27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator WILKINSON presented from 383 farmers of Western Australia a petition praying that the Senate will give earnest consideration to taking certain action to alleviate the parlous conditions which now confront the rural and agricultural community.
Petition received and read.
– I present the report of the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity as Minister for Supply and as Minister representing the Minister for Defence, ls he aware of Press reports to the effect that the United States Defence Department will not agree to transfer any of the $200m-odd which has been paid by Australia for the FI 1 1 aircraft towards the purchase of another aircraft? If this is the attitude of the United States Government., is it not time that the Australian Government put its cards on the table, informed us of the present position and allowed us to have a debate on it so that, irrespective of any bungling that has occurred in the past, the matter can be thrashed out here and Australia’s representatives can go to the negotiating table without having one hand tied behind their backs and see to it that we get a fair deal and are not done out of the $200m which we have paid-
– Order! The Leader of the Opposition is getting out of order with his question because he is making statements as well as asking questions.
– I am asking the Minister whether he agrees. 1 am urging him to take this course so that we can see to it that we are not done out of the S200m which we have paid for aircraft that we have not received.
– Order! The Leader of the Opposition has asked his question, and I do not want any further argument on it.
– Thank you, Mr President. I have asked it.
– In response to the question and statement of the Leader of the Opposition I point out that the question is based upon a Press report he has presumably read.
– -Is it true?
– By way of interjection Senator Cavanagh asks: ‘Is it true?’ lt is a Press comment. As everybody including the Leader of the Opposition knows, the Minister for Defence is in Washington in the United States of America at the present time, having discussions with the Defence Department and the manufacturers in relation to Australia’s acquisition of the Fill. It would be quite unreal and quite absurd to suggest that whatever the views of the United States Government were they would be reflected in a Press comment.
Quite obviously, when the Minister for Defence returns to Australia he will report to the Government; he will report to the Executive. Then at an appropriate time any views that he has and the Government has in relation to the matter will be revealed to the Parliament. But to suggest, as Senator Murphy does, that we should start drawing conclusions and taking decisions on the basis of some report that apparently he read in the Press, quite frankly does not really measure up to the normal standard of question 1 would have expected to be asked.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport aware of statements made by people prominent in the meat exporting industry in Tasmania to the effect that the Japanese market for Tasmanian meat is in jeopardy because of a lack of regular shipping? Is he also aware that this market amounts to more than $100,000 a year to Tasmania alone and has great capacity for expansion? If the feeder services to Tasmanian ports as promised by the British shipping consortia were inaugurated, could they also be used through the Australian National Line to improve the service to Japan? Has the Minister any comments to make regarding the delay in the commencement of these container services from Tasmania to the mainland?
– I am slightly informed about this matter, although I will need to have the question put on the notice paper in order to obtain a detailed answer for the honourable senator. For about a week I was the Acting Minister for Shipping and Transport, and in that time I heard something about the problems of Tasmanian lamb producers and their difficulty in getting their lamb carcasses through to Japan. So I arranged for the Department of Shipping and Transport to send one of its officers with an officer of the Department of Trade and Industry to Tasmania to see what could be done to improve the situation.
I believe that this is important to Tasmania. I know from my own experience the potential of that State to increase its production of Iamb. I regard it as quite important to Tasmania - indeed, to Australia as a whole. I believe that some of the problem is caused by the new method of container shipping and the necessity to create a feeder service. I am told that work is going on at the moment to try to overcome this problem, to establish satisfactory methods of transfer and to do it at reasonable and equitable prices. I assure the honourable senator that I am interested in this matter and that I will do all I can to obtain more information for him.
– Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware that for some time past in substantial areas of resale in Victoria petrol has been retailed at widely ranging discounts of as high as 7c a gallon?
– In some places petrol is sold at 8c a gallon off the normal price.
– The discount has been as high as 8c a gallon, as I am reminded. Would it not be a reasonable assumption that throughout the rest of Australia consumers are being grossly overcharged for petrol, which must contribute significantly to inflation, while the Government does not raise a finger to protect consumers? Will the Minister institute immediate inquiries and take follow-up action, which would be indicated, to protect the public against the obvious rapacity of the oil companies whose interest in consumers appears to become manifest only during times of a price war, when the consumers become pawns in a game in which the companies concerned attempt to destroy one another? In the circumstances will the Government make it clear that a rise in the price of petrol, recently projected, is unwarranted and will not be allowed?
– Dealing with the first part of the honourable senator’s question, yes, my attention has been drawn to the fact that petroleum has been retailed in Victoria at 7c or 8c a gallon less than the normal price. I would not argue about the exact price, but I accept that it has been retailed at a lesser sum. Dealing with that part of the question which drew conclusions from that fact, honourable senators should understand that the retail price of petrol is based on the price-fixing arrangement in operation in South Australia where petroleum products are subject to price control. It may well be that the petrol is imported by the company concerned without having regard to the arrangement whereby all Australian oil companies have to take a percentage of the crude oil produced in Australia to ensure that eventually Australia will produce all its own oil requirements. A series of possibilities is contained in the’ honourable senator’s question. The actual facts as to why a company can import petrol and retail it at less than the normal price would be matters for the Minister for Shipping and Transport or for the Minister for Customs and Excise, who would have some control in the matter. I think that the question should be directed to those Ministers. I would caution honourable senators to ascertain the facts and the circumstances before they make any firm judgments. I hope that, in response to the honourable senator’s question, he will be supplied with an answer which will give all the facts.
– The question asked by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack is quite a long and involved one. I think the honourable senator’s question arose out of the trouble incurred by Pan American Airways in the United States of America. He suggested a series of options to be considered. I wrote them down so that I could answer him in some detail. He asked whether funds should continue to be made available by the Australian community, through its Parliament and ratified by the Senate, to keep Qantas Airways Ltd in the big league of international airline operators. He asked also whether Qantas should be considered as being in a situation in which there could be an economic case for it not to try to sustain a position in international air traffic consistent with its present position. The honourable senator raised some queries about Qantas administration and the malaise which he suggests is afflicting that administration. He then touched on the question of pilots’ discontent and the demand which this makes on resources in order to pay pilots. It seems to me this is properly a question which calls for a detailed answer, but I always have with me a couple of things which I think are of importance and which I would have ready to answer questions relating to the Australian civil aviation field, and with the indulgence of the Senate I should like to make some comments.
First of all, civil aviation in Australia, is extremely big business, and it is growing at a very fast rate. The rate at which it is growing is much greater than the growth rate of the Australian economy as a whole, so it does make an enlarged demand on resources. In my view, civil aviation is properly to be regarded as a public utility, both in the domestic sense and in the international sense. It is operated under the two airline policy in the domestic field and with Qantas as an international air carrier in the overseas field. Qantas rates about ninth in the world as an international air carrier. Domestically, Australia’s use of aircraft rates about third in the world. Overall, this puts us about sixth in the world aviation scene.
Qantas, as a business, has a total of $240m invested in it, according to the last balance sheet and report. That is the total of its assets. It is fair to point out thai in Qantas’s total structure, more than half of its money consists of loans and short term liabilities. So the question of the economic viability of Qantas and its ability to continue as a successful international air operator is based on a number of considerations, such as capacity to keep its traffic, ability to finance its business and so on. I cannot say at this stage whether the Senate ought or ought not to undertake to guarantee funds through the parliamentary process that I have mentioned in order to keep Qantas in what is called the big league of international civil aviation, but I believe that these are proper questions to be addressed to me and to the Senate and, through us, to the Australian people.
The question whether Qantas is an economic proposition and whether it could justifiably drop down in the scale, I suggest, has to be regarded in the light of its present overall financial position, (he attempt to maintain it as a profitable business and its future commitment for reequipment with larger aircraft. I would not want to comment, as Senator Sir Magnus Cormack asked me to do, on any suggestion of administrative malaise. I would rather not do that. In response to Senator Sir Magnus Cormack about the problem concerning Qantas pilots I inform him that I am having prepared for me a statement concerning the industrial problems, dislocations and hold-ups of Qantas passengers, both here and in other parts of the world, because of stoppages and industrial disputes. I think that I should properly have that statement prepared, and I will make it available to the honourable senator later. At this stage I would not want to comment on any accusation of pilot greed, as suggested by the honourable senator, except to say - I think fairly - that so far as one can determine, Qantas pilots are paid quite well and they seem to be paid at a rate which many people in the Australian community have some cause to envy.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Health advise me whether a medical practitioner can refuse to see pensioners who have medical entitlement cards on the grounds that he is not prepared to ‘see any more pensioners’? If so, would this indicate that a medical practitioner, making such a decision, is not prepared to accept pensioners as patients because the financial return is insufficient to warrant him having pensioner patients? Can the Commonwealth Department of Health take any action against a medical practitioner who refuses to see pensioners who hold medical entitlement cards?
– I think the question asked by the honourable senator is a very important one. I have not heard of the kind of case to which he referred. I have always been very conscious of the splendid work that doctors do for their pensioner patients but because of the importance of the question and the necessity for care for many people I will take this matter up with the Minister for Health and get the honourable senator a considered reply.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Firstly, are there any, and if so, what number, of Australian civilians and members of the armed forces held prisoner by the North Vietnamese or the Vietcong? Secondly, what is the total number of American armed forces personnel held prisoner by the North Vietnamese or Vietcong? Finally, are Australia’s representatives at the United
Nations taking any, and if so what, steps to endeavour to secure humane treatment for prisoners of war held by the North Vietnamese or Vietcong?
– As to the first two parts of the question, I have information which I have had in my portfolio since 17th March and therefore my replies would be based at that date. In reply to the first question, there are no Australian civilians held prisoner by the North Vietnamese or the Vietcong. No Australian members of the armed forces are, to our knowledge, held prisoner by the Vietcong although two Australian servicemen are classified as missing presumed dead. As to the number of American armed forces personnel held prisoner by the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong, the most recent figures available are those contained in a news release dated 19th February 1970 by the Assistant Secretary of Defence and Public Affairs. This release gives the figure for American servicemen captured or interned as at 14th February 1970 as 431, of whom 54 are Army personnel, 142 Navy, 21 Marine and 214 Air Force personnel. The third and final question of the honourable senator related to the humane treatment of prisoners of war. Australia has made clear its commitment to the observance of the Geneva Conventions as these apply to the treatment of prisoners of war. As recently as 14th November 1969 during the 24th United Nations General Assembly the Australian representatives on the Third Committee delivered a strong statement much of which was specifically addressed to the matter of prisoners of war in Vietnam. I should be happy to let honourable senators know of the substance of this statement and make a copy of it available.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Supply and it relates to the report that 28 technicians and 8 other skilled workers will be retrenched at the Tidbinbilla tracking station. At the same time the Department of Supply has reported that it is proposed to increase the work force at the end of next year to cope with a project in 1972. In view of the great loss to the Department and the specialised space tracking project which would occur if these men were retrenched, will the Minister cause these retrenchment notices to be withdrawn until some employment in the Commonwealth service is found at equivalent pay rates and service conditions to ensure, firstly, that they will have continuity of employment and. secondly, that their services will nor be lost to the Department?
- Senator Bishop asks about this temporary displacement of certain personnel at Tidbinbilla tracking station. A short explanation of it is that deep space activity has had a turn-back as a result of requirements of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the personnel who were engaged for this work are no longer required. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, not the Department of Supply, determines the work load. We are acting as an agency of NASA and because of the work load it has now determined there will be a redundancy of approximately 35 positions. At the same time work in support of Apollo missions at Tidbinbilla is proceeding.
As honourable senators are aware, it is planned to launch Apollo 13 next Sunday and its course will be tracked by the personnel involved in Apollo space activity. The situation referred to by the honourable senator stems from a failure after launch of a Pioneer E spacecraft late last year. The honourable senator raised the point whether the Department of Supply should retain the personnel to whom he referred in anticipation of employing them in deep space activity in the future. The nature of our arrangement with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the United States of America is such that it is not within our competence to do so. We have an arrangement whereby we act as agents for NASA. A subcontractor is employed at Tidbinbilla and people employed there are really employees of the sub-contractor. In this instance, the sub-contractor is the Hawker Siddeley organisation - at least in respect of some employees.
We are making efforts to place some of the personnel, wherever possible. The piece of paper that I have in front of me suggests that it is hoped that more than half of the personnel declared redundant will be found alternative employment either at Woomera or in the Australian Capital Territory. We are making a general effort to place them, but the point that must bc appreciated is that NASA sets out the work load and says to us: ‘Righto, this will be the work load’. It may be a work load in respect of deep space research or Apollo launchings. but NASA in fact sets out the load. It is completely beyond our responsibility to say to NASA: ‘Right. You will pay for if - and NASA does pay for it - ‘and we will act as your agent, but we will reserve our right to retain employees even though there is no work for them’, lt is not possible for us to do that, but we are trying in other ways to help the people involved as best we can.
– 1 direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the recently announced settlement of the industrial dispute over the use of the container terminal at Tilbury Dock in the United Kingdom, will the Government take steps to see that any surcharge to cover the handling of Australian container traffic at Rotterdam will be removed?
– I will refer the honourable senator’s question for consideration by the Department of Shipping and Transport, if that is the appropriate department.
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Government in the Senate been drawn to a statement by Mr Freeth, our new Ambassador to Japan, in which he stated among other things that Japan should rearm? Is it now government policy in this way to encourage Japan to rearm and to establish a military presence in Asia? Does the Government support Japanese leaders who stated recently that Japan needs to rearm to protect the source of its raw materials? As Australia is the main supplier of raw materials to Japan, does the Government hopefully anticipate that Japan will become our military protector if and when the United States of America withdraws from Vietnam?
– The honourable senator’s question is based on a comment taken from a statement presumably made by Mi Freeth on his arrival in Japan as Australia’s Ambassador. I believe that it would be quite wrong to make judgments on an extract from any statement that was made in those circumstances. That is not necessarily a reflection on the Press. However, I suggest that until the text of the Ambassador’s statement is before the honourable senator he should make reservations in any judgments he may form. The honourable senator went on from his reference to that extract to what Mr Freeth is reported to have said, and he asked a series of questions about what should be the policy of the Japanese Government in relation to rearmament and what the Australian Government’s reflections on that policy should be.
– You are encouraging it.
– I ask the honourable senator not to put into my mouth words that I did not say. He will appreciate that at the moment he is in a rather sensitive area. All I can say is that at question time it would be quite wrong to reflect upon what an honourable senator thought was the policy of another government. I should imagine that this would be a matter of policy for the government concerned. If and when the policy of that government was known, that would be the time for the Australian Government to make a considered comment about it.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation, further to his recent statement that an aircraft noise abatement consultative committee would be established in Adelaide, whether the personnel of this committee has as yet been determined. If so, could he tell us the names of its members and the organisations that they represent?
– It will be well known to the Senate that I have been setting up noise abatement committees in the major capital cities. The purpose of these has been to give, as much as we possibly can, a general community viewpoint to this problem which we believe is a general community problem. Therefore, we have done this. Generally the committees consist of the Commonwealth, represented by the Department of Civil Aviation; the State governments, represented by the Ministers for Transport and/or Health, if they wish to be represented; people of municipalities surrounding the airport; and such people in the city area who feel that they have a special case to represent or a special problem to present.
The Adelaide committee was inaugurated at a meeting in Adelaide last Thursday week. The Regional Director of Civil Aviation for South Australia and the Northern Territory has the responsibility of getting the committee moving and, in consultation with other governmental and local government people, of looking at the size of the committee that he believes will best fit the purpose. I understand that the airport manager in Adelaide will be the chairman of the committee. As I have said before, the composition will be approximately 10 to 15 people. I leave that matter very largely to the local city interests to determine in consultation with the Commonwealth representatives. This seems to me to be the most co-operative way to behave. Anybody who is not represented because of the sheer problem of managing a committee of too large a size is entitled and free to come and consult with the committee, and equally the committee is entitled to ask people to come and consult with it. I am expecting the committee mentioned to be firmly set up with members and the personnel named within the next fortnight.
– I address a question to the Minister for Housing. What amount of money would be involved in making it possible for the Government to honour without delay its obligations to exservicemen in view of the situation in which the Division of War Service Homes has exceeded last year’s appropriation for the provision of war service homes?
– This would be a matter of Government policy and I could not possibly give an answer at question time.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. To what extent are the wishes and preferences of national servicemen given credit in deciding the posting of these servicemen to the various units of the Army?
– As the honourable senator knows, the purpose of the national service scheme is to provide the Army with sufficient manpower to meet its military commitments. The Army endeavours at all times to utilise to the full the skills and qualifications which a national serviceman brings to the Army. Each national serviceman is given an opportunity to state his employment preference and it is taken into account in relation to his allocation to a particular corps. It is rather interesting to note that a survey of the past 5 intakes into Kapooka indicates that at least 79% of the national service recruits get either their first or second preference.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Housing. Can the Minister inform the Senate how many Aboriginals or persons of Aboriginal descent have made successful applications for war service homes? Would the Minister deal in her answer with the 3 categories - Torres Strait Islanders, Aboriginals in Queensland and Aboriginals throughout the whole of Australia?
– The honourable senator asks whether I can inform the Senate of the number of applications which have been made by Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in various areas.
– Successful applications.
– J thought the honourable senator said successful or otherwise. I inform the honourable senator that the applications are received from ex-servicemen. I should think that in very few cases would we be aware of whether applicants arc Aboriginals, because the applications are dealt with on the basis of whether the ex-servicemen are eligible or ineligible, and there is no discrimination.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. In the light of the decision of his colleague the Minister for Immigration to transport the bulk of future European migrants to Australia by air, I ask: Will Qantas Airways Ltd share the increased charter flights with various European airlines? Does the new immigration policy mean that further efforts will be made to enact reciprocal airline agreements with additional European airlines, including YAT. the Yugoslav national airline? Does Qantas visualise future flights to and from eastern Europe, either on a charter basis or a permanent airline agreement basis?
– Some time ago Senator Mulvihill asked me about the possibility of a reciprocal agreement between Australia and Yugoslavia in relation to flights between the two countries by Australia’s international carrier, Qantas Airways Ltd and the Yugoslav national airline. I approved an answer to his question about 3 or 4 days ago and he should receive it through the normal processes before very long. The honourable senator was good enough to indicate to me his interest in this matter. As a result 1 sought information which will allow him immediately to understand the actual position. Qantas is planning to meet this demand as it develops on the basis of the established policy of sharing migrant charter flights with the designated airline of the country of origin of the migrants. That seems to me to render unnecessary an answer in relation to any possible alternative. The intentions of Qantas regarding charter flights, including migrant charters, will depend upon the availability of charter traffic, and the approval of the Australian and Yugoslav governments within the terms of their existing charter regulations. Air service agreements involving scheduled operations by the designated international airline of each country are negotiated by the respective governments and nol by the airlines themselves. There are no immediate negotiations with Yugoslavia for the establishment of a scheduled air service between Australia and Yugoslavia. Such negotiations depend largely upon the availability of sufficient traffic to warrant the services. I think I should add as an additional piece of information that it seems to me to be a reasonable assumption that as the traffic builds up to a point at which either country or both countries feel it is of advantage to open negotiations, that will happen.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Before legislation to amend the National Health Act is introduced into this Parliament will the Minister request the inclusion of a provision for the payment of Commonwealth benefits on a specialist basis to contributors to health schemes who attend an ophthalmologist and the specialist, after diagnosing an ocular disease, prescribes glasses?
-As all honourable senators are aware, the legislation to which the honourable senator referred will be before this House in due course. 1 am quite certain that the honourable senator can then put forward the opinions he has expressed.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Housing. In view of the Minister’s statement that it will be necessary to defer the settlement of some applications for war service homes assistance until July, I ask the Minister whether she can give an undertaking to exservicemen whose applications have been deferred because insufficient finance is available that their applications will be finalised certainly no later than July?
– I think these matters have already been discussed, and they have been discussed with the applicants. In fact, some applications may be finalised before the estimated time for their finalisation because, for one reason or another, certain applicants may withdraw their applications and be removed from the waiting list. However, I have noted the point made by the honourable senator.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise. Firstly, did the customs or postal authorities confiscate from a letter or packet addressed to Michael Quain of 132 Glengala Road, Sunshine Heights, Victoria, 1 shamrock forwarded to him by his mother from Ireland for the feast of St Patrick? Secondly, are the authorities aware that Mr Quain has been receiving his shamrock every year for 20 years and that this has been a common practice with overseas Irishmen for over 100 years? Thirdly, are they aware that the shamrock was sent in an envelope showing that it had been washed, sterilised and passed by the Irish quarantine authorities?
Fourthly, are they aware that as the shamrock will grow only in good Irish soil it presents none of the dangers to Australia which Mr Quain says derive from thistles from Scotland, rabbits from England and cactus plants from the United States of America? Fifthly, is not this attack on the shamrock the last straw to loyal Irishmen when combined with this year’s decision in Melbourne to abandon the St Patrick’s Day procession?
– I cannot be held responsible, as a New South Wales senator, for involving myself in St Patrick’s Day in Victoria, but I must say I deplore the cancellation of St Patrick’s Day celebrations. Like Senator McManus I am deeply disturbed with the intrusion into this country of all the pests which he mentions. I would certainly exclude the shamrock from amongst those pests. I would think that like the four-leaf clover it comes amongst us so very rarely that the least we can do is to look after it when it does come. I am delighted to learn that for 100 years the shamrock has been arriving in this country in a washed and sterilised form. As it occurs so very rarely I am prepared to believe that Irish soil is its only proper nurturing ground. But despite all this, I will address the honourable senator’s question to the Minister for Customs and Excise and say to him that he has brought down upon his head the wrath of the Irishmen in this Senate.
– I wish to ask a question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It flows from a question I asked him earlier today about petrol prices. Is he aware that an Australian company which retails petrol in Australia is required to take Australian crude oil for refining in Australia, but that, because of the current oil company war, it cannot get that oil refined in any refinery in Australia? Would this practice be one which should receive the attention of the Trade Practices Commission? If not, what access has the company to the processes and protection of the law? Finally, will the Government immediately intervene to give protection to all sections of the community being disavantaged by this practice or otherwise relieve the company of an obligation to take Australian crude oil which it is not able to have refined here?
– My recollection of the arrangement that was entered into in relation to oil companies being required to take a proportionate amount of crude oil for refining is that there was a penalty rate of duty and that if they did not take their percentage of crude for refining they would have to pay a higher duty for any crude or refined oil which was imported. The proposition that the honourable senator is now posing is that at least one company which is retailing petrol cannot find an outlet for the refining of the share of Australian crude that it has to take. When I was Minister for Customs and Excise I had quite a bit to do with the original agreement and negotiations. This happened some years ago but, as I recall it, this situation did arise and some arrangements were made to meet it. I would need now to refer the matter to the present Minister for Customs and Excise, because I believe that this now comes within his administration, to ascertain the current position. I will ask the Minister for Customs and Excise to prepare an answer to the question to inform us of the facts of the matter.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. As his reply to my previous question on Japanese rearmament is somewhat at variance with the statements made by the Ambassador to Japan and by the Minister for External Affairs, can he be more explicit and explain exactly the Government’s attitude to Japanese military resurgence?
– I did not think that my reply was at variance with the statements mentioned. What I said was that it would be wise to find out the substance of what Mr Freeth did say when he arrived in Tokyo. Since the honourable senator asked his question I have been handed a note from the Minister for External Affairs in which he says that the Australian Ambassador to Japan states that the Press report in question - that is the report to which the honourable senator referred - gives a completely misleading account of his, Mr Freeth’s, remarks. He said, in fact, in regard to Japanese military efforts outside Japan that the Japanese themselves had made it clear that they were not contemplating any kind of military role beyond their own territory, and that their contribution to regional stability and security would be limited to the economic field.
The Minister for External Affairs said that the views of the Government on Japanese foreign and defence policy were set out in his preliminary statement of 19th March in which considerable attention was paid to the position of Japan and the plans of the Japanese Government for the development of the self defence forces. Those plans indicate a greater self reliance and willingness by Japan to accept responsibility for its own defence. The Government of Japan has indicated that it has no intention of assuming security responsibilities going beyond the defence of Japanese territory.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. Is it correct that there are no reciprocal arrangements for enforcing in the United States alimony or maintenance orders made in Australia such as those which exist between Australia and a number of other countries? If so, will the Government explore the possibility of making such arrangements in order to assist those women who have obtained orders in Australia but are unable to enforce them because their husbands or ex-husbands have gone to the United States?
– This matter was directed to my attention only in recent days. I can tell the honourable senator that the fact is as he has suggested. There are no reciprocal arrangements for the enforcement of our orders in the United States. The Government at present is considering reciprocal arrangements with several countries for the enforcement of such orders and will include in its consideration the suggestion that it should be extended to the various States of the United States of America.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services aware of suggestions by pensioners who live in the more remote areas of Australia that there is sound reason why the amount of age and other pensions paid to those people by this Government should be higher than that paid to those who live in the more compact cities? Is the Minister aware that the pensioners, particularly those who belong to the Northern Territory Pensioners Association, believe that the cost of living in Darwin is at least one-third higher than in, say, Melbourne or Sydney? Will the Minister request that the Government give this matter consideration?
-I am aware of the points raised by the honourable senator. I have seen some Press reports concerning them.I am quite certain that my colleague the Minister for Social Services has also seen them and has given the matter his close attention. J am sure honourable senators would agree that to try to have different rates of pension in different areas would create very many difficulties. But I am certain that the Minister for Social Services not only will already have taken note of the points that have been raised but also will have given them his very deep consideration.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government as Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. What guarantees has the Australian Government from the Japanese Government that it will not abandon Article 9 of its Constitution and rearm to Japan’s former level? In view of the fact that Pakistan, South Vietnam, Cambodia and Indonesia all have military governments as a result of coups d’etat, does not the Australian Government have concern at the growing number of military coup governments in the South East Asian area with which Australia has been cultivating closer co-operation? Does the Government believe that under the domino theory military governments could come to power through the whole of the South East Asian area?
– The honourable senator is asking me to give judgments on policy. I think it would be proper for me to have the question put on the notice paper. I forbear to comment on the domino theory, having in mind what has been said about it here in the past.
– Does the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry consider that the many small farmers who were dependent for their total income on sales of wheat are now placed in a most difficult financial position as a result of volume quotas of production being imposed on all wheat farmers? Does he consider that the move by the Canadian Government to assist producers by a cash payment for areas not sown to grain may be of significant help to Australian farmers who face this undesirable situation? As this matter was put to the Minister on a previous occasion in the Senate, will he consider bringing forward some comment from the Minister for Primary Industry?
– On behalf of the honourable senator,I raised the matter with the Minister for Primary Industry. I think I asked the honourable senator to put his question on notice. I will check with the Minister and try to obtain an answer as soon as possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a report published by the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations which states, amongst other things, that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is seeking to impose self censorship on the evening news programmes of commercial television stations and that commercial television stations have raised strong objections thereto? Does the Government condone censorship by any government instrumentality or by a commercial television station of any news programmes? If so, what types of news censorship does it condone? Will the Government advise the Broadcasting Control Board that Australian citizens are entitled to be fully and widely informed on all aspects of international and national events and that it has no right to impose its form of censorship on any news programme?
– I have seen the reportto which the honourable senator referred. I cannot give him an answer to the points he raised, but
I can assure him that I will take them up with the Postmaster-General and obtain a reply as soon as I can.
– Does the Leader of the Government in the Senate agree that it should be Government policy to inform the Senate of the amount involved to meet without delay the Government’s obligations under the War Service Homes Act to exservice personnel? As such information could have no bearing on Government policy, will the Minister seek to obtain this information which, to me, is important?
– Without offending against the law of anticipation, I rather suspect that we are to have later some debate on the subject of war service homes. The honourable senator knows, as we all do, that applications under the War Service Homes Act are covered by a normal appropriation which is fixed from year to year. For the present financial year the appropriation was increased by $5m. There is no policy in that. It is a known fact. The Senate approved the appropriation in the last Budget session and fixed the amount of appropriation for war service homes. I must have missed the purport of the honourable senator’s question. That appropriation is not a matter of policy; it is a fact.
– I want to know how much more is required to overcome the delay.
– I think that that question very properly could be put in the normal way to the Minister for Housing who has responsibility for war service homes. If the question could be answered in advance for a financial year - at present we have only 2 months of the financial year to go - I am sure that the Minister would give every assistance and as much information as she could.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the Minister noted that the latest report issued by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics states that Australia’s net farm income will fall 21% and that farm income will slump to 4% of the national product, compared with 8% in 1.964-65? Does the Government regard this fall as most serious and does not this fall highlight the need for a comprehensive survey of rural industry so that remedial measures may be initiated?
– I have not seen the actual report to which the honourable senator referred, but the Government is well aware of the present position of primary industry. At present the Minister for Primary Industry is having a survey carried out by his Department. For further information, I will direct the Minister’s attention to the honourable senator’s question. When I obtain some information I will let the honourable senator have it.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, relates to the earlier question asked by Senator McClelland. Will the Minister obtain, if possible, from the Postmaster-General a full statement as to whether this conflict between the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and television stations has arisen mainly because the Board wants to censor items about the Vietnam war while the stations insist upon their right to leave intact combat scenes which are shown in newspaper photographs? Will the Minister request the Postmaster-General to state whether he agrees that viewers are entitled to see television news without censorship of scenes illustrating the tragic and unpleasant aspects of the society in which these people live? Will she ask the Postmaster-General to make a full statement on the controversial matters which have arisen from restrictions being placed on the transmission of television on Sunday mornings, in particular the restrictions being placed upon the broadcasting of commentaries on news? Will she also ask the Postmaster-General to make a statement on whether it is true that in fact television stations were told that the coming of the Royal yacht ‘Britannia’ into Sydney Harbour could not be regarded as news and whether this kind of ridiculous censorship is being imposed on television stations? Will the Minister ask the Postmaster-General to make a full statement on these matters of censorship?
– Yes,I will certainly take this matter up with the Postmaster-General andI will ask him whether he will make a statement and also whether, on the occasion of the making of that statement, it may be made by me in this chamber for the benefit of honourable senators.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General give consideration to requiring official and/or non-official suburban post offices to cease the practice of closing for 1 hour each working day for lunch breaks when staffs at such offices can be employed on a roster basis?
– I could not quite hear the honourable senator’s question, but I think it referred to the staff of non-official post offices.
– And official post offices.
– I will take this matter up with the Postmaster-General and obtain a considered reply from him.
(Question No. 2)
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following answer:
(Question No. 5)
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following answer:
(Question No. 19)
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice:
– The Postmaster-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I refer the honourable senator to the Twentyfirst Annual Report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for the yearended 30th June 1969, which contains in Appendices I and J, pages 152 and 155, comprehensive details of newspaper interests in broadcasting and television. These include those of the groups to which the honourable senator refers. Since the publication of the Board’s report the following developments have taken place regarding the interests of those groups:
(Question No. 40)
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following answer:
An identical question was asked of my predecessor during the last Session of the Twentysixth Parliament. In answer to that question, he pointed out that no company had been incorporated or registered under the name ‘Pacific Sporting Pools’ in either the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory and said that the detailed information sought was not within his knowledge (see Hansard, 26th September 1969 at p. 1505). The information requested does not concern my administration and is not within my knowledge.
(Question No. 41)
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
What prize money, if any, was paid to Australian investors by the football pools company known as Pacific Sporting Pools.
– The AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following answer:
I do not know. The information does not come within my administration.
(Question No. 21)
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice:
If a person considers he has been maligned or defamed by a commentator on a broadcasting station and, upon making application to the station, is refused a tape of the broadcast or a transscript of what was said, what steps can such a person take to obtain a copy of the broadcast or a transcript of the alleged offending remarks.
– The Postmaster-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Section 117a of the Broadcasting and Television Act provides that station operators must retain for a period of six weeks a record of matter broadcast or televised on a political subject or on current affairs which is in the form of news, an address, a statement, a commentary or a discussion. The section further provides that if a person who considers that such a record may be admissible in evidence in legal proceedings instituted or contemplated, he may serve a notice on the station that it may be required for that purpose in which case the station must retain the record until the proceedings are determined or for three months if by that time proceedings are not instituted. If the appropriate notice has been given, it is then open to the person concerned to institute legal proceedings for the disclosure of the record.
There are no other provisions in regard to the availability of records of matter broadcast to persons who may feel aggrieved thereby. The matter of the provisions of the Act on this subject has been the subject of the most careful consideration by the Government ona number of occasions and section 117a, which was inserted in the Act in1960, is the most recent outcome. The question of whether there should be some further provision has frequently been raised with me. As a result I recently put a re-examination of all aspects of the matter in hand.
(Question No. 54)
asked the Minister rep resenting the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Repatriation has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The present benefits have been considered adequate but, consistent with the Government’s policy of keeping this and kindred matters under review, the proposals put forward by the League are being carefully and sympathetically studied with a view to determining whether current provisions of the legislation relative to reestablishment benefits should be changed or need amendment along the lines suggested by the League.
(Question No. 77)
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following answer:
(Question No. 81)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
Papua and New Guinea compare with the rate of loss by resignation from the Commonwealth Public Service of permanent officers who joined the Commonwealth Public Service prior to 1964 and resigned during the period 1966 to 1969 inclusive.
– TheMinister for External Territories has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 88)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
– The Minister for External Territories has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Government places a high value on the continuation of the services of permanent overseas officers of the Public Service of Papua and New Guinea. In 1962 the then Minister for Territories gave the following assurances:
In pursuance of these assurances the Government in 1966 announced the Employment Security Scheme. Payment of entitlements under the Scheme as well as superannuation entitlements has been guaranteed by the Australian Government by specific provision in the Papua and New Guinea Act 1949-1968.
The situation of permanent overseas officers, the position with regard to contract overseas staff and the recruitment, training and advancement of local public servants are constantly under review.
(Question No. 90)
asked the Minister representing the Ministerfor Repatriation, upon notice:
-BROCK MAN- The Minister for Repatriation has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Traditionally, entitlement for repatriation benefits has been more liberal for servicemen undertaking duty involving risks associated with combat or warlike operations than for those whose duties are more closely related to peacetime service. Accordingly, Ubon which is some distance from the operational areas of Vietnam, has not been declared a special area.
It is Government policy to preserve this distinction and no justification can be seen for any change at this stage. However, the honourable senator may be assured that this is a matter which is kept under close surveillance in the light of all the relevant factors.
Is the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral aware that, as a result of a so-called revolution or battle for supremacy being waged within the Australian television industry amongst commercial television station licensees, literally millions of dollars are being spent abroad on the purchase of overseas programmes, most of which are being bought under package deal arrangements, much tothe detriment of the development of Australian television dramatic and variety programmes? Will the Minister agree that the reason why so many second class and third class vintage films of overseas origin are being shown on Australian television today - particularly by country stations - is that the metropolitan commercial stations are unloading a large number of overseas dumped packaged programmes onto the country stations, thereby further impeding the development of Australian programmes? Will the Minister ask the Postmaster-General to look at this matter as one of urgency and, if necessary, to take steps either to ban overseas package deal purchases or to fix a quota for imported programmes being shown on Australian television in order to protect the already insecure economic situation of Australian artists, writers and technicians.
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information: 1 have seen a good deal of publicity concerning the current activities of the television networks in regard to the purchase of overseas programmes and indeed in regard to provision of programmes generally. There is nothing in the developments which indicates any fundamental change in practices in any respects which concern the Postmaster-General, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, or the operations of the Broadcasting and Television Act, either as between Australian and overseas programmes or between metropolitan and country station programmes. It is not thought that the matters in question can be construed as being more than a manifestation of the competitive situation existing in the industry, into the business affairs of which it would be inappropriate for me to attempt to intrude.
As the honourable senator is aware, there are specific requirements for Australian content in the programmes of commercial television stations and these are carefully policed by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board.
(Question No. 64)
asked the Minister rep resenting the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 95)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
This season, due to adverse weather in Queensland and Northern New South Wales, the production of these qualities was heavily curtailed and some markets which are interested in Australian Hard wheats cannot be supplied.
Having regard to the shortage of Hard wheats from the 1969-70 harvest in N.S.W. and Queensland, the supplementary quota for Prime Hard wheats for 1970-71 has been increased by agreement between the Australian Wheat Growers’ Federation, the States and the Commonwealth.
(Question No. 138)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The Postmaster-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The Postmaster-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 62)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
In view of the very poor reception on trunk calls between Western Australia and the restof Australia, will the Postmaster-General consider employing more satellite channels to boost the performance pending the commissioningof the co-axial cable.
– The Postmaster-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The very rapid growth in East-West telephone traffic in recent times has seriously overtaxed not only the existingland line facilities, but also the available accommodation and manual operating facilities, particularly in Perth. The result has been that delays are occurring on telephone calls between Western Australia and the Eastern States.
It was for this reason that 24 satellite channels which can only operate between Perth and Sydney were brought into service late in November.
The real solution to the problem depends on the introduction of Subscriber Trunk Dialling between Western Australia and the Eastern States about the end of June 1970, when the new large capacity microwave radio system linking Adelaide and Perth should be brought into service. The microwave system will overcome the operational and certain transmission problems currently being experienced on the land line route.
The employment of additional satellite channels would not facilitate the introduction of subscriber trunk dialling facilities and would provide only limited relief under manual trunk operation. For these reasons all available resources are being directed to the earliest possible commissioning of the microwave system.
– I have received from several honourable senators an intimation of intention to move the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing a matter of urgency, namely:
The Government’s reintroduction of a waiting period for war service homes finance.
Is the motion supported? (More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places.)
– The Opposition is concerned about the hardship which has been and is being caused to the young men who have served their nation, particularly those who have been conscripted against their will to fight in the war in Vietnam. These young people have served their country in a manner which this Government has demanded of them. But now when they in turn are asking for their just entitlements they are told that their applications for war service homes finance are being put into cold storage for the time being - indeed, for an indefinite period, as I will show later. This is happening not because they have been in any way remiss in their applications but because the Government has underestimated - and considerably underestimated - the demand for war service homes, particularly as regards finance to purchase existing dwellings. Although the Government underestimated initially it is apparently not prepared to do anything about the matter by way of immediately making more money available lo the War Service Homes Division to cope with the outstanding applications.
The Opposition has moved this morion because of the obviously conflicting versions of the situation which have been given by certain Ministers as a result of the Opposition’s interrogations. The Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) says one thing in this chamber and the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) says something different in the other place. Frankly, on the evidence as it has unfolded - and it has had to be dragged out of Ministers at question time - the Government, particularly the Minister for Housing, has set out to hoodwink the people of Australia. One can draw only one of two conclusions. Either the Department of Housing, knowing the situation, did not inform the Minister accordingly or the Minister, having been informed of the situation by the Department, did not tell the Parliament at the earliest available opportunity. I. have been advised that in January of this year it was known by the senior regional officers in the various States - it was certainly known in Canberra - that the War Service Homes Division needed another $6.Sm as at that time to be able to meet its commitments up to 30th June. Surely if this information was available to the Department it would have been transmitted to the Minister. 1 ask: If it was available was it transmitted to the Minister? If it was transmitted to the Minister why was it not also transmitted to the Parliament when it reassembled instead of the details having to be dragged out of the Minister on a daily basis at Question time.
The first time we heard anything in the new Parliament about the position of the War Service Homes Division was on 11th March when the Minister spoke in the debate on the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech. True to form the Minister lauded what the Government was doing insofar as applications for war service homes are concerned. She pointed out that last financial year there had been an increase of roughly 1,100 applications, which was an increase of over 10%, and that this year the number of applications is expected to increase from 10,824 to a figure in excess of 11,500. I refer to page 215 of Hansard of 11th March 1970. The Minister went on to say:
More than 35,000 persons are eligible for war service homes assistance under the special conditions introduced in 1963. In order to meet the increased demand the Government has provided this year for war service homes $55m as against last year’s provision of $50m it is quite clear from that sentence that the Minister was conveying the impression that, so far as she was concerned, there was nothing wrong with the Department and that it had sufficient money available to meet the increased demand with which it was being confronted. However, a mere 4 days later - on 16th March - a young man called at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Offices in Martin Place, Sydney asking to see an Australian Labor Party member of Parliament. He was shown to my office. He told me that a week previously he had returned from Vietnam on the HMAS Sydney’ and that while he had been away his wife had looked around and had found a home which she thought they would like to purchase. He said that both he and his wife had gone to the War Service Homes Division and were told that no money was available and applications for loans for existing dwellings had been frozen for some 6 months. He maintained he was told that he could not get his finance for another 6 months. It was on that basis and with that information available that the next day - Tuesday, 17th March - I came into the Senate and asked the Minister:
Is there any truth in a report that the War Service Homes Division of the Department of Housing has frozen, or intends to freeze for a period of 6 months, housing loans advanced from the Division?
The Minister replied:
This term ‘freezing’ means, I presume, that there are not going to be any loans.
The Minister went on to make a most important statement. She said:
The War Service Homes Division of my Department is carrying on with the lending of money to eligible persons as it has done in the past ami will continue to do.
There we have the situation. On 1 1th March the Minister was clearly giving the impression to the Parliament that the amount of $55m allocated by the Government this financial year for war service homes purposes was sufficient to meet the demand. A mere 6 days later - on 17th March - during question time the Minister said that the Department was carrying on with the lending of money to eligible persons as it had done in the past and would continue to do. Again, I suggest this clearly indicates that the Minister considered there was no shortage of funds and no extended waiting period; that things were running smoothly.
I suggest to the Minister that if she knew at that stage that a waiting period had been introduced - as she subsequently stated she did know when she answered me on 17th March - she had a responsibility to tell this Parliament and the Australian people, notwithstanding the form of my question to which, apparently, she takes some exception. But she adopts the petulant attitude: ‘You did not ask me so I did not tell you’. The next day, on Wednesday 18th March, the Minister was asked a question by one of her colleagues, Senator Sim. She was asked not whether there was any delay but whether there was likely to be any delay in the granting of war service homes advances. During the course of her gramophonic reply the Minister had this to say, amongst other things:
I want to make it very clear that as a result it will be necessary to delay the settlement of some applications.
The Prime Minister now says that some hundreds of applications will be delayed. But the Minister, on 18th March, said:
I want to make it very clear that as a result it will be necessary to delay the settlement of some applications, notably applications in respect of existing properties, which ordinarily would be settled in May or June. It will be necessary to carry these applications over to 1970-71 for settlement in July.
I am going to assert later that some applications are now being told that they will have to wait even until September before they can expect satisfaction of their applications. So a mere one week after a rosy picture was painted by the Minister in the Address-in-Reply debate when she said that this sum of $55m was being made available to cope with the increasing business being enacted by the War Service Homes Division she admitted - and had to admit - for the first time that some applications, notably applications in respect of existing properties, would have to be deferred for settlement until the next financial year. As I have said, the M.inister carefully chose her words by the use of the expression ‘some applications’ because I suggest to the Minister and to the Government that a perusal of War Service Homes Division reports and figures will show that at least .80% of all applications received by the War Service Homes Division for assistance are for the purchase of existing dwellings.
For the first time for some years a waiting period has been re-introduced. The
Minister, in reply to my subsequent question, said she did not tell the Senate in the first instance of this waiting period because she had not been directly asked what the situation was. This trend towards an extended waiting period that has again developed with war service homes applications, and the Government’s cavalier couldn’t care less’ attitude, are deserving of condemnation by this Parliament and the Australian people. A mere $4m or $5m should immediately be made available by this Government for the housing needs of ex-servicemen, particularly young men who have gallantly served their country in Vietnam at the dictation of this Government. I suggest that if $4m or $5m was required as a subsidy for some big business enterprise then this Government would be jumping because certainly the whips would be cracking. But so far as the Government is concerned, these young men and their wives who have waited for a home for so long can just wait a little longer. That is obviously the attitude of the Government and it is to be very loudly and hotly condemned.
Yesterday, in another place, the Prime Minister said that he was aware that the funds available for war service homes assistance during this financial year have now been spent. He did not say, as the Minister has said here, that it will be necessary to delay the settlement of some applications. But he said, as I stated earlier, that some hundreds of applicants will have to wait. At page 733 of yesterday’s House of Representatives Hansard, in reply to a question asked by a prominent backbencher on the Government side, Sir John Cramer, a former Minister for the Army, the Prime Minister had this to say:
I am aware that there are some hundreds of applicants who have applications for loans for the purchase of existing buildings - existing houses - and these are distinct from applicants for loans for the building of houses. There are some hundreds of these, and as a result of the money voted having been exhausted these applicants who normally would have received the loans for which they have applied in May or June will have to wait until July in order to receive their loans.
– Did you say that they would normally have received their loans in May or June?
– I will repeat that. The Prime Minister said:
There are some hundreds of these, and as a result of the money voted having been exhausted these applicants who normally would have received the loans for which they have applied in May or June will have to wait un iii July in order to receive their loans.
That is not. in fact, the situation. The fact is that those who applied in February or March will have to wait at least until July - certainly not before July - before receiving assistance. As 1 intend to show later, those who make their applications in May or June probably will have to wait until November or December.
Now let us have a look at the colossal amount - to use the Government’s expression - of $55m. This is something about which we have heard so much in recent times. Seven years ago the War Service Homes Division was making available $70m for war service homes assistance. Four years ago the Division was making available S59m. Since that time, of course, the maximum loan available to an exserviceman has been increased from $7,000 to $8,000. Even on the Department’s own figures the number of applications has increased. The maximum loan has increased, there has been a greater number of applications and building costs have increased substantially. In the last 4 years the amount available for loans has dropped from $59m in 1966-67 to S55m in 1969- 70. Therefore, quite obviously on the figures and all the evidence available, the Government must have known that $55m was insufficient to get the Division through this financial year. Let us look at the annual report of the War Service Homes Division for the year 1966-67, the year before the amount was reduced from $59m to $45m. In 1966-67, the year when some $59m was available, some 7,311 applications were made. On the Minister’s own statement in the Address-in-Reply debate, only $55m is available this year for some 1 1 ,000 applicants and the amount of money available to an applicant has been increased from $7,000 to $8,000. As I pointed out during the adjournment debate last night, when the Government in the 1967-68 Budget reduced its expenditure on war service homes from $59m to $45m the then Treasurer, Mr McMahon, said in his Budget Speech:
We shall seek additional funds if the amount now provided proves insufficient.
As the Government undertook in 1967-68 to make available additional funds should the amount provided prove insufficient, we ask the Government likewise to give an undertaking to this Parliament, to the Australian people and particularly to those exservicemen whose applications have been deferred, that it will make a sum of money available immediately for the amelioration of their problems. If that was a reasonable principle for the then Treasurer to adopt in 1967-68 I ask rhetorically: Why is not the same principle good enough in 1970? I ask the Minister now, as I asked her at question time, to give an undertaking that the Government will make available additional funds this financial year to meet outstanding applications.
Last night I cited the case of a man who had submitted an application to the War Service Homes Division in January. On 26th February he was advised that the application had been approved. On 24th March, 1 month later, he received another letter which stated, amongst other things:
As matters stand it will be impracticable to make your loan available before July 1970. You will be further advised when your turn for settlement of your loan is reached.
On 26th March, a mere 2 days later, the Deputy Director of War Service Homes in New South Wales wrote to the man’s solicitor and advised that private finance might be arranged by way of mortgage or charge over the property. The letter went on:
While it is expected that it will be possible to proceed to settlement in July 1970, this cannot be regarded as a firm commitment as conditions may change in the meantime. You will be advised when your client’s turn for settlement is reached. ls it any wonder, therefore, that at question time today the Minister could not guarantee specifically that all outstanding applications would be dealt with when the mouth of July came round. My colleague from Victoria, Senator Poyser, has given lo mc details of a case that he has been handling. Frankly I say that the treatment of the people concerned has been nothing short of scandalous. This is the case of a couple who sold their existing home and had to leave it in order to obtain finance from the War Service Homes Division to purchase another existing dwelling. This was brought about because their family had outgrown the first home. They applied for a loan and were told on 12th March 197.0:
There is no waiting period at present for finance under the War Service Homes Act and it should be possible to- make a loan available as soon as the listed conditions have been met. However, this cannot be regarded as a commitment as circumstances may change in the meantime.
The letter goes on to mention particularly to the couple that should they complete the purchase of the property with finance from any other source it would be necessary to refuse their application. As I have said, on 12th March they were told that there was no waiting period for finance so far as the War Service Homes Division was concerned. They were given the green light to go ahead with the purchase of the new home subject, of course, to their meeting certain formal conditions. Then on 3rd April, 3 or 4 weeks later, they received another letter from the Regional Director of the War Service Homes Division in Victoria in which it was stated:
I am writing to advise you that as matters stand it will be impracticable to make your loan available before September 1970.
The Prime Minister in another place tells the people of Australia that applicants for a loan can expect their applications to be satisfied in July, the Minister in this place tells us that applications will not be met before July and here in black and white the people concerned, who previously had been told that their application had been approved, are now told that as matters stand it will be impracticable to make a loan available before September 1970. Whilst in the other instance in New South Wales to which I referred and in which the solicitor was advised that his client could apply for bridging finance, in this instance the people were informed on 12th March that any application for additional finance from any other source would be a bar to the success of the application, and in the follow-up letter of 3rd April not one word was said that they could make arrangements in the interim to secure additional finance.
– And they are without a home.
– As Senator Poyser has pointed out, these people are completely homeless. The honourable senator has informed me that they have sold their existing home and have had to give up possession. Now they have to wait at least until September and have not been given approval to obtain bridging finance in the meantime. This is a scandalous situation and it is time that the Government did something to correct it.
The Minister seems to gain some comfort from the fact that there is a normal delay of some 4 months between the lodging of an application and the approval of an application. Frankly, this too 1 find incomprehensible. If money is available to a department to meet applications I cannot understand why it takes 4 months for applications to be satisfied. I suggest to the Minister and to the Department that if they were engaging in real estate transactions of that kind and it took them 4 months to carry out a transaction they very soon would be out of business. I think that the Minister is drawing the long bow when she says that 4 months is the normal waiting time.
– I said the normal processing time.
– As I understand it, processing time in relation to applications means waiting time. It could be a period of 4 months on occasions when there is delay in regard to title to property and matters of that nature, but I believe that the average delay until this recent situation cropped up probably has been of the order of only 8 to 10 weeks. On the evidence which has been unfolded in the Parliament I believe that the Government has failed the Australian people. It is depriving young boys who have been sent to Vietnam, and indeed ex-servicemen from other wars, of expeditious handling of their applications for war service home loans. Because of this Government’s incompetence and maladministration it is injuncting the just rights and entitlements of Australian ex-servicemen, particularly young boys returning from the unwholesome war in Vietnam. This Government should stand condemned in the eyes of the Australian Parliament and of the Australian people.
– One of the advantages of an opposition is that it can be irresponsible and can indulge in one exaggeration after another. This is a case in point.
– Where was the irresponsibility?
– I will refer to it in a minute and the honourable senator might find himself also guilty of this.
– Tell us where the irresponsibility is to be found?
- Senator McClelland was heard in silence but I do not mind interjections. In fact I welcome them. When the Opposition gets upset it obviously is being hurt. It does not like the truth. I have found that to be the case time and time again so I do not mind if there are interjections. The motion itself is a misrepresentation because it says:
That the Senate at ils rising adjourn until tomorrow at 10 a.m. for the purpose of debating a matter of urgency.
And the matter of urgency is:
The Government’s reintroduction of a waiting period for war service homes finance.
If I interpret correctly the words used in the matter of urgency, they mean that there is delay in the provision of all war service homes finance. That is just not the truth. Therefore it is a misrepresentation. The Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) has made it clear time and again that there is no delay in the provision of finance for those people who are constructing their own homes. Yet that is not recognised in this matter of urgency. So 1 repeat that it is a misrepresentation of the truth.
If 1 read correctly what Senator Cavanagh said last night, he said that the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) in his policy speech gave an undertaking that if funds ran out more funds would be made available. I have here a copy of the Prime Ministers policy speech, and I will challenge Senator Cavanagh to produce-
– What did the Prime Minister say last night?
– I am speaking of the Prime Ministers policy speech and the statement made by Senator Cavanagh last night. I will challenge Senator Cavanagh to produce the statement that he quoted from the Prime Minister’s policy speech.
– The honourable senator is on technicalities.
– I am on technical grounds, am I? Now the honourable senator is crawling out of it. I suggest that members of the Opposition have a responsibility to be accurate when they are quoting statements made by the Prime Minister. Then we come to Senator Keeffe. We are used to irresponsible and reckless charges and allegations from him. Therefore it was no surprise last night when he started referring to scandals in the War Services Homes Division.
– So there are.
– I welcome Senator Keeffe’s interjection. He was kind enough to say that the Minister might not know anything about it, but he went on to say:
This is a smear, lt is a deliberate smear of some unnamed people. I suggest to Senator Keeffe that if he does not want to bc accused of cowardice or of making a cowardly and contemptible attack on unnamed people in high places he has a responsibility today to name the people in high places who have knowledge of this scandal, and not only to name them in this place but to have the moral courage to go outside this place and name them so that they will have an opportunity to defend themselves.
When anybody mentions Communism members of the Opposition jump up in their places and say that it is a. smear. Yet we have the President of the Australian Labor Party engaging continually in this place in smears of unnamed people. The other day at an Aboriginal conference he made a statement, if the Press reported him correctly, that certain Government members were engaged in spying upon the Aboriginals. He has the opportunity, if he has the courage, to stand up and name those Government members. Now he is laughing. It is a contemptible allegation and it is the type of attack to which we are subject in this instance - allegations of scandal.
What has happened? The Minister has been perfectly truthful. The .whole of the Opposition’s case is based upon a question which was asked by Senator McClelland, which he read and which in turn was based on information he received. He asked whether war service homes finance had been frozen. I believe that the Minister interpreted the word ‘frozen’ correctly. The use of the word was probably unfortunate. 1 do not think Senator McClelland meant to convey that meaning, but it was the word he used. The Minister interpreted the question correctly when she said that war service homes finance has been frozen means that no money at all is available. That is not the case. The question was put on that basis; but in fairness to Senator McClelland let me point out that he has rather shifted his ground. He is now using other words. But the whole of this case is based upon that question to the Minister.
The Minister, at the first opportunity, answered the question she was asked and answered it truthfullly, She also answered another question, which I think I may have asked her. She -then explained that the position was that there was a delay of some weeks after processing and that the delay was between 6 and 8 weeks. She explained that the normal period for processing was 4 weeks.
– Four months.
– 1 am sorry; 4 months. The waiting period varies from 2 weeks to 4 weeks. 1 suggest that this is not the tremendous hardship or inconvenience that the Opposition is suggesting it is. If my information is correct, people who have to wait this period and want to take possession of their homes can normally do so by arrangement. Also, it is quite common, on an undertaking that war service homes finance will be available, for the people’s own banks to provide bridging finance over this period. There is nothing unusual in this type of delay.
I am aware that even at this time with some of the financial institutions which are financing home purchases there is a delay because of the great demands being made upon them. I know of people who were told last month that they would have to wait until June before they could obtain finance for their home, and they have had no problem in going to their bank, putting the position before it and obtaining bridging finance from it at normal rates of interest. I suggest that in a great number of cases no real inconvenience will be suffered and that the young people concerned will be able either to take possession of their homes by arrangement or to obtain bridging finance from the normal financial institutions.
The records show that between 50% and 60% of war service homes applicants who have had to wait for a period in the past - I will come to that in a moment - obtained bridging finance from the normal financial institutions. So they were not greatly, if at all, inconvenienced. There is nothing unusual in this situation. Prior to 1966 there was a waiting period all the time for those who wished to purchase existing homes. Prior to 1961 there was a waiting period for all -types of finance, whether people wished to construct their own home or to purchase an existing home. So there is nothing new in this situation. Indeed, the situation has improved to the extent that for about 4 years there was no waiting period. The Minister is to be commended and not damned now because a temporary situation has arisen.
What is the situation? Senator McClelland quoted a number of figures, such as that $70m was available in one financial year, $59m in another and so on. Whilst it is very easy to criticise the Government or the Department for not assessing the number of applicants correctly, the fact is that for a period of 5 years there was a gradual decline of 8% a year in applicants for war service homes finance.
– Why cannot-
– Senator Cavanagh denies that, does he?
– Why cannot the Department get a supplementary appropriation?
– We are not dealing with that. We are dealing with the situation referred to in the matter of urgency. That is a matter of Government policy, not a matter for me to decide or to give a decision on. Senator Cavanagh knows that. The situation is that it was estimated that in this financial year there would be 6,600 applicants; but an unusual demand has developed. Indeed, the figure is about 950 higher, namely 7,540.
A great deal has been made of men returning from Vietnam; but, as I understand the position, the reasons for this unusual demand are not clearly known. Certainly some of the increased demand arises from troops returning from Vietnam; but that is not the only reason or necessarily the major reason. There has been a big increase in applicants who served in the 1939-45 War which ended about 25 years ago. With a history of an 8% reduction in applications over a period of 5 years, I think the Department was quite justified in believing that the demand would not increase. In fact, it did increase. It is very easy to sit in opposition and to be critical, with hindsight. It is very easy to do that when one does not have to make an estimate based upon past demand and the likely future demand. Therefore I do not believe that it is fair or reasonable to criticise the Department or the Government for not being able to judge accurately this increased demand, which has arisen not because of one reason, as we are led to believe, but because of a number of reasons, some of which are unknown. It may well be that in some areas the high price of land and the high price of houses have contributed towards an increase in the number of applications for this very favourable type of finance.
– The Government has failed to fulfil its obligations.
– The new Messiah has come in amongst us again. No-one could accurately predict that the past trend would suddenly be reversed. Honourable senators opposite have levelled some criticism about the time factor. Senator McClelland read from an answer given in another place yesterday by the Prime Minister. I thought I heard the honourable senator correctly. He will correct me if I am wrong. The honourable senator referred to the Prime Minister’s statement that those who apply this month will have to wait until July. If we work out the time factor, it takes 4 months to process the applications. The process covers a great deal of things, including inspection, valuation, perusal of the titles and of the security documents and so forth. This 4-month period varies. Sometimes it is 6 weeks; sometimes it is 6 months. It depends on whether the titles are in order and on the various complications that can arise in these situations. The period varies, but the average time is about 4 months. If this be so, the Prime Ministers estimate would be correct in that there would be 4 months plus the extra few weeks which are involved in the waiting period. Therefore I do not see any conflict between what the Prime Minister said and what the Minister for Housing said.
Yesterday the Prime Minister said that there would be several hundred applicants waiting. That would be quite normal. If there are over 7,000 applicants in a year, at any one period there would be some hundreds of applications awaiting processing. I cannot see any conflict between what the Prime Minister said and what the Minister said, much as honourable senators opposite would like to put a different interpretation on the statements. I think that the Opposition, in raising this matter, was not fair to the Minister. Certainly Senator McClelland was not fair in alleging that the Minister was trying to hoodwink the Australian people. I do not believe that any fair examination of what the Minister said could justify that statement. I suggest that from start to finish the Minister has been truthful and has put the matters clearly before the Senate.
– She has been evasive.
– Senator Cavanagh said that the Minister has been evasive. I do not think the Minister should have been required to answer some of the questions asked. I would have regarded them as offensive had I been asked them. I do not think the Minister has been evasive. That is the honourable senator’s interpretation.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I support the motion on which my colleague, Senator McClelland, led for the Opposition. We consider the Government’s reintroduction of a waiting period for war service homes finance to be an urgent matter requiring debate. Firstly I point out that the Government and the members of the Ministry in the Senate have failed to take any interest in this matter. The Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) and the Government are under attack. I shall read to the Senate the attendance figures for the period since Senator McClelland started speaking at 4.27 p.m. He finished his speech at 4.54 p.m. At 4.40 p.m. 1 Minister, 1 Country Party member and 1 Liberal Party member were in the chamber.
– How many Labor Party members were present? .
– Three times that number were present. As a member of the Democratic Labor Party, the honourable senator would not know because no representative of the DLP was in the chamber for half an hour. At 4.45 p.m. 1 member of the Liberal Party appeared, looked very bored and walked out.
– He would be bored having to listen to a speech such as this.
– At 4.47 p.m. the man who interjected, Senator Marriott, apparently came back from afternoon tea and decided to look on. He was joined by a Country Party member. At 4.49 p.m. the Minister went to the back benches for a private chat. At that point of time she completely ignored what Senator McClelland was saying. At 4.50 p.m. a Country Party member disappeared. Probably it was time to get the cows in. At 4.51 p.m. the first DLP member appeared in the chamber.
– 1 raise a point of order. 1 understood that the Senate was debating an urgency motion relative to the very important subject of war service homes loans. Senator Keeffe’s name appears as a supporter of this motion. So far I do not believe he has touched on the motion. 1 believe he is out of order in not addressing the Senate on the motion.
– I agree that the point of order is well taken. I think it is time that Senator Keeffe came back to the subject matter of the motion. 1 do not know how the honourable senator relates what he is talking about to the subject matter.
– I accept your ruling, Mr President. I was endeavouring to point out that the Government supporters were nol: interested in the matter. I can appreciate why Senator Marriott took the point of order. He is endeavouring to use up the time allocated to me in this debate. Senator Sim was the first speaker on the Government side. He attempted to attack Senator McClelland by saying that the charge was an exaggeration and that the motion was irresponsible. I refute this completely. When he was concluding his remarks he said that our charges that we had been hoodwinked by the Minister were gross exaggerations. Not only has the Minister been very evasive but also she has hoodwinked the Senate and the people of Australia. Worse still, every ex-serviceman waiting to get a war service home has been hoodwinked.
Senator Sim, unable to find enough material with which to defend the Government, proceeded to launch all kinds of personal attacks. He challenged us to name people in high places. I am prepared to name the people - either here or outside.
I certainly shall name them during the whole of the Senate election campaign later this year. T start off with the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) who, as recently as a few hours ago, said that there was no money in the kitty for the type of finance required for war service homes. I name the Minister for Housing, who does not care about this aspect of her portfolio. I name the Treasurer (Mr Bury), who has money to spend on the FI 1 1 but not on war service homes finance.
– I raise a point of order. Senator Keeffe’s reference to the Treasurer and myself is extremely offensive to me because we do care. We have shown this by our efforts over a long period of time - much longer than the honourable senator has been in this chamber. I ask that his remarks be withdrawn.
– This is one of the fine points whereby an honourable senator can criticise people for the administration of their departments. It is not offensive in the true sense of the word, but T would ask Senator Keeffe to be a little more moderate in what he says.
– Thank you, Mr President. Last night when I crossed swords with the Minister at no stage did I criticise anybody in the Department. But 1 think I am being perfectly jus! in. criticising the Minister. In the course of the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate last night and in the course of the debate as it has proceeded so far today, I think it has been proved beyond all doubt that the War Service Homes Division of the Department of Housing is probably one of the most profitable sections of any department. I fail to see why any restriction should be placed on the availability of war service homes finance, unless it is for the reason which I stated last night and which 1 shall repeat now, that the long term view of the Department and of the Government is that the War Service Homes Division should be abolished. Between 1919, when the Division was established, and 30th June last, 304,546 war service homes were built. But today we find that the maximum loan is still $8,000, even though the Department admits that the average cost of a home is $12,485- Equally we find that the Insurance Fund is in a very fluid state. The balance, as at 30th June 1969, was $1,126,722, but because there were calls on the Fund last year, including some S66.000 as a result of damage caused by the Western Australian earthquake, premiums were increased. I do not intend to quarrel about this, but the point I am endeavouring to emphasise is that as regards repayments and insurance, the Division is in a very solvent situation.
Now I want to cast a quick glance at the number of people who have defaulted in their repayments. In the report of the Director of War Service Homes for 1968- 69, the following statement appears:
The position in respect of the payment of instalments continued to be satisfactory. Despite an increase in the number of accounts, arrears of instalments declined from $1,063,041 at 30th June 1968 to $1,011,399 at 30th June 1969.
Then the report sets out the decreases which took place in the States and the percentage of arrears in each of the States. Quite frankly, if the average landlord was running a business along these lines, I think he would be more than satisfied with the net result. I defy the Government to tell us - and I particularly pose this question to the Minister - the number of people who have been rejected and at the same time, at the suggestion of the Department, mind you, have sought private finance at extortionate rates of interest. If everything is as rosy as the Minister says, obviously there is no need for departmental officers to suggest to people who have a period to wait for finance: ‘You can go somewhere else’, and perhaps name institutions where these people can obtain bridging finance or a permanent loan.
When I asked the Minister for Housing how many Aboriginals had secured war service homes, she said that there were no figures available because her Department did not practice discrimination. I will tell honourable senators now that the Minister could not answer that question and hold up her head publicly, because in Queensland only 3 war service homes have been given to Aboriginals or to people of Aboriginal descent. If that statement can be proved to be incorrect by figures, then I should like to obtain those figures. I do not have access to departmental figures, but I have access to organisations which work on behalf of Aboriginals. As I said last night, one allocation has been made to a Torres Strait islander and so far as I can ascertain-
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that Senator Keeffe is moving away from the subject matter which is contained in the matter of urgency. The subject matter of the matter of urgency is the Government’s re-introduction of a waiting period for war service homes finance. Standing order 419 states:
No Senator shall digress from the subjectmatter of any Question under discussion; . . .
My submission to you, Mr President, is that far from just mentioning what Senator Keeffe alleges is discrimination in passing, he is now embarking upon, as he said, something upon which he embarked last night, which refers to a Torres Strait islander. My submission to you, Mr President, is that the honourable senator is offending against the standing order.
– I submit that Senator Greenwood is taking a very narrow view of the matter, and I do not think that even that narrow view could be upheld. The fact is that you, Mr President, are very wide awake on these matters and you do not hesitate to bring honourable senators back to the subject matter before the Senate. But at the same time, I think that you have always taken the attitude - and it has always been accepted so long as I have been here - that this is a house of review and that you are allowed some sort of discretion in these matters. Also, unless his conduct becomes very blatant it is for the person putting the argument to decide whether the argument is proper for the consideration of the Senate. Firstly, I do not think that the view which Senator Greenwood has submitted could be upheld and, secondly, if there was any basis at all for upholding it, I think that to do so would be to take a very narrow view, and we can imagine very quickly what would happen if that view were persisted in from both sides of the chamber.
– On the point of order, I want to refer to the questions which were posed by Senator Sim. You, Mr President, no doubt will recall that Senator Sim, in dealing with the matter of urgency, referred to the questions which have now been answered by Senator Keeffe. If these matters were, in substance, inconsistent with the matter of urgency which we have raised, I suggest that Senator Sim should have been interrupted by Senator Greenwood.
– You people were not awake.
– Senator Marriott can take the same point, if he wishes. Senator Keeffe simply is answering the challenge which Senator Sim put to him, in which case it seems to me that Senator Keeffe is entitled to answer the questions which Senator Sim raised.
– In reply to what Senator Bishop has said, very briefly it seems to me proper to observe that the time at which the point of order which Senator Bishop suggested should have been taken was when Senator Sim was speaking. Equally, 1 think standing order 419 is very clear and precise when it states:
No Senator shall digress from the subject matter of any Question under discussion; . . .
That does not permit rauch latitude.
– It is purely a matter of opinion as to what is meant by the word digress’. That is the first point. Senator Keeffe, I think that you have been getting away a little from the subject matter. I suggest that you should come back to it and link up your remarks and we will proceed much better.
– I have not endeavoured to get away from the subject of the matter of urgency which has been raised. Mr President, I now seek from you a ruling whether the time taken up in argument as to whether or not 1 have digressed in any way is to be taken from the period of time for which I am allowed to speak.
– The time occupied in taking the point of order is included in the period of time for which you can speak.
– Thank you very much. Now I can see the reason why honourable senators opposite raised the point of order. It was an attempt to gag me and to prevent me from speaking. I shall make one other point in the very limited time at my disposal. Much play has been made of the tremendous cost involved in providing war service homes finance for veterans returning from Vietnam. The same delay occurs with these people as with ex-servicemen of the Second World War and the First World War. I think that the Government over-emphasises this question of cost because not everybody who has served outside this country is entitled to assistance from the War Service Homes Division, in fact, some of the personnel in the Navy who in past years have made 2 or 3 trips to these areas did not qualify for assistance unless in the process of visiting these areas they were able to shoot up some sampan or clean up a couple of fishermen on a beach, thus coming within the category in which they are classified as having seen active service. So not all of the people who are called up for service and not all of the people who volunteer for service in each of the three Services in fact become entitled to war service homes assistance. In summing up 1 want to say that when we raised this matter of urgency we felt we were justified in doing so because of the delays that have been pointed out over a lengthy period by Senator McClelland and other honourable senators on this side of the chamber.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
[5.19] - I. appreciate the difficulty which has faced Senator Keeffe in that the time for which he could speak was shortened.
– On a point of order, I would like to ask whether the Minister is closing the debate.
– No, I. am not closing the debate. Today we have before us a matter of urgency which refers to the Government’s reintroduction of a waiting period for war service homes finance. We need to look at this very clearly because a number of rather exaggerated statements have been made. First of all, Senator McClelland referred to questions without notice which he has asked and he inferred that he did not get replies and had to drag out information. On a quick tally I note that something like 16 questions without notice have been asked of me since 3rd March, which was the beginning of this sessional period and I have answered these. I gave the honourable senator the information which I believed was what he required. I have done what I can to give the very clearest information on the points which he has raised. This is quite factual.
As all honourable senators know, every ear at Budget lime there are discussions on the amount of money to be made available for the variety of measures which will come before the Senate in the form of the Budget Estimates, which will, of course, show the amount of money to be expended in these avenues during the year. Last year an estimate of requirements was made and this was placed before Cabinet. As a result, the amount of the vote for the War Service Homes Division was increased to $55m, being an increase of $5m over the previous year. One of the interesting things in all this is that over the 5-year period 1963-64 to 1967-68 there was a decrease in applications which averaged about 8% reduction for each year. This trend was reversed in 1968-69 and the vote for 1969-70 was increased. As the year has gone on the number of applications has shown a further increase. I think the figures which I am about to give the Senate bear out what I say. The following are the number of applications received for the past 2 financial years: 1967-68, 9,754; 1968-69, 10,827. We now estimate that this year the number would be well over 11,000. This is a very big increase over a period of 3 years and so we find that as we come to this period the applications have been greater than we estimated.
I have told honourable senators right from the first question which was asked early in this sessional period that it would be necessary to delay the settlement of some applications, notably applications in respect of existing properties which ordinarily would be settled in May or June, and that it would be necessary to carry these applications over for settlement in July, 1970. New applicants for finance to purchase existing buildings are being advised that there will be a waiting time of approximately 6 months from the date of their applications before settlement may be expected. This period of 6 months covers the average processing time of 4 months plus 2 months waiting time. Loans for building and other purposes are not affected by the change in arrangements. This information was given in an answer which I concluded by saying again that there had been no freezing of loans, which have been suggested, as I understood it, by Senator McClelland. Senator McClelland has, in his comments this afternoon, referred to some individual cases. I cannot answer the detail of an individual case, of course, without seeing it and the honourable senator would understand that. I can only answer on the full pattern of administration at present.
– There is one case in which the applicant has been told he will have to wait till at least September.
– It is a question of when the application was made. Without seeing the case I do not know when the application was made. I do not have the details of the case but no waiting time has been applied to applicants whose applications have been approved, except those due for settlement in May or June and these are being carried over for settlement in July. There is a waiting period for those who have lodged applications which were being processed but not approved when the waiting period was introduced. This waiting period is 6 months from the date of application or, if the applicant is ineligible at the date of application, 6 months from the date on which he becomes eligible. We again have the 4 months for processing plus the 2 months delay.
– Can you explain why they take 4 months to process?
– This is the normal average time the applicant takes to meet the requirements of the Act.
– Why can they not do it more quickly.
– For a variety of reasons it takes this long. Eligibility and the suitability of the property have to be established. There are sometimes title defects to be overcome and a variety of other requirements to be met. This is the average time.
– A month is about the normal time for finance from a permanent building society.
– I would not agree with the honourable senator there at all. Senator McClelland has complained that he has not had the facts and I have been giving them for days. I am giving them again. I repeat that that is the average period. We need to look at this in the true perspective of what has been done in the field of war service homes. I absolutely contradict any honourable senator who says that the War Service Homes
Division has not done an excellent job for ex-service people, and I contradict strongly those who would say that service is not being given to eligible persons. Since the commencement of this scheme SO years ago 304,000 people have been assisted and all over Australia there are people today who are grateful for the benefits available through the War Service Homes Division.
– Can you tell me how much money is necessary to overtake this lag?
– Senator Cavanagh asked me this yesterday and he asked me again today. 1 believe that he is a very good parliamentary member.
– I would be better if I could get some information.
– If I could just continue, I think that in this case the honourable senator understands. Prior to the presentation of the Budget an estimation is made of the amount of money required by a Minister. This is then put before Cabinet. 1 do not come into the Senate and tell honourable senators what I intend to put before Cabinet. I put forward an amount which, from the estimates I am given I believe to be a correct amount. When Cabinet decides on an amount this is incorporated in the Budget and then discussed in this place. 1 do not believe that it would be proper for me to discuss in this chamber the estimate which I put before Cabinet in any Budget representation I make for the future requirements of the War Service Homes Division. I think that it would be improper. 1 think that this answers the honourable senators question.
– The Leader did not agree with you in reply to a supplementary question.
– The Leader referred to whether or not it was policy. 1 am taking this to the point that decisions made when estimates are put before Cabinet are part of Government policy at Budget time. I will return to the subject I was discussing as I have, I believe, given a fair answer to the point raised by Senator Cavanagh. Irrespective of whether we agree on the answer I have given, I think we respect each other sufficiently as parliamentarians to understand the position.
– I want only information which is freely available without any breach of privilege or secrecy provisions.
– That is what you say. I am saying what 1 believe is proper and that is fair enough. I believe that the housing of ex-service people is tremendously important and have always believed so. It is quite true, as Senator McClelland has said, that during the Address-in-Reply debate I said that we are finding $55m for war service homes this year. 1 did not say further than that. Senator McClelland implied that I had said that that sum was all that was needed. That was his implication.
– Would von mind reading what you said?
– 1 said that we are finding $55m this year for the war service homes scheme.
– Would you mind reading from that paragraph before and after that statement?
– lt seems unnecessary, but I will oblige the honourable senator. I referred to the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement provision of $140m; and then to the provision of $55m for the war service homes scheme. I said that 1 hoped time would permit me later to refer in more detail to the scheme. 1 then said that the Government is providing two-thirds of the cost of building homes for aged persons in a tremendously successful partnership with church and charitable organisations. There is no other reference in that paragraph to war service homes. I would be appreciative if any honourable senator could indicate where I have again referred in that paragraph to war service homes because 1 cannot find it now while I am on my feet. The only reference I can see at the moment is the statement, which is correct, that we have made available this year $5Sm for war service homes. 1 would like to remind honourable senators of the history of the war service homes scheme. Out of a total expenditure of approximately $1.3 billion on the war service homes scheme since its inception, Liberal and Country Party governments - and I am a member of one of them - have provided Si. 2 billion. Putting it another way, of the total funds made available for the war service homes scheme, about 92% has been provided by Liberal and Country Party governments since the first of them came to office. That is a jolly good record, but honourable senators opposite seek to belittle it. They say that we are not doing the job, that we believe it is not worthwhile and that we do not accept responsibility. They say that we do not care. What nonsense that is in the light of the fact that Liberal and Country Party governments have provided 92% of the total expenditure on the scheme. Surely it is not necessary for me to deal further with that aspect.
I want to be fair in dealing with the points raised by previous speakers in this debate. It is true that a slight delay will occur before some applicants will receive their loans, but even so they will be better placed in acquiring homes than are other members of the community, because the war service home loan is of $8,000 for a period of 45 years at 31%.
– That would build half a house.
– Why is Senator Georges shaking his head at that statement?
– Because $8,000 will build only half a home these days.
– It is a long term loan with a beneficial interest rate. It is the best possible housing loan that anyone can receive in Australia. I will turn now to some of the fears in Senator McClelland’s mind. No application by an ex-serviceman is being refused on the ground that funds are not available. In some cases it will be necessary to defer settlement for periods varying from 1 week to 8 weeks. I can remember, perhaps much better than some honourable senators who have recently been elected to the Senate, when the time taken to obtain a war service home loan was from 20 months to 30 months. It is easy to forget that, but it is good to remember what has been achieved since those days.
Deferment of the settlement date will be necessary for only a relatively small proportion of applications, notably applications in respect of existing properties. Such applications would ordinarily be settled in May or June. These applications will be carried over for settlement in July. As a delay of from only 1 week to 8 weeks is involved it is expected that most applicants affected will be able to make arrangements with vendors to defer settlement. However, it will be open to those applicants to complete the transactions with temporary finance should they so desire. Some applicants may decide to obtain temporary finance in the belief that it is worthwhile because of the saving in rent and the benefit of obtaining a home earlier. 1 believe that even if some applicants are obliged to obtain temporary finance - and I am sorry about that - because of the benefits of the war service home loan their situation is still better than that of people who obtain any other kind of housing loan.
I have pointed out what has been achieved by Liberal and Country Party governments. Surely that contradicts the claim by honourable senators opposite that we have been disinterested and have not cared. I said earlier to Senator McClelland that I could find only one reference in my speech in the Address-in-Reply debate to the war service homes scheme. Senator Rae has been kind enough to indicate to me another reference. I am glad that Senator McClelland raised this point because Senator Rae has indicated to me a passage where I was strongly contradicting the nonsense spoken by honourable senators opposite. I am jolly glad that Senator McClelland reminded me of this point. At page 214 of Hansard of 11th March I replied to a statement by Senator Fitzgerald that the war service homes scheme is petering out. What nonsense that is, in view of the fact that this year more applications have been received than were estimated. On more than one occasion in this chamber Senator Fitzgerald has claimed that the war service homes scheme was winding up, petering out, coming to an end, or- whatever expression he chose to use. How little honourable senators opposite know. How bad have been their estimates. How little they appreciate the true story behind the increased number of applications being received.
– Are you still evicting people from war service homes?
– The care of people in war service homes is of very real concern to my Department. Those people are always given the greatest possible consideration. Senator Fitzgerald is trying to distract me from the passage most kindly drawn to my attention by Senator Rae.
I have pointed out the amount of money that has been made available by Liberal and Country Party governments in the period that they have been in office since 1949 and that that amount represents 92% of the funds made available to the scheme in the 50 years of its operation. Over that period over 304,000 homes have been made available to ex-service people. Relief has been given in a variety of ways. I remind honourable senators of the benefits extended to widows and such cases where there has been real need. In all the circumstances 1 believe that the urgency motion moved by the Opposition today is extraordinary. As I understand the position, the Opposition has never shown for ex-service people the concern displayed by Liberal and Country Party governments as reflected in the amounts of money made available to the war service homes scheme by those governments.
Silting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– At the suspension of the sitting I was discussing the matter of urgency moved by the Opposition concerning finance for war service homes. 1 had discussed various aspects of the work of the War Service Homes Division and had mentioned the tremendous assistance which has been given to thousands of Australian ex-servicemen through loans for war service homes. I mentioned also the assistance that they had received as persons eligible for the loan through the offices of the Division. When 1 speak of these things it is good to remember not only all that has been done by the Government in the field of war service homes but also that Australia leads in this field and is in fact the only country which continues war service assistance in this way so many years after the eligible persons have served in c war. While other countries place a time limit on the operation of their schemes, we are still going on assisting diggers from the 1914-18 war.
– We have never stopped being in a war for 50 years.
– I am reminded of the honourable senator’s service which was similar to the fine service rendered by other honourable senators. For 50 years the War Service Homes Division has continued to assist eligible persons. The Division celebrated its jubilee last year. As many as 3 generations have been assisted under this very fine scheme. I think it is right and proper that when people have left this country to serve overseas and by so doing have not been able to buy a home on their return they should be given assistance. This has been the purpose of the war service homes legislation - to assist ex-servicemen to get a home of their own.
When speaking earlier in the debate I mentioned the increased number of applications for loans in this financial year. I said that this contradicted the comments made by honourable senators opposite within the last year or so to the effect that the War Service Homes Division was being wound up. I mentioned also that it contradicted the idea that assistance was not now being given. Because we have had more applications this year than we estimated that we would have, we have now, as has been mentioned today, the occasion of a delay of 6 to 8 weeks in one area of lending. I propose to repeat some points which I believe are very important. No application by an ex-serviceman for a loan is being refused on the ground that funds are not available. As I have said today and on previous occasions in answer to questions, in some cases it will be necessary to defer settlements for periods varying from 1 to 8 weeks, but a deferment of the settlement date will be necessary for only a relatively small proportion of applications, notably, applications for loans in respect of existing properties. These are properties in respect of which ordinarily settlement would have been in May or June but for which settlement will be carried over until July. This answers the point made by Senator McClelland during question time today and again when he spoke in this debate. With a delay of only 1 to 8 weeks it is expected that most applicants who are affected will be able to make arrangements with the vendor to defer the settlement. It will be open to the applicants concerned to complete the transaction with temporary finance, should they so desire. Some may decide to obtain temporary finance feeling that it is worth it in order to save on rent and to be in their home earlier.
Australia is a country of home lovers. In Australia we have ihe greatest percentage of home ownership of any country, and the war service homes scheme has assisted in no small measure to achieve this. A scheme of this kind is tremendously important for the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen and for the development and growth of the country. 1 contradict those speakers who have said that we have not been interested in or concerned with ex-servicemen when I remind the Senate that of a total expenditure of approximately Si. 3 billion for war service homes since the inception of this great scheme 50 years ago the Liberal and Country Party Government has provided $1.2 billion since it came to office in 1949. This is a very large sum of money which has helped a great many people, it has provided security for a great many people in the field of housing. Of the total amount of finance provided for war service homes. 92% has been provided by the Liberal and Country Party Government since it came to office in 1949. These figures answer more eloquently than any words that 1 could use the suggestions, inferences and statements by honourable senators opposite concerning the work of the War Service Homes Division and its interest in helping people.
I remind the Senate also of the assistance given to widows through housing and other relief and the continuing concern that we have shown through the years for rehabilitating people who have served this country so magnificently in time of war. Honourable senators opposite might be happy to forget their record in the field of housing for exservicemen when they were in office, but I can assure the Senate that that is not the case with the present Government which has every reason to be proud of its record of achievement in providing $.1.2 billion for war service homes since it has been sn office. That figure represents a tremendous effort.
– They wait 12 months for applications to be approved, do they not?
– 1 have answered this point already.
– You have not, nor have you answered the point raised by Senator Poyser.
– I have answered this point and I have told the Senate that if any honourable senator has an individual case to present I will always consider it. The honourable senator is well aware that I have always looked at any individual case that anyone has seen fit to bring to me. 1 repeat the point that I made earlier today, that the record of the War Service Homes Division is one of the finest records of housing that could ever be stated in Australia and, compared with other countries, it is a record which is unsurpassed. Although there might be a slight delay before loans can be provided in some cases, applicants for assistance from the War Service Homes Division are in a much better position than other members of the community to become home owners, especially when we consider the benefits under this legislation which enable ex-servicemen to borrow $8,000, repayable over the long period of 45 years at 3-3 %.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– At the outset 1 should like to say that the Australian Labor Party has never lost sight of what has been done for exservicemen through loans for war service homes. However, 1 feel that the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) was a little unfair when she compared the expenditure for this purpose by this Government since 1949 with the amount that was spent by the Labor Government when it was in office. I think the Minister has lost sight of the fact that the Labor Party won a war from which the Liberal Party of Australia and the Austraiian Country Party ran away.
– I thought our servicemen won the war.
– But the Labor Party made it possible for the servicemen to do their job. The Liberal Party and the Country Party ran away from their responsibilities.
– This afternoon I requested honourable senators to speak to the subject of the motion. Senator Drury, I think you had better revert to the subject matter.
– I offer my apologies to you, Mr President. The Opposition has moved the motion in the terms it has used because it believes that either the Government has not given full consideration to, or the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) has been wrongly advised on, the situation in relation to war service homes loans. It is true that the appropriation for war service homes loans has been increased in the last 2 Budgets. In the 1968-69 Budget it was increased by $4.5m from $45.5m to $50m. But it should be remembered that in that year the maximum amount of the loan to each ex-serviceman was increased from $7,000 to $8,000. I think it was said in the second reading speech of the Minister for Housing at that time that the increased allocation was due to this factor and that the extra $4. 5m would be taken up by the increase in the maximum loan available. In the 1969-70 Budget the appropriation was again increased by another $5m to $55m. But in 1965-66 the appropriation was $70m. Therefore, although the appropriation for loans for war service homes has been increased by $9.5m in the last 2 Budgets it is still $15m below the 1965-66 figure.
– How much?
– It is SI 5m below the 1 965-66 figure. It is possible that the second increase in the appropriation was due to an increase in the number of applications made. However, I believe that the Government adopted a hit and miss approach in regard to determining the amount of the appropriation. I do not think that a true investigation was carried out or research conducted by the Department of Housing or the Government to determine exactly the possibility of an increase in the number of applications. For example, the appropriation in 1966-67 was $12m less than that in 1965-66. It was said that that was due to the fact that the backlog in applications from Second World War ex-servicemen had been overcome and it was not necessary to have an appropriation of as much as $70m. In 1967-68 the appropriation was further reduced to $45.5m from $58m. It was again stated that the reduction was due to the fact that not as many applications were being received.
Had a proper investigation been made or proper research been conducted into the number of applications which could be received from the conscripts returning from Vietnam who were eligible for a war service homes loan or from the Regular Army personnel who had served their time, I feel that the present position would not have arisen. If a proper investigation had been conducted, I think the appropriation in the 1969-70 Budget would have been far in excess of $55m. I believe the Government has been irresponsible and complacent. It has been in office far too long. The Government’s irresponsibility and complacency apply not only to war service homes loans but also to many other areas. If you would bear with me, Mr Acting Deputy President, I would like to say that one has only to look at the position in which primary industry finds itself today to appreciate my argument. It is only because of the irresponsibility of this Government that the primary producers are in their present position. In saying that the Government has been irresponsible I mean that it has been irresponsible only in recent years insofar as war service homes loans are concerned. As I said earlier, the Labor Party is fully aware of the benefits which ex-servicemen have received under the war service homes loans scheme. Although the Labor Party would have preferred the maximum amount of the loan to be higher, I feel that many exservicemen - and I am one - have had an opportunity to take advantage of this scheme. I know that it helped me considerably when I was buying a home to be able to obtain a loan from the War Service Homes Division.
The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) said in the other place that he was aware of the fact that the funds allotted for this financial year had been spent. He said, in reply to a question asked of him in the other place by the honourable member for Bennelong (Sir John Cramer):
I am aware that the funds available for war service homes during this financial year have now been spent.
It appears to me that somebody is badly mistaken. The Minister for Housing said in this chamber that there was no hold-up in the granting of loans because of a lack of funds, but the Prime Minister said in another place that the allocation for this financial year had been spent. I do not think that the present situation would have arisen if the Minister for Housing had answered the question which the Opposition directed at her, which was whether the Minister would approach the Treasury for the purpose of having a special appropriation of funds made available immediately to help to overcome the lag in war service homes loans.
One had only to look at the number of conscripts returning from Vietnam to appreciate that there was a possibility of an increase in the number of applications for loans. The report of the War Service Homes Division for the 1967-68 financial year states that the application rate remained relatively steady and a total of 9,754 applications were received during the year compared with 10,302 in 1966-67. As 1 pointed out earlier, the appropriation was further reduced to $45. 5m in that year. If one looks at the report of the War Service Homes Division for the 1968-69 financial year one will see that the number of applications received increased from 9,754 to 1 0,824. lt states also that the rate of expenditure increased as well by $4m to $50,190,522. lt could be seen from these reports that there was a strong possibility of more and more applications being made for war service homes loans, but the Government did nothing about making an investigation or conducting research into the possible number of loans that would be sought. 1 feel the Government has let the ex-servicemen down and 1 feel it is showing a little bit of differentiation in this field because it has stated, and the Minister herself has said, that for those people erecting new homes there was no waiting list whatsoever, while for ex-servicemen or servicemen purchasing homes already erected there would be a waiting period of 6 to 8 weeks. Why is there any difference between the treatment of a person who is erecting a home and of a person who is purchasing a home already erected? All ex-servicemen are entitled to the same consideration, whether they are buying or erecting a home.
My mind goes back some years to a time when people who were erecting homes were given preference in respect of bank loans over those who were buying homes already erected. This was because of the situation existing in the building industry at that time. I am only making a comparison here, Mr Acting Deputy President; I do not feel 1 am digressing from the subject of the urgency motion when I mention this. I feel that the Government should have done the right thing and given proper consideration to the possibility of increases in applications. I hope the Government will carry out some research into this situation so that it will not continue to exist and so that all ex-servicemen, whether they be erecting a new home or buying an established home will be given the same privileges. If proper research is conducted I feel this whole difficult situation will be overcome. 1 again ask the question that hits been asked by my colleagues and that is whether the Minister will approach the Treasurer (Mr Bury) to see whether any special appropriation money can be made available immediately to alleviate this situation.
– In a discussion on an urgency motion I think, first of all, it is essential that one gets down to the issues involved in the motion itself and forgets the heavily weighted political overtones that are being introduced into the subject and are quite misleading all along the way. Senator Drury himself repeated one of those diversions which have arisen throughout the debate when he said that conscripts coming back from Vietnam were denied the opportunity to obtain a war service home. That suggestion, of course, was established by the mover of the resolution. The fact is that there are very few conscripts in Vietnam in comparison to enlisted men who are volunteers. Those who are conscripts are usually of an age at which they are not likely-
– They represent 50%, senator.
– If the honourable senator listens he will learn something because it is obvious that he is on the wrong track. We are not discussing that question. This is the type of diversion I am trying to draw to your attention. You defeat your own issue by the diversion because that is not the question being discussed.
– Why do you not get on to the subject?
– To remind you not to get off it. lt is essential because you are completely off it, you see.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson) - Order! There is too much interruption.
– The fact is that the great majority of the young conscripts who do go to Vietnam - and they do not constitute a majority of the servicemen serving there at all - are in an age group in which they are not most likely to be applicants for war service homes.
– But there are some.
– There are some, but the people we are really discussing are those who make application for war service homes in general. Where they served and under what circumstances they served this country does not matter. Providing they served abroad they are entitled to be applicants for war service homes and they should all be treated equally. In a discussion such as this arguments about conscripts, nonconscripts, the Vietnam war or any other war should not be introduced. They provide political overtones which introduce disputation into a subject on which all honourable senators should be unanimous. If honourable senators stop and leave their invective out of the debate for a moment we will probably get more unity than we usually get in this place.
The Minister has admitted that it will be necessary to defer applications temporarily. The Australian Democratic Labor Party is inclined to ask why. But we realise that if there is blame to lay we should not lay the whole of the blame on the Government because everybody had an opportunity when the Budget was being discussed to suggest that the estimates for this particular item were likely to be short of what would be required. If there is a deficiency now the Government may have a primary responsibility but the Opposition which sought to criticise the Budget but not to have it withdrawn, as we suggested, also has a responsibility. Even the Democratic Labor Party which suggested that the Budget should be withdrawn and redrafted did not mention this specific question. Therefore we can claim no credit or avoid no responsibility because we too allowed the situation to develop and applications now exceed the amount of money available. This means that all honourable senators have some measure of responsibility. Honourable senators should not be just merely criticising the Government. We should be seeing what is the best way out of the situation. We are interested in the interests of all exservicemen who are eligible to make application. The Democratic Labor Party cannot see why a supplementary appropriation should not be brought down to bridge this gap. That is the main point that we would like to make to the Minister. Would this not be preferable to deferring some applications? Surely all honourable senators agree that all servicemen who are eligible should be completely equal when they make application for a loan of this character. Do not let us get carried away by what has happened in the past or try to rest on the grand record of having provided 304,000 homes. This is of no interest to the serviceman who, at the moment, has submitted his application. He draws no satisfaction from the fact that in the past 304,000 homes have been purchased with the assistance of the War Service Homes Act. For the serviceman who has just returned, or who has waited for some considerable time and is now in a position to purchase a home, statements of that character are purely sentimental, historical records. He wants to take advantage of a very good scheme. It is a good scheme not only in the interests of the serviceman, as this debate seems to suggest. Let us remember that this scheme must have been of tremendous value to this nation. Not only the families who were assisted to purchase the 304,000 homes at favorable interest rates have gained advantage out of this scheme; the nation itself has been tremendously enriched by the fact that this has been a sensible scheme to assist the serviceman to become a home owner.
The DLP thinks that these schemes should be far broader and, indeed, that there should be much more assistance given to all families to become home owners in their own rights. We of the DLP cannot, for the life of us, understand the reasons why the cost of finance for home building today is now what it is purported to be. The Government seems to feel that this waiting period may be excused by saying that it is only for some. It should not be for any. If it is only for some, then surely those who have their applications in first, whether they want to buy a home already erected or to build a new home, should be the ones to get first consideration. The line that is drawn seems to be to the disadvantage of the ones who are buying a home which is already erected. There must be an underlying reason for this. Is it the general reason that the economy must be quietened down, that it is getting hot and inflationary? I have no great knowledge of economics but I would discuss this subject with anybody.
The provision of credit to buy a home already erected is certainly not as inflationary in tendency as is the provision of loan moneys to purchase or to build a new home which drags on materials that may be in short supply. The purchase of a home that is already erected, whatever the market price, can have no relationship to any inflationary tendency in the community. Therefore, if only those who are seeking to buy homes that are already erected are being denied an immediate loan and have to suffer this waiting period, what is wrong with presenting a supplementary appropriation so that the waiting period can be cut out?
We are told that the waiting period is not lengthy; it is only 8 weeks. For a returned serviceman who perhaps has been separated from his family for some time and who wants to get into his own home instead of living with in-laws, 8 weeks can seem like half a century. It is all very well for us to sit in this House and say that it is only 8 weeks, but 8 weeks can be a long lime if you are living in circumstances which are not conducive to good relationships within your own family. They are told that they have to wait. For what reason? They have to wait because none of us in this House or in another place saw the possibilities, when the Budget was being discussed, of the number of applications exceeding the amount of money that was available. Let us all accept our share of the responsibility. I agree that the Government perhaps has more responsibility than has anyone else, but what we should be doing now is asking ourselves: ‘What is the best way out of it? Is there a way out of it?’ Of course there is. A supplementary appropriation could be brought down. If this could not or would not be done by the Government, a Treasurer’s advance could be made to the Department to help it over the situation which at present involves a wait of 8 weeks.
– We could put it through tonight.
– That is right. What numbers my Party has in the Senate would certainly support such a proposal to ensure that every ex-serviceman who submitted an application would be treated on the same basis as would his fellow ex-servicemen. Surely that is the measuring stick, not the type of home that the ex-serviceman wants to buy. ls he eligible? If he is eligible he should have equal rights. If there is a failure or a breakdown somewhere and one applicant must be considered before another, surely those who have submitted the earliest applications should be considered first. That is the policy that our society usually adopts in these things. If you want to see a football match the first people in the queue get the tickets that are available and those on the end of the line have to take their chances. Apparently, however, a line is drawn on grounds of whether you want to build a new home or buy one that is already erected. We cannot see the sense in this and we would like the Government io consider the reasons why the necessary finance is not available at the present time.
Is it of tremendous importance that the finance cannot be made available? Tell us if it is a matter of the economy of the nation being likely to suffer or the present inflationary trend being likely to rise sharply. Do not tell us the stories that we already know so well about the interest rate being so much lower phan that which is charged everywhere else. I could be critical of the Government and say that it controls the economy, as I agree that it should. If it persists in allowing the general interest rate to rise much higher it will be able to tell us that ex-servicemen who have received war service home loans are getting rates of interest that are only one-third of what are being charged elsewhere instead of only one-half. At some stage the Government must come to a realisation that merely increasing interest rates does not solve the problem of inflation, not one iota. Instead it only adds to costs in the community generally and increases the rate of inflation.
There can be no other reason than the Government’s present obsession with the control of inflation for its refusal to bring down a supplementary appropriation thereby allowing ex-servicemen ‘to have ti: clr homes in accordance with the proVisions of the Act. I believe that the Government should give very serious consideration to introducing a supplementary appropriation. Let it do so, let us pass it and let the ex-serviceman get his home without being subjected to a waiting period.
– The time of the Senate already has been occupied for approximately 2 hours and will be occupied for a further 1 hour by the ploy which has been developed by the Opposition of moving for a debate on this subject as a matter of urgency. What is the urgency of this motion? It is a motion which suggests that the Senate, at its rising, should adjourn until 10 o’clock tomorrow morning for the purpose of debating a matter of urgency. The matter of urgency is the Government’s reintroduction of a waiting period for war service homes finance.
I appreciate that it should be a matter of concern for the Government and for the Parliament that the terms under which persons are eligible for war service homes finance should be under constant scrutiny, but to suggest that this is a matter of urgency in the light of what has been happening in this Parliament for the past 3 weeks borders on the absurd. It reflects - as there have been so many examples in the past to cause us equally to reflect - upon the bankruptcy of the Australian Labor Party of subjects about which it wishes to castigate the Government. The Australian Labor Party is the official Opposition yet it is unable to raise at this time any issue except what it calls the reintroduction of the waiting period for war service homes finance. When there are striking issues about which we occasionally hear Opposition members talking and which should commend the attention of all Australians, all that the Opposition in the Senate can do is introduce this resolution.
What are the facts? The facts are that out of the blue on 17th March Senator McClelland asked a question of the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin). He did not have the facts right because he talked about loans being frozen for a period of 6 months. The Minister told him that that was not true. We have heard so much from the Labor Party Opposition over the past year with regard to the war service homes scheme petering out and being finalised - this is absolutely untrue, and I believe must be known to be untrue to those members of the Australian Labor Party who have said it - that a further statement such as that made by Senator McClelland would cause no concern. The next day, however, Senator McClelland asked another question and he got nearer to the facts. He asked whether there was some problem and some extended period of waiting. The Minister, when asked that question, gave him the full facts. I do not know whether Senator McClelland’s pride was frustrated in some way but when we came back after the Easter recess we were subjected last night to an adjournment debate which lasted for amost 2 hours during which this same issue was canvassed; during which Senator McClelland said much the same things as he said today; during which Senator Keeffe said things which, but for their relevance, he would have been able to say today, and now we have an urgency debate. As I have said, it reflects the bankruptcy of ideas and lack of issues of an Opposition which is striving for something upon which to attack the Government.
Let me state the facts. The first is that we have in this country a war service homes scheme which has been operating for some 50 years. In the course of that 50 years over 300,000 applicants - exservicemen and ex-servicewomen - have had their applications for loans granted. There has been a cost to the Australian taxpayer of SI, 3 00m. The war service homes scheme has a first class record. It is the largest housing enterprise that Australia has known. It has provided for countless people who have served their country in wartime the facilities whereby they can have their own home. Countless Australians are appreciative of what governments of all political colours have been able to do.
What is the position at the present time? We find that the number of applications is greater than was estimated some 8 months ago. We find that the number of applications is greater than was reflected by the pattern of the past 6 or 7 years. Because there is a greater number of applications the Opposition says: ‘This is a scandal. This is something for which the Government is blameworthy. The Government’s culpability stands out. We, the Opposition, would never have allowed anything like that to happen*. With respect, that is so much hypocrisy.
We did not hear any talk, in 1969 when the appropriations were before the Parliament, to the effect that what the Government was allocating for war service homes finance was inadequate. We have had from Senator Little the concession that something might have been said about it if members of the Democratic Labor Party had been alert to it. But, in fairness, how was Senator Little to know this part of the background upon which the Government makes its decisions? What members of the Opposition should be seeking to show is that this estimate was so far out that the Government is culpable. But not one figure, not one fact, not one argument has been raised to suggest that the Government is in any way culpable in this matter. The Opposition hopes that it can make some political capital out of it, but the sheer lack of argument and lack of basic facts to support its case will indicate that it cannot make mileage at all.
When one looks at the facts one finds that in the 5 years to 1967-68 the number of persons applying for war service homes finance and the number of persons being assisted by war service homes finance were decreasing. If one looks at the figures year by year one sees that in each of those 5 years prior to 1967-68 the figure was a diminution of 8% on that of the previous year. One could suppose that that was a reasonable expectation. After all, it was almost 25 years after the Second World War had ended and one would suppose that the number of persons from that War who would be applying for finance would naturally be diminishing. That Ls what the figures and the record disclose.
That is also reflected in the amounts that this Parliament allocated year by year for war service homes finance. In 1965-66 the amount allocated was $70m. In 1966-67 the amount dropped to $59m. In 1967-68 the amount, was down to $46m. In that year the amount of the maximum loan was increased to $8,000 for each applicant. Accordingly, in the following year the amount of the allocation was raised to $50m. In that year also there was a slight - not a great but a slight - increase in the number of applicants. In the Budget that was presented in August last year the amount that was allocated was $55m. We find, but only in March 1970, that the number of applicants is greater than that which was estimated in August last year.
– What are you prepared to do for these people?
– 1 am coming to what the Government is prepared to do. Various alternatives are open. I propose to canvass those alternatives because we do not hear anything from the Opposition as to what we are prepared to do.
– That is not so.
– I am saying that one must consider what was estimated last year. On the best information 1 can obtain something like 6,600 homes were estimated to be likely to be completed in the course of this year. I understand that the actual number is something over 7,000 properties. If one looks at the annual report of the War Service Homes Division for 1968-69 one finds that in that year the number of existing properties financed was 5,773 compared with 5,645 in 1967-68. The Government estimated something like 6,600 for 1969-70. That was a striking increase on the number in the previous year. But in fact what has been revealed is a number in excess of 7,000. In those circumstances no government planning can be assured to be accurate because one cannot contemplate the number of people who will apply.
Why have people been applying? One would suppose - again this comes from the records - that there would be some persons who had seen service in Vietnam and would be eligible to apply. There has been an increase, but not a great increase, in the number of ex-servicemen from Vietnam who have been applying. But there has been a considerable increase in the number of applications from people who saw service in the 1939-45 war. That was not to be anticipated. One might speculate on the reasons why they are applying.
One reason that comes to mind is that the finance which is available from the War Service Homes Division is probably the most desirable finance available from any institution providing building finance in this country. One can receive a loan of $8,000 for 45 years at 3J% interest. Nobody anywhere in this country can better that. That may well explain why there has been some increase. A further reason, of course, is the difficulty of obtaining money on reasonable terms from the other institutions at the present time. It is in those circumstances that we have an increase in War Service applications. All I desire to say is that if one is prepared to be fair and to acknowledge the problems of estimating in advance what is likely to be the demand for war service homes finance, it is not unreasonable for this sort of error to creep into the estimates. What are the alternatives? One alternative is to seek to have an increase in the funds that ar-e available. As 1 said, the Government allocated, without objection or demur from anybody in this Parliament, in August last year a sum of $55m. What are we supposed to do now? Senator Little suggested that there might be a supplementary appropriation. It is all very well for the Democratic Labor Party, with an unctuous virtue that cloaks irresponsibility, to suggest a supplementary appropriation because it does not have the responsibility of determining what funds should be available.
The reason why I refer to the Democratic Labor Party in those terms is that we hear from it from time to time a plea that vastly greater sums should be spent on the defence of this country; we have Senator McManus racing around the countryside, as much as his age will permit him, and saying that there should be a better deal for the primary producers and that more money should be spent; and from time to time the Democratic Labor Party suggests, as Senator Little will remember, that more money should be spent on the married pensioners and various other people including recipients of repatriation pensions.
All I say is that it is all very well for the Opposition parties to say that some supplementary appropriation should be made because they have not the responsibility of raising and allocating the money and determining the priorities on which it should be expended. It is all very well for the Democratic Labor Party to say that the burning issue of inflation is a matter of no consequence, but the Government is concerned about inflation. This Government has always been concerned about inflation and will be determined to see that it takes the appropriate steps to preserve as much as it can the value of the money that people have in their purses and pockets in order to purchase what is necessary in life.
From the Australian Labor Party we have nothing at all which suggests what should be done. It may suggest a supplementary appropriation. But it is tarred with the same brush as the Democratic Labor Party; it has not the responsibilities. The Government has allocated certain monies. It has limited funds that it can apply to desirable objectives. In due course, when it introduces the next Budget in August this year there will doubtless be recognition of this problem.
The second alternative that the Government can adopt is to refuse applications. I believe that the Government would be blameworthy if it did refuse applications. But, as the Minister for Housing has said, the Government will not refuse applications. The third alternative is to span out or extend the time within which these applications are approved and the money is made available. What has happened is that the Government has been able, in respect of applications for existing homes, to extend the time that a person must wait before receiving his money from the 4 months that normally elapses to something like 5i to 6 months.
When one considers that people who came back after the 1939-45 War were waiting for periods such as 18 months, 2 years or longer before they received their money, that in 1961 the Government was able to cut out the delay altogether in respect of some persons and that in 1966 it was able to cut out the delay completely, one sees that the Government has a fine record. If, because of the circumstances existing at the present time, the delay is extended from 4 months to 5i to 6 months, the Government’s record is not to be criticised because of that fact. That is a fair way of dealing with the existing situation. If one considers what happens when a person applies for a war service homes loan, I do not think one can really criticise the Government for what has happened. The person goes to the War Service Homes Division with his contract, which is probably subject to war service homes finance being available-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– Senator Greenwood, who is known as tha Canberra conscript commando, should be eligible for a war service home after tha fight he put up on such a poor case. It is rather interesting to note that since we commenced the debate-
– What is your job?
– Our job is to draw to the attention of the Senate and of the people of Australia the fact that the Government ls breaching its trust to exservicemen who are eligible for war service homes and is breaching the trust reposed in it temporarily to carry out the promises that it made over a period of years to exservicemen. We believe that the reintroduction of a waiting period for war service finance is a breach of that trust. While all the fuss was being made by the previous speaker, we asked him to give the reasons for not providing extra finance. Not one constructive thought came from him as to why the gap could not be bridged. It is rather interesting to note that during the course of the debate tonight the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) left the chamber and that a call was made over the public address system for members of the Government Housing Committee to attend a Committee meeting. They were called together hurriedly. Perhaps the Government realises at this very late stage that there are ways of providing extra finance. Members of that Committee are rechecking their economics to see whether this gap can be bridged. On 11th March 1970, during the course of her speech on the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech, the Minister made a statement to which I shall refer.
– I was not at a meeting of the Government Housing Committee.
– -The Minister should have been. Her colleagues have called a meeting. That announcement was put over the public address system. The Minister said: More than 35,000 persons are eligible for war service homes assistance under the special conditions introduced in 1963. In order to meet the increased demand the Government has provided this year for war service homes S55m as against last year’s provision of $50m.
The Minister admitted an increasing demand and increasing housing costs. Therefore, to meet the Government’s obligations, some kind of provision should have been made for this increase. Instead of that, a gap has been created. We have heard denials from the Minister in reply to questions. I would like to mention some factual cases. I will not mention any names. These incidents happened in the last couple of months. 1 will quote one case. On 26th February-
– How do we know that they are authentic?
– They are authentic. I do not need to quote from my papers because I can recall the cases from memory. Until 2 months ago the Department of Housing consistently assured people that they could obtain finance. Now the correspondence going out to the various people is to the effect that the period of waiting will be anything up to 6 months.
– It is an anti-inflationary move.
– I am very pleased that the honourable senator raised that matter. The ex-servicemen are being made the bunnies.
– In the squeeze.
– Yes, in the credit squeeze. They are the most vulnerable. They have a very fine Minister who speaks about the things that have been done and about the 300,000 houses that were built. She receives a great amount of respect and sympathy. If any other Minister were involved, we would tear him to pieces. We have such great respect for the Minister that we are being gentle with her. Nevertheless these people are being deprived of finance because of this squeeze, because of the Government’s mistaken ideas and because of the ruthlessness of Government policy. The Government does not care where the hammer falls as long as it does not fall on the people who are exploiting the public through manipulation of the stock exchange or on the people who are selling out Australia’s resources. No pressure is being applied for the introduction of a capital gains tax. The Government is putting an imposition on the exservicemen. The case 1 was about to cite earlier is that of a Victorian. The letter he received stated:
There is no waiting period al present for finance under the War Service Homes Act and it should be possible to make a loan available to you as soon as the listed conditions have been met.
That letter was dated 12th March - not 1 month ago.
– What has this to do with a capital gains tax?
– A capital gains tax should be imposed on your colleagues. We are trying to defend the battler - the man who has come home from Vietnam at the agc of 21. Senator Greenwood and other honourable senators said that these young people do not need homes. They are just at the age when they do need homes. The letter to which I referred was from the War Service Homes Division in Victoria. It continued:
However, this cannot be regarded as a commitment. it also staled: lt is particularly mentioned that should you complete the purchase of the property with finance from any other source it would be necessary to refuse your application.
This is wickedry. I had intended to use another word that is fashionable out at Duntroon, but 1 will settle for wickedry
– Surely the honourable senator means ‘wickedness’?
– -Wickedisation, which is in line with the term used at Duntroon. Government policy in regard to these people and to their houses is such that they have to get bridging finance; and if ever there was a bunch of usurers it is the people in lawyers’ offices-
– Oh. no!
– Yes, they are. The lawyers are helping to provide this bridging finance.
– 1 rise on a point of order. I think that the honourable senator should withdraw his remarks about lawyers. He is well aware that the Leader of his own Party is a legal man. I am sure that his comments do not apply to Senator Murphy.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
– If the leader of the Opposition. Senator Murphy were guilty of lending money for bridging finance at 12i% or 16% interest, I would disown him. I am quite certain that he would not be guilty of such action. I shall return to the point that I was making. I am talking about the lawyers who lend money at this exorbitant rate and who arrange this usurious bridging finance. Bridging finance is another ploy used to get these people sucked in and to give the procurement, search and conveyancing fees to their colleagues while keeping the people needing finance waiting for periods of up to 6 months.
– I raise a point of order. The honourable senator pointed his finger at me and talked about lawyers who are guilty of lending money at rates of interest which he suggested were those charged by a usurer. The honourable senator would know, if he knew anything about his State, that in Tasmania the maximum interest rale is far below that which he mentioned. 1 take exception to his remarks.
– I also take a point of order. If the honourable senator wants to take a point of order he should object to something in particular and not introduce propaganda about what is happening in Tasmania. That is not the correct procedure.
– My objection was entirely in relation to the fact that the honourable senator pointed at me. Knowing full well that I am a lawyer he implied that lawyers were usurers. He ought to know that the interest rates which he mentioned could not possibly be charged in Tasmania. The matter is personally offensive to me and I take objection to it. I ask that the remarks be withdrawn.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Order! The point of order is not upheld.
– 1 have asked that an offensive remark be withdrawn.
– 1 have been asked to withdraw an offensive remark. 1 did not point at the honourable senator. 1 pointed somewhere else. He is very thin skinned. He wanted to take up my time. He knows that I am the leader of the Tasmanian Labor Party team at the next Senate election. He knows that I am coming up for re-election. He is sensitive about the whole matter. However, the point I was making is that the Minister stood in her place in this chamber and denied the charges that we were making. I am proving now, with documentary evidence from her own Department, that, first of all, the Department gave permission, in the first correspondence on 12th March, for this person to proceed, saying that at present there was no waiting period for finance, and then on 3rd April the regional director wrote to this person and said:
I am writing to advise you that as matters stand it will be impracticable to make your loan available before September 1970.
This gives -the lie direct to the refutation made by the Minister that what we are saying about the re-introduction of a waiting period for war service homes finance is not correct. In case some newly elected senators have lost sight of the purpose of the War Service Homes Act, I shall refer to what was said by Senator Millen of New South Wales, the then Minister for Repatriation, in introducing the War Service Homes Bill.
– He was a Tasmanian.
– He was not a Tasmanian; he was from New South Wales. When introducing the Bill he said, amongst other things:
This shortage exists today, and will undoubtedly become accentuated with the return of the men who are still at the Front. I want honourable senators to recollect that, apart from what we owe to these mcn, there is a social side to this problem which, I believe, will influence them in the decision which they arrive at in regard to this Bill. The purpose of the measure is to enable members of the Australian Imperial Force, and certain of their dependants, to secure homes. I want to stress the word ‘homes’, because the whole of the provisions of the Bill are conditioned by it. Those conditions provide that a man may borrow for the purpose of erecting a home which he will occupy as such.
This Government is recreant to its responsibility to carry out the purposes of the Act. Further on, the Minister went on to say:
The second set of powers intrusted to the Commissioner are those which will enable him to build in anticipation of the receipt of applications.
Now we find that ex-servicemen who are eligible, acceptable and who comply with all of the other conditions laid down for war service homes finance have to wait for finance for a period of up to 6 months. Previously, reference was made to the fact that these men are being made the bunnies of the inflationary squeeze that is being imposed on people, unjustly, because so many other sectors of the community are escaping their responsibilities. According to the Auditor-General’s report, an amount of $50m was made available for war service homes in the last financial year, and repayments of principal and interest on war service loans amounted to $72,395,398. That money goes into Consolidated Revenue. When Senator Greenwood was searching his own mind and trying to find an excuse for the policy which the Government is pursuing, surely he could have suggested that Treasury could make an amount available from this money which is going into Consolidated Revenue, which is the difference between the amount of $72m for the repayment of principal and interest on war service homes finance in the last financial year and the amount of $50m which was provided for war service homes finance in the last financial year.
Then there is the Insurance Fund which has been in operation for 50 years. Money has been paid into this Fund to cover insurance on war service homes. No adjustment has been made. No interest has been paid into the Insurance Fund. The amount of that interest could have been sufficient to provide finance to cover this time lag of 6 months or whatever it is which is facing these people at the present time. But no fear; ex-servicemen and the people on whose behalf we are speaking tonight are being made the bunnies. They are being made the scapegoats. They have to bear the burden of the foolish financial policies which this Government has followed It is said that the economy is becoming overheated. Certainly it will become overheated. The system itself is breaking down under its own policy because the Government has this permissive society-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– The Senate has been forced into a debate, and I believe that it was an excellent idea of the Opposition that the Senate should choose this afternoon to debate the question of the Government’s reintroduction of a waiting period for war service homes finance - or more correctly, it should be claimed as being the alleged action of the Government. In this financial year, of which the last quarter is well under way, $55m was made available for war service homes. This money was made available to allow Australian ex-servicemen and those eligible under the War Service Homes Act to become purchasers of their own homes.
The Australian Labor Party criticises the Government and says that this amount of money is not sufficient. I am not going with Senator O’Byrne back to 1918-19, but I am going back a number of years to the last occasion when a Labor government held office in this sphere of politics. At that time the Opposition of the day, the present Government Parties, pleaded with the Labor post-war government to provide the money and means by which people could purchase their own homes. The then Minister for Post-war Re-construction, the honourable J. J. Dedman, said: ‘We do not want a race of little capitalists’. The Labor Party, when in office, was against home ownership by Australians. But those days have gone. Now that the Labor Party is in Opposition, it is castigating this Government for an alleged breach of trust, as referred to by Senator O’Byrne.
The facts are that there has not been the upsurge in the number of applications from returned servicemen from Vietnam and the other theatres of overseas active service as there was after the Second World War. 1 go along with Senator Little and Senator Greenwood who said that the reason for this is that these servicemen are young men who are coming back from war service and who have not yet decided how, where and when they want to purchase a home. Honourable senators must remember that once an ex-serviceman who is entitled to war service homes assistance receives a loan, he can never come again. Therefore, he wants to purchase a home where he wants to live. Since the Second World War, more than 260,000 homes have been built under the war service scheme.
One might have been excused for thinking that in this period, so long after the close of the war, the numbers of applications would gradually decrease. This decrease commenced several years ago and it has continued at a fairly level average of about 8%. Because of rising costs in home building, the Government saw the need to increase to $8,000 the amount which each applicant could receive as a war service homes loan. Consequently, with that increase came a greater upsurge of home buyers through this system. 1 think this has happened for 2 reasons because, as every member in the Parliament will admit, the best and most generous way to buy a house in Australia today is to purchase it under the war service homes legislation.
We are living in an affluent society and many men - not only those who served in the Second World War but others who are eligible for war service homes - have decided that they will give up renting a house or a flat or living in a house that they have inherited or brought under some other plan, and, because their savings are greater in the affluent society, take advantage of the increased amount available to them, still on the same generous terms, to purchase the home in which they want to live in what are becoming the later stages of their lives. No government could be accused of lack of foresight in not being able to assess that in 1969-70 there would be an increase in the number of people who fought in a war which ended in 1945 and who would desire to take advantage of a loan. The increase in the number coupled with the increase in the amount of loan has meant that at this stage of the year - on the 8th day of the 10th month of the financial year - there appears not to be any more money available from the vote made for war service homes loans.
The Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) did not have time to explain this. 1 go along with some honourable senators opposite and say that I find it difficult to understand why it should take 4 months for an application for a war service home loan to be processed. But we are told that it does take 4 months and therefore any applicant from a week ago until the end of this financial year has no hope of getting his application for a war service home loan granted. There are some whose applications have been lodged and processed and the ex-servicemen entitled to the loan are ready to get the money. The Minister has told us that money is not now available and will not be available until the first week in July - that is, the start of the new financial year - for existing homes that are being purchased. I want to refer to this aspect because it is right that it should go on the record. It has been government policy since 1918-19 in respect of war service homes that there be an element of enticement for an ex-serviceman to purchase a block of land and build his own home. In my view there are 2 very good reasons for this. It is a chance for the exserviceman to purchase the block of his desire in the locality of his desire. This is the only loan he can get from the Government in his lifetime and he can have the house of his desirable design built on his block.
This also has been a very good part of Government policy because if there is one industry that does an amazing amount of good for the economy and gets men employed it is the building industry, the housing industry. Once a contract to build a home is let the axe and saw start working in the forest and every branch of industry that has to provide the wherewithal to complete a furnished home is put into action, and so the money flows through and this helps the employment of many people. The war service homes system has been a bulwark of the house building industry in Australia. The second choice in priorities for war service homes under all shades of government has been the purchase of an existing home. People who want to purchase an existing home are the ones who are being told that money to purchase it cannot be made available to them until July because there is no benefit to the economy at all if a person buys a completed home. It must be recognised by all that this is of no help to the building industry. There is another factor which 1 believe is quite important when one comes to consider Senator Little’s suggestion that a special supplementary grant should be made now to the War Service Homes Division to allow the purchase of existing homes by successful applicants. But I realise, and anyone who has any common sense and knows business in this country or any other today, realises that if people selling homes that were wanted and being waited for by ex-servicemen eligible for war service home loans knew that $2m or more was to be pumped into the home buying economy between now and the end of July, up would go the price of homes.
It is not my belief that a government should be part and parcel of aiding people to get inflated prices from ex-servicemen for the homes they want to buy with this Government loan. There is another point about the suggested injection of funds for the promised and well-earned aid to exservicemen. It is absolutely certain that if at any time in the next few weeks before this Parliament adjourns for the winter recess the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) or the Minister for Housing were to announce that $2m or $4m would be made available between now and 30th June to help satisfy all of the current applications for war service homes not now satisfied there would be an urgency motion from the Opposition the following morning asking us why we could not provide more money to the States for schools and for hospitals and why we could not provide more funds for housing commissions.
The Opposition is in the gloriously comfortable position of being able to pick on one sector - an important sector, but only one sector of the whole responsibility of government - and say: ‘You are wrong because your generous loan conditions have exhausted the amount made available, even though it is S5m greater than las! year’s. You have exhausted the funds and you should put more money into it.’ It is absolutely certain that there would be a cry for more help in other spheres in which there is Commonwealth responsibility. Under the present situation one can hardly name a sphere of government in Australia today where financial responsibility does not finally rest upon the Commonwealth Government. I do not blame the Opposition for bringing this forward. It is not a tender spot in any respect at all, because throughout the early years of government by these parties following the Labor Government there was a long period of delay in which temporary or bridging finance had to be arranged. It was, we have been told, up to 20 months. Now the period is from 2 to 8 weeks. I am told it is 8 weeks at the most for existing homes. This is not a problem of raising temporary finance for that amount when the ex-serviceman receives from the War Service Homes Division a letter stating that his application for a loan to purchase such and such a home has been granted.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I wish to support the urgency motion moved by the Opposition in respect of the reintroduction by the Government of a waiting period for war service homes finance. I have been amazed by the resistance offered by honourable senators opposite on a matter of the utmost importance because the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame
Annabelle Rankin) has acknowledged in the answers she has given to questions addressed to her yesterday and today that there will not necessarily be a rejection of applications for loans by persons who are eligible for financial assistance from the War Service Homes Division, but that there will be deferment of those applications. Last night the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), in answering a question addressed to him by Sir John Cramer, referred to the point which is the crux of the urgency motion moved today by the Opposition. Sir John Cramer asked: ls the Prime Minister aware that the allocation of funds for loans to ex-servicemen for the purchase of homes for the current year has been exhausted? ls he also aware that there arc several hundred applications for loans which have been approved and that contracts for the purchase of homes have been entered into but that no money is available? The Prime Minister will realise that if these are facts a great number of ex-servicemen will be placed in the position that they will have to borrow bridging finance at excessively high rates of interest to complete their transactions while they are awaiting the availability of their loan from the War Service Homes Division. will the Prime Minister consider making available an immediate special grant to the War Service Homes Division to enable it to complete the transactions referred to?
The Prime Minister replied:
In reply to the first part of the question, yes, I am aware that the funds available for war service homes during this financial year have now been spent.
I emphasise the words “have now been spent’. The Prime Minister went on:
I might point out to ibc House that during this financial year the Government made available for war service homes a sum of S55m, which is S5m more than the year before. As the honourable member said, this increased amount has already been spent.
After an interjection from the Opposition the Prime Minister continued:
In reply to the second part of the question, I am aware that there are some hundred of applicants who have applications for loans for the purchase of existing buildings - existing houses - and these are distinct from applicants for loans for the building of houses. There are some hundreds of these, and as a result of the money voted having been exhausted these applicants who normally would have received the loans for which they have applied in May or June will have to wait until July in order to receive their loans.
The Prime Minister proved conclusively that there is a gap between applications and available finance, notwithstanding the increase this year of $5m to an allocation of $55m. The Prime Minister acknowledged that those funds have been exhausted. Sir John Cramer, a former Minister for the Army, acknowledged in his question that applicants for war service home loans, in order to obtain bridging finance, will have to pay excessively high rates of interest. This is the concern of the Opposition. 1, and I am sure other honourable senators, have not been impressed by the attempt made by the honourable senators opposite to cloud the issue by summarising the performance of Liberal and Country Party Governments since 1949. They have sought to gloss over the present situation. From their remarks one could be led to imagine that the Government is doing exservicemen a favour at the expense of taxpayers.
Government supporters have said that since 1949 Liberal and Country Party Governments have allocated $1.2 billion to war service homes finance. It has been implied thai that has been done at the expense of the taxpayers, but that is not the case. From time to time the interest rate charged on war service home loans is varied. The present rate is quite reasonable at 32%. Nevertheless, it returns a handsome and substantial return to the Government, as the figures that 1 will cite for the past 3 years clearly show. In 1966-67 expenditure by the War Service Homes Division was $59,122,000 and receipts totalled $67,050,000. In 1967-68 expenditure was $46,019,000 and receipts were $69,165,313. Expenditure in 1968-69 was $50,190,522 and receipts totalled S72.621.597. It is plain that war service homes financing is quite a lucrative business for the Government. I understand that the excess of revenue over expenditure finds its way back into Consolidated Revenue. We do not quarrel with that procedure but we emphasise that there is a gap between the amount sought by applicants and the funds available.
The Government should at least recognise that situation. The Government has a responsibility to exservicemen and exservicewomen who are eligible for war service home finance. We do not believe that a distinction should be drawn between finance to purchase an existing home and finance to build a new home. A home is being purchased, whichever way it is looked at. The Government must recognise, as has been made abundantly clear, that it is necessary to cater for the gap between applications and available funds. A shortfall has occurred in the amount allocated for war service home loans.
We are confident that even at this late stage the Government has the facilities speedily and accurately to ascertain the amount required. My colleagues have repeatedly stated that the Opposition urges the Government to make an immediate special grant to the War Service Homes Division. We believe that this step would obviate the necessity for bridging finance. Bridging finance adds costs in legal fees and exorbitant interest charges that must be paid by home-seeking ex-servicemen. We do not believe that they should have that added burden thrust upon them.
Government supporters have referred to the performance of the Government over the years in the field of war service homes finance. I wish to refer now to a very elaborate and well presented brochure published to celebrate the fiftieth year of the war service homes scheme, from 1919 to 1969. The publication states that in 1966 it was possible to eliminate the waiting period for a war service homes loan, lt then states:
From that time finance has been available on request, subject only to the applicant’s proposal meeting the requirements of the Act.
We believe that as it was possible in 1966 to eliminate the waiting period - and we commend the people responsible for that position - we see no reason why, 4 years later, a waiting period should be reintroduced. lt took a long time to eliminate the waiting period. I challenge the argument advanced by honourable senators opposite that an unexpected increase has occurred in applications for assistance from the War Service Homes Division. I shall explain why I make that challenge. Annual reports of the War Service Homes Division show that the number of approvals for loans in 1965-66 was 11,105; in 1966-67 it was 7,195; 6,788 in 1967-68; and 7,202 in 1968-69. Surely to goodness it cannot fairly be argued by the Government that the increase in the number of applications is so astronomical as to upset all the calculations of the Division. Obviously it ascertains and collates the information to be submitted to the Minister for presentation to Cabinet.
Even if the needs of the War Service Homes Division have been underestimated we say that it is not too late at least to recognise the necessity to provide additional finance to assist ex-servicemen and exservicewomen who have been prepared voluntarily to serve to protect this nation, or who have been conscripted to take up arms in other parts of the world. We have an immediate and continuing commitment to these people, at least. I do not accept the suggestion from honourable senators opposite that a person can go to a bank, see the bank manager, and, simply because he has a notice from the War Service Homes Division advising him of its approval of a loan, feel that on that basis he has a guarantee that the bank will provide the bridging finance that he requires.
It seems to me that the Government is playing into the hands of a system of financing which has grown up by and large outside what might be described as the legitimate banking system. As a consequence people are paying far more than reasonable interest for a small loan over a short period. This is a situation that the Government has no justification for ignoring at this stage. I can understand the resentment of the Government because of the criticism that has been levelled against it, but I cannot accept :he Government’s rejection of the proposal that even at this late stage it should take measures to correct the situation. I can assure the Government that the Opposition would facilitate the expeditious passage of any measure which would assist ex-servicemen in the purchase of a home without the need for additional bridging finance for which he would have to pay so exorbitantly.
– I have found this debate interesting from many points of view. It is a very serious subject. It is a subject upon which many of us at various times have wondered whether we, as a country, and we, as a Government, were doing as much as we ought to do for the people who undoubtedly deserve our assistance. I do not think any honourable senator on either side of the House would say for one moment that those who are eligible for assistance under the war service homes scheme do not deserve that assistance. But we have a problem which is common to all governments, a problem which, in a country that is growing so rapidly as ours is growing at the moment, has unfortunately become very real. I refer to the problem of balancing a budget, the problem of devoting and diverting sufficient funds to the right quarters at the right time. In this case all that has happened, as Senator Little said earlier tonight, is that every one of us on both sides of the Senate has underestimated the amount which would be required to keep the war service homes scheme operating satisfactorily for the full 12 months period.
Last year the Government increased by almost 10% to $55m the amount that would be made available for the operation of this scheme. It was anticipated by the Government at that time that this amount would be sufficient to meet the expected demand so that the scheme could continue to operate in the satisfactory manner in which it has been operating during the period that the present Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) has been in charge of. the War Service Homes Division. The attack which has been made on the Minister this afternoon and this evening has been most unfortunate. Although on both sides of the Senate we have been guilty of an under-estimation, honourable senators opposite have tried to lay the full blame on the Minister and have not accepted any blame for themselves. I cannot recall, nor can I find, any reference in the discussions on the Budget last year to suggest that the Government’s allocation for war service homes was inadequate for the forthcoming year, lt has turned out to be inadequate, but is that the fault of the Minister? ls it the fault of the Government? ls it the fault of the Parliament? I think not. lt is due to a number of factors which were nol foreseen or even foreseeable.
Not one honourable senator on either side of the chamber has suggested during this debate a basis upon which the Government or the Minister should have foreseen the extra demand that would be made for this service. During this debate we have had a rather extraordinary performance. It began with perhaps a genuine concern being expressed, but then there were introduced the most extraordinary red herrings. We heard a discussion from Senator O’Byrne about a capital gains tax. Then we heard Senator Keeffe talk about how many Ministers and how many Government supporters had been in the chamber at a particular time. I noticed that the time that he picked at which to start his count was the moment when I, among others, had walked out of the chamber to go to my room to look up some material in relation to this matter and to continue to listen to the debate, as we are all able to do, over the loud speaker in my room. Although I might not have been here at the time that the honourable senator began his count, 1 was here for a substantial part of the debate and heard the early part of Senator McClelland’s speech, in addition to which I listened to the remainder of the debate from my room, as no doubt did other honourable senators from both sides of the Senate.
Senator Keeffe’s remarks were a condemnation not only of honourable senators on this side of the chamber but also of those on the other side. Honourable senators are not always able to be in the chamber. 1 should have thought that all honourable senators would respect the fact that no-one can carry out his parliamentary duties, prepare his speeches, conduct his research and be in attendance here all the time. But this was the impression being given by Senator Keeffe during his rather unfortunate remarks. Perhaps remarks of this kind are understandable when one realises the Opposition, in relation to this motion, was rather bereft of facts. Once Senator McClelland had completed his speech there was very little that could be said. Honourable senators opposite, in order to continue with the debate, had to talk about something, so they talked about everything else, including capital gains tax. We had the extraordinary situation that it was not until the concluding speech by Senator Brown, whom 1 congratulate for his remarks, lhat we heard a return to the subject. His was a creditable departure from the performance which had been forthcoming from the Opposition during the remainder of the debate. I do not agree with what he said, but I. congratulate him for at least speaking to the subject.
I should like now to return to the subject and to correct some of the things that Senator Brown said. The honourable senator, and as I recall it other honourable senators opposite, said that now we have had a sudden change of policy by the Government because loans to persons entitled to borrow from the War Service Homes Division were either being deferred or refused. Both of these terms were used by various people. Although Senator Brown used another term, the word he should have used was ‘deferred’. The situation is that loans are being held over for a period until the new Budget year begins. One wonders whether this is not perhaps a common experience in Federal and State governments and in various business enterprises.
Everyone has experienced a rush in excess of that budgeted for in the earlier part of the year and has found a lean time towards the end of the year. This is exactly what has happened in this case, through no fault of the Minister and through no fault of any person on either side of the chamber. If there is any fault, I suggest that the Opposition must share equal blame for failing to draw it to the Government’s attention. lt is completely unfair for honourable senators opposite to blame the Minister who has done such an excellent job during the time that she has been Minister for Housing and in charge of war service homes. We all know that the present situation is unfortunate and we regret it. I sincerely regret any delay in obtaining a loan for any man or woman who is entitled to assistance and who has applied for assistance to purchase a home. However, it is not an insuperable problem.
Certain honourable senators opposite have made an incredible accusation about the terms upon which bridging finance can be obtained. It is said that people have to pay 14% or 16%. It is said that bridging finance can be obtained only on the terms of a usurer. In my experience, and in the experience of a large number of other people who have been concerned either directly or indirectly with this matter, the average person is able to obtain bridging finance from either a bank, which could hardly be said to be charging the terms of a usurer, or from a building society which, likewise, could hardly be regarded as charging the terms of a usurer.
We also hud the incredible situation of a completely misinformed statement - it is perhaps typical - being made by an honourable senator opposite to the effect that lawyers are guilty of the most terrible crime of lending money at the terms of a usurer. He shows his complete ignorance of the subject. He does not realise that very few lawyers would be in a position to lend their own money. All they are doing is assisting persons who want to purchase a home to come in contact with organisations which are in a position to lend money. The lawyers act as the intermediary in regard to contacting these organisations. They are not getting personal benefit out of any of the interest which may be charged. Senator O’Byrne implied tonight that the lawyers themselves were making a huge profit. He said that they should stand condemned for their actions in this respect. I say that he should stand condemned for his ignorance.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Sir Magnus Cormack) - Order! The honourable senator will resume his seat. The time allowed for this debate having expired, the Senate will proceed to the business of the day.
Reports on Items
– I present the reports by the Tariff Board on the following subjects:
Gelatine and animal glues.
Man-made fibres and yarn, tyre cord and tyre cord fabric.
In Coin m,t tee
Consideration resumed from 17 March (vide page 336).
Senator COTTON (New South WalesMinister for Civil Aviation) £9.43] - Firstly, I wish to remind honourable senators that the one thing we must not do in the exercise we have been engaged in is forget the primary purpose of the Bill, which is to approve the accession by Australia to the Tokyo Convention on offences and other acts committed on board aircraft and to give effect to the Convention. The Convention was drawn up by the International Civil Aviation Organisation in Tokyo in 1963. It came into force in December 1969 as between the 12 contracting countries which had ratified the Convention at that stage. I said earlier, the purpose of the Bill is to approve the accession by Australia to the Tokyo Convention. Therefore, it would be rather sad if Australia, with its place in aviation, did not show itself to be amongst the countries in the world with a real interest in this particular problem.
When this Bill was before the Committee on 17th March last progress was reported to permit me to have a further look at the matters which were raised by honourable senators during the course of the debate. I hope the comments I am about to make will clear up the queries which were raised on that occasion.
Senator Willesee referred to Clause 9 of the Bill, which provides that if a person who is in custody under this legislation in a State or Territory escapes from that custody he may, after being apprehended, be returned to the custody from which he escaped. The provision that an escapee from custody may be returned to the custody from which he escaped was inserted to ensure that there will be adeqaute flexibility in the treatment of such persons. For example, if a person who escaped from custody in Darwin is recaptured in Sydney and, in the meantime, a deportation order has been issued in respect of him, clearly there would be no point in a requirement that he must be returned to custody in Darwin for deportation if that action could more conveniently be taken in Sydney. Similarly, if the escapee has committed an offence against the Crimes (Aircraft) Act and escaped from custody in Darwin, the trial for that offence can be held in the part of Australia where he is recaptured and if that place is Sydney it may well be more convenient for all persons involved that the trial be held there. The passengers who were witnesses may, for instance, have disembarked at Sydney. No doubt, other examples would occur to the honourable senator, but those I have given should be sufficient to indicate the disadvantages that could flow to, among others, the escapee if the clause had a positive requirement for his return to the original custody.
Senator Byrne inquired whether a party to the treaty has to satisfy the other parties that its municipal law provides suitable sanctions and disciplines which are constant with the sanctions and disciplines in the municipal laws of the other party States. The Convention does not attempt to dictate to member states what their municipal laws are to contain in relation to offences on aircraft or to secure uniformity of laws. Such an attempt would obviously be too ambitious and would be unacceptable to many States. What the Convention does in Article 3 is to impose on each contracting state an obligation to take such measures as may be necessary to establish its jurisdiction as the state of registration over offences committed on board aircraft registered in such state. The details of the legislative procedures and penalties are left to be determined by each contracting state as it thinks fit within the broad scope of this requirement.
However, the trend is for those states which have not yet done so to introduce special anti-hijacking legislation. The United Nations and the International Civil Aviation Organisation, as well as bodies such as the International Air Transport Association, representing the airlines, have urged states to make adequate national laws to make the act of unlawful seizure of aircraft an international offence carrying severe penalties. The legislation could be expected to embrace a wider range of offences than hijacking of aircraft in flight, to include such crimes as placing explosives on an aircraft while on the ground and acts of sabotage against the aircraft or its equipment. I have been informed that Australia’s Crimes (Aircraft) Act covers this sort of offence.
Senator Byrne also referred to the fact that the Convention applies generally to an aircraft only when it is in flight, as defined by Article 1 paragraph 3. The reasons for so limiting the scope of the Convention is that the states attending the Tokyo Conference felt that offences committed on board an aircraft and the powers of the aircraft commander while it was still on the ground could be more appropriately and effectively dealt with under domestic law. These laws of course would normally apply to an aircraft on the ground. In Australia the Crimes (Aircraft) Act deals adequately with offences in respect of aircraft of the categories covered by it. The provisions of that Act apply not only while an aircraft is in flight but also while it is on the ground. I believe that Australian laws are fully effective to deal with such offences as wilful destruction or damage to an aircraft while it is on the ground. For example, Section 12 of that Act makes it an offence to wilfully destroy an aircraft to which Part (iii) of the Act applies, whether the aircraft is on the ground or in flight.
The honourable senator also asked whether other offences such as robbery or drunkenness which could occur on an aircraft were adequately covered by Australian laws. The Crimes (Aircraft) Act 1963 covers this situation in relation to those categories of aircraft to which it applies, namely aircraft - both Australian and foreign - engaged in interstate flights, flights to, from and within the Territories and international flights to and from Australia. Part (ii) of that Act provides that if a person does an act on board such an aircraft which would be an offence against the laws of the Australian Capital Territory if done in the Territory, then he commits an offence against the Crimes (Aircraft) Act. He may be prosecuted for that act in any convenient State or Territory. The powers of the aircraft commander under Article 6 of the Tokyo Convention to take steps, including restraint of a person, to protect the safety of the aircraft or maintain discipline, apply in the case of all offences against penal law and all acts which may jeopardise safety of the aircraft. Similarly, the power conferred on the aircraft commander by Article 9 to deliver a passenger to the authorities where the aircraft lands is applicable in the case of any act done on board the aircraft which in the commander’s opinion is a serious offence under the law of the State of registration of the aircraft.
I have also examined the objections raised to certain clauses of the Bill by Senator Cavanagh and Senator Greenwood. As 1 understand, those honourable senators have some doubts whether the provisions of the Bill as drafted will ensure that persons who are taken into custody are brought before a magistrate as quickly as practicable and may permit those persons to be confined in gaol for long periods. Specifically, the question has been raised whether the phrase :to be held in custody until that person can be brought before a magistrate’, which appears in sub-clause (2.) of clause 7 and sub-clause (2.) of clause 8 of the Bill, would permit a person referred to to be held in custody for a lengthy period or even indefinitely. The clear answer to this question is no. The effect of the words is, 1 am advised, that, once the position is reached that a magistrate is available, the person must be brought before him. If the person is not brought before the magistrate at that time the authority to hold him in custody ceases to exist and, if his custody continues, it becomes unlawful custody. A person in unlawful custody can, of course, apply for a writ of habeas corpus. Further, a person who holds another in custody unlawfully may be held liable to damages in an action for false imprisonment. 1 emphasise that the words of the two subsections are ‘until that person can be brought before a magistrate’ and this is very different from the words ‘until such time as he is brought before a magistrate’ that were used by Senator Greenwood in his speech. However, in order that there can be no possible doubt as to the position, 1 propose to move for Clause 7(2) to be amended to provide that upon accepting delivery of a person delivered in accordance with Article 9 of the Tokyo Convention the authorised person shall cause him to be brought before a magistrate as soon as practicable and to be held in custody until he can be brought before a magistrate.
Similarly, it is proposed that clause 8 (2) be amended to provide that where a suspected hi-jacker has been taken into custody, the authorised person shall cause him to be brought before a magistrate as soon as practicable and to be held in custody until he can be brought before a magistrate to be dealt with in accordance with Clause 13. That clause contains safeguards against unduly long periods of custody by providing that periods of remand must not exceed 7 days and that the magistrate must order release from custody if he is not satisfied that further time is required to determine whether criminal or extradition proceedings should be instituted or a deportation order made. I would also refer to Article 13 paragraph 4 of the Convention, which requires a contracting state to hold a preliminary inquiry immediately upon a person being delivered or taken into custody. The Minister would be answerable politically internationally for any failure to exercise his powers in strict conformity with the Convention. Another matter referred to by Senator Cavanagh was the provision in Clause 10 empowering the magistrate in certain circumstances to take evidence in the absence of the person detained, when making the inquiry provided for by Article 13 of the Convention. I had previously pointed out that Clause 10 sub-clause (3) was a provision intended to prevent the inquiry being thwarted or delayed because the alleged offender has absconded from custody, or refuses to attend the inquiry. My advisers have examined the situation in the light of Senator Cavanagh’s arguments. In order to preserve as far as possible the rule that evidence should be given only in the presence of a person against whom charges may be laid, while at the same time ensuring that the obligation to hold an inquiry is not frustrated by the absence of that person, it is proposed to move an amendment to Clause 10. The amendment is to add an additional sub-clause (4) which states that evidence shall not be taken in the absence of the person who was taken into custody, unless the magistrate is satisfied that there is good reason why that person cannot be present, should not be permitted to be present, or has declined to be present. This clause will enable the magistrate to hear evidence in the person’s absence if, and only if, he is satisfied by proper material that there are good reasons why he should do so. These amendments should, I believe, fully satisfy the doubts expressed by honourable senators in the early stage of the debate. I thank honourable senators for their consideration of this matter and for their advice. I think it will be agreed that some considerable time and effort has been taken to meet, where possible, the objections and queries raised by honourable senators. The amendments refer to clauses 7, 8 and 10 which read in part:
Clause 7. (2.) Where an authorized person accepts delivery of a person under the last preceding subsection, the authorized person shall cause the person so delivered to be held in custody until that person can be brought before a Magistrate to be dealt with in accordance with section 13 of this Act.
Clause 8. (2.) Where an authorized person has reasonable grounds to suspect that a person has committed, or has attempted to commit, an act referred to in paragraph 1 of Article 11 of the Tokyo Convention, the authorized person may cause that person to be taken into custody and to be held in custody until that person can be brought before a Magistrate to be dealt with in accordance with section 13 of this Act.
Clause 10. (1.) The Minister or an authorized person may, by notice in writing, authorize a Magistrate to hold an inquiry for the purposes of paragraph 4 of Article 13 of the Tokyo Convention. (2.) Upon receipt of the notice, the Magistrate shall-
take the evidence of each witness appearing before him to give evidence in the inquiry in like manner as if the witness were giving evidence on a charge against a person for an indictable offence against the law in force in the State or Territory of which he is a magistrate;
cause a record, in writing, to be made of the evidence and certify at the end of the record that the evidence was taken by him; and
cause the record so certified to be sent to the Attorney-General. (3.) The evidence of such a witness may be taken in the presence or absence of the person (if any) in custody in connexion with the circumstances that led to the holding of the inquiry, and the certificate by the Magistrate under the last preceding sub-section shall state whether a person was so in custody and, if so, whether that person was present or absent when the evidence was taken.
– When Ihe Committee commenced considering this Offenders on International Aircraft Bill it was decided to take the Bill as a whole. The Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) has now moved amendments to 3 clauses and he has obtained leave to take them as one amendment. I do not object to this and I am not opposed to the amendments, but I am concerned as to how this applies to the question I raised on a previous occasion. Clause 15 of this Bill has not been amended and no attempt has been made to meet the opposition I expressed earlier to clause 15. Although it is some time since 1 looked at the Bill, the last occasion we were in Committee honourable senators will recall that 1 was then apologising for my apparent inability to get across to the Senate the actual objection 1 had and my inability to put my objection in words. In an effort to clarify the matter Senator Greenwood raised the question of the power to hold in custody a person without bringing him to trial. It is for Senator Greenwood to say, but I would think his objections were adequately met by the proposed amendment to clauses 7 and 8.
I mentioned clause 10 in the debate to advance my argument on clause 15, but at no time did I take objection to clause 10. The Minister has, nevertheless, proposed an amendment to clause 10 to meet what he took to be an objection to that clause and to make it beyond doubt that only in exceptional circumstances will evidence be taken without the presence of the person held in custody. The point I was making necessitates taking a look at clause 10. This covers the position where someone has, in the eyes of the commanding officer of the aircraft, committed an offence against the aviation laws of the country where the plane is registered. This person is held in custody and, at the first port of call of one of the contracting countries he is handed over. To comply with the agreement a man who is handed over in Australia is held in custody and brought to trial as soon as possible. There are difficulties in this. Possibly some of the people are foreigners, and some of the witnesses may be out of the State and not always available. Therefore to see whether there was any validity in the commanding officer’s belief that there was an offence under the aviation laws of a country we have clause 10 which provides:
You will see that it is an inquiry, not a trial- for ihe purposes of paragraph 4 of Article 13 of the Tokyo Convention. (2.) Upon receipt of the notice, the Magistrate shall-
Therefore he takes the evidence as if this was an indictable offence but at that stage it is only a preliminary inquiry -
So the Attorney-General is provided with the evidence that was taken at the preliminary hearing. The clause goes on: (3.) The evidence of such a witness may be taken in the presence or absence of the person (if any) in custody in connection with the circumstances that led to the holding of the inquiry. . . .
The Minister now proposes to amend clause 10 by adding after sub-clause (3.) the following sub-clause: (4.) The evidence shall not be taken in the absence of the person (if any) in custody in connection with the circumstances that led to the holding of the inquiry unless the Magistrate is satisfied that there is good reason why that person cannot be present or should not be permitted to be present or that (hat person has declined to be present.
At a preliminary inquiry evidence may be taken without the presence, no matter for what reason, of the defendant - the person charged - and without the defendant exercising his right to have counsel to crossexamine witnesses or for other purposes. As clause 10 relates to a preliminary hearing on such a difficult subject I am not opposed to it.
Clause 13 relates to the trial of a person brought before a magistrate. However when we turn to clause 15 we find that it applies to proceedings under section 13 of this Act, the Crimes (Aircraft) Act 1963, the Extradition (Commonwealth Countries) Act 1966- 1968 or the Extradition (Foreign States) Act 1966-1968. I am not acquainted with the exact details of the 2 latter Acts but my memory of the discussion in this place on the Crimes (Aircraft) Act is that they relate to crimes against aircraft in flight or on the ground in Australia, and to sabotage or action taken with a disregard for human life. The Crimes (Aircraft) Act provides the death penalty for such crimes. This clause relates to a person who is charged under the Crimes (Aircraft) Act. Although a person so charged has the right of trial in accordance with the provisions of the Crimes (Aircraft) Act, sub-clause (2.) of clause 15 provides:
A document certified by the Attorney-General to be a record of evidence sent to him under subsection (2.) of section 10 of this Act-
That is the evidence that the magistrate has taken which is sent to the AttorneyGeneral, together with a certificate that such evidence was taken by the magistrate irrespective of whether the defendant was in attendance - is admissible in evidence in proceedings to which this section applies and, when admitted, the evidence recorded in it is evidence in the proceedings.
Therefore when the Attorney-General receives the evidence which was submitted at the preliminary hearing that evidence is regarded as evidence in the proceedings under the Crimes (Aircraft) Act which may carry the death penalty. It becomes evidence against the defendant. I point out that this is evidence admitted for the purpose of prosecution, evidence that was taken when the defendant may not have been present or evidence that was taken when the defendant may not have had counsel present and, therefore, was not subject to the normal rules of cross-examination, validity or anything else. That evidence could decide a man’s life.
If I were on a murder charge today and had appeared at preliminary committal proceedings before a lower court to see whether there was a prima facie case to be taken to a higher court, none of that evidence could be submitted to the higher court as evidence for the prosecution against me as the defendant. That is the law of Australia. When it comes to a trial before a jury the evidence which is presented must be subject to cross-examination by my counsel. It has to stand up to the proper test of evidence before a British court. But here we have in legislation relating to crimes which carry the death penalty the right to introduce evidence that was taken at a preliminary hearing when the defendant may not have been present, and such evidence is accepted as evidence in the trial proceedings. I say that this is a breach of all principles of common law and of the rights of the individual.
I regret that when 1 raised this matter on an earlier occasion 1 had difficulty in getting my views understood. I thought that the debate would be adjourned and that the Minister would see me but no meeting took place between us. The Minister’s statement tonight would suggest that he did not consider the implications of my views or my opposition to clause 15 of the Bill. Perhaps even now he may reconsider the position because he has not met the only objection that I raised when the Bill was before us previously.
– I think I may be able to assist Senator Cavanagh. I have no wish to be other than fully considerate of his views. When I was speaking earlier tonight I was a little concerned that I was running out of time. I had only 1 minute left of my 15 minutes and I thought that I had better stop. My notes covered the proposed amendment which has been circulated. As I understand him, Senator Cavanagh is satisfied with those proposed amendments but he expressed concern about clause 15, as he did on the earlier occasion. My advisers believed that Senator Cavanagh’s objections would be covered adequately by the proposed addition of subclause (4.) to clause 10. Now that 1 have a second opportunity to speak 1 shall read to Senator Cavanagh some additional notes that I have. Perhaps they will be of assistance to him and to the rest of us.
Clause 15 provides that in effect a document certified by the Attorney-General to be a record of evidence sent to him under sub-section (2.) of section 10 of the Act is admissible in evidence in proceedings under the Crimes (Aircraft) Act 1963, the Extradition (Commonwealth Countries) Act 1966-68 and the Extradition (Foreign States) Act 1966-68. in addition it is admissible in proceedings under section 13 of the Act to facilitate execution of a warrant for the apprehension of a person or to carry out a deportation order. According to clause 10 (2.) a magistrate holding an inquiry for the purposes of Article 13 of the Tokyo Convention shall take the evidence of each witness in the same manner as evidence is taken on a charge for an indictable offence. The magistrate must cause a record of the evidence to be made and certified and shall send the record to the Attorney-General. It is this record which, after certification by the Attorney-General, is made admissible by clause 15.
The objection raised by Senator Cavanagh stems from the provision in clause 10(3.) that in certain circumstances the evidence of a witness at an inquiry may be taken in the absence of the person, if any, in custody. Senator Cavanagh is concerned that the combined effect of clauses 10 and 15 is that it is possible for evidence given in the absence of a person to be admissible in evidence against him in certain proceedings. As I mentioned, we believe that clause 10, with this new sub-clause (4.), adequately covers the position.
As was pointed out in the previous debate which took place nearly 3 weeks ago, I think, such evidence is not conclusive but is merely evidence which must be assessed, as to its weight and credibility, by the tribunal hearing the case. One of the matters going to the weight of the evidence is whether the person concerned was present when the original statements were made. This is recognised in the Bill itself by clause 10(3.), which provides specifically that the magistrate’s certificate of the evidence must state whether or not the person charged was absent when the evidence was taken.
The new sub-clause (4.) of clause 10, which will be added by the amendment I have proposed, should remove any possible doubts that the provisions of the Bill could result in injustices. I remind honourable senators that this new sub-clause provides that evidence shall not be taken at an inquiry in the absence of a person unless the magistrate is satisfied that there are good reasons why this course should be taken in the particular circumstances of that case. The necessary conditions to be satisfied are set out in the amendment and show quite clearly that only in exceptional circumstances, and only if the magistrate is satisfied that it is proper to do so, will evidence be taken in the absence of the person who was taken into custody. In these circumstances 1 believe that the rights of the individual are adequately preserved and that no further amendment of the Bill is necessary.
It is important that the obligation imposed by the Tokyo Convention to hold an inquiry, and the use of evidence given at that inquiry in later proceedings, should not be frustrated because of the conduct of the person who was taken into custody. For example, he may have been granted bail and have refused to attend or have absconded. He may behave in such a manner at the hearing that the magistrate is obliged to order that he should not be permitted to be present. In these circumstances it is eminently reasonable that the magistrate should have power, if he is satisfied that it is proper to do so, to hear evidence in the absence of that person and that such evidence should be admissible in proceedings of the kind mentioned in clause 15.
For those reasons, having regard to the previous remarks Senator Cavanagh made about clause 15 and the matter having been considered thoroughly, the amendments proposed are the ones that it is believed should fit the case, allow the objections that have been made to be properly met and allow the matter to go forward as soon as possible, because it is believed that it ought lo go forward as soon as possible and it is not thought necessary, nor would we wish, to add any further amendments.
– [ thank the Minister for Civil Aviation for his reply. It conveys clearly to me that at last I have got my point of view before him, that he now understands my objection and that he was concerned about my objection. Obviously it was not right to have a man charged and to use against him evidence that was taken when he was not present. Realising that there was some validity in the objection, the Minister now says that he has adequately covered it with amendments to clause 10 of the Bill, including the new sub-clause (4.) that he intends to add. Obviously he went out of his way to meet the objection. But in fact the amendment does not cover my objection. If my objection was valid enough to justify an amendment and the amendment has not covered the objection and in fact has done nothing to meet the objection but has merely limited the occasions on which the principles of British justice may operate, then the Minister has failed. I again appeal to him to have a look at the matter.
As the Minister appreciates, my objection was that under the Convention it was necessary to have this preliminary hearing to see whether the charge had been made out and sub-clause (3.) provided that evidence could be taken at an inquiry without the defendant being in attendance at all. What the Minister now says is: ‘We will limit the occasions on which evidence can be taken without the accused being in attendance”. He limits them in a new sub-clause which reads:
The evidence shall nol be taken in the absence of the person (if any) in custody in connection with the circumstances that led lo the holding of the inquiry unless the Magistrate is satisfied that there is good rea-on why that person cannot be present or should not be permitted to be present or that that person has declined to be present.
The only time the person will not be present will be when, in the opinion of the magistrate, there is good reason. I agree with the Minister that in accordance with our responsibilities under the Convention a person should not be able to frustrate a preliminary hearing by his refusal to attend, by his behaviour or for any other reason. Therefore, I have no objection to the preliminary hearing and what may be done at the preliminary hearing to see whether a prima facie case has been made out for the taking of further action. I am satisfied that only on rare occasions will evidence be taken without the person accused being in attendance.
But when a prima facie case has been made out at the preliminary inquiry the person will be charged and the penalty may be death. Every man is innocent until he is proved guilty by a council of his peers according to the laws of evidence. The accused has the right to have any accusation submitted to cross-examination by learned counsel for the purpose of establishing whether it can stand up to crossexamination. It is valueless unless it passes that test. In the exceptional case where the accused was not present - and it will be the exceptional case - it will be admissible in those proceedings in which a man is on trial for his life to introduce as evidence something that was taken at the preliminary inquiry, where he was not even present and did not have counsel representing him. The man may be found guilty because someone who is not available to give evidence in those proceedings but is flying an aircraft in another country said such-and-such at the preliminary inquiry. Surely there is a question of human rights here, which needs consideration. I again say that the Minister has not met my objection and that further consideration of this question is necessary.
– The Committee is very indebted to the Minister for Civil Aviation for the way in which he has dealt with the matters that have been raised here. This is an extremely technical Bill. We have indicated already that we are entirely in favour of the objects of the Bill, especially in the light of recent events. Everyone wants to see that these kinds of offences are dealt with in the best manner possible, that there are fairly simple and just methods of bringing suspected offenders to trial and that they are dealt with in a manner that is consonant with their civil liberties and also with the necessity to stamp out these crimes which are becoming more prevalent. I think we are indebted to Senator Cavanagh for having raised this quite important point. I listened very attentively to what the Minister said. Having heard what was raised by Senator Cavanagh, I am still concerned about the matter. It seems to me that the provision in clause 15 (2.) is a very strong one. The clause states:
A document certified by the Attorney-General to be a record of evidence sent to him under sub-section (2.) of section 10 of this Act is admissible in evidence in proceedings to which this section applies and, when admitted, the evidence recorded in it is evidence in the proceedings.
There is no discretion. It is evidence and mandatorily so by force of this clause. The provision is an extremely strong one. As I recall it, some of the Extradition Bills contain provisions which allow for certain types of evidence taken in perhaps unusual ways to be evidence if in the discretion of the tribunal it is admitted.
– By its nature, it could be evidence in exculpation of the accused and which, if denied, might tell against him. It is not necessarily prosecution evidence.
– Not necessarily, but the same could be said about similar provisions in the Extradition Bills. It certainly is not restricted to exculpatory evidence. It could be evidence which goes to his guilt. Clause 15 (1.) states:
This section applies to proceedings under -
section 13 of this Act;
I do not envisage much difficulty with that provision because it merely deals with preliminary proceedings so that the suspect can be dealt with, brought to trial and so on. It does not refer to the trial. I may not be right on this, but I am assuming from a quick look at the Acts that paragraphs (c) and (d) deal similarly with bringing the man to trial. 1 do not envisage any problems with that. I would think that it would be perfectly reasonable to use evidence of this kind to bring the suspected person to trial. Perhaps Senator Cavanagh directed his remarks to (b), relating to the Crimes (Aircraft) Act 1963. 1 do not suggest that I have given this matter a very detailed study, but from a quick look at the Act it seems to me that this would apply not to the preliminary proceedings - not to the proceedings which would enable the suspected person to be moved, held and so on - but to the trial itself. That is what concerns me. I think there is some force in what Senator Cavanagh said.
At the moment I would be disposed to agree to (a), (c) and (d) of the clause, but I am concerned about (b) and as to whether that would allow a provision which is appropriate for preliminary proceedings, or for the movement of people, to be admissible at the trial in Australia. Again I am open to correction. It seems to me that clause 10 deals with a situation in Australia in which the magistrate may hear evidence in the preliminary way, and yet clause 15(l.)(b) deals with a trial in Australia. I do not see much excuse for allowing evidence which has :->een given in a preliminary proceeding - and it could be given in the absence of ihe accused, for whatever reason and however exceptional was the reason to do so - to be used as evidence at the trial. That is what concerns me. At the moment, unless I can be convinced that that provision should be included, I cannot quite see how it fits into the Tokyo Convention. In 1963 we passed an Act to deal with internal matters. Clause 15(l.)(b) does not seem to me to be directed towards the attainment of the ends of the Convention. I am concerned about it. I am not dogmatic about it at all. On the face of it, it seems to me to be quite dangerous. I would like the Minister to convince us that (b) should be adopted. I am satisfied with the other parts of clause 15, but I do not like the inclusion of (b).
– I thank Senator Murphy for his remarks about the consideration that has been given to the Bill. I appreciate the fact, as he mentioned, that the Bill is an extremely complex and technical one. I do not pretend to be a person skilled in the law, but I approach the Bill in the sense that we are being asked to enact legislation to give accession to the Tokyo Convention and to ratify it in the international sense so that our aircraft operations will be safer. I agree completely with him when he says that recent events have caused very great alarm. From the practical point of view, this alarm extends very considerably to me when I think that an extra arm for protection of the Australian aviation industry internationally could be availed of but we are not availing ourselves of it because of what would appear to be points which seem to be - on the advice that I have been given by people who spend their time studying this matter very carefully indeed - covered adequately. I have tried to anticipate the problems and to look at some of the things which it seemed to me that honourable senators might raise. Senator Murphy was good enough to make some very useful comments. He wondered why under clause 15 (1.) (b) the Crimes (Aircraft) Act should be referred to. Perhaps I have oversimplified his language, but I make the comment that the trend in other parts of the world is to introduce legislation to make their own position stronger. We have to understand that in this country we have the Crimes (Aircraft) Act of 1963. It would seem to me rational to ensure that that Act and the present Act are bound together and that the ratification of the Convention in no way delimits our ability to operate our own internal protection system. Perhaps that is a layman’s simplification.
The Bill does not amend any of the provisions of the Crimes (Aircraft) Act. The Bill does not create any offences against Australian criminal laws. It provides machinery whereby Australia’s obligations under the Tokyo Convention are carried into effect. Any prosecution for an offence against the Crimes (Aircraft) Act would be taken by separate proceedings. The only connection between the two measures is that in specified circumstances evidence taken in accordance with the provisions of the Bill may be tendered in evidence. I have some other information to give because I asked a question about the position in relation to penalties. Again I looked at the Bill as a layman. I asked for advice about penalties. The answer that I received to my question was that the Bill does not create any offences or impose any penalties. It authorises accession by Australia to the Tokyo Convention and confers powers for giving effect to the provisions of the Bill in Australia - for example, for restoration of a hijacked aircraft to its commander, for the holding of a preliminary inquiry for the purposes of the Convention and for taking into custody persons who are delivered by the aircraft commander. Evidence taken at inquiries held in accordance with the provisions of the Bill is admissible as evidence in proceedings under the Crimes (Aircraft) Act or in any extradition proceedings. Under clause 13 of the Bill a magistrate is given power to make orders to facilitate the execution of a warrant of arrest in extradition proceedings. Under clause 14 he may issue a warrant for the apprehension of a person who has been remanded on bail and who has not appeared before a magistrate.
These are the only powers conferred by the Bill in relation to the arrest and punishment of persons.
I am unable to carry the matter any further to satisfy the points raised by Senator Murphy. I am quite sure that he entered into this discussion on the basis of trying to help and to improve the Bill. But 1 cannot see that there is anything which I can add or upon which my advisers can make recommendations to me which would allow any changes to the Bill which would add anything or which would necessarily be acceptable. Senator Cavanagh agrees that evidence taken without the accused being present would have very little weight. This would be taken into account by the court which was hearing the case, even though the evidence is strictly admissible. He also agrees that only in a rare case would the provision take effect. Could I suggest to my colleagues that we are involving ourselves in a worthwhile but perhaps unnecessary over-refinement of an examination of a matter which has been gone through very carefully and in respect of which 1 hope - 1 believe correctly - 1 have answered the details and objections which honourable senators have raised in substantial principal. The amendments that have been made seem to all of us to cover the objections that have been raised and, I hope, to cover the points that have been raised. The only other observation 1 would make, as a layman, is that probably it will not be possible for us in this place to achieve ultimate perfection, although naturally we would like to do so. I do not feel that I can carry the matter any further in order to make the situation any stronger or any more realistic than I have done so far.
– I am fully alive to the point which Senator Cavanagh has raised, and if I do not go to the absolute length to which he has gone in expressing his concern, it is not because I do not recognise the real problem which is troubling him. When I first saw these amendments I. felt that they adequately covered the situation, and in one sense I feel they still do, but the way that Senator Cavanagh has raised his point has prompted me to examine again what is contained in these provisions and to give effect to the weight of his remarks.
As I understand Senator Cavanagh, he is concerned that evidence may be adduced in a trial. He is concerned because the evidence which is adduced in a trial is not given by persons who are present in a witness box, who are asked questions and who are cross-examined by counsel for the accused. He is concerned because the evidence which is adduced is evidence which is contained in a document, and that document contains statements which people have made. The statements which those people have made were made conceivably in circumstances where they themselves were not cross-examined at the time they made the statements. Equally conceivably, those statements could have been made in the stress and in the feeling of a catastrophic event. In those circumstances, as I understand Senator Cavanagh, his concern is that evidence obtained in those circumstances may be used in proceedings against a person and that person may bc on trial for an offence for which the punishment is death.
– It is not may be; it is will be.
– I think it is putting it far too highly to say ‘will be’. What I am prepared to recognise is that the possibility does exist, because the range of offences comprehends 2 for which the penalty is death. If the offence with which the person is charged is one of those two offences, then the penalty certainly is death. But when one looks at clause IS of the Bill, to which Senator Cavanagh referred, it is found that the proceedings in which evidence which has been untested may be used as part of the prosecution’s case are proceedings which fit within 4 categories. The first is proceedings under section 13 of the proposed Act, and that would be the section under which a magistrate is entitled to remand the person for a further period of up to 2 months or order that he be deported or extradited. The second category is the Crimes (Aircraft) Act of 1963, and that, as I understand it, is the particular Act about which Senator Cavanagh is concerned, because sections 13 and IS of that Act prescribe offences which are declared to be indictable offences punishable by death. Section 13 of that Act provides:
A person who destroys an aircraft to which this Part applies with intent to cause the death of a person or with reckless indifference to the safety of the life of a person is guilty of an indictable offence punishable by death.
Section 15 provides:
A person who does an act or thing capable of prejudicing the safe operation of an aircraft to which this Part applies:
with intent to prejudice the safe operation of that aircraft; and
with intent to cause the death of a person or with reckless indifference to the safety of the life of a person is guilty of an indictable offence punishable by death.
It would appear to me that there is no question that evidence obtained in this way, possibly untested, could be used as evidence in those proceedings. The third and fourth categories under clause 15 are extradition proceedings. The evidence could be used as material evidence upon which a court could be satisfied to make an extradition order. I am concerned only with the provisions of the Crimes (Aircraft) Act and whether it is a fair thing that untested evidence should be available to be used as evidence in proceedings for which a person, if he is found guilty, will be sentenced to death. I do not think there is any absolute right which could be postulated, that a person on trial, even where the penalty is death, is entitled to cross-examine every witness, because there could be circumstances in which that cross-examination could not take place, and it would be an unfair trial if the evidence given was not available to be tested by a jury and given due weight.
The type of situation I have in mind is where a witness, having given his evidence, becomes ill and is unable to continue giving further evidence, or, having given his evidence, behaves in such a way that his evidence is not liable to be cross-examined. I know that in circumstances like that the general tendency of the presiding judge would be to say that evidence of that character, though it has been given and the jury has heard it, shall not be taken into account by the jury at all. But it is always subject to the discretion of the judge. I think it is taking it too far to postulate as an absolute the proposition which Senator Cavanagh has made. But I visualise, in the circumstances which are involved in clause 15 and the application of that untested evidence, the following situation or type of situation: An aircraft is brought down by the commander after an offence has occurred on the aircraft. Under the proposed Act and the Tokyo Convention, there is a requirement that there should be an immediate examination by the magistrate. The magistrate must hold the inquiry immediately because there are passengers on the aircraft who could be proceeding to some other place and it is desirable to have that evidence taken immediately. It may be that the passengers are ill. They may have been involved in some accident and it could be necessary that their evidence be taken as soon as possible.
– How does the provision in clause 13 relate to the Crimes (Aircraft) Act? That is the one which seems to be troubling us, because there the magistrate hears the proceedings in Australia and the trial takes place in Australia.
– You mean clause 15?
– I am thinking rather of clause 10, because the evidence which is taken under clause 10 becomes evidence by force of section 15, and the evidence under clause 10 would certainly be evidence taken in Australia but it conceivably would be evidence taken from witnesses who were passengers on the aircraft who had landed in Australia and who desired to move off to some other place.
– -But if the accused was not there it seems a very serious matter to say that that will be admitted on the trial of the accused. That is what is concerning us.
– I appreciate the concern of Senator Murphy in this area and 1 would share it. As 1 understand him, what he is saying is that it is a serious matter if the accused person is not there when this evidence is taken from a witness. That is the concern I share and 1 think that was the type of matter which was before the Senate when this Bill was last being considered in Committee. The new amendment which the Minister has proposed, apart from one matter to which I will draw his attention in a moment, appears to me to cover the practical situations. Sub-clause (3.) of clause 10 states with regard to the evidence of these witnesses:
The evidence of such a witness may be taken in the presence or absence of the person (if any) in custody in connexion with the circumstances that led to the holding of the inquiry, and the certificate by the Magistrate under the last proceeding sub-section shall state whether a person was so in custody and, if so, whether that person was present or absent when the evidence was taken.
This inquiry, of course, under the terms of the Convention is an inquiry into the facts and one might almost assume that it will be the case - but it is not necessary - that a person is in custody. Ordinarily that person should be present in accordance with fairness and the standard rules under which our courts have long operated. As the Bill originally stood there was no such requirement. That is where the amendment does improve the situation tremendously, lt reads:
The evidence shall not be taken in the absence of the person (if any) in custody in connection with the circumstances that led to the holding of the inquiry unless the Magistrate is satisfied that there is good reason why that person cannot be present or should not be permitted to be present or that that person has declined to be present.
I think that that is an all embracing and comprehensive explanation of the circumstances when a person would not be present. I would, however, suggest for the attention of the Minister and of the Senate that it would be undoubtedly strengthened if the words ‘on reasonable grounds’ were added after the word ‘satisfied’. 1 say that because as the amendment reads the magistrate may be satisfied on quite unreasonable grounds that there is good reason why a person cannot be present or should not be permitted to be present or that a person has declined to be present. As I understand the rules upon which the courts entitled to review decisions of magistrates operate, when a magistrate has so made a decision it is unquestioned unless there are established facts which as a matter of practice it is very difficult to establish. But if the words ‘on reasonable grounds’ are inserted then those reasonable grounds are matters which an appeal court - a review court - can take into account and for its own part determine whether the magistrate was entitled to come to that decision. I would have thought that if one is concerned with the practicalities of the situation and not prepared to postulate as an absolute what Senator Cavanagh has postulated as an absolute an amendment of that character which would add those 3 words would satisfy the position as I view it.
– What standard of proof do you think an appellate court would insist on for compliance with this provision at the preliminary hearing?
– I would have thought that the standard of proof as to whether the magistrate has been or has not been satisfied would be the ordinary civil standard.
– Would you think that that would be sufficient?
– I expressed an opinion.
– You have a person in custody, have you not?
– You have a person in custody but the standard that it must be shown beyond a reasonable doubt does not appear to be the appropriate standard, because it is not a question of whether or not a person is guilty or not guilty of an offence. It is merely one of the steps whereby a determination is made whether evidence should or should not be admitted. If the Minister would give his attention to that matter and if it otherwise appeals to the Senate, the addition of those words would, to my mind, overcome what I conceive to be the problems raised in my mind by what Senator Cavanagh has said. I appreciate the point that Senator Cavanagh is making but I feel that there are occasions when the practical situation does require that evidence be taken in these particular circumstances and be available as evidence in proceedings even though the question of the death penalty does arise. Whatever evidence is taken will always be given due weight and I must say, as I think Senator Cavanagh has conceded, that the weight given to untested evidence is certainly less than the weight that is given to tested evidence.
– Having listened carefully to what has been said, what Senator Greenwood has put seems to me to be an improvement, that is, if those words were inserted so that in the first place the evidence would not be taken in this way in the absence of the person charged except where there were reasonable grounds. That seems to be an added and sensible precaution and I would invite the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) to consider it. It is a minor but very helpful modification to the amendments which he has moved. But Senator Byrne suggested by way of interjection at one stage that the evidence that was being procured in this way even in the absence of the accused or the person charged might be evidence that was helpful to him and might be in his favour. It may be that that could be met by some condition such as a proviso to clause 15 somewhat in these terms: ‘Provided that in proceedings under the Crimes (Aircraft) Act 1963 the evidence recorded shall not be admitted without the consent of the person charged’.
What I think is worrying us is the very strong effect of clause 15 (2.) which says that the evidence shall be admissible and that it is evidence. There is no discretion and it may be that the provision should be altered by introducing a discretion, perhaps by using the word ‘may’ and then inserting words like ‘for special reasons’ and ‘on special grounds’. On those conditions the evidence would be admitted and be evidence in the proceedings. Then one could excuse what seems to be a very great departure from the ordinary run of criminal proceedings, that is, that material taken in the absence of the person charged could be used as evidence against him. When certified, it is evidence even though in his absence there would be no crossexamination and so forth even to the point where his life may depend upon it. This is what is troubling us. There really ought to be far more precaution. Not even the tribunal itself could prevent this from being evidence. It is true that we do not know the nature of the tribunal. It is true that it may discount the evidence, but this is not the way in which the legislation is framed. We are grateful to the Minister for the way in which he has approached the matter. Perhaps if something along the lines I have suggested could be done we would be able to resolve the difficulty. We are all trying to reach a point at which there is a balance between justice to the persons charged and the necessity to ensure that there is no undue impediment to bringing them to trial. As to the trial itself, we ought to be leaning towards ensuring that the ordinary defences that have been built up over the years are preserved. I refer to the protections to accused persons that exist in respect of any other charges, especially capital charges.
– I wish to put forward a suggestion slightly different from that put forward by Senator Greenwood. It seems to me to be preferable to overcome the problem referred to by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) and the problem referred to by earlier speakers in this debate. 1 think it preferable that the decision to be made as to the admissibility or otherwise of evidence should be in the discretion of the trial judge. To bring that about it would be necessary to place the provision as to the exercising of discretion in clause 1 5 (2.). The provision could be to the effect that in respect of evidence which may be placed before a trial judge, there is a discretion as to whether he admits it having regard to grounds such as fairness to an accused person. This then leaves it open to an accused person upon his trial to be able to take whatever points are able to be taken and to put before a trial judge points as to fairness or otherwise in the taking of the original evidence.
– 1 agree with you about discretion, but surely when we are dealing with matter taken in the absence of the person charged it should be rather a discretion on some special grounds, rather than on ordinary grounds.
– It may be necessary to spell out in clause 15(2.) in greater detail the basis upon which discretion should be exercised. I have not had time to think this point through to a stage where I could suggest the exact wording. At present I am speaking on a matter of principle rather than a matter of detail. 1 think that perhaps Senator Murphy is getting deeper into the question than I have done. In general I would prefer to see the matter approached from the point of view I have stated. Where is it preferable that there be an exercise of discretion? ls it better to have an argument as to whether a magistrate had reasonable grounds, or is it better to have an argument on the usual basis of fairness to an accused person, which opens up all the arguments which can be put, without limiting the discussion to reasonable grounds but involving the matter of what, in the exercise of a judge’s discretion which is appealable, he thinks should be admitted or should not be admitted in the particular circumstances of a trial? For that reason I suggest for consideration that another provision be included in clause 15 (2.) for the exercise of discretion, with any proper guidelines, that should be mentioned, by the trial judge.
– I wish to say a few words because I am a little concerned that the Minister has suggested that I agreed that there was very little weight in an argument in which in fact I thought there was great weight. Since I took this matter up we have attracted the legal profession into the debate. I think honourable senators who are members of that profession have done a wonderful job in pointing out matters which I have not the capacity to solve.
– You often attract the legal profession.
– I get the inquiring minds working and by that means 1 may achieve something that I want to achieve. However, I very much doubt that some honourable senators who have entered the debate place as high a value on the rights of the individual as I do. I would have thought that members of the legal profession, who are so accustomed to protecting individuals, would place a higher value on the rights of the individual than has been indicated by their remarks. I appreciate the difficulties that may be involved in bringing a witness from overseas or in holding an inquiry when witnesses may be available in Australia for only a short while, but rather than trespass on the rights of the individual I would prefer not to use the evidence. It is inherent in the British system of justice that 9 guilty persons may go free rather than 1 innocent person be convicted. Under this proposed legislation evidence may be taken at a preliminary trial without being tested by cross-examination and in the absence of an accused person. I say that it should not be possible to convict an individual if there is any possibility of unfairness in his trial.
Where a person is accused of murder it could happen that a witness at the committal proceedings would then leave for England. In that case, when the accused person came to trial I am sure that that witness would be brought back to give evidence and no attempt would be made to secure a conviction simply on the basis of evidence given at the committal proceedings. I am asking that similar protection be extended through this legislation. I understand that the Tokyo Convention does not create offences. The offences are provided for in Acts of Parliament of the contracting states. While we have no power to alter the agreement, we do have power to alter the legislation we introduce for the purpose of adopting the agreement.
The relevant power stems from the Crimes (Aircraft) Act of 1963. The agreement provides that if in the opinion of the commanding officer of an aircraft an offence has been committed against the laws of the State where the aircraft was registered, the offender shall be detained on landing at an airport of the first contracting state. He shall be handed over in custody and the contracting state will try the accused person in accordance with the agreement. It could happen that in the opinion of a commanding officer of an aircraft bound for Japan an Australian committed an offence against the provisions of the Crimes (Aircraft) Act. It may be possible to try the offender in Japan for an offence against the provisions of the Crimes (Aircraft) Act of 1963, but not against any Japanese Act, or to have him extradited to Australia. But this legislation provides that an offence must be against the laws of the country of registration of the aircraft. Clause 10 of the Bill provides that certain evidence may be taken in the absence of an accused person or without being tested by cross-examination, and that is the subject of our complaints. I notice that another legal luminary has just entered the chamber. I hope that he will be attracted to enter this debate as other members of his profession have been attracted. As Senator Murphy has pointed out, a contracting state has obligations in respect of a preliminary hearing because of the provisions of clause 1 3.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Temporary Chairman do now leave the Chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative. (The Temporary Chairman having reported accordingly) -
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to raise once again a matter concerning operations of certain stockbroking firms in Western Australia and the attitude taken by the Stock Exchange in Perth to the operations of those firms of stockbrokers. I realise that this is a matter which is not directly under the authority of this Parliament, and I realise also that it is a matter which will no doubt be dealt with in the reasonably near future by the Senate select committee which will be appointed to inquire into stock exchange operations in Australia. However, I wish to raise this matter because I believe that the Senate, in considering some very important problems relating to our economy, should be aware of what has been happening in Western Australia, particularly as regards the attitude which has been adopted by firms of stockbrokers in the city of Perth to small investors and the lack of action by the Stock Exchange of Perth to protect those small investors who wish to participate, whether wisely or unwisely, in what they regard as being a profitable market in stocks and shares in those companies which are, or have been until very recently, making considerable profits out of the extraction of Australian mineral wealth.
I have received a letter dated 20th March from Mr K. W. Bates of Post Office residence, Boulder, Western Australia. As I believe that this letter speaks for itself, I should like to read itto the Senate. Out of modesty I shall not inflict the first 2 paragraphs on the Senate because these are largely given over to commendations of my own virtues which, although I am sure that Senator Wright would be interested to hear them, are not strictly relevant to the matter in hand. Mr Bates writes:
Some weeks ago I desired to buy 3,000 Seeko Nickel NL shares at 20c on the original issue. I was notified through Press and personal contacts that stockbroker R. M. Black and Associates would be handling the issue. I applied to R. M. Black and Associates for a prospectus, well before opening date, by 3 channels.
I completed theprospectus and forwarded it immediately with my cheque. I followed this up with telegraphic advice to Seeko that the application was forwarded.
The fact that I missed out on the original issue is now past history. What annoyed me was the total ignoring of my requests by Black and Associates. I wrote a letter of complaint to Blacks which has also been ignored.
I then wrote to the Stock Exchange in Perth, protesting that I was given no chance in the original issue through Blacks handling of thecase. The reply from the Stock Exchange is abrupt to the point of rudeness and I attach a copy for your information.
I again wroteto the Stock Exchange protesting their attitude, and my protect was once again rejected - copy of this is also attached.
One is left with the feeling of beating one’s head against a brick wall (of big businessmen) and getting nowhere. Surely the firm has failed to honour their commitment. When an issue is announced everyone should be given a chance to apply, even if the powers that be may have already decided who is going to get the issue.
A letter from the chairman of Seeko tells me thatknowing what it is like with other issues handled by brokers I don’t deal with personally, it is almost impossible to receive an allocation from them, andI would imagine that R. M. Black’s allocations, whichI might add were restricted by my Board to a maximum of 200 shares per person, would definitely have gone to his trading clients’.
If I may interpolate, that is from the chairman of the Seeko company who personally said that this is the position which is taken by stockbrokers, that they allocate shares of this nature to their own clients and do not make them fully available to people who wish to invest on the open market in companies of this kind. The letter from Mr Bates continued:
With the large number issued, it is only natural to wonder how many of his ‘clients’ received 200, and who else got them.
Owing to the present system of blocking the little man adopted by these stockbrokers (shortage of time and staff is rubbish - we all have those problems and still provide a service). . . .
J shall not read the remainder of Mr Bates’ letter because 1 believe that he has set out the facts. However. I shall read the letter dated 3rd March 1970 from Mr J. Verreck for G. P. Tomlinson, Acting Secretary of the Stock Exchange, Perth, in which he says
Re your letter of 27th February 1970. The facts as you have staled in your endeavour to acquire shares in the new flotation of Seeko Nickel NL are by no means uncommon. Surely you must consider it rather selfish to expect a film to accommodate you when you are not even a client of that firm. In the light of the above, I am sure you will agree that really there is nothing to follow up in this case. Thank you, however, for your inquiry.
I should like to comment on this letter that if we are saying that there is an open market in shares in Australia, if we are saying that whatever wealth there is to be derived from the boom which is taking place in Australia is available to everyone, what an absurd and preposterous piece of effrontery is this letter from the Stock Exchange in which it is said that it is unreasonable for any person to acquire shares unless he is already a client of a stockbroking firm. That is to say that unless one is already established as an investor, one is never going to become an investor; that only those people who in the past have participated in share issues are going to be able to participate in future, if the Stock Exchange has anything to do with it. The second letter written by the secretary of. the Stock Exchange to Mr Bates is dated 6th March 1970. it reads as follows:
I have discussed your letter of 5th March with my Vice-Chairman who has instructed me to reply to you as follows. It is well appreciated that with the present interest in nickel and mineral flotations very many people endeavour to receive an allotment from each new flotation. As is required under the listing requirements of the Australian Associated Stock Exchanges, brokers handling the flotations endeavour to make as wide as possible distribution of the shares as is practical. The present demand, however, precludes satisfaction for all applicants.
Again, ifI. may interpolate, the secretary of the Stock Exchange is saying that the endeavour is to make as wide as possible a participation in the shares that are available, when clearly in his own previous letter and in the letter from Blacks this is not the case. They are not trying to make as wide as possible participation in the issue of shares; they are taking care to see that only those people who are established purchasers of shares through stockbrokers will be able to purchase shares in future. This is not as wide as possible; this is as narrow as possible. The letter continues:
It is regretted that you cannot understand the brokers protecting their established clientele.
This would seem to contradict the previous paragraph. It continues: but it is surely only a matter of sound business practice to protect, in the first instance, those clients who have long term established contacts with the broker handling an issue. Similarly, the broker endeavours to offer as many shares as is practicable-
Whatever that may mean - to other brokerage houses so that the clients of those houses can participate in the issue. The individual allotments are made subject to the directors approval and the brokers are endeavouring to spread the new flotations as widely across the market as they can. Notwithstanding their endeavour in this field, there will always be some investors who are not fortunate enough to receive an allocation.
There will be some investors who will never be fortunate enough to receive an allocation if the policy of serving only established clients is followed. The letter continues:
We note your remarks that you will take this matter up with the Press and possibly your local member. We regret that you find the circumstances such as to justify this action but of course we concede as your privilege.
Having received this correspondence from
Mr Bates I sent copies of it to R. M. Black and Associates and the Stock. Exchange of Perth. I do not wish to read the reply from R. M. Black and Associates, which is, in general terms, the same as the reply from the Vice-Chairman of the Perth Stock Exchange. The Vice-Chairman’s letter, which is dated 3rd April 1970, states:
Thank you for your letter of 1st April 1970.
Mr K.. W. Bates’s second letter to the Exchange dated 5th March 1970, was referred tothe writer for investigation. His findings revealed no irregularity under the Companies Act 1962-68 or the Rules and Regulations of the Stock Exchange of Perth.
It is regretted that a busy person such as yourself should be harassed by the pique of an individual, but undoubtedly this is one of the day to day hazards of ahard working politician’s life.
You may rest assured that this Exchange does endeavour to maintain an orderly and equitable market at all times. However, you will also readily appreciate that much of a market boom or crash is based on human emotion, greed, fear and panic have all been seen in the market from time to time. No legislation, statutory or voluntary can control these human factors.
The Exchange does endeavour (as you will undoubtedly appreciate) to minimise the effect of these influences as best as is humanly possible.
The letter is signed by Bernard A. Wright, Vice-Chairman of the Stock Exchange of Perth. I could not agree more with him, that when one examines the capitalist system in general and, in particular, in stock exchanges one finds that greed, fear and panic are seen in the market from timeto time. In fact,I think we are seeing the signs of the latter very clearly at the moment. The point Mr Wright is endeavouring to make, ifI follow him correctly, is that the purpose of the Stock Exchange is in some strange way to prevent greed, fear and panic from influencing the market. If this is the case one can only conclude that one is at a disadvantage in being one of its clients because if one is one of its clients the Stock Exchange will sell one the shares when one asks for them, thereby allowing one to become involved in this greed, fear and panic. The Slock Exchange is so altruistic that it will protect those people who are not its clients and save them from greed, fear and panic, but the Stock Exchange will not save its clients from greed, fear and panic. This is one of the most specious and absurd arguments I have ever read. If greed, fear and panic are involved why will the Stock Exchange allocate shares only to certain people who have established accounts with it and who, I should imagine, are substantial buyers of shares.
I do not think there is a great dealto add in relation to this matter, but I believe that the attention of the Senate should be drawn to the fact that, although we are supposed to be operating in a free market economy where it is said that the strength of the present euphemistically described private enterprise system is that everybody can participate in this great wealth and that the day of the single capitalist or the small oligarchy controlling a group of combines is gone, that everybody can now share in the risks, adventure, profits, losses, panic, greed - it is open to all - as we have now discovered from R. M. Black and Associates and the Stock Exchange of Perth, the only people who can share in the greed, panic and fear are their own established clients. If greed, panic and fear are such desirable qualities that they are to be reserved only for established clients I believe action should be taken to ensure that every citizen has the same right to participate in the greed, panic andfear as has been available to the stockbrokers and their friends so that everybody may suffer the same dire consequences from this greed, panic and fear as Mr Hancock and Mr Wright, to name 2 prominent citizens of Western Australia.
– I shall not detain the Senate for long.
On a couple of occasions in the last year or so when honourable senators have asked questions in this chamber they have found that, by design or otherwise, the wrong information has been given. I wish to refer to question upon notice No. 1432, which was answered on 23rd September 1969 by the then Minister representing the Minister for National Development in this chamber. That person is no longer a Minister. The question and answer appear at page 1173 of Hansard of 23rd September 1969. I have received information from Western Australia which indicates that either the Minister gave the wrong information in this chamber on this occasion or he was given the wrong information by the Western Australian Government. Either way, a mistake was made and I think it should be corrected. In order that 1 will not detain the Senate for long, with the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate the Hansard record of question No. 1432 and the reply to it.
(Question No. 1432)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Royalties payable by Amax Bauxite Corporation to the Western Australian Government under the Alumina Refinery (Mitchell Plateau) Agreement Act (No. 22) of 1969) will be:
The royalty payable will increase or decrease proportionately to the increase or decrease in the mean quarterly world selling price of aluminium above or below $A500 per ton (the mean quarterly world selling price of aluminium is the average expressed in $A’s of the four prices first listed in the London Metal Bulletin in respect of Canadian primary aluminium 99.5% purity f.o.b. Toronto in each of the four quarters immediately preceding the quarter in respect of which the royalty return is required).
in relation to clay and other minerals (other than bauxite) mined by the company from the mineral lease, royalties will be payable under the relevant provisions of the Western Australian Mining Act.
Amax Bauxite Corporation currently holds a number of temporary reserves in Western Australia for the purpose of extracting bauxite. None of these are being mined at the present moment. When these reserves are converted to a mineral lease under the provisions of the Alumina Refinery (Mitchell Plateau) Agreement Act 1969, there will be no encroachment on any Aboriginal reserves. Royalties when collected from the company will be paid into the State Consolidated Revenue Fund’.
The main part of my question concerned whether the Aboriginals who have tribal title to the Cape Bougainville area in Western Australia which is being mined will receive any portion of the royalty and, if so, what percentage. I shall read one section of the Minister’s reply. He said:
I have since received a letter from Mr Stan Davey, who is a field research officer with the Aborigines Advancement League of Victoria. He has been in Western Australia for a considerable period of time. His letter, which is dated 18th March 1970, states:
Wondering if you are aware that the WA authorities appear to have provided you with incorrect or incomplete information in answer to your questions on Amax royalties, September 23rd.
On 16.7.69 the ‘Western Australian’ reported: The Amax Bauxite Corporation last week applied for 80 mining tenements totalling 271 square miles at Cape Bougainville. All the claims are in the Kimberley native reserve which covers the whole of the 275,000 acre cape north of Admiralty Gulf. . . . Native Welfare Minister Lewis-
Who is, of course, the Western Australian minister - said: ‘We decided a more practical way would be to excise the area needed by Amax, lt will be treated as if it were a reserve and royalties will therefore be applicable.’
On 13.8.69 when the excisions were recommended for approval the ‘West Australian’ reported, page 31, ‘Native Welfare Commissioner F. E. Gare said that in cases such as this the Department did not protest because a proportion of any royalties would be paid into a special fund’.
Mr Davey went on to say:
The reply to your question staled categorically: There will be no encroachment on any Aboriginal reserves. Royalties when collected from the company will be paid into the State consolidated revenue fund’.
On the basis of this reply I circulated a statement that the WA Government was not arranging for Amax to pay royalties into a special fund from its mining operations at Cape Bougainville.
The Minister took the trouble to have the ‘West’ publish a letter, 25th December 1969, rebutting the circular. He claimed: ‘The fact is that it was an integral part of the arrangement governing this excision that the total amount of the normal royalties payable by Amax in respect of minerals mined in the excised area are to be paid into a special trust fund to be used for Aboriginal advancement.’
As far us I am able to ascertain there is still no set royally declared for mining on Aboriginal reserves in WA and no cash in this ‘special fund’ allegedly established in 1966.
Mr Davey then wrote the following letter to the West Australian’, which was published: lt is pleasing to be assured by Native Welfare Minister Lewis that ‘it was an integral part of the arrangement governing this excision (from Admiralty Gulf Aboriginal Reserve) that the total amount of the normal royalties payable by Amax Bauxite Corporation in respect of mineral mined in ihe excised area is to be paid into a special fund for Aboriginal advancement’.
Mr Davey then goes on the include in his letter a quotation of the reply which I received from Senator Scott on 23rd September 1969. He then asks:
Why no mention of the ‘special trust fund’? Amax’s application for 27 square miles of the reserve was recommended by the Wyndham Mine Warden’s Court on August 12 and was unopposed by the Native Welfare Department because ‘a proportion of any royalties would be paid into a special fund’.
He asked finally:
Has the Senate been incompletely informed?
In all sincerity I ask whether the Minister will get to the basis of this information which has now been supplied and find out what happened in the first place. Was the then Minister misinformed, did the Western Australian Government decide to give him false information, or did it even get lost somewhere along the line? In my view when so much money is involved, when tribal land is involved, and a very large proportion of Western Australia is involved the information ought to be accurate. This could quite easily happen in any other Stale. I seek this information. 1 am afraid that if it cannot be found out in a reasonable time this will have to be carried very much further because, if false information has been given at either a Federal or State level this verges on a scandal.
[1J.2IJ - In reply to Senator Keeffe, I think the best suggestion I would make concerning the points he has raised would be that I would discuss this matter with the Minister in charge of Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Wentworth) who, I know, is always particularly concerned about tribal lands. 1 think, from the opening remarks made by the honourable senator, 2 Ministers were involved - the M’inister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs and also the Minister for National Development.
– The Minister for National Development gave the reply, but I think it would be applicable to both.
– I will take the points up with the MinisterinCharge of Aboriginal Affairs and obtain whatever information 1 can for you. If there is other information required from the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) this will be obtained, I know, by my colleague who represents him in this House.
– I just want to say that so far as the Department of National Development is involved I will make inquiries and obtain the information for the honourable senator.
– I refer to the remarks made by Senator Wheeldon. It is quite obvious that this is an irresponsible and puerile performance on the part of the honourable senator. He intrudes into the Senate discussion a matter which is not within our jurisdiction at all. He endeavours to put before us a principle that is completely vacuous. When a company goes to flotation it is entirely within the company’s discretion as to the amount of shares it will offer, or the number of shares, and whether it will make an offer to the public, or negotiate by private treaty. For the honourable senator petulantly now, when I begin to speak, to walk out of the chamber simply shows his absence of responsibility which fails to contain either his logic or his argument.
When a company goes to flotation it is for the company to arrange with its brokers the terms upon which shares shall be placed. It may provide for shares to be offered at$ 1,000 each or it may be that it will arrange for its shares to be of 20c. The company may obtain a better placement by saying to an individual broker: ‘Underwrite my issue and you place the shares to the best advantage that you can.’ Or the company may say: ‘Go for a full public flotation.’ Then it is for the broker to say with whom he will get in touch for the purpose of securing a placement of the shares. Once he obtains offers on an original placement from members of his own trading clientele or for the public it is entirely within the right of the company to accept applications for allotments from A, B, C, and D and reject X and Y without giving any reason at all. If a company is considering not an original placement of shares on flotation but an issue of shares on a subsequent date the same principles apply. Then if the company is considering a broker’s obligations not on the original placement of shares but upon a retainer to sell shares in an existing market it may be that AB holds 100,000 shares and asks the broker to sell them. Obviously the broker would, as any businessman would, get in touch with his own trading contacts in the first place because they have established confidence with him.
For the honourable senator to obtrude upon our attention terms of trade which so obviously are untenable that the moment I rise to contradict them he walks out in a spirit of petulance is, to me, a waste of the time of the Senate upon the motion for adjournment. I feel I am entitled to speak plainly in my response to what we heard from Senator Wheeldon tonight.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.27 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 April 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1970/19700408_senate_27_s43/>.