27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack)took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Last Thursday the Leader of the Government in the Senate tabled a paper relating to the salaries, fees and allowances of statutory office holders. I think it would meet the convenience of honourable senators if the information were published in Hansard. I ask whether this could be done.
– Yes. it could be done. It would need only a motion in the normal sense to have the informat ion incorporated. With the concurrence of honourable senators, I seek leave to incorporate the information in Hansard.
– -Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
SALARIES AND ANNUAL ALLOWANCES FOR PERMANENT HEADS, CHIEFS OF STAFF AND STATUTORY OFFICE HOLDERS
– Has the attention of the Attorney-General been drawn to reports that the Iowa Supreme Court in the United States of America has upheld a verdict of guilty against a Mr Glen W. Turner of violating the State’s consumer fraud laws? Is he aware that this Mr Turner now faces prosecution in 30 states of America? Is he also aware that the same Mr Turner whose conviction relates to pyramid selling was in Australia in April and again this month to launch a pyramid selling company known as Koscot (Aust.) Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of his company Koscot Interplanetary Incorporated, and that this group is operating extensively in New South Wales, Victoria and
Queensland? In the circumstances will the Attorney-General confer with the Ministers of Justice of those 3 States regarding the operations of Koscot (Aust.) Pty Ltd to ensure the protection of the Australian people from snide, quick profit selling methods? Will he also confer with his colleague, the Minister for Immigration, to see what restrictions can be placed on the entry into Australia of people of such poor reputation and obvious motives as Mr Turner?
– I have seen the report which appeared in one of the weekend newspapers. I imagine that that is the basis upon which the honourable senator’s question is asked. I am unaware of what the laws of the State of Iowa provide and I am unaware of what precise offences this gentleman has committed. My information is limited to what appeared in the newspaper article. I am having inquiries made to ascertain, as far as I can, what are the laws which he has offended and to see whether an offence has been committed in Australia which would be capable of being sheeted home to anyone who is engaged in unfair trading practices or whether such a law could be introduced in Australia. Apart from that, allI can say is that I am looking into the matter and I will form such views as I can after I have seen the material at first hand.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. As gifts of money in respect of school building appeals are deductible for income tax purposes, will the Treasurer consider extending that benefit in respect of gifts of books to school libraries and gifts of teaching aid equipment? If the Treasurer decides against such an extension can he be requested to inform the Senate as to the reasons for that decision?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONAs I have indicated on other occasions when items related to budgetary considerations have been mentioned, this matter would have to be examined by the Treasurer. No doubt when he examines it he will respond to the question and in his response, which will come through the Senate, he will reflect upon the reasons why the decision has been made.
– I ask a question of the
Leader of the Government in the Senate. What control has the Government placed over our civil aid to South Vietnam to ensure that the money does not go to military use rather than to help to rebuild that shattered and unfortunate nation? Is there any check on the way in which Australian aid is spent, or is it merely handed over to the Saigon regime to allow that undemocratic government to maintain itself in office at the expense of the ordinary people’s welfare?
– Perhaps the question could have been directed more appropriately to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. As a general rule we have posts in countries to which we give aid, and it would be one of the considerations of our representatives in such countries to report to the Government on the implication and the application of the aid that Australia gives. I would have no doubt in my mind that there would not be any differential in the approach adopted to any country, be it South Vietnam or any other country. Where Australian aid is given there are procedures to ensure that that aid is directed in the way in which the Government intended that it be directed.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Due to the fact that Connair Pty Ltd is unable to cope with the increasing volume of parcel mail on its scheduled Arnhem Land flights, will the Postmaster-General endeavour to make special provisions to ensure that all Christmas mail in the Northern Territory will be delivered on time?
-I am unable to give any information about the difficulties associated with the delivery of mail in the Northern Territory. I appreciate the urgency with which the honourable senator addressed this question. I will convey it to the Postmaster-General and endeavour to get an early answer for the honourable senator.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, by saying that no doubt he is aware that the entries for the telephone directory for the northwest area of Tasmania closed on 1st May this year, yet 7 months later this book is not available. Can the Minister inform the Senate when this directory for the northwest area of Tasmania will be available to subscribers?
– I shall endeavour to obtain as soon as possible an answer from the Postmaster-General. I am unable to answer the question from my own knowledge.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. As a black ban has been placed upon 5 farmers on Kangaroo Island by some trade unions because nonunion labour was employed during shearing, will the Attorney-General make inquiries to see whether any legal action can be taken to assist these farmers to defend their rights and freedoms against the militant actions of these trade unions?
– I have become aware of the fact that black bans have been imposed by certain union organisations which apparently would deny to certain persons the right to engage in freedom of employment, which right has long been one of the things for which the trade union movement has fought.I think that not only is it a denial of ordinary freedoms of people to prevent them from continuing in their employment but also it is denial of what every Australian should regard as something basic to his country’s future and something which he would desire to protect. That honourable senator asks me whether there is any legal action which could be taken or whether I will make inquiries into what legal redress might be available. I know that persons at law have civil remedies which have been used successfully in the case of unions which have imposed boycotts and black bans in recent times. That may be an area which could be utilised to advantage by people whose rights are being infringed. As to whether any offence is committed,I would have thought that the only offence which could be committed in the Commonwealth area would he with respect to trade and commerce among the States. But, if the honourable senator cares to supply me with the details of the material he has that aspect will be investigated.
– My question, which is directed to the Attorney-General, follows upon the one asked by Senator Young. Was the Attorney-General saying in his reply to Senator Young that he was advocating recourse to action other than what is available under the existing Conciliation and Arbitration Act - an Act which this Government alleges it supports and advocates? Does he now recommend that action outside that Act be taken by persons concerned in the case of union membership, when certain facilities are open bo those persons to appeal to the arbitration courts?
– In many cases access to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is not available to people who are suffering as a result of black bans and boycotts which are imposed by unions. All [ intended to say, and allI think I did say, in response to Senator Young’s question was that boycotts and black bans are denials of essential freedoms - denials which I believe all Australians abhor - and the easiest way of rectifying the wrong is for union members not to engage in black bans which deny to other persons the right to work.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science. In view of the fact that States are not in a financial position to meet their commitments to education as laid down in the - national survey of education needs which covers only necessary and very urgent works, will the Minister indicate what assistance the Commonwealth Government now proposes to give to ensure the further development of education in the preschool, primary and secondary fields in Australia?
– When the Government has a proposal for increased assistance for education it will be announced by the Minister for Education and Science at the proper time.I need only remind the honourable senator that the Commonwealth’s assistance to education is now recorded in the figure of $330-odd million this year, which represents a terrific increase in our assistance to education over the last decade.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry aware that Commonwealth Industrial Gases Ltd has conducted in New South Wales and South Australia successful nitrogen technology trials which have shown that apples can be long term stored without deterioration, and that this permits the grower to store surplus fruit over an extended period? As the benefits to be derived from the application of this technique
– Order! Senator Jessop, you ask the Minister whether he is aware of something and then you proceed to tell him something of which he should be informed.
– Will the Minister give serious consideration, in view of the difficulty of establishing these facilities in country areas, to providing financial support for grower co-operatives to enable them to build controlled atmosphere fruit storage facilities? Because of the high cost of cryogenic tankers for the transport of liquid nitrogen to country areas, will the Minister also consider providing a transport subsidy to facilitate the provision of nitrogen to these areas?
– Senator Jessop spoke to me about this matter some weeks ago andI have been endeavouring to get for him some information which, if I may, I will give now. The controlled atmosphere storage of apples has been developed in Australia in recent years by State Departments of Agriculture and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisaiton Division of Food Research. The technique is essentially one of storage in a low oxygen atmosphere at low temperature. I understand that Commonwealth Industrial Gases Ltd, using liquid nitrogen, has developed one of several commercial applications of the technique for producing the low oxygen atmosphere required in the storages. It is considered that no special Government measures are required to encourage the provision of controlled atmosphere storages because the economic advantages of this form of storage have already led to a rapid adoption of the practice. Virtually all controlled atmosphere storages have been built in the last 5 years, and statistics show that in June 1969 there were 44 controlled atmosphere stores with a capacity of 900,000 bushels, and in June 1970 there were 98 stores with a capacity of 1.5 million bushels.
-I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer: Is it correct to assume that the presentinternational currency dilemma is of vital importance to the Australian people? If so, will the Minister indicate what fields of Australian endeavour are most affected by it, and how? Will he agree that the Press articles about floating yen and devalued dollars are very difficult for the average person to understand?’ Will the Minister agree that today’s headline in the ‘Financial Review’ - Currency Crisis Crunch Near’ - is a clear and comprehensible indication of the immediate situation? If it is possible for a financial journal to express itself in plain language, will he ask the Treasurer to explain in equally plain language in a Press release just what the crisis is all about?
– Might I say, as I have said here once before, that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What might be plain to some people is not necessarily plain to others. The international currency crisis is a serious matter and one which has different implications for different countries. The implications to a wholly manufacturing country might be vastly different from those applying to a country whose economy is based essentially on primary production. Having said that, and having regard to the magnitude of the question asked by Senator Buttfield, I think I must protect myself by asking the honourable senator to put it on notice so that I can get the Treasurer to respond to it.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. What consultation, if any, and subsequent supervision will be exercised by the Department of Immigration in relation to a scheme for female migrants apparently sponsored by the Australian Tourist Commission? Does not the Minister feel that this scheme smacks of a form of bondage for female domestic servants which would need a 1972 Caroline Chisholm to offset it?
– I have the view that the honourable senator is referring to certain comments which appeared in the weekend Press. Those comments suggested that there is a scheme under which a travel agency overseas is to send young girls to Australia, possibly to work as domestics. I am assured that the Minister for Immigration has no knowledge of such a scheme. His predecessors have expressed the view that they do not favour anysuchscheme and I am assured that the present Minister for Immigration adheres to the views of his predecessors. There are limitations upon the entry into Australia of persons coming here for domestic service. In the broad, those limitations relate to people coming here to work as domestics in consulates and for diplomatic officials. To that extent they are exceptions to the general rule.I am assured by the Minister for Immigration that he has no knowledge of the scheme referred to and that it would he contrary to the policy which his Department has followed over the years.
Senat or LAUCKE - Has the attention of the Minister for Health been drawn to the very praiseworthy activities of the Service to Youth Council in South Australia? In view of the serious situation in regard to drug abuse and juvenile delinquency, will consideration be given to having an investigation made of the Council’s activities with a view to providing Commonwealth financial support to the Council?
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services aware that people applying for unemployment assistance, especially in some rural areas of New South Wales, have to wait for 3 or 4 weeks before they obtain unemployment benefit cheques, and when they do so the benefit is calculated retrospectively only to a date 7 days after lodgment of the application? Does the Minister know this is causing considerable hardship to a great number of unemployed workers, particularly those who have young families, and that lack of money is hindering those men in their search of employment avenues that might otherwise be available to them? Will the Minister request the Minister for Social Services urgently to consider this matter and also to consider calculating the unemployment benefit from the date of lodgment of an application, and not 7 days thereafter?
-I personally am unaware of the problems to which the honourable senator has referred.I will take the matter up with the Minister for Social Services and draw his attention to the particular difficulties which Senator Douglas McClelland has related. I am quite sure that the Minister will take urgent steps to have the situation examined and, if it requires rectification, have it rectified.
– My question, which
I direct to the Attorney-General, relates to my questions of last week concerning statements made by the President of the Australian Union of Students that the Government is not proceeding, for political reasons, against prominent student draft resisters. Will the Attorney-General table the national registration card of Mr Ian Garth Yates of Euchunga, South Australia, in the Senate tomorrow? If he will do so, I am prepared to table a sworn affidavit signed by Mr Yates to the effect thathe has never registered for national service. In that way a comparison can be made of the signatures appearing on the 2 documents.
– The honourable senator has been referring to this matter over a period of time. I am aware that statements have been made by the President of the Australian Union of Students which were designed to suggest that the Government is not enforcing the National Service Act.1 and the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service in the Senate have asserted that that is not the case. The facts were given in response to 2 questions asked by the honourable senator last week and, so far asI am aware, those facts have not been controverted. In those circumstances I am not in a position at present to give any indication of whatI shall do. I gave the details of the registration particulars which were kept by the Department of Labour and National Service with regard to Mr Yates and, in those circumstances, if those details are challenged I would have thought that something more was required before a statement was presented in this place.
– Is the Minister representng the Treasurer aware of the great concern being felt by representatives of local government at the increasing cost burden which is being placed on the local councils in providing recognised municipal facilities due in some instances to the Commonwealth Government’s immigration policy? Does the Minister acknowledge that continuing financial problems of municipalities are aggravated by the requirement to provide such services as kindergartens, play areas, collection services and roads for increased traffic brought about by an increased Australian population. Does the Commonwealth directly assist municipalities in any manner? If not, will the Minister suggest to the Treasurer that now is an appropriate time to offer financial assistance in those areas in which Commonwealth policies affect the financial demands of local authorities?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI am sure that the Senate would agree that this isa very complex series of questions. In the first place. I am aware of some of the problems of local government. I am equally aware that this year there has been some easing of the financial burden on local governments, particularly through the operation of Slate Acts. For example, as a consequence of the movement of payroll tax from the Commonwealth to the States, a burden has been removed from local government. This is particularly so in New South Wales where all municpalities and shires had to meet the burden of a rating imposed on them by statutory authorities to meet the costs of such bodies as fire brigades and, I understand, the Department of Main Roads. The States have removed that burden from local councils on the assumption that local government authorities would reduce their rates. Some local authorities have done so, but others have chosen to ignore the fact that relief has been granted. This is a matter of some controversy in New South Wales.
Those of us who have had some association with local government over the years recognise that each local authority has to make up its mind as to the degree to which it will participate in other activities or embark upon special projects which they might otherwise leave within the area of responsibility of State authorities. For instance, the muncipality in which I live and have lived all my life a few years ago imposed a special rate on the ratepayers - not the residents, but the ratepayers - to provide for the area a series of swimming pools. A magnificent group of swimming pools it is. But other councils do not necessarily take the same view in relation to the provision of additional facilities. I come now to the matter of substance in relation to the Commonwealth’s responsibility. Each year at the Premiers Conference level the Commonwealth makes funds available to the States. Inherently the States themselves have the constitutional responsibility for local government. Anybody in the Commonwealth field who suggested that the Slates should move away from their constitutional responsibilities for local government would not last very long in national politics. The clear responsibility for local government lies with the States, which in fact administer their affairs by their own Acts of Parliament. Senator Webster is in a grey area in the question which he has asked. If there is any aspect of his question which I have not answered I will respond to it at a later stage.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is he aware that a fishing vessel from Taiwan, the Kuang Nam’, was recently apprehended in proclaimed Australian waters and its master fined? Was 2½ tons of clam meat on the vessel confiscated by the authorities? If so, how will this meat be disposed of? Approximately how many clams were destroyed to harvest that amount of meat?
– I am aware of the apprehension of the fishing vessel to which the honourable senator has referred, but I am not aware of the details which the honourable senator has sought. I shall seek them for the honourable senator and let him have them.
– Is the Minister for Health aware of claims by the American consumer advocate Ralph Nader that the commonly used chemical hexachlorophene has caused brain damage in tests on rats? Did Mr Nader state that blood levels of hexachlorophene, which is readily absorbed by the skin, were getting dangerously close to blood levels known to have caused brain damage in experimental animals? Will the Minister seek immediate advice from the Department of Health as to whether a parallel hazard may exist in Australia?
– Order! Before calling on the Minister for Health to answer that question, I think I should say that it is a question of some dubiousness. I do not know how the Minister should be expected to know of what a Mr Nader said in the United States of America. I ask honourable senators to be more careful in phrasing their questions.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI will seekthe information which has been requested by the honourable senator. It is apparent from the way in which the honourable senator posed his question that he realised that I would not presume to give an answer to it at question time. I will have his question processed. When I do respond to that question it will be on the basis of advice I get from the experts in the Departmentof Health. I undertake to have the question looked at without delay.
– I desire to ask a question of the Attorney-General. I ask: If Senator Poyser tables a statutory declaration from Ian Garth Yates will the AttorneyGeneral examine it to ascertain whether there has been a breach of the Oaths Act? Will he also determine whether a false registration card was submitted to the Department of Labour and National Service in the name of that person?
– I am not prepared to give any undertakings of the character sought. This matter arose because a student body sought to belittle the Government’s intentions and bona fides with regard to enforcing the National Service Act. I have been able to give to the Senate information which discloses that in the case of 2 persons there was no lack of enforcement because a registration form was received by the Department of Labour and National Service in respect of those 2 individuals and they were balloted out. It may be that this is another one of the ruses in which students are engaging simply to give some strength to a belief which they would like to be true that the Government is not enforcing the laws. Anybody who wishes now to say that he is in defiance of the National Service Act because some unidentified person putin a false registration form in his name and he was balloted out is obviously seeking the best of both worlds. On the material available to me, I am not prepared to give the undertakings requested by the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. I ask: Will he cause an investigation to be made as to whether the properties of fresh apple juice are equally beneficial to children as is the milk paid for by the Commonwealth and supplied free of charge to school children? If such apple juice is comparable, will the Minister investigate whether it is possible to supply it during the warmer periods of the year, as the milk supply cannot always be kept chilled and becomes unpalatable.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe honourable senator asked me whether I would have an investigation. The word investigation’ seems to me to be dangerous because in response to a question some time ago I said I would inquire about something and I was horrified to read in one newspaper next day that the Minister for Health was going to have an inquiry - an expression which has an altogether different connotation. If ‘investigation’ is understood to mean that I shall seek some information I say that I shall have an investigation. I hope that those words will not be distorted. Apple juice is competing with milk, as is orange juice and pineapple juice.
– What about grapefruit?
– I would have some reservation about giving youngsters unsweetened grapefruit juice. Seriously,I can promise only thatI will have the question examined.
-I have a supplementary question directed to the Attorney-General following his reply to my last question. Despite the conflicting evidence that has been produced to the Senate do I understand from his reply that he will not investigate whether there has been a breach of Commonwealth law?
– On the material available to me, in the light of the answer which I gave, the honourable senator understands me correctly.
– I direct my ques tion to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. As Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat will he take pity on at least the female members of the Senate by telling us whether we can hope to finish this session before Christmas, or at least in time to get home to kill and cook the goose?
– I am grateful for the honourable senator’s question. I can say only that as Leader of the Government in the SenateI am the servant of the Senate. It is hoped that we will be able to conclude our business by the night of 9th December. If we do not conclude our business by thenI shall be moving motions in the Senate for us to carry on until we do conclude our business. What happens will be the will of the Senate. Between now and 9th December, whenever I move something which, on the face of it, might appear to be cutting across the rights of honourable senators. I will be doing so in a spirit which I hope everybody will understand totry to expedite the business of the Senate. I understand that we have 33 or 34 Bills with which to deal. Many of them are linked in a fashion which will enable us to have a cognate second reading debate on a number of them. So the actual number of Bills is not as formidable as it would appear on the surface. With goodwill on all sides and an understanding that we can all help in our own way by speaking for a shorter time than we normally would speak without missing the matter of substance that we wish to bring out, we can reasonably hope to finish very soon after the other place finishes. That is the critical thing. We have to wait until Bills come before we can deal with them. I think that with a high degree of co-operation and good’ will in the spirit of Christmas all of us could get away at a reasonable time.
-I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. What incentive does the Federal Government offer to car manufacturers to induce them to place emphasis on safety in cars rather than on speed, power and glamour? Does the Government have power to lay down strict legislative controls over car designs so that a positive trend towards safe construction could evolve?
– Within the Department there is a road transport advisory council which works very closely in a coordinated way with the State governments which have quite a responsibility in this sense. I understand that the council has discussions with its State colleagues about this problem.I cannot be certain butI have a recollection that there have been communications to manufacturers about the problems which the honourable senator has mentioned.I shall obtain some more precise information for the honourable senator. If it is possible to improve the situation I shall recommend that an endeavour be made to do so.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy. Is the Department of the Navy prepared to co-operate with the Conservation Society of New South Wales which seeks to plant hibiscus trees on the banks of the upper reaches of the Parramatta River, including all land occupied by the Department of the Navy which fronts the river?
– I think it is fair to say that within the limits of the money which is made available for this purpose, the Department of the Navy endeavours to plant stands of trees on shore bases. I understand that the Newington Armament Depot is trying to establish a stand of shrubs at the depot but because it is trying to establish a particular stand it is not being successful. One has to look at the particular types of trees and shrubs which one is endeavouring to establish at a base.I think that also one has to take into consideration whether armament depots are involved because one cannot have trees which will shed their leaves and create a fire hazard too close to such a depot. All these matters have to be taken into consideration. But in the main the answer is yes.
– Does the Minister for Civil Aviation recall that a Department of Civil Aviation survey dated May 1970 showed that approximately 29 per cent of qualified general aviation pilots were not in fact employed as pilots at that time? Is the Minister aware that his Department issues Australian commercial helicopter pilot licences to exUnited States Army pilots and that the only examination they need undergo is one in air legislation? Is he aware that Australian helicopter companies have a waiting list of American pilots and that one company is already employing these pilots in preference to unemployed Australian pilots? Will the Minister consider withdrawing this concession and making it mandatory for discharged American Army pilots to obtain a fixed wing commercial flying licence prior to their qualifying in this country as helicopter pilots so that some of the 900 unemployed Australian pilots may be given an opportunity of employment within the aviation industry?
– There is a very distinct difference between the qualifications necessary for a fixed wing aircraft pilot and a helicopter pilot. I note the points which the honourable senator makes. I remember the figures which were given in 1970. I know that there are more people able and willing to fly than there are jobs for them at the present time. I shall take up the suggestion which the honourable senator makes. I shall do what I can to help in this area. I am sure we will all have to bear in mind that, in general, aviation pilots who want to become helicopter pilots will have to undergo a period of training for certification as helicopter pilots.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral aware of statistics which indicate that serious crime in this country has increased by at least one-third within the last year? Does the Attorney-General consider that one of the contributing causes to such increase in crime is the inadequacy of penalties placed on convicted criminals? Is the Attorney-General alert to the fact that legislation is before the British Parliament which, when approved, will enable courts to make robbers and thieves bankrupt and divide their possessions among those whom they have robbed or harmed or to whom they have caused loss? Will the AttorneyGeneral consider advocating the introduction of similar legislation to the joint meetings which are regularly held between Federal and State Attorneys-General?
– I think that it is common knowledge, or it ought to be common knowledge, that there is an increase in lawlessness in its various facets throughout not only this country but also most of the democracies of the world. This increase in crime cannot be categorised as being due to 1, 2 or 3 causes; it is due, I am sure,to a variety of factors. I speak purely personally when I say that there must be an effective deterrent to cope with increases in lawlessness. But the question of what is an adequate deterrent is not easy to determine in many cases. For instance, it would be no adequate deterrent to increase penalties in the sense that a person may be personally deprived of assets or property as is proposed in the English legislation if he has no such property or no likelihood of having such property. The questions which Senator Webster raises are undoubtedly important questions. But as I have said here before, the main responsibility for maintenance of law and order in the community rests with the State authorities in this country and the police forces of the States. I imagine that this is a matter which will be discussed at forthcoming meetings of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General.
– I ask the Minis ter representing the Minister for Labour and National Service whether a large number of false cards for registration under the National Service Act have been received by the Department. If so, why should the Department accept that the card purporting to contain the signature of Ian Garth Yates is any more bona fide than the card which purported to contain the signature of the former Senator Branson, as he reported to this Houseon one occasion? In view of the fact that there is some evidence that the card may not bear the correct signature, will the Minister have investigations made into this application for registration?
-I regret to say that my view is that the honourable senator’s logic is as misleading as is his argument. I see no reason whatever to pass any comment upon the card concerned. I would not be expected to have knowledge of an individual card. If the appropriate circumstances arise I shall refer the question to the Minister.
-I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence by referring to the motion carried in this chamber last week expressing the gratitude of the Senate to the members of the armed Services of Australia who served in Vietnam. I also refer to the fact that later an identical motion was carried in the House of Representatives adopting that resolution. Will the Minister be good enough to ask the Minister for Defence whether the terms of both those resolutions will, in the proper and appropriate manner, be promulgated through him and through the Service Ministers to the armed forces of Australia?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe Government is in agreement with the proposal that Australian servicemen be advised of the resolutions adopted by the 2 Houses of the Parliament. The Minister for Defence has already discussed the matter with his colleagues, the Service Ministers, asking them to convey the contents of the resolutions to the forces.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. Am I to understand from previous answers of the AttorneyGeneral that he will not investigate the sworn statement by MrIan Garth Yates that he has never registered for national service? Is he prepared to accept a position that anybody can forge the name of another person when he is called upon to register? As the Attorney-General appears determined not to have the signatures on the 2 documents examined, 1 now seek leave to table a sworn affidavit from Ian Garth Yates and give him an opportunity to change his mind.
– Order! Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– In view of the fact that Senator Poyser quoted from the document I ask under the Standing Orders that he table the document.
- Senator Cavanagh. to which standing order are you referring?
– The Clerk might assist me.
– While the Clerk is assisting youI will call another honourable senator to ask a question.
– Can the Leader of the
Government in the Senate inform the Senate of the Government’s view of the plan proposed by 10 of Australia’s leading economists to rectify the economic recession now afflicting the community? As the professors believe that their plan would bring lower prices, an end to inflationary psychology, more jobs, increased demand and less capital inflow because of lower interest rates, will their proposals be studied urgently in the interests of treating our ailing economy?
– Any views expressed by any bona fide group would naturally be examined first of all by the Department of the Treasury. I think it is rather elementary that if a point of view has the imprimatur of people who have studied the subject that point of view would be studied by the Government. I would have thought, having read the views expressed by the group of economists, that some of the views would not have found much favour on the other side of the chamber. However, that deals with the generality of the question. I will refer it to the Treasurer.
- Senator Poyser, will you read the document to which you referred in your question?
– The statutory declaration reads:
AND I MAKE this solemn declaration conscientiously believing the same to be true, and by virtue of the provisions of the Oaths Act 1936.
DATED this 25th day of November 1971
DECLARED AND SUBSCRIBED at Adelaide by the said IAN GARTH YATES this 25th day of November.
It is signed by Ian Yates and it is sworn by a commissioner for affidavits.
– Senator Cavanagh, I take it that the Standing Order to which you referred was standing order 364.
– Yes.I move:
It has become clear that there is a difference of opinion on this matter. From the refusal of the Attorney-General to have an investigation made, it would appear that some sections of the Department of Labour and National Service could well know that they have deen tricked into accepting a document which could be just as false as many other thousands of documents. I respectfully suggest that this document should be tabled for the information of honourable senators and for the purpose of showing to the general public-
– Order! Senator Cavanagh, you may speak to the point of order, but you may not make a speech in support.
– I thought I was moving the motion.
– Order! You are moving the motion, but I am confining you.
– I ask for the tabling of the document so that it will become public property and we will know that there is no covering up of the signature of Tan Garth Yates.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I table the following paper:
Statutory declaration by Ian Garth Yates dated 25th November 1971.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Works. Is it a fact that resurfacing at the Townsville aerodrome has been or is being carried out by a private contractor? Why was not this work carried out by the Commonwealth Department of Works in view of the fact that it has been found necessary to dismiss staff at the Townsville depot?
– I shall have to refer to the Department to obtain details in answer to that question.
– By way of explanation 1 say that I propose to ask a question that is supplementary to one which Senator Poke asked some time ago. He has asked 2 more questions since that one, Mr President, although I have been trying to catch your eye.
– Order! I distribute my favours as generously as I can.
– I agree. Seven q tics’ ions in a row have been asked from the Opposition side. My question is supplementary to the one Senator Poke asked concerning the motor car industry. I think he implied that the indus ry was not making enough effort in considering the safety of passengers. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport whether, in finding the answer to Senator Poke’s question, he could also find out from the motor car industry itself just how much has been spent on research on such matters as safety for motor car passengers, and how many . innovations have been made already towards the safety of passengers.
– It is a good suggestion and I shall direct k to the Minister.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Further to my question of last Thursday I ask the Minister: Did the Commonwealth Government communicate in any way with the conference of Foreign Ministers of the 5 member nations of the Association of South East Asian Nations during their deliberations at Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, Friday and Saturday of last week?
– 1 think the question should go on the notice paper, if I may say so. At this point of time I have nothing further to report on the answer I gave, but the question is being examined.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science. What research programmes are currently being carried out by the Department of Education and Science?
– I shall have to obtain from the Department a list of the research programmes it is currently carrying out. 1 shall let the honourable senator know at the earliest opportunity.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry been informed of an offer made to Sir William Gunn by a United Stales bank and 2 European banking groups of $300m to set up a wool marketing authority? Are these offers merely tentative or are they sufficiently firm to justify basing the establishment of a wool marketing authority upon tl:em? What rates of interest would be applicable to this loan and what would be the term of the loan?
– I think ii is fair to say that I heard Sir William Gunn saying on television the other night that he had such an otter of money that could be used to finance a single selling authority. But I think the honourable senator has to remember that this offer was as a result of an Australian Wool Industry Conference motion which was . adopted in principle and in relation to which no details have been made available. I doubt whether at this stage details have been worked out by the Wool Industry Conference itself as to how the single selling authority is to operate. 1 am afraid that until the Government is approached with details by the Wool Industry Conference the honourable senators cannot have an answer to the question he asks.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing !he Minister for the Interior. In view of she recent statement by a spokesman of the Northern Territory Administration that employees of the Administration appointed by that body to any statutory board are representatives of the Government and ‘he Administration, does this mean that all Northern Territory Administration employees, regardless of their abilities and interests as individuals, are to be denied the privilege of serving asthey have done in the past with distinction, on the many statutory authorities that exist in the Norhern Territory?
-I am sure that that is a misconstruction of the situation, butI shall be able to givethe honourable senator a definitive answer only by referring his comment to the responsible Minister.
(Question No. 1474)
asked the Minist er representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
Have observers in Tokyo partly blamed the collapse of the Japanese wool yarn futures market on the large stocks of wool accumulated by the Australian Wool Commission, and could this collapse further affect Japan’s purchases of Australian wool?
– The Acting Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
It is an exaggeration to speak about a collapse of the Japanese wool yarn futures market. There was a fall in the prices of worsted yarn futures on the Nagoya Textile Exchange in late September and early October, however, by the third week of October the prices had recovered to midSeptember levels.
This recovery took place despite the fact that during the same period, stocks of wool held by the Australian Wool Commission increased through further purchases. In these circumstances, it seems difficult to connect the preceding decline in worsted yarn futures at Nagoya with the stockholdings of the Australian Wool Commission. Moreover, since the Nagoya futures decline in question, there has been an improvement in the demand for wool by buyers, including Japan, at Australian auctions.
(Question No. 1625)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Army has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1332)
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable senator’s questions are as follows:
(Question No. 1393)
asked the Attorney-General upon notice:
Can the Government, under the terms of the Trade Practices Act 1965-1971, direct thata recently formed company comprising an amalgamation of all fertilizer producers in New South Wales, be disbanded? If not, will the proposed amendments to the Act provide for this power?
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The Trade Practices Act 1965-1971 does not at present provide for a power of direction of the kind referred to in the question. Whether it is desirable that it should provide such a power is a matter that will be considered in the comprehensive review of the legislation that is currently being undertaken by the Government.
(Question No. 1424)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has provided the following answer to thehonourable senator’s question:
This matter falls primarily within the sphere of my colleague the Attorney-General. I am informed by him that a person convicted and sentenced for an offence under the National Service Act is required to serve out the period of his sentence within and in accordance with the penal system of the Stale in which he was sentenced. For the duration of his detention he is subject to the same conditions as are applied to other prisoners detained in that system.
I am also informed by my colleague that the transfers of Mr Mullen have been made by the New South Wales authorities in the normal course of penal administration and in his own interests.
(Question No. 1468)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
-T he Acting Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1469)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
(Question No. 1536)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice: (1)How many social workers are employed by the Departmentof Immigration, and where are they located?
– The Minister for immigration has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
They were located as follows:
The Department’s full establishment is for 19 social workers. Two of. thevacancies were in Sydney and Perth. The third vacancy, in Wollongong, is to be filled early in 1972. The Department has in addition 2 qualified social workers currently overseas. One is serving as a special counselling officer in the Immigration Office in
Paris, the second is completing a period of instruction in Spain and Portugal In the sociocultures of these 2 countries before returning to duly at Central Office, Canberra,
One of the social workers overseas is proficient In French, German, Belgian, Dutch, and has some Italian. The second social worker overseas is proficient in Spanish and Italian and has some French.
In addition the Department employs, as welfare officers, a number of officers proficient in languages other than English. Their location, number and languages spoken are as follows:
There is also a Turkish-speaking welfare aide employed in Sydney.
In the State Branches of my Department (including Darwin) and in Canberra Officethere are also approximately 170 other personnel engaged in general duties who are able to undertake interpreting witha wide variety of languages.
(Question No. 1573)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senators question:
I am informed that Mr Collins installed radiotelephone equipment in the vessel without obtaining a licence from my Department. The equipment, therefore, was not checked by aradio officer of my Department, nor was Mr Collins examined in his ability to operate the apparatus satisfactorily, both of which are normal licensing requirements. Mr Collins claims that when his vessel was in trouble in heavy seas off Innisfail, he did not send a May-day call but attempted to attract attention on the international radiotelephone distress channel 2182 kilohertz. The call was not heard, however, presumably because of the inability of Mr Collins to operate the equipment efficiently.
(Question No. 1581)
asked the Minister representing the Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities, upon notice:
– The MinisterinCharge of Tourist Activities has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1582)
asked the Acting
Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The Minister for Immigration has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
In addition,the Public Service Board has recently given approval for two new positions, a Journalist GradeA1 and a Clerical Officer Class 8.and it is expected that the positions will be filled shortly.
Of the Journalist officers listed above, twelve arc concerned primarily with the Department’s publicity and information services within Australia.
The functions of the other Journalist officers are divided between servicing the Department’s information and publicity needs within Australia and overseas.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1609)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice:
Indian Ocean are a threat to Australia’, and that anyone who cannot realise this has misread the lessons of history?
– The Minister for the Navy has provided the following answers to the honourable senator’s questions:
Is the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware that reports of the tidal wave and cyclone which struck the Bengali coast last weekend state that 10,000 families are believed to have perished, that an estimated 4 million people are now homeless and that the entire crop of the Orissa rice bowl and 5,000 cattle also were destroyed in this disaster? Is the Minister further aware that preliminary Indian Government estimates indicate that a sum of $23m is urgently needed to give food and shelter to the survivors? Will the Minister indicate what amount the Australian Government proposes to give to assist India to cope with this catastrophe and whether such aid will be both prompt and commensurate with the recent response by the Government to aid the refugees from Pakistan.
I said that I was not informed of what decisions, if any, had been taken by the Government but thatIwould refer the question. The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer:
According to information received from our High Commissionin New Delhi the Orissa State cyclone resulted in approximately 10,000 deaths and directly affected some 500,000 people. Some 250,000 people were reported to be homeless and rice and other crops valued at$24m have been destroyed. Since the question was asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs has announced a cash contribution of $10,000 to the Indian Red Cross for use in connection with the cyclone disaster. (See H. of R. Hansard p. 3347).
– On 3rd November 1971 Senator Milliner asked me the following question:
I direct my question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. In answer to Question No. 1471 asked by mc yesterday of the Minister representing the Postmaster-General in this place, the Minister stated that surface mail was to be carried for a trial period by departmental transport for some areas and passenger bus services for other areas. Can the Minister indicate the name of the principal passenger bus service company which is to be used?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply:
There are 2 passenger bus companies whose services are being used. They are Ansett Transport Industries (Operations) Pty Ltd. (Pioneer Express) and Greyex Investments Pty Ltd (Greyhound Lines of Australia).
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONOn 14th September 1971 I undertook to make available to Senator McLaren the results of an examination of a question without notice by him relating to the creation of a Ministry of Sport. The Prime Minister has provided the following information:
The article in the ‘National Times’ referred to by Senator McLaren advocates the creation of a Ministry of Sport to administer grants to assist worthwhile amateur sportsmen to represent Australia in events overseas.
The Commonwealth Government’s involvement in sport and physical recreation in Australia is a financial one and is made through the National Fitness Movement. Grants are made available to State National Fitness Councils, through the Commonwealth Department of Health, to stimulate the States into implementing programmes which will cater for the recreational needs of the population on the broadest possible scale. The programmes conducted by the various State Councils include courses for teaching the basic skills of a number of sports as well as for training sports coaches. The Government has also made grants towards the cost of Australian sporting teams participating in the Olympic and British Commonwealth Games.
The question then is whether, even if there were to be an expansion of Commonwealth assistance to amateur sport, there would need to be a separate Ministry to administer this assistance. Present indications are that a separate Ministry would not be warranted.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONOn 30th September 1971 Senator Jessop asked me a question without notice in which he sought an amendment of the income tax law to authorise the allowance of deductions for subscriptions to ambulance brigades. The Treasurer has provided the following information:
If a deduction were to be allowedfor ambulance subscriptions, it would be very difficult to resist claims for extension of the concession to permit deductions for ambulance fees, including those paid by non-subscribers, and. indeed for all transport charges associated with medical treatment. In fact, a number of representations for this wider concession have been received over the past few years, particularly from taxpayers living in areas where ambulance services are not readily available.
Apart from the cost to revenue of a general concession of this nature, there would be many difficulties in administering a concession which provided for a deduction in respect of alltravelling expenses associated with medical treatment, especially where, in the case of transport other than by ambulance, medical considerations were but one of the reasons for the journey. In any case, a concession of this kind would do little to assist persons in receipt of lower incomes who would, presumably, be those most in need of assistance in meeting the costs incurred in travelling for medical treatment.
The question of amending the law to permit deductions for subscriptions to ambulance services has been considered by the Government on several occasions in the past and was, in fact, among the many proposals for new or extended taxation concessions considered in the 1971-72 Budget deliberations. Given the prevailing budgetary circumstances, however, in which the Government judged it necessary to seek $157m of additional taxation revenue by increasing some imposts, it was decided not to propose concessions beyond those 1 announced in my Budget Speech.
You might assure Senator Jessop, however, that his views have been noted for further consideration on the next occasion that the concessional deduction provisions of the law are being examined.
– For the information of honourable senators,I present the text of the following international treaty: Convention No. 123 concerning the minimum age for admission to employment underground in mines, adopted by the International Labour Conference at its Forty-ninth Session on 22nd June 1965. The law and practice in both Commonwealth and State jurisdictions in Australia are in accord with the provisions of the Convention.
Subject to the approval of the Federal Executive Council, the Government intends to lodge the instrument of ratification of this Convention with the Director-General of the International Labour Office as soon as possible, specifying that the minimum age for admission to employment underground in mines in Australia is 16 years.
Senator COTTON (New South WalesMinister for Civil Aviation; - Pursuant to the provisions of the Coal Industry Act 1946-1966,I present the Twenty-fourth Annual Report of the Joint Coal Board for the year ended 30th June 1971 together with the Auditor-General’s Report on the accounts of the Board.
– Pursuant to section 37 of the Australian Industry Development Corporation Act 1970 I present the First Annual Report of the Australian Industry Development Corporation for the period 1st October 1970 to 30th June 1971.
– I present the report and minutes of proceedings of Estimates Committee D on the Estimates for the year 1971-72.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I present the report of Estimates Committee C together with minutes of proceedings. I also table the Hansard report of the evidence taken.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Motions (by Senator Sir Kenneth
Anderson) agreed to:
That notices of motion1 to 7 inclusive be made Orders of Day for the next day of sitting.
That consideration of Government Business Orders of the Day Nos 2 to 6 be deferred until consideration of Nos 1, 7 and 8.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wright) read a first time,
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a secondtime.
In the course of his recent statement on the Commonwealth’s proposals in respect of education, the Minister for Education and Science (Mr Malcolm Fraser) mentioned the Commonwealth’s decision to join with the States in providing additional recurrent grants for universities in the current triennium, 1970-72, to assist them to meet the costs arising from exceptional increases in non-academic salaries and wages. The main purpose of this Bill is to give effect o that decision. The Commonwealth’s financial assistance to the States for universities is provided on a triennial basis. The assistance includes capitalgrants for the provision of new buildings, alterations and extensions to existing buildings, and the purchase of major equipment items, etc; recurrent grants towards the running expenses of universities: and grants, both capital and recurrent, towards the costs of student residences and teaching hospitals.
The Commonwealth has always taken the view that the triennial grants should normally be varied only in respect of any increases in academic salaries that might be approved and that universities should be required to meet any other increases in costs that might occur during the triennium. When the Minister for Education and Science presented the fourth report of the Australian Universities Commission on 21st August 1969 he made it clear that the Commonwealth still adhered to that view and would only consider the provision of supplementary grants during the triennium in extraordinary circumstances.
Strong representations were made by a number of universities and State governments for additional Commonwealth contributions towards the recurrent grants in the 1970-72 triennium on the ground that the increases in non-academic salaries and wages that have occurred have been so great that universities are unable to meet them without additional financial assistance. On the strong recommendation of the Australian Universities Commission and after a careful examination,the Commonwealth has decided that the increases have in fact been of such a magnitude that they might be regarded as exceptional, and it will therefore provide additional contributions on the basis of the normal recurrent grant formula - that is, a contribution of$1 by the Commonwealth for each $1.85 provided from State contributions plus fees. However, as some State governments had already made additional contributions towards their universities to assist them to meet the increases in nonacademic salaries and wages, the Commonwealth has agreed that any such contributions from State contributions or fees in the current triennium may count as matching grants towards the Commonwealth’s contributions which are confined in the Bill to the calendar years 1971 and 1972.
The Bill also provides for 3 minor amendments to the legislation which involve transfers of Commonwealth contributions from one project or purpose to another without any increase in the Commonwealth’s financial commitment.These transfers have been recommended bythe Australian Universities Commission. The first of these amendments relates to the third university in Queensland to be established at Mount Gravatt and to be known as Griffith University. The Queensland Government recently decided to accelerate the development of this new university so that it should be able to open to students in 1975 and an Act to establish Griffith University has now been passed. The decision to open to students in 1975 will necessitate a greater expenditure of recurrent funds in the current triennium than was expected when the grants were determined and the Interim Council of Griffith University, with the support of the Queensland Government, has sought the Commonwealth’s agreement to a transfer to recurrent funds of portion of the Commonwealth’s contribution towards capital funds in the 1970-72 triennium. The Commonwealth has agreed to the transfer and provision for the change is included in the Bill.
The other 2 amendments involve transfers of capital funds to meet desired changes in university building programmes. These changes have been requested by the universities concerned with the support of the State Governments. The first of these amendments is to transfer an amount provided for professorial units at a teaching hospital associated with the University of Queensland to the main university capital programme to enable a new building to be constructed on the University campus at St Lucia for the departments of physiotherapy and occupational therapy. These departments are presently housed in very old hut-type accommodation off campus in an area which must be cleared to permit road development. Because of delaysin the hospital’s capital programme planning, the Commonwealth’s contribution towards the teaching hospital project will notnow be required in the current triennium.
The other transfer relates to ateaching hospital project with the University of New South Wales. It has now been decidedthat a paediatric unit which was to have been established at the Eastern Suburbs Hospital should be established at the Prince of Wales Hospital instead. Accordingly, the Bill provides for the necessary transfers of funds to give effect to these changes in planning. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wheeldon) adjourned.
Rill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Rill (on motion by Senator Wright)read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second lime.
The main purpose of the Bill before the Senate is to appropriate additional giants in order that the Commonwealth might meet its share of the cost of the present levels of academic salaries in colleges of advanced education under the accepted matching formula. The need to provide these supplementary grants has arisen from the salary increases awarded in the 1970 national wage case. The opportunity is also taken to incorporate in the Bill some minor machinery provisions which bring up to date the recurrent grants schedule in the light of certain reallocations of funds which have been approved at the request of the States, to make similar adjustments in the capital programme for 1970-72, and to take into account changes in the name of some institutions.
The Commonwealth has accepted the principle that it should provide its share of increases in approved academic salaries. For 3 colleges of advanced education in New South Wales, the Bill also provides for matching recurrent grants to the State for approved academic salary increasesother than those flowing from the national wage case. One State, Tasmania, has advised that no additional grant will be required to finance the cost of increases in academic salaries in its college of advanced education as this may be met by savings effected elsewhere within the current triennial programme. The Commonwealth grant previously appropriated for recurrent expenditure in 1970-72 for colleges of advanced education in the States was $49,008,870; this Bill provides tor an appropriation of $50,069,010, an increase of $1,060,140 in respect of academic salaries in this triennium.
The principal Act contains provision for the transfer, on request from a State, of recurrent funds between colleges and between years of the triennium. This affects only the distribution of grants and not the total level of grants available to a State. Two States - Victoria and Queensland - have made use of this provision and the new Schedule in the Bill has been updated in respect of transfers of recurrent funds that have been approved. The Second Schedule to the Bill effects minor adjustments to the capital programme for 1970-72 for a small number of colleges in several States. These adjustments are being made at the request of the States concerned; they do not increase the total capital grants provided in the current triennium.
The Bill also provides for the updating of the names of certain institutions. The new names of these institutions are incorporated in the First and Second Schedules and are specified separately in the Third Schedule. Honourable senators will recall that in his Budget Speech the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) mentioned the willingness of the Government to join with the States in providing further supplementary giants to colleges of advanced education in recognition of exceptional increases which have occurred in non-academic salaries. This matter is under discussion with the States and when details have been agreed the Parliament will be invited to approve further supplementary provisions. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wheeldon) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wright) read a firsttime.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Honourable senators will be aware that the Commonwealth has made financial assistance available to the States since 1966, under the States Grants (Advanced Education) Act. for the development of a new arm of tertiary education in Australia in colleges of advanced education. It has also established the Canberra College of Advanced Education. To advise it in such matters, the Government set up in 1965 the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education, which reports to the Minister for Education and Science.
When it was established the Advisory Committee dealt with one Institute of Colleges, namely, the Victoria Institute, and with 34 institutions. The present situation is that the Commonwealth is dealing with 5 State authorities - the New South Wales Advanced Education Board, the Victoria Institute of Colleges, the Board of Advanced Education in Queensland, the Western Australian Tertiary Education Commission, and the Council of Advanced Education in Tasmania. In South Australia the Government has announced its intention of establishing an advanced education authority in 1972. The colleges of advanced education in Australia now number 48.
In the triennium 1967-69 provision was made for a programme costing a little over $100m. The 1970-72 programme provides for an expenditure of more than S250m. During its 6 years of existence the Advisory Committee has been serviced by the Department of Education and Science, and the Government believes that the time has now come to establish its advisory authority on advanced education as a statutory advisory body with powers and status more appropriate to the task it is called upon to perform. The purpose of the Bill before the Senate is to give effect to this decision by establishing a new statutory advisory body to be named the Australian Commission on Advanced Education.
The Bill provides that the Commission should consist of a full-time Chairman and part-time members who will be not less than 4 in number nor more than 9. At the present time the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education consists of a full-time Chairman - Mr T. B. Swanson - and 9 part-time members. It is proposed that when the Commission is established the Chairman of the Advisory Committee will become the Chairman of the Commission. The staff of the Commission will be employed under the Public Service Act and for this purpose the Chairman will have the powers of a permanent head of a Public Service department.
Honourable senators will recall that the Commonwealth’s movement into the field of advanced education followed the acceptance by the Government of recommendations of the Martin Committee which advocated the establishment of this new type of institution in the field of tertiary education. In recent years the colleges of advanced education have come to be accepted as fully tertiary institutions providing a form of education alternative lo that of the universities. Just as the Australian Universities Commission advises the Minister for Education and Science upon the balanced development of the universities, so the Commission on Advanced Education will advise the Minister on the balanced development of advanced education in Australia.
The Bill before the Senate parallels the Australian Universities Commission Act; it provides that the new Commission will be required to consult with the Australian Universities Commission as well as with the States. The Australian Universities
Commission Act will be amended to incorporate a requirement to consult with the Commission on Advanced Education. There will then be 2 parallel commissions working together to promote the balanced development of tertiary education in Australia. This legislation will provide a chaner within which the Australian Commission on Advanced Education will work. Because of the wide and varied range of institutions being developed as colleges of advanced education, it has been necessary to spell out the definition of ‘college of advanced education’ at some length. The actual institutions, and courses within institutions, to be offered financial support from the Commonwealth within its programme of grants to colleges of advanced education, will be determined from time to time in the development of the triennial programmes. These programmes will be reflected in legislation for special purpose grants to the States which will be submitted periodically to the Parliament.
The present development of colleges of advanced education owes its impetus to Commonwealth support and it is Commonwealth policy that the college system should continue to develop to diversify opportunities for tertiary education. The establishment of the State authorities in advanced education, to which 1 referred earlier, indicates the importance attached by State governments to the future development of advanced education as an ongoing system. The new Commission will be required to have frequent consultations with these State authorities, as well as with senior State officials and, on occasions, with State Ministers for Education. There has been interesting and dramatic growth in the development of the colleges since the Commonwealth first offered financial assistance to the States for their development. State Governments have adopted the new concept wholeheartedly and are channelling significant funds for the development. State governments have adopted the colleges arc facing problems of the same nature as universities and it is in the national interest that these problems should be critically examined and the Government provided with expert advice on possible courses of action to be taken, lt is for these reasons that the Australian Commission on Advanced Education is to be set up.
I should like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the achievement of Sir Ian Wark in this area. Sir Ian had a distinguished career as a research scientist in the field of chemistry, and his work on the flotation process for the separation of mineral ores has achieved world-wide recognition. In 1961 Sir Ian became a member of the Executive of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and upon his retirement in 1965 accepted the invitation to become Chairman of the Commonwealth Advisory Committee on Advanced Education. In this position he brought to bear upon the problems of advanced education the same high intellectual ability for which he had always been noted, coupled with an enthusiasm and drive which has resulted, in the comparatively short space of 6 years, in the colleges of advanced education becoming firmly established in the Australian community as an integral part of the fabric of tertiary education. The rate and direction of development and the shape of the existing system owe a great deal to him and to his Committee. I know that honourable senators will join with me in wishing him well in the future. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wheeldon) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wright) read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The main purpose of this Bill is to provide for an additional full-time member of the Australian Universities Commission. The Commission was established in 1959 with a full-time Chairman and 4 part-time members. The number of part-time members has been increased progressively and is now 8, but the operations of the Commission continue to increase both in volume and complexity. For example, the number of independent universities with which the Commission deals will, by the end of the next triennium, total 18 as compared with 11 only 6 years ago. Total enrolments’ are expected to reach nearly 150,000 by 1975 and the Commission is at present considering requests for very substantial financial support for the 1973-75 triennium. Moreover, there has been a rapid growth of public interest in universities over recent years which has necessitated the Commission accepting responsibility for the important and timeconsuming task of advising the Minister for Education and Science on the many day to day questions and problems concerning universities that arise in the course of administering his portfolio.
The Government recently reviewed the position and decided that the work of the Commission is being handicapped by there being only one full-time Commissioner, namely the Chairman. It therefore decided that an additional full-time member should be appointed to strengthen the Commission in order to ensure that the large volume of resources thai is being absorbed by universities is allocated between them and used by them as efficiently and economically as possible. A further advantage of having an additional full-time member, designated by the Bill as Deputy Chairman of the Commission, would be that proper provision would be made for the continuation of the work of the Commission in theevent of the Chairman being unavailable at any time, whether on account of illness or otherwise. The Bill provides that the Deputy Chairman, like the Chairman, shall be appointed for a fixed term not exceeding 7 years.
In consequence of the Bill to establish the Australian Commission on Advanced Education this Bill also provides that, in the performance of its functions, the Australian Universities Commission shall consult with the Australian Commission on Advanced Education. A similar provision is contained in the Australian Commission on Advanced Education Bill 1971. This should ensure that the advice of the 2 Commissions is not inconsistent. The Bill amends the provisions of the Australian Universities Commission Act relating to the remuneration for the. Chairman, the proposed Deputy Chairman and other members. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wheeldon) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 25 November (vide page 2131), on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Last Thursday when speaking on the Payroll Tax (State Taxation of Commonwealth Authorities) Bill 1971 1 drew attention to the fact ‘hat it would be necessary to introduce Bills to carry on the legislation which had been involved in the collection of payroll tax. This power has now been passed over lo State instrumentalities. Some things still have to be done in this regard by the Commonwealth. A matter which 1 mentioned specifically, related to the Bill which we are now discussing - the Exports Incentive Grants Bill 1971. If we look at the Bill we will notice that it consists of some 36 clauses and, without question, it is a very complex Bill.
– It has 36 pages.
– If the honourable senator has another look he will see that it has 36 clauses. It was the clauses to which I referred. As I was saying when 1 was interrupted, this complex Bill is part of the original Payroll Tax Assessment Aci. lt was by means of this legislation that the Government achieved assistance for export industries. There is some doubt whether this assistance will be possible now that the Commonwealth has given away the provisions of payroll tax and there is doubt whether this is the proper way to introduce incentives. But this Bill proposes to carry on the legislation which was functioning under the previous Bill.
Although, us I say. this is a complex Bill we do not necessarily have to discuss it. This mat’er was discussed when it was first introduced. But I point out - I think the Minister mentioned this - that the terms of this Bill will apply until the end of the financial year 1972-73. At that stage we will have to have another look at the way in which wc are going to provide incentives to export industries. Some anomalies have occurred in the opera’ ion of this Bill. I do not propose to go into that situation.
These matters will come up when we are dealing with the new incentives which will have to be introduced in one or two years’ time. The Opposition does not oppose this Bill as it only carries on the very worth while legislation which, up to this point, has been in operation. On behalf of the Opposition I give this Bill the speedy passage for which the Minister has asked.
– The Australian Democratic Labor Party similarly supports the Export Incentive Grants Bill and gives it its blessing. Of course the necessity for the passage of this Bill has been occasioned by the transfer of the payroll tax to the States. Therefore the Commonwealth has been deprived of providing through that means as incentives to our manufacturers, fabricators and processors of goods for export, opportunities which have been given by the ameliorative section of the Payroll Tax Assessment Act. The fact that it is necessary to continue this legislation highlights how vitally important it is that we attempt all the time to stimulate our export industries in a field oher than primary industries. We are witnessing quite a transformation in the pattern of Australian export trade. Already, we see a decline in some of our traditional areas of export income earners and a reliance upon other export income earners such as minerals. Already there is likely to be some diminution in that field.
Actually our balance of trade position stands very high. In no large measure this is due to large capital inflow. This is something which has been affected by the vacillation in the international monetary system although, for some reason, it seems to have attracted a rather rapid inflow of capital in more recent weeks. But a pattern is developing which may require us more and more to rely for our export earnings upon the stimulation of our secondary industries and the creation of a heavy export area of manufactured goods. In those circumstances the retention of an incentive such as this is important and it could be of increasing importance as the years go by. As has been said this is quite a complex Bill yet. fundamentally, its principles are rather simple. By a notional system it provides by way of bounty those benefits which would have been given by a remission of payroll lax averaged over 3 of the 8 years immediately preceding the year in question. If there is a notional excess that can be carried on to the subsequent year as a credit in that year.
The proposition is a good one. It is valuable. I agree with Senator Wilkinson that it may in the future project very heavy demands on Commonwealth revenue. These demands will have to be met if this pattern of trade, as I have indicated, develops more and more and our reliance upon export earnings from secondary industry manufactures becomes more essential and more important to Australia. That position will have to be looked at immediately in the year following 1972-73 which was to be the date of the expiry of the payroll taxation remission system and which will be the date of the expiry of the present provision. In these circumstances we welcome the Bill while we point out the deep and far ranging implications for Australian trade and how, ultimately, this position will have to be looked at and examined in a very much wider context. The Democratic Labor Party supports the Bill.
(4.12) - in reply -I thank the Senate for the speedy passage of the Export Incentive Grants Bill. As has been pointed put by Senator Wilkinson and Senator Byrne this Bill will preserve the position of export industries.It provides the same date as the previous arrangement and it will take the arrangement to the end of the financial year, 1972-73.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 25 November (vide page 2134). on motion by Senator Wright:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I move the following amendment:
At end of motion add ‘, but the Senate is of the opinion that the Commonwealth Government should provide the Stales with adequate funds to enable them to -
I wonder whether the Commonwealth Government accepts the view that the provision of shelter is one of the basic human needs. What we know ofhistory certainly confirms that all previous as well as existing civilisations have regarded shelter as a primary consideration. It is not asking too much in today’s society to accept that the word ‘shelter’ does not mean solely being protected from the elements.It means the provision of adequate and comfortable shelter accompanied by all of the services modern man needs to live properly. Shelter is surely the cornerstone in the structure that is part of the quality of life. Surveys show that we spend about half of our time in our shelter - in our home: within the home environment. If we are concerned with people -I believe that is what life is about - we cannot ignore the tremendous pressures building up in the community today for reasonable accommodation. The Labor movement believes that it is the responsibility of government to promote and provide the resources so that the whole country is properly housed in an environment that is planned, pleasant and adequate.
We do not canvass in this debate the role of the private sector in the matter of accommodation. However, we do take issue with the Government on its responsibilities to provide decent, inexpensive and acceptable housing for those on low incomes. Such homes should be provided to meet the needs of the people, as well as being within their personal resources. Yet such is not the case. There is abundant evidence to show that because of insufficient activity arising from the shortage of funds in the various State housing commissions, many low and moderate income earners are forced to solve their accommodation problems in the private sector. Of course, this is a negation of the 1945 Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. By using the private sector, the family has to work excessively to pay the first and second mortgages which are so much part of our society today. This is a very unsatisfactory state of affairs, and it has serious social implications. At a seminar in Canberra recently - I think it was in May - Mr Elzo Vandernark in a paper headed ‘Finance for Property InvestmentHousing’ said after a comprehensive survey that the Government’s share in the expenditure on new houses and flats had decreased from 14 per cent in 1959-60 to 10 per cent in 1969-70. He was referring to the total expenditure on accommodation. Similarly in this same decade building society loans had increased from $70.7m to S333.7m, an annual growth rate of 19 per cent. Net loans outstanding had increased by 13 per cent from $460.6m to $l,304.7m. State Government expenditure had fallen steadily over this same period. In absolute terms, their contribution in 1969-70 was half the 1959-60 contribution. The provision of Commonwealth funds in capital investment in housing, therefore, has dropped from about 10 per cent to 3 per cent. It is the property ownercumdeveloper and the public bureacracy which are setting the pace in accommodation. Speculation and insufficient public funds for services invariably combine to produce, a situation where the average wage earner has little chance of obtaining reasonable land or accommodation. It is for these reasons that we feel we should move the amendment to express concern at the failure of the States, because of the inadequacy of Commonwealth funding, to meet the needs of those whom we have generally regarded as disadvantaged people. The urban poor, therefore, must look to the Government for the supply of their basic needs having regard to the speculation and the lack of public funds for services generally that are associated with the private sector. They look to the Government for cheaper land, cheaper and better housing, cheap transport, better education facilities, welfare and other services as well as for a decent environment. But they look in vain for it is in (he provision of these basic essentials that the Government is at least a generation behind. We believe that in the private sector it is the speculator and the investor who are ahead in the accommodation race. This legislation shows clearly that it is the Commonwealth’s intention to keep the investor out in front by about 20 lengths. While the Government runs a bad last, the public sector is unable to meet its commitment. Yet, we have a tradition in our country. The first permanent building was a government building. The first wharf and warehouse was a government wharf and warehouse. The first food eaten was government rations, and when the first wheat from the government farm was ready for milling it went to a government mill. The government was a dominant influence in everyday life. It was looked to in every emergency - flood, drought and so on. Today that is the way in which many sectors of our community seek solace in the problems that they face. Therefore, we are entitled to believe that the Commonwealth equally should accept its responsibilities in housing.
The planning of Canberra, the city of Elizabeth, the Mount Druitt project, the satellite city of Campbelltown - I agree that here I am dealing with some of the New South Wales areas - all continue this emphasis on government involvement to provide an acceptable environment for the ordinary person. The Commonwealth has spared no efforts or funds to establish Canberra as a desirable place in which to live, a place where the residents enjoy standards far superior to those in any other city in Australia. On the other hand. State housing commissions, which grew out of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement Act of 1945, while accepting responsibility for providing homes for low and moderate income groups, have not been able to meet their responsibilities in a satisfactory fashion. In 1968, the New South Wales Housing Commission had this to say in its annual report to the New South Wales Government:
It is not predictable nor consistent with its role for the Commission to adopt to any greater extent than it does the more costly trends in amenities evident in dwellings for private ownership. While there is no physical problem in building more expensive dwellings, those provided by the Commission are for people for whom no other organisation will cater or service in this important matter of housing and who are unable to have their reasonable requirements met in a rental or purchase basis through the private sector. It is important always that regard be had to the social welfare basis of the Commission’s activities which must have a bearing on the type of dwellings provided in its ordinary programmes.
It is a matter of great regret - the home hungry people of Australia should know this-that in 1943 the Chifley Government set up a Commonwealth Housing Commission lo inquire into housing requirements for. Australia. It sought to acquire land to build homes and to allocate homes to people on a priority basis. It sought to solve’ the acute housing problems following 15 years of neglect. I remind the Senate that for some 10 years there was a very dramatic downturn in home building in Australia because of the depression. Of course! that was carried on for many years during the War because of the lack of resources, facilities, materials and the like. The Commonwealth Housing Commission which was established asked the States to ensure that adequate housing legislation was passed in each of the State legislatures to enable rental housing projects, slum clearance and town planning to proceed. The Commonwealth also offered to subsidise any approved local government authority’, group of authorities or regional councils in any replanning scheme. I think that in retrospect we can say the Australian people lost, a glorious opportunity in not carrying on that forward planning which obviously was the result of sOme foresight and vision in the mid war years. We would have removed the tremendous inflationary spiral, that has been so much a part of our postwar development, in the cost of land and certainly we would have enabled governments generally to have met their responsibilities on a much more equitable basis if that legislation had remained on the statute book.
The Menzies Government, which was elected in 1949, refused to follow through the important forward planning proposed by that earlier legislation. The Government said that the matter was not one of Commonwealth concern, but fortunately the die had been cast because the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement was already 4 or 5 years old by the time the Menzies Government took office. It was operating. It was accepted in the community and the Menzies Government had no course other than to accept it and to continue to expand it. It was to be operated for the next 25 years - a quarter of a century. Australians should know that fundamentally the Commonwealth has been a reluctant dragon in the field of home ownership, and the Australian Labor Party senses that in” the new agreement there may well be the thin edge of the wedge to pull out completely from Federal involve ment in housing. The Government’s proposals mean that for the first time the States will operate their own loan fund:!. They will make their own arrangements in the loan market for the borrowings approved as a result of this Bill.
The Bill provides for a formula which, on initial examination, appears to provide a large amount, appears to be beneficial and appears to provide adequate funds to enable the States to carry out their responsibilities through the various State housing authorities. The Bill proposes an annual grant of $2. 75m a year, on a cumulative basis for 5 years, for 30 years, which means that in that period approximately $41 2.5m will become available to the States. It means that for the current financial year, 1971-72, §2. 75m will become available and will be added to for 1972-73 to provide $5.5m, $8.25m in 1973-74, $11m in 1974-75 and $.13.75 in 1975-76 and in each of the subsequent 25 years until the year 2001. Superficially this appears to represent a’ large sum for that period. The $41 2.5m might be. to the cursory examination that we sometimes give to these matters, the kind of money that would break the back of the housing crisis that does exist in this country.
The agreement will take us to the year 2005 - 5 years after the turn of the century. Many people in the planning field, in the universities regard the year 2000 as something of a yardstick for planning purposes. For instance, Sydney is expected to double its population by the year 2000. There will be 150 miles’ of uninterrupted urban development from Newcastle to Wollongong. A proportion of the money provided by the Bill will be available for home building in that region, as also will proportions be available for home building in other regions throughout Australia. Deeper Government involvement, heavier Government expenditure and more planning obviously will be vital if accommodation in this region is to be satisfactory and acceptable. T digress for a moment to point out that in the public sector the tremendous sums that will be required to provide housing and land generally in the Sydney region are probably worth recording. The New South Wales Metropolitan Water Sewerage and Drainage Board estimates that it will cost that body $ 1,850m, which is 3 times its 1967 capital assets, to provide the water and sewerage needed for that tremendous development and growth of population. Likewise it is estimated that the metropolitan road system will require an expenditure of $2,600m in the same period. I am unable to obtain figures which indicate the kind of money that will be required by the States to provide education, hospitals and other public facilities. T merely make the point that tremendous demands will be made upon the Slate governments to provide the essential services to make accommodation a reality for the man in the street. I think the States are entitled to expect the Commonwealth to provide adequate funds for housing if the Stales are to make available that kind of money to provide the services in sill the new housing estates.
The Housing Industry Association has suggested that in less than half this period - that is between now and the year 2005 - 7 million young couples will marry and that 3 million migrant family groups will be looking for homes in this country. On present trends, many will want to live in the major cities. Many, particularly those in the migrant groups, will be looking to the Government for help to establish their homes. They will be looking for financial assistance to provide that accommodation.
– Over what period did you say that would be required?
– The first period was to the year 2005 but in half the period between now and then 7 million married couples and 3 million migrant groups will require accommodation. When the 1939-45 war ended Australia’s population was 7,391,000. I am led lo believe that today that figure has grown to in excess of 13 million. Migration accounts for 44 per cent of our population increase. More than 2.5 million people have come to Australia since the end of World War II. When the 1945 Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement was renegotiated in 1956 the Budget allocation for housing in relation to the 1954-55 Budget had been 2.68 per cent. As far as I have been able to gather, almost 2 million migrants have settled in Australia since that time - many of them in the capital cities - yet the allocation of funds for housing in the 1970 Budget fell to 1.75 per cent of that Budget. If all things were equal it would be necessary for the Commonwealth to spend an extra S75m. This does not take into consideration the many migrants for which surely the Commonwealth must agree to accept responsibility. It has thrust responsibility for housing these migrants upon the States, the local government authorities and the semi-government authorities, expecting them to provide the services and accommodation and without giving adequate funds in the period in which it has assumed the responsibility for the affairs of this nation.
The figure for 1954, which was the last figure prior to the year in which the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement was re-negotiated, shows that 22 per cent of all homes were constructed by public authorities. This was encouraged by the Commonwealth, lt is a matter of regret that the figures show that in 1970, 16 years later, the number of homes constructed by public authorities had fallen to 9.8 per cent. In other words the number of homes provided by public authorities has fallen to almost half. This is happening in a period of galloping inflation and in a period in which each State housing authority is recording an increase in the number of persons seeking State housing assistance. The figures available to us show that about 90,000 people are currently on the waiting list of the various State housing authorities. Therefore the Government must recognise that, whilst there have been certain advantages in the existing legislation, those advantages have not taken into consideration the total responsibilities in regard to population growth and the States’ additional activities. So we believe that we are justified in moving an amendment that seeks to express the Senate’s concern at the failure of the Government to meet the needs of the various State housing authorities.
The Government, of course, up till now has offered loan moneys to the Stales for housing at 1 per cent less than the current bond rate. In this legislation it proposes to abolish that important concession and to make a grant to supersede it. The Government also proposes to make available to the States .$ 1.25m as a flat grant each year for rent rebate purposes, ft is our impression, having read some of the comments by the State Housing Ministers, that this will still leave a debit to be faced in the State Budgets. In other words, it will not reach the limit achieved in the rent rebate system which has been in operation since the 1945 agreement was enacted. The Commonwealth, whilst it is making a grant towards it, has not been prepared to meet the total rebate cost. Surely we , must accept the principle that rent rebates are paid to those who are on the very basic incomes. The rebates are granted only after the application of stringent means tests by the various State housing authorities. In those circumstances I think the States are entitled to expect that the Commonwealth will make the total sums available.
Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin, who was the Commonwealth Minister for Housing, had this to say on 29th September 1970- only 14 months ago:
One of the major aims of our housing contribution in the next 3 years will be to encourage the States to provide decent housing for lower income groups who are unable lo obtain satisfactory private accommodation.
Official figures from the Commissioner of Taxation show that 70 per cent of all Australians earn less than average weekly earnings. These people are being priced out of the private sector of accommodation and clearly will not be provided with the sort of accommodation needed and referred to by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin.
The Australian Labor Party’s aim is to stimulate a vigorous Federal involvement in land and housing. We propose that there should be a Commonwealth Department of Housing, Urban Affairs and Regional Development. We have brought our policies up to date. We suggest that the Government is still living in the past. This legislation has been accepted by the State Housing Ministers, although one has only to read their comments to appreciate that they accepted it because they had no alternative. The Parliament and the people have been and are being fed a piecemeal, innocuous and inept piece of legislation which solves nothing in the field of public housing, lt will keep public housing in the poorhouse. lt will do nothing to reduce the waiting list of those people who are anxious and impatient to be provided with decent accommodation. 1 remind the Senate that in 1967, on the initiative of the then South Australian Minister for Housing the late Mr Walsh, the State housing ministers unanimously agreed to request the Commonwealth to provide Sim for investigation into urban renewal. Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin, who was also at that conference, agreed in principle to the proposals that were discussed there and agreed to put them to the Government. Nothing has eventuated. In our amendment we seek to say something about urban renewal and the renovation or rehabilitation of existing homes in the inner core areas. Around all the major capital cities today, I think it is freely conceded, there are homes which are capable of being renovated or improved. At the moment they are occupied largely by migrants. Bui those people have the greatest difficulty in obtaining sufficient financial accommodation to acquire these properties and carry out the necessary renovation.
We believe that it could be and should be one of the functions of the State housing authorities to provide funds for this purpose. Of course, the sort of money that is being made available by the Commonwealth will prevent this from happening. So those people, together with many of our young Australians, are forced to borrow what they can through housing finance organisations and then to go on to the dear money market, lt is common knowledge how many people in the low income groups today are forced to pay I2i per cent and sometimes up to 14 per cent on a second mortgage in order to acquire a home. In the inner suburbs they pay the higher rates because those areas are regarded as risky. All this is happening because in our view the Commonwealth, whilst making a token gesture with respect to housing, is not accepting its major responsibility.
Mr Whitlam has pointed out that 75 per cent of all housing loans from institutional lenders are now made at rates of interest which mean that the total interest payments substantially exceed the value of the loans themselves. I think it is relevant to refer to the fact that in 1949 the interest on an $8,000 loan would have been 54,456, but today it will cost 58,440 to borrow $8,000.
– Over what period?
– Over the same period of 25 years. No matter what the period may be, the fact is that the higher interest rates which are approved by this Government are contributing to a worsening of the housing situation for most Australians. Twenty-four per cent of all borrowers are obliged to secure an average of $2,000 from fringe lenders at high second mortgage rates, even when they are able to borrow favourably from a lending institution. Yet the Minister for Housing, Mr Kevin Cairns, had the gall to say:
We believe the Commonwealth should continue to assist the States to provide bousing for persons of low or moderate means.
There was optimism last year that the Commonwealth would recognise its responsibilities, but the new agreement has confounded even the Government’s own supporters in the various State governments. The Ministers for Housing in the conservative governments of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and elsewhere have all, in one way or another in recent months, expressed their concern at the failure of the Commonwealth Government to negotiate a more favourable agreement. This led to a comment by John O’Hara in the Sydney ‘Sun’ recently. After attending a conference of the Commonwealth and State Housing Ministers - this belies the rather benevolent tone of the Minister when he presented the second reading speech in the other place - Mr O’Hara said:
State Government circles expect the new CommonwealthState Housing Agreement for low income earners to break down within a year because of rising land and bousing costs. 1 have spent a considerable part of my recent years in local government and therefore T have had a close affinity with those associated with the building industry. The building industry expects another dramatic increase in building costs in the next 5 years. Of course, their estimates may vary from time to time and from person to person but the general consensus is that within the next 5 years building costs will double. We all know something of the dramatic increase in the cost of land. It is now priced beyond the means of the average person. When we consider these factors surely we must look at the $4 12m which the Commonwealth seeks to see whether in fact in the circumstances it is adequate and sufficient to meet the needs of the average Australian who requires accommodation, finance and services. The people in the low income group surely are the responsibility of governments. Pensioners are the responsibility of governments. We can assert with certainty and without disagreement that migrants are the responsibility of governments. We bring migrants to this country. We encourage their immigration. I hope the Government accepts its responsibilities to Aborigines and, of course, to deserted wives and other disadvantaged people. People who fall into these groups are the ones who come within the ambit of the Housing Commissions’ activities. With this current agreement we will leave these groups of people not able to be properly provided for.
This is why we seek to add to the motion our concern that there are inadequate funds to meet the housing needs of these people and why we add to the motion the proposal that existing dwellings for restoration, rental or sale should also become the responsibility of the State Housing Commissions and that adequate funds should be made available for this purpose. We do not seek to make political capital out of the social problem that exists in relation to housing in Australia. T was one of those who came into this Senate believing that housing was probably the greatest social problem facing the Australian people. Perhaps my vision has been broadened somewhat in the period that I have been here, but I still believe it is amongst the great social problems that need to be tackled, overcome and solved by governments. When the ordinary people are unable to have their need of shelter met they are entitled to expect governments to come to their assistance. We believe that the attitude that the Government has adopted on this legislation will mean perpetuating the same general policies as it has been following since 1949. For these reasons we believe that the Senate is entitled to be asked to support our amendment expressing our concern that the most needy people in our community are not properly provided for under this Agreement.
– Is there a seconder to the amendment?
– 1 second the amendment.
– On behalf of the Australian Democratic Labor Party I shall speak first to the States Grants (Housing) Bill, leaving the amendment aside for the moment. Indeed, we have just received copies of the amendment and have not had time to give it full consideration. However, I must express my personal view that it would seem to be unlikely that we could accept it as it widens unnecessarily the application of this CommonwealthState Housing Agreement in a manner which may not be desirable in the interests even of the sections of the community mentioned in the amendment, particularly the low income earners whom the Bill was principally designed to assist. This Bill is a budgetary measure and therefore the general principles that are outlined in the Bill were before this chamber, in a sense, when we considered the Budget. The principal matter for consideration is whether the Commonwealth Government should in some way assist with this problem through an agreement with the States and give assistance to the .States which would allow them to administer the terms of the Agreement more freely than was possible under the previous Agreement.
In his second reading speech the Minister for Works (Senator Wright), on behalf of the Minister for Housing (Mr Kevin Cairns) was good enough to review the old Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement which had stood for 10 years. Of course, he made it very clear that in that period the Commonwealth was remitting to the States I per cent interest, the total interest being based on the bond rate. This clearly illustrates what a confidence trick such an agreement can be when the Commonwealth quite deliberately interferes with interest rates and gradually forces them up. At the end of the 10-year agreement interest rates in this country had risen as a result of direct action by the Commonwealth by more than 2 per cent. Therefore the States were worse off by 1 per cent at the end of the agreement in spite of the 1 per cent advantage when the agreement was first formulated.
This highlights a matter that I have been placing before this Senate consistently for the last 3 years. I refer to the basic injustices that flow from the proposition that inflation and other economic evils can be controlled by fiddling - particularly upwards - the general interest rales, allegedly in the interests of the economy and the people. Somebody somewhere along the line has to pay and pay beyond the capacity of his purse. The Government illustrates this by assisting some of those who have to pay the increased interest rates, by making special grants to the States for this purpose.
I well recall the first house that it was my privilege to buy. It was an old weatherboard dwelling on which 1 was able to get a straight out bank overdraft loan from a private bank at 3£ per cent interest. I was able to obtain that loan to buy the rather risky asset of a weatherboard home although, of course, it had to be adequately insured so that the bank would have reasonably acceptable collateral. As that was possible at a time when housing was not in a short supply and as valuable as it is today, where is the common sense in paying double that rate of interest on a loan for the absolutely secure collateral of a dwelling house? Where is the justice of it? What has changed so intrinsically in credit that it is necessary to force interest rates up to 7 per cent? If it had been suggested, as 1 have illustrated previously, that the price of a suburban home would increase by the amount that people are now obliged to pay in interest, it would have been a national scandal, ft would have brought governments down all over the Commonwealth. If it had been suggested that the cost of taps, building materials and timber were to be increased by the amount of money that people now have to pay in increased interest it would have been a national scandal. People have to pay increased interest not only for the first year of the loan: they go on paying it over the whole 25 years of the loan. The increased liability when compared with the value of a house and the provision of the credit to buy such a secure asset is out of all proportion to what it should be.
The Government has said that this is essential to control inflation, but it has not controlled inflation. Only in the last month has the Government at last listened to our voices crying in the wilderness and started to turn interest rates back. I hope that the Government will nol be deterred from turning interest rates back to a level that yields a reasonable and adequate return for capital lent on absolutely secure collateral, namely, a person’s home. Today on finance for home building rates of interest are paid that shocked everybody about 15 years ago when it was learned that they were being paid on motor cars and refrigerators - assets that could disappear almost Overnight. To borrow more of the same type of money today with collateral even more secure - because people in this country are more prosperous today and can afford to buy homes - people must pay interest rates that have gone up through the ceiling. The Government has ensured that result.
The Commonwealth has now negotiated another agreement with the States, and from the point of view of the States it is a better agreement than the old one. We, and I suppose the States, do not suggest that it is by any means perfect. It is far from perfect, but it is an improvement on the previous agreement and as such we accept it, We also accept the fact that (he States have seen fit to agree to it. I agree with Senator Gietzelt that the States have been under some compulsion. In negotiations between the Commonwealth and the States it is inevitable that the Stales will want more and that the Commonwealth wil say that that is all it is prepared to give. If the States do not accept the offer they may find themselves in a situation in which there is no agreement at all. That will persist for as long as we have a single taxing authority in the Commonwealth and the necessity to provide for people in the States the form of assistance covered by this Bill.
– The only problem associated with your last comment is that there was no agreement between the States and the Commonwealth on this type of housing finance.
– If Senator Webster is suggesting that the States will reject it, I suppose that what he says may be true, but I am under the impression that the States are prepared to accept what is outlined in the Bill. I am fully aware that there is now no written agreement in the sense of the old agreement. Some of the reasons for the old agreement have, quite properly I think, disappeared. In my view, the Commonwealth quite properly has removed from this legislation the provision that i percentage of the amount made available had to be- used to provide housing for the returned servicemen of this nation. That is clearly a Commonwealth responsibility and should not have been part of past Commonwealth and State housing agreements.
A good feature of this Bill is that the Commonwealth has removed the former provision relating to returned servicemen and is making itself clearly responsible in a field in which it ought to accept responsibility. I think all members of this Parliament would agree that housing assistance should be provided that is absolutely adequate for our returned servicemen. The Commonwealth should provide it directly and without requiring that 5 per cent of the money provided by agreement with the States to house low income earners should be allocated for housing ex-members of the defence forces. We have learned from the Minister’s second reading speech that that provision has been deleted from the structure of this legislation. 1 turn now to the amendment proposed by the Opposition. It seems a little peculiar in the way it asks the Senate to express an opinion on the’ Bill. I can well appreciate that the Senate could express an opinion that this legislation is not adequate, but the amendment then refers to meeting the special needs of low income earners. That is the purpose of the Bill. The amendment sets up sections relating . to pensioners, migrants, Aborigines, deserted wives, and similarly disadvantaged people. Some of the people in those sections may be low income earners, but not necessarily so. Unless this is done for political purposes, I cannot understand why we should be asked to express an opinion which is quite irrelevant to this legislation.
The Commonwealth has power to legislate for the assistance of Aborigines, lt was granted that power by a referendum of the people of the Commonwealth. 1 do not think we should clutter up every piece of social service legislation and insult the indigenous people of this country by placing them in a special category in every Bill authorising assistance. Some Aborigines do not need assistance and do not want it. I think the Commonwealth should adequately take care of our indigenous people as an entirely separate entity under the special powers granted to it by referendum. If some Aborigines are in the category of low income earners (hey should be considered on their merits and in no way associated with their racial background.
I believe that if some Aborigines happen to be a little better off than the low income group they should not be included in a special category just because they are Aborigines. I do not think that is a very logical or Australian approach. Similar remarks could be addressed in respect of the other categories of persons mentioned in the proposed amendment. Some of the categories mentioned could well be loosely described as low income earners, but a deserted wife may be either in receipt of a low income or $500 a week alimony granted by a court judgment. Does the proposed amendment imply that because a woman is a deserted wife, even though she is reasonably well off, she is to be placed within special categories and not dealt with on the same basis as other people with family responsibilities who happen to be low income earners?
I do not like the fundamental philosophy involved in placing people into special categories because of particular circumstances in their lives. The Commonwealth has the responsibility to look at the people of Australia and to say: ‘We are out to assist the low income earners, particularly the family man. to get adequate housing’. That approach should cover everybody in Australia, including deserted wives or even deserted husbands. A deserted husband with four or five children could have much more serious and difficult financial problems than a deserted wife. The proposed amendment goes on to refer to similarly disadvantaged people. That brings in almost everybody, in view of the categories that are named. It really means that anybody at all with a disadvantage could, broadly speaking, be brought within the categories specially named. I do not think that the Senate should express such an opinion when dealing with a straight out matter of housing assistance for low income earners. Aborigines as such are as much a Commonwealth responsibility as are members of the armed Services, pensioners or migrants.
The Commonwealth arranges for migrants to come to Australia, but it leaves the problem of their integration to the States. Although in most instances the States do not arrange for migrants to come here, when a migrant has become integrated in our community and has become a successful man within his Scale, he is then a success for the State and of benefit to the State, so why should he be required to pay more than anyone else towards the cost of educating his children? As the Commonwealth is the taxing authority which collects the money, it should finance the education of children throughout Australia by ensuring that the States have adequate money to enable them to provide educational facilities. Whether the children attend a State school or an independent school, whether they happen to have a particular racial background, to have been born in this country or to have come here as migrants, they are still Australian children and should be considered as such. In the same way, when we speak of housing in relation to this Bill we should regard all residents of the States as Australians and the Commonwealth should be providing assistance to ensure that adequate housing is provided for everyone.
We should not start impregnating legislation of this type with endeavours to deal with special problems such as we have with the Aborigines. The special problem of Aborigines can be solved only as a separate problem.It will not be solved by patching up all sorts of legislation to provide special concessions or advantages in relation to housing or anything else. The housing of Aborigines should come under the Commonwealth’s own authority and be accepted as a Commonwealth responsibility in line with the opinion expressed by referendum by the people of Australia when it was decided that these people who are disadvantaged because of their association with their old tribal customs and all that flows from them should be looked after adequately by the Commonwealth. The problem of Aborigines should not be introduced into special legislation relating to homes savings grants.
I do not accept those portions of the Minister’s second reading speech in which he tried to present the Commonwealth as a Santa Claus because in the past it has made cash grants, or perhaps in the future will do so. I can never understand this approach by the Commonwealth to the States. This attitude is one of the reasons, if not the root cause, for the Commonwealth and States failing to agree on financial matters over the years. Yet every Bill which is introduced in this place and which involves the payment of money to the States is brought in with an attitude of this kind. The Commonwealth says: “Look at what we are doing for the States.’ But the States are made up of Australian people who provide money for the Commonwealth. They are the taxpayers. What the Commonwealth Parliament gives to the States is only what the taxpayers of Australia have contributed to the Commonwealth for the purpose of running Australia. Why is it necessary for the Commonwealth to pretend to be Santa Claus? That is what it is doing, as though it were doing something that is not expected of it.
– The States say that we are not doing that.
– In many cases he States have been right. The Commonwealth, which so begrudgingly acts as Santa Claus, pretends to be generous although it is giving to the States only half of what is needed. If the Commonwealth had provided an adequate amount to the States they would have gone broke and there would have been no need for the Commonwealth to wipe off the enormous unpaid burden plus interest which the States could not afford to pay. It has become necessary for the Commonwealth to wipe off this burden because it was recognised that the States could not pay. If that is not true we have not heard any facts in this place. That is a fact of life. I remind Senator Buttfield that it would be foolish to argue that the Commonwealth has been looking after the States adequately. The States, along with municipal authorities, have had to meet the burden of increased interest rates. The Commonwealth has been running about tickling itself and saying: ‘We are dealing with inflation; we have put up interest rates. That will stop borrowing and it will stop spending.’ But that does not work.
High interest rates do not deter borrowing. Municipal councils cannot refuse to borrow merely because interest rates have risen from 5 per cent to 7 per cent. They cannot refuse to provide adequate facilities for their ratepayers because interest rates have increased. They are in a situation where they have to pay the higher rates. They have tried to meet this burden but have gone broke in doing so. It has been in trying to meet these rates of interest that they have gone broke, because the interest rates have got out of hand to such an extent that local authorities are now paying as much in interest on accrued debts as they used to pay for the whole of the municipal services that they provided for the community. This has been a tragedy for financial relationships of the various State governments and local government bodies. The States have come to the Commonwealth time and again and have tried to illustrate how interest rates have been creeping up and making their situation impossible.
While the Commonwealth has greatly reduced the national debt and has become a creditor rather than a debtor it. has pretended to be generous to the States. It cannot be generous to the Stales. It can never give to the Stales more than it has received from the taxpayers. Whatever it gives to the States is lu.e taxpayers’ own money. This being so, why do we not stop patting ourselves on the back when we return to the States the money that they need to finance their operations? In legislation such as this the Commonwealth Government tries to pretend that it is a wonderful thing thai it should be generous to the extent of giving the States a rebate on interest of I per cent, yet over a period of 10 years it has jacked up interest rates by more than 2 per cent. The Commonwealth pretends to be generous by providing money to the States at I per cent lower than the current bond rate. This is a ridiculous situation. The States went broke despite the fact that the Commonwealth was allegedly being generous to them.
This Bill provides for a new procedure by which the Commonwealth will finance homes savings grants. It will enable the Commonwealth to make a direct grant to the Slates. At least this is a recognition that the old system was faulty. I do not know that grants to be provided under the legislation will be adequate; I doubt verymuch that they will be, particularly when housing for many people in the community has fallen into a very sorry state. Because of the Government’s philosophy over the last 20 years we have arrived at a. situation in which the man who most needs assistance for housing is the family man with 3, 4, 5 or 6 children, rather than the man who has no family. Of course, one way to solve our housing problem would be to encourage the people of Australia to accept the philosophy of zero population growth. If that philosophy were accepted we would have no problem, but we would not have a nation either. J hope that the Commonwealth will recognise, particularly in relation to larger families, how much it is costing Commonwealth. State and municipal authorities to permit poor housing conditions, which in many cases are the only conditions available to larger families.
The taxation structure in this country offers very little to the man with the larger family even if he does not pay very much in direct taxation. It is indirect taxation, particularly sales tax. that hampers the man with 5 or 6 children. It affects him every lime he walks into a shop to purchase the daily necessities for the children who will build a greater Australia. I believe it may be said that the Government now receives less from income tax than it receive from indirect systems of taxation. It pretends that because the family man is nol paying very much income tax it is providing him with a great concession. Yet he is the man who is building a greater Australia. Does the Commonwealth really believe that it is giving these people anything when it is stealing from them through every purchase they make taxes far in excess of what is paid by others in more advantageous circumstances? The family man has to meet this burden of indirect taxation in purchasing needs for his 5 or 6 children. Those are sidelights which I probably should not have introduced into the debate. I will discontinue that line of reasoning before I am called to order by the Chair.
I shall conclude my remarks by saying that the Australian Democratic Labor Party supports the measure which is before the Senate. It is necessary that the Commonwealth should do something to assist the States in the field of housing. The Democratic Labor Party accepts that this measure is necessary to give effect to the Government’s Budget proposals. It is easy to say that more money should be expended by the Commonwealth in a particular field, but housing is one field in which the Democratic Labor Party is particularly concerned to ensure that the Commonwealth does more in the future. My Party feels that those people who are desirous of becoming home owners in their own right should be able to build adequate homes at rates of interest which will not impoverish them during the vital years in which they are trying to educate their children. At present many families are unable to give the little bit of extra assistance in the way of education that they would like to give to their children because they are groaning under the burden of the interest rate of 7 per cent or 8 per cent that they have lo pay on their housing loans.
The interest rate on housing loans in this country never should have been allowed to rise beyond 4 per cent to 5 per cent, which is the average rate of interest in countries throughout the world in which there is ti stabilised banking and credit structure. Only in exceptional circumstances has it ever risen in those countries to the level of the rates which are being charged in Australia at present. The Democratic Labor Party is of the opinion that if the Government were lo attend to the evil which it introduced itself as a pseudo inflationary deterrent it would solve a lol of the problems of many of the people in this country who have the initiative and desire to meet their own housing needs and who but for the present economic circumstances would have the capacity to do so. The Government has destroyed their chances by allowing the credit structure of this country to go beyond the reasonable limits of the people who desire to use it for the fundamentally necessary purpose of providing housing for their children. If the amendment had been couched in terms of criticism along those lines, I believe that my Party would have found it much easier to support, but it is not happy with the terms in which the amendment is couched at present. Therefore, the Democratic Labor Party will support the Bill and oppose the amendment.
– I rise to speak briefly in praise of this Bill and to express my opposition to the amendment which has been proposed. I do not propose to canvass the many points which are contained in this Bill. However, i do wish to point out the several great benefits it will provide to not only the States but also home builders themselves. The Bill contains 5 particular benefits. Firstly, it provides for a basic grant to the States in place of an interest concession. Secondly, it provides for rental assistance to those who need it. Thirdly, the Bill provides for the Commonwealth to take over the obligation of providing Service homes. Fourthly, there is the sinking fund contribution which, although it is not yet clear as to how much it will be, is likely to be to the order of about $114m over the 54 years in which the Loan Council borrowings are repayable. Fifthly, there is the provision in regard to the home builders account, about which I will be saying something in more detail later as 1 feel it is the important part of this Bill and which seems to have been overlooked by Opposition speakers.
First of all, 1 wish to say something about the amendment which has been moved by Senator Gietzelt on behalf of the Opposition. To begin with, 1 am not clear as to what would happen if this amendment were to be carried because it merely states that the Senate is of the opinion that the Commonwealth Government should provide adequate funds for certain purposes. I should imagine that if the Senate were to accept the proposition that it was of this opinion it would be the end of this Bill and no assistance would be provided to the States or to the home builders. For that reason alone. 1 oppose the amendment. But perhaps of more importance is that fact that most of the categories listed under Senator Gietzelt’s amendment aTe already being looked after. For example, the low income earners are to be assisted - rightly so - by the housing commissions. The pensioners are being assisted by the Commonwealth Government. There is a scheme which provides housing for single pensioners at something like $2.50 to S3 a week. 1 understand that some 1 17 houses of that type have been already approved.
The third category referred to in the Opposition’s amendment is the migrants. I think we are all aware of the fact that the Commonwealth Government is assisting migrants in this regard and that there is a scheme which fluctuates with the migrant intake. After they have been brought here migrants are put into hostels in order to give them time in which to earn a little more money or find out where they wish to have a house. They then become eligible for housing under exactly the same conditions as any other Australian. 1 approve of the fact that no distinction is drawn between the eligibility for houses of Australians and migrants who have become Australian citizens.
– There would be no houses left for the ordinary Australians if priority were to be given to the categories mentioned.
– That would be the case if preference was given in too many instances. I am simply saying that migrants are now treated in exactly the same way as any other Australians.
– Why is it that so many of them choose not to become naturalised? Almost all of the English migrants decline to take out citizenship.
– I do not think the English migrants have to take out citizenship. 1 think they automatically become Australian citizens.
– No fear: they are British citizens.
– As British citizens they do not have to take out Australian citizenship in order to become eligible for such benefits, but other migrants have to take out Australian citizenship. I cannot give the exact figures, but 1 think that most of them do choose to become Australian citizens.
– Over 90 per cent of the British migrants do not take out Australian citizenship.
– I do not think that there is any need for them so do so. They consider themselves to be British citizens. After all, we are all British subjects. I do not think the point is a very valid one.
– The reverse situation does not apply now to Australians in England.
– That is quite true. I think it is a pity that that is the situation. 1 hope the British Government takes note of what we have been saying, lt is also out of order to mention in this amendment the special housing needs of Aborigines. There is in existence a scheme which assists Aborigines in the field of housing. Under that scheme $25m will be provided to the States over 5 years for the building of housing units for Aborigines. So far $ 14.5m has been spent for this purpose in building 2,000 units for Aborigines. I nm sorry that Senator Gietzelt has not been listening to my last few comments, which have been a direct answer to the plea he has made to the Senate to support his amendment. As Senator Gietzelt is now listening, I shall repeat my last few comments. Aborigines have been assisted by a grant which has been made by the Commonwealth Government to the Stales to the extent of $14.5m for the building of 2,000 units. In all $25m will be provided for this purpose over a 5-year period. The plight of deserted wives is mentioned in the amendment. Deserted wives will be assisted under this legislation by way of rental rebates. It is in the power of the States to decide who should gain these rental rebates. The Commonwealth will be providing money in the form of straight out grants to the States to allow the States to make their own decisions as to who should receive rental rebates. It is for those reasons that I say that none of the categories mentioned in the Opposition’s amendment needs special consideration.
J wish to speak in general terms about housing in Australia. During a recent trip overseas I made it my business to examine the housing situation in many European countries. I would venture to say that Australians are belter housed than anybody in any of the European countries I visited.
– We did not suffer wartime devastation. That comparison is unreal.
– I go further and say that because European countries had to overcome the devastation caused to them by war they probably had to build a less spacious type of house in order to overcome the shortage quickly. This is very obvious in many countries. Very small housing units are provided for many people. I venture to cav that a good deal of the housing in Sweden is of the oneroom type. The whole family lives in one room. People wanting an up-to-date new house in Sweden are lucky if they can get 2 bedrooms for a family unit. Nevertheless the authorities have done a good job. Australia might eventually think that the way in which those countries are assisting with housing is the better way. I think there is a great deal of merit in the fact that they do not set up expensive government instrumentalities to build houses. Honourable senators on this side of the chamber certainly will agree that housing commissions are expensive bureaucratic institutions. They are a costly way of providing houses for people because they are subsidised. A great deal of the cost of running these large departments, if you like to call them that, is not costed into the price of the houses. I go one step further and say that the private building industry could and does build very much more cheaply than the housing commissions. However, if the housing commissions limit their activity to providing subsidised houses for low income people then I approve of them; but many : of them go beyond that and compete with private industry in building houses for sale. This is a completely wrong way to use housing grants. 1 maintain that the grants should be limited to providing rental housing for low income groups. I approve of that.
In European countries assistance is given in other ways to low income people, lt is done by means of providing a direct subsidy to people living in rented homes. Subsidies are given also to co-operative building groups which will build units for people in compliance with the Government’s requirements as to their being within a certain price range and of a certain standard. This, I believe, is the most efficient and effective way of building houses for the people. Encouraging competition in private industry to do this job is a more efficient and less costly way than setting up government commissions.
I want to say a little about the provision :n this Bil! for 30 per cent of the grant to go to the States being allocated to building societies or other approved lending authorities. To my mind it is rather a pity that <-o often the words ‘co-operative terminating building societies’ creeps into this legislation. To my mind the terminating societies are not the most efficient way of assisting people. I believe that the co-operative permanent societies are better. Many of the present day permanent building societies started as terminating’ societies, it is far more efficient to have permanent building societies. I stress the fact that in cooperative building societies we are getting the best of both worlds because they are not out to make profits and their entire business relates to the field of lending money for housing. This makes them more efficient in comparison with. say. the banks which engage in other activities. In addition, the societies can concentrate on lending to the low income and medium income groups, lt would be far wiser if the Government eventually were to talk about cooperative building societies rather than cooperative terminating building societies. I emphasise the difference. Honourable senators may ask why, in addition to the reason I have just given, building societies are so much better equipped to assist in housing finance than other organisations, be they government instrumentalities or the banks. Some housing authorities use private builders to construct homes for them. Certainly the South Australian Housing Trust does this.
– lt uses nothing else.
– That is so. The Trust concentrates on a few chosen builders. It docs not have a range of builders working for it: nor does it have private architects. I understand that the Housing Trust employs about 38 architects within its own precincts. Goodness knows what they do because there is not much architecture involved in the houses that the Trust builds. To my mind they are extraordinarily monotonous. However, the Housing Trust builds up its costs by maintaining this expensive overhead setup, lt then calls on private builders, its chosen few, to submit estimates. Those builders engaged to build for the Housing Trust do it at such a low rate because otherwise they are squeezed out. It is the number of houses that they build which allows them to submit a price that the Trust expects. 1 believe that often the builders make only $5, SIO or S50 a house. Certainly that is very good for the people who are to have them but the costs add up in the other indirect ways of which I have been speaking. On the other hand, if building societies make money available for housing through the range of competing builders I am quite sure - the facts show that this is so - that they can build more cheaply and more efficiently and therefore assist a greater number of people.
– I think building societies are more careful in selecting builders.
– I do not know that that is true. 1 repeat that the Housing Trust has a chosen few who do nothing but concentrate on the number of houses which it is able to allocate to them. Certainly the private owner cannot have the same advantage and has to pay a relatively higher price, although, I stress, not in actual terms.
– If the Trust has only a favoured few .builders it becomes a ring.
– That is exactly what they are doing and it is a great pity.
– There are incompetent builders working for the Housing Trust in South Australia.
– There are incompetent builders?
– Yes. Their work would never pass State Bank inspection.
– I think the honourable senator is now arguing against his own suggestion about State government housing. If that is the case he might well reprimand the Housing Trust for accepting such standards.
– I have been reprimanding it for 20 years.
– I am not in a position to know. I am criticising the hidden costs operating against people who apply to the Housing Trust for ownership of a home.
– You are talking about the cost of the 30 architects. That is part of the hidden cost.
– That is one of the hidden costs. There are many others. There are enormous overheads in any department doing business such as the housing commissions are doing. All of us know that there are very few government departments which will prune their costs in the way that private indusry will do. Therefore I stress the fact that I approve of the continuing benefit being provided by this grant to the home builders’ account and I maintain that the States will gain benefit from the grant only if they continue to allocate properly money to their building societies. It is regrettable that only 30 per cent of this grant is to go to building societies, lt would be far bet er if the amount were gradually increased until at least 50 per cent of the money went directly to the private sector.
I agree that this is an extremely valuable Bill. It will assist in providing housing. I stress again that Australian housing is good, it is efficient and is relatively readily available to people. I am not going to say that housing is cheap because housing is not cheap anywhere in the world today. But the sad story that the Opposition is trying to put over about there being such a terrific housing crisis for the people of Australia is unfounded. Housing is very much in the Government’s mind, lt has done an extremely good job in providing assistance to those who need houses and who are not in a position to alford them. For that reason 1 commend the Bill and support it.
– I believe that this parliamentary session will be identified by several very significant changes in financial arrangements between the. Commonwealth and States. Undoubtedly the proposal before the Senate has been prompted by both State and Federal Ministers. Indeed, the States Grants (Housing) Bill which we have before us is one of the significant Bills which changes arrangements which have existed for many years It is my understanding that an agreement in relation to the flow of Commonwealth money to the States has existed since 1945. lt is in this year of 1971 that we have a complete change in the arrangement which previously existed. I suppose that the amendment which was moved by the Australian Labor Party brings to the Senate the greatest wisdom which can be put forward by an opposition. I am completely dismayed at the wording of the amendment. I completely reject it. But 1 imagine that this is probably the best the Opposition can bring to the Senate. Perhaps they should be congratulated for that.
The Federal Minister for Housing (Mr Kevin Cairns) has said that the arrangements which he has entered into with the States will produce particular benefits for the various States. The benefits appear to me to be, firstly, that over a period of years the States will gain a much greater amount of loan money compared with the. amount they would have received if the present agreement had continued. The Stales will also gain by having an amount of some $2.75m as a direct grant to subsidise their interest commitment. They will also receive some $1.25m towards the cos» of rental assistance which they have granted to lower income families in past years. The Federal Minister has pointed out that there are sound reasons why this Bill should be supported. I inform the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) who in this chamber represents the Minister for Housing that I support the Bill with very little interest. 1 know the Minister is always anxious to make clear to the Senate the wisdom which prevails in Cabinet when a matter is agreed on and then put to the Senate. I hope that the Minister will take the various points which I raise. I shall quote some points from others who have brought them forward. To me they appear to have great bearing on this matter.
I say again that I am not very attracted to this legislation. The basic point which concerns me is that the view which one must lake is that (here is very little in the way of public relations between the Federal Government and the States. In this instance surely the initiation of such public relations was on the shoulders of the Commonwealth. lt disturbs me that over the last few years there has been little intercourse between Federal and Stale Ministers in relation to proper financial discussions and this situation continues even in this year. I am very concerned as lo how my State allocates the funds which it receives. I could have some argument with my State Government as to the manner in which they construct different types of buildings. I instance the situation in Victoria where the allocation of funds by the Victoria Housing Commission is continuing to provide for the erection of large high rise flat dwellings. They must give Victoria a most enormous headache in years to come.
I am also very concerned as to the valuation which is apparently put on housing commission homes in my State. To me the figures appear to be getting away entirely from the figure which the average working man can afford. A Housing Commission which is at least supposed to be a government body is providing houses for those in less affluent circumstances. I instance this case by pointing to an area where I live. I understand that the Housing Commission has held land in this area since the early 1940s. If my memory serves me correctly in those days it paid £75 an acre for the land. At the present time the Housing Commission is developing the land. Undoubtedly developmental costs are great today but the average price of the homes which the Housing Commission has for sale is approximately $14,738. I suggest that that figure is entirely beyond the ability of the man who is on what we should consider as the basic wage in Australia today. If one is earning about $70 a weekit is an impossibility for one to look at the interest commitment which one is likely to incur on that figure. Indeed, one can put that commitment down as representing some $800 a year in rent alone to repay that type of borrowing.
In the State sphere some problems which concern me are the types of residences which we are building with Commonwealth assistance and the cost of construction which appears to be getting quite out of hand. The Federal Minister for Housing has put to us - as the Minister for Works prompted a previous speaker - that this is an agreement with the States. Undoubtedly the States have all agreed. In my remarks I hope to challenge the Minister and to show that that is entirely incorrect. A very unhappy situation exists between Federal and State Ministers at this time. I was prompted to read the Hansard report from my own State Parliament. I consider myself a Victorian senator and I hope that at all timesI am able to reflect on the floor of the Senate some of the attitudes which flow from my State Parliament. A member of the Legislative Assembly of Victoria when speaking on this matter - he is a Liberal member - used these words:
It is unfortunate that the trend is continuing that the Commonwealth Government lays down the rules, hands out money in accordance with its own rules, and does not allow the Stales to determine how the money shall be spent. This is true, not only in the realm of housing, but of transport, roads, education, and the like. It is a further indication of the way in which the Commonwealth Parliament - and I use that term in its broadest sense - is using its powers to gradually take over many of the responsibilities of the States. I sympathise with the Minister of Housing in his struggle to obtain enough finance for Housing. The fact that the Minister was not in a position to know what funds were available for housing until they were announced with the introduction of the Commonwealth Budget in the Federal Parliament is an indication of the continuing dicta from that place.
In his comments Mr Ian McLaren, a most respected member of the Legislative Assembly stated:
I therefore suggest that it is necessary, in the near future, for the Commonwealth and the Stales, in a conference or convention, to discuss these matters and others to overcome this form of dictation from the central Administration.
– What is the date of that quotation?
– It is 18th November. I turn to some of the comments which were made by the State Minister of Housing. Undoubtedly he is the Minister who agreed that all was well and that this was a situation with which to be satisfied. I take it that is what the Minister meant. If there was satisfaction between the State and Federal Housing Ministers when this agreement was agreed to why did Mr Meagher state:
Any claim that I have agreed to these proposals is false. In fact, at the last conference, I insisted that my objection to the proposals be specifically recorded.I was joined in this objection by every other State Minister of Housing.
I ask the Minister to make clear whether that is fair comment. He can probably lay his hands on the minutes of that conference easier than I can. Mr Meagher pointed out a number of problems associated with this measure. He prompted the point that accordingly there is now to be no joint agreement between the States and the Commonwealth as there has been hitherto. I imagine that it is well in our minds that what we are doing in this legislation is disintegrating altogether any relationship of agreement between the Commonwealth and the States. In his second reading speech the Victorian Minister for Housing said:
In future, loan allocations to the Housing Commission and for the Home Builders Account will be determined by the State Treasurer and will be advanced from the Worksand Services Account.
For the next 5 years, continuing cumulatively for 30 years, housing grants are to be paid by the Commonwealth to the States at a level which according to Federal calculations, will provide an effectiveinterest concession better than the1 per centdefinite concessional interest rate previously applying, because of the indefinite nature of the variables in components over the period this may or may not prove to bethecase. The grants are fixed in amount - the interest rate and the loan allocations over the next 5 years will a suredly vary.
The Minister went on:
Because of inflationary or population pressures, it is obvious that additional funds will have to be made available by the State Treasury from time to rime and all of these funds will be subject to interest at the full bond rate while the Commonwealth contribution remains fixed. In these circumstances advantages to the Slates claimed by the Commonwealth must obviously disappear with consequent upward pressure on rentals and purchase instalments.
I make the point that the Commonweath. in its policy on immigration, must add greatly to the problems of the States in their attempts to find housing money. Indeed, that is emphasised in those comments that I have read from the second reading speech of the Victorian Minister for Housing. I make one interesting point in relation to rental assistance grants. I think that what the Commonwealth does is excellent but we all should be aware of the meagre assistance that it really is compared to what some States already do. The State Minister for Housing continued in this second reading speech:
I feel I should point out to the House that whilst the $331,000 per annum to bereceived by Victoria is welcome, it should be realised that last year the cost of rebated rentals to this State was $ 1, 834,030 and if my forecast that loan applications and rentals must increase is realised, this cost to the State will certainly increase.
Finally, the Minister said:
In presenting this Bill to the House I must add thatI do so without enthusiasm but by necessity. The financial proposals outlined in this measure were presented to State Ministers without prior consultation and with a declaration from the Commonwealth Minister that they were nonnegotiable.
The straight forward proposals for a renewal of the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreements with a simple reduction of interest rates which were submitted unanimously by the States to the Commonwealth were ignored by the Commonwealth. Instead we have this very complicated scheme, full of imponderables, and being implemented by an Act of the Commonwealth Parliament subject at all times to arbitrary change by the Commonwealth.
Although forced to accept this scheme, I would warn this Parliament that it has the effect of drawing even more tightly the financial stranglehold that the Commonwealth has imposed on us.
I believe that Victoria is very unhappy about this scheme. At the outset of my speech,I mentioned the benefits which the Federal Minister for Housing indicated in his second reading speech would follow from this arrangement.I have said that I am particularly unhappy that, at a time when we should be getting some sense in the financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States, we see projected in the Parliament of my own State, Victoria, within the last 10days a complete rejection and abhorrence by Ministers and back benchers of the provisions that are set down in this supposed agreement with the States.
I conclude by saying that in Victoria the State Government rejects the proposition entirely. Those are the words of the State Minister for Housing. Perhaps the State Minister will be wrong. From the many things that have been stated, not only by the Premier of the State that I represent but also by other Ministers, it is obvious that they have criticised the Commonwealth time and again for the shortage of funds flowing to the States.I believe that it is a political ploy for them to ask for more funds the whole time, but in this matter I see that the State in fact has some reason for argument if it. is true that at an earlier meeting of the State and Commonwealth Ministers it was proposed by the Commonwealth Minister for Housing that he would go away, consider amendments and return to the State Ministers with some other agreement; that this was completely disregarded, and that it was only on the introduction of the Federal Budget that the State Ministers learned of the proposition and then, as Mr Meagher in the Stale sphere said, it was a take it or leave it proposition. This certainly does not lead to contentment in financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States, and it is with some reluctance that I support this measure.
– in reply - I acknowledge with some degree of interest the submissions that have been made. I think 1 would be paying less than the respect that is due to the honourable senators who have, participated in the debate if I were not to refer to several of the aspects that have been raised by them. Having that in mind, regrettably I do not feel it is possible to conclude my remarks before 6 o’clock. I propose, therefore, to open by making reference to the remarks of my colleague, Senator Webster, because honourable senators will have his remarks most recently in mind. In the context of housing, he raised a difficulty of pervading significance in this country and exclaimed a discontent imparted by the Minister for Housing in Victoria who is publicly on record in the Victorian Hansard report as saying that any statement that he agreed to this proposal is false. The joint statement that was issued by the Commonwealth and State Housing Ministers after their conference on 17th September 1970 was to the effect that the State Housing Ministers had agreed to accept the Commonwealth proposals for housing grants in respect of their activities over the next 5 years, subject to a number of variations in details agreed between them. It was also agreed that, in future, housing for servicemen should be dealt with under a separate agreement by which construction would continue to be carried out by the States with the Commonwealth to meet the full costs. The Press release also stated that the main principles of the proposals were agreed to and that detailed documents were to be submitted to the State in due course.
There is one basis upon which responsible people consider whether they agree to a transaction. Surely a transaction of this nature is of some degree of importance over and above an ordinary commercial business transaction. When Ministers say that they agree to it we can concede to them the right to grumble and grudge, but to say that an assertion that an agreement has been made is false goes beyond the limit of accuracy. Senator Webster criticised the way in which the negotiations were conducted. I think it would be impolitic of me to enter into a discussion upon that matter because unless one were the Minister concerned with the negotiations one would be apt either to state the mat ter partially or to omit circumstances which one or another who developed the negotiations thought of some importance.
It is hoped that in this day and age we will be able to get to an accommodation whereby State Ministers repesenting people for State purposes and Commonwealth Ministers representing the same people for Commonwealth purposes will cease to regard Federal-State financial relations as matters of political propaganda. A sense of responsibility requires that both have regard to the fact that this money comes out of the pocket of one set of taxpayers. If the taxpayer has a hand of the Federal Government in one pocket and the hand of the State Government in the other he will not be served best by his political representatives. It will do nothing to advance the cause to try to veneer what is a political agreement with grumbling, the publication of which is usually confined to a local centre for local consumption. But for Senator Webster’s thoughtfulness in reading to us the Victorian Hansard perhaps we would not have been aware of this discontent.
– Oh, Minister, please!
– I was expressing myself as indebted to the honourable senator for having brought it this far out of Melbourne. Mention was made of a financial stranglehold. I point out that the agreement represents in one fell swoop an allocation by this Parliament over the 30 years of $4 1 2.5m to subsidise urban housing and a saving in the sinking fund arrangements of SI 14m over 53 years. There is no need for me to remind honourable senators of the $6. 25m as a special new subvention over 5 years for low income rental housing. Out of the taxes that the Commonwealth raises from the taxpayers whom Senator Webster mentioned the Commonwealth Government entrusts a portion of that amount to the Victorian Government for the purpose of housing in Victoria, subject only to the condition that the Victorian Government allocates 30 per cent of that sum to the Home Builders Account and that it faithfully applies the rest to subdising rents or interest rates payable by purchasers of the housing that that Government constructs.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was replying to the second reading debate on this Bill. I made reference to the comments that Senator Webster was good enough to offer to the Senate in relation specifically to the Victorian situation. Senator Little joined in this debate and expressed the thought that it was a little inappropriate that the Commonwealth should assume the office of Santa Claus. I wish immediately to discard the robes of Santa Claus and to adopt only one approach; that is, a continuing endeavour to define the line of demarcation of political responsibilities in regard to State expenditure and Commonwealth expenditure. Neither government has anything of its own to give to the other; we only manage - I hope by mutual purpose - one man’s money, and that man is the taxpayer. When we remind the States of what is given as a subsidy to suburban housing, we are deeply conscious of the fact that we are not Santa Claus; that we are the Commonwealth, having exacted money for a purpose, accepting the responsibility that it will be expended for that purpose.
That brings me to the specific amendment that Senator Gietzelt, on behalf of the Australian Labor Party, moved to the motion for the second reading of the Bill for the purpose not of modifying, delaying or rejecting the Bill but of adding to the motion an expression of opinion, the only effect of which might be to attract, on the part of the simple minded, a political acceptance of propaganda. The amendment says that the Senate should commit itself to an expression of opinion in the light of the increased benefits which I have indicated come from this Bill in terms of actual expenditure. It says that we should add to the motion:
In this Bill for the first time we have included an item to provide rental subsidies for low income earners, with no definition of low income earners; each State is entitled to decide for itself the category that comes within that expression-
I- shall deal briefly with this proposition. We’ have, as I have indicated, offered to the Parliament in the Bill for the first time the proposition of making a special grant, not related to interest rates but of $2.75m a year, which will net $412.5m over the period of 30 years. Then we have added a Commonwealth contribution of SI 14m over 53 years. We have added to that $6.5m over 5 years as a new special rental subsidy. The States also have been relieved of the obligation to contribute some of their housing funds for the provision of Service dwellings. Last year that obligation cost the States $3. 5m. This year the Commonwealth is appropriating $8.lm for that purpose.
I come now to the part of the amendment that deals with Aborigines. This year we are providing $5. 2m for Aborigines alone. If that were to be worked out on a per capita basis for the rest of the population it would show a great advantage per capita to the Aborigines over the remainder of the Australian population. But surely with any responsibility the Senate would accept the proposition that a provision of $5. 2m to provide 430 houses for Aborigines in this year is not a disregard of their requirements. Their housing appropriation takes its place as an item of a total appropriation for Aboriginal advancement this year of $31 .26m.
The next category to which members of the Austraiian Labor Party have the thought to refer is the pensioners. 1 wonder whether those who penned this amendment even took the trouble to refer to the record and to remind themselves that this year the Government is making grants of $25m to the States over a 5-year period to provide reasonable accommodation at rents appropriate to their means for single age pensioners who receive supplementary assistance. It is really an impertinence to the Senate to bring this amendment forward, suggesting as an appendage to a generous allocation for general housing purposes a categorisation of this sort, specifying Aborigines and aged persons and not even noticing the significant appropriations made under recently innovated Government policy in each of those special fields. With regard to migrants, is it not within the knowledge of the Australian Labor Party Opposition that we have provided flats and hostels for their early period of residence in this country and recognised their eligibility for accommodation in the general housing provisions that we are making by this Bill? In those circumstances it needs no emphasis from me to urge that the Senate should treat the amendment with the respect that it deserves - and that means rejection.
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Gietzelt’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I take this opportunity to refute the statement of the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) that it was disrespectful to the Senate for the Opposition to be critical of the provisions of this Bill.
– I rise to a point of order. I would ask the honourable senator to confine his remarks to the Committee debate and not to reply in Committee to the speeches made at the second reading stage.
-I will exercise some discipline andI will not directly refer to the Minister’s reply at the second reading stage. Therefore I seek to ask a series of questions of the Minister. Perhaps he will explain to me how this Bill will directly improve the position of the home seeker who is faced with an allocation by way of advance of $9,000. either from a bank or from a Slate instrumentality, at a fairly high interest rate. Can he explain to me how the young home seeker in particular will find himself in an improved position when the cost of land at the present time very seldom falls short of $5,000 and even a modest home of some 12 or 13 squares costs $13,000 or $14,000? Can the Minister explain to me how this position is to be improved under this legislation? Does he anticipate that the interest rates will go down? Has the co-operation of the State authorities been sought to reduce interest rates? Has the co-operation of the States been sought to increase the availability of money at lower interest rates, or is the home seeker still to be in the position of having to seek secondary finance at interest rates of 1 2 per cent or 1 3 per cent?
Can the Minister explain these things to me, becauseI cannot see, in spite of all his protestations, how the future or the expectation of the young home builder has been improved in any way by the provisions of this Bill?I restrain myself from referring to the Minister’s reply at the second reading stage, but may I indicate that it was his reply, his manner, his objection to the Opposition’s attitude that stimulated me to rise and speak at the Committee stage. Will the Minister give me clear answers on these matters? Is there to be more money available to the individual home builder? Is there to be a lower interest rate? If there is not to be a lower interest rate, how does the Minister expect youngsters to manage under this new legislation?
– I am trying to adopt an attitude which will not stimulate a repetition of Senator Georges’s expression on interest at the Committee stage. The answer to his question is to be found in clause 5 (1.) of the Bill, which states:
There is payable to the States, in respect of each prescribed year, by way of financial assistance, an amount of $82,500,000.
The clause refers to this year and the next 4 years. That provision, with the other benefits I have pointed out, enables an increased advantage to be given by the States to individual home seekers. The honourable senator’s question about interest rates is not strictly appropriate to this Bill. It is an incidential consideration, I agree. However, it will be noticed, will it not. that, the decline in interest rates has commenced, as indicated by the interest rates at which the last Commonwealth loan was offered? That Commonwealth loan, of course, includes money required by the States for housing.
– What is the rate?
– It is at varying rates.
– What are the varying ra’es?
– Our Commonwealth loans got up to 7 per cent, did they not? They are now down to six point whatever it is.
– Six point what?
– I am not to be teased by details. 1 spurn them. 1 rely on principles.
– In spite of the Minister’s announcement that he spurns details I would like to impress upon him how necessary it is clearly to define the interest rates that are being charged. Interest rates flowed glibly from the Minister’s tongue. He referred to 7 per cent and 6.75 per cent which, in the area of home building, are exorbitant rates. As I have already indicated, home builders have to pay even much more than that for secondary finance. I would like to have from the Minister an indication of the level of interest the various State authorities will be charging. Has there been an indication that the States will reduce their interest rates as a result of this supposedly beneficial legislation? Could I have from the Minister or his advisers a clear indication of the level at which grants will be made to the various applicants in the States? Will $9,000 be available, or $10,000, or $11,000 or $12,000? What actual interest rate will be charged? If there is to be no reduction at the State level, the purpose of this legislation has been defeated.
– The amount of each loan is fixed by each State. The rate of interest on loans made from the Home Builders Account in New South Wales - T will content myself by referring to one State as an example - has not yet been fixed officially, but Joans to building societies have been made in 1971-72 on the same conditions as the No. 1 Account. In practice therefore the rate being applied is 6.3 per cent plus management fee. The rates of interest for sale of State housing authority dwellings built with State loan funds from July 1971 - again 1 content myself with New South Wales, for the sake of simplicity - was fixed in October 1971 with effect from 1st October 1971 at 6) per cent per annum. The same rate applies to all sales irrespective of scheme or agreement.
– I would like the Minister to explain to me the terminology relating to a prescribed year. Clause 9 of the Bill sets out that at the end of each prescribed year a statement shall be furnished to the Minister. I take it that the term ‘prescribed year’ covers the current year and the next 4 years. The Minister referred in his second reading speech to the fact that the Commonwealth will make cash grants of $2.75m a year payable for 30 years in respect of housing activities in each of the years 1971-72 to 1975-76. I cannot find the relevant provision in the Bill. Possibly it is in the original Act of 1928 which related to the financial agreement then arrived at, but it seems to me that to fix a specific amount of $2. 75m a year for 30 years is a fantastic business operation. I do not think anybody can gaze into a crystal ball and name the financial requirements for housing in 30 years time. To illustrate that point I ask the Minister to consider whether 30 years ago he would have entered into a contract to provide a specific amount each year for 30 years ahead for specfic projects.
Although the statement in the Minister’s speech is so clear and definite I cannot find in the Bill a specific provision relating to that statement, f would like to have that point made clear because I consider that any financial commitment entered into today for 30 years ahead on specific terms and costs would be rather fantastic.
– One of the great advantages in this time of precipitous money values is that we give to the individual home seeker the right to acquire a home at the prices of today. Therefore, one of the advantages of this Bill is that we fix and prescribe the amounts of money which as of today will be made, available to him not only in this year but also in the succeeding 29 years until he acquires a home. 1 refer the honourable senator to clause 5, sub-clause (2.) of the Bill. After a reference in sub-clause (1.) to the amount of $82,500,000, to which 1 adverted earlier, sub-clause (2.) provides:
Of the amount payable to the Slates under the last preceding sub-section in respect of a prescribed year, $2,750,000 shall be paid in that year and $2:750,000 shall be paid in each of the next 29 succeeding years.
When individual home seekers commit themselves to a price this year the Commonwealth gives an undertaking that a corresponding loan will be available to the Slates so thai they can stabilise the basic finance upon the basis of which those individuals have purchased a home.
– Does this mean that there will be no increase in his interest rates over that period?
– That is not a question of interest rates. 1. referred to the honourable senators speech on the second reading at the commencement of my reply and before he had returned to the chamber just after 8 o’clock, but I turn now, in his presence, to this question of interest rates. I share the concern that he expresses that interest rates should be offered for general purposes today at, say, 8i per cent. In my view that rate is very high. The rate of 6£ per cent or 6i per cent which I have just indicated is applied to housing also is high. Surely the honourable senator would follow me in the confidence that in the years to come the probability is that there will be a down-turn rather than an increase in interest rates. I suggest that that is the probability.
– The Minister from time to time in answer to questions has indicated his concern at high interest rates. Whilst I accept his assurance thai the down-turn in interest rates is probable, I should like hint to tell me what consultations have taken place with the State Government - 1 refer to New South Wales only in this regard - lo ensure that money allocated and passed across to housing co-operatives at 6.3 per cent, plus expenses, does not result in an interest rale of Si- per cent, charged on yearly rests, the effective rate of which would be about .10.25 per cent. What care or concern has the Federal Government shown when allocating this money to make certain that it reached the home borrower through recognised and authorised lending societies at a reasonable rate of interest and did not finish up at 10.25 per cent?
– My knowledge of the operation of building societies is such as to increase my confidence that they rely for the continuance of their business upon the service that they give and that there is no other financial organisation in the country which is more devoted to reducing the actual interest rates that are charged to their clients as a means of building up their business. Building societies get private loans and they gel. this money. The condition upon which they receive Government money is that it shall be applied for the purpose of reducing the interest that otherwise they would be required to charge their borrowers if they had to raise at strictly private market rates all the money that they accord to their borrowers. I cannot say to Senator Georges that any investigation has been conducted, but I have never heard it suggested that this condition is nol being faithfully applied so as’ to ensure that the benefit of these moneys, credited to the home builders’ account and transmitted to the building societies, is not transmitted in full benefit to their borrowers.
If I might pursue this matter a little further,
I ask the Minister whether he is aware that the policies of savings banks which make home loans available to the level of $9,000 at6¼ per cent are at present to demand that a borrower shall have had at least $1,500 in his savings account for at least 12 months prior to an application being made in order to be eligible for a loan? Is he aware that this policy on the part of savings banks is forcing young borrowers to depend upon housing societies for finance not only because they want a house costing more than $9,000 but also because, asI mentioned earlier, that is nowhere near enough to enable them to build a house these days? in fairness to the housing societies, they are prepared to advance this amount of money.I make it clear that young people are being forced to borrow from housing societies and that, because the societies are forced to receive funds from the open market, in many cases the effective rate of interest is 8¼ per cent, in many cases calculated yearly on the balance owed, often calculated at 6 monthly intervals and very seldom at less than 6 monthly intervals. I impress upon the Minister that his statement that the amount of money which is being made available will ease the burden of the home seeker is not correct.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wright) read a third time.
-I present the report of Estimates Committee B, together with the minutes of the proceedings. Also I table the Hansard report of the evidence taken.In doing soI wish to draw to the attention of the Senate the following paragraph in the report of the Committee:
In addition, the Committee draws the attention of the Senate to the following:
There appeared to the Committee to be a lack of understanding by officers of the Broadcasting Control Board and the Australian Broadcasting Commission of the accountability to Parliament of Statutory Corporations. The Committee is of the opinion that whilst it may be argued that these bodies are not accountable through the responsible
Minister of State to Parliament for day to day operations, Statutory Corporations may be called to account by Parliament itself at any time and that there are no areas of expenditure of public funds where these corporations have a discretion to withhold details or explanations from Parliament or its Committees unless the Parliament has expressly provided otherwise.
The Committee’s examination of the proposed expenditure by the Australian Broadcasting Commission was hampered by a lack of officers with sufficient authority and information to reply adequately to questions asked by Senators.
Whilst recognising that the Department of the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts is a newly established Department and obviously some reasonable lime is necessary to obtain full efficiency, the Committee, in its examination of the Estimates of the Department, found that there was a considerable degree of confusion, lack of information and slow progress in reaching establishment in certain areas, particularly the section dealing with the environment.
– I indicate that the Opposition will have an amendment to submit tomorrow in relation to the immigration aspect of this report.
Debate (on motion by Senator Mulvihill) adjourned.
– I present the report of Estimates Committee E on the Estimates for the year 1971-72.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Debate resumed from 25 November (vide page 2134), on motion by Senator Wright:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill is supplementary to the States Grants (Housing) Bill 1971. which has just been passed by the Senate. I think the eloquence of my Senate colleagues who outlined in the earlier debate the attitude of the Opposition towards the Government’s housing policy will suffice insofar as this legislation is concerned. This Bill is virtually an affirmation of the Opposition’s attitude that in order to deal effectively with housing it is necessary to have what might be termed an urban affairs ministry. The amendment which was moved in regard to the States Grants (Housing)
Bill referred to certain categories of home owners. I say that because it is obvious that housing problems just cannot be separated into compartments. I believe that there is a tendency to adopt a piecemeal approach towards overcoming deficiencies. Not so long ago, on a,’ small fact finding mission to Jervis Bay. ) was made aware of the fact that the local population was concerned about whether certain Government projects would necessitate the construction of particular types of housing for the people engaged in the proposed steelworks complex in that area. A certain amount of inbuilt jealously existed as to the standard of the housing to. be constructed. Without unduly hammering this theme, 1 wish to emphasise that one should not operate in such a piecemeal fashion. What’ I am trying to say is that it is necessary to take into consideration the question of whether adequate town planning exists whenever the problem of whether there is sufficient housing and where houses should be constructed arises. 1 content myself with saying that this legislation is only an attempt to remedy a deficiency which exists. The view of the attitude of the Opposition towards this matter is exemplified by the diligence of my colleague, Senator Georges, in pointing out in the debate on the previous legislation the fundamental housing problems which exist. The Opposition agrees with this Bill, but it would like to feel that the Government’s advisers on housing are aware that is necessary to put under the umbrella of housing all attendant urban problems.
– The Homes Savings Grant Bill seeks to add to the exclusions under section 20 of the Homes Savings Grant Act a category of people who, as a result of the passage of the States Grants (Housing) Bill, will now be able to buy State housing commission homes. As these people are to be assisted to purchase homes by means of special Commonwealth grants it is not proposed to pay them the homes savings grant as well. That seems to be the only purpose of this Bill.
I take the opportunity to bring to the attention of the Senate some of the general questions involved in the payment of a homes savings grant and to show how the benefit from which these people are now to be excluded is not quite the benefit it appears to be on paper. The homes savings grant is a grant of $500 from the Commonwealth to young people who have saved the amount prescribed under the legislation. One has to take into consideration the difference between an interest rate of 5 per cent and 7 per cent on a $10,000 loan to appreciate the argument I am about to put forward, lt should be remembered that very few of the young people who are today purchasing a home have a loan obligation of less than $10,000. Anyone who makes the calculation to which 1 have referred will find that the magnanimous gesture of the Commonwealth in granting a $500 homes savings grant is nullified in the first 2i years of the repayment of a loan as a result of the added interest, burden that young people have to bear because of the Commonwealth Government’s financial policy. The Commonwealth is by this grant only repairing some of the damage it has done to the prospects of young people who are purchasing their own homes, yet the Government boasts that it is making a tremendous contribution to their opportunities to purchase their own homes by giving them a grant for having saved a certain amount of money before entering into the purchase of a home.
If additional exclusions from the grant are to be made it seems to me that the Commonwealth should produce figures to indicate precisely how much the assistance it is granting people under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement in the purchase of State owned dwellings is over and above the homes savings grant. In that way we would be able lo judge the merit of the Commonwealth’s contribution. The Minister for Works (Senator Wright) said in his second reading speech that benefit will be derived from this legislation. The whole of the Homes Savings Grant Act itself has become a confidence trick because of the interest rates that the young people have to pay. A homes savings grant is handed to them with one hand and taken away from them with another as a result of the added interest rates for which the Commonwealth itself accepts responsibility. Indeed it points to these rates with great pride as being the great saviour of the nation from inflation. The Commonwealth should make some explanation as to why the recipients of homes savings grants have these grants taken away from them in the first 2i years of the payment of interest on their loans. It should also be remembered that these rates of interest have to be paid for 30 years. I admit that the amount involved will depreciate as the loan reduces, but the recipients of these homes savings grants have to pay an extra amount for a further 27i years of the 30 years involved. Why is it necessary to add to the list of exclusions those people who are now purchasing State controlled homes? What is the added benefit to individuals of the subsidised interest rates to which they will no longer bc eligible but to which they would be eligible if they were not to be excluded as a result of the legislation now before the Senate? 1 would like some information on that aspect.
– I have listened with great interest to what Senator Little has had to say in relation to this legislation. It is quite obvious that the Government can give no answer to the questions he has asked. It is a fact of life that people who are now buying a housing commission home are now paying between 6 per cent and 6i per cent on the loans they have obtained. Persons who are able to purchase a home with the finance that flows through from the Commonwealth Government to a housing cooperative are able to obtain the homes savings grant. The position is that persons who are purchasing a housing commission home are being discriminated against under this legislation. Also, as has been indicated, high interest charges are absorbing the S500 grant. The grant was £250 when it was introduced by the Prime Minister of the day, Sir Robert Menzies. Really that sum was absorbed by the industry before the first loan was granted. Substantial figures are available to prove quite conclusively that the building industry was able to increase the price of a home to absorb completely the £250. 1 have cited figures in this House to prove beyond all doubt that the purchaser of a home never got any advantage out of the £250 grant.
The other disadvantage is that inflation within the industry flowed through to persons who were able to purchase homes from the various State governments. They were denied this right on the spurious argument that they were getting some advantage in relation to the interest rate being charged on the homes they were purchasing. The situation now is that the general interest rate for the major part of the money that will come from the Commonwealth will be 7 per cent. That is the charge that the Commonwealth will apply to the money it will make available to the States. It is true that in the Bill we just dealt with certain grants were made allegedly to overcome the problem associated with the interest rate being 1 per cent below the bond rate. That is the rate which was in the legislation prior to that agreement being reached. The simple fact is that a person buying a home from a State government on the arrangements that now exist is very little if any better off than a person who is able to purchase a home through a housing co-operative which is an organisation established under State government legislation.
I happen to be a director of 3 of these co-operative housing organisations and all the money that they have been able to raise has been raised through the Victorian Government or the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. We never have been able to get any money from insurance companies or any other private investors. Our organisation is known as the Labor Housing Co-operative Society and we have not been able to raise any money at all other than through the Commonwealth Bank and through the State government under legislation passed by this Parliament. We believe that our people who are able to obtain the $500 grant are almost in the same position as persons purchasing a home from the State. I cannot see any reason why the Government should discriminate at this level. If the grant is available it should be available to all persons who purchase a home within the ambit of the legislation irrespective of from whom or where they are purchasing a home. This discrimination will not face up to full and proper examination.
– I had intended to speak in the earlier debate on the States Grant (Housing) Bill but 1 missed out. Therefore I would like to say a little of what I had in mind but I do not want to digress from what I should be talking about in this debate. I listened very carefully to other honourable senators and I appreciate that what they have said is correct. As a matter of fact someone very close to me wanted to get the $500 grant and he thought that as long as he had $500 in the bank by the time he wanted the grant it would be all right. However he was advised by the bank that he had to have $500 which had not been touched and had not been drawn upon for a full period of 12 months, lt is very hard for a young couple to have $500 in the bank and not draw anything from it. They had to have that sum more or less as fixed deposit, which was very hard for them. Perhaps the Government could make some stipulation when it advances this money to the States. Perhaps it could increase the grant from $500 to $750. Perhaps it could stipulate that the interest charged when this money is loaned out is to be a certain amount. I do not know whether it can recommend, suggest or stipulate but the Government may be able to do something.
Young couples of today do need help. 1 will give honourable senators an example of what is happening in Western Australia. Tracts of vacant land there are being sold to developers. According to Government regulation those developers must develop that land to a stage where it is ready for the construction of houses. This means that they must put in roads, water and sewerage facilities and anything else that is necessary for the houses. The developers do that and get a pat on the back for having done so at their expense. But they add those charges to what they originally paid for the land, and their profit, subdivide the blocks and sell them to young couples. In fact it is the young couples who are paying for putting down the roads, water and sewerage facilities. Then the Government has the check to charge them rates and taxes on what they already have paid for.
When I was a young man people did nol pay rates and taxes until such time as they used the sewerage and water facilities. Now young couples are paying rates and taxes on services they perhaps cannot use for 10 years because it takes them nearly that long to pay off the block of land and thus obtain free title to build a house on it. The Government would bc taking a very good step if it made a grant to young couples of a certain amount for their block of land in order to give them a chance to get their heads above water.
My recommendation to young people today is not to build a house or buy their own home. It takes them 30 or 40 years to pay for it and then the Government takes it from them by means of probate tux. I strongly suggest that they stick to renting homes because at present it is a hopeless proposition for a young couple to buy a home. They will never pay for it as long as they live. Because of the interest rates the amount they have to pay for a home is ridiculous. The high cost of houses is caused by nothing more or less than piece work, which the unions allow. Yet the unions or the tradesmen apply for more wages. Bricklayers in Western Australia 12 months ago were earning from SI 50 to $200 a week when their actual rate was about $65 or $70. They were able to do this because they were on piece work. I suppose that the only people in Western Australia who were on wages were the labourers, and you could get a building cleaned up at contract prices. That is the reason for the increase in the price of building. 1 am a building contractor am! I know what I am talking about. The price of houses in Australia today is absolutely ridiculous. This should not be so hut the young people of today have to pay.
I recommend that the Government look very carefully at this matter and indicate to the States that they should apply this money in a certain way in an effort to help young people. As I said earlier, my advice to young people is: Do not own a home because you are tying a rope around your neck that you will never get rid of. When I first started building I could build a home on a block of land costing £40 and sell it, complete and ready to walk into, for £975 on £50 deposit, and T was damned pleased to get it. Now it is ridiculous. Young people will never pay for their homes as long as they live. They have to take a second mortgage. I am afraid that the situation is completely out of hand. T again ask the Government whether it will look very carefully at the situation before it hands this money to the States and whether it will try to make some stipulations in an endeavour to help the young people
– in reply - In replying to honourable senators who have contributed to the debate upon the Homes Savings Grant Bill the first honourable senator to whom I pay acknowledgement is Senator Negus who has just sat down. It is appropriate to say that his comments were addressed to this Bill. Replying to them on that basis the first thing I say is that perhaps he and I being contemporaries do not look upon future opportunities and the zest of life either with the prospect of home making or home purchase.I say to the honourable senator thatI would willingly dare all the risks of probate both for the profit and the pleasure of owning my own home. If I can vouch experience of my generation, I say that those who purchased 40 years ago will have a house which today in the transitory, fugitive values which we call money in this modern generation, has a value infinitely greater than the value of 40 years ago. After paying probate, the widow will be immeasurably enriched by the increased value of the home compared to the widow who has to go on paying the rents which have increased more savagely than interest rates. That is the first thingI say to the honourable senator in deference to his observations
The second thing I say to him when he argues for an advantage in increasing the home savings grant by $750 is that that is not a proposition for this Bill. I have no authority to respond to such a proposition. In order to assume the exhilaration of honourable senators opposite who may think they have made an argument out of their contributions to this debate, I say that the Bill is a mere formality. I ask them to recognise in the context of the Homes Savings Grant Bill the transformation of housing assistance which has been achieved in the previous States Grants (Housing) Bill. The transformation is from a housing agreement proposition which expired on 30th June to a direct cash grant proposition - to which this Bill gives expression - as from 30th June. The Homes Savings Grant Act which was in operation on 30th June provided that the homes savings grant should be not payable in respect of the purchase of a dwelling if:
State or a State authority in respect of a loan in connection with the purchase made in whole or in part out of CommonwealthState Housing Agreement moneys;
– What was the justification for that?
– I ask the honourable senator to permit mc to pay deference to his colleagues who put an argument to me to which I wish to have the opportunity to reply. Let me, in an endeavour to answerthat proposition, have what speech requires - an absence of interruption. I was going on to referto what Senator Poyser and Senator Mulvihill said and to what Senator Little referred. They wished to know what advantage was available if one purchased a home under the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement, compared with receiving the $500 which is granted if. over a 3-year period, one makes a genuine effort at saving in a financial respository which itself aggregates money for housing finance. Under the latter scheme the benefit is represented bythe sum of $500 which a home purchaser is excluded from receiving under this Bill if that person benefits from a State grant which is made after 30th June. If that purchaser had gone to a State housing authority before 30th June and received a loan of $10,000 repayable over 30 years the difference of 1 per cent in the interest rates - the difference between 7 per cent and 6 per cent - would have represented $2,365.
– That clearly illustrates how those who received the $500 were robbed.
– I beg the honourable senator’s pardon but I must insist that a pre-condition of my answering his argument is that I hear it. If all arguments are put together one will defeat the other in entering my hearing. I put the point now that there can be an individual acceptance of the proposition that the $500 savings grant should not be received by a home purchaser under this Bill. Under this Bill, even if the difference in interest rate were confined to 1 per cent, the home purchaser has an advantage over those who receive the cash grant. The States will be able to give a much greater advantage than that but even if the difference in interest rate were confined to 1 per cent on SI 0,000 for 30 years the advantage would be $2,365.
– I seek an opportunity in the committee stage, following on the earlier contributions, to ask whether the homes savings grant is available, has been made available or will be made available to those who save with credit unions. To assist the Minister, I recall that certain conditions were laid down last year which would enable credit unions to obtain such entitlement.
– lt was a very limited number.
– Yes. The question 1 would like to ask is this: Have credit unions or has ony one credit union been able to take advantage of the conditions for the granting of this home savings subsidy? If they have not, is the Government considering any change to enable these worthwhile organisations to participate?
– 1 respond to the honourable senator sharing a sympathy with the purpose that I am sure he holds. I remind him that in the Act of 1970 we included provisions that would enable credit unions to be approved on certain conditions.
– They were very tough conditions.
– I have no doubt that we fully debated the matter at that time. No credit union has applied for approval or been approved to dale, but only yesterday the executive of the Australian Federation of Credit Union Leagues had a conference with the Department discussing conditions which will take their ordinary form of development. In due course, we will be able to tell honourable senators whether it is necessary to make any modifications to enable them to come within the approved depositories in this scheme. I can’ assure Senator Georges that there is a great deal of sympathy for the encouragement of credit unions which, in many cases, are the banks of the working man.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wright) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 25 November (vide page 2128), on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Order! ls there any objection? There being no objection, that course will be followed.
– The Opposition agrees to a cognate debate on these Bills because they are related to the announcements in the Budget Speech of the Treasurer (Mr Sn- dden) which provided for increases in the cost of petroleum and tobacco products. Consequently the Opposition, in its opinion, has a clear duty to oppose the measures. During the Budget debate we contended that no case had been made out for increasing charges on not only the community but also the economy generally. We see the various excise duties on petrol and diesel lue/ as being duties which run through the whole economy. They flow on and increase every charge associated with production and the necessary work of the community. They apply even to the people when they travel to and from work.
To a large extent, we find that our general argument that no case had been made out for the increases has been reinforced by what is now happening. Of course, 1 refer to the downturn in the economy, with resultant unemployment in certain important industries and with a number of important economists and academics drawing attention to the need for stimulation of the economy. There is a clear difference between the Government and the Opposition on the proposed imposts. Therefore, we intend to vote against the motion for the second reading of the measures and to resist them as strongly as we can.
We believe that the attitude we adopted during the Budget debate has been reinforced by what has happened since then. The passage of these Bills will mean an impost of 2c a gallon on petroleum products. During the remainder of this financial year this will yield $43,200,000 and, in a full year, $54,100,000. The other increases relating to the removal of certain by-law exemptions will provide $1,300,000 for the remainder of this year and $1,500,000 for a full year. The increased levy of 50c per lb imposed on cigarettes and cigars, and 20c per lb on manufactured tobacco will yield $31,700,000 in a full year and $21m for the remainder of this year. In all, the proposals which are contained in the legislation will yield in a full year $87m and for the remainder of this year $65m. In addition, one of the Bills - the Customs Tariff Bill (No. 3) 1971 - makes provision in the First Schedule for a number of changes in the Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement in relation to a number of commodities. Broadly, the Bills are designed for the purposes I have mentioned and for that reason we are opposed to them. 1 want to draw attention to what was claimed to be the objectives of the Budget in the statement made in the Senate by the Leader of the Government, Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson. He said:
Even more than usually the Government has this year found it necessary to shape its Budget to serve an overriding economic purpose. Australia is in the grip of inflationary pressures. The rate of increase in costs and prices is already fast and has tended to become faster. This is a serious condition. If allowed to develop unchecked it will cause increasing economic and social hardship to many people, add to the burdens of rural industries already depressed, disrupt developmental plans of great promise and undermine the rich possibilities of growth which our future unquestionably holds. So far as lies in our power as a government we are determined to coinb-.il this pernicious trend, slow it down and hobble it.
Later in his remarks he slated:
In general, as we see the problem, there has been and still is a powerful upthrust of costs, stemming largely though not wholly from large wage claims relentlessly pursued.
I put it to the Senate that what is happening is that, as usual, the Government is complaining about certain increases in costs occasioned by wage increases. On the other hand it has imposed these very heavy increases on the community generally - on consumers and on the economy. The imposts will amount to $83m a year. What the Government is doing, as it always does in these situations, is saying thai il wants to curb inflation; but it accelerates the wage-cost spiral by imposing increased taxes such as the increased petroleum and diesel fuel tax. Everybody knows that once these taxes are increased the whole gamut of increases starts. It is claimed, fairly accurately, that transport costs approximate 25 per cent of the whole of the costs in the economy. An increase in the fuel tax means an increase in each cost that makes up the process of production, whether it be rural or manufacturing production.
If the impost on petrol or diesel fuel is increased the cost of the production of raw materials is increased. That applies to movements in the factories also. The cost of every piece of raw material that goes into a factory to be manufactured is affected by the transportation costs to and within the plant. When the process is completed the end product needs to be transported from the plant to the consumer or to the domestic or export market, and this operation involves the use of a motor vehicle or a rail truck. All that the Government has done in this regard has been to ensure that the cost of hauling the finished product will be increased. This has affected the people who work in the factories. At present the work force is oriented largely to the motor car or to public transport. As a result of the impost by the Government of the extra diesel fuel tax the cost of transport, whether it be by motor vehicle, by tram in the city, by public bus or diesel train, will be increased greatly. That will result in applications for increased wages which, if granted, will mean rapid increases in costs, which add to the cost of the finished product. Increased cost affects manufacturing for the domestic market as such and it becomes a great factor in the ability of industries to compete on export markets.
For many years certain discontented elements in the rural industries have complained about costs in those industries - not only wage costs but also transportation costs. Heavy increases in the rural economy, which already is requiring special attention by the Government, have become a fact of life, lt has been claimed that the Government is now considering to what extent special attention should be given to assisting persons engaged in the rural industries, particularly those who have been displaced from farms as a result of the downturn in sales. Perhaps most heavily affected have been the public transport systems. The .State governments have found it a great embarrassment to be put in a situation in which they cannot get sufficient finance from the Commonweatlh Government. They have to try to provide the expanding services needed by developing urban communities. In addition they are charged with giving benefits to pensioners. They have agreed lo do that, with the general acceptance of rises in social welfare. They are finding it very difficult to cope.
I put it to the Senate that the imposts are unnecessary. At this stage there is speculation as to whether corrective action is required if the economy is not to run down to a situation in which there will be very heavy unemployment resulting in a crisis affecting all Australian consumer industries, particularly the motor vehicle industry. I point to the situation which is causing great concern in my home State and yours, Mr Deputy President. In South Australia the major secondary industries are those that manufacture consumer goods and motor vehicles. We have already seen the trends that can occur. I will have a little to say about that later, lt is traditional for the Government each year, in attempting to correct what it calls rising costs, to adopt a studied approach to dampening down things, but what it is really doing is increasing the charges on industry when there should be an appreciation of the need to relax controls and costs.
I point to the very heavy general charges imposed by the Commonwealth and the States in respect to the motor vehicle industry. I put it lo the Senate thai that industry does not manufacture luxury items. The vehicle industry in Australia - the manufacture of motor cars and trucks and the ancillary industries - is related to a very important productive system, nol only in this country but also in other countries, which can be said to have the characteristics of a highly sophisticated industrial economy. The question is noi whether motor vehicles should be allowed on the roads but whether the heavy transports which carry large quantities of minerals and play their part in the development of the country are an essential pan of the economy and should not be subject to very heavy imposts The Government should look at what charges are applied so that this important adjunct of production might not be unduly laden with costs.
Over the years the Commonwealth Government and, to some extent, the Stale governments have levied very heavy charges on the transport industry. The slates are involved to a lesser extent because they do not have the heavy fund raising responsibility which the Commonwealth has. Up till now the industry has been able to survive, to a large extent, but I suggest that today we are reaching a situation in which the policies of the Government should be reflected upon. The Government should be prepared to ensure that the burden is lightened.
I have a table which has been prepared by the Parliamentary Library Legislative Reference Service and which shows the amount of customs and excise duties collected on automotive petrol and diesel fuel and Commonwealth aid roads payments to the States. The table is as follows:
So the situation is that the revenues of the Commonwealth Government from customs and excise duties are increasing. They are being paid into general revenue. They certainly are not being distributed to the States. The proportions in fact are decreasing and important road works in all the States are not receiving proper consideration. I refer to something thai is very significant in my own State; that is, the Eyre Highway.
As most honourable senators now will be aware, on many occasions South Australian senators have drawn attention to the need to complete what is now accepted by the Commonwealth Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) as a national highway. The Commonwealth Government does not propose to add anything to meet the need to bituminise the highway. Tn recent years the State Government has offered to provide $3m to seal a portion of the highway and has asked whether, if it spent that $3m, the Commonwealth Government would spend the other $9m required to complete the highway which is now largely proven lo be a national highway. We have extracted from the Ministers in this chamber and in the other place figures which show that the majority of the traffic which goes to and fro across that highway does not emanate from South Australia but originates in other States, lt is a national highway. We have a stalemate with the Commonwealth Minister for Shipping and Transport who refuses to give special grants to our State and says that the cost of the work must be met from the Commonwealth aid roads grant and that South Australia will have to put up with that situation. The most recent statement by the Minister was made as far back as February this year, when he said:
I believe that as part of our national highway system it is important that the unsealed portion of the Eyre Highway should bc sealed as soon as possible, and 1 will continue to examine suggestions on ways in which this might be done. But it should bc borne in mind that the initiative for the work rests with the South Australian Government, and that so far that Government has apparently placed a lower priority on the Highway than on other roads in the Stale.
I put it to you, Mr Deputy President, and to the Minister that we have shown clearly that the roadway is of national importance and that it .has been proven by surveys carried out by the tourist associations of Australia that the traffic using the highway is largely interstate and not South Australian. Since the Minister made that statement I have raised the matter in the Senate. The latest reply lo my questions simply says that the Minister will consider to what extent assistance may be given. 1 have said thai there are heavy burdens on transport in the community. These very heavy burdens have reached the stage where some reappraisement has to be made by the Government. If we inhibit the transportation industry in Australia we affect not only the economy and produce the sort of down-turn which I suggest we are experiencing now but also the capacity of the motor vehicle manufacturing industry to survive. Over the years the industry has developed a capacity to compete with countries which are now selling motor cars and other commodities to Australia at rates which are not competitive. But people are buying them because they are receiving certain advantages and because we have to buy goods from Japan and other countries. We have to let European motor cars into the country. We have to buy motor cars from Japan. The result is that a number of ordinary people in the community are buying a motor car of a smaller capacity than one they would buy normally, such as a motor car that is produced by the Chrysler or General MotorsHolden organisations in Australia. Recently the General Manager of General MotorsHolden’s Pty Ltd, Mr Bill Gibbs, came forward with figures showing that sales of the medium priced car in Australia have dropped. There seems to be evidence that sales have dropped because people are choosing, for economy reasons, to buy a smaller car. What is happening is that with the large costs that are imposed - not bywage increases but largely by the cost of transportation and fuel - sales are being reduced and consequently there is a threat to the industry.
I wish torender some information which was prepared by the Parliamentary Library Research Service in relation to Commonwealth and State government taxes on motor vehicle users. I will not give the individual amounts in respect of sales tax on parts or customs duty on motor spirit. The following table sets out thefigures for total net Commonwealth taxes and net Slate and Territory collections from taxes on the ownership and operation of motor vehicles:
So we see the very heavy government imposts on an industry which has been able largely by the development of productive devices and increases in its own economy to keep pace with those imposts. I believe that these imposts have to slop now because what the economy needs now -is not the heavy charges that the Government has imposed but a boost. We know that already a number of sectors of industry have been marked by unemployment. That position has been noted in the steel industry, in the motor car industry about which I have spoken and in related industries. Also there are reports that in some shipyards workers are to be put off. There are likely to be retrenchments in the metal manufacturing industries in Melbourne. General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd has already retrenched 290 plant staff in Melbourne and in New South Wales, and in my own State there were retrenchments in the motor car industry in September and also more recently. Even more recently, of course, there has been retrenchment of staff by Hawker-Siddeley Electronics Ltd. in relation to which I addressed a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate( Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson). There are reports also that in South Australia Philips Industries, because of rationalisation, will retrench staff. The Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd will retrench staff not only at Whyalla but also in New South Wales. I asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate the following question a few days ago:
Has the attention of the Leader of the Government in the Senate been drawn to further reductions in employment and production resulting from the announcement by the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd of its decision to cut steel production drastically and the laying up of 2 Australian National Line freighters, which actions will accelerate the growing unemployment which is forecast to reach more than 100,000 workers by the end of January? What is the Government doing in respect of these matters? Will it consider what action can betaken in respect of the ANL laying up and the BHP cuts? Will the Government consider the call by Mr Dunstan, the Premier of South Australia, for an early Premiers Conference to consider ways of stimulating the economy?
Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson said in reply:
First of all. the figure of 100,000 is being bandied about. 1 think it is a figure that has been loosely picked up and referred to. The bower birds gel hold of it - I am not suggesting that the honourable senator is in that category - and it becomes a political figure for the purpose of making cases. Secondly, I saw today a reference to certain curtailments, that BHP is proposing concurrently with that. I saw a reference to the fact that this would not mean a displacement of employees at all, but was being done at a time when certain work has to be done in relation to the maintenance of its equipment, etc. The honourable senator also referred to the laying up of certain ships of the Australian National Line.I am not competent to answer that question. It should be directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport.
The Minister then went on to say that some of the cases I had referred to were purely South Australian. But I put it to you, Mr Deputy President, that this is now recognised to be an Australian trend. The unemployment figure will certainly increase to 100,000 in the early part of next year. There will probably be 130,000 people out of work, and this does not simply mean that 130,000 people have to rely on unemployment sustenance which is not adequate; it means a substantial loss in production, a decrease in the amount of wealth which this country can produce. In my own State unemployment is a serious matter, whether or not the percentage is less than the national average.
I refer again to the motor car industry. Governments seemto think that they can put large imposts on the motor vehicle industry without considering its value to the community. I refer now to some figures which have been prepared by the Legislative Research Service of the Parliamentary Library. They relate to salaries and wages paid in all States in the construction and assembly sectors of the motor vehicle indust ry for the year 1967-68. the latest year for which figures are available. In that year the salaries and wages paid in the industry amounted to$83,038,000, and the value of the output from the people who received those salaries and wages was $332,409,000. In the motor vehicles repair sector, the salaries and wages paid in the same year amounted to $168,913,000 and the value of the output was $463,235,000. The salaries and wages paid in the production of motor bodies amounted to $113,630,000 and the value ofthe production was $466,181,000. The motor accessory industry, like the motor vehicle industry, is making it obvious that Australia can produce the requirements that it imported previously, which means that we are placing our country in a position of credit. Salaries and wages paid in the production of motor accessories in 1967-68 amounted to $60,787,000 and the output of the people receiving those salaries and wages amounted to $203,225,000. The total number of employees in the industry was 163,644 and the actual value of the production of each person amounted to $9,021. The average wage paid to each amounted to $2,500. This is a very important industry.
I suggest that the Government is only placing strains on the economy and I put it to the Minister andto the Government that there is growing evidence from people in the community who specialise that what the economy now needs is stimulation and not the heavy charges about which we are speaking tonight. The Government’s proposals in respect of the 5 Bills under discussion are imposts with which we do not agree. The Opposit ion proposes to vote against the measures. I hope that as a result of contributions to the debate from honourable senators on this side of the chamber the Government will consider that it is high time that the stimulationto which I have referred was engendered in the economy.
– I support my friend and colleague Senator Bishop in the attitude he has expressed to these Bills. I do not propose to speak at very great length, nor doI propose to go into the statistical details which have been so ably put by him. I notice that Senator Buttfield is not in the chamber at the moment. This afternoon she asked the relevant question as to when this chamber will go into recess. In the discussion on these 5 Bills the Opposition has shown a fine spirit of co-operation, even though we are opposing all of the Bills, by agreeing to a cognate debate. Instead of finishing on Christmas Day we should have a fair chance of finishing on Christmas Eve. All honourable senators will realise that schedules dealing with the Bills were distributed in this chamber a few days ago. In fact,I think some Government senators did not understand the schedules. They kept on passing them across to the Opposition so that we could give them proper study.
Honourable senators will note that in the second reading speech of the Customs Tariff Bill (No. 3) the Minister alluded to one of the rather strange things for which this Government has become famous when he said:
In the report on artificial flowers and fruit, etc., the Board recommended a duty of 30 per cent be applied to artificial Christmas trees. This rate represents an increase in the former substantive duty which was 7½ per cent.
The Minister then went on to mention a number of other things in relation to which the duty has been increased to 30 per cent. Senator Bishop said that the general attitude of the Government has not been to stimulate the economy at all. I do not know where all this starts and finishes, but today this country is facing a very bleak future. Whether the economy can be stirred in any way depends on the advisers to the Government but the responsibility fianally comes right back to the relevant Minister and to the Cabinet itself. We have had a tendency in this country for a long time, when there has been a need to put a brake onthe economy, to whack on another few dollars in sales tax,to use a good old Australian phrase.
The sales tax is rather indiscriminately increased on goods that are classified by some people as luxuries but which in 1971 areno longer luxuries. They arc among the requirements of everyday living. The shortsighted policy frequently adopted by the Government in imposing indirect taxes is very disturbing indeed. Another hardy annual is an increase in fuel taxes.I mentioned in this chamber whenthe Budget was introduced that the oil companies would jump the gun. They did, to the tune of about$3m. What did the responsible Minister say? He said: There is nothing we can do about it. It is a legitimate business practice. If a trade unionist decided to jump the gun and take an extra few dollars in wages before an increase was granted to him it would be deemed to be an illegitimate business practice. He would be roundly condemned by the Government. We hear of similar things day after day. If you are on the side of big business you can get away almost with bank robbery, but perhaps that is not an appropriate expression There is a tendency for the Government to regard the fixing of tariff barriers and to look on costs and prices in terms of 1900. The attitude of Government supporters is something like this: ‘If it was good enough for our great grandfathers it is good enough for us today.’
Again I remind honourable senators that this is 1971. It is time that Australia’s tariff structure was carefully examined. From time to time Tariff Board reports are made available to us. They make very interesting reading, but it is a little like trying to gain a knowledge of current events by reading a novel that was banned 40 or 50 years ago. In other words, they are completely out of date. I am not critical of the people who compile the reports. The responsibility rests solely with the Minister who administers the policy of the Government previously laid down by the Government parties. I hope that as a result of the criticisms directed tonight by Senator Bishop and myself somewhere along the line the Government will accept the responsibility to take another look at the whole situation.
Estimates have been made that up to 150,000 people will be unemployed by the end of February 1972. The Treasurer (Mr Snedden) has said that he has no intention whatsoever of producing anything to stimulate the economy. Suggestions have been made that a mini-Budget ought to be produced. In the last 2 or 3 days a group of reputable economists - I am not familiar with the academic record of a couple of them, butI know that the remainder are people of good repute in the academic world - have said that they are very disturbed about what is likely to happen over the next few months. The man in the street can therefore be pardoned for being much more disturbed.
People have been criticised for saving their money today. They are not putting all their wages into circulation. If I were a worker receiving an average wage I would be very chary indeed about spending my last cent on things needed by me or my family, or on Christmas gifts. There are whole areas in which tradesmen cannot get jobs. I had in my office yesterday one of the best printing tradesmen that it has been my pleasure to meet. He cannot get a job anywhere in north Queensland. Lasses with a good senior high school pass or a good matriculation pass are queuing up for jobs in Canberra but are finding that there are about 80 or 90 other applicants for the same jobs. It is not good enough. Kids leaving school today have a hopelessly bleak future. The blame comes right back to this Parliament. Theresponsibility lies squarely on the Government’s head to ensure that the economy does not remain in a depressed condition. We could engage in an academic discussion on events likely to happen, but suffice it to say now that the Opposition is expressing its condemnation of the Government’s stand by its attitude to these Bills.
– Senator Bishop has indicated the Opposition’s attitude to these Bills. As he pointed out, steps that were supposed to be anti-inflationary have proved to be inflationary by adding to the cost structure. They have affected in some way the businesses which are big enough to survive but have seriously affected the smaller businessmen and persons on lower rates of income who, because of added costs and restrictions in the operation of certain industries, have been thrown into inactivity, poverty and in many cases into bankruptcy. Perhaps the escalation in the cost structure was deliberately caused, lt appears to be deliberate. The Government ought to exercise its mind when it is forced to impose such measures through its own errors of economic practice over past years. When it is forced to impose increased costs and taxes it ought to make certain that no profit is made from them by the businesses responsible for the distribution and sale of the goods upon which the taxes are increased. It is questionable that sales tax when added to the other costs should form part of the profit or should add to the profit of the businesses which subsequently handle the goods. No firm attempt has been made to prevent that from happening. 1 want to express briefly my concern about the increased excise on cigarettes. As Senator Bishop pointed out, the increases will total §21m for the remainder of this year and $31,700,000 in a full year. I think the Government should reconsider the practice of obtaining income from dangerous drugs of abuse, particularly alcohol add tobacco. The recent investigation by the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse indicated that alcohol is Australia’s most dangerous drug of abuse, leading to untold misery in the community and not only to great personal costs but also to costs to the community as a whole. According to the Deputy DirectorGeneral of Health the next most dangerous drug of abuse is tobacco. I find it difficult to accept that a government should obtain a considerable amount of income from those 2 drugs. From beer alone the Government will derive an annual income of about $400m, and from tobacco S306m, making a total of S706m.
It means that the Government has a vested interest in the continuing sale of those 2 commodities. As the Government has such a vested interest it will be less inclined to engage in the necessary education and prevention programmes to reduce the quantity use by the community. Not only do the national advertising media - television stations, newspapers, periodicals, radio stations and billboard advertisers - depend largely on revenue from advertising alcohol and tobacco; so also does the Government. I strongly advise the Government to resist future endeavours to obtain revenue from these 2 sources.
– Would the honourable senator make drugs cheaper so that they would be more readily usable by people?
– -In making drugs cheaper and permitting the Government less of a vested interest in them, the Government would be induced to grapple with the problem and make clear to people the dangers of these commodities. At present the Government is not very much inclined to do this’ and is not inclined to support the complete banning of advertising, promotion or pushing - if one likes to put it in that way - of tobacco and alcohol.
– The honourable senator knows that our Committee’s recommendation was far better than that idea.
– The recommendation that I supported was contained in a minority report, which happened to be my own.
– I thought the honourable senator might have seen the light by now.
– No, but I have no doubt that Senator Marriott has seen the light as he has given up the smoking of cigarettes.
– It was the increase in excise that did that.
– No, I feel that it was a rather belated reaction on the part of the Chairman of the Committee which led him to give up the habit of cigarette smoking. I must . admit that. I was astounded to read in a newspaper report when the report of the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse in Australia was brought down that Senator Marriott had stated that the pressures on the committee had been so great that although at the beginning of proceedings he was smoking 20 cigarettes a day, at the conclusion he was smoking 30 cigarettes a day. WhenI read thisI clasped my forehead and thought that all the evidence that had been heard and all the education programmes that had been put before us must have had absolutely no effect upon the Chairman, atleast. It made me think that possibly education programmes would be of no avail.
– It was the increase in excise duty that did the trick.
– No. it was not. I believethat Senator Marriott made that statement off the cuff. That is whyI appreciate now that he is one of the nonsmokers in the community. But letme refer, again to the immense vested interest that the Government has. It could be suggested by some that part of the money which is gained in this way should go towards the promotion of a campaign against the use of tobacco and the use and abuse of alcohol, but that would be richer like injuring a man with one hand and bandaging him with the other. I suggest that the Government should remove itself from this area in which it accumulates income from drugs of abuse so that it would be less inclined to endeavourto raise revenue from this source. I intend to repeat this point from time to time, especially when any attempt is made to increase the excise on these commodities.I accept Senator Marriott’s right to the view that if we make them cheaper there would be greater use of them), but I refutethat suggestion. The evidence does not show this to be so. For a short time there is a decline in the use of these commodities, but in the long term the consumer of these commodities adjusts himself, his budget and his spending to accept the higher price, so that nothing really is gained in the way of a reduced usage through an increase in price. It would be far better for the price to be lowered, for the Government to vacate that field as a means of raising income and for the Government to engage in large scale campaigns for a considerable reduction in the misuse of these 2 drugs.
– In stating the altitude of the Australian Democratic Labor Party to the Bills before the Senate I say firstly that I listened very carefully to Senator Bishop, who led for the Opposition in this debate. I find that we are in complete agreement with many things that he said about the Billsbut that we do not agree with other things that he said. We find that we have nothing in common with what Senator Georges said. Senator Bishop dealt in some detail with petrol tax. As wesee it,histax is perhaps one of the most unfortunate aspects of the present Budget. Its effect on food prices could be disastrous. The truth is that transport is at the root of the economy and petrol tax - a transport tax - is in fact a growthtax in reverse. By the lime that an item of food reaches the consumer it might have passed through a dozen processes, all of which involve transport.It is conceivable, therefore, that bythe end of this year we might find that the humble loaf of bread has risen in price by about 3c. The effect of this tax on housing could be amazing.
I refer now to the real point at issue, that is, what my Party will do about this Bill. The Opposition has said that for it’s members this is a fundamental issue and that they propose to vote against it. Whilst we agree with many of the things that Opposition senators have said on many aspects relating to the economy and the Government’s approach to this important question, our view is that although mistakes in economic matters may be uncomfortable they certainly can be remedied, whereas mistakes in matters of defence and foreign policy involve the life or death of a nation. Because of that and because of the altitude of the Opposition to the matters of defence and foreign affairs we are not prepared to use the measures now before the Senate as a means of defeating the Government.
The time may come when the attitudes of the Government and the Opposition in thematter of foreign affairs are indistinguishable. If and when that day comes our attitude will have to change. But at present, while the Opposition maintains its present attitude on defence and foreign affairs, and while it devotes, as it does, so much of its time to trying to devise ways and means of bringing about the legalisation of abortion and homosexuality, we will not be prepared to defeat the Government. This is the attitude of the Democratic Labor Party to these Bills.
– Senator Kane has said that whilst mistakes in economic matters may be uncomfortable, mistakes in defence and foreign policy involve the life or death of a nation. He said that because of the Opposition’s attitude to. defence and foreign policy the Australian Democratic Labor Party was not prepared to use the measure now before the Senate to defeat he Government. My , only wish is that every man who is out of work in the community today could have heard the remarks uttered by the honourable senator. 1 wish only that every municipal councillor and shire councillor in the very depressed rural areas of New South Wales could have heard his remarks.
– 1 will tell them.
– I hope the honourable senator will get out and tell them. Anyone who has travelled around New South Wales recently will have heard that one of the cries of the depressed rural areas in that State is for the elimination of this heavy indirect form of taxation. The Australian Democratic Labor Party has once again in very typical fashion betrayed the trust reposed in it by a section of the Australian community. No political party in Australia has a better record than the Australian Labor Party insofar as defence and foreign policy are concerned, but to relate the state of the economy at the present time to defence and foreign policy and other extraneous matters is, quite frankly, complete and utter balderdash. Hundreds of men are at present walking the streets of this country looking for work.
Last month the Cobar Shire Council brought to my attention the anomalies which exist in the imposition of a diesel lax. I mention the position in regard to the Cobar Shire Council only because the problems confronting it are typical of the problems confronting so many rural towns in New South Wales. The Cobar Shire
Council was called upon to pay $2,000 in tax on diesel fuel used by its 5 8-ton Leyland tipping trucks. That very heavy impost of $2,000 on the Council came at a time when it had a total of $350,000 owing to it in outstanding rates. Because of the rural recession and the Government’s failure to bring about an effective rural policy the farmers in the western districts of New South Wales are nearly bankrupt. Many of them are walking off their properties. The crisis in rural areas has affected the Cobar Shire Council, which last month had $350,000 owing to it in outstanding rates. Suddenly, despite the fact that this amount is owing to it. the Council has been called upon to pay $2,000 in diesel fuel tax on its 5 8-ton Leyland tipping trucks.
The west of New South Wales has been very heavily hit since 1965 by the worst drought, in our history, ft has been hit also by the ineptitude of and negative policies pursued by this Government and an unprecedented fall in the price of wool. The spiralling costs in the wool industry have also had an effect. As 1 have already mentioned, 1 have cited the instance of the Cobar Shire Council only as an example. I could name a number of other areas which are in exactly the same situation. I believe that the Commonwealth Government could assist tangibly in the area of the diesel fuel tax. It appears to me that a great anomaly is occurring under this form of taxation. Whilst the Cobar Shire Council has to pay a diesel fuel tax on the 5 trucks to which I have referred no tax is imposed on the diesel fuel used by that Council in its heavy graders or equipment for road making purposes. The Leyland trucks are used for exactly the same type of work and in exactly the same manner as the graders and other equipment but the trucks have lo bear the burden of a diesel fuel tax. It appears to me and to a number of shire councillors in the west of New South Wales that a completely anomalous situation exists. For the life of me, I am at a complete loss to understand why there is any discrimination at all between the graders and the tipping trucks which are used in connection wilh precisely the same exercise.
I took up this matter by way of correspondence with the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp). He noted that the Cobar Shire Council regarded the present situation as being anomalous and then said in very peremptory terms that it is, however, consistent with the principle underlying the imposition of a diesel fuel tax - that is, that the tax should apply only to fuel used in transport vehicles. As road making is a necessary requisite to overcome the unemployment situation that exists in New South Wales, I urge the Commonwealth Government to remove this discriminatory tax and thereby ease the very heavy burden imposed on shire and municipal councils. lt. is incredible to me that the Government should impose a diesel fuel tax on fuel used in one sort of road-making equipment and not on fuel used in another kind of vehicle which is used for exactly the same purpose. Because I believe this is an area in which the Commonwealth could ameliorate some of the very critical economic conditions which exist in the west of New South Wales, I urge it to consider the whole matter of the diesel fuel tax. As other Opposition speakers have already said, the Opposition believes that the Government should not be proceeding with this indiscriminate form of indirect taxation at a time of inflation, growing unemployment and great economic uncertainty. The Opposition therefore opposes this legislation.
– in reply - As Senator Bishop very usefully and wisely observed, this is a cognate debate on 5 customs and excise measures. These measures are a part of the Budget proposals. They are a part of the revenue raising arrangements outlined in the Budget. This debate is of itself not a Budget debate, although one could be forgiven for thinking at times that it was. 1 think it is fair to observe that last week the Senate discussed for about 3 hours the Australian economy and the problems which are supposed to exist therein. On that occasion the Senate traversed the ground fairly well indeed. The impression I had after that debate was that the Australian Labor Party came out of it very much the worse. However, it had an extremely good chance last week to express its views in relation to the economy. Some of the things which have been said this evening were said last week. I do not think it will help anybody very much for me to go through again the issues which were debated on that occasion.
The Senate is debating a series of revenue raising Bills. The Bills are themselves quite normal. I will go through their provisions very briefly. The Excise Tariff Bill seeks to impose increased duties on manufactured tobacco products and certain refined petroleum products. A summary of the amendments proposed under this legislation has been circulated. The Diesel Fuel Tax Bill (No. 1), as its title implies, relates to the imposition of a diesel fuel tax, as does the Diesel Fuel Tax Bill (No. 2). The Customs Tariff Bill (No. 2) deals with general changes in the situation. Publicity has been given to bringing the Brussels nomenclature into effect and to reducing the number of items from 4.039 to 3,014.
Admirably, the Department consulted industry, published it.s intent, obtained a wide range of opinions and took those into account. Comprehensive summaries of the whole matter were distributed. In the last Bill there is a series of measures dealing with various items which 1 will not read out again because on the last occasion that I read them out there was quite some mirth. T do not want to have that levity in this debate, lt refers to things like artificial flowers and fruit, solid headed pins, bobby pins and curlers. They seem to mc to be not subjects about which honourable senators, particularly male senators, would be greatly concerned. Equally, a great variety of details has been submitted and a tremendous range of information has been given. I observe to the Senate in passing that I think the Department of Customs and Excise is to be complimented on the way it put out this material on issues dealt with in these Bills with which any honourable senator might wish to concern himself, ft put out a full range of information.
I want to refer briefly to some of the comments made by honourable senators during the debate. To Senator Bishop I point out that the 2c increase on fuel does not apply to fuel used in trains and trams. All honourable senators will be very well aware that the increases do not apply to diesel fuel used in tractors on farms, lt applies only to fuel in vehicles used on public roads. Senator Bishop referred also to State Government taxes on motor vehicles and pointed out that the excise and customs collected on petrol and diesel is of importance. This is regarded as a revenue duty; it is not tied to road grants by States; nor is it designed to be. Prior to 1960there was a general situation in which there was a relationship but that no longer exists.
The Eyre Highway really is quite a separate matter from the subject of this debate although it is of great interest to senators from South Australia, particularly Senator Bishop . I have had questions asked of me in this Senate on this subject on a number of occasions andI have referred them to the responsible Minister who has indicated his own interest but pointed out that the South Australian Government has the resources to do this job itself if it wishes to divert them to this purpose. Senator Bishop raised the point that it is a national highway. This is a matter for the responsible Minister and the South Australian Premier to sort out with each other; itis not really a matter to be dealt within this debate on customs and excise.
I thank Senator Keeffe for his cooperation about the Christmas tree position. In this case the Government sought to protect an Australian industry after a Tariff Board inquiry. In this respect it is not a revenue measuresit is a safeguarding measure. Senator Georges, as a result of his experience on the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse, expressed concern about the problems of tobacco and alcohol. As a moderate drinker and a fairly heavy pipe smoker, I listened to his strictures on my behaviour with some interest. I do not feelthat it is up tous, as a Government or as a Senate. to put prohibitions on people. If they want to smoke and if they want to drink a little, that is their private business. However, I listened to his observations-
– Your tax will $21m from them. Is that not an imposition?
-Really it is a question of people’s personal behaviour. If they want to smoke, they smoke. If they want to drink, they drink. If they want to gamble, they gamble. I am just saying that in this particular debate Senator Georges was entering slightly into an area where we might be asked to prohibit those patterns of behaviour. Whilst 1 understand his concern about drugs I wonder whether he is taking the matter further than we should in a debate like this. I do not think the issue is quite the same. One might assume that if the Labor Party became the government in this country - this is unlikely, whatever happens - we could look to a prohibition of these duties, perhaps their total removal. All governments have to raise revenue, this Government no less than’ any other, and this is part of the revenue raising devices.
Senator Kane indicated his general concern about some of these measures but said that his Party supports them because they are part of the revenue raising programme of the Government and are contained in its Budget. For that I thank him. Senator Douglas McClelland made quite a lot of observations. He made one observation about indirect taxation and its effect and 1 sent out for some figures thatI have used on other occasions outside the Senate. For his information he might like to know that in 1958-59 the percentage of revenue raised in indirect taxation was 52.52 per cent whereas last financial year it was 43.87 per cent. There has been a consistent statistical pattern indicating a reduction of indirect taxation in this country.
A problem facing the Cobar Shire Council also was raised by Senator Douglas McClelland. It is not an unfamiliar problem to me because I grew up in that part of the country, or a bit further west. It is true thatall district councils and Stale governments are required to pay this tax on diesel fuel used inthe vehicles that they run on public roads. Representations have been made to the Minister on several occasions about this and he has properly referred them to the Department of the Treasury for consideration. The point clearly is that road vehicles pay fuel tax.
Senator Douglas McClelland made the interesting observation that since 1965 we have had the worst droughts in living memory. I am sorry, butI do notthink that isthe case. The 1943 drought was. perhaps the worst drought that many of us remember. In it we lost one-third of Australia’s sheep population. The droughts in the far west since 1965 have been bad but they have not been the worst in living memory. Far from it. He suggested at one stage, perhaps in a moment of enthusiasm, that the Government was responsible for the droughts. I cannot see how this could be so. On the other hand this Government has been very concerned about the droughts and has been responsible for providing measures of relief for the people distressed by them. I think the Government should be commended for having done so.
I do not thinkI can add a great deal to this debate.I was most heartened by the comments of Senator Keefle who said that the Labor Party was conscious of the fact we have a lot of work to do, that we are getting towards the latter part of the sittings and that we will all aid the process if we shorten debating-time I thank him for those comments.I thank members of his Party for dealing with these Bills in a cognate debate. Having regard to the work that lies ahead of us and the prospect of eating Christmas dinner in our own homes, I thinkI should now sit down.
Thatthe Bill be read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Consideration resumed from 25 November (vide page 2128), on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Consideration resumed from 25 November (vide page 2129), on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Consideration resumed from 25 November (vide page 2129), on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Consideration resumed from 25 November (vide page 2130), on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senalor Sir Kenneth Anderson, read a first time.
(10.40) -I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to appropriate the amounts required for expenditure in 1971-72 from the Consolidated Revenue Fund other than those amounts provided by special appropriations and the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1971-72. The amounts sought for each department are shown in detail in the Second Schedule to the Bill the sum of these appropriations being $2,934,527,000. This Bill seeks an authorisation of $1,576,554,000. The balance of $1,357,973,000 having already been authorised under the Supply Acts (No.1) and (No. 3) 1971-72.
The expenditure proposals of the Government were outlined in the Budget Speech and the Schedule to this Bill is the same as that contained in the document Particulars of Proposed Expenditure for the Service of the Year Ending 30th June 1972 which was referred on 16th September to the Senate Estimates committees for examination and report. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Poke) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) read a first time
(10.42) - I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to provide for expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund in 1971-72 on (a) the construction of public works and buildings; (b) the acquisition of sites and buildings: (c) advances and loans: (d) items of plant and equipment which are clearly definable as capital expenditure; (e) grants to the States under section 96 of the Constitution; and (f) new policies not authorised by special legislation. Details of the amounts sought by each department are shown in the Second Schedule to the Bill, the sum of these appropriations being $710,462,000.Of this $313,554,000 was authorised by the Supply Act (No. 2) 1971-72: the balance of $396,908,000, being authorised by this Bill.
The main features of the proposed expenditure were dealt with in the Budget Speech. The Schedule to the Bill is the same as that contained in the document Particulars of Proposed Provision for Certain Expenditure in respect of the Year Ending 30th June 1972’ which was referred on 16th September to the Senate Estimates committers for examination and report. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Poke) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Senator DOUGLAS MeCLELLAND (New South Wales) (10.45)- On 14th July last after I had made a tour of the western districts of New South Wales with the Federal Member for Darling, Mr Fitzpatrick, I wrote to the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) expressing my opinion at that time that it was essential that the Federal Government make moneys available to specific areas to assist overcome what was then a growing unemployment problem. After having written to the Prime Minister on 14th July, about a month later on 13th August the Prime Minister replied that the Government’s analysis of the rural unemployment situation had led to the conclusion that the problem was affecting many areas throughout Australia. The Prime Minister went on to say that there was a general problem stemming from recession in some sectors of rural industry throughout Australia, and it was not a problem such as drought, fire or flood of an emergency kind in a particular area. He continued that because it was not a particular problem of an emergency kind such as drought, fire or flood in those circumstances the Government did not consider it appropriate to deal with the problem by way of specific grants and that rocher the solution to the problem must stem from efforts to assist rural industry as a whole.
By way of aside, Mr President, I notice that there is a suggestion in the air that the Government is now having a second look at this situation. I think it was in the last Sunday Australian’ that mention was made that the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) was making a submission to the Prime Minister and to Cabinet for specific grants to be made available to local government, areas where unemployment is particularly severe. Frankly, T hope that the Government does take such action because the situation is critical and, indeed, getting worse day by day. But if it does not take action, if unemployment is occurring in any area and that unemployment is not because of the rural crisis, even though the rural situation might be aggravating the problem, then on the Prime Minister’s own statement to me on 1 3th August last the Government should take remedial action. It is in this context that I want to draw to the attention of the Senate, and particularly to the attention of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) representing as he does here the Prime Minister and to Senator Cotton, the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, the very severe unemployment that is occurring in the Gunnedah district of New South Wales. The Tamworth branch of the Trades and Labour Council first drew the matter to my attention towards the end of last week. Last Sunday I went to Gunnedah.
Until last week 2 coal mines were operate ing in the district but last Friday one, namely the Preston Colliery at Gunnedah, was completely closed. I understand that some 61 men were dismissed. I arn told that 14 or 15 men already have been retrenched from the other mine, the Curlewis Colliery, and that all told within the district of Gunnedah some 75 miners at least are out of work. 1 assure the Ministers that it is a very terrible thing for the men who are involved because last August the Preston Colliery - the one that has now been closed - approached the New South Wales Government for a subsidy on the coal that it was cutting. Had it been able to obtain the subsidy at that time, it would have been able to continue to sei) on contract and the mine would still have been functioning today. But unfortunately, the New South Wales Government would not accede at that time to the subsidy request. Now the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd with its reduced output of steel, has reduced its weekly intake of coal from 3,000 tons to 1,000 tons. Now, in a fashion typical of a conservative government, the New South Wales Government has offered a subsidy of $2 a ton. Because the market for the coal is no longer there the subsidy is of no good. The unfortunate fact is that if the New South Wales Government had done something about the subsidy last August the situation in Gunnedah today would be different.
Senator DOUGLAS MCCLELLANDI do not know whether it actually receives subsidies from the New South Wales Government, but it has certain commissions available to it. I will complete the story. I am told that 6 days ago, namely, last Wednesday, mine officials approached the New South Wales Minister of Mines about obtaining a contract for the sale of coal to the Electricity Commission of New South Wales in order to keep the mine working. I understand tha,t an arrangement was entered into for the mine to supply the Electricity Commission with 4,000 tons of coal a week for a 4-week period in order, it was hoped, to tide the mine over to the forthcoming Christmas period. That was on Wednesday. Last Thursday morning the
Electricity Commission of New South Wales said that it would not accept the situation because, if it did, it might create a precedent in regard to other mines which might be nearly closed. The Miners Federation, representing the men, in a very genuine endeavour to keep the mine and the men at work, offered to give a written undertaking that the Federation would not consider that any precedent had been established and it was hoping that the Electricity Commission of New South Wales would accept the coal over the 4-week period. Apparently, and very unfortunately, the Electricity Commission would not accept the undertaking.
Now the colliery hits been closed and 61 rnen are out of work. They were dismissed last Friday. The Mayor of Gunnedah. Alderman Clegg advised me that when officers of the Department of Labour and National Service wentto Gunnedah from Narrabri last Friday to register the men for unemployment benefits only a dozen of them registered. In other words those who did not register - that was the great bulk, about 45 or so - appeared to be adopting the attitude that they would be packing up, leaving the district and looking for other avenues of employment. There are 2 ways in which ‘ the Federal Government is involved. Firstly the Tam worth District Trades and Labour Council has asked me to protest to the Minister for National Development and to the Joint Coal Board against the opening of any new coal mines at this stage- at a time when some of the existing mines which have been working efficiently are being closed. The Tamworth Trades and Labour Council believes that the Minister and the Joint Coal Board should treat this matter as one of urgency and the Trades and Labour Council requests him to confer immediately with the New South Wales Minister of Mines for the purpose of taking action to ensure that the other mine which is still operating, but at a reduced output - namely, the Curlewls mine - is not closed.
I address the following remarks to the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson). I appeal to the Government to consider making an urgent grant available to the Gunnedah Municipal Council to curbthe drift from the town of the people who have been dis missed and who are now unemployed. The Gunnedah Council is very concerned about the situation because now not only is employment for the men involved but also the whole future of the economy of the town is involved. At thistime - at a time that is close to Christmas - when these men are completely dependent upon work to give their families the usual pleasures that one likes to give to one’s family at this time of year it is alarming that this has happened to a township as wonderful as Gunnedah. I urge the Government - particularly the Leader of the Government in his capacity as Minister representing the Prime Minister and Senator Cotton who represents in this chamber the Minister for National Development - to treat this matter as extremely urgent to draw it to the attention of the responsible Ministers and to send officers of the departments concerned to the township to see what can be done to ameliorate some of the conditions which are so evident and which are complained of so badly.
– I listened with some attent ion to what Senator Douglas McClelland said because I know Gunnedah quite well, and I know Alderman Clegg, the Mayor. I think that the best course for mc to take would be to direct the honourable senator’s speech to the Minister for National Development (Mr Swartz) who has some responsibility - not all responsibility - for the Joint Coal Board to see whether anything can be done along the lines suggested by the honourable senator. He has my assurance that I will do that.
(10.56) - Reference was made by Senator Douglas McClelland to myself.I do not want to respond to the point that he made, which was linked of course to a Press story. Nevertheless I will examine closely the points that the honourable senator made. If there is a view to be expressed to the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) consequent upon what the honourable senator has said. I will see that that reference is made; I will refer the mailer to the Prime Minister for his consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned ta 10.58 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 November 1971, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1971/19711130_senate_27_s50/>.