26th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for National Development indicate whether he is prepared to lay on the table of the Senate all reports and papers containing or relating to, firstly, any agreement between the Government and Esso-BHP concerning the oil industry, including the agreement referred to in the Prime Minister’s statement of 10th October 1968 on oil pricing policy; secondly, departmental estimates of the amount and value of resources affected by any such agreement; and thirdly, departmental estimates of the costs and future costs of production of oil from those resources?
– The papers referred to by the honourable senator will be tabled. These will answer the controversy that has appeared in the Press and certain statements that have been made by various correspondents to the Press. I advise the honourable senator that there is nothing in the negotiations with the oil company concerned and other companies in relation to crude oil produced in Australia that the Government wishes to hide. Prior to these negotiations with the company it had been decided to pay $A3.l4 a barrel for crude oil produced in Australia, as a result of which the consumers of petrol in Australia would have suffered an increase in the price of petrol which has been estimated by the Opposition and others - but not necessarily by the Government - as being as much as 7c a gallon. Because of the huge discoveries in Bass Strait the Prime Minister has negotiated an agreement with Esso-BHP as a result of which the price can be reduced by 72c a barrel or a little more than 2c a gallon of crude oil. This, in itself, will be of significance to the petrol consumers in Australia. 1 must make it quite plain that there is no secret agreement. Some notes, which might be referred to as aides-memoire, were taken by the Prime Minister of the verbal agreement reached between him and EssoBHP. In addition there is a submission by Esso-BHP to the Prime Minister and the Government spelling out what the company believed should be the posted price, less normal discounts, for the crude oil which it produced. There is also a letter which has been forwarded to all sections of the industry - producers and refiners - by the Comptroller-General of Customs and Excise, consisting of about six pages explaining the Government’s attitude on oil. I tell the honourable senator in answer to his question that the Government, having nothing to hide in respect of these negotiations, has no hesitation in tabling the papers.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry seen a report in today’s ‘Age’ that a representative of an American fertiliser company had stated that prices for fertiliser in the United States of America had been reduced by 50% in the last 5 years? Does this mean that Australian farmers can expect to see reductions in the price of Australian fertiliser. If not, what atc the reasons?
– I made some inquiries from the Minister concerning this matter and he has supplied the following information:
It is my understanding that United States fertiliser prices have fallen somewhat as a result of over-capacity and competition within the industry. However, it is impossible to relate prices of fertilisers manufactured in another country willi those in Australia because of several important components of the cost structure which have an important effect on the finished product. In particular, cost of the raw materials to the factory and the overheads as determined by volume of output are important considerations.
I cannot predict whether the reduction in fertiliser prices in the United States will mean that Australian farmers can expect to see reductions in the price of Australian fertilisers. There are many factors involved and the technology of the fertiliser industry both in manufacturing and end use is in a state of rapid development. For example, 1 note from a report in the ‘Financial Review’ today that the American company referred to by the honourable senator has decided to defer its plans for construction of a fertiliser factory at Newcastle until such time as the raw material sources are clarified and the latest trends in manufacturing and transport techniques become clearer.
The Commonwealth has no direct control over fertiliser prices but under both the Phosphate Fertilisers Bounty Act and the Nitrogenous Fertilisers Subsidy Act the Department of Customs and Excise investigates prices charged to ensure that the bounty or the subsidy is passed on in full to the purchasers. These investigations show current price levels to be reasonable in the light of costs. I am hopeful that, as the output of domestically produced fertilisers increases, there would be some prospect of Australian firms being able to reduce prices as a result of increased throughput.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. By way of preface I would like to draw attention to the fact that in this month we are celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the creation of the Republic of Poland in 1918. Is it not a fact that the immediate reason for the declaration of war against Nazi Germany by Australia in 1939 was the military assault by Germany on the integrity and independence of the Republic of Poland? Is it not a fact that the Polish nation was ultimately not given the necessary support by her former allies and as a result has become a captive nation of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics, a situation which has been a continuing cause of shame to Poland’s wartime allies? Is it not a fact that such policy by the allies ultimately opened the door to a Soviet Communist hegemony over many European nations, a continuing cause for international concern and a persistent threat to world peace? Is the Government sensible of the possibility, however remote, of a similar position developing in South Vietnam and will the Government at this critical stage in the relations between that country and its present military allies ensure that a Polish situation is not allowed to develop? Finally, would the Government agree that the occurrence of such a situation could precipitate the same position in South East Asia as exists today in east Europe?
– The honourable senator asks a fairly lengthy question in which he traverses history, particularly in relation to the tragedy which was the initial precipitation of the last world war. He makes some comments in relation to it and gives some details on which I would not comment against this background. He then goes on to draw an analogy with the present situation in South Vietnam. Properly, I should refer a question in that context to the Minister for External Affairs. It would not be proper for me to comment on it at question time.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, by saying that the Industry Assistance Committee of the Australian Apple and Pear Board is preparing a scheme for the stabilisation of the apple and pear export industry. As the scheme cannot be established in time to cover the 1969 export season and as devaluation will continue to affect growers returns adversely, will the Government make such provision as will protect growers interests pending implementation of a permanent stabilisation scheme?
– As this is a matter of Government policy I cannot give an answer at question time. I can inform the honourable senator that the Minister for Primary Industry is to receive a deputation from interested growers this afternoon. As a result of that meeting the Minister may be in a position to make a statement about the matter.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a series of reports in the Colac ‘Herald’ in Victoria which indicated that a large pool of unemployed existed in the Colac district? Is he aware that this unemployment is attributed to the aftermath of the recent drought, which was particularly severe in that part of Victoria, and that an estimated 260 people lost their employment when payment of Commonwealth drought relief funds ended on 30th September? Can the Minister inform me of the number of persons at present registered for jobs in that district?
– Yes, my attention was drawn to the Press reports to which the honourable senator referred. The Commonwealth Employment Service does not keep a register of unemployed specifically relating to Colac but it does in relation to the Geelong district which includes Colac. I am pleased to say that when drought relief was discontinued only 57 persons were registered as unemployed. In fact, the number of unemployed in that district at the end of October was about the same as that for previous periods.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services. Did the Minister read in the Sydney ‘Sunday Telegraph’ of last Sunday that 112,000 men, women and children will get help this Christmas from the Smith Family Appeal and that newspaper? This is being done to help the under-privileged in New South Wales. Is the Government concerned about the fact that there are in New South Wales and, no doubt, in other States, so many underprivileged people living in such circumstances? In view of Government claims that we are living in such an affluent society, will the Government bring down a supplementary budget before Christmas in order to increase pensions or to make a special grant to all pensioners so that they, too, may have a happy Christmas?
– 1 could not hear every word that the honourable senator said. I understand that he asked me whether I had seen a statement in a Sydney Sunday newspaper about the number of people who would be assisted by the Smith Family. I did not see the statement to which he drew my attention but I know of the excellent work being done by this charitable organisation. I think the honourable senator also asked whether the Government would bring down a supplementary Budget before the end of the year. I know nothing of this but I am sure it is not intended to do so.
– -My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Has the Government any information that would confirm a report that trade links have been established between Rhodesia and Communist bloc countries in. respect of products the exporting of which to Rhodesia has been banned by the United Nations? If the Government has no information will it have inquiries made to ascertain whether there is any truth in the report?
– I have no knowledge of this report. J will seek information and make it available to the honourable senator and to the Senate.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the plight of the Gugliemino family in Victoria following the serious illness of their 20-month old mentally retarded child? 1 understand that the family, which consists of the husband and wife and their five children, is in jeopardy of legal action unless the breadwinner can manage to pay medical bills totalling about $700. The husband is insured with the Latrobe Valley Health Service Association, which has classified his child’s illness as chronic, with the result that the father receives only a Commonwealth contribution of S35 per week and nothing at all from the health fund of which he is a member. Does the Minister agree with the statement issued by the Victorian Council of Social Services that this case is tragic proof of the fact that the system of voluntary health insurance does not provide adequate protection against costs? Does the Government intend to do something to assist this family or does it intend to leave it to a generous and warm-hearted public to come to their rescue? Finally, what steps does the Government propose to take to protect other families which may be similarly affected?
– I have seen Press reports concerning the matter to which the honourable senator refers. I agree that it is tragic indeed for this young family. I remind the honourable senator that the Government has appointed a committee to inquire into health insurance. The honourable senator also asked whether the Government intends to assist this family. I have no information at present on this aspect, but I will take the matter up with the Minister for Health.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. 1 refer to comments made by New Zealand interests over Australian Broadcasting Commission stations that New Zealand would be able to supply lamb to the Australian market to meet deficiencies in our production. Can the Minister say how many tons of Australian lamb were exported last year? Further, if Australia is exporting lamb, is it not self sufficient in lamb production? If so, will the Minister inform the New Zealand Meat Board of this fact?
– I am not aware of the comments referred to by the honourable senator. Exports of Australian lamb in 1967-68 were 8,800 tons. Australia is selfsufficient in lamb and this year exports in the 4 months ended October, at 8.700 tons, had already almost reached the total for the whole of 1967-68. The honourable senator also asked whether the Government would draw the attention of the New Zealand Meat Board to the fact that we are self sufficient in lamb production. I assure the honourable senator that the New Zealand Meat Board is well aware of Australia’s position.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Supply, who is also Minister representing the Minister for Defence: Is the Minister in a position to inform the Senate whether a rationalisation plan is proposed for the Australian aircraft industry? I refer to a Press report and some speculation that there is likely to be a merger between the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Ltd and the Government Aircraft Factories. In line with any rationalisation proposal, is it to be a requirement of the armed Services that they meet and co-ordinate plans for orders which have to be met from either outside or within the Australian productive capacity? If so, will he ensure that the Australian aircraft industry has a better opportunity to meet the requirements of the armed Services than has been the case over past years?
– I issued a Press statement late on Friday last following a comment which appeared in the ‘Financial Review’ on the general question of rationalisation. I thought I had that Press statement in front of me, but I have not but I will indicate the substance of it to the honourable senator. It is true that amongst other considerations in relation to the Australian aircraft industry the question of possible rationalisation is being studied by a special group. No decisions have been taken. Indeed, no decisions will be taken until some proposals emerge from that study. Of course, it will then be a matter for Government consideration. As to the generality of the honourable senator’s question - he has posed this type of question to me on a number of occasions - I indicate that every effort is being made to preserve and maintain a viable Australian aircraft industry. In the process, all avenues are being explored.
It is part of Government policy - I am sure it would be accepted on a non-party basis - that we want, as far as is practicable, to preserve an aircraft industry in Australia. Every consideration will be given to that matter in any studies that are continued. It must be understood, of course, that Australia might have a requirement for a certain type of aircraft but it may be only a small requirement. Economies of scale come into the problem irrespective of whether the Government Aircraft Factories, the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation or the Hawker or de Havilland organisations are concerned. It is a question of economics of production. These are big questions and I know I have given some fairly general answers, but at this time I am not able to be more specific in relation to the studies that are taking place.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health is complementary to that asked by Senator Cohen about the Guglielmino family of Victoria. The outline of the case that he gave illustrates- and highlights the anomalies and ambiguities of the so-called national health scheme. Will the Minister for Health take steps to amend the National Health Act to provide for an onus of proof clause to place on the insuring medical and hospital benefit companies the responsibility of spelling out clearly the categories of illness that they classify as chronic and the extent to which an insured person can become financially involved without the knowledge that he is not covered by his comprehensive hospital insurance policy?
– I will place the honourable senator’s question before my colleague, the Minister for Health.
– I address my question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Have officers of the narcotics bureau interviewed the Rev. Ted Noffs of the Kings Cross Wayside Chapel regarding drug rings existing in Sydney? If so, did anything tangible emerge from the discussions?
– Last week the honourable senator asked me whether, if Mahommed would not go to the mountain, the mountain would go to Mahommed. I said we would look at the matter he raised to see whether it would be possible to interview the Rev. Ted Noffs. I can tell the honourable senator that on several occasions we have had interviews with the reverend gentleman, who takes a very active interest in people who are addicted to drugs. The Press also often makes statements on this subject. It is very difficult to obtain from the people who are looking after and endeavouring to cure those addicted to drugs any evidence of where the drugs are obtained. If the Press, the reverend gentleman or people who are endeavouring to cure addicted persons could obtain information from them about the pedlar from whom they obtain supplies it would be a great help, not only to the narcotics bureau but also to the prevention and detection section of the Department of Customs and Excise, and the various State police forces.
– in addressing my question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs I refer to statements made last night to the Royal Institute of Public Administration by Mr Hasluck in which he strongly censured the Government for the use made by Ministers of public servants. My question refers to the strictures he cast in his prepared speech, which apparently was not delivered-
– Order! The honourable senator should ask his question.
– Very well, Mr President. He referred to public relations and said:
A less kindly report on what is actually done under the name of public relations, however, is that practice deteriorates into giving only selected pieces of a story, then into trying to prove that part of the truth is the whole truth and then into fake and fabrication.
Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate inform honourable senators which particular instances the Minister for
External Affairs had in mind of a Minister of the Government using public servants to tell stories consisting of fake and fabrication? Can he also advise the Senate which Ministers are in the habit of employing public relations officers to engage in fake and fabrication so that the public may then be aware in future which statements to treat with the respect they would accordingly deserve?
– Quite obviously the honourable senator has read an article in the Press, has formed his own judgments and appreciations of it and has then asked a question. I would say, in the first place, that Mr Hasluck’s statement was not a censure of the Government. It is true that he made some remarks about public relations. As to the rest of the honourable senator’s question, I think he would be wise to obtain a full draft of the Minister’s statement before making any more comments about it.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he believes that if there is any harm in having public relations officers attached to Ministers, the same stigma would attach to Leaders of the Opposition.
– The obvious answer to the honourable senator’s question is yes. In all walks of life public relations officers are employed. Some are good and some are not so good. Some are belter than others.
– On 1 0th October I asked the Minister representing the MinisterinCharge of Aboriginal Affairs the following question:
It appears as question No. 616 on the notice paper. Representations have again been made to me from Aboriginal people in the Lightning Ridge area who have been moved from their homes. I ask the Minister to speed up a reply to my question.
– I will certainly do my best to do that.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry inform the Senate of how many nations, if any, have signed the new international sugar agreement?
– I am not in a position to give that information to the honourable senator. I will inquire of the Minister whether he can make the information available to the honourable senator.
– 1 preface my question, which 1 direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, by advising that concern has been expressed to me by apricot growers in South Australia at the importation of dried apricots from Iran and China. As export markets are being sought for locally produced apricots, will the Minister have inquiries made into imports of dried apricots with a view to ensuring that they do not threaten the stability of the local industry?
– I have not been made aware of any representations about damaging levels of imports of dried apricots. lt is proper to say that it is open to all secondary and primary industries to seek protection, either through an increase in duties or anti-dumping action against marketing disruption caused by imports. In the case of tariff protection, the responsibility would quite clearly be for representations to be made to the Department of Trade and Industry. In the case of any suggested dumping situation, representations would be made to the Minister for Customs and Excise. That is the normal procedure. Then there is a basis for an inquiry if an industry or section of an industry feels that some element of the importation is injurious to it.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. Can the Senate be given any information regarding joint StateCommonwealth police action in investiga tions in several States of incidents that could be Ustashi inspired?
– I inform the honourable senator that the Commonwealth Police Force keeps a continuing and close liaison with State and Territory police forces on this subject. J am glad to be able to inform him that there have been no recent reports of any attempts by the Croatian Revolutionary Brotherhood or other like society to extort money from migrants.
– I direct a further question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. It follows the answer he gave to the question asked by Senator Marriott, in which the honourable senator asked whether, as he put it, the same stigma could be attached to public relations officers employed by Leaders of the Opposition as applied to public relations officers employed by Ministers. As the Minister’s answer was in the affirmative, disregarding the speculation-
– Order! The honourable senator is making his question up as he goes along. It is very difficult to follow. 1 ask him to put his question without making comments.
– I apologise if you find the question difficult to follow, Mr President. As the Minister has said that the same stigma applies to Opposition public relations officers as to Government public relations officers, are we to take that as an admission by him that the stigma that was attached by the Minister for External Affairs to Government public relations officers was justifiably attached to them?
– I suggest that the honourable senator is merely playing with words. For that reason I do not feel under any obligation to answer his supplementary question.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Defence advise the Senate whether the repeated Press rumours that the United States Government has cancelled a large part of its order for Fill aircraft and will now purchase only ninety-five, have any basis in truth? If they have, will the Australian Government persist in purchasing the twenty-four Fill aircraft now on order, thus virtually leaving Australia with an obsolete aircraft?
– I do not answer questions based on repeated rumours. But let me repeat what I have said here before: The Government considers that in the acquisition of the Fill aircraft it will get an aircraft absolutely essential and desirable for Australia’s defence.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate read in the newspapers and seen on television in the last 2 days authoritative statements that it is possible to set up a fire fighting movement by using aircraft now in the possession of the civil aircraft authorities as water bombers? These are quite serious statements. As a matter of fact, John Pearce of 2GB, who is an authoritative aviation man, put the proposition yesterday and said that the Government should seriously consider it. 1 ask whether the Government will do that.
– I accept this as a serious question. If there is any proposition, which is worthy of study, for the use of aircraft in dealing with bush fires or any other type of fire, I am certain that it will be examined. I would think that in the first instance this question should be referred to the Minister for Civil Aviation who, through his Department, could redirect it for investigation.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs seen reports that a court of the military dictatorship in Greece has sentenced to death Mr Alexandros Panaghoulis? In view of the fact that Mr Panaghoulis and his colleagues have been engaged in activities to restore democracy in Greece to replace the present dictatorship, and as this Government professes its adherence to democratic principles-
– Order! The honourable senator is really testing my patience. He must ask his question. I ask him not to make a long statement.
– Read the standing orders.
– I am as familiar with standing orders as is Senator Marriott. Will the Government make representations to the Government of Greece urging clemency for Mr Panaghoulis?
– I shall refer the question to the Minister for External Affairs. It is not normal at question time to answer questions which touch on the relationships between nations.
(Question No. 641)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has supplied me with the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Yes. 2. (a) In the view of the Government the 1925 Geneva Protocol has proved an effective instrument, although questions of interpretation have been raised concerning some of its provisions.
(Question No. 645)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Trade and Industry has supplied the following answers:
(Question No. 648)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following answer:
(Question No. 658)
asked the Minister for Housing, upon notice:
Is it a fact that the recent increase of one-half of 1% on housing loans means that a loan of $8,000 costs a borrower an extra $750? If so, will the Government consider liberalising the homes grants legislation to ease the burden on borrowers?
– The additional cost to a borrower of repaying a housing loan when the interest rate increases by one-half of 1% per annum depends on the term of the loan and to some extent on the initial interest rate. The increase of the interest rate on housing loans by private savings banks from 53/4% to 6¼%, assuming a term of 25 years, would have the result that the total additional cost of a credit foncier loan of $8,000 would be $734. The purpose of the homes savings grants scheme is not to subsidise interest on housing loans, but to encourage young people to save purposefully and consistently for their first matrimonial homes. The scheme offers a grant of $1 for every $3 saved in one or more of the acceptable forms, the maximum grant being $500 on savings of $1,500 or more. Thus, the amount of grant is related to the amount of savings made - not the rate of interest payable. The scheme is designed to encourage saving prior to the acquisition of the home and so to reduce the amount of money that needs to be borrowed at interest.
(Question No. 661)
Has the Minister seen the published statement made in Canberra on 16th October by Mr C. T. Looker, Chairman of the Melbourne Stock Exchange, that an export administrative staff college should be established in Australia?
In view of the urgent need to increase Australian exports, will the Government examine the practicability of giving financial support to such an important project?
– The Minister for Trade and Industry has supplied the following answers:
I should point out however that the universities and bodies such as the Australian Institute of Export and the Australian Institute of Management are showing an increasing interest in the training needs of Australian export executives and any consideration of new proposals would have to be related to these other activities.
(Question No. 662)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
(Question No. 697)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
Has the Government made any decision on the protests from many municipalities inclose proximity to Kingsford-Smith Airport in relation to:
arranging for the resumption of monitoring of aircraft noise and policing the regulations relating to the suppression of aircraft noise to levels permitted for motor vehicles and factories in the area;
using the landing and departure route over Botany Bay whenever possible;
giving immediate consideration to the construction of another airport outside the metropolitan area in conformity with international practice and in view of the approaching saturation of facilities at the Kingsford-Smith Airport;
discontinuing the use of Kingsford-Smith Airport by jet aircraft which make a louder noise than conventional aircraft;
encouraging the manufacture of a design of engines which will reduce the noise level;
setting up a select parliamentary committee to investigate the noise problem from Kingsford-Smith Airport?
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The Minister for Civil Aviation has indicated the Government’s views in correspondence with the Botany and Waverley Councils in relation to a series of resolutions that were adopted in a protest meeting on 9th September last which was sponsored by the Botany Council, and the question asked by the honourable senator apparently refers to these resolutions. The position in regard to the particular points raised is as follows:
over the years, lie Department of Civil Aviation, with the assistance of the Commonwealth Acoustics Laboratory in the early stages, engaged in a number of noise measurement exercises in order to compare the noise levels of various aircraft types (including jet aircraft which were introduced in 1959). It can be said that this activity triggered off the introduction of the now familiar noise abatement procedures and the night curfew on jet schedules. No good purpose would be served in introducing a regular system of monitoring and supervision until noise standards are determined, and this will not be possible before the Department receives the proper guidance from international sources. The Department is keeping in close touch with overseas administrations working in this field, but it may be some time before recommendations are released. It is not possible at this time to say how these noise standards will measure up to the levels permitted by Councils for motor vehicles and factories.
it is agreed that the landing and departure route over Botany Bay should be used whenever possible, and this will be facilitated with the completion of the current runway extension programme late this year or early in 1969.
the question of new airport development in the Sydney area is under study in the Department, but it is likely to be some time before the Minister for Civil Aviation will be m a position to make a statement on this matter.
there is no alternative to jet aircraft using the Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport in the foreseeable future. However, the ultimate ann will be for all aircraft operations to conform with noise standards, yet to be determined, and this will also apply to operations at any airport which may ultimately be established to serve the Sydney area.
the development of quieter engines to conform with noise levels which will be judged acceptable on a world-wide basis is a matter which is currently receiving a great deal of attention from the large aircraft manufacturing countries (the United Kingdom, the United States of America and France) and Australia has strongly supported this move through representation at international conferences.
there have been suggestions from a number of sources that a select parliamentary committee be set up to investigate the aircraft noise problem, particularly in regard to Sydney Airport. I am not yet able to advise the honourable senator of a decision. The Minister for Civil Aviation has this matter under consideration.
However, the Department itself is undertaking a comprehensive review of the operational noise abatement procedures being applied at Sydney Airport with a view to determing whether, in fact, optimum noise alleviation is being achieved within the means available to the Department. The results of this review should be available in 3 to 4 weeks time.
(Question No. 724)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
What has been the incidence of engine failure on take-off of -
How many in-flight engine fires have occurred in each of these three aircraft types over the same period?
– -The Minister for Civil Aviation has now supplied the following answer:
The following information regarding engine failures experienced during or just after take-off has been extracted from the Department’s records as at the end of October 1968:
No in-flight engine fires have been reported on Australian operations in any of these aircraft over the same period. There were a few fire warnings but these were all associated either with a fault in the fire detection system itself or with leakage of hot air from a cracked pipe in the engine air bleed system.
(Question No. 709)
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
How many films have been prohibited from distribution in Australia by the Commonwealth Film Censorship Board during the past 10 years on the ground, or as one of the grounds, of blasphemy in the film or films?
– I now provide the following answer:
There are no records which would enable a specific answer to be given to the honourable senator’s question. Regulation 13 (a) of the
Customs (Cinematograph Films) Regulations provides that a film which is ‘blasphemous, indecent or obscene’ shall not be registered and no breakup of the three specific reasons is recorded. However, the Film Censorship Board cannot recall any specific case of a film being rejected solely on the grounds of blasphemy.
(Question No. 754)
asked the Minister for Works, upon notice:
In the construction of Commonwealth building projects what percentage of cement, on a tonnage basis, is obtained from Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers (Australia) Ltd, including its subsidiary companies, viz. Commonwealth Portland Cement, Metropolitan Portland Cement and Standard Portland Cement?
– The answer is as follows:
No records are kept of the tonnage of cement supplied to Commonwealth building projects by individual cement manufacturers. Projects of any magnitude are carried out by the contract method and it is the responsibility of each contractor to provide all materials to the standards required in the contract documents.
– On 19th September, Senator Milliner asked whether, with regard to book production in Australia, the terms of the ‘Florence Agreement’ have been ratified by the national Parliament, or if not, whether the Government is observing the terms of the Agreement. Senator Milliner also asked where a copy of the Agreement may be obtained.
I wish to inform the honourable senator that the Minister for Trade and Industry has furnished me with the following reply:
An Agreement on the Importation of Educational, Scientific and Cultural Materials was adopted at the General Conference of UNESCO in Florence in 1950. Signatories to the Agreement undertake to provide import licences or foreign exchange for, and to allow duty free entry of, a range of educational, scientific and cultural materials.
Australia is not a signatory to the Agreement. Australia does not normally impose restrictions on the flow of imports by means of import licensing or foreign exchange controls, and no such restrictions are maintained at the present time on goods subject to the Agreement. With very few exceptions, goods covered by the Agreement currently enter Australia free of duty.
The text of the Agreement is published in the United Nations Treaty Series- No. 1734, pp. 26-44, Vol. 131 of 1952, which is available in the Parliamentary Library.
– On 22nd October 1968. Senator O’Byrne asked me the following question:
Has the Minister seen a report headedTrade Terms Restrict Trade to Finland’, which appears in the ‘Financial Review’ of today’s date, stating that a trade delegation from Finland has said Australia could double its exports of fruit, particularly apples and pears, to Finland if more convenient methods of credit could be arranged? Will the Minister raise this matter with the Minister for Trade and Industry with the view to arranging cash-against-documents payment instead of the present irrevocable letter of credit method? Will the Minister also request the Australian trade commissioners in Scandinavian countries to get out and sell Australian goods rather than have their inefficiency shown up by delegations coming here and telling the world that our trade posts are falling down on their jobs?
The Minister for Trade and Industry has furnished me with the following information in reply:
The Australian Apple and Pear Board requires the establishment of irrevocable letters of credit for exports of apples and pears to all European countries. A committee of investigation set up by the Board which reported on the industry earlier this year discussed this issue and recommended that the mandatory stipulation on letters of credit be removed subject to some satisfactory alternative payment arrangement being provided. The Apple and Pear Board has recently considered the issue and has decided to retain its existing letter of credit requirements.
In answer to the second part of the honourable senator’s question I indicate that the senior trade commissioner in Stockholm represents Australia’s trade interests in the Scandinavian countries and co-operates with the Apple and Pear Board in the promotion of Australian apples and pears on the Scandinavian markets. The senior trade commissioner is frequently in touch with the Board on all matters affecting the marketing of apples and pears in Scandinavia. Any variation in the terms of sale would, however, be a matter for the Board to decide.
– I wish to refer to and amplify the reply I made on Wednesday of last week in answer to Senator Cavanagh’s question concerning the future of airframe repair workshops and the personnel who are employed there. As I indicated, the bulk of the work toad sustaining the airframe repair workshops at Parafield in recent times has been the servicing of Royal Australian Air Force Dakota aircraft and components, the rework of Canberra aircraft, and on major structural components affected by corrosion and some Winjeel servicing. Without this work load in sufficient volume or its equivalent in manhours, the airframe repair workshops at Parafield can no longer be maintained as an economical and viable organisation. An exhaustive review by the Department of Supply and the RAAF in particular has not been able to produce an alternative work load without detriment to other like organisations or the RAAF maintenance squadrons.
The introduction of the Hercules transport aircraft into the RAAF has progressively reduced the need for Dakota aircraft. The latest RAAF review of the Dakota position has caused a recast of the maintenance programme to suit the further phasing-out of the Dakotas and to avoid unnecessary work on those aircraft that are to go out of service. The Canberra aircraft have and will continue to be serviced ‘in house’ by the RAAF. These are now old aircraft and as their service life was extended until approximately 1973, preparatory to the introduction of a replacement bomber, extensive inspections and modifications have been carried out to overcome corrosion difficulties due to age. As Parafield had been low in work for some time, the RAAF agreed to have these aircraft restored by the airframe repair workshops at Parafield - at Edinburgh. This Canberra programme has now been completed.
The combined effect of the revised maintenance programme for Dakotas and the completion of the Canberra restoration work has resulted in the present situation at Parafield. A decision has now been taken to plan for the closure of the workshops there as early as can be conveniently arranged in 1969, but not later than midyear. There are some 105 industrial employees and 39 salaried staff employed at Parafield. The present decision does not affect the installation at Northfield, which employs some thirty-two people on site. Northfield is a light machine shop located several miles from the Parafield aerodrome. This facility continues to have a satisfactory work load and ways and means are being examined for appropriate administrative arrangements to continue the operation of Northfield.
Unfortunately this matter has become public knowledge before my department has had the opportunity of extending the usual courtesy of informing the Australian
Council of Trade Unions that a decision has now been taken to cease aircraft repair operations at Parafield. It has been a long established practice to first inform the ACTU when major decisions are taken which affect the welfare and employment of industrial workers of my Department. The decision to phase-out operations at Parafield leading to a complete cessation not later than mid-1969 has just been taken. Before my Department is in a position to give any reasonably detailed information to the ACTU concerning the future employment situation it is necessary to review the remaining work load insofar as the employment strength is concerned. My Department has written to the ACTU today explaining the situation and providing broad details.
The best possible arrangements will be made for the employees concerned that are consistent with the falling work load and administrative requirements. The Department of Labour and National Service and the Public Service Board will be kept fully informed and, with my Department’s cooperation, will be actively seeking to place the employees concerned in alternative employment. Personnel who are terminated will be given the utmost consideration and most certainly will be given all award and statutory rights under the Commonwealth Employees Furlough Act 1943-1968 and the Superannuation Act 1922-1968 to which they may be entitled as a result of retrenchment action. I mention in conclusion that I have received a letter from the honourable Steele Hall, Premier of South Australia, on this subject and that I have replied to hint today in similar terms.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman) - ls it desired to rearrange the business?
– I ask for leave to make a statement in relation to the re-arrangement of business.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Is there any objection? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I have had a conference with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) and I have informed the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor
Party (Senator Gair) of what is proposed. Rather than take the measures received from the other place to the second reading stage now it is proposed to proceed immediately with the first item on the business paper, namely, the War Service Homes Bill 1968. At 8 o’clock tonight- this evening is normally reserved for general business - Senator Murphy proposes to take two Bills to the second reading stage. After that we will deal with messages relating to Government business. The position in relation to the War Service Homes Bill will be clarified by 8 o’clock tonight. Then we will re-arrange the business.
Debate resumed from 14 November (vide page 2047), on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 - Commencement.
– In my speech on the motion for the second reading of the Bill I indicated that we would be proposing amendments in Committee. I do not know whether the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) has purposedly delayed until the Committee stage replying to a number of questions that were raised at the second reading stage. That procedure is not normal. I, and many other honourable senators in this chamber, would have expected our questions to have been answered so that we would have had an opportunity to counter, if necessary, certain of the replies. We have not been given that opportunity on this occasion. In the 13 years that I have been in this place I do not recall that practice having been adopted previously. I deprecate the action of the Minister.
– The Committee is dealing with clause 2.
– I do not have any amendment to propose to clause 2. I merely wanted to indicate at the outset that I deprecated the Minister’s action in not replying to the questions that were raised.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Section 4 of the Principal Act is amended -
– I move:
Before paragraph (a) insert the following paragraph: “(aa) by omitting from sub-section (1.) the definition of ‘Australian soldier’ and inserting in its stead the following definition:
Australian soldier’ means a serving member of the Forces or a former member who has been honourably discharged;’ “.
I think the Committee will be well aware of the purpose for which we have proposed this amendment. It is to clear up the long definition of clause 4. The Opposition’s proposal shortens the definition and, in my opinion, makes the clause much more workable. There are a number of anomalies in the Act, some of them in relation to definitions. I think it is true to say that the Act at present is very narrow in its application. The inclusion of the proposed new paragraph will extend the provisions of the Act to persons who presently do not qualify for benefits. Persons who served in any of the Services - the Navy, the Army or the Air Force - and who are now excluded because they did not leave the shores of Australia will be included. That is a very important point. Unless they happened to be serving in Darwin when that city was attacked they are not entitled to the loan for a home.
Many persons joined the Navy, the Army or the Air Force and for some reason, perhaps through no fault of their own, did not leave Tasmania, Victoria or New South Wales and so were not in a classified war zone and were thus prevented from qualifying for a loan under the provisions of the War Service Homes Act. Why should they bc penalised after voluntarily offering their services for the defence of this country, even though the top brass of the Services considered that they could be better used here than overseas? I could raise quite a number of points in respect of this legislation but 1 do not propose to do so. 1 can quote my own case as an example. 1 enlisted for service in World War II and received a number one military pass. However, 1 was sent back to my employment because I was following a reserved occupation. Why should I be penalised in respect of this legislation? I was prepared to serve in the forces but was not permitted to do so because of the type of work I was performing. I appreciate that my experience is not relevant to the amendment proposed by the Opposition. I merely put it forward as an example. I think it is wrong that people who were anchored by the powers that be to an Australian base, because it was felt they would be of greater value to the war effort here than if sent to a war zone, should be debarred from the benefits of this legislation. I suggest that people who served in the forces should be automatically entitled to the benefits provided by the War Service Homes Act.
On another occasion 1 raised the case of a divorcee in respect of war service homes entitlement, but I appreciate that that case has nothing to do with the Bill we are now debating. I have read the Bill and the parent Act and I have some doubt whether the legislation applies to servicemen returning from Vietnam. An Australian soldier is defined in the Act as follows:
Australian Soldier’ means a person who, during the continuance of the war which commenced in the year One thousand nine hundred and fourteen or during the continuance of any war in which His Majesty became engaged on or after the third day of September, One thousand nine hundred and thirty-nine-
The definition then proceeds into more detail. No specific mention is made of soldiers returning from Vietnam, but as I began to read the definition I recalled that an amendment was made to the Act in that respect. During the debate on the second reading of the Bill I was followed by Senator Sim. At the time that Senator Sim spoke the amendments which had been foreshadowed by the Opposition had not been moved or circulated. It seems that Senator Sim was doing a lot of anticipating.
– The amendments had been circulated and I had a copy.
– I hope that Senator Sim will permit me to correct him. The amendments were circulated after I had finished my speech.
– When I was speaking.
– But after the honourable senator made the statement to which I am about to refer. The statement was made before I circulated my amendments.
– I had the copy here.
– The statement was made before I circulated my amendment.
– I do not want to argue with the honourable senator. He should get on with his speech.
– If Senator Sim will refrain from interjecting perhaps I can get on with ray speech. I am not going to be browbeaten. I know perfectly well that the amendments had not been circulated at that time because I made a note to that effect. Senator Sim opposed the amendments although they had not been circulated. He went on to say that he believed it is an advantage to be in Opposition because when in Opposition one need not show a great regard for the taxpayer. I speak for the Opposition in saying that Senator Sim and his colleagues can come over here and we will change places with them at any time. We would be quite happy for them to be in Opposition.
– It would be almost a miracle, though.
– The results of the 1961 elections were almost a miracle, and history repeats itself.
– That is true. Probably the Minister for Housing will clean up some of these matters in her reply. I think I have said all that needs to be said about the proposed amendment. We seek to widen the ambit of the definition of an Australian soldier in order to provide entitlement for more people to the benefits of this legislation. However, if the amendments were accepted entitlement would not be provided to so many people as to throw a great financial burden on the Government.
– T. fail to understand the point of Senator Poke’s argument that I spoke on the amendments before they were circulated. I do not wish to argue about the exact time that they were circulated. At one stage when I was speaking I certainly had the proposed amendments before me. If I anticipated the amendments, I certainly anticipated them correctly.
– I gathered from Senator Poke that he did not expect the honourable senator to understand them.
– Perhaps that is so. I still do not understand them. The amendments proposed are extraordinary. If my arithmetic is correct, World War II ended 23 years ago. We are now being asked to extend the benefits of this legislation to people who served in various capacities in that war and to people who are serving in the Citizen Military Forces and other forces at the moment.
This would seem to me to create a great number of anomalies. What about war correspondents who served in theatres of war? What about civilians who served in theatres of war and who were exposed to warlike action? They could have faced all the risks and dangers of serving in theatres of war; yet they receive no benefit. I accept what Senator Poke said about many people who were willing to go overseas, such as he himself was, but who through the force of various circumstances did not ever leave Australia. One of the fundamental principles of this Act since its inception about SO years ago has been that this is a valuable repatriation benefit. It has been accepted as such for 50 years. Now, for some reason which has not been explained to us, the Opposition wants the whole Act amended and the scope of it widened to include anybody and everybody who at some stage or other served in the Australian forces, wherever they may have served.
I would have thought that the Opposition, in putting forward an amendment with such serious financial implications as this amendment has, would have made -some attempt to inform honourable senators of the number of people involved and the likely cost to the taxpayers. I do not apologise for saying that the Opposition shows little regard for the taxpayers of Australia.
In this type of amendment, in respect of which the Opposition makes no attempt to put before honourable senators any figures to enable us to judge the financial problems involved, the Opposition shows little regard for the taxpayers. We are asked to accept this amendment without knowing what costs may be involved in it. After all, the taxpayers are the ones who have to meet these costs.
If we are to provide this assistance to everybody, I do not know how many people will be involved. It may be one million; it may be 200,000; it may be 500,000. But most certainly the cost involved will be many millions of dollars. The Opposition is not acting very responsibly when it brings forward a proposal such as this in the manner in which this one has been brought forward; that is, without any indication of what is involved in it. I could well imagine the Labor Party’s shadow Treasurer, if he were the Treasurer of the government of Australia, paling when he started to work out the cost involved, 1 can find no merit in this suggestion. Let us take the matter a little further. Over the past week the Leader of the Opposition in another place (Mr Whitlam) has been making speeches all over Australia. In his speeches he has been promising every section of the community that a Labor government would spend more money for their advantage and benefit. Now the Opposition in this chamber is urging the spending of more money. We do not know the amount involved. We are given no indication of the amount that the taxpayers of Australia would have to find. The taxpayers could well start to question what is involved in this wild promise, which is being made by the Opposition in an attempt to attract votes.
Frankly. 1 can see no merit in this amendment. I would be prepared to examine it if the Opposition were prepared to give us some figures on its estimate of what is involved, so that we would be in a position to judge whether the Australian economy could stand this type of thing. 1 believe that we are entitled to have more arguments put to us to show why a fundamental principle of repatriation should be altered after 23 years. None of these arguments has been put. We are asked to accept this proposition on the basis of a very weak case presented in support of it. I will oppose this amendment.
– I support the amendment moved by Senator Poke on behalf of the Opposition. Senator Sim said that he found it an extraordinary amendment. Then he asked rhetorically: ‘What would be the position of war correspondents who served in theatres of war? What would be the position of civilians who were conscripted to serve in a civilian capacity- ‘
– I did not say ‘conscripted’.
– I assumed that the honourable senator meant people such as those employed by the Allied Works Council. He asked: ‘What about civilians who served in theatres of war?’ The amendment moved by Senator Poke suggests that the present paragraph of the Act be deleted and that the following definitive paragraph be inserted in its stead:
Australian soldier* means a serving member of the Forces or a former member who has been honourably discharged.
Frankly. 1 believe that that language is simple, clear, concise and succinct. I do not think there is any ambiguity whatsoever in it.
At present there are injustices and anomalies under the existing definition in the Act. if there are injustices and anomalies, 1 am sure that the Minister will be the first to agree that they should be corrected.
Let me cite the case of a militiaman who was called up during the time of the threatened Japanese invasion, who was drafted into the Army, who had an N, Q or V number without an X’ after it and who was sent to Darwin to serve in that theatre of war at the time the bombing was taking place. That man would be entitled to a returned from active service’ badge. If he suffered wounds or injuries as a result of his war service he would be entitled to repatriation benefits. But because he was not a volunteer, because he was only a militiaman, under the present Act he is not entitled to lodge an application for a war service homes loan. A man who was serving as a militiaman in the armed forces in Darwin could have had an arm or leg blown off by a bomb dropped from a Japanese aircraft and now be a totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman and still not be entitled to lodge an application for a war service homes loan. I suggest to the Minister and the Government that thai is a great anomoly and great injustice to a number of ex-servicemen who are in that category.
On the other hand a militiaman who served in, say, Victoria Barracks in Sydney and who, 2 days before the termination of hostilities, volunteered to serve outside Australia and became a member of the Australian Imperial - Force, is entitled to lodge an application for a war service homes loan despite the fact that he stayed in Victoria Barracks in Sydney throughout the whole period of the war. I suggest to the Minister that the present Act creates these anomalies and injustices. A man can be a TPI pensioner because of his service to Australia as a militiaman and yet not bc entitled to lodge an application for assistance, under the war service homes scheme. Our proposed amendment would overcome all these difficulties and anomalies. It would sort out the ambiguities and would ensure that those men who serve this country in time of need in a theatre of war shall be entitled to make application for a war service home. I therefore support the amendment.
[4.1] - Before replying to the matters raised so far, I should like a little leniency from the Chair in order to assure Senator Poke that I did not intend any offence to him in not replying to matters raised during the second reading debate. I thought his colleague, who had moved the adjournment of the debate, intended to continue with his remarks and 1 was waiting for him to do so. If 1 can answer some of the matters that the honourable senator has raised during his comments on this clause. I shall certainly do so.
Senator Poke referred to the eligibility clause and before replying directly to the amendment which he has proposed, I should like to correct him on the question of eligibility. The honourable senator suggested that a person who enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy or the Royal Australian Air Force was not eligible for a war service home if he did not leave Australia The position is that all persons who joined the Royal Australian Air Force or the Royal Australian Navy who enlisted specifically for service outside Australia, are eligible irrespective of whether they served outside Australia. Only members of the Citizen Military Forces are ineligible if they served only in Australia.
The honourable senator also raised the question of applications by single or divorced persons. He referred to the long title of the War Service Homes Act. I remind the honourable senator that it must be remembered that, as indicated in the long title to the War Service Homes Act, the war service homes scheme was introduced to provide homes for members of the Australian forces and their families. The eligibility provisions of the Act therefore limit the grant of loans to persons who satisfy the Director that they are married or are about to marry or have dependants for whom it is necessary for them to maintain a home, and certain female dependants of those persons. The test is not whether the applicant is single or divorced but whether he has dependants for whom he must provide a home.
– But the Act debars a divorcee if he has no dependants.
– A man is debarred if he has no dependants, whether he is single or divorced. But that was nol the point that I understood the honourable senator to make. I understood him to be referring to dependants, and I endeavoured to reply to that point. 1 come now to the amendment. 1 think we must first realise that a war service homes loan is a valuable repatriation benefit granted as a reward for service in time of war. Under the provisions of the War Ser vice Homes Act eligibility for a loan is based on enlistment for active service abroad, or actual overseas service in time of war, or any warlike operation when the serviceman concerned is exposed to hazards of a warlike nature beyond those of the normal peacetime service. The effect of the proposed amendment to clause 4 would be to extend eligibility to all serving members of the forces and former members of the forces who received honourable discharge irrespective of the nature of the risk to which the member was subjected, or where service was performed or whether service was full time or part time. The important question here is whether it is appropriate that eligibility should be extended in this way. Is it equitable that preferential treatment in the matter of housing loans should be given to members of the forces who have not been exposed to hazards or risks greater than those encountered by other members of the community?
I need hardly say that extension of eligibility along the lines proposed by the amendment would result in a big increase in the demand for funds for war service homes, and unless those funds were diverted from other important projects, the net result would be delays in the provision of loans for persons who were exposed to the risks of death or injury in time of war or in warlike operations. I emphasise that at the moment we have no waiting list for war service homes and this is tremendously important. Acceptance of the amendment would mean not only the diversion of funds from other important projects but also delays in the granting of loans. I think that the Bill as it stands covers our requirements. Let me say very clearly that the amendment proposed by Senator Poke is in my opinion quite inconsistent with the whole spirit of the legislation. 1 believe that, far from removing anomalies, it would result in the creation of many anomalies and inequities. For those reasons, the Government is unwilling to accept the proposed amendment.
– I feel very disappointed that we have had such a negative reaction from the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) to our proposal that the definition of ‘Australian soldier’ be amended to cover all serving members of the forces and all former members of the forces who have been honourably discharged. Since the inception of this scheme, the Treasury has expended $ 1,260m on loans for war service homes. This money has been expended in a returnable investment. Not only has it helped to fulfil an important social need, but Consolidated Revenue has received a good annual return by way of repayment of loans made. In the last financial year, something like $67m was returned to Consolidated Revenue by way of repayment of loans. The capital expenditure was $59m. In our view, the substantial amount returned to Consolidated Revenue each year by way of repayments could well be utilised to widen the scope of the war service homes scheme.
Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin failed to make any comment with relation to the anomaly that while a militia man serving in Darwin who suffers from the effects of his service in that area is entitled to all other repatriation benefits he is not regarded as being eligible for a war service home.
– He could be a TPI man.
– That is so. As the Director of War Service Homes points out in his annual report, there have been no amendments at all to the War Service Homes Act. Therefore, activities under this Act have more or less reached a standstill and we can expect an unwinding of the demand because the number of applications for loans is declining. I point out that we could well expect the number of applications to increase for we shall insist that men returning from Vietnam shall be regarded as being eligible as well as those who have served in Korea. In view of our foreign policy, I submit that we will continue to be involved in many warlike activities throughout Asia in the foreseeable future. Here, I take Senator Sim to task. His mind seems to be restricted to the fact that we are dealing only with people who fought in the two World Wars. I remind him that there have been two or three wars since World War I and World War II and the men who fought in them are just as deserving of the advantages that flow from having served in the Australian forces as those who served in World War I and World War II. The honourable senator said also that the widening of the definition of ‘Australian soldier’ would mean that anybody and everybody who had served in any of the Services would be eligible for a war service loan.
I remind the honourable senator that under the Homes Savings Grant Act the Government has provided that anybody and everybody in a particular age group is eligible for assistance to build a home if he is about to marry or has married. Let us consider those whose lives have been disturbed by the national service call-up and those who, because of the indefinite nature of their commitment in the Citizen Military Forces, can be called on in the event of an emergency to serve overseas. They do not lead a normal civilian life. They may be deferring matrimony or settling down. Many people do not like to commit themselves to lifelong contracts in matrimony when they have in mind that they may be called upon for overseas service. Considerations such as these influence their decision. The point I am making is that people who are not in the Services, who have not been called up and have not volunteered for the CMF are eligible for benefits under the Homes Savings Grant Act, provided that they are within a certain age group. This distinguishes them from those who are committed to the Services. It is in the interests of those who are so committed that the definition should be widened.
Reverting to the financial side of the issue, S 1,260m has been found over the years for investment in loans to eligible ex-servicemen who are required to repay the loan over a number of years. The amount being returned on this investment exceeds quite considerably the commitments of the War Service Homes Division.
– It gets the interest.
– It has been a profitable investment in many ways, as I mentioned earlier. We have an obligation as a nation to serving members of the forces and to ex-servicemen, an obligation which has been fulfilled to a degree through the work of the War Service Homes Division. In passing I must say that the Division has done a splendid job within the terms of the Act. One realises this when one sees the people who have been set up in their own homes and who are making repayments which are within their ability. One of the bright spots in the whole of our economy has been that people who have been for tunate enough to get a war service home have found that their repayments are proportionate to their salary. Elsewhere throughout our haywire economy it is considered that 20% of a person’s salary is the maximum that he should pay for accommodation, although in some places people are paying as much as 50% of their income in rent or in repayments on housing loans. This is the plight of many pensioners who have not a home of their own but who are obliged to find a back room or an upstairs attic, or anything else that they can find. Even then they are obliged to pay $5, $6 or $7 a week. That is a very big proportion of their income. But the policy of the war service homes administration has made it possible for a very big section of the community to be able to handle their accommodation problem within their salary range. That is commendable.
However, our objective is to widen the provisions. We feel that because of the economics of the war service homes scheme, because the money is coming back at a greater rate than in previous years as a result of long term investment of Commonwealth funds in the scheme, rather than allow these funds to go into general revenue they should be earmarked and held exclusively for the benefit of those for whom the scheme was originally designed. It should be widened so that it covers the different types of servicemen that we now have. Particularly during the First World War, but also in the Second World War, the majority of servicemen were volunteers and it was fairly easy <o define a man who had volunteered for overseas service. Eligibility for a war service loan could be said to be the reward for going overseas to fight for God, King and country.
– That was the reward for volunteering - not for going.
– That is right; that is the subtle difference. I believe that our commitments for defence will in the future be where they should be, that is, within Australia. 1 am a great believer in the fortress Australia theory. I feel that we are now receiving a lesson from our interference in other people’s business, an interference which arose because we have become blinded by our own propaganda. We are seeing that the whole situation is collapsing in ruins about the Government’s head. It does not know where to go from here. The all the way’ policy does not seem to have been successful. Some of the Government’s partner’s in defence pacts are running for shelter.
Order! The honourable senator should relate his remarks to the Bill.
– I am referring to the Bill. 1 am making the point that the person volunteering or being conscripted for service now should have the same reward as the man who volunteered for service and who knew he was going overseas in the First or Second World War. I am suggesting that the nature of war has changed and that therefore the approach to the war service homes scheme and the reward to be given for volunteering for service should be wider in its application. That is the whole nub of our proposition which we feel can be substantiated. But not only that, most certainly when we have attained the Treasury bench, which I expect to happen before very long, we will be implementing that policy. So perhaps those who are volunteering now will not have very long to wait.
– I want to come briefly into this debate because I did not speak in the second reading debate. As an ex-serviceman I want to give my reasons for opposing what I consider to be an important amendment moved by the Opposition. It is a matter that should not go undebated. I shall deal with some points which were well made by Senator O’Byrne. He said that the Act has gone unamended to any great extent for a number of years. The point is that it is now 50 years since the end of the First World War and 22 years since the close of the Second World War. Successive governments and Parliaments have decided that it has not been right or necessary to widen the scope that the War Service Homes Act was intended to cover. It is very easy while in Opposition to enter a debate on any form of social legislation and to move amendments to widen the scope of the legislation, to bring more and more people into the field of government assistance. But this does not mean that it is good statesmanship, it does not mean that it is even fair to the individuals concerned and it does not mean that it is warranted.
Senator O’Byrne referred to the future and stated what evidently is Labor’s defence policy of a fortress Australia. Therefore, he inferred that this Bill should now be widened so that in the future, if Australia is at war within its shores against an aggressor, all people in Australia will rightly rate war service homes assistance - if we own the country at the conclusion of the war. I believe it is wrong and unnecessary to legislate now for any scheme of war service homes assistance following another war. I do not believe that we need to put that into the statute book. What we need in any form of repatriation is to write into the statutes that which we feel is the right reward and just treatment for those who have been or are being repatriated. The very fact that the main elements of this legislation have stood the test of time, the test of parliaments and governments, and the test of elections, and have remained unaltered is an indication that this amendment is not required by the people. I do not believe that this is pressed by service organisations and I do not believe that it is good policy, when we have a scheme set up for men who have enlisted to fight in a war or have been conscripted, have gone overseas and have come back.
The scheme has been an apparent success. Senator O’Byrne was fair enough - as he normally is in debate - to say it has been of great social and economic value to Australia because it has helped house many thousands of ex-servicemen’s families. I do not believe it is right at this time to widen the scope of this legislation so that we suddenly bring within it people who, when they left the Services 22 years ago knew perfectly well that they had no entitlement to war service homes assistance. I do not think it carries any weight at all to try to make an amendment because the Opposition thinks the type of war we may have in the future warrants preparing legislation for the future. Another reason for my opposition to the Australian Labor Party amendment is that since this legislation was first thought out, as everyone admits, it has covered the people that it was envisaged to cover. The rest of the people have not been neglected by the Government since 1949.
New and improved forms to assist people to get homes through government departments, organisations and business undertakings and private enterprise have been introduced.
The position of the young people of today requiring homes is far better than it was before 1949. Therefore, we have not only the war service homes scheme operating efficiently but also the other sector of the community is greatly helped and encouraged to become home owners. It has always been the policy of this Government to encourage home ownership. We blotted out of the public mind the Dedman idea of not wanting little capitalists. We want every family to be home owners if they so desire, but the war service homes scheme should not be widened because it is sufficient for the purposes for which it was evolved, lt has been satisfactory and there is a lot of scope in other forms of legislation, and through private enterprise, for the young people of today to become home owners.
– There are a number of things I wish to raise briefly in this debate. I was surprised at some of the answers given by the Minister, lt made me positively ill to listen to them, but after listening to Senator Marriott I have become a chronic invalid. The honourable senator made a reference to what he called a ‘rightful reward’ and just treatment’. Senator Marriott is an ex-serviceman from the First World War.
– I am sorry. I should have said the Boer War. For the record I will state the position correctly. It was the Second World War. A man who served for the period that the honourable senator served ought to have some compassion for his former comrades, but he has adopted the attitude that is consistent with the thinking of this Government - that it can raise millions of pounds for war but the last thing that it ever wants to do is to help any deserving person in any field. This applies to repatriation as well as to the War Service Homes Division. The first part of our amendment spreads the definition of the Australian soldier. It reads:
Australian soldier’ means a serving member of the Forces or a former member who has been honourably discharged.
If the War Service Homes Division were showing a tremendous loss then we could understand the cheeseparing attitude of the Government to some degree. But it is not showing a tremendous loss. The official report of the War Service Homes Division for IV67-6S shows at page 1 that the total capital expenditure for 1967-68 was $46,019,365 but the total receipts were $69,165,313 - a difference of approximately $23m. So the Division is going bankrupt with an excess of $23m in receipts over expenditure. The number of homes provided has dropped from 8,497 last year to 6,534 this year, ft is all very well for the Minister to say that the Division is now able to keep up with applications. Of course it is. Half of the kids going to Vietnam are not entitled to a war service home because the Government is too lousy to give assistance to them. The Government is too lousy to see that they get some sort of recompense. I know Senator Marriott’s attitude to conscripts. As far as he is concerned they are expendable. They are kids without votes. He does not care how many are killed and he is not interested either.
– I raise a point of order. I take exception to and I feel completely insulted by Senator Keeffe’s statement that I do not mind how many national servicemen are killed. I believe it is a filthy, disgusting but typical remark and ask him to withdraw it.
Senator Keeffe, you will withdraw that remark.
– I will not withdraw it because he deserves it. It is consistent with his attitude and I refuse to withdraw it. May 1 proceed now?
The honourable senator must withdraw.
– Do 1 understand that Senator Keeffe will not withdraw his remark on your instruction? I think his comments were grossly unfair and most unparliamentary.
- Senator Marriott provoked me into saying this because of his whole attitude.
Senator Keeffe will withdraw his remark unequivocally.
– 1 will not withdraw.
Order! I name Senator Keeffe. I suspend the proceedings of the Committee in order to report to the President that an offence has been committed by Senator Keeffe.
In the Senate
Temporary Chairman, Mr President, I have to report that during the proceedings of the Committee Senator Keeffe committed an offence in that he refused to withdraw after having said that Senator Marriott did not care how many national servicemen were killed.
– Mr President, under the provisions of standing order 440 1 ask Senator Keeffe to make any explanation or apology he may wish to make in relation to this matter before 1 move a resolution.
– Mr President, I seek leave to make a statement.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I ask Senator Keeffe, in deference to the Senate, to withdraw the statement he made so that the matter may end here.
– Mr President, under the terms mentioned by my leader Senator Murphy, in deference to the Senate I will be prepared to withdraw.
– Mr President, standing order 440 provides for withdrawal and an apology to the Chair.
– Mr President, I think it is of not much recompense to me for Senator Keeffe to rise in his place and say that in deference to the Senate he will withdraw the remark. To my mind Senator Keeffe has used an unparliamentary expression and has cast an unwarranted slur on me and on my character, both as a man and as a member of this Parliament. I think 1 have every right to say that I will not be satisfied unless I have a withdrawal and a personal apology.
– Mr President, I again draw attention to the standing order which requires an explanation or an apology. I do not think Senator Keeffe has given an explanation or an apology. I think he should put his mind to it. I have the responsibility of moving a resolution. I do not want to do so. 1 think Senator Keeffe should withdraw and express his regret for making the comment.
– When one gets involved in these things one feels some emotion. I think Senator Marriott will concede that his speech and his interjections provoked me to the point where I made that statement. I said quite clearly a while ago that I apologised to the Senate. I think that makes clear my attitude to this particular incident.
– Mr President, I regret this very much, but Senator Marriott who has been affronted has said that there has been no apology to him. Therefore, I move:
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative. (Senator Keeffe thereupon withdrew from the chamber.)
-I would like the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) to explain to me how the Government justifies its actions in sending our boys to Vietnam without telling them that upon their return they will not receive the same sort of benefits as those who served in past wars. I refer in particular to the granting of benefits under the War Service Homes Act. Like others, I congratulate the Government for the good things it has done in regard to the granting of war service homes, but I cannot see the logic of appealing to boys to go to Vietnam and not telling them what they can expect upon their return. Surely it is governmental dishonesty not to explain to the 20-year olds who enlist that when they come back they will not be covered by the War Service Homes Act. The average young lad does not think of these things. Whether he is a conscript or a volunteer, after a couple of months in camp he settles down to Army life and becomes quite excited with the idea of going to war. The last thing he considers is whether he will receive a war service home upon his return or when he is married.
I call it governmental dishonesty to call a boy up to serve and not to tell him what he is entitled to. I believe that if the Minister will explain the reasons for this it will take a lot of the heat out of the debate. I feel that a boy should be told all the facts. He should be told that he will be discriminated against. There may be technical reasons for this but it looks completely immoral to me. It may be argued that the Act was passed SO years ago to cover those returning from the First World War and that different conditions prevailed then. It has been suggested - I think by Senator Marriott - that those returning from the war in Vietnam will be better off financially than those who returned from the First and Second World Wars and that they will be better able to purchase a house.
– But the Opposition’s amendment is much wider than just providing for returnees from the war in Vietnam.
– That is principally what I am concerned about. I believe that the Government should at least accept that part of the Opposition’s amendment which relates to those who served in Vietnam. Quite frankly, I must confess that when I first read the speech made by the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) in the other chamber I was horrified to learn that whilst the Government was conscripting people to serve in Vetnam it was treating them differently to the way it treated those who served in the first and second world wars. I hope that I am wrong and that the boys who served in Vietnam are entitled to the benefits of this Act. If that is so, a lot of the opposition to the provisions of this legislation will disappear. When 1 first heard of this differentiation I was horrified at the thought that such a thing could happen in this day and age. If I had a son who was going to Vietnam or could be called up I would say to him: You are going to be discriminated against. You should have in mind when you go to Vietnam that you will not be covered by the War Service Homes Act.’
– lt is a disgrace.
– 1 think it is a disgrace. I hope that the Minister will be able to explain the reasons to me. [Quorum formed.]
[4.47] - Firstly, I wish to reply to the comments made by Senator Ormonde. 1 must clear up certain points for him as he is badly informed. Both he and Senator O’Byrne suggested that members of the forces who served in Vietnam would not receive the benefits of the War Service Homes Act. The Act was amended in 1962 to provide for the granting of war service homes benefits to those who are - allotted for special duty under the provisions of the Repatriation (Special Overseas Service) Act, which covers in Vietnam and other areas where members of the Australian Forces are involved in warlike operations. I also want to clear up another matter that Senator Ormonde raised. It appears that Senator Ormonde is under the impression that our young men are not given any information before serving in Vietnam or upon their return. I wish to make it very clear to the honourable senator and others that these people are interviewed by departmental officers before they go to Vietnam and again on their return and are told of their entitlements under the War Service Homes Act. They are given all information possible as to their eligibility for benefits. I am informed that up to date several hundred young men who have served in Vietnam have been assisted under the Act. 1 am sure Senator Ormonde will be pleased to learn that.
– I realise that the War Service Homes Act was amended to include those ex-servicemen who served in Vietnam. But there are some people - and this is where I disagree with the Government - who are conscripted under the provisions of the National Service Act, do their national service in Australia and suffer some injury or illness which does not permit them to go back into normal civilian life and perform the same type of work as they did before being called up. Irrespective of the injury they suffer they are not entitled to the benefits of the War Service Homes Act simply because they did not go overseas.
– The man could be a TPI pensioner.
– He could be. This point was raised by Senator McClelland. A man could do his 2 years national service, or part thereof, not leave Australia, be a TPI pensioner and still not qualify under the provisions of the Act. If he received an honourable discharge we believe he should qualify for a loan, irrespective of the fact that he did not leave Australia. Any scheme which permits a man to borrow money for a home at 33% interest is the best home ownership proposition in the world. Senator Marriott told us that it is the Government’s policy to have people own their own homes. With that I do not disagree, but if the Government is genuine in its efforts to have people own their own homes let it extend the provisions of the Act to cover the people to whom 1 have referred.
According to the annual report of the Director of War Service Homes the number of applications in 1967-68 was 548 fewer than the number in 1966-67. That is a clear indication that the number of people who qualify under the Act is falling yeal by year. In fact that has been the situation over quite a period. If the number of people who qualify is falling annually, what is wrong with amending the Act to make more persons eligible? I do not want to mention names but I refer to a very prominent sportsman in Australia who did his national service and is now playing cricket again but he will never qualify for a loan under this Act. I think that is wrong.
– I reiterate the point I made in the earlier stages of the Committee debate. The Minister, in reply to Senator Poke and to me, has said that the War Service Homes Act represents a valuable repatriation benefit granted as a reward for those who served in time of war. Will the Minister confirm the proposition I stated earlier relating to a militia man who served in a theatre of war, namely Darwin, during the Second World War when Australia’s shores were being bombed by Japanese aircraft; who was wounded as a result of the bombing; who was entitled to repatriation benefits because of the wounds he suffered and now could well be a TPI pensioner but who is denied a benefit under the present terms of the War Service Homes Act? If that is the position, it is a great anomaly when one considers the case of a man who served, say, in the pay office at Victoria Barracks as a militia man for the whole period of the war except that 2 days prior to the termination of hostilities he volunteered to serve outside Australia and became a member of the Australian Imperial Forces. Notwithstanding the fact that he was serving in Victoria Barracks for the whole period of hostilities with the exception of 2 days, that man is entitled to lodge an application for a loan under the terms of the War Service Homes Act. If that is the situation I certainly believe that this Act needs amendment, and the only way in which the situation can be remedied is by an amendment in the terms of that proposed by Senator Poke on behalf of the Opposition.
– I have been trying to follow Senator McClelland’s argument. As I understand it, the honourable senator is suggesting that if a person with a Citizen Military Forces number was serving in Victoria Barracks and 2 days before war ended he transferred to the Australian Imperial Forces, he is eligible for a war service homes loan. I am probably sticking my neck out, but as I understand the Act you are eligible only if you have served in a theatre of war.
– No, if you volunteer for overseas service.
– I am sorry, I misunderstood that aspect. Senator Georges used the word ‘conscripted’. I remind him that in 1 942 or 1 943 the Labor Government of the day quite rightly conscripted 18-year-olds to serve.
– What has that to do with war service homes?
– I am not arguing that. Senator Georges referred to conscription and I am just reminding him of the facts of life. The Labor Government did not see fit - again I agree with it because I oppose the amendment - to make all those who were conscripted but did not serve overseas eligible for a war service homes loan. I come to the point which Senator O’Byrne raised. T think this is the ridiculous part of the amendment. As I understand it, any person who today is serving as a member of the CMF; who sleeps at home; who receives his civilian pay and his CMF pay; who spends 3 weeks a year, or whatever might be the period, in camp, under this amendment would be eligible for a war service homes loan. T do not believe that ex-servicemen would support such a proposition. As an ex-serviceman I want to make it quite clear that I would not support such a proposition. I believe it is a ridiculous suggestion to make.
I conclude by inviting members of the Labor Party, as I did when I first spoke, to give some indication of the cost involved. If they are sincere in this, if they really want the amendment to be accepted, they should have done their homework and should have given some indication of the number of persons involved and some estimate of the cost so that we could make a sound judgment on the proposition. They have talked in circles without giving any clear indication of what really is involved in the amendment.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [4.59] - I should like to comment upon one or two points that have been raised. One of them, relating to receipts exceeding expenditure, should have been replied to earlier. It would be a pity not to have this matter explained shortly and recorded in detail. We need to look at the matter as it really is. For a great many years expenditure exceeded receipts by a substantial margin. Indeed it is only over the past 3 years that receipts have exceeded expenditure. From the inception of the scheme to 30th June 1968 some $1,260,559,320 has been expended on the provision of homes. Over the same period $765,504,138 has been received. Under the statutory arrangements in operation all receipts must be paid to the Consolidated Revenue Fund and are not available for reallocation under the Act. 1 think it follows, therefore, that if eligibility were extended as proposed some recasting of our whole budgetary arrangement would be necessary.
I thought that Senator Marriott’s comments were excellent and very apt when he referred to the conditions of eligibility. He said that the system had stood the test of time and the tests of various governments. Senator McClelland quite correctly referred to the Citizen Military Forces. I think honourable senators should keep in mind that the present eligibility conditions which apply to the CMF - the honourable senator was concerned about Darwin - were determined by the Opposition when in office. As I recall it, the legislation was passed in 1942 and reviewed by a Labor Government in 1948. I repeat that Senator Marriott very aptly said that it has stood the test of time and the tests of various governments. I again make the point that these eligibility conditions were determined by a government of the same political colour as the Opposition.
We believe in the importance of this legislation and recognise the assistance that it gives to ex-Service people. We are particularly conscious at present of the benefits granted by this legislation. As I said earlier, the Government opposes the proposed amendment.
– I simply want to ask honourable senators opposite who support the proposed amendment to clarify one point beyond any doubt. I refer to a matter which was raised by interjection last Thursday and has been referred to since. It concerns the definition of an Australian soldier as proposed, as a serving member of the forces or a former member of the forces who has been honourably discharged. ls the definition intended by the Opposition to include members of the Citizen Naval Forces, Citizen Military Forces, and Citizen Air Forces, irrespective of the length of service? If a member attends only one parade, is it intended that he should be covered by the amendment? Will the Opposition please clarify this point? During this debate several different answers have been given to queries raised on this matter. I would like to know the intention of the amendment so that we will know what we are really discussing.
– Senator Rae has asked for clarification. 1 think the amendment is very clear. 1 am rather surprised that Senator Rae, or any other honourable senator opposite, cannot interpret the amendment as it should be interpreted.
– Several different answers have been given by honourable senators opposite. I should l’ike to get the correct story.
– 1 think most people would consider Senator Rae to be reasonably intelligent. I think the Opposition regards him in that way. 1 think he could interpret the amendment as we intend it to be interpreted.
– Mr Chairman, I call your attention to the State of the Committee.
-(Senator Drake-Brockman).- Order! A Quorum is present.
– The amendment states that the definition of an Australian soldier includes a serving member of the forces or a former member who has been honourably discharged. Surely that is clear enough. It does not bring in any of the persons referred to by Senator Sim, such as people in civilian employment. It does not mean members of the Citizen Military Forces. It refers to a serving member of the forces, and former members. That is all we want. We want the benefits to be extended to people in the Services or people who have served in the Services. Surely that is plain enough.
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Poke’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator T. C. Drake-Brockman)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 and 6 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Section 19 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from sub-section (4.) the words ‘Seven thousand dollars’ (wherever occurring) and inserting in their stead the words ‘Eight thousand dollars’.
– I move:
Leave out ‘Eight thousand dollars’, insert ‘twelve thousand dollars’.
In my speech in the second reading debate I pointed out to the Senate that the cost of homes had increased considerably over a period. I had a number of examples of the increases included in Hansard. That is the main reason why the Opposition is moving this amendment. The amendment that sought to expand the Act to cover persons who we consider should qualify under it has been defeated. So we still have what we consider to be a narrow Act. Therefore not so many people would qualify for the $12,000 loan that we seek in our amendment.
I again bring to the notice of honourable senators the fact that in 1962-63 the average cost of house and land was $9,693, as shown in appendix L to the report of the Director of War Service Homes. In that year the maximum loan was $7,000. That was the last occasion on which the amount was increased. So at that time there was a deficiency of $2,693 between the average cost of house and land and the maximum loan. We have noted that there has been a continuous increase in the gap between the average cost of house and land and the maximum loan. In 1967-68 the average cost of house and land was $11,487. The Government is now proposing to increase the maximum loan to $8,000. That will mean that there will be a greater gap between the maximum loan and the average cost of house and land. The gap will be $3,487. So, since 1962-63 the gap has increased by $794. That is a clear indication that the maximum loan is not keeping pace with the actual cost of house and land.
If my memory serves me correctly, in 1952-53 the maximum loan was higher than the average cost of house and land. Why should there be such a difference today? Why should not the Government have increased the maximum loan to more than $8,000? We are endeavouring to decrease the ever widening gap between the average cost of house and land and the maximum loan. One might ask oneself: Why does the Government persist in this attitude of penalising - I cannot think of any other word to use - the ex-servicemen who qualify under this Act? The Government often makes quite an issue of people owning their own homes. Home ownership is its policy. So let it increase the maximum loan under this Act in order to give ex-servicemen a greater opportunity to own their own homes. That is all I need to say in regard to this amendment. I believe that I have illustrated to the Committee that the gap is an ever widening one and that something should be done to correct the situation.
– Let me preface my remarks on this amendment by stating that I support the case that the Government is not facing up to its responsibilities in its actions, especially its actions that involve ex-servicemen. It has failed to behave in a manner that supports the service that these men have given to the country. Honourable senators are not justified in speaking of the cost or of supplementary budgetary action. A country that wages war must accept the full responsibility for the war and for the men who fight it or are involved in it.
I wish to show that by advancing $8,000 to an ex-serviceman the Government is advancing him merely sufficient money to build a house of 8 squares or to build 8 squares of a house. Honourable senators know well enough that 8 squares is a very small area. The normal house today would be one of 12 squares. That would be a modest enough house. The Government is placing the ex-serviceman in the position of having to find another $4,000. It is the first $4,000 that he has to find and this, of course, is the most difficult $4,000 for him to find. I remember that some time ago I asked why credit unions were not recognised groups for the purpose of the homes savings grants legislation. The reply I received was that credit unions are not normally engaged in the field of home building. I remind the Senate that credit unions provide large sums by way of bridging finance to help ex-servicemen move into their homes. In many cases, too, credit unions and other financial organisations make finance available at low interest rates to enable ex-servicemen to furnish their homes. After all, the home does not consist merely of the four walls of the building. To be a home, it must have carpets, furnishings and the various other appliances that normally go into homes.
The $8,000 which the Government is offering to ex-servicemen is not anywhere near sufficient to meet their needs. The extra $4,000 proposed by our amendment will assist in this direction. In fact, I. am prepared to suggest that even $12,000 would not be sufficient. It is of no use the Government arguing about cost. If it can spend $300m on aircraft which we have not seen, if it can spend SI ,200m on war surely it can find sufficient money to give justice to the servicemen concerned. At the moment, the Government is not giving justice to these men. I submit that our amendment to increase the sum to $12,000 is reasonable. Why should ex-servicemen have to go to organisations other than the Government to find the extra thousands of dollars required to buy a home? If the exserviceman goes to a credit union he is required to pay interest at the rate of 4% flat in some cases. In other cases, the rate is 5% flat. This is far too high. The 4% flat rate is equal to 8% simple interest and the 5% flat rate is equal to 9.4% simple interest. That is too much to ask him to pay for the extra money he requires.
If he does not belong to a credit union, if he has not found sufficient money to save with a credit union because these savings are not accepted under the home savings grants legislation, then he has to go elsewhere for his money such as to a hire purchase firm and he is charged as much as 7% flat, which is equal to 14% simple interest. This obligation to pay the high rate of 14% far outweighs any advantage that he may be enjoying from the low rate of 3J% which he is paying on the balance of the money which he has borrowed from the War Service Homes Division. 1 submit therefore that the proposed amendment is reasonable, that the amount should be increased from $8,000 to $12,000 and that the amendment should be supported.
– I rise to say that 1 cannot support the amendment. The request to the Senate is that there be a 50% increase in the current amount of loan available under the war service homes legislation. 1 remind the Senate that this is being submitted to us half-way through the fiscal year, lt is being put to us after the Government’s Budget has been put to and passed by the Parliament. This is a very important item in the Government’s fiscal policy and I believe it would be quite wrong for the Senate at this stage to accept an amendment that would mean extra very heavy expenditure by the Government on items that it has not included in the Budget that has been received and accepted by this Parliament.
With great respect, I say that 1 do not believe that the Opposition has really taken into account the great amount of money that the Government may be called upon to find in this and succeeding years if the proposed amendment is carried. If the Bill as it stands is agreed to, then loans available from the War Service Homes Division will be increased to $8,000. This means that any present client of the War Service Homes Division may apply for at least another Si, 000 to spend on his home if he complies with certain conditions. Admittedly those conditions are not easy, but the opportunity will be there for all current clients of the War Service Homes Division to apply for and obtain the extra money that this Parliament grants under this Bill if they fulfil the required conditions. Therefore, if the proposed amendment were accepted the War Service Homes Division would be absolutely inundated with applications from current clients for any part of the extra $4,000 proposed. If any present client of the War Service Homes Division can prove bis requirement for extra accommodation, and if he can comply with the required conditions, his application must be granted. Therefore, the Opposition is not saying to the Government: ‘We want you to lend $4,000 extra to the people who as from the date when the Bill receives royal assent make application for loans’. It is asking the Government to write into the legislation something which gives an opportunity to every beneficiary under the war service homes legislation to apply for any additional amount up to $4,000.
– Why should they not have it if the need is there?
– It is very easy for an Opposition that has no responsibility to say that the money can be spent on houses, that it is needed to make the houses better or that it is needed to build more houses and therefore the Government has got to provide it. I do not agree with that philosophy. I believe that we in this national Parliament must have some sense of responsibility, and for that reason I oppose the proposed amendment.
If any government of any kind submits to Parliament a budget which in effect says that for the coming year that government intends to increase the requirement for war service homes by so many thousand dollars and that budget is accepted by the Parliament then 1 would be prepared to support it, but I cannot support this proposal. The only reason that I oppose it is that I believe that it is wrong at this stage to support an amendment of this kind.
I should like to make one other point. The Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) can correct me if I am wrong. It is my belief that it is important that we should restrain ourselves in seeking increases in the amounts to be made available by way of loans for war service homes. I remind honourable senators that there are other forms of State government and federal government assistance for housing. There are loans through housing authorities, agricultural banks, rural banks and loans to Commonwealth public servants. I, for one, would say that if we are going to raise the amount to be made available through the War Services Homes Division we should also raise, pro rata, the money which is to be made available to every other eligible borrower from any other State government or federal government lending authority.
Let me say emphatically that there are seeking houses today many young men and women who under any circumstances whatever could not have worn uniforms for this country. 1 believe the time has come when we have got to remember, in all fairness, that these people must not be legislated against. I believe it is physically and economically impossible for the Government to accept this proposal to increase by 50% the amount to be made available under this legislation and to accept responsibility for granting more to those who have already received assistance under it and at the same time carry out what would be the only honest policy, that of raising pro rata the maximum available under all other housing finance schemes. For those reasons, I hope that at this time of the fiscal year honourable senators will be responsible and will reject the proposed amendment.
– To hear Senator Marriott speaking one would think that the Commonwealth Government was giving this money to exservicemen. The fact of the matter is that it is a loan which is made to enable exservicemen to obtain a home. It flows from a solemn promise that was made to those who served. The Opposition criticises the extent of the eligibility for loans - we have already put that submission to the Committee - but we believe also that it is only fair that a considerable increase should be made in the amount available to those in this restricted field, particularly in view of the inflationary process that is going on. We have only to look at the figures in the report of the Director of the War Service Homes Division to find how the cost has risen over a period of 10 years. I am led to believe that the homes referred to have an average area of 8 squares. That is a very mediocre size home. For a family man to expect some privacy and a little domesticity he needs more than 8 squares. A married couple may be able to fit a bedroom, loungeroom kitchen and bathroom into 8 squares, but there would be no room for anything else.
Where did the honourable senator get the figure of 8 squares?
– It was referred to in the Senate. Until I heard it 1 did not know what the average was.
– That is not the average size.
– For $8,000 one can build only 8 squares.
– I had misunderstood the report. The point I am making is that over a period of 10 years in New South Wales the average cost for a dwelling house and land has increased from $7,836 to $11,388. In Victoria over the same period the cost has increased from $7,690 to $12,102. In Queensland the cost has increased from $6,782 to $10,665. The cost in South Australia has increased from $7,632 to $10,427, in Western Australia from $7,346 to $11,705, in Tasmania from $6,896 to $10,031, and in the Australian Capital Territory from $7,510 to $13,161. Only one house has been financed under the war service homes scheme in the Northern Territory this year, but the cost has varied over a period of 10 years from $6,818 to $8,767. The Australian average has increased from $7,608 to $11,487.
If a person is not eligible under the War Service Homes Act and is obliged to go to a financing organisation he is expected to put up a deposit of at least 20%. On the New South Wales cost to which I have referred 20% would be $2,277. But that is not enough as a deposit on a war service home. If one has only $2,277 one cannot finance a war service home in any State other than Tasmania. With the loan proposed by the Bill a person would need a deposit of $3,388 in New South Wales, $4,102 in Victoria, $2,665 in Queensland, $2,427 in South Australia, S3.705 in Western Australia, $2,031 in Tasmania, and in the Australian Capital Territory, if he happens to have the misfortune to be an ex-serviceman, he would need a deposit of $5,161 to be able to build a home with assistance from the War Service Homes Division. He could do much better by going to one of the money-lenders because he would need to find only 20% as the deposit. But the difference is that the money-lender will charge 7%, 8%, 10% or even 14% at a flat rate of interest.
The concession from the War Service Homes Division is the lower rate of interest. But the point I make is that the Commonwealth is charging interest on the revenue that is coming in from such things as sales tax on baby biscuits, sales tax on cosmetics and toiletries, sales tax on motor vehicles, petrol tax, excise and all the other avenues of consolidated revenue. This money is allocated to war service homes and it is bearing interest. But also it has to be repaid. It is a very profitable proposition for the Commonwealth to satisfy the promise to ex-servicemen. This is not an obligation which was undertaken by this Government; the Government has inherited the responsibility to provide the homes. It did not originate the scheme, and when this Government is no longer in office the scheme will still be going on. The present Government is only the custodian of this concept. The nation promised members of the Services that it would provide them with homes, if they were eligible.
Let us consider the extreme example of a person residing in the Australian Capital Territory who, through no fault of his own but because of Government, policy, was transferred to Canberra from his own State. He might have lived in Tasmania where a war service home would have cost him $10,031 for the land and dwelling. But if he is transferred to Canberra and wants to build a home it will cost him $13,161. If he was able to borrow $12,000, which is the amount we propose in our amendment, he would still find it necessary to get $1,161 on a second mortgage or by some other means. Any of the good that comes from the low rate of interest payable on war service loans and the long period of repayment is dissipated by the usurers’ rate of interest charged on second mortgages. I have known people who, in desperation, have gone to money-lenders and have found themselves saddled with very high rates of interest on a second mortgage, rates that have completely cancelled out any advantages that they receive from the low rates charged by the War Service Homes Division.
As 1 have shown by the figures I have cited, in practically every case throughout the Commonwealth the present provision of $7,000, which the Government proposes to increase to $8,000 by this Bill, is inadequate, leaving the margins that I have mentioned already. (Quorum formed.) 1 have pointed out that in my view the whole war service homes scheme needs revising in the light of the inflation that is going on in the community. The legislation we are now debating is a few years behind the times. When the amount of the loan was last increased it was still well below the amount needed to build a home. In 1962-63 the loan available was $7,000 whereas the average cost of building a home was $9,693. We have reached the stage in 1968 when the amount of the loan is even less adequate.
I should like the Minister to tell me whether the figures stated in the report deal only with homes that are built through the war service homes scheme or whether they include also all new homes or even old homes that are purchased wilh loans from the War Service Homes Division. I should like to know the average margin between the amount that is advanced by the War Service Homes Division and the cost of the home built or purchased by the eligible exserviceman. I am one of those people who have had experience with the War Service Homes Division. When I came back from overseas I had sufficient to be able to put down a deposit to purchase a home and was able to borrow from the Commonwealth Bank, God bless it. At that time, of course, interest rates were such that repayments were reasonable. I still have a mortgage on my home, and as the interest rate goes up on the day to day balance I find that I am paying 61%. But I was not eligible for a war service homes advance because I had already bought a home for myself. I could not get the mortgage discharged. I came under the special provision of the Act. I did not believe it was right that when other people were able to get this money because I had shown initiative I was not able to get my mortgage discharged. I took the matter right through to the then Minister, Senator Spooner, and he said: ‘That is the rule. We will not discharge mortgages, and therefore you have to fit in with that.’ I have accepted that, but I am still paying 6i% interest on the mortgage on my home because I was not eligible to receive war service homes finance.
This to me is an anomaly. There is always the man who will find loopholes. I understand that this provision was introduced to stop a man from purposely selling his home or getting a mortgage and using war service homes money for commercial purposes. Those loopholes have to be closed. I agree that the Division has to watch for that sort of thing, but on the other hand there should be provision for the legitimate taking over of existing mortgages if a fair case can be put up because otherwise there is discrimination against someone who finds himself involved in the purchase of a house. I bought my house at auction. One cannot go along, see the War Service Homes Division and telegraph all around the place that he proposes to buy a place at auction. In dealing with land and estate agents one would be a bunny to say he intended to bid because they would then have two or three fellows planted around the place to bid against one.
– What has this to do with the sum of $12,000?
– 1 am just saying that it is a most important matter to make available sufficient finance to buy a home. If the honourable senator has been diligent enough he will have read figures which show that under the amended legislation a man who has to build or purchase an average home in the Australian Capital Territory will be $5,161 short of the amount required. With the $7,000 which he is able to obtain now he is $6,161 short of being able to finance the purchase of his home which means he has to get 70% or 80% of the amount required privately on top of the amount he gets from the War Service Homes Division. These are very important matters to the man who wishes to take advantage of the loan, and if he is eligible it should come as a matter of right to him. Other people have set a statutory limit of $10,000 and we believe the present amount to be very inadequate. One of the organisations with which Senator Marriott often associates himself very closely and which he believes to be the ultimate voice of people who are eligible for war service homes does not agree with Government policy. Even its estimate of the amount that should be made available is in our view too little.
– Order! The honourable Senator’s time has expired.
– The Democratic Labor Party supports this legislation, I might say without particular enthusiasm because we do feel that the amount proposed could have been somewhat more generous but, equally, we do not feel justified in supporting the amendment which has been presented by the Opposition. We adopt this attitude for a number of reasons. The proposal in this Bill in relation to the amount of the loan was a specific proposal recited in the Budget Speech and specifically provided in the Budget. Tn other words, this Bill is therefore a part of the total composite of the Budget and the Bills that are ancillary and executive to the Budget proposals. It it is intended to challenge the Budget in whole or in detail, the way to do it is to indicate when the Budget papers come into this place that we are not prepared to accept the Budget. The rejection of a specific proposal in the Budget is tantamount to the same thing and would involve a rejection of the Budget. When the Budget papers came into this chamber the Democratic Labor Party was the only party that took the type of attitude to the whole of the Budget and our amendment to the motion for the reception or tabling of the papers was that the Budget be rejected and withdrawn.
We did not specifically recite this particular head as one of those which, in our opinion, warranted the withdrawal of the Budget, though we did spell out in some detail other considerations that we thought were of very considerable moment. Honourable senators will no doubt remember what they were. As far as the official Opposition is concerned, no similar action was taken by that party. There was a motion regretting certain things, but there was no specific amendment that the Budget should be withdrawn and, to my recollection, there was no specific mention of this matter which is now before the Committee as one of the matters attracting the particular attention or objection of the Opposition to the Budget. Because the attitude of this Party has been that once the Budget is accepted in principle and there is no objection in detail at the time the Budget is presented, then the executive acts and ancillary legislation should be allowed to go through to enable the Budget proposals as presented and adopted by the Parliament to be carried into operation.
We are very conscious of the position of the ex-serviceman seeking home finance, and it is one of the tragedies that he is finding it difficult and beyond his ability to achieve his ambition to have a house. I would only impress upon the Government that it should attempt in the next 12 months, by keeping a close look on the rise in housing costs, to try to do something to bridge this gap which does appear to be developing and to be widening.
While our attitude to the Budget is that which I have indicated, it may well be, of course, that in the future it may be necessary to scrutinise in great detail the particular heads of expenditure or revenue in the Budget and to indicate early that particular heads are to be challenged. If that is done it will give those who frame the Budget the opportunity at the earliest possible moment to give some reconsideration to the framing of the general terms of the Budget knowing that there are 1, 2 or more particular items which are to be subject to a parliamentary objection. In those circumstances the Senate would not be faced with the type of fait accompli which faces it now. Perhaps if that procedure is followed in the future - whether by the official Opposition or by the Democratic Labor Party - and we present specific objections to specific heads of provision in the Budget, it will be an early indication to the Government that the matter will have to be looked at again. Then, when the legislation in terms of the Budget is presented it may be legislation which anticipates and embraces the objection and not legislation that flies in the face of an objection which it inevitably will meet. For the reasons I have indicated we support this clause and we oppose the amendment.
– 1 support the amendment. I rise because I was most interested in what Senator Byrne said. I think what he said refutes what was said m the other place about the altitude of the Australian Labor Party to Budget items. We now recognise the attitude of the Australian Democratic Labor Party to such items in a Budget. Because the Budget was not withdrawn and redrafted - and that proposition was not supported - the Democratic Labor Party is committed to all the things contained in it, which is a different attitude from that of the official Opposition.
Our attitude is presented without apology. There was much good in the Budget. No-one would suggest that the increase in pensions, meagre though it was, should not have been granted to pensioners. If we had rejected the Budget we would have deprived that unfortunate section of the community of a most deserving increase. The Democratic Labor Party would have deprived them of it. In regard to this legislation, which my party believes imposes some hardship on less privileged members of our society, we are prepared to propose an amendment. Rejection of a Budget is not justified if it contains something favourable. We express resentment about matters for which this year’s Budget did not provide. We could not anticipate our action in respect of matters in the Budget of which we approved because we had to wait for the enabling legislation to come forward. We could not know what would be contained in that legislation.
The Opposition, in moving this amendment, makes no apology for not rejecting the Budget. The Budget offered benefits to quite a number of people. However, the position now is that ex-servicemen cannot get justice because the Government proposes to increase the maximum war service housing loan by only a limited amount. As Senator O’Byrne said, ex-servicemen wishing to purchase a home have to took for other means of finance. On one occasion this Senate passed the Housing Loans Insurance Act which was designed to encourage organisations to lend up to 95% of the amount required for a house. That legislation was designed to bridge the deposit gap. In debates on housing we have been told that such legislation is successful. 1 believe that even now building societies are lending up to 95% of the amount needed to purchase a house and, of course, this is an attractive proposition to people seeking homes. We have a mortgage scheme in operation and therefore such people can get from those sources up to 95% of the value of the home concerned. However, for the rest of their lives they have to pay a higher rate of interest than they would under the war service homes scheme.
The War Service Homes Act was introduced to benefit returned men. It was part of the compensation granted for service rendered. It was designed to enable exservicemen to buy a home at a low rate of interest. This Bill still makes it impossible for many men to take advantage of the War Service Homes Act. The number of claims for war service homes finance is dwindling each year. The demand for homes under the scheme is less because exservicemen have to seek other avenues of finance. The Government is defeating the purpose of the Act because it will not bridge the deposit gap. A war service homes loan is not available to all home seekers. lt is available only to those who qualify under the terms of the war service homes scheme. Perhaps the number of claims is growing smaller each year because of the length of time since Australia had large numbers of people engaged in wars. However, while the number of applicants is falling, there is a big increase in the income derived by the Commonwealth as repayment of war service homes loan advances.
The Commonwealth is profiting by this legislation instead of making it possible for applicants to take advantage of the lower rates of interest available under the war service homes scheme. What is the use of the Government introducing legislation such as the Housing Loans Insurance Act in the hope that it will encourage financing institutions to lend up to 95% of the value of a home and thus bridge the deposit gap, if it will not act to help those people for whom it has a responsibility? The Government should assist people seeking benefits under the War Service Homes Act in the same way that it has assisted other people to get a home by helping them obtain finance from building societies and other organisations.
Under this legislation the Government is discriminating against ex-servicemen. The
Opposition suggests that the upper limit of the loan should be $12,000. What is wrong with that suggestion? The Commonwealth should assist ex-servicemen just as it has assisted other home purchasers. Why does the Commonwealth not introduce legislation to provide loans to ex-servicemen of up to 90% of the value of a property? The Commonwealth is restricting ex-servicemen to the minimum. An ex-serviceman is not able to go in for anything elaborate. He cannot have in his home the additional fittings he would like. He cannot have a home of his own design if his finances cannot bridge the deposit gap. The Government is imposing a restriction on ex-servicemen which it does not impose on other home purchasers. The Government is doing nothing about this and yet it says that this Bill is to benefit ex-servicemen. That is incorrect. It will not benefit ex-servicemen but will act to their detriment.
The Democratic Labor Party has said that it will not approve the amendment because someone erred in the past and would not throw out the Budget. Therefore it will not assist the Opposition and support this amendment. Ex-servicemen will continue to remain at a disadvantage compared with other home seekers who can obtain a superior home because they are able to get greater advances from co-operative building societies or other lending institutions. Admittedly, those home seekers cannot get finance at the interest rate which is available to ex-servicemen. However, exservicemen are compelled to purchase inferior homes. If not, they are faced with the possibility of being unable to keep up maintenance on more expensive homes or being unable to furnish them properly because they are impoverished before they move in.
[5.59] - The Government cannot accept the amendment. I think we have to put this matter into the right perspective. As has been said by some honourable senators this is a budgetary measure. This legislation was mentioned in the Budget which was before the Senate earlier this session. It was spelt out in the Budget that this increase would be provided. I remind honourable senators that this Bill will bring the amount of the loan up to the $8,000 limit on loans made available by the Commonwealth Savings Bank. That limit was fixed recently.
Honourable senators would do well to remember that war service home loans are made available at an interest rate of 31%, for a period of up to 45 years for exservicemen and 50 years in the case of widows. This increase, which is one .of the budgetary measures, will indeed be of great benefit to those eligible for war service homes. The Government does not accept the amendment.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m. (General Business taking precedence of Government Business.)
– Mr President, I draw your attention to the state of the Senate.
– A quorum is present. I remind the honourable senator of the danger of calling for a quorum when a quorum is already present.
Bill presented by Senator Murphy, and read a first time.
– I move:
This is a Bill for an Act to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act so that electors may be enrolled and vote in Federal elections and referendums upon reaching the age of 18. There is a growing agreement today in the various political parties that Australia’s young adults - those over 18 years - should be given a greater say in our society. Already this year the subject has been discussed in a number of forums - the Parliament of South Australia, the Premiers Conference and the meetings of the Standing Committee of AttorneysGeneral. The New South Wales Law Reform Commission, at the behest of the New South Wales Government, is considering the legal problems involved in lowering age of majority. The Commission’s report, due next March, will undoubtedly quicken the pace of reform in this field. No widespread opposition has been voiced, and State party leaders of both Liberal and Labor persuasion have expressed some support for a reduction in the voting age.
There is increasing recognition that people towards the end of their teens are not immature consumers or an irresponsible sector of our community. There is now a powerful desire by these young adults for political recognition. Today, Australians between 18 and 21 years number about 800,000 or over 5% of the population. Of these, 650,000 make a vital contribution to our national production, 100,000 are students and thousands more play a significant role here and abroad in our armed Services. Yet they are disfranchised and their energy, intelligence and dynamism are excluded from our political system. The vote should be given to these young people not as a privilege or a gift from a benevolent government of those over 21; it is an extension of democratic rights. To delay this very necessary move any longer would be to go against the main stream of international opinion.
No-one can deny the world-wide trend for people under 21 to be increasingly involved in the political, artistic, intellectual and commercial lives of their nations. This is equally true in Australia. Young people of 18, 19 and 20 form a vital segment of our community, yet they are barred from sharing in the election of those who will make the decisions which affect their lives. In a democratic society, as far as possible every person affected by decisions taken by governments should have some part to play in the process by which those decisions are made. The 1 8 to 20-year olds are considered adults for most practical, everyday purposes. With consent, they can marry and when married must accept all the responsibilities and duties of raising a family. They must pay taxes, they can drive all kinds of motor vehicles from cars to semi trailers and they can fly planes. These young adults are also subject to the same penal code as any other offender against our laws.
Young men of 18 are considered old enough to accept the responsibility of bearing arms to defend our country, even against their wishes. Being conscripted is a high price to pay for the same voting rights as citizens over 21. The Army advertises for 17-year-old recruits. It recognises them as adults and gives them adult rates of pay. Reduction of the voting age to 18 would give young men who face possible conscription at 20 some chance to affect the political discussion which can decide their future. It would give, them the right to participate in decisions which can cause them to be sent overseas to fight an undeclared war against their wishes. Participation and involvement in the political life of our country is the key factor behind the widespread young power movements here and abroad. President Johnson, asking Congress to grant the right to vote to 18- year-olds, said he wanted to close the generation gap. He went on to say:
We should grant to youth what we ask of them, but still deny them - full and ‘responsible participation in our American- democracy.
These words apply just as forcefully and urgently to Australia today. The absence of this sense of involvement has led to growing numbers of student demonstrations and riots here and overseas. The French uprising sprang up from a simple ‘ demand by students for more say in the running of their universities. At Berkeley, Stanford and many other American universities, student riots arose from protest at ‘their exclusion from decision making. Here and abroad, it is often the feeling of being outside the political system which has; led to violence and other unlawful acts. There should be no need for civil disobedience in a political system that meets the needs of the people. The reduction of the voting age to 18 would go some of the way to bringing our system closer to that ideal, however unattainable that may seem in Australia today.
Lowering the voting age to 18 and thus broadening the base of the electorate by another 800,000 electors would have many unpredictable effects on the political scene. The change, according to some surveys, would favour the Government parties by up to 3%. Other political, scientists stress that the natural radicalism, of youth would favour the Australian Labor Party. These issues are debatable. But there is no doubt that reduction of the yoting age would tend to bring about a better and more equitable balance in the electorate. As life expectancy increases, there is a corresponding growth in the number of elderly voters. The broadening of the base al the other end of the scale - the young people-is necessary in a true democracy, widening the political foundation of the Government and almost certainly providing a more balanced approach to the nation’s general political outlook. This is highly desirable in Australia, where our average age is falling every year. As at June this year, the number of people under 30 was 52.6% of our population, but by 1976 this will have grown to 64.1%, taking into account migration estimates. This is a most compelling reason, for Australian politics needs a transfusion of younger voters.
Almost without exception, today’s 18 to 20-year-olds are belter educated and inquire much more deeply into political motivation than did their parents and grandparents. It is essential to our developing nation that their idealism and political activism should find some legitimate outlet within the established political framework. Our young adults should be involved. If they are not invited by the franchised to join in, their idealism will turn to cynicism. We cannot a fiord such a loss in a country of 12 million.
Most discussions on the desirability of lowering the voting, age have come up against the question of which age. Why should it be 18? Why not 19 or 20? Any choice will necessarily be an arbitrary one, just as the present age of responsibility or age of majority is an arbitrary choice. The present age of 21 comes from ancient . English common law, which designated 21 as the minimum age for knighthood. This was supposed to be the age at which young men would be strong enough to bear the weight of armour in battle. But there is now world-wide agreement that young people are reaching psychological, sexual and physical maturity at an increasingly early age.
– Completely unsupported.
– The honourable senator has suggested that it is completely unsupported. My understanding is that the same authorities consider that the only change which has been occurring in the human species has been the lowering of the age of maturity in both sexes. This has been demonstrated by observation over more than 100 years of the remarkable lowering of the age of puberty. The British Latey report of an inquiry in 1967 into the agc of majority drew attention to this factor. The Committee spoke of the progressively earlier maturity apparent during the last 100 years. At the turn of the century boys completed their growth at 23; now on average it is 17. Girls on average now reach puberty soon after 13; 100 years aao is was 17.
– What is the authority for that?
– lt is the Latey report. 1 understand - the honourable senator may have other information to put before the Senate - that the observation by those concerned wilh these matters is that the age of puberty has been reduced by some 4 months for every decade, this being observed over the years from 1830. lt is a remarkable change. To get back to the choice of 18. does not this mark a turning point in the young person’s life? On an average, and since the extension of secondary education to 6 years, boys and girls reach this turning point just before 18. They must decide whether to join the labour force or go on to higher education. But, excepting those in the armed forces previously mentioned, they cannot be electors until they are 21. In other words we let them wait over 3 years before they can apply in the political sense the lessons they have absorbed at school. Yet the Latey report stresses their greater literacy and better education, lt points out they are more independent than were their parents, have a wider experience of life and are taught to inquire and think for themselves.
Then we come to the effect on young people under 21 of today’s mass media. Through newspapers, television and radio hundred of thousands of 18 to 20 year olds pay much closer attention to political and community issues today. Young people see and hear detailed reports and discussions on the way they are being governed yet they cannot participate. Many communications experts claim that television gives all of us a feeling of immediacy and involvement in international and domestic problems, a relationship never before possible, and they claim that television has been a major catalyst in the student movements of this decade. With this new medium our 18 to 20 year olds have witnessed the important events of our era - violent demonstrations, the horror and oppression of Vietnam and Czechoslovakia, and the funeral of an assassinated President. These experiences, coupled with the knowledge gained in school, create a desire in young people to be part of the movement, to have a voice, however slight, in the decision affecting them.
The opponents of this measure - the people who wish to maintain the status quo on this question and many others - will claim that young people of 18 are not responsible enough to vote, that they are not mature or intelligent enough to handle the franchise. These people will want proof positive before agreeing to the change. This demand is just as impossible to meet as it was when the English suffragettes fought for the franchise. The same demand was made by the opponents of equal voting rights for American negroes 3 years ago. These opponents said ‘they’ would not vote intelligently; that ‘they’ would vote in blocs; that most of ‘them’ did not really want the vote anyway; that they were ‘just not ready for the vote*. But no tragedy befell England after the suffragettes’ victory. And America’s troubles today cannot be sheeted home to the 1965 voting rights Act. Also, if this measure becomes law, it is as well to realise that in practice young people getting the vote at 18 would not, on average, actually take part in an election for about 18 months so they probably would not vote until they were over 19. lust as many people reaching 21 under the present law do not exercise their franchise until they are over 22. or sometimes even 23.
Research in Australia on this subject shows that our 18 to 20 year olds are as politically mature now as they ever will be. Professor McCallum. of the Political Science Department of the University of New South Wales makes this claim. He goes further and says that we could reduce the age to 16 and the teenage voters would present as mature a judgment as when they reached 21. Professor McCallum believes that young people have formed their standard of being well informed or ignorant before 18.
Moves overseas are strongly in favour of reducing the age to below 21. Britain is about to bring in legislation to this end. President Johnson wants to allow America’s 12 million young people between 18 and 21 to have the vote. For the first time both the majority and minority leaders in the United States Senate are among 40 members of that body sponsoring a resolution which calls for a constitutional amendment to lower the voting age to 18. A number of countries have reduced the voting age to 20. These include Austria, Japan, Switzerland and Iran. Sweden will do so next year. Fifteen countries, including Russia, Israel, Yugoslavia, Ceylon, Czechoslovakia, Laos, Hungary and Venezuela have lowered the age to 18. In West Germany all three political parties have supported publicly the voting age of 18, but no legislative action has yet been taken.
– Does any country - allow the vote below 18 years of age?
– I do. not know of any. In Canada, 5 provinces have lowered the age to 18 for provincial elections. In Mexico, married 18 year olds are allowed to vote.
The alteration of the principal Act by the amendments is simply achieved. Section 39 of the principal Act is amended by omitting from sub-section (1.) the words twenty-one years’, and substituting the words, ‘eighteen years’. This changes the specified age at which a person shall be qualified for enrolment and voting. Section 39a of the principal Act is amended by omitting from paragraph (a) of sub-section (1.) the words ‘twenty-one years’ and inserting in their place the words ‘eighteen years’, and by omitting from paragraph (a) of sub-section (3.) the words ‘twenty-one years’ and inserting in their stead the words eighteen years’. These amendments affect members of the defence forces, both full time members of the forces and conscripts.
Section 49 of the principal Act is amended by omitting the words ‘twentyone years’ and inserting in their stead the words ‘eighteen years’, wherever the words twenty-one years’ occur- in paragraphs (a) and (b). This is the section outlining details of the list of deaths and marriages of people over 21 to be forwarded to the Chief Electoral Officer by the RegistrarGeneral’s Department. Section 115 of the principal Act is amended by omitting from paragraph (b) of sub-section (1.) the words twenty-one years’ and inserting in their stead the words ‘eighteen years’. This amendment refers to the question on age which may be put by a presiding officer at a polling booth to every person claiming to vote.
The Australian Labor Party firmly believes that in Australia today there is a strong case for the reduction of the voting age to 18. Our country would benefit greatly from an expansion of the electorate and this is a relatively simple, direct and just way of achieving this end. These young people must be allowed to become a valuable part of our political system. The voting age of 21 has no relevance in the second half of the twentieth century in this country if we lay claim to progressive political thinking. We should all doff our mental suits of armour. We should relegate to history the outmoded standard of knighthood at 21 as a criterion of voting age. I commend this Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Scott) adjourned.
Bill presented by Senator Murphy, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move:
This Bill proposes to amend the Marriage Act 1961-1966 by changing the definition of a ‘minor’, so that for marriage purposes it will mean a person under 18 years instead of under 21 years. This will be achieved by amending the definition of a minor in section 5 of the Marriage Act so as to read: Minor’ means a person who has not attained the age of 18 years. Section 95 of the Marriage Act will also be changed so that a defendant charged with marrying a minor cannot be prosecuted for an offence if he proves that he believed on reasonable grounds that the person with whom he went through the form of ceremony of marriage had attained the age of 18 years or had previously been married. Anyone of sound mind over 18 years of age should be able to marry freely, without having to seek the permission of his or her parents or guardians. Nor should a man be prosecuted for marrying a woman between the ages of 18 and 21 years without her parents’ consent. At that age a woman is mature enough, sufficiently free and responsible in every other way to be able to make her own decisions, or be responsible for her own mistakes.
The desirability of this alteration to the law has been apparent to many legislators in the parliaments of Australia and elsewhere. Support for reducing the marriage age comes from the Australian Labor Party, and from many sections of the Liberal Party in both Federal and State spheres. Earlier this evening, I introduced a Bill to enable 18-year-olds to enrol and vote. It is not enough to allow 18-year-olds to vote. We know that they can drink alcohol legally, that they can drive a car or fly a plane.
– I do not think all those things are uniform throughout Australia.
– The circumstances in which they may drink in public places may vary. As workers 18-year-olds contribute a greater share each year to the nation’s economy. They pay their share of direct and indirect taxes thus contributing to money spent on defence, health and social services in this country. We allow 18-year-olds to marry with consent, to raise families and to divorce. They must accept all the emotional, physical and financial responsibilites incurred by marriage. They must accept the responsibility if that marriage fails. They must accept the responsibility for the children of that marriage, yet we do not allow them to enter freely into marriage. It is time we gave these young adults - that is what they are, they are no longer children - the right to decide fully for themselves whether or not they will marry. It is time we formally recognised them as adults.
Our 18-year-olds differ appreciably from those of the past in education, mental and physical development and maturity. Despite serious deficiencies in governmental, educational policies and programmes, 18 to 20-year-olds in Australia are more literate and better educated than any previous generation. More and more are receiving a higher and better skilled education. And it is not the education of the past. Their education teaches them to respect freedom, to be independe.it but also to consider other people. We have taught members of this generation to think for themselves, to refuse to accept any opinion or judgment until they have critically appraised it. We have taught them not to conform unthinkingly - to live a full and free life. With this freedom and education they have a’ wider experience of life than most of us had at their age. Some adults complain that the young are too free, that they have few moral principles, and that they do not respect the authority or guidance of their parents, or of the leaders of the community.
These young persons are subjected to a double standard. On the one hand they are treated as adults. They are subject to the same penal code as those over 21 years; they are allowed to drive cars and to drink. On the other, they are not allowed to marry without parental consent, although they must by themselves face all the pressures and responsibilities of marriage and rearing a family. They are accused of irresponsibility and incapacity to look after themselves. They are sent out to work to support themselves. They are sent to universities or colleges where on their own initiative they must compete and study. The onus of failure is on them, not on anyone else. Their taxes are demanded and accepted as are their fighting skill and lives in time of war. Governments make decisions that will affect their lives for years to come. Governments protest at their protests. Governments get angry when they demonstrate and complain about how they are governed, and that wrong decisions are made. Society does not like it at all when they show us another solution or answer. Governments treat them as disobedient children. They are not taken seriously. Governments want them to become a quiet and disciplined part of the social and political system. Governments wish them to be seen and not heard. They refuse to accept their ideas and protests for what they are - the legitimate dissent and demands of an integral part of the community. Of the population 5.4% is 18 to 20 years old, 52.6% is under 30 years. It is estimated that by 1976, 64.1% of the total population will be under 30 years of age. The community is becoming younger, and youth is more articulate and vociferous in its demands. Its needs are part of the community’s needs. Its demands voice its involvement in the community’s affairs and its desire to be allowed more responsible participation in those affairs. We cannot ignore our young people, because they are a vital and necessary part of the country.
We cannot force them into obedience. That would not be obedience; it would be a form of repression and ‘ control. It is ridiculous to fear the ideas’ and opinions of these young people. It is fear that impels society to ignore their ideas and opinions. We cannot tame them info submission with trivial community involvement by a piecemeal and half-hearted attempt to quieten their demands. Freedom and participation in democracy is not a gift, it is a right. We recognise them as responsible adults in economic, legal and many civil areas. We must recognise them as such in all political areas. Most importantly we must recognise their right freely to marry and to bear children, a personal right that forms the basis of everyone’s life. The idealism and activism of this age group must find a genuine release within, OUr social and political framework. We must also give them the respect we would show’ to all adults by allowing them to choose .their wives or husbands without permission of parents or courts.
It is not simply because the 18 to 20- year-olds are better, educated, and more economically independent than “previous ones that we must consider them different from our generation. They are also more physically developed at that . age than was any preceding generation.- This is perhaps the most important, and some consider, the only evolutionary change, in humans that scientists have been able to detect. This earlier development has serious consequences on the sexual behaviour and needs of this age group. The- age of puberty in both sexes has been arriving earlier by some 4 months every decade in western countries over the period from 1830 to 1968. This remarkable lowering of the physical age of maturity means that both , boys and girls today are also sexually mature at an earlier age than their parents, or . .grandparents, especially in regard to marriage.
The Latey report by the British Committee on the Age of Majority states that the British Medical Association in its memorandum drew attention to the progressively earlier physical maturity apparent during the past 100 years and observed that the trend toward earlier physical maturing has been shown equally, in boys and girls. The British Medical Association puts the present mean age of puberty in girls at 13 years and in boys at 15 years. The Latey report states:
While generally non-committal on the relationship between physical and psychological maturing the British Medical Association points out that there is good evidence however that children who are physically advanced for their age score higher in mental tests than their contemporaries . . . It is our view that there are no psychological reasons for placing the age of majority at 21 nor any psychological objection to lowering it.’
The general conclusion of the BMA was: Certainly from the physical aspect and most probably from the psychological aspect, the adolescent of today matures earlier than in previous generations’. The report of the Committee on the Age of Majority, presented to the United Kingdom Parliament in July 1967, stated these general conclusions:
The Committee gave this recommendation:
We therefore recommend that in the field we have considered the age of full legal capacity should be lowered to 18.
Part 11 of the report deals with lowering the marriage age. The conclusion of the Committee was as follows:
We have concluded on every ground that it is not wise to demand parental consent to marriage past the age of 18. We can only end by saying that this is not because we think parents should never discourage their children’s marriages but because this is not the way to do it: Not because we think well of marriages made in defiance of parents but because we think the law now contributes to the defiance: Not because the family is too weak to use this weapon but because it is strong enough to do without it. … It is because good parents know that the way to help their sons and daughters of any age is to hold tight with loose hands that we recommend removing the knuckle-duster of the law.
The report therefore recommended that the need for parental or court consent should cease at the age of 18. The Committee also recommended that the age of consent to sexual intercourse, together with the minimum age for marriage, should remain at 16 for both sexes. The approach of the Latey report to parental and court control should be applied to Australia. We have a large number of marriages of minors in Australia. In 1967, 43.14% of brides were minors; 14.99% of bridegrooms were minors; and 29.07% of the total number of people married were minors. Persons of 18 years and over are no longer infants. In reality they are adults, and must be extended the formal respect and freedom extended to all adult citizens, especially in a matter as private and important to their personal happiness as marriage.
– Is the age of consent for females generally 16 or 17 years?
– It is 16 years.
– I was speaking of the United Kingdom there. This is a British report, The age of consent is 16 years in New South Wales, as New South Wales senators would be aware. The need to reduce the age of majority is being considered in many other parts of the world. In Australia, Bills have been introduced into State parliaments. The matter has been discussed at the Premiers Conference and at the conference of the Attorneys-General. The New South Wales Law Reform Committee was given instructions to report on the matter by March 1969. The Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council also favours a reduction in the voting age. We of the Australian Labor Party regard this as a most urgent reform - an overdue recognition of the personal rights to marry and found a family of those who have attained the age of 18 years. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wright) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Anderson) agreed to:
That further consideration of General Business be postponed until after consideration of Government Business.
Consideration resumed (vide page 2087).
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Poke’s amendment) be left out.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator T. C. Drake-Brockman)
Majority . … 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Order! The Chair has the authority, by leave of the Committee, to do that. There being no objection, that will be done.
Clause agreed to.
Proposed new clause 7a.
– I move:
The main purpose of this proposal is to give the Parliament the right to veto regulations, if that is thought necessary, after they have been mads by the Government and presented to the Parliament. This provision is contained in much of our present legislation. It will be recalled that on many occasions, the Senate has amended or rejected regulations which the Government has brought forward. On those occasions when regulations have been disallowed, the Act as printed has prevailed.
I feel that in many instances the Minister should have authority to make regulations. I do not think we have ever tried to take from a Minister the right to make regulations, always provided, of course, that Parliament was given the right to reject them if it thought necessary. We feel that a similar provision should be included in this legislation. Here we are dealing with matters related to loans for the erection or purchase of homes, loans for the enlargement of homes, for the discharge of liabilities, and so on. I cannot see why the amendment should not be carried and I trust that for once the Government will see its way clear to accept our proposal.
[8.46] - Before dealing with the proposed amendment, I feel that I should explain the position with relation to sections 20 and 20a of the Act. Section 20 of the Act authorises the Director to make advances for certain specified purposes. Under the section, the powers of the Director are subject to the direction of the Minister as to matters of general policy. Section 20 was introduced in its present form in 1923.
The effect of the proposed amendment would be to withdraw from the Minister power under section 20 to give direction on matters of policy and to require in lieu the making of regulations. (Quorum formed.)
I fee] that it is important in a financial measure such as this that the Minister should have the authority he now has under the legislation. I therefore inform the Senate that we cannot accept the amendment.
– I support the proposed amendment. Its purpose is to make it plain that what is done should be done according to the regulations. It is true that it would leave the discretion residing with the Director, but we do not see anything wrong with that so long as the powers are delineated in the regulations themselves. AH we seek to do is to say that he may do whatever he is empowered to do under the regulations unless he is prevented from doing it by the regulations. That takes away the power which the Minister now has simply to intervene over the top of whatever decision is being made and to give some direction on general policy which, although it is not provided for specifically in the regulations, would have the effect of overriding what the Director has seen fit in the exercise of his discretion to do. This, it seems to us, is very much in line with the principle that we have advocated on other occasions. We believe that the position is properly met if there is an actual prescription by law that the Director is empowered to do A, B and C - whatever it is - unless prevented by the regulations.
– Does the honourable senator have section 20 before him?
– No, but 1 have studied it.
That the proposed new clause 7a be inserted in the Bill.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator T. C. Drake-Brockman)
Majority . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause 7b.
– I move:
I suggest that the arguments which were advanced for the inclusion of proposed new clause 7a apply equally to this proposed new clause. To repeat the arguments would merely be to waste the time of the Committee.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [8.56] - The Government cannot accept this amendment.
That the proposed new clause 7b be inserted in the Bill.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator T. C. Drake-Brockman)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Section 21 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting the words ‘Seven thousand dollars’ (wherever occurring) and inserting in their stead the words ‘Eight thousand dollars’.
– I move:
Leave out ‘Eight thousand dollars’, insert Twelve thousand dollars’.
Much has been said on this subject and although it might be as well to put the amendment to the vote almost immediately I propose to mention one or two points that were previously raised. Senator Georges pointed out that the proposed advance of $8,600 would build approximately eight squares, which would represent approximately two-thirds of a home. Senator Marriott was rather concerned to think that we proposed in this fiscal year a 50% increase in the amount of loan which the Bill provides, particularly after we had agreed to the Budget. It might be all right for the Government to oppose any amending legislation affecting an amount provided in the Budget but if the Government is to take away from the Opposition the right to move amending legislation, merely because it would lead to an increase in the amount provided in the Budget, we might just as well pass the Budget and go back home to our States. This is what it amounts to. The argument advanced on this point is weak in the extreme. Senator Byrne said that the Democratic Labor Party was the only party which had supported an amendment that the Budget be withdrawn and redrafted. If the Democratic Labor Party wants to move along those lines, that is its business. It can move along whichever lines it likes. If we had accepted the amendment put forward by the DLP on that occasion, I suggest, we would have been here for Christmas dinner and would have had no better Budget than we have at present.
– Many people will not get Christmas dinner because our amendment was lost.
– That may be so, but the honourable senator will get by with his Christmas dinner. The proposals in the Budget on this complementary legislation are pretty sketchy, anyway, and it would be difficult for any Opposition, at the time when a Budget is brought forward, to anticipate what the Government intended to put into any Bill to amend an Act. Although a previous amendment in relation to an increase in the loan was defeated, we of the Opposition feel that the increased amount should be provided in this clause.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Poke’s amendment) be left out.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator T. C. Drake-Brockman)
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 9 agreed to.
Section 29 aa of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: 29aa.- (1.) A purchaser or borrower in relation to land or land and a dwelling house is eligible for relief under this section in respect of the land or land and dwelling house if -
In paragraph (b) of sub-section (1.) of proposed section 29aa after ‘insane’ add ‘or incapacitated’.
The words which we desire to be included in this clause could be accepted by the Government without difficulty. This would assist considerably those persons to whom the clause applies. We know the Act contains certain provisions in respect of persons who are insane but persons who have qualified for assistance under the Act can be faced with considerable penalties if they are incapacitated. A person may be incapacitated for a number of reasons. A husband may meet with an industrial accident and be unable to go to work. He may meet with a road accident while on the way to work or on the way home from work and be incapacitated. Considering the injuries that occur on our roads today it is possible for a person to be off work for a considerable time. The Opposition considers that in such circumstances these people should be covered by the provisions of the Act which apply to those who are insane. I do not propose to say any more, Mr Chairman. I think the amendment is worthwhile.
– I support the amendment to this clause which has been proposed by the Opposition. This is a new clause which will enable the Director of War Service Homes to make advances to cover such things as the maintenance of a building, repairs to fences, the payment of municipal rates, or suspension of repayment of instalments in cases where the person seeking the relief is the widow or widowed mother of an eligible person, or the wife of an eligible person who is temporarily or permanently insane. Those are the only two classes covered by this clause. As Senator Poke pointed out, a person who is incapacitated can be faced with hardship if he has to meet the cost of repairing fences, to maintain a house or to pay municipal rates. The Director must see that the property is reasonably maintained. If the person concerned is unable to pay instalments because of incapacity we submit that the clause should be widened to cover such a person.
This is not a fantasy. I have taken up with the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) a case concerning a man in South Australia who’ is a paraplegic following an accident in the course of his employment. An overhead crane fell upon his back. He is paralysed’ from the waist down. The Paraplegic Association in South Australia has helped him to the stage that he can now hobble about with the aid of crutches and a stick. He cannot work apart from doing some voluntary work associated with charitable appeals run by radio stations. That is the extent of his earning capability. Arrears of up to 6 months have accrued in repayments on his home. He received notice from the War Service Homes Division that the Division would foreclose on his mortgage unless he paid his arrears.
This man has brought a claim in the South. Australian Supreme Court for negligence against a particular manufacturer, alleging that faulty equipment caused the accident. There has been some difficulty in getting the case listed for hearing. The lawyers concerned haveadvised that it possibly will come on for hearing next March. This man has. no income because of his incapacity. He would; have been in receipt of income if he had accepted workers compensation. However, he chose to bring the claim for negligence and the case is now awaiting hearing. I am not trying to prejudge the case but his legal advisers are of the opinion that he will succeed. If he is successful in his claim he will be able to pay off his mortgage to the War Service Homes Division. However, there has been a threat to foreclose on his home because of his inability to pay the arrears. I wrote to the Minister about this matter and finally I received an undertaking that the Department will not insist on payment of the arrears at the moment provided that the man pays the current rent. The Department will reconsider the matter of arrears at the end of 6 months. The 6 months will elapse before his case comes before the Supreme Court.
This is a case of chronic hardship. The Minister has told me that there is no alternative course available under the Act. Could anyone who has at heart the welfare of returned servicemen say that this man, who is paralysed from the waist down allegedly as a result of the negligence of someone else, should have his home sold over his head because the judiciary is unable to deal expeditiously with his claim? Only last week I approached the man’s solicitor to see whether they could apply to the Supreme Court to have his case brought on earlier, before the 6 months time limit set by the War Service Homes Division had expired. The solicitor said that the Supreme Court frowned on this sort of thing because, although it would help one individual it would be to the disadvantage of other litigants whose cases were listed earlier and that their cases were just as urgent as this man’s case.
There appears to be nothing that we can do. The man is threatened with the sale of his home for which he has paid instalments for many years, because he is behind in his instalments. The Minister said that there was no provision in the Act to enable the course we seek to be taken. As an act of compassion the Division has granted a 6 months stay but that time will expire before the case comes on for trial. This is the type of individual the Opposition’s amendment seeks to protect. Can anyone say that there is no justification for protection in this instance? Regardless of one’s politics, here is a case that is real.
– Was the date of the hearing known to the Minister when the time was fixed.
– The Minister was informed that the case had been set down for hearing in the South Australian Supreme Court, but at that stage it was not known when it would come on for hearing. The man’s legal adviser has informed me that the case is seventeenth or eighteenth on the list and that, at the rate the cases are being heard and taking into consideration the Christmas recess, he expects it to come on for hearing about March next year. But the 6 months grace the Division has given to this person expires at the end of this year, I think.
– The Opposition’s amendment would ‘apply to anybody, no matter how temporary or minor the incapacity.
– I would have expected the Minister to have a more balanced appreciation of the proposed subsection because it provides that the Director shall be of the opinion that the purchaser of a dwelling house is eligible for relief.
– The wording proposed is: ‘temporarily or permanently insane or incapacitated’. There is no reference to the opinion of the Director.
– I thought the Minister’s training would have educated him to regard a clause as a whole and not to seize upon a few words contained in it. Proposed new section 29aa provides that certain persons shall be eligible for relief. That does not mean that they will necessarily get relief. The Opposition’s amendment sets out to make any incapacitated person eligible for relief. Does anyone argue that the paraplegic whose case I have mentioned should not be eligible for relief? The subsequent provisions deal with the circumstances in which relief should be given. An eligible person has to satisfy the Minister that hardship will be caused. Whether relief is given is a matter for the Minister.
– It is the definition of eligibility that is so important.
– I think that it is important. The fact that a person is eligible for relief does not mean that he shall receive relief. I believe that eligibility should be widened.
– A person has to be eligible and to show hardship.
– What the Opposition seeks in it’s amendment is eligibility for the incapacitated. Whether such an individual receives relief depends upon him satisfying the Minister of his hardship. I have illustrated a very good case of hardship and it does not concern a widow or widowed mother of an Australian soldier or a person who is temporarily or permanently insane. But despite all the sympathy that may be felt for this individual, be is unable to obtain relief.
– The Opposition’s amendment would cover a man disabled by a common cold for 3 days.
– I think it does and I believe that it should. Does the Minister say that a man who contracts a cold for 3 days should not be eligible to make out a case of hardship to the Minister for Housing? Would the Minister deny the individual that right because he has a cold and not paralysis? Whether he receives relief or not is left to the discretion of the Minister. The Minister is trying to belittle this amendment. The fact that a person who has a cold might be eligible for relief does not mean that relief would be given to all and sundry. It only means that he would be eligible to apply. The Minister will decide who should receive the relief. There is no validity in the argument of the Minister for Works. I have put an extreme case of hardship. This man is a paraplegic. He has half paid for the home and he is improving the home. He is rearing his family in that home. His assets are threatened with sale because the Minister has no power to give him relief until such time as his case is decided by the judiciary in South Australia.
– I request the Government and members of the Democratic Labor Party to give particular attention to the Opposition’s amendment.
– What does the honourable senator think the members of the Democratic Labor Party are doing now? Are we not sitting and listening?
– I hope that some practical sympathy will be given in this instance. I think the case submitted by Senator Cavanagh is unanswerable. I admit that the word ‘incapacitated’ has a wide meaning and that it could be interpreted many ways. But I believe that in the end it rests with the Minister to decide whether the incapacity warrants some temporary relief. It is a tremendous shame that a person who is injured in the manner described by Senator Cavanagh should find that his home will be sold over his head if certain things do not happen within a specified time. It is very hard to alter the order of cases set down for hearing in supreme courts. This is particularly so with motor car accidents, which take a long time to be heard.
In the case described ‘by Senator Cavanagh a person purchasing a war service home was injured in a motor car accident. He has been advised by his counsel that he has a case against the person whom he claims caused the - accident. In such circumstances the injured person cannot accept any relief - not even workers’ compensation - until his case is decided in a supreme court. I do not think that the amendment will weaken the Bill in any way. I say quite candidly that there can be very wide interpretations of the word incapacitated’, but I believe that the Opposition is making a humane request. After all, it will still be with the Minister as to whether relief is granted. The inclusion of the word ‘incapacitated’ will not mean that a person will automatically receive relief. He will have to run the gauntlet of what the Minister considers to be sufficient incapacity to warrant relief. Surely this is not a matter that should be voted on according to political lines. The test should be: What is the right thing to do in the circumstances? As the Minister will have the final say, I cannot understand how anyone can believe that the amendment should be defeated on party lines.
– I want to make only one short observation on this, By interjection it has been implied that temporary incapacity could have a very wide connotation and that we would have people. who are temporarily incapacitated seeking consideration. It was claimed that this probably would introduce undesirable features into the Bill. May I direct the attention of the Committee to the fact that proposed section 29AA (1.) of the Bill provides eligibility if: ‘
We have known people who have attacks which make them temporarily unbalanced. Some attacks last for only a very short period but may upset earning capacity. I have no doubt that such cases would be considered favourably by the Director who would not exclude them because they were temporary. It has been suggested by interjection that inclusion of the word ‘temporary’ would be an undesirable feature in relation to incapacity because it has such a wide connotation. If we are prepared to accept temporary insanity we should accept incapacity irrespective of its connotation.
[9.33] - I should like to refer at the outset to the case mentioned by Senator Cavanagh. I deeply appreciate the tragedy of the case and his concern. I remember it although 1 do nol have the full details with me. The position broadly is that, firstly, the applicant rather misled us on a number of points and that prevented the early handling of the case, lt was listed for review at the end of 6 months because that was the time indicated by the applicant when he thought compensation would be received. Obviously we will have another look at the case if it is not settled within 6 months as was first indicated. I want to make it perfectly clear that we did noi indicate that we intended to evict. As matters now stand, we have no intention of doing so. I can assure the honourable senator of that.
There has been a reference to hardship. I remind honourable senators that section 45 of the principal Act provides:
In cases of hardship, the Director may extend, for such period and on such- terms and conditions as he thinks fit, the lime for making any payment required by this Act.
I think that covers the problem because, as the honourable senator rightly mentioned, these in effect are matters of hardship.
I should like to refer now to the widow relief scheme. As most honourable senators would know, it was introduced to assist a particular category of person, namely, the widow of an Australian soldier who, as a result of the considerable reduction in the family income upon the death of her husband, was experiencing hardship in meeting the commitments on a loan granted to her husband. Therefore, the purpose of the scheme was to enable a widow of an eligible person who had been granted a loan to retain occupancy of the home after her husband’s death while she continued to comply with the conditions laid down.
Under the provisions of the amending legislation which was enacted in 1935 the
Minister was authorised to grant relief to a widow or widowed mother of an Australian soldier, as defined in the Act, or to a wife of an Austraiian soldier who was temporarily or permanently insane where, in the opinion of the Minister, payment of the full amount of the instalments or other outgoings would cause hardship. The relief provided for in the legislation covers a reduction in the instalments payable under the mortgage and the payment of certain other outgoings in respect of a property subject to the Act. The outgoings include rates, repairs and payments for road making or the installation of sewerage.
Under the provisions of the legislation eligibility for relief is retricted to widows, and the wife of an eligible person is not eligible for relief unless she is the wife of an Australian soldier who is temporarily or permanently insane. In addition, relief is restricted to widows or other female dependent persons who have established privity of contract with the Director in respect of the obligations under !he mortgage, that is to say, the obligation to repay the loan is enforceable by the Director against the widow or other female dependent person.
Against the background 1 have outlined 1 think it will be appreciated that this amendment, and the others which have been proposed, would run counter to the philosophy which has governed the operation of the relief scheme over the past 30 years. I direct the attention of the Committee to the section in the principal Act which provides that in cases of hardship the Director may extend, for such period and on such terms and conditions as he thinks fit, the time for making any payment required by this Act. I can assure honourable senators that this matter is dealt with in accordance with the terms of that section.
– I listened with a great deal of interest and quite a deal of concern to Senator Cavanagh’s remarks. Now I am in a stale of confusion. If Senator Cavanagh is right then I believe the point he made is a valid one. Proposed section 29aa provides: (J.) A purchaser or borrower in relation to land or land and a dwelling house is eligible for relief under this section in respect of the land or land and dwelling house if -
Sub-section (2.) relates to the Minister being satisfied that hardship would be caused to the purchaser or borrower. Section 45 of the principal Act provides that in cases of hardship the Director may extend for such period and on such terms and conditions as he thinks fit the time for making any payment required by this Act. I am concerned by the word ‘hardship’. Does this relate to paragraphs (a) and (b) of proposed sub-section (1.) which I have just read or does it relate to a case such as that mentioned by Senator Cavanagh tonight? 1 should like the matter to be clarified, because it is of serious concern.
– We are all interested in the Minister’s observations on the relative operations of the original section 29aa and the original section 45. Obviously they must be directed to two different situations. If section 45 is an embracing section to cover a general and almost universal situation requiring relief, I can see no reason why there would have to be a specific section 29 aa and, more particularly, why it would now be necessary to amend it. Obviously the two sections, more particularly the section which now is purported to be amended, must contemplate two situations which have to be treated differently. It would appear that the difference lies in section 45 which allows the Director to extend the time for making payments under the Act. Section 45 (2.) states:
Where the time for making any payment has been so extended, the payment shall bear interest for the time so extended at the same annual rate as that which is payable on the purchase money or advance.
Section 29aa relates to a different matter. It seems that it deals with the reduction ot instalments. That could be a vastly different type of relief. While the reduction of instalments is possible under section 29aa, the ultimate liability is not altered. It appears that a de facto extension of the period of the loan may be the ultimate result of the operation of section 29aa. Section 45 does not appear to contemplate that situation. It provides that in cases of hardship the Director may extend the time for making any payment required by the Act. Whether that provision goes ultimately to the extension of the period of the loan or merely defers payment of, say, the January instalment to February, I do not know.
– Section 45 refers only to an extension of time for payment. Section 29aa relates to a reduction of the instalment obligation.
– Exactly. Therefore I would say that there are two completely different situations. That’ being so, with duc respect to the Minister and the advice he is receiving, it appears that section 45 has not the amplitude to coyer the situation which is expressed in section 29aa, and therefore would not have the amplitude to cover the situation that Senator Cavanagh contemplates as having arisen and which should be provided for in an expanded section 29aa; that is to provide in the proposed new section 29aa all the coverage and protection that the section should give in cases which are not provided for in section 45. Insofar as section 45 is looked to, relied upon and claimed to be available to the Director .to cover the case referred to by Senator Cavanagh, it seems to me that on a strict reading of both sections that would not be the case.. From my reading, that appears to be the position. If that is correct, I think the Minister may care to look at the matter again to see whether there is validity in Senator Cavanagh’s argument for a suggested amendment to section 29aa in respect df cases to whim section 45 does not have’ application.
I would be obliged, to. the Minister it she would indicate the extent of the increased financial commitment if provision for incapacity in addition to the existing provision for insanity were- written into the legislation. Is it likely to make a very heavy additional demand on the solicitude and therefore on the finances of the Department? If so, could that .have been considered within the contemplation of the framers of the Budget when these proposed amendments were put into legislative form?
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [9.43] - Perhaps Senator Byrne has misunderstood what 1 have said. We have spoken of the case referred to by Senator Cavanagh. That case concerned an applicant himself. In the case of hardship experienced by an applicant, assistance can be given under section 45.
– But assistance can be given only as provided for in that section.
– lt provides for assistance to applicants - the original borrowers. I now turn to widows’” relief, which is provided for in section 29aa. I remind honourable senators that upon the death of a husband who has been granted a loan, where his widow has difficulty in meeting the repayments, assistance can be given under that section. The case referred to by Senator Cavanagh concerned an applicant himself, and in such cases assistance is given under the hardship provisions of section 45.
– Does the Minister mean that even if Senator Cavanagh’s suggestion is accepted it would not fall properly within the present section 29aa, which contemplates relief for widows and not for applicants?
– Limited relief is provided under section 45 to defer payments.
– That is the only form of relief in that section.
– The extension of relief to widows provided for in the Bill relates to relief to widows of merchant seamen who were eligible to be assisted, but not previously eligible for relief. The aim of the amendment is to bring such persons into line with other widows.
– I believe after examining the very pertinent points which have been raised by Senator Cavanagh that it is advisable to examine the original section which the clause now before the Committee seeks to delete, in order to discover what it originally sought and contemplated. Section 29aa of the War Service Homes Act 1918-66 provides for the Minister to reduce the amount of any instalments in circumstances where a person who was to pay those instalments is a widow, widowed mother or wife of an Australian soldier who is temporarily or permanently insane. The second condition upon which the Minister may operate is in the case of hardship. It is also noticeable that the section as it stands at present indicates that any reduction in the amount of instalments to be paid is not to excuse the widow, widowed mother or wife from the liability to pay the full amount of the purchase money or to repay the full amount of the advance together with interest. There must be good reason why amendment of that section is sought. I think that purpose is to be extracted from the clause now before the Committee.’ The provision wilh regard to the eligibility- that it is to bc a widow or widowed mother or wife of a person who is temporarily or permanently insane - is retained. In passing, I draw the Ministers attention to .the: language of the proposed sub-section (1.). I find it a little obscure. I mention that only because it would ‘appear that the’ purchaser or borrower would be the original person, and not a wife, yet sub-section (1.) (b) appears to contemplate that prospect. There may bc a perfectly good reason- for that situation and I advert to it merely ‘in’ passing.
I refer to the proposed section as it stands in order to ascertain its. character and to see where its provisions are widened beyond the existing section 29aa. It. is widened in two respects. Firstly, it deletes the existing provision in section 29aa and permits the Minister, where he is satisfied that hardship would be caused, to reduce the amount of instalments payable. It goes on to permit two further actions. Where the Minister is satisfied that hardship would be caused, the proposed section authorises the Director of War Service Homes to keep in good order and repair all the buildings, fences, fixtures and other improvements on the land until such time as the Director is satisfied that the provision should no longer apply. That is the substance, as I understand it, of proposed sub-section (4.). The proposed subsection (5.) contains the third provision, whereby the Minister, if satisfied that hardship would be caused, can direct or authorise the Director to make any payments of outgoings in the way of rates and taxes. There is, of course, provision to require a purchaser or borrower to repay these amounts. However, under sub-section (8.) of the proposed section there are certain circumstances in which even that repayment may be excused if the Director is satisfied that no hardship is likely to be involved.
That being the character of the proposed section, noting that it is wider than the character of the previous section and fully accepting all that Senator Byrne has said with regard to the scope of section 45, it is apparent to me that the new section 29aa confers new benefits. Therefore it is appropriate to consider the question: On whom are these new benefits conferred? It is apparent to me - I would be interested if any other person has a contrary view of proposed section 29aa (1 .) - that these benefits are limited to the persons mentioned in that sub-section and that, in the context of what Senator Cavanagh and other members of the Opposition have raised, the benefits are limited to a person whose husband is an eligible person who is temporarily or permanently insane.
I appreciate that the Minister has said that this is a legal matter and that insanity has to be construed and judged in terms of legalities. But I find that argument unpersuasive because the general purport of the benefits conferred by proposed section 29aa are in the character of social service or welfare benefits; they are benefits that are designed to alleviate hardship, although the criterion of that hardship, of course, is the Minister’s opinion. It appears to me that the question whether a person is legally insane as the criterion as to whether these benefits are to be paid is quite unsatisfying. It is the more unsatisfying when one considers that, if the words ‘or incapacitated’ are added and even if they are given the wide scope to which Senator Wright adverted, the purposes of the benefits conferred by proposed section 29aa are more readily understood and appreciated. 1 recognise that the words ‘temporarily or permanently insane’ are words that have caused lawyers and those who preside in law courts-
– To become temporarily or permanently insane.
– Accepting what Senator Byrne has said, in the light of the medical evidence given in some cases those people might be judged to be temporarily insane. However, it is recognised that this is a tremendously complex legal question. I have no doubt whatever that in the past the War Service Homes Division has interpreted the words with a great deal of leniency and a great deal of charity towards any applicant. But there are limits :o the extent to which leniency and charity can be applied. I sense that what we are doing here tonight is determining what should be the phraseology of the benefits to be conferred.
For my part, I believe that the words sought to be added should be added because they represent the proper context in which these benefits should be considered. I am fortified in that view by. reason of the fact that the benefit is one which, under the section, rests at all times and in all places in the discretion of the Minister. Therefore, as I see the position, the addition of these words would not of necessity add one cent to the expenditure from the .public purse. I believe that they represent a desirable addition to the language of. the proposed section in the light of the, type of benefits to be conferred. I have indicated what my attitude will be.
– I believe that the definition of a parasite is one who lives upon others. I came into this debate not having considered the clause and possibly not being capable of giving an interpretation of its meaning. But we have had given to us ;in the course of the debate enough legal knowledge to enable us now to seek and to achieve some understanding of what the clause actually means. I am much indebted to Senator Greenwood for asking us to look at the section that the proposed section seeks to replace. I disagree with him somewhat when he Bays that the proposed section represents a liberalisation compared with the existing section. I now see the distinction between this section,, which is designed to assist the wife or widow of an eligible purchaser, and section 45, which seeks to assist the borrower. The- existing section 29 aa (1.) states:
Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, where, in the opinion of the Minister, the payment by a widow or widowed mother of an Australian soldier or by the wife of an Australian soldier who is temporarily or permanently insane.
This clause substitutes the words ‘widow or widowed mother of an eligible person’ for the words ‘widow or widowed mother of an Australia soldier’. As Senator Greenwood pointed out, .the proposed section applies only to ‘a purchaser or borrower in relation to land or land and a dwelling house’. Whereas the existing section applies to the wife of the purchaser or borrower, the proposed section applies to the wife only if she is a joint owner of the property and if she becomes the purchaser or borrower. So the relief provided for under the new section is not as great as that provided under the existing section.
The new section will permit the Minister to act only if the purchaser or borrower can establish hardship and if she is the widow or widowed mother of an eligible person or if her husband is an eligible person who is temporarily or permanently insane. We seek to add the words ‘or incapacitated’. If she can then make out a case of hardship in paying in full the amounts of the instalments required to be paid under the contract of sale or mortgage or other security with respect to the land or land and dwelling house, the Minister may, from time to time, reduce the amounts of those instalments. That is under proposed sub-section (2.). Proposed sub-section (3.) reads:
A reduction under the last preceding sub-section in the amount of an instalment does not relieve a purchaser or borrower from liability to pay the full amount of the purchase money. . . .
It is possible for the period of the loan to be extended. If the period was 45 years, it may be extended to 50 years. But there is no gift to the individual. Section 45 provides that the time for the payment of instalments may be extended, but they still have to be paid.
The proposed section 29aa makes provision for the payment of rates and taxes on behalf of the wife or widow of a purchaser or borrower. No matter what pitfalls the wife or widow of an eligible person may experience, the War Service Homes Division will protect her and ensure that she will not be thrown out of the home, that it will not fall down around her ears for want of maintenance and that the local council will not sell it up because the rates have not been paid. The War Service Homes Division will fix up all these things for people who come within this category under proposed section 29aa.
– The benefits conferred by this new section are new benefits.
– Yes. but they are conferred on a restricted class of persons.
– No, on the same class of persons.
– That is what 1 am querying now. These are extended benefits; but whereas at present they apply to the widow or widowed mother of an Australian soldier they will now apply to the purchaser or borrower. To become eligible under the provisions of this proposed section, the person must be the widow or widowed mother of a purchaser or borrower. I would think, after Senator Geenwood’s speech, that the Minister might consider having another look at this provision. If she intends to do that, then I suggest that she look at the difference between the wording in- clause 10 of the Bill and the wording of section 29aa of the Act with relation to a purchaser or borrower. The Minister who also represents the Minister for Social Services in this place is accustomed to dealing with the granting of benefits, and, it is rarely that I make representations to her without arousing her sympathy. Nevertheless, sympathy does not solve many . of the problems in those cases of hardship to which 1 have referred. In the particular case to which I have drawn attention tonight, the person concerned received notice from the Regional Director for South Australia that his place in Adelaide was to be sold up - that the Division had decided to foreclose on the mortgage. When 1 rang the Regional Director on this man’s behalf he said he could do nothing because he had a direction from Canberra. I then wrote to the Minister and, following those ‘ representations, the Minister felt that she was justified in agreeing that the Regional Director in South Australia should defer payment of the arrears for a period of 6 months. I have not the correspondence before me but I took it for granted that the Act placed some limitations on the length of time for which payment of instalments could be deferred.
– But the honourable senator is now satisfied/ is he not, that section 29aa would not apply to the eligible person to whom he refers?
– Yes. But I think I have aroused some sympathy for this particular individual. Although this is possibly the wrong clause under which to make representations, I do suggest that the Minister inquire into whether section 45 of the Act covers the case or whether some amendment should be made to it. Although section 29aa does not cover the case I have mentioned if a nian is incapacitated and has no income I see no justification for forcing him to pay.
– But in all these cases the Act gives full power, for incapacitation or any other circumstance such as insanity or hardship, to defer payment as long as the Minister wishes.
– What section gives that power?
– Section 45.
-] submit not. Section 45 provides that in cases of hardship the Director may extend, for such period and on such terms and conditions as he thinks fit, the time for making any payment required by the Act.
– That is not merely for widows. That is for everybody.
– That is so. But that relates to the deferment of payment of instalments.
– And the person need not be incapacitated or insane.
-] agree with that. Therefore, J. submit that possibly in the case to which 1 have referred .the Minister can extend the time for payment. But now we come to the other case, lt is only in cases of hardship that the Director may extend for such period and on such terms and conditions as he thinks fit the time for the making of any payment required by the Act. The payment required by the Act is the repayment of money lent on the house. But if, due to hardship, the returned serviceman borrower cannot afford to maintain his home properly and is’ unable to pay the rates and taxes, the Minister has no power under section 45 to grant him any relief. Why should that be so? If he is not insane he may be a paraplegic. He may be crippled and unable to work, yet he can be given no relief. If he were only temporarily insane, his wife could receive some allowance for the payment of rates. Again, if he is not there his wife can get some relief. Of course, suicide might be one solution but some people have a great attachment to their family home. Because this ungrateful person about whom I speak insists on living even though he is unable to work, he deprives his wife of the benefits that she would get under this section if she were a widow. Men fight for life despite the disservice they may be doing to their families and I would therefore ask the Minister to give this matter very serious consideration with a view to giving some relief to those servicemen who are unable to pay their instalments.
– My inclination at the moment is to support the amendment proposed by the Opposition because I am not happy with the explanatiton given in support of the Government’s case in opposition to the amendment. I am also not happy with the drafting of sub-section (1.) of proposed new section 29aa. I do not think it spells out as clearly as the Bill should who is to be eligible and who is not to enjoy benefit. I could be wrong, and most likely am, but as 1 read the proposed provision, it says that the purchaser or borrower is eligible for relief is she is a widow or if her husband is insane. When one looks at the definition of either ‘borrower’ or ‘purchaser’ in the parent Act one wonders whether the widow of the sole owner or borrower would become eligible under the proposed new section 29aa. There can be a doubt and £ think it is wrong that we should pass legislation under which a doubt could arise. 1 think there is an obligation on the Senate to see that legislation passes through this place in such a form as not to leave any doubt. Otherwise, what is the use of a second chamber if it is not to police this sort of operation?
Another reason why I feel inclined to support and why I think I will support the amendment proposed by the Opposition is that I fail to see why any distinction should be drawn between a person who is mentally incapacitated and a person who is bodily incapacitated. Why should we make any distinction between these two types of injury? Is suffering of the mind to be regarded as some greater suffering than some injury to the body? For that reason alone I think the amendment proposed by the Opposition is reasonable.
For the life of me, I cannot see why the Government insists on opposing the proposal when in all the circumstances, a discretion still resides in the Minister to accept or reject cases of hardship. I am very attracted to the argument advanced by Senator Cavanagh that all that is proposed is a widening of the categories of persons entitled to apply for relief. I do not think that what is proposed is an unreason.abl provision to include in a piece of legislation. I do not for a moment imagine that the Minister is going to be flooded with applications of this sort. One would imagine that if she gets fifty a year that is all she will ever get. I doubt whether she will get more than a dozen.
I do not think that to accept the proposal will mean that the Government will be spending millions of dollars. The money is already lent. The most that is going to happen is that the money coming back will be deferred for some time because, irrespective of whether the Minister acts under Section 29aa or section 45 the money eventually comes back. It eventually comes back whether there is one form of deferment or another. Therefore, unless the Minister has soma very compelling reasons which, to date, I have not heard, I intend to support the amendment proposed by the Opposition.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [10.10] - I propose to answer one or two points that have been raised by honourable senators. Senator Withers who spoke last said that he could see no difference between mental incapacity and any other form of incapacity. I suggest to the honourable senator that a person who is mentally incapacitated is probably unable to sign a legal document or to make a judgment. This leaves him in a situation very different from that of a person with any other form of incapacity. That distinction has been recognised in the legislation. It seems to me that it would be impracticable merely to add the words ‘or incapacitated’ to proposed section 29aa (1.) (b).
There has been a discussion of the phrase ‘a purchaser or borrower’. To be eligible for relief the recipient must be the wife of an eligible person who is temporarily or permanently insane, in which case she would become an eligible person under the war service homes scheme and therefore may become a purchaser or borrower. The wife of an incapacitated person is not an eligible person and cannot become a purchaser unless she is a joint borrower with her husband. If the amendment were adopted only some wives of incapacitated persons would qualify if they were joined in the mortgage with their husbands. I said earlier in the debate that relief was restricted to .widows or other female dependent persons who had established privity of contract with the Director in respect of obligations under the mortgage; that is to say, ‘the obligation to repay a loan is enforceable by the Director against a widow or other ‘dependent person.
I come back also to section 45 about which we spoke earlier ….Reference was made to payment in cases of hardship. In effect this provision relates, to any payments required by the Act. The section* states:
In cases of hardship, the. Director may extend, for such period and on such terms and conditions as he thinks fit the dme for making any payment’ required by this Act. ‘
There is provision in that section with relation to the payment of rates- and maintenance. I have noted other points raised by honourable senators in the course of the debate and I can understand their very real concern. I suggest that if may help to meet some of their problems if I were to seek leave to report progress and to ask for leave to sit again.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Anderson) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second rime.
The purpose of this short Bill is to widen the scope for the grant of leave without pay to officers of the Commonwealth Public Service where the public interest would be served. At present, under section 72a of the Public Service Act the Public Service Board has power to grant leave to an officer, on his application, for the purpose of service with a prescribed international organisation, or with the Government of any part of the Queen’s dominions or of a British Dependency’. The provision is not limited as to period, except that if the period exceeds 3 years the Public Service Board must be satisfied that the grant of leave is in the public interest. In addition, under existing section 71 the Public Service Board has a general power to grant leave for any purpose, but the period is limited to 12 months. This power has been used, for instance, in relation to Nauru.
The need is now seen to provide for leave over a wider area than section 72a presently permits, for example, to cover leave to serve in an Asian country. It is desired to provide a specific power for this purpose, particularly as the general power under section 71 is, as indicated earlier, limited to a period of 12 months. This Bill therefore seeks to amend section 72a so that the countries covered will not be confined as at present. In view of the widening of the section, where the leave is for more than 12 months a certification by the Minister responsible for administering the Public Service Act - that is, the Prime Minister - that the engagement of the officer in the employment concerned is in the public interest, will be required.
There are other reasons for amendment of this section. Following the affiliation of the Royal Military College, Duntroon, with the University of New South Wales, a power is needed to permit leave to academic staff of the College to serve with the University. The Bill is framed broadly enough to allow periods of teaching at other educational institutions, thus facilitating a greater interchange of views, ideas and knowledge. A certification by the Prime Minister of the sort mentioned earlier will be required for leave in excess of 12 months. In the course of this general review of section 72a it was seen to be desirable that a power exist to permit leave to be granted to serve in other prescribed organisations where such service would be in the public interest. Organisations will be prescribed as actual cases arise. Again, the Public Service Board will need the ministerial certification if the period is to exceed 1 2 months.
I take this opportunity to mention the valuable work done in the past by officers of the Commonwealth Public Service for other countries and international organisations. This Bill seeks, to extend the scope for assistance and for the gaining of added experience in these and other areas of work outside the Commonwealth Service. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Anderson) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill seeks the approval of Parliament to the borrowing by the Commonwealth of $US75m, equal1 to SA67m, from the Export-Import Bank of the United States to assist in financing the purchase of 24 F111C aircraft, spares, associated equipment and services. This borrowing is additional to an earlier loan of $US80m arranged in 1966 for this purpose.
The agreement, which the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) signed on behalf of the Commonwealth with the Export-Import Bank on 2nd October, follows the usual form of loan agreements with the Bank. The terms are those which operate currently for ExportImport Bank loans for aircraft purchases except that there is no provision for the basic interest rate to be increased if the Export-Import Bank should sell the Commonwealth’s, obligations on the market. The loan carries an interest rate of 6%, and is to be issued at par. A commitment fee of i% is payable on the undrawn amount, commencing shortly after the signing of the agreement. Drawings on the loan may be made at any time up to 30th June 1971, and repayments of amounts drawn during any financial year will1 be made by means of fourteen semi-annual instalments commencing on 31st December next following the close of that financial year. Since the borrowing is for defence purposes the approval of the Loan Council is not necessary, but parliamentary approval is required for the borrowing and for the appropriation of the money from loan funds. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wright) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to make a number of minor amendments to the Bankruptcy Act 1966. That Act came into operation on 4th March 1968. During the course of preparing the Bankruptcy Rules and organising the administrative machinery necessary for the operation of the new Act, it became apparent that some minor amendments of the Act would be necessary to enable its administration to be conducted more smoothly. The purpose of this Bill is to make these amendments.
In the first place, I mention the amendment contained in clause 3 of the Bill, which relates to the deposit that must be lodged by a creditor when presenting a bankruptcy petition. Section 48 of the Act provides that the deposit may be used for certain specified purposes. These purposes do not cover some expenses that are necessarily incurred by an official receiver before the first meeting of creditors. . The amendment will enable the deposit to be used for all expenses necessarily incurred by an official receiver up to that stage. The amendment is in this respect consistent with the practice that was followed under the old Bankruptcy Act.
Secondly, I refer to clause 4 of the Bill which relates to the consolidation of proceedings. When partners become bankrupt it is advantageous in the administration of the bankruptcies for the separate proceedings in respect of each partner to be consolidated. Under the new Act this can be done when sequestration orders are made against partners on a creditor’s petition but it cannot be done when the partners become bankrupt on their own petitions. The purpose of clause 4 is to correct this deficiency.
Clauses 5 and 6 relate to the public examination of a bankrupt which is now required to be held before the Registrar in Bankruptcy. The purpose of the amendments is to enable a public examination in a country district to be conducted before the local magistrate, in any case where the Registrar thinks fit. This will avoid the expense of having the Registrar travel to a country district to conduct a public examination in those cases where the assets in the bankrupt estate are not very great. The expense of conducting a public examination is, of course, a charge on the estate.
The purpose of clause 8 of the Bill is to permit a trustee to pay. a dividend to someone authorised by the creditor to receive it. Under the present Act, the trustee may send a cheque for a dividend only to the creditor himself. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Coben) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Anderson) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to detain the Senate for a few minutes to raise a matter concerning the administration of the Department of External Territories. It is of considerable moment to the two individuals who are involved and apart from that I think it involves a rather important . question of principle concerning the Department. I think thatI would adequately deal with the subject, or so much of the subject as is known to me, and would save the time of the Senate if I were to read a letter which I wrote to the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) on 2nd October last. The letter stated:
I have been approached by Mr Patrick Dullard who is at present a teacher at the Tusbab High School, Madang, Territory of Papua and New Guinea. Mr Dullard is a graduate of the University of Western Australia where his studies were financed by your departmentas a result of which he was bonded to serve as a school teacher in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea which obligation he is currently carryingout.
Last year he married in Perth Miss Christine Mehmedoff who was at that time a student at the Western Australian Teachers’ College. Mrs Dullard graduated from the University of Western Australia last year with the degree of Bachelor of Arts with Honours. Mrs’ Dullard accompanied her husband to the Territory and is also working there as a teacher at the Tusbab High School.
During her studies inWestern Australia Mrs Dullard was under a bond to the Western Australian education department to teach in this State following the completion of her course. Since her marriage to Mr Dullard shehas naturally found this impossible and a demand has now been made by the Western Australian education department against her husband for the sum of $1,233.59 in lieu of her working off the bond.
– How could a demand be made on the husband?
– I am afraid that I do not know how, but for some reason or other a demand has been made on him. That is the information that I have. The letter continued:
It has been pointed out to me and it seems quite obvious that Mrs Dullard has in no way deliberately attempted to evade her responsibility and in fact she is carrying out the spirit if not the letter of the bond in working as a school teacher in an Austraiian Territory. I am informed that although there is a reciprocal arrangement between the States which allow such bonds entered into in one State to be worked off in another Slate there is no such reciprocity with the Territories.
In view of all the circumstances and as it would appear that Mr and Mrs Dullard are an acquisition to the educational work of your department I wonder if it would be possible for you to make an approach to the Western Australian education department with a view to obtaining their agreement for Mrs Dullard to work off her bond in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, or if this is not possible some appropriate financial arrangement could be made between your department and the Western Australian Government.
I would suggest that if no suitable arrangement can be made a very severe financial burden will be imposed on two young people who are both doing valuable work for their country and who are in fact being penalised for no other offence than their having married. 1 should be most obliged if you would give this matter sympathetic consideration and let me have your views in due course.
I received a reply from the Minister, dated 6th November, in which he stated:
You asked me lo consider the case of Mr Patrick Dullard, a teacher at Tusbab High School, Madang, who has received a request from the Western Australian Education Department for payment of a $1,23-3.59 debt due by his wife in respect of a Western Australian teacher training bond.
So the demand has been made to him, according to the Minister for External Territories. The Minister’s letter continued:
The circumstances in which Mr and Mrs Dullard are placed were brought to my notice by my colleague, the Minister for Education and Science, who, at the time, was in touch with the Western Australian authorities about Mrs Dullard’s bond of obligation.
After looking at all the circumstances I reached the same conclusion as that drawn by my colleague, that the matter was essentially one between Mrs Dullard and the Western Australian Education Department and that it would not be appropriate to intervene.
I do not want to labour the point but merely wish to reiterate the facts. The posi tion is that these two people were students in Western Australia and were studying for the teaching profession. The man, subsequently to be the husband, entered into a bond in order to teach in Papua and New Guinea. The woman entered into a bond to teach within Western Australia. Of course, owing to the reciprocity arrangement between the States, after completing her course she could have gone to teach in Queensland or New South Wales or any other State if she had wished to do so. She could have taught at Lord Howe Island or Thursday Island, presumably, and still have carried out the terms of her bond. As it happened, these two people met during the period of their studies and married. Both completed the courses they had undertaken. Mr Dullard was appointed to serve in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea; Mrs Dullard was appointed to serve in Western Australia. Unless they had chosen not to get married for some years the only course open to them was for Mrs Dullard to break her bond. The Western Australian Government apparently is insisting that they acted incorrectly in getting married although they have been prepared to continue in the profession for which they were trained. As I said in my letter, they have been prepared to carry out the spirit if not the letter of the bond. They had to break the bond in order to be married. 1 appreciate that there are reciprocal arrangements between the States and that at present these arrangements do not exist between the States and the Territories of the Commonwealth.
– How firm is the honourable senator’s information as to reciprocity between the States?
– I must confess that my information is not particularly firm. I understand that at least there is reciprocity between some of the States. I confess I am not sure of the precise nature of the reciprocity but I understand there is some reciprocity. In any event this does not really affect the argument I am putting forward because no other State comes into the question. What is certain is that there is no reciprocity between Western Australia and the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
The position is that these two people only recently finished their courses and started work. Naturally, a sum of over $1,000 is a very large one for them to come by in the present circumstances. I appreciate that probably some arrangement will be made with the Western Australian Education Department so that an immediate lump sum payment will not have to be made. Presumably the Department will allow Mr Dullard to enter into an arrangement to pay the money by instalments. However, this also will impose a pretty severe strain on a young recently married couple.
– It would appear that both these people are in receipt of salaries.
– Both certainly are in receipt of salaries but they are not salaries which could be regarded in any way as gratuities. Salaries for school teachers anywhere in Australia are not particularly extravagant. I do not think anyone would say that they are not entitled to the salaries they are receiving. Although $1,000 is a considerable sum to any young couple, whether both parties are working as school teachers or at some other job, it is not a large sum to a Commonwealth department. I appreciate the administrative difficulties involved in this matter. Having reiterated that I appreciate them I would once again urge the Government to give this matter some sympathetic consideration because it seems to me that instances of this kind are likely to occur again. There must be many instances of people studying for degrees in education at various universities and teacher training institutions throughout Australia who are under bond to various State Education Departments and people who are under bond to serve in one of the Commonwealth Territories. I do not think it would be highly unreasonable to expect that similar instances will occur in the future; that on marriage somebody will have to break a bond because he or she has not gone to serve in a Territory or a State.
In the circumstances it seems to me that the Government should show not charity but consideration for these people and the difficulty in which they are placed. I say that because of the personal difficulties of these particular individuals and because of the difficulties which may arise in similar circumstances in the future. I suggest that unless there are some insuperable obstacles which are not apparent to me, early efforts should be made to prevent circumstances such as this from arising in the future. The Commonwealth should enter into a reciprocity arrangement with education authorities to ensure that this does not become a continuing practice.
In closing, I understand there is a distinct shortage of school teachers in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. According to my information, Mrs Dullard, whom the Territory has gained, is a highly qualified teacher. In fact, she is an honours graduate of the University of Western Australia. The Territory has made no contribution at all to her training and apparently is not prepared to make any. Apparently the Minister is not prepared to make any contribution to her training. What he is saying is that her busband will have to repay the Western Australian Education Department. The Department of External Territories will have obtained a very well qualified school teacher free of charge. In view of the shortage of school teachers and other qualified people in the Territory it seems to me that this is not a very sensible attitude, and certainly not a very humane one, to take. I appreciate the administrative difficulties involved in arbitrarily departing from established practices. All I wish to do is to draw the attention of the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) to this matter. I have already drawn the attention of the Minister for External Territories to it. I also bring it to the attention of the Senate and I ask that at least some further consideration be given to what is a serious hardship imposed on two young people who certainly have not done anything wrong, by any possible construction of wrong behaviour. They are people who, from what I know of them, will be a great acquisition in the work which this Government, and Australia, are doing in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea.
– I listened closely to what Senator Wheeldon said about this matter. As I understand it there are two things to be considered. The first is that the State education authorities undertake to train teachers and do so at great expense. It is well recognised that if a teacher who receives State support in training does not fulfil the obligations of teaching for a period, he or she becomes liable to pay back to the State some portion of that expense.
The honourable senator said that he mentioned this matter in order to bring it to the attention of the Senate. For that reason, and for clarity, I should indicate the course that I shall take. The second of the two matters which have to be considered is that relating to reciprocity. I did not know that there was full reciprocity between the six States of Australia in regard to fulfilling trainee teacher bonds. 1 shall be interested to discuss this aspect with my colleague in the other place, the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser). If that principle of reciprocity does obtain between the States, I have no doubt that the Minister for External Territories (Mr Barnes) will give consideration to its application in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea, although this may involve some practical difficulties.
In his letter to the Minister for External Territories the honourable senator asked whether financial arrangements could be made between the Department of External Territories and the lady concerned in the event of reciprocity not being arranged to satisfy her obligations to the Department of Education in Western Australia. 1 do not know whether consideration has been given to this aspect, but I should think that assistance could be given in some way if the lady were prepared to apply part of her New Guinea salary to the satisfaction of her Western Australian obligation. I shall immediately refer the matter to the Ministers concerned and will supply the honourable senator with a detailed reply explaining any decision taken.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.42 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 19 November 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1968/19681119_senate_26_s39/>.