticulously. For instance, the three armed Services may require some of the States to provide homes for members of the forces. So the Commonwealth gets its pound of flesh from the States after the money has been made available. If members of the forces require homes we see no reason why some authority in the Commonwealth should not provide them. So we do not argue with that proposition. A certain percentage of the money allocated to the States has to be made available to building societies. In nearly every State three forms of building society - the permanent building societies, those that are terminable, and the Star-Bowkett societies - are operating. As has been explained this afternoon, some of the societies are more selective in choosing their clientele than others. They do not lend money to the battler in the community and they make loans available for shorter periods than do the State housing authorities and are thus able to show a better return.
The £51 million which is to be allocated between the States will have a good effect on important basic industries. I vividly recall the unemployment that existed in 1960 and 1961 and the gradual improvement in the situation at the end of 1962 and in 1963, due mainly to the money made available by the Commonwealth to the States for home building and other capital expenditure. There is no better way of relieving unemployment at any time than to give impetus to the building trade. In the case of timber houses it means that the hauliers, timber merchants, sawmillers, joinery factories, and furniture factories have full employment. There is full employment also in hardware factories and hardware shops. Transport operators become busy and the tilers, plumbers, carpenters, plasterers, bricklayers and painters are all given employment. The stimulation of homebuilding is one means which the Government can use at any time to maintain full employment. Of course there has to be a prospect of recovering the money which is laid out, but if the Govern ment can increase the number of homes under construction it can keep a large number of people constantly employed. Therefore, it is a good thing that the Government has available this means of providing employment in the building industry and in the business community.
The migration factor in the housing problem has, perhaps, not been sufficiently stressed this afternoon. Migrants are constantly coming into the Commonwealth - both married migrants and their children. Some of the children are of marriageable age, and they marry and seek homes. Migrants leaving migrant hostels seek homes of their own and all this adds to the demand for housing that exists in the community. As the intake of migrants remains constant the demand for houses to accommodate them is also constant. One balances the other and there is a constant demand for houses for this purpose, particularly in the southern States. This does not operate to the same extent in Queensland because, for some reason or other, migrants, particularly those from Europe and Great Britain, do not rush Queensland as a future home. That has never been satisfactorily explained to me. In Queensland the problem is to provide homes for local people who need them.
Another factor which makes a demand on the sums of money made available to the States for housing is that there are pockets of industry where housing is a necessity. One instance of that is in Gladstone, where a huge factory is being constructed to convert bauxite into alumina and where housing must be provided for the operatives to be employed there. Senator Cavanagh mentioned some large industrial undertakings in South Australia where special housing had to be provided for the employees. That sort of thing occurs in parts of New South Wales also, around Wollongong and other places. I have mentioned the position of Gladstone, and I well recall the housing need which arose at Mount Isa, immediately after World War II, when houses had to be constructed in hundreds. If those needs are met efficiently when they arise the houses built may remain for 70 or 80 years and the local housing problem is solved.
A question that we must ask ourselves is whether the States are doing their best for home seekers. Are the deposits sufficiently low to allow people to acquire homes? Are the terms under which the States sell houses satisfactory? On going into this question one finds that it is indeed difficult for a newly married couple to acquire a home. If we admit that housing is first of all a social problem and then look at the picture presented to us by a newly married couple, we must ask ourselves what hope has the husband, in his working life up to the time of his marriage, of saving a deposit of £1,000 or £2,000 for the purpose of acquiring a home? If he is sufficiently fortunate to save enough money to purchase a home, he is faced with the costs of furniture and furnishings. If he obtains financial help from hire purchase institutions he takes a load of debt upon his shoulders for 20 or 30 years. It is an inescapable debt.
– He could send his wife out to work.
– That is a feature of our society. His wife could become a wage earner and that would help, but we do not approve of that. We always say that it is a husband’s lawful responsibility to provide for his wife. We want to see ‘ a society where a housewife can remain at home or, if she goes out to employment, it is to satisfy her own wishes.
Periods of sickness must be faced. Not all honorable senators in this chamber enjoy good health. People employed in industry today do not all enjoy good health. Odd waves of unemployment seriously affect incomes. Provision has been made in a general way to meet that situation. Economic rentals were provided for in the first agreement and that provision has been maintained ever since. The first requirement of a home seeker is a block of land on which to have his home built. In Australia we cannot do what is done by the New Guinea natives. They build their homes over the sea but in Australia it is customary to build on the land. That is where problems arise for home seekers. The States have acquisition powers and I believe that they should acquire building sites. The State Governments should be the developers of land for home building purposes. It should not be left to companies to profit from such activities. A study of their field of operations would shock many honorable senators. I shall cite some of the charges which are capitalised and added to the cost of the land to be opened up for development. When honorable senators hear some of these things they will wonder how they ever acquired a block of land on which to build a home.
Interest is one charge that is capitalised. Public companies operate as land developers on a big scale. They are required to pay interest on unsecured notes and debentures they have issued. A proportion of that interest is allocated to the land which is to be developed. That is one cost that is added to the property and must be paid by prospective home buyers in order to acquire a building site. I come now to administrative charges. Land developing companies have high administrative costs. Their offices are usually located in expensive marble fronted buildings where rents are very high. Staffs are employed, including salesmen with motor cars. Entertainment bills must be met. A proportion of all these costs is added to the sale price of the building sites.
I have always opposed the idea that water and power reticulation should be the responsibility of land developers. To provide these services is the responsibility of the local authority in whose area the land is situated and should be accepted by that authority. Some local authorities, possessing a very meagre knowledge of economics, believe . they are doing a good job for the local people when they insist that the land developers construct roads and kerbing and water channels. Perhaps they are. They are saving the expenditure of their own funds in providing those services, but if they had .any knowledge of economics they would realise that the persons who buy the building sites have to meet a proportion of the cost of those services.
A local authority is established to act as a local authority, just as a government is expected to govern. It is not for a local authority to say to a land developer: “ If gas or power goes into the area, you will have to pay for it “. These are public utilities and the local authority should bear the costs so that struggling home seekers will not be saddled with a proportion of them.
– Is the honorable senator suggesting that the developers should not have to provide those facilities?
– I wish to make myself clear on this point. I say that it is the duty of the local authority. The developer should not be made to pay for the provision of those services and then be allowed to apportion the costs among those people who acquire the building sites. May I say that this is an unlawful practice in which local authorities are persisting. It is one reason why today instead of home sites costing £500, £600, £1,000 or £1,500, they are costing twice as much. A home seeker in Sydney today would be lucky to buy a building site at £2,000. In Brisbane prices of land are rising every week. Building sites which a few years ago could be acquired for a few hundred pounds are now sold for about £1,000. I have dwelt on this problem because it has to be overcome by the States through greater endeavours than the Commonwealth has shown.
– Not all States follow that practice.
– The States do not do it. lt is the local authorities. I suggest that the honorable senator approach the Minister of Local Government in South Australia. We probably administers the Act relating to local authorities and will be able to tell the honorable senator exactly what is being done. He will be surprised, because what I have said is being done in nearly all the capital cities of the Commonwealth. We should not bc deluded on that point. I suggest that the honorable senator divest himself of his glorious home - his mansion - and go on the street as a battler and say: “ I will build a house for myself. I will buy a block of land “. He will be surprised to find what he has to pay for it. I will stand up to any challenge on what I have said about land developers. Land may lie vacant for five or six years during which time rates may be paid by the developers. The rates accumulate and are capitalised and a proportion added to the sale price of the building sites. Accounting practice permits this up to a point, but not beyond the realm of reason.
I wish now to deal with some rising costs. I stress the fact that it is becoming more difficult for the average citizen to acquire a home. I recall that just prior to the last war a good wooden house in Brisbane could be acquired for about £750 or £800 and that a block of land cost £200 or £300.
– Would that be in a made street, with kerbing and water channelling?
– It would be in a suburb that was adjacent to the inner city. Today people want to get away from suburbs that are near the inner city. If people have motor cars, they are not too particular about how far they go out from the city. It is good to find that in our society today people are desirous of obtaining something better than people did in times gone by. Instead of living in smog affected inner city suburbs, people are moving out to areas where the air is fresher. That is good for their children.
However, we cannot overlook the pounds, shillings and pence aspect of the problem. Housing costs are increasing considerably and rapidly, and every week it is becoming more difficult for the average person :n the community to acquire a home. I propose to illustrate the increase in the cost of an average home. Somebody has mentioned the standard of some of the houses in South Australia. Is it not strange that, with all the standardisation authorities we have, a standard home has not been provided? No house in Australia is sub-standard, for the reason that no standard has ever been fixed in any State. In 1961 the cost of an average home was £3,336; in 1962 it was £3,415; in 1963 it rose to £3,596; in 1964 it rose to £3,807; and this year it will be £4,000. Perhaps we in this chamber are helpless to do much about that situation. Perhaps we could ask that money be made available by the Treasury from loan funds free of interest or on some other basis; but we may not be successful.
Before I resume my seat I want to refer to one activity in which the Commonwealth has interested itself - making available funds on a small scale for the purpose of constructing homes for aged persons. I obtained some statistics on this subject only last year. I learned that 1,003 grants had been made and that the total cost of the establishments constructed was £20.5 million.
– That is a very good record.
– It is good. I beseech the Government to continue that activity. The number of persons accommodated at that time was 17,943. If honorable senators opposite are proud of their achievement in this respect, let them bring my statistics up to date and let them assure me that the Government will continue its efforts in this direction.
– From year to year the Senate is called upon to debate legislation similar to the Loan (Housing) Bill 1965. This year’s debate is of greater significance than past debates and it calls for a considerable amount of sincere thought on the part of the Senate, because this is the last year of operation of the current five year Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Such agreements were first entered into in 1946. After this debate is concluded, the Government and its officers will be considering a new agreement. Because the Senate is a States House, what belter forum could there be in which to discuss an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States on the subject of housing? The social and economic importance of the Agreement outweighs many other matters that we are called upon to debate in this chamber. I shall try to present my views reasonably and fairly in the hope that from those views, and perhaps those of other honorable senators, something will emanate that will guide the Commonwealth Government and the State Governments in improving the current Agreement. We realise, of course, that the existing Agreement has been of great benefit to the Australian people. Since its inception, the Commonwealth and State housing legislation has provided for the erection of 183,631 homes for sale or for rental purposes.
We all agree that the first essential for a family man is a good job with good working conditions and fair pay. Of equal importance is a home in which he may live with his family. All of us when in our electorates daily come in contact with people whose housing conditions are shocking, or at least not good. On the other hand, we come in contact with people who have a nice suburban home in which to live but who, because of the high costs of their homes and the necessities for their homes, find that their pay packet provides only for those weekly costs and a certain amount for food and clothing. No-one can deny that in many cases the costs are prohibitive. Senator Benn referred to sites for homes. We must realise that in this country a new way of life, a higher standard of living, has been developed. That is not altogether the fault of governments or the period of inflation through which we have passed. Very many young people who are starting out in life place the acquisition of a television set, a refrigerator, a washing machine, wall to wall carpets, a radio and a car very high on their list of priorities. In some cases the purchase of a home takes second or third place in their consideration. We cannot alter that situation; it is not our responsibility.
Then, when a housing shortage occurs in any city or town, sharks who own homes charge exorbitant rents. Of course, on the other side of the picture, we know that the costs of upkeep and rates and taxes are so high that, unless a high rental is charged, the owner cannot earn the rate of 5 per cent, that I should say he is entitled to expect from his investment. We do not want to do anything by way of legislation ‘ or economic policy that would make it hard for decent landlords to continue to let homes to those who cannot afford or do not want to purchase a home. Our policy should be to provide homes of decent standard with good amenities at the most reasonable cost to those who want to buy them.
Senator Benn digressed about the normal amenities for new sub-divisions and whether they should be provided by the sub-divider or by the local government authority. I do not want to enter into an argument with him on this matter. Quite frankly, I do npt think local government authorities would want to take on such responsibilities. They find it difficult enough now to finance the capital expenditure they have to meet because of the paucity of loan funds available to them. The only other source pf revenue left to them is taxation.
We approach the new agreement with the knowledge that this year the Commonwealth Government will make £51 million available to the States in addition to £3 million to be spread among the States except Tasmania for service housing. This :s housing for members of the Australian armed forces and I shall refer to the exception of Tasmania later. Some of the conditions under which the money is to be made available to the States merit examination. I congratulate the Government on the provision in the agreement that the States must allot a certain - percentage of the housing loan funds to building societies. I firmly believe that this is a very good policy. The Government’s support and encouragement of the building societies is a good way to help to solve the housing problem.
In considering how much money it will make available for housing, the Commonwealth Government has to consider other great responsibilities it has in this connection. The facts should be made clear to those in this Parliament and outside who say the Commonwealth Government is not doing enough in the way of housing. Have these critics any sound basis for their criticism? Apart from the allotment of £54 million to which I have already referred, the Commonwealth Government will provide this year £35 million for war service homes. Since this Government was elected to office in 1949, 192,069 war service homes have been built for Australian exservicemen and women. The Commonwealth Government is also responsible for housing in the Australian Capital Territory and other Commonwealth Territories. I shall not weary the Senate with specific amounts but honorable senators know that many millions of pounds are spent by the Commonwealth Government each year to meet those responsibilities.
Senator Benn also spoke of the money that is to be made available for aged persons’ homes. The amount is relatively small compared with the large sums alloted to other fields of housing. There has been a new approach in the making of free grants to young people.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Mr. President, before the suspension of the sitting I was referring in this Debate on the Loan (Housing) Bill, which also concerns the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, to some of the facts showing the Government’s interest in and participation in the solution of Australia’s housing problem. I sum up the financial interest of the Commonwealth in this matter by reminding the Senate that last year the Government made available £115 million for housing under various headings in Australia. The
Government showed a further interest in the housing problem by widening the regulations governing the use of deposits held by savings banks, allowing a greater percentage of funds to be made available for housing loans: Another point - not so much a monetary point but a valuable one in relation to the housing problem and building generally - concerns the Commonwealth’s research in respect of housing materials and methods of construction. This is of great value to the industry in Australia.
The building industry is of vast importance to our economy. I understand the building work force comprises some 75,000 men. Of course there are many other men in all sorts of industries in Australia who earn their living because of the large number of homes built each year. The Commonwealth has a big responsibility in deciding how much money it will make available for housing. The Government has to consider the supply of building materials and many other aspects. It is essential for the nation’s welfare that there be a constantly developing building programme rather than a crash programme. It would be economically disastrous if the Government were to listen .to some of its critics and then say: “We will make another £100 million available for housing “. There would then be shortages of men and materials, prices would go even higher and as the boom ended there would be a very serious and harmful depression in the industry.
As I said earlier it is now that the Commonwealth and the States should be planning a new Commonwealth and State housing agreement. It is very difficult for Commonwealth and State governments, or even university professors, to assess the housing requirements in Australia from year to year. This afternoon Senator Scott pointed out how the various State housing authorities have had to re-examine what they thought would be their housing requirements because they could not take the number of applications received as being anywhere near the correct figure. People searching for a house will make applications through several agencies. Then, when they obtain a home from one agency, those people cancel the applications lodged with the others. So, there is no real way of getting even close to the mark when trying to assess the number of homes that Australia will need in the next two or three years. Changes of occupation and transfers also come into the matter at the last moment and often are the reason for the. cancellation of applications. One only has to read weekend metropolitan newspapers to see how many homes are offered for sale or to let. Those homes must reduce the number required to be built in Australia. I do not want any honorable senator to misquote me and say that I feel that there should be any reduction in the programme. I do not. I think that the building industry, particularly home building, should be gradually expanded. In this respect the Commonwealth can play a big part.
There is another problem confronting those people who have to assess our housing requirements. Suddenly the discovery of ore deposits or the starting up of a big manufacturing industry will call for a crash home building programme in a certain area. We in Tasmania at the moment are experiencing such a development on the west coast of that State because of the tin mining industry. At Zeehan and Renison Bell a large number of homes are needed. This will make quite an impact on the building industry in Tasmania, an impact that was not expected two years ago. Undoubtedly senators from all over Australia could quote similar examples of a sudden need for more houses. It is these factors which the Commonwealth and State Premiers and housing ministers must take into consideration.
I want to digress briefly in the few minutes at my disposal and refer to service housing - houses built by State authorities using Commonwealth loan funds in order to provide homes for service personnel. Last financial year 806 such homes were completed in Australia. If honorable, senators studied the history of this aspect of housing they would find that that is a fairly consistent figure. But, as a Tasmanian, I notice with regret that my State has not benefitted by one penny from this disbursal of Commonwealth funds since 1960-61. I remind the Government and the Ministers in charge of the various Departments that their outlook should be Australia wide. They should see that the impact of Commonwealth spending is spread reasonably throughout the country. During the Budget debate I made some mention of the facilities available in Tasmania which were used by the defence Services in time of war. 1 sincerely believe that the Government, when expending defence funds,, should consider the establishment in Tasmania of units of our three defence Services. The basic requirements are available in Tasmania and that such units were successful is written in the history of Australia.
Reverting again to housing, I believe that all service personnel and their families in Australia should be properly housed. Therefore, if my proposal for establishing some units of the defence Services in Tasmania during peace time were adopted, as would be done during time of war, then Tasmania could share in the prosperity that comes from the spending of Commonwealth funds to provide Service houses. Another aspect which I think the Ministers concerned should heed - and I am not claiming this as an original thought as it is one which I think both sides of the chamber support - is that State Governments should be persuaded to have a serious look at the need for rural houses and homes in small towns. We want to stop centralisation in the large cities of each State. I believe that the Commonwealth could use its influence and beam some of its interest in housing towards the rural areas. This would have an advantageous effect on production and would slow down the process of centralisation.
In due course Ministers and housing authority chiefs will come into conference to settle the new agreement. I hope there will be free, open and learned discussion on the subject, with the Commonwealth promising to do all that it can, making all the suggestions that it can, and advancing any new ideas that it has for improving the current Agreement. Although Commonwealth funds are being used for housing, I do not think that the Commonwealth should dictate to the States how the money should be spent. The State Premiers, the State housing Ministers and the State housing authorities have a greater realisation of State housing needs than has the Commonwealth. Therefore, when the renewal of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is being discussed I hope that diplomacy and commonsense will play the leading roles, with the generous Commonwealth continuing to implement its policy of providing homes for our people as soon as it can. I support the Bill.
– This Bill provides for the borrowing of £51 million which will be loaned to the States to assist them to build homes through the various State housing authorities. The amount is £350,000 less than last year’s allocation and, so far as my own State of South Australia is concerned, only about £500,000 more than the amount provided in 1961-62. It is true, as the Minister has said, that there has been some increase in the construction of homes generally. Including flats and home units, the number rose from 96,700 in 1963-64 to 112,500 last year. The Minister made the point, which we acknowledge, that the increase in the construction indicates that the accent is on building for the wealthier section of the community because the increase was largely in the field of flats and home units. The number of homes built increased by only 3,000 from 81,000 to 84,000.
Although the Minister has said that the situation has improved over the past year, we have learned from figures supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician that in very recent months there has been a decline in the building sector and an increase in the number of workers engaged in other sectors of the industry. In other words, there has been a slight increase in the construction of commercial and business premises, but we of the Opposition would like to see the increase taking place in the number of homes constructed.
The problems confronting the young people are still very much the same as they were. It is still very difficult for young people to obtain a home of their own despite the kind of palliatives which we have seen recently in the form of the home savings grant scheme and in the proposed Housing Loans Insurance Corporation which has not yet reached maturity. Although the proposal to set up the Corporation was adopted by the Parliament some time ago, the organisation has not yet commenced operations so the young people are not able yet to avoid second mortgages, with the accompanying very high interest charges. In any case, we have made the point on previous occasions when we have discussed the housing situation that the home savings grants and the proposed Corporation are serving merely as a means of meeting rising costs.
Let me turn now to the overall objectives of the Government. We believe that the Government should have conducted a general survey of housing requirements throughout Australia. We know that there has been some intention to do this. Eight or nine years ago Senator Sir William Spooner who was then Minister for National Development made a survey of this problem. However, when we take part in debates on this subject we have to rely upon figures supplied by outside specialist bodies. Only recently has it been possible to obtain satisfactory and useful information from the Commonwealth Statistician. Irrespective of whether the Senate accepts the figures which I shall cite later the fact remains, as certain Government speakers have stated already, that a completely satisfactory survey of our housing requirements has not been made despite the fact that we are passing through a period of economic growth and a period when we are attracting a large number of migrants to Australia. Although these migrants are adding a degree of skilled labour to the work force engaged in home construction, they are also adding to the number of people who require a home of their own.
We of the Opposition have always believed that at some stage the Commonwealth will have to stop considering this matter in a complacent way and will have to work in co-operation with the States to learn what additional factors must be included in the new Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Certain attainable objectives should be set which will meet the ordinary requirements particularly of young people who want a home and which will save them from the heavy mortgage burden that they now must bear when they set off on their domestic life. Not very much has been done in this regard. Every time we have asked for a survey to be made we have been told that a survey has not been necessary. It is apparent from the contributions which have been made to the debate that the Government does not intend to embark upon that kind of expedition.
We believe that housing is a very important matter. Some very fine words have been spoken about it. We know that a new agreement will be drawn up this year to operate from next year, so we believe that this is a very special occasion and a time when the subject should be canvassed. It is no use Government members saying that the Commonwealth has not the necessary power and that the Commonwealth’s policy is to work in a general way through the Reserve Bank and in close co-operation with the State housing authorities. I shall cite some figures later which will show that the amount being spent on housing by Government authorities generally is declining, as also is the amount being spent by the private sector in the community. We know that costs have risen. As recently as last month the Commonwealth Statistician told us that the average cost of a home increased during the year by £300. Each of us knows from personal experience, because we have to talk to young people about the home savings grant and about the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation, that it is very difficult now for young people to get finance to build a home even though the level of home construction is falling.
When the Government decided to set up the Corporation I was one of those who thought that this might be a way of attracting additional finance into home building. I believed that if the proposition was made attractive, if the approved lenders were known and if the branch agencies were established, many young people would be able to obtain sufficient money to enable them to avoid the necessity to take out a second mortgage at interest ranging from 10 per cent, to 12 per cent. Most of us know about this.
We do not oppose the Bill because we think that it is necessary. It has certainly provided the means, by way of reduced interest charges, for the State housing authorities to keep up with their commitments. Of course, some of the States have to provide a larger amount of money from their own funds. We believe that further assistance should be provided to the States. There should be a general survey of the housing position. The Parliament should have before it figures which clearly show the housing requirements of the Australian community. We ought to be able to estimate the cost of a house in each State and to ensure that standardisation methods are adopted by the Commonwealth and the States. In addition, we ought to be able to survey the type of work force which we will need to do the job in each State. It should be a co-operative effort.
The Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) made a Press statement on 27th July at the time of the Commonwealth and State housing officers’, conference. I think it is worth repeating. He said -
This week’s Officers’ Conference is designed to provide a forum for a frank exchange of ideas on possible ways of improving the housing of Australians. It is hoped that this Conference will produce some helpful new suggestions for consideration by Minister. At least it should provide all Housing Ministers with more information on the problems of our portfolios.
The main purpose of the Conference will be to have an up-to-date look at our housing needs, including those of families, elderly persons and newcomers to Australia. I think there is general agreement that we should do all we reasonably can to assist those wishing and able to purchase their own homes.
The Minister made that statement at a time when the State and Commonwealth housing officers were meeting to consider the overall problems of housing. But I suggest that there is an absence of such sentiments in his second reading speech. While we have been told that later a bill dealing with a new housing agreement will be introduced into the Parliament, we have not been told about the sort of objectives which I have mentioned. As a matter of fact, those honorable senators who have read the report of the debate in another place will have noticed that there was an endeavour by the Minister to avoid any reference to planning. The Minister referred to the general problems occasioned by inflation. He referred also to the restricted facilities which the Commonwealth possesses and the requirement that it has to work through the Reserve Bank of Australia and also, in co-operation with the State housing authorities.
What we want is a general plan. It is many years since we have had a housing survey. If we want to get a picture of this problem we have to refer to outside bodies. The Senate has not before it a picture of our requirements in housing. Australia is developing rapidly. We are struggling to increase exports. Our balance of payments position is not very good, but it might be rescued. We are attracting to Australia as speedily as possible large nunmbers of migrants. Of course, the Opposition agrees with this programme. It can add to the work force. But there is no overall plan. It is not good enough to say that the number of home building workers has declined because they are engaged on commercial buildings. If a priority was applied to employ them on home building the building rate could be further accelerated. The question arises of the approach that should be made in order to increase the work force and to evolve a plan, not only in relation to apprenticeship training, but also the adoption of new methods and, perhaps, greater mechanisation. These matters have to be considered.
The work force is a very important element in home building. It is probably as important as standardisation of methods to reduce costs. There is. a great wage disparity between the States. In my own State there have been interruptions in the building industry because the wage rates that applied there were less than those which obtained in other States. This is the sort of problem which could easily be overcome at a top level conference. If we had a discussion and reached agreement on wage levels, we could then move on to the questions of additional training, recruitment of special staff and the standardisation of methods, which the Opposition has advocated for so long.
I mentioned previously that the Commonwealth Statistician has said that the cost of the average home increased by £300 last year. I have here an article which appeared in the “Canberra Times” of 4th February this year’ regarding the increased cost of homes in Victoria. Under the heading “Average price rose £177 last year” it states -
The average cost of a home in Victoria went up by 4.3 per cent, or about £177 during 1964, thus eating a substantial portion of the £250 grant .for young home buyers. This is the figure put forward by the Housing Industry Research Committee. . . .
That is the body which, in a publication issued in March, suggested that the funds available for home finance had been greatly reduced. I think that all of us know that is the situation. We do not need to go into the figures.
I would like to refer to the White Paper entitled “ National Income and Expenditure 1964-65 “, which was issued with the
Budget Papers. It has this to say in relation to increasing costs in the building industry -
Analysis of building statistics for the first three quarters of the year and of other relevant data suggests that prices applicable to expenditure on dwellings and other buildings may have increased by nearly 4 per cent, in 1964-65 compared with just under 2- per cent, in 1963-64. Wage rates and average earnings,’ which affect various components of the constant price estimates, also increased more in 1964-65 than in 1963-64.
That is why the Opposition suggests there is a need for general appraisal of standardisation methods. We consider that the Government is standing away from the problem. It is not willing to embark upon a survey. It suggests that it does not possess the constitutional authority to do so, but I think we will find that its reluctance is due to economic reasons.
We hope that the Government will consider standardisation methods, which will save costs. I do not mean standardisation only in relation to structure and design. The States have done some work along these lines and have exchanged ideas. But there is a further need to consider the standardisation of components and materials. I refer to such things as fittings in houses, the sizes of rooms, the height of ceilings, the appliances that go to make up a home and the general siting of homes. There is a need for the Commonwealth to provide finance at cheaper rates of interest and to consider with the States the kind of programme I have mentioned.
These matters ought to be considered and reported upon. They could be the means of substantial savings. I mentioned earlier that there had been a reduction in finance in relation to total dwellings commenced. The answer to question No. 1104 in the other place shows various sources of finance and their relationship to the percentage of total dwellings commenced. The figures cover the five years period between 1959-60 and 1963-64. In the first year finance available from total government sources was responsible for 31.9 per cent, of the total dwellings commenced. The percentage dropped to 30.9 per cent, in 1963-64, after having risen to 39.5 per cent, in 1961-62 and 36.7 per cent, in 1962-63. This is a strange trend. The same trend is apparent in relation to funds available from private sources, which I should have thought would have increased.
Finance from total known private sources accounted for 60.8 per cent, of the total dwellings commenced in 1959-60, but the percentage dropped to 56.6 per cent, in 1963-64, having fallen in 1960-61 to 52.8 per cent, and risen in 1962-63 to 60 per cent. We know that 60,000 applications for homes remain unsatisfied. The demand has increased in all the States not only for rental homes but also for homes for purchase.
Let me refer now to the answer to question No. 1105 in the other place. I shall use only the figures relating to my own State but the same trend is evident elsewhere. In 1961-62 in South Australia applications for rental homes numbered 5,137. The number rose to 5,512 in 1962-63 and 6,119 in 1.963-64. In 1961-62 applications for homes for purchase numbered 3,024. In 1963-64 it was 3,665. In spite of this overall situation, there has been some increase, as the Minister observed, in the building of flats and home units. I suppose that this does not indicate other than a trend towards providing homes for people who can afford to pay much more than average wage and salary earners can afford, but the latter are the people about whom we ought to be very much concerned.
As I. mentioned earlier, the Government always explains its failure to meet the needs for survey, planning and standardisation by referring to constitutional difficulties. In view of the comments made in another place by the Minister, I am not sure that this is the real reason. Let me refer to an article in the “Financial Review” of 29th January 1965. I hope that this does not indicate the reason for complacency and absence of positive thinking on the part of the Government. The article appears under the heading “Housing Boom’s End?” It mentions that the boom is settling down and that there has been a decline in recent months, and then proceeds -
The moral of this examination of the housing industry, from the point of view of policy, is that the Government should continue its present policies on restraint of lending for housing, that it wait and see, before it takes further action to control the general level of activity of the economy, and that it should include in its armoury of future strategies some that are suited for situations in which there is an actual decline in the level of house building activity.
This, of course, we do not want to see. We do not want to see fiscal policies intruding to the point where somebody says: “ We will not continue to build homes and we will restrict what the Commonwealth is already doing in this respect.” Let me refer now to a statement made by the Minister in another place, as recorded at page 385 of “ Hansard “. He said -
In regard to the Commonwealth’s power generally in housing, it is very true that the basic influence on the course of housing in Australia is with the Commonwealth. It is not so much through this agreement but the strategic part of housing lies in the Treasury-Reserve Bank complex. It is natural that this complex and the problems which impinge on it are very much those of allocating reserves for different uses …
Once . again, basically because it has to choose between the relative applications of resources, if there is a large demand for shops, commercial buildings, factories and things of this nature, which, take away materials and labour supply, the Commonwealth is not in a position to damp down this activity except in a very indirect way. If this sector booms, as it has been doing very much lately, and unless other sectors are damped down, an inflationary result ensues.
I mention this because of a comment that I heard from the other side in relation to this problem. We should not be so much concerned about the influence on the economy. Rather should we be thinking about a very positive approach to home construction. We have the same objectives as the Government. We have the same wish for housing, but we say there is a way to achieve it which the Government does not propose to follow. The Government has introduced what could be called gimmick legislation. I referred earlier to one aspect of it. I have in mind the Housing Loans Insurance Act and the Homes Savings Grant Act. Unfortunately, the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation has not yet established agencies in the States. As you know, Mr. President, I have asked questions recently about this matter. I am not complaining about the difficulties of the Department in obtaining staff, but if these procedures are to afford some redress for people who are suffering hardships they ought to be accelerated. We ought to know exactly what funds we can obtain from various sections of the community, from the so called approved lenders, to assist young people. The main requirements are a plan and agreement with the States about facing up to the great issue. Let me mention briefly the basic policies that we have. They have been mentioned before in other debates. In 1963 Labour’s policy, as stated by Mr. Calwell during the election campaign, was to-
This, as 1 said earlier, was another of our germs of thought, lt was seized upon by the Government in devising its homes savings grants scheme. Our policy stated, further -
In 1963 the State Ministers for Housing suggested to the Commonwealth Government that an inquiry into Australia’s housing needs should be made, but the Commonwealth refused to accept the recommendation and there has been no indication during this debate of any intention on the part of the Government lo conduct a survey. We do not think there is any constitutional difficulty in the Commonwealth providing subsidies to tenants or purchasers who, because of bereavement or injury, cannot meet their commitments. It could extend the activities of the War Service Homes Division’. That would be one way of meeting part of the overall problem. It could ensure adequate finance being available for building societies by requiring banks and insurance companies to divert a prescribed amount of money to home building. We know that this money market is freezing up in all the States and that it is becoming more and more difficult for young people io secure the finance they need and, unfortunately, in future it will cost them . even more.
We have also said that the Commonwealth should make a grant of £100 - this is Labour Party policy - for each child born during the currency of a mortgage in a family home. It could also extend and develop the activities of the Building Research Division of the Commonwealth
Scientific Industrial and Research Organisation, which has already done a lot of good work. Finally; the Commonwealth could, as we have suggested, take up with the States the question of a standard building code.
I now come back to my original proposition. In the sort of economic structure we have today most young couples find, if they wish to own a home of their own, that the wife has to go on working in order to help pay for the home and its furnishings. The South Australian Housing Trust is doing a good job under difficulties, and is using what money it can draw from the community to extend home building. The housing finance that South Australia gets from the Commonwealth is being used for the building of low deposit homes. The Trust is doing a lot of work and a great deal of research has gone into its activities, but it is faced with the greatly increased engineering costs and greatly increased land costs because of speculation. Whilst the Opposition does not oppose the legislation, it stresses the need for. overall planning.
– The present five year housing Agreement between the Commonwealth and State Governments will expire in June 1 966. It is well known that the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) is now giving earnest attention to a new housing agreement, to extend or replace the existing agreement. The object of this Bill is to authorise the borrowing of £51 million, which is to be advanced by the Commonwealth to the State Governments for the construction of homes for families in the lower income brackets and to provide finance for loans to people desirous of buying privately built homes. It is envisaged that the instrumentalities by which these homes can be built will include the State housing trusts. Tt is interesting to note that this £51 million is to be advanced to the States at a concessional interest rate, that is, the long term bond rate, less 1, per cent. In other words, the Commonwealth will lose £510.000 per annum in interest charges on the £51 million advanced to the States.
The amount of £51 million was determined by agreement between the States and the Commonwealth and is to be allocated - again by agreement - as follows: New
South Wales will receive £17,750,000, Victoria £13,650.000, Queensland £3,300,000, South Australia £9,500,000, Western Australia £3,600,000 and Tasmania £3,200,000. It is interesting to note that the total amount requested by the States is £350,000 less than the amount allocated in 1964-65. The reason for this is that the Labour Premier of South Australia, Mr. Walsh, told the Commonwealth that South Australia required £350,000 less for housing than was needed in the previous year.
– That is not right.
– Both Senator Cavanagh and Senator Bishop said that the amount this year is £350,000 less than it was last year.
– That is for the whole of Australia.
– Over the whole of Australia, yes. But the £350,000 is accounted for by the fact that the Labour Premier of South Australia did not wish to avail himself of this additional £350,000.
– The honorable senator does not know what he is talking about.
– The honorable senator says I do not know what I am talking about. What I have stated is a fact and he cannot prove otherwise. He can read it for himself; but he falls into error and repeats his statement. He is not prepared to look it up for himself.
– Where can I read it?
– In the Minister’s statement on the result of the consultations.
– But that is for the whole of Australia.
– Apparently when Senator Cavanagh castigates the Federal Government because £350,000 less is being made available, he is not aware that the Labour Premier of South Australia, the Honorable F. Walsh, was responsible for this reduction.
– That is not so.
– The honorable senator cannot take it. Senator Cavanagh criticised the South Australian Housing Trust’s construction of buildings and mentioned certain disabilities in some areas. But if a detailed overall assessment is made of what the South Australian Housing Trust has done - I appreciate Senator Bishop’s words of commendation of the Trust - all fair minded men will agree that the Trust has done an excellent job in providing good, serviceable and attractive houses for people in the lower and middle income groups. The homes built at Elizabeth and other centres in South Australia are equal to, if not better than, houses built by any other authority in any city or housing area in Australia. Senator Cavanagh knows that is correct and that it answers his allegations of bad management and poor building by the South Australian Housing Trust.
The Labour Premier of South Australia, Mr. F. Walsh, has building experience equal to that of Senator Cavanagh. Perhaps he has more. He is adamant that he will give more funds to the South Australian Housing Trust to build a greater percentage of all homes built in South Australia. He has made this decision because the homes built by the Trust are of excellent workmanship and are available at reasonable cost. The Premier is adamant that he will continue the operations of the Housing Trust and will give more funds to it. Surely he would not do that if, as alleged by Senator Cavanagh, the houses built by the Trust were badly constructed. It would not make sense. I assume that Senator Cavanagh will not deny that Mr. Walsh has had experience in the building trade equal to his own.
– I agree. But the Trust has changed under a Labour Government.
– A chameleon would be ashamed to follow the example of the honorable senator.
– A chameleon is a lizard, is it not?
– It is a creature which often changes its colour. It has the happy knack, of being able to change its colour to suit any circumstance. It is interesting that 30 per cent, of the amount advanced to the States is to be made available to co-operative building societies or other approved institutions. I well remember how that provision was hotly opposed by honorable senators opposite when it was debated in this Chamber. The balance of 70 per cent, is to be used by the States for the erection of houses for rental or for sale.
The types of houses being built are determined by the States, as well as their location, tenants and purchasers. The Agreement stipulates that the houses must be made available for families of low or moderate means. Deposits are as. low as £50 and repayments are made over a period of 53 years from the date of the advance. Interest charges and repayments begin from the day the advance is made.
Interest rates have varied over the past five years. Until February 1961 the interest rate was 4 per cent. From February 1961 to February 1962 it was 44 per cent. From February 1962 to July 1963 it was 31 per cent. From August 1964 to 13th April 1965 it was 4 per cent. Since 13th April 1965 it has been 4£ per cent. As I have already said, under the terms of the agreement the interest charged to the Stales is 1 per cent, per annum lower than the long term bond rate.
In the past 10 years, £391,526,000 has been allocated by this Government under housing agreements with the States. In that period the purchase of 132,733 dwellings has been financed. In addition, State housing authorities provided 88,366 dwellings, including dwellings for the Services. Dwellings financed under the Agreements and sold by State housing authorities totalled 38,937 in the past 10 years. Dwellings financed by institutions with funds which came from the Home Builders’ Accounts totalled 44,407 in that period. It is clear that in the last few years the number of houses built has increased appreciably.
The Home Builders’ Accounts were introduced in the 1956-1961 Agreement. It should be noted that all money allocated for home builders has been deposited in a Home Builders’ Account in each State- on the same terms and conditions as applied to the States’ housing programmes, including interest concessions and repayments. Repayment instalments are credited to the Home Builders’ Accounts which operate as revolving funds. From them advances are made to building societies and other approved institutions. By this means the money advanced under the Agreement is used to the best advantage. Surplus money accruing” can be advanced again and this revolving basis is a great advantage.
It is also interesting to note that building societies are required to repay their loans to the Home Builders’ Accounts over a’ maxi mum period of 31 years. This has a remarkably good effect on the numbers of homes that can be built and are being built in Australia. It means that the construction of twice as many homes can be financed with money advanced in this manner as would be financed with money used by the States for rental housing programmes. I shall illustrate what this means. I do not wish any honorable senator to infer from my remarks that I am critical of State housing programmes when I say that twice the number of houses built for rental can be built, using the Home Builders’ Accounts. I shall give the reasons why this is possible. Larger deposits are contributed by building society members. Because of that, less money is required for each dwelling than that required to finance each unit erected by a State housing authority. The flow of money from Home Builders’ Accounts has assisted the formation of 800 co-operative terminating housing societies in Australia. Some States, by agreement with the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn) are permitted to allocate portion of their funds to lending institutions other than building societies. Under this arrangement funds have been allocated to State banking institutions in South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, and to the Brisbane Permanent Building and Banking Co. Ltd. in Queensland.
The effects of the revolving fund, the operation of the Home Builders’ Account and the provision of a larger deposit for loans by building societies over the last five years of the 1956 Agreement are as I shall mention. A sum of £134,630,980 was advanced to State housing authorities. They provided 47,194 dwellings, and the average advance was £2,853. Funds advanced through the Home Builders’ Account amounted to £45,819,000. A total of 17,856 dwellings were provided, and the average advance was £2,566. In other words, for every £10 million that was advanced through the Home Builders’ Account 392, or 11.2 per cent., more houses were built than were built by State housing authorities. To put it in another way, 392 more families were housed comfortably.
Much has been said about the demand for houses and the surveys that should be made. Many people have quoted figures. Indeed, I have a whole host of figures that have been produced by Dr. Hall. I should think it would be very difficult to forecast the number of homes that are required. It would be difficult to determine the siting of those houses. One would have to anticipate where business and employment would spread. We hear a great deal about decentralisation. That factor would have to be taken into account. The building of houses is a rather costly business. In almost every locality throughout the length and breadth of Australia, the exception being perhaps some of the towns and villages in the north, generally speaking people are now better housed than they have ever been in the past.
A lot has been said about a shortage of houses and the terrible conditions in which people live. Surely any unbiased person will agree that the people of Australia, in every walk of life, are better housed today- than they have, ever been before. I am delighted as I pass through little villages and various suburbs to see the beautiful homes that are being built for average Australian workers. I have heard a lot said about the amount of money that is needed to build a house and the fact that people cannot save £50 for a deposit. To buy a home is to invest one’s money in a home. Some people invest their money in other ways. Some invest it in rent, some invest it in smoke, and some invest it on the racecourse.
– And some own horses.
– Yes, unsuccessfully, may 1 say as one who knows. The cost of the investment and the return may be quite different. I suggest that those who put their money into a home receive a far greater dividend than does the owner of a racehorse. Surely young people who are in receipt of a salary can find £50 to pay as a deposit on a house.
– Where can they get a house for a deposit of £50?
– Houses are available on a deposit of £50 through the South Australian Housing Trust. Let us be frank and straightforward on this, matter. A wonderful opportunity is presented to young people to save. All this nonsense about young people not being able to save is just not true. How have the great majority of young people who are building their homes managed to undertake such a project if they have not been able to save?
I want to refer now to the scheme that was introduced recently whereby persons under the agc of 35 years who have saved £750 over a certain period may qualify for a grant of £250. 1 refer to the homes savings grant scheme which commenced in July 1964. That scheme was designed to encourage people to save. It was estimated that in 1964-65 a sum of £10 million would be needed to finance the scheme. But a sum of only £6 million was used. Perhaps that was because of a lack of knowledge of the scheme. Great difficulty was experienced in estimating the number of people who would want to buy or build a home under the scheme. The fact that there was a disparity between the estimate and the actual expenditure docs not mean that the estimate was wrong or that the scheme had failed. It is interesting to note that in the first year very few applications were unsuccessful. The fact that a sum of £6 million was advanced means that there were 24,000 successful applicants. That is a very pleasing total. It is interesting to note, too, the increased interest that has been taken in this scheme over the past few months. It is one of the best home building schemes that has been put into operation, and is perhaps one of the most excellent steps that has been taken to overcome the housing problem in Australia. I pay tribute to the Government for its establishment of a Department of Housing under the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury). Finance is the key to home building and I am sure that under the guidance of the Minister who has great administrative ability and experience in the financial world, everything humanly possible will be done to improve housing in Australia. I support the Bill.
– I ask for leave to make my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave - I wish to inform the Senate that the Government has now reached a decision on proposals submitted for the development of the main bauxite deposits at Gove in the Northern Territory.
In June 1964, the Government rejected proposals before it at that time for the development of these deposits on the grounds that no one proposal sufficiently met the Government’s major policy requirements. The Government therefore invited interested companies to submit new or revised proposals and stipulated that they should be lodged by 1st December 1964. The closing date was subsequently extended to 15th March 1965.
The policy objectives then stated by the Government included an immediate firm commitment for an alumina plant in the Northern Territory of not less than 300,000 tons conditional only on the ore body proving to meet certain requirements with regard to quantity and quality of ore; provision for Australian equity participation in the project; a clear demonstration of availability of adequate market outlets and ability to organise and finance the project; a willingness by applicants to establish an aluminium smelter in the Territory when this could be done on a demonstrably economic basis; and a preparedness to respect the rights of the Aborigines in the area.
The Government recognised the very real advantages in having one or more major and experienced Australian organisations sharing in the development rather than leaving it entirely to overseas interests. In the event, two Australian groups of companies submitted proposals. The Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. submitted a proposal in association with Reynolds Metals Company of the United States of America and the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd. as the major Australian company in Nabalco Pty. Ltd., comprising several Australian companies, submitted a proposal in association with Swiss Aluminium Ltd.
Each of these proposals involved firm commitments for the development of the bauxite deposits which were considerably more comprehensive than those contained in any of the earlier rejected proposals. After careful deliberation the Government decided that the proposal by Nabalco Pty. Ltd. should be preferred and is discussing with the company the detailed arrangements to give effect to its proposal. Swiss Aluminium Ltd. is the oldest and ranks amongst the largest integrated aluminium companies in the world.
The company has undertaken to construct at Gove by 1971 an alumina plant with an annual capacity of not less than 500,000 tons. The completed alumina plant, plus associated mining, wharf and township facilities, is expected to cost nearly £50 million. It will provide direct employment for about 800 people and support a population of about 3,000. It will yield export income at an estimated rate in excess of £10 million per annum.
Nabalco will also examine and report on the economic feasibility of aluminium smelting in the Northern Territory, and will build a smelter if an adequate supply of continuous low cost electricity is available.
The Australian companies which together with the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd. at present hold a 50 per cent, interest in Nabalco Pty. Ltd. are -
Under their agreement with Swiss Aluminium Ltd. these companies have committed themselves to participate in the overall alumina project to the extent of 50 per cent, provided the project shows an indicated profitability of not less than 71/2 per cent, return on equity capital after tax.
The level of royalty rates on bauxite will be dealt with in the detailed negotiations with the company. Under the existing statutory provisions the royalty would be about1s. per ton of bauxite mined and would be paid into a trust fund for the general benefit of the Aborigines in the Territory. The company has undertaken to respect the rights of Aborigines in the Gove area and will provide them with suitable employment opportunities.
The main bauxite deposits referred to above are also known as the central lease or former Special Mineral Lease No.1. The perimeter leases, Nos. 2, 3 and 4, are held by Gove Mining and Industrial Corporation Ltd., a subsidiary of the Pechiney company of France, which has been unable to meet the conditions in these leases. This company has been granted a short additional period to submit to the Government an alternative development proposal.
The Gove project is an historical event for the Northern Territory. It assures establishment in the Northern Territory of an important and major industrial complex. It will introduce into Australia and the Northern Territory a large overseas company of world standing and offers to a strong group of Australian business enterprises an important stake in northern development.
I present the following paper -
Northern Territory - Gove Bauxite Deposits - Ministerial Statement, 15th September 1965.
– by leave - I move -
That the Senate take note of the Paper.
I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 449).
– I rise to support the Loan (Housing) Bill. I recognise that through this legislation the Government is continuing the policy that was inaugurated 20 years ago by the Australian Labour Party with an agreement between the Commonwealth and the State Governments for the purpose of housing. The provision of housing has always been recognised to be a fundamental duty of a government. It is the duty of the Commonwealth Government to help to house the people of Australia adequately. I remember that when the first measure was introduced 20 years ago the opponents of the Labour Government of the day called the Bill another piece of Socialist legislation. I am pleased to see that over the years their attitude on this, as on other matters, has changed. Throughout those years, the Government has continued this so-called Socialist legislation which is very important.
I notice that the grant for Western Australia this year provided in the Bill is £3.600,000. If we take from this amount the money that must be spent on the construction of Service homes and the funds that must be diverted to building societies and other organisations, the amount that is left will build about 560 houses at the current prices in Western Australia. This is only about 10 per cent, of the total building programme for Western Australia and the total amount provided by this legislation will be sufficient for the construction of about the same proportion of homes needed this year for the whole of Australia.
In his second reading speech, the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) directed attention to a phenomenon that we must all have noted with some regret. I refer to the fact that the number of individual homes under construction is decreasing while the number of flats and home units is increasing. This trend is apparent throughout Australia. In Western Australia for more than half a century we have had an organisation which was known originally as the Workers Homes Board. It is now called the State Housing Commission but from the time it was initiated in Western Australia about 1910 it was known as the Workers Homes Board. In the intervening years the members of the organisation have had much experience in housing and they have achieved excellent results in providing quite good houses for the lower income groups. Ever since the organisation was established the cost of housing has increased out of all proportion.
Perhaps the greatest component in the cost of any house today is the interest charged for the loan of moneys. It is all very well for Senator Mattner to say that young people should be able to pay a deposit of £50 on a home. I am quite certain that in my State there are very few houses that people can buy on a deposit of £50. I am glad to know that there are some places in Australia where that can happen. I would also remind the honorable senator that whilst those people only face a small deposit they have placed around their necks for the next 45 or 50 years a big responsibility for repayment, not only of principal, but of the interest.
From .the way in which Senator Mattner dealt with this subject tonight, one would think that the Commonwealth Government was making a direct grant to the people of Australia of so many millions of pounds for housing. T would say that the Government, by assisting housing, is making the best investment of any expenditure contained in the Budget. The Government is putting money into something which, as Senator Mattner told us, is the best investment that can be made. If housing is an excellent investment for an individual then it is a much better investment for a government. Lending a total this year of £51 million to the people of Australia for their housing needs is only one of the business enterprises of this Government. As .1 say, this amount is only 10 per cent, of what is required for housing needs in a normal year.
I would like to pay a tribute to the housing authorities in the various States, particularly to the Housing Commission in my own State of Western Australia with which I have had very excellent dealings throughout the years. I have always had excellent consideration from it for the many cases I have had to bring before its notice. But the Commission’s officers are not magicians. They cannot produce houses from a hat. It still has a big lag in the number of homes available, particularly for rental. In Western Australia if one has a small deposit - I think it is only about £150 which covers costs such as fencing and transfer fees - it is possible to obtain a house after a short wait. But it is a different proposition if one wants to rent a home. Then the. waiting period is much longer.
Adding to the task of the Housing Commission is the difficulty in obtaining suitable land, lt is amazing to me how the price of land has absolutely skyrocketed over the years. Even land which was practically worthless a few years ago is now being sold for prices in the four figure range. People who never dreamed that they would ever pay £1,000 for a house now have to pay more than twice that sum for the block of land on which they eventually build a house. I would like to see some inquiry made into price of land throughout Australia. Young people setting out on their lives together have great difficulty in obtaining a block of land, not just a deposit for a house. They must depend on the government instrumentalities and building societies, to obtain houses and these are not always in the area in which they would like to live. In Western Australia the Housing Commission is building houses of a very fine type on the subdivision which it has opened up. Every encouragement is given to young people to purchase those homes, even after they have been renting them for some time.
One glaring aspect of housing in Australia is the large amount spent on homes in the cities and the small amount spent in country towns and in rural areas where farmers have to provide housing for their employees. I know this from personal experience. I know that in some of our older established towns in Western Australia it is impossible to rent a house and it is impossible to buy or build one. Sometimes young men and other people are sent to such places for a couple of years in the course of their employment. They find it impossible to get a house at a fair rent. They do not have the means of buying or building a home. Building costs are dearer in these country areas. Therefore they have to make shift and have to be separated from their families at a time when they are needed most. It is very difficult for them to make a go of things.
Going back quite a number of years, I remember making a trip to the north-west coast of Western Australia. I think it was about 21 years ago. It was amazing to find at that time that there were very few houses being built in the north-west area from Geraldton up to Wyndham under the aegis of the Housing Commission, or the Workers Homes Board as it was. Upon returning to Perth I presented a report to the Premier of the State. I also made a broadcast about the position. This might have been a little later than 21 years ago because the Premier was not a Labour man. The Premier said to me: “ Surely things are not as bad as you say they are in the north “. I said: “ I think they are worse “. He said: “ I will send an officer up there to have a look at the position “. An officer visited the area and the Premier had the courtesy to telephone me and say that, far from exaggerating the position, I had very much understated it. As a result of the Premier’s investigation, 23 nouses were to be built within the next quarter. That was not very many but it was a start. Up to that time very few houses had been built in the north-west.
Everybody is talking about the north-west area of Western Australia, of the great advances being made there and the future that it has. But I wonder if anyone thinks about the living conditions of the men and women who are going to make the north the great district we expect and hope it will be. Living conditions, even in the best of houses in that area, are very difficult. I hope that, in these schemes for the development of our north-west, adequate provision will bc made for decent housing for the average working man, not only in these new projects but also in some of the long established towns. Surely the days of the old galvanised iron buildings have gone forever. In quite a number of our towns, such as Geraldton, Carnarvon, inland at Katanning, and at Narrogin, there is still a great need for Housing Commission homes, particularly for workers sent to the areas for just a limited period who find it economically impossible to purchase a house.
Therefore, I hope that some of these government funds will be spent in country districts on homes for rental purposes, particularly for those people who are not eligible to get a Commission home because they may already have one in the city. People are often transferred and because they already have one home, or have had one home, through the Housing Commission they are not eligible for another. Of course, that policy is only right and proper if applied to people who just wish to make an investment of a house. One feature of home development projects in the west has been the building of flats for workers who had no families and for elderly persons. This was started by Mr. Graham, who was a Minister for Housing in a Labour government. He was very much derided for the scheme at the time, both in Western Australia and in this Parliament. Some members of the Government did not think that Commonwealth funds should be so used. These flats have become a great success. One thing in which Western Australia has led the rest of Australia has been in the building of flats for widows and elderly pensioners who are living alone. We have just built some very fine flats in my own suburb, in South Perth and in various other districts. I commend the Government for what it has done and what it is still doing in that regard.
For people to say there is no housing shortage assures me that they have not had very much experience among workers on low incomes and among newcomers to this country. Only recently a Maltese family came to me. The father, mother and five children were all living in two rooms without any water laid on. They had been trying for some time to get a house but they had been told that they would have to wait at least another 12 months before a home for renting became available. I claim that the conditions in which that family is living are sub-standard.
Like Senator Mattner, I am pleased that the standard of housing is improving, but what is the cost of this improved standard of housing? Perhaps nowhere is the terrific cost of housing so apparent as it is in Canberra. One only has to look at the “ Canberra Times “ to see that there is not a house for sale in Canberra for less than £6,000. Where can the ordinary young man and woman setting out in married life get the deposit for a £6,000 house? Or, having got the deposit, how will they be able to keep up the interest payments? By the time they celebrate their golden wedding anniversary they will be lucky if they own as much as the fowl house provided, of course, that they are allowed to build a fowl house in this salubrious city.
I cannot see how the difference in costs between Canberra and the other State capitals can be justified. How can the difference in the cost of building in Canberra and the cost of building in Sydney be justified? How can the difference in the cost of building in Sydney and the cost of building in Western Australia be justified? I think that Western Australia and South Australia have the lowest building costs yet their standards are very high. There is something wrong somewhere. I do not know why there should be such a wide difference in costs in the various States.
I agree that the housing problem is not as acute as it was a few years ago. We would not want it to be. In the immediate post war years we were faced with a very serious problem because, during the war, all our energies, all our work force and all our materials had to be diverted to defence purposes. So there was a lag in home building in the immediate post war years which had to be overcome before we could tackle current demand. The bringing of so many migrants to Australia, and the release from the Services of the young men and women who had been serving either at home or overseas and were setting up homes for themselves for the first time, added to our difficulties. We were confronted with tremendous problems and I believe that Australia has been very fortunate to have overcome so many of them in the post war years which, after all, is not a very long time in the life of a nation or the life of a decent house.
Some people in the community will not get any benefit whatever from this legislation or from other legislation which I suppose the Government will be introducing shortly in relation to the provision of homes for the aged. I do not know whether the Government has any thought about building homes for those aged persons who have only their pension. I am not referring now to the homes that the Commonwealth is subsidising because they are not for pensioners who have nothing but their pension; they are for people who have a couple of thousand pounds to put into them.
In my own State and elsewhere most of the homes for the aged are available only if the person wishing to live in one of them has £1,000, which he must pay as a kind of key money, and sufficient income to pay the rent. Just as it is difficult for young people to save the amount necessary for a deposit on a home at current market prices, so it is difficult for many elderly citizens to save the £1,000 they must have before they can go into many of the homes which are subsidised by the Government under the Aged Persons Homes Act. 1 can find nothing in this legislation which encourages the building of homes for the aged for which no key money has to be paid. I think the Commonwealth should do more to assist the States in this regard. Local government authorities could also do a good deal if they received a subsidy which would enable them to build homes either for their employees or for the aged people in their districts.
– Quite a few local authorities build houses for their employees.
– Quite a number of them do. More should be assisted to do so. We talk such a great deal about decentralisation yet we do nothing practical to help it along. If we could make money available to local government authorities in the country to help them meet their housing problems we would be doing something really worthwhile. Although it does not come within the ambit of this Bill, I hope that the Government will consider providing financial assistance to local government authorities in the country areas to enable them to improve housing conditions in their own districts.
Pleased as I am with what has been accomplished in Western Australia, I am disappointed that more is not being done in country districts to assist farmers to erect cottages on their properties for their workers. It is just as important to help the man on the land to be adequately housed as it is to help the private individual in the city to obtain a suitable home.
– State Governments can do that if they want to.
– Provided they get enough money from the Commonwealth to do so.
– lt is a matter of guarantee in most cases - a gilt edged security.
– Most of these loans are gilt edged securities. As I said earlier, the Commonwealth Government is not giving anything away in this legislation. Of all the money that the Government proposes to spend in this Budget, the money covered by the Bill before us is the best investment because it will come back to the Government many times over. I do not know why the Government stopped at £51 million. It would not matter really how large the sum was because, when all is said and done, this is a business proposition.
One aspect of the Bill with which I am not very happy relates to the amount of money that is being drained off to build houses for members of the defence forces. It is important that members of the defence forces should have decent houses but what worries me is the location of many of these military establishments. I have had the honour to represent Western Australia for some time and I know its problems better than those of any other State so I hope I am not being parochial when I say that we have an excellent area in Swanbourne right on the beach front. This is fine residential land which could be part of an excellent ocean drive except that it has been acquired for military purposes. I am not a military expert but the military experts have said that this is not a very good location for a military settlement. Nevertheless, we are building houses there now and putting a great deal of money into the Swanbourne encampment. This will make it all the more difficult when the time eventually comes, as 1 am sure it will, for the area to be taken over again by the civil authorities.
I maintain that our men in the Services are entitled to the very best that we can give them but I do not think that the development of some of the best parts of our metropolitan areas in this way should be allowed, particularly if it is not necessary to have a military area or a military target in that location. I know that this is happening in the other States, too. 1 would like the Government to give consideration to this tying up of valuable subdivisional land for Army purposes when it is not altogether necessary. The spending of money under this Agreement on houses in that locality is going to make it all the more difficult to get this wrong righted later on.
The Labour Party supports the Bill. I have not gone into the figures, as have other honorable senators, because figures are not my forte. But I hope that the amount that is to be advanced to the States this year will not be the maximum, that lower interest charges will eventually .be made, and that the Commonwealth itself will become the chief money lender in this field of home building. I think that at the present time too many people are being fleeced by usurers who are capitalising on the need of young people for houses. They are charging so much interest that the young people can never in the foreseeable future own the houses. Young couples go into the houses happily and full of hope, only to be disillusioned when they find that at the end of a few years they have not paid anything off the capital and that the burden is getting heavier around their necks.
.- I rise to support the Bill. In common with Senator Tangney, I find it difficult to deal only with figures. So the total of £51 million that is to be advanced by the Commonwealth to the States for housing in this year does not concern me as much as the number of family units which will be provided under the scheme. The family units in Australia are the basis of national life. I contend that this point of view is accepted by the Commonwealth Government. It has shown by practical means that the people of Australia must be adequately housed. In the last few years the Government has introduced excellent schemes, which have been mentioned by other honorable senators, such as the homes savings grant scheme, which encourages young people who are about to marry to save and obtain the grant from the Commonwealth Government. At the other end of the scale, the Commonwealth Government, under the Aged Persons Homes Act, has provided excellent housing for aged people.
The original 1945 Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement has been renewed every five years. In addition, in 1963-64 the capacity of the savings banks to lend was greatly increased. They are now the largest single lenders of money for housing. During the last three or four years the amount of money that they have provided has more than doubled. In 1961-62 they advanced £58.6 million and in 1964-65 £149 million. Under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement the Commonwealth makes advances to the States at a rate of interest equal to the current long term bond rate less 1 per cent, per annum. Reference has been made to this rate of interest. I point out that under the 1956-61 Agreement the interest rate from 1st July 1956 to 21st February 1961 was 4 per cent. In the following years there were slight fluctuations, but since 13th April of this year the rate has been 4i per cent., which is only $ of 1 per cent, higher than in February 1961.
It is interesting to note that since 1961 the Commonwealth has advanced £200 million to the States for housing purposes. In accordance with the Agreement, 70 per cent, of the money is retained by the State housing authorities for the building of houses for rental or sale. In the last four years, £132 million have been expended by the State housing authorities to construct 41,000 dwellings. This means that a great number of our people have been enabled to obtain homes. At least 30 per cent, of the amount advanced to each State is paid to the Home Builders’ Account. This has enabled £68 million to be expended in loans to 27,000 individuals. It has been of very great help to those seeking to own their homes.
In the last 12 months the State housing authorities have constructed a total number of 10.621 dwellings, including Service dwellings. Of that number, 2,688 have been built in Victoria. A total of 6,827 dwellings have been financed by institutions with funds from the Home Builders’ Account, and of that number, 1,743 have been built iri Victoria. The institutions in New South Wales and Victoria are termed co-operative terminating building societies. There are 800 of these societies in Australia, and 80 per cent, are in New South Wales and Victoria, f think I am correct in saying that most of them are established in Victoria.
Last year a record number of 112,500 dwellings were completed in Australia. But it rather’ disturbs me. to read in statements and reports that there was a very considerable increase in the number of flats and home units constructed. The number of houses increased by 3,000 over the previous year but the number of flats and home units increased by nearly 1 3,000. During the last few months there has been a decline in the number of new houses commenced, but flats and home units are being constructed at a higher rate than for the corresponding period last year. Like Senator Tangney, I deplore the fact that so many flats and home units are being built by private enterprise. We realise that for economic reasons the housing authorities in the various States must build them. But from my inspection of areas around Melbourne, I know that many home units are empty. In fact, there are hundreds that are not occupied. I should imagine that they are too costly to buy. What is required are villas that can be purchased on low deposits so that people may live in individual homes and not in flats and small ‘home units that have too little space for families with children.
I mentioned before that in the last 12 months, 2,688 dwellings have been built in Victoria by the State housing authorities. Of that number, 709 were flat units and over 1,900 were villas. These units of villa construction are provided on the basis of 50 per cent, for rental and 50 per cent, for sale. In the last 12 months over 50 per cent, have actually been sold. As you may know, Sir, in Victoria persons who pay rent to the Housing Commission have the right to purchase and some people do pay rents for a number of years and then decide to purchase, especially if they are approaching old age and are desirous of making quite sure that they will be able to retain their homes.
The’ home ownership rate in Victoria is from 75 per cent, to 77 per cent. I think that that is a figure that prevails throughout Australia, ft is one of the highest in the world and one of which we can be very proud. Throughout the State about 75 per cent, of dwellings are either owned or are in the process of being purchased. I have been told that in contrast to conditions in other parts of the world, in the dwelling units constructed in Victoria under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement the number of persons per unit is from 3i to 4. That may seem a very low figure but, of course, it is an average which takes into consideration the fact that a number of units have been provided for single persons and a number of low rental units are being provided for aged married couples. Comments have been made about housing accommodation provided in rural areas. As I have travelled round Victoria, I have seen excellent housing schemes developed in country towns and cities. A great deal of attention is being paid by the Town and Country Planning Section of the university Department of Architecture, and also by the Housing Commission, to the needs of people living in the country and the development of a type of housing suitable ;o the conditions in various rural areas.
Turning to the metropolitan area, with tha use of Commonwealth funds and through the enthusiasm of successive Liberal Party Ministers for Housing, there has been much slum clearance. Inner urban areas have been acquired and either sold for private development or used .for public project development. Because of the rising value of land in the inner areas, it seems no longer possible just to continue to build three story flats, so the Victorian Housing Commission is being forced to build multistory flats. In Melbourne for a great number of years people were rather ashamed of a derelict area in Flemington known as Debney’s Paddock. That has now been cleared and on it have been built 20-story flats surrounded by very attractive gardens and, I am glad to say, adequate playing space for the children, housed in the flats. In two areas of Carlton which, of course, are inner areas, multi-story flats are also being constructed.
If I may refer to my apprehension about the number of flats and multi-home units being built and the effect upon families and children, I should mention that quite a number of voluntary organisations in Melbourne are taking a keen interest in this aspect of housing. One with which I am closely associated, namely, the Victorian Family Council, has taken a special interest in the wellbeing of children housed in flats especially. We have studied redevelopment projects in England and Scandinavian countries. I have read about with interest and seen photographs of the attractive row housing that is being constructed in developmental schemes in England, especially in .the city of Sheffield. We have placed these ideas before the Housing Commission. In an area in Prahran, which is about eight miles from the centre of Melbourne, in a developmental project a number of very small and fairly dilapidated houses have been cleared and flats and a small section of row housing have been constructed. 1 regret to say that the tenders for row housing have shown such a considerable increase over the price of construction of flats that at this stage it does not seem to be a practical idea, but support has been given to the idea of row housing, which is a modern and attractive version of the Victorian terrace type housing.
We have paid particular attention to the provision of safe and adequate playing areas. I am very glad indeed to say that within the last several years the Victorian Housing Commission has availed itself of the services of a consultant landscape architect who has had experience in the Scandinavian countries and in Switzerland. She is assisting the Commission in the planning of gardens and playgrounds with equipment suitable for children of pre-school age as well as playgrounds for older children. There has been especially close co-operation with the Playgrounds Association and children are being catered for in excellent fashion. Not only is research being carried out in this area but also the Housing Commission conducts research into the general layout of estates. The designs of the villa units built by the Commission are of a very high order indeed. 1 should imagine that the attractive appearance and better conditions for inmates of these houses will be greatly enhanced with the help of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, which sets out in its report the work of the Division of Building Research which, together with the Division of Applied Mineralogy and the Soils Mechanics Section, has its headquarters in Melbourne. All of these Divisions have engaged in work of interest to the building industry.
The greater part of the work of these laboratories is financed from Commonwealth funds. The Division of Building Research is conducting investigations into building materials which include timber, concrete, clay products and gypsum. It also has research groups working on problems of acoustics, thermal control in buildings, and structural design. That leads me to say that the Victorian Family Council has taken a keen interest also in various aspect of uniform building regulations, especially those applying to acoustics, and the introduction of some regulations more akin to the ancient light laws that obtained in England for many hundreds of years and, I think still do apply.
It is interesting to discover that the State Ministers for Local Government have set up a committee to introduce greater uniformity into the building codes of the States and that the Commonwealth Government is assisting in this by providing the secretariat. Turning again to the Bill, we read that the allocation to Victoria for the ensuing year will be £13,650,000. Recent tenders in Victoria show an increase in cost of £200 to £300 per unit for villa construction, and the cost of flats has risen in sympathy with that figure. Again, we must take into consideration the influx of migrants which we hope will continue because of their great contribution to Australia’s development. The number of marriages registered in Australia in 1963 was 80,916. That figure increased in 1964 by nearly 6,000, and this will mean a still greater demand for homes.
Demographers point out that population trends indicate that very shortly there, will be a considerable increase in the number of young people attaining marriageable age. The number of outstanding applications for homes in Victoria at 30th June 1965 was 13,778. The figures are considerably larger in New South Wales and applications are outstanding in all the other States. I feel sure that these facts will be taken into consideration when the new agreement is formulated. I am quite sure that the Commonwealth Government will in the future as in the past do its utmost to advance the cause of providing housing accommodation to the people of Australia. Therefore, I take much pleasure in supporting and commending this Bill.
– The Bill we are debating authorises the borrowing of £51 million by the States from the Commonwealth, and to one who has followed the debate closely it would appear from the statements made by honorable senators on the Government side, that the Commonwealth is making a very substantial gift to the States. But this money is a loan to the States. In fact, not only are the needs of the States not being satisfied by this loan of £51 million, but this figure represents a reduction on the amount allocated last year. Apart from the natural increase of Australia’s population, there is a planned increase through immigration of 100,000 a year. Many of these immigrants are of marriageable age and they in turn make their contribution towards increasing the population. But the spirit of the Australian people is such that they consider it to be part of their heritage that they should be able not only to have their own homes but to have homes of a better standard than the ones iti which they began married life or in which they were brought up. The measure before us seems to overlook this very important factor.
The fact that the allocation this year is less than it was last year gives me no cause to be elated, and I cannot see what satisfaction it can give to senators on the Government side. Despite the fact that Australia is presented to the rest of the world as a country with a high and rising standard of living, and one in which everybody is given a fair go, the 1961 census showed that there were 170,000 families then living in sheds, huts, shared houses and other sub-standard dwellings. It is plain that that situation is not being tackled by this legislation, because all the reports we have indicate that the cost of housing is rising. Information on housing is difficult to get but for reference purposes I have here the last annual report of _the Director of War Service Homes which gives the average cost of homes in various States since .1955. The average cost of a war service home in New South Wales in 1955 was estimated to be £3,483. There was a substantial rise in each succeeding year and by 1960-61, when this Agreement was renegotiated, the average cost had risen to £4,503. By 1963-64 the average price had risen to £5,053. The same trend is found in Victoria where the cost rose from £3,374 in 1955-56 to £5,099 in 1963-64. In Queensland, in that nine year period, the cost rose from £3,229 to £4,692.
– But that has a land content.
– That is quite true, but Queensland has not had a decent crack of the whip. It has not really opened up the flood gates for the exploiters who make money out of rack-renting land and inflating prices. Perhaps the curbs were on such people for a little longer in Queensland than in the other States. In South Australia the average figure rose from £3,348 in 1955-56 to £5,376 in 1963-64. In the same period the figure rose in Western Australia from £3,134 to £4,925 and in Tasmania from £3,173 to £4,411. In the Australian Capital Territory - this is fantastic - the cost increased from £4,225 in 1955-56 to £7,388 in 1963-64.
– Are those figures for houses of absolutely identical size?
– They are the average prices. After all, the average Australian does not vary very much whether he lives in Perth, Hobart, somewhere in Queensland, or in Alice Springs. He has the same hopes, ambitions and needs.
– He has not necessarily the same income.
– Before referring to these figures I said I would quote them to illustrate the trend. The War Service Homes Division is, perhaps, dealing with a more selective section of the population. However, relatively these prices can be traced through into State housing costs. I have seen figures which show that during the last twelve, months the average cost of a house has increased by £300 throughout Australia. 1 wish now to refer to the launching of the much vaunted homes savings grant scheme which evoked such a big fanfare of trumpets last year. Young people who saved £750 were to receive a grant of £250 to assist them to purchase a home. However, all the money that was to be made available for the savings scheme has gone in one year because of increased costs and therefore no advantage is to be gained by the young people who were supposed to benefit. The Government is obviously unwilling to do anything about controlling the ever rising costs of housing.
The sad feature of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is that by necessity its application is to the low income group. As all honorable senators know, the availability of rented houses has declined over the years. Houses now available are offered at rentals which, to say the least of it, are much higher than the low wage earner can afford to pay. Many people in the low income group are forced to overcome their housing problems by overcrowding. Many are living in caravans, shacks, garages and all types of accommodation, as the last available statistics show. The Government is not tackling the housing problem in an appropriate manner. Loans are being made to the States by the Commonwealth at a rate of interest which is as high as the market can bear. Compound interest is charged at 4 per cent., which means that in about 15 or 17 years the cost of a house has been repaid but a great amount of the principal is still owing. People are paying instalments on thenhomes and are also paying rent in the form of interest. A limited number of houses is available for rental and those people who are buying their homes must pay rates and taxes which are reaching such proportions that it could almost be said they are paying another rental to the local government authorities.
A revaluation for land tax purposes was recently conducted in Tasmania. The same valuations have been used by the local authorities for the calculation of rates. In many cases people who have established comfortable homes which they have looked on with pride find now that the amount they are paying in rates to the local authorities is more than they were paying before the war as the total rent for a similar property.
– That has been caused by the high cost of development which has to be financed from rates.
– That is true. I cannot get out of my mind that unless rising costs are tackled efficiently, eventually they will break the economy or a reaction will come about which will require drastic efforts to check. The abhorrence of people who experienced the loss of the exercise of their complete and tree individuality during wartime because of restrictions imposed is held up as an example of why restrictions cannot be imposed in peacetime. But this nation is cultivating the seeds of its own economic destruction, month after month and year after year. It is the task of members of the Federal Parliament, who can see the overall picture, to draw attention to this situation.
The numbers of applications to State housing authorities are increasing because of the inflow of migrants and the natural increase in the birthrate. The children born after the war when families were reunited are now reaching marriageable age. Statistics show that for the next four or five years they will be reaching the most popular marrying age. No provision is included in this legislation to cope with the problems that are arising before our eyes. As I said before, the amount to be made available this year is less than that made available last year. The costs of buildings which will be erected during the forthcoming year will be greater, as the trend in rising costs continues. The availability of finance for building programmes will be effected.
The Commonwealth Statistician, despite what Senator Breen has said, has pointed out that the rate of approvals for the construction of new government and semigovernment houses and flats during the last twelve months period was 24 per cent, below that for the corresponding period last year. Even though the numbers of applications are increasing, the number of approvals for new government and semigovernment houses and flats was 24 per cent, below that for last year. The loans made available under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement are increasingly inadequate to fulfil the purpose for which they were originally provided. Reference has been made to the great need for a Commonwealth wide investigation into the housing problem, including land subdivision and land acquisition for State housing projects.
– Where is this agitation coming from?
– It is coming sincerely and directly from the Australian Labour Party. We believe that there should be a thorough inquiry into the housing problem. We are very eager to see a copy of the report of the Vernon committee. It seems to be such a secret document that it could almost be classified as a Document J. Although the Vernon committee perhaps attempted to grapple with this great problem, the Government has not seen fit to allow the members of this Parliament to see a copy of the report. We are part of the Parliament, and we should be able to acquaint ourselves with the most up to the minute information that is available. Not only is this report unavailable, but also there does not seem to be any move for an alternative Australia-wide inquiry into this great problem.
I have had experience in my own State of Tasmania of the frustration that is suffered by applicants for homes. Such people find that they have to take their place on the waiting list until a home becomes available. Also I have shared with some of the applicants that great joy they have experienced when they have received the key to their home. The fact that they have been able to get into a home which some day will be their own not only transformed their lives but gave them that feeling of security to which every Australian is entitled. To my mind, the waiting period is a period of mental punishment. This is particularly so of people who have young children and those who have to put up with conditions that everybody recognises as being unhealthy and which certainly do not add to the dignity of the human being that we try to foster amongst Australian citizens.
The total allocation will mean that New South Wales will receive £17i million, Victoria £13,650,000; Queensland £3.3 million; South Australia £9.5 million; Western Australia £3.6 million; and Tasmania £3.2 million. The Minister has pointed out that the amount that has been requested by the States is approximately £350,000 less than the amount that was requested and advanced in 1964-65.
– What rate of interest is to be paid on those loans?
– I understand that the 1956 Agreement provided that it must be not more than three-quarters of 1 per cent, less than the long term bond rate.
– The Commonwealth Development Bank is charging 6 per cent, to everybody to whom it is lending money.
– That is true, and the Commonwealth Bank is charging 6i per cent.
– That is on the trading account. The farmer pays 6 per cent., and those who buy a suburban house are charged the same rate of interest.
– The reason probably is that if houses of this kind are not made available, the only alternative available to people will be the humpy on the river bank which for very many years was an undesirable feature of Australian life. It is of no use our sending troops to various parts of the world to tell them of the better way of life and the threat that overhangs them if they do not hold to our way of life if we cannot back up that propaganda with facts. I submit that, as money is being made available for the type of housing we are discussing, the terms of repayment should be such as to make the funds available for those who are in the lower income group.
The subject has been very well canvassed. We on this side of the chamber support the measure. We realise that it is of the utmost importance to the economy of Tasmania and, indeed, of all the other States of the Commonwealth. The Agreement is achieving some success, but it is obvious that there is a need for a complete survey and a review of the whole housing situation in Australia. We can only hope that some way will be found to make these loans available to the States at a cheaper rate of interest and that strong moves will be made to hold the line against the ever increasing inflationary process that is occurring in every part of the Australian economy.
– When one enters a debate at such a late stage, particularly when the Opposition is not opposing the measure, one finds it quite difficult to produce any new material. However, I believe that I should enter the debate, because of the importance of housing to every man, woman and child in this country. I find that, if people can say that the roof over their head is their own, they have a sense of security which probably nothing else in this world provides. Whether the home is humble or is a mansion, it is very important to people, particularly the womenfolk, that they own their own home. People will forgo a lot of other things if they know that the home in which they live is their own.
Although 1 have not travelled extensively overseas, I understand that this characteristic is not to be seen so much in other countries. I have been told by friends who have come from Europe and Great Britain that it is not so pronounced in those countries and that people prefer occupying a council house or a council flat to owning their own home. Perhaps this attitude to which I have referred is characteristic of the independence of the average Australian. Probably he likes to be able to say: “This is mine. I am independent,” As I look around Australia and see the types of homes that are being built by people from all walks of life, I believe that the standard of our homes measures up to, and indeed is better than, that in a lot of the older countries that have had centuries to develop various facilities that are needed, such as roads, rail systems, water supplies, hospitals and schools. As I have said, I believe that our housing standards are superior to those of a lot of the older, established countries.
The demand for housing in Australia since the war has been very much emphasised. Probably this demand is a result of our migration programme.
Most of us in the chamber are old enough to remember that before the Second World War there was no such thing as a housing shortage. Houses and flats in Melbourne and Sydney and the larger centres in Australia carried signs announcing that they were vacant and to let. The housing problem showed itself immediately after the war. In the 15 years that this Government has been in office, it has endeavoured to overcome that shortage and I am sure the Labour Government tried to do so when it was in power. The Labour Administration was faced with the fact - as members of the Opposition will remind us - that Australia had just been through a major war.
However, there is a difference between the thinking of the Government and the Opposition on housing. The Government is firmly convinced, as are its supporters, that home ownership is best for the people. When the Labour Government was in office it believed that houses should be built for rental purposes and not for private ownership. I remember Mr. Dedman, who was prominent in the Labour Administration and a realist, said in another place that Labour did not want to build homes for ownership. One of the reasons he gave was that home ownership bred a race of little capitalists. Undoubtedly it does. When people own their own homes they tend to change their thinking.
As an aside I shall tell the Senate of an experience I had in that connection which amused me. We were conducting a political canvass to try to find out the political affiliations of people in the district. We had a set of questions which we submitted to them. We knocked on the door and said, “ Excuse me, tlo you vote Labour or Liberal? “ Nine people out of ten would answer without hesitation. We approached one man who lived only three miles from my home although I had never seen him before. He was building a house for himself and he said, “ I vote Labour, but come back in a fortnight’s time. I will have moved in then. This house will be mine and I will be voting Liberal.” I did not take his statement at its face value but that sort of thinking does exist. Mr. Dedman was aware of that when he made his classic statement in another place.
I come back to the fact that I am sure the vast majority of Australians want to own their own homes. They will battle on and restrict themselves in other directions to build a home of their own. The Bill now before the Senate provides for advances totalling £51 million this year from the Commonwealth to the States for housing. I will not weary the Senate with details of the allocation. Suffice to say for my purposes that my own State of Western Australia will receive £3,600,000. Senator Cavanagh, who led for the Opposition very capably, said by way of mild castigation that the Government was allocating £350,000 less than last year. I believe this to be true. It has not been refuted by any speaker in another place and was not refuted by the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) when he was closing the debate. However, he said it was significant that £350,000 less was being provided this year because the Premier of South Australia - Senator Cavanagh’s State which now has a Labour Government - told the Commonwealth Government that South Australia would require £350,000 less this year than last year. There is the answer. If the Commonwealth Government is providing £350,000 less it is because the Premier of South Australia in his wisdom and probably with good reason said that his State did not require that amount.
In the past nine years since the Government has had control of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement it has provided £391 million for this purpose. In round figures, this was sufficient for 132,000 dwellings which have been sold, financed or rented.
Senator Marriott touched on a point with which I agree entirely when he said that so many young people who were building or acquiring homes today set themselves standards as to what should go into those homes. I believe I would be correct in saying that most of us sitting in the Senate did not own our own homes and everything in them until we were well on in life. Probably there are quite a few of us who do not own our homes yet. But the young people today seem to have come to an understanding that they should marry, start a family and own a home and everything in it within a short period. Life is just not like that. If you are going to have a car in the garage and the items Senator Marriott mentioned such as refrigerators and washing machines, it will take you a little longer to own your own home. It took me a long time before I could say, “ This is mine “.
Home building is one of the big avenues of employment for labour in Australia. Senator Benn said in effect - and I agree with him entirely - that the building industry is one of the most sensitive and definite barometers of the state of the national economy. If the building industry is fully employed, the economy is healthy. It is the first to suffer if there is a recession. In the twelve months ended last December, builders of homes and flats employed a work force of about 75,600, an increase of 9,600 on the previous year.
I remind the Senate that last year the Government provided directly approximately £117 million for housing. That included £51 million - almost the same amount as this year - under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, £35 million for war service homes and £4 million for homes for the aged. In passing I might say that the aged persons’ homes scheme is one of the finest things this Government has done. Last year the Government provided £7 million for housing in the Territories and £10 million for home savings grants. Not all of the last amount was used, but 1 do not hear Opposition speakers castigating the Government on that account. In addition, amending regulations were passed which enabled the savings banks to invest up to 35 per cent, of depositors’ balances in housing instead of the 30 per cent, previously permitted. We find that advances by the savings banks for housing rose rather dramatically from £58 million in 1961-62 to £149 million last year. That was a substantial rise.
Last year 112,500 homes were completed yet the latest figures available show that the population rose by approximately 222,000 men, women and children. So throughout Australia one new home was built for less than every two persons by which the population increased. As the average family unit in Australia is estimated to be four, on the figure of 222,000 we required an additional 55,000 homes last year. Instead, we built 112,500. In other words 57,500 more homes were built than the increasing population needed. This must go a long way towards overtaking any lag in housing.
– Does not the age factor relating to the people requiring homes take that up?
– That is so but I know that that is not directly relevant. If the increase in the population of a country is 222,000 in one year, 112,500 homes are being built in a year, this must take care of some of the backlog. A number of homes are demolished each year, particularly in the capital cities where homes near the centre of the city are being bulldozed over and being replaced by big blocks of offices. That factor has to be taken into account.
I wanted to refer to the allocation of funds to building societies and other approved societies. I hope that when the
Commonwealth and the State Governments get together after this year, which is the last year of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, they will consider increasing the amount allocated to building societies from 30 per cent, of the total amount allocated. I say that because the fact is that the money made available to building societies builds more homes than the equivalent amount made available to State housing authorities. Other senators have canvassed this point but I think it is worth stating again. Senator Scott pointed out that there are many reasons for this fact. One is that the amount lent to the home owner by the building society is repayable over a shorter period of time, 31 years, whereas the period is 53 years with some State authorities. Therefore there is pretty near a double turnover for the money. Another fact, of course, is that building societies demand a higher deposit. I have some figures which substantiate what I have said. One house was provided for each £2,853 advanced to State housing authorities, whereas one house was provided for each £2,566 advanced to building societies. Therefore the Home Builders* Accounts provided 392 more houses, or 11 per cent, more, than the same amount of money advanced to State housing authorities. The advantage of the Home Builders’ Account arrangement will become even greater in later years as the repayment of accounts increases. Therefore I hope that when the new housing agreement is made this matter will be examined closely by the Commonwealth and the State Governments concerned.
I am a little perturbed at some of the building standards in Australia. I feel I can speak with a little authority on this subject because just three months ago I moved into a new home which I had built. I had owned a home previously but I sold it because my family had dwindled and the :house was too big. Now I have moved into another one. I do not own it. I own only part of it. I returned from Canberra to my home when the roof was being put on this dwelling. I am not a builder although I have done a lot of building on farms. The home has a low pitched roof of 7i degrees. I had a look at it and I said to the builder that the first decent wind that came along would take away the roof because it was not tied down properly. The builder said to me: “Your job is being a member of Parliament. We are builders.” I told the builder how I would go about it. He said: “Thirty years ago, perhaps, but not today.” The builder had the rafters sitting on the wall plates instead of having bolts going down through the double cavity bricks or being tied in some way. Sure enough, when I went back three weeks later I found that my roof had landed on the vacant lot next door. That meant that the builders had to return and do exactly what I asked for. The house was covered by insurance but the incident cost the builders or the insurance company some £1,000 or £1,200.
I am not happy with the standard of some building and I think the low standard is caused by the pressure on builders. 1 think it is caused by the amount of work and the lack of tradesmen. Tradesmen are being pushed to do the job - to move from one place to another. They cannot devote the time to the job which I am sure a good tradesmen would want to devote to it.
– Not enough tradesmen are being trained.
– I will not argue with the honorable senator on that point. I am not going to argue against the fact that we should be bringing more tradesmen from overseas. But I think an honest endeavour is being made to bring them in. If Senator Toohey would cast his mind back he would remember that I spoke about apprentices some four years ago. I had some rather radical views on the subject and I am sure he did not disagree with them. But I think we should be doing more about apprentices, particularly in the building trade. However, I have met builders and spoken to them and have found that the poor building standards have been caused by the fact that so many building contractors today are forced to use sub-contractors. They cannot afford to have their individual plumbers, carpenters or bricklayers. They have to sub-contract. The sub-contractor has pressure on him because the builder probably has 15 or 20 homes under construction at the one time. I am not very happy with the standards of some of the buildings I have seen and I am not overhappy with the standard in my own home although it was built by one of the best builders in Western Australia. However, they used sub-contractors.
Senator O’Byrne mildly said that something had been done about home building in Australia, but not enough. When we look back over the 16 years this Government has been in office we find that in that time one million homes have been built in Australia. That is in round figures. On the basis of a man, his wife and two children comprising the average family of four, this means that four million people have been housed in 16 years. In other words a third of Australia’s population has been housed in 16 years. This is not a bad effort if we leave party politics out of the matter and look at it in an honest way. I think it is a very good effort to house a third of the population in 16 years.
I know it is probably not within the scope of the Bill we are discussing but a number of people have said to me that one of the best things that the Government has proposed over the last few years is the housing loans insurance scheme. People feel that this scheme will be the answer for a lot of people who do not come under the various other housing arrangements.
– This matter was mentioned in the second reading speech.
– Yes. It was mentioned in the closing phase of the second reading speech. I was going to relate it to that speech if you took me to task, Mr. Acting Deputy President. I know that this scheme can be speeded up a bit. I know that the Government and the Minister for Housing, Mr. Bury, are doing everything they can and that the Commissioners have been appointed. I suppose it is not an easy job to fix what are to be the interest rates and to persuade the finance institutions in Australia to participate in the scheme. But I am an optimist and I believe that the institutions will participate. I believe the scheme will succeed because the vast majority of Australian people think it is a very good idea. I do, too. I think it will fill the gap. I think here particularly of the people on the land. Sp many schemes in respect of housing do not take into account the farmer who wants to build a home for himself or quarters for his staff. I hope that this scheme will cover that need for rural and agricultural housing. I began my speech by saying that there were not many new things to be said about this Bill. I do not think there are. I think that all I can say to complete my contribution to the debate is that I hope that the next Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement will be suitable to all and that the amounts made available to building societies will be increased from 30 per cent, of the total allocation. I support the measure.
– The purpose of the Bill before the House is to authorise the borrowing of £51 million to be advanced by the Commonwealth to the States for housing. A similar Bill comes before us every year and attracts the very genuine interest of people who are grappling with the problem of housing. As has been stated already, the amount on this, occasion is £350,000 less than it was last year.
We are witnessing something of a postwar phenomenon. Before the war it was never thought that the time would come when a Commonwealth Government would throw the economic strength and resources of the nation into the task of providing homes for our young people. In 1945 while the atmosphere of war still lingered, the Chifley Government introduced the first Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. With all its imperfections, the Agreement was designed to provide housing for our exservicemen. The Government wanted to ensure not only that the men being discharged from the forces would be able to return to their jobs, but also that they would not feel that they had fought a war only to return to a land in which housing was not available for them. The original proposal was to provide homes only for rental purposes but so successful was the concept of placing the resources of the nation behind the people that there was a veritable queue of people asking for government housing. I think I am right in saying that Australians are the greatest home owners in the world. We strive for a home long before we strive for furniture. In other parts of the world people are satisfied so long as they can rent an apartment and then decorate it with ornate furniture. It is a great thing to give a family a stake in a home. This is a way of life which Australians have accepted. On all levels ranging from the Commonwealth
Government right down to municipal councils encouragement is given to people to own their own home.
I have always said there is something basically wrong with a nation and with a government that allows young people to be exploited by land developers and in the ways to which Senator Branson has referred. Being a farmer and having built his own place, he has some knowledge of building. He was completely right in what he said about wall ties. When a roof blows off there is little left to argue about. Obviously Senator Branson was right and the builder was wrong.
I do not think anyone is completely happy about this Bill but we are not opposing it because this money must go forward. I do not think any honorable senator is completely convinced that we have grasped this basic proposition of saying to young people who are getting married: “ We will put you into the best possible house that the nation can afford “. We have seen a fantastic increase in the price of land. Tremendous amounts have been made by land developers and the argument has arisen whether this is the quickest and best way to make land available to young people or whether governments should step in and make sure that private land developers are not making excessive profits. I would support anything which would reduce costs at this point because in our peculiar type of society we seem to pay the lowest wages to, and make the greatest demands on, young people at the time when they most need assistance. When they are getting married and are trying to make homes, rear children and buy a few accessories such as motor cars, we seem to throw everything at them and make it difficult for them to own houses.
In this age of hire purchase we put before them a package deal. We put them into homes filled with all kinds of amenities and charge them interest on those things. In this scientific age, we seem to be working in reverse. Young people today have cheap efficient machinery and enough skill to do a fair bit of building themselves. If we take our minds back to the period before the war we remember that it was a job to learn even how to mix concrete. It was difficult to build cupboards, for instance, because the only joiners shops in those days were professional ones. Today, with light tools and high revving machines a lot of this work can be done in the home workshop. It is wrong that in an age when technical education is so much better than it was and when machinery is much more readily obtainable, we are not encouraging people to do things for themselves. Instead we say to them: “Here is a package deal. Here is your three-bedroom home with wall to wall carpets, all your cupboards, concrete paths and fences.”
– And “ here is the bill “.
– As Senator O’Byrne so aptly interjects, “ Here is the bill “. To me this is a reversal of the normal process. I think we are confusing people. A person becomes confused the moment he moves into the field of building. It is something he is not trained for and something he is not accustomed to doing. A person may have a lot of ideas about the home he wants, but when the builder says: “ This is not architecturally solid; this is not sound building practice; that will not save you very much money “, the confusion sets in and that does not help anyone.
I think that one of the biggest mistakes made over the last few years in the field of housing is the home savings grant of £250. It sounds nice to say to a person who is getting married: “ The Commonwealth Government will give you £250 provided you save £750 over three years “. I do not think anyone who is honest will deny for one moment that this grant was an election promise, thrown into the campaign on the eve of the election. It sounded very fine at the time but it was tremendously difficult to implement the promise. This was evidenced by the fact that the legislation did not come before the Parliament until 12 or 18 months after the election.
While we have the present system of selling land and while we have problems of building such as those mentioned by Senator Branson, we should not have put into the hands of the sellers a weapon which should have been put into the hands of the buyers. The £250 was very quickly absorbed in land prices in areas where there was a shortage of land, and it was quickly absorbed in building costs in those areas where people were queued up to buy homes. The Government merely added £250 to costs. Perhaps costs would have risen in any case, but by throwing out this promise on the eve of the election the process was accelerated. The proposal should have been thought out carefully on the administrative level and then brought before the Parliament. Instead, the promise was made on the eve of the election, the legislation was passed by the Parliament and then the administrative officers had to make the plan work.
We must not repeat these mistakes in housing. Adequate housing is basic to the Australian way of life and to Australian sentiment. At all levels of government, from the Commonwealth down to municipal councils, every effort should be made to put the resources of the nation behind the housing of our young people. There is something basically wrong when plenty of money is available to enable people to buy refrigerators and television sets, which have a very short life, yet almost impossible conditions are imposed on young people when they want to build houses which, in 30 or 40 years, will not have deteriorated in value, but on the contrary, in this inflationary era, may well have increased in value. We have not been applying ourselves sufficiently to this problem.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin). - 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.
– I wish to raise two matters on the adjournment. I shall not take long, but I find it very difficult to raise them by way of questions. The first matter concerns the raising of loans by foreign companies in Australia when no equity in those companies is given to Australian citizens. I refer specifically to the loan of £10 million by the Ford Motor Co. of Australia Ltd. and the loan of £18 million by General Motors Acceptance Corporation Australia. I am not raising the question of foreign investment in Australia, which I think must be allowed under certain circumstances. But I am raising the question of companies which do not allow Australian citizens to purchase shares in them. The companies are allowed to borrow money from the Australian market at: times when it is difficult for the Australian Government and other peopleto raise loans for themselves, it is quite iniquitous that we should allow this system to operate. It is unjust that these two companies and other foreign companies which wish to do so, apparently are allowed to raise loans in Australia. The Government should adopt a firm policy in this matter. I do not think it is good enough to allow this practice to continue or to adopt a laisser-faire attitude. This sort of thing must be stopped. If these companies are not prepared to allow Australians to obtain equity in them, they should not be allowed to raise money on our loan market. That is the first matter that I would like the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) to put to the Government in order to see whether something cannot be done about it. I think he should make a statement on this matter.
The second matter I raise and on which I will be equally brief, is the question of the legality of spending the money of the Australian Wool Board on a referendum to decide whether or not the wool growers should have a new marketing scheme. I asked a question about this matter recently, and the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) replied that as far as he knew the Attorney-General (Mr. Snedden) had considered the matter and decided that it was quite legal. The Attorney-General may be a very brilliant lawyer, but he certainly has not shown himself to be a very brilliant politician. He may be quite right in what he says, but I am not convinced. Senator Branson became a builder instead of a politician, and I am becoming a lawyer. I have had a look at the Wool Industry Act. It specifically states the functions and powers of the Board. We all know that the Board carries out research and promotes the use of wool, but section 24 (1.) provides -
The functions of the Board are-
to inquire into, and from time to time report to the Australian Wool Industry Conference upon, methods of marketing wool and any other matters connected with the marketing of wool;
In other words, one of the functions of the Board is to inquire into the methods of marketing wool and any other matters connected with wool marketing and to report to the Australian Wool Industry Conference.
There is nothing in that section which says that the Board should spend its funds on a referendum to decide whether the wool growers want one marketing system or another system.
– Two senior officers of the Attorney-General’s Department are of the same opinion as the Attorney-General.
– I understand that senior officers of that Department were also of a certain opinion in the Ipec-Air Pty. Ltd. case, and I did not think much of that, either.
– The honorable senator is not going to raise that matter again, is he?
– I shall, if the honorable senator wishes me to do so. The Attorney-General and his officers may be right and I may be wrong. But when they are asked to test the legality of the proposal, surely it is up to the Attorney-General to say, “ Yes, do so “. After all, he is not omnipotent.
When this question was raised the legality of it should have been tested. I am not arguing the rights or wrongs of the proposed referendum, or whether or not we should have this wool marketing scheme, but I am concerned that when the legality of this question was raised, the Attorney-General refused to test it. I do not think that the people of Australia regard the AttorneyGeneral as a very good Attorney-General. This has been shown of late. I think that the Government has done itself a lot of harm in regard to the restrictive trade practices legislation because I do not think anybody will trust the Attorney-General with the powers that are envisaged under that legislation. That is a matter for the Government to consider.
I believe that we should ask the Government to allow the legality of the proposal to be tested. Section 24 (2.) (c) gives the Board power to - use such means as it thinks fit for the purpose of promoting the use of wool and wool products, including -
the use of publicity;
There is nothing in the Act which says that the Board can use its funds for specific purposes against the wishes of many wool growers who have contributed to those funds. I ask the Government to give the reasons why the Attorney-General’s Department said it is legal for the Board to use the money in this way. I hope that the Minister for Works (Senator Gorton) will be able to obtain the reasons from the AttorneyGeneral. He would not give reasons in the I.P.E.C. case, so I do not suppose he will give any in this case.
– I will not refer at any length to the matters which Senator Tunbull raised in the second part of his speech because I am strongly of the opinion that it is entirely out of order to discuss a bill which is already in another place and which is being discussed there. The Bill is expected to come before the Senate next week. The honorable senator will have a full opportunity to discuss the matters which he has raised tonight when the Bill is being debated in the Senate.
– The money is being spent now.
– I do not think that another couple of days will make much difference to the honorable senator. He will have an opportunity to debate the Bill when it is before this chamber. I shall wait with great interest to see what he has to say when it is debated in the Senate next week.
As regards the other matter which the honorable senator raised, if he has a view on it he can bring it to the attention of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) himself. He may care to send a copy of his speech as recorded in “ Hansard “ to the Treasurer because it is a matter of the honorable senator’s personal opinion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.8 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 September 1965, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1965/19650915_senate_25_s29/>.