Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 16 July 1946

Mr HARRISON (Wentworth) . -I apologize to the House for keeping it at this late hour, but the case that 1 bring before it is a matter of urgency, because it affects a young " digger " who is unfortunately caught in a " jam " in a matter over which he has no control. He has been threatened with legal action. I want the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) to give his case further consideration. It concerns an ex-serviceman who was discharged medically unfit in August, 1944, after nearly three years' service, including 27 months in New Guinea, where he contracted malaria and dermatitis. He was experienced on the land before the war and desired to re-establish himself in rural pursuits. He decided to purchase a block of land at Wingello, in the Goulburn district. The vendor who represented the land as being suitable for both grazing and agriculture recommended that a valuation be made by a valuer at Goulburn. It subsequently transpired that the valuer was a friend of the vendor. The father of the exserviceman acted as his agent, because his son was recuperating. The father went to the English, Scottish and Australian Bank to arrange finance to complete the purchase. He was prepared to offer his own home as collateral. Believingthat there would be no difficulty in arranging the finance, he signed a contract to purchase as agent. A few days later the English, Scottish and Australian Bank said that its valuer and inspector had condemned the property as utterly useless for either grazing or agriculture and has recommended that, if a loan was made, the land should not be taken as even part security. The bank officials said that the valuation made by the vendor's valuer was not a true onebut was misleading and abnormally inflated. The father then went to the Rural Bank to see if he could get some consideration, probably believing that the information that he had received from the English, Scottish and Australian Bank was not correct. Eight days later an official of the Rural Bank told him that its valuer and inspector had ' also condemned the property and had assessed its value at about £2,000. He was told that no money would be lent on the land, as it was worthless at the price at which it was valued. He was advised to obtain a fresh valuation .from some one who was a stranger to both parties. He wrote to the shire clerk at Moss Vale asking him to recommend a valuer. ' He obtained a valuation of £3,882 for both the land and the home on it from the man recommended. Remembering his experience in attempting to arrange finance, he submitted the valuation obtained from the independent valuer to the delegate to the Treasurer. The delegate refused to sanction the transaction on the 13th July, I 945, in these terms -

Receipt is acknowledged of your application for consent to purchase property known as "Spring Valley," Parish of Wingello, Shire of Wingecarribee.

It is noted that the sale price is £0,050 and the valuer's valuation is f 3,305, plus £577, total £3,882.

In view of the large disparity between the sale price and the valuer's valuation, consent cannot be granted on these figures:

The vendor was advised by the purchaser's solicitor that the transaction would not be proceeded with under the following clause in the contract: -

If for any reason the said consent of the delegate is not forthcoming this contract shall be void and all moneys paid- hereunder, including the deposit shall be refunded in full.

The vendor refused to take this as final. The purchaser then got in touch with the New South Wales Department of Agriculture, whose agrostologist condemned the property for grazing and agriculture and expressed the opinion that the whole area should go back to forest and bushland. I dare say the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lazzarini) knows the district.

Mr Lazzarini - I know that country very well.

Mr HARRISON - Meanwhile the vendor is pressing for completion of the purchase. The solicitors for the vendor informed the purchaser that the delegate to the Treasurer was prepared to re-open the transaction at £6,050, provided an assurance was received from both parties that they desired to proceed with the contract. The purchaser advised the delegate that he did not wish to proceed with the contract and he received a reply that his view had been noted. The purchaser then interviewed the deputydelegate and asked for the return of the papers. He also asked if the application could be re-opened without his consent. The deputy-delegate replied that it could not and would not be re-opened without the purchaser's consent, and he .made a special note on the file to that effect. One month later the solicitor for the vendor stated in a letter that the delegate had re-opened the matter and had given his consent to the transaction at £6,050. Notwithstanding the fact that the delegate had said that he would, not re-open the matter without the consent of both parties, the matter was re-opened. The purchaser had not been notified that repeated requests to the delegate that the matter be discussed had been refused. Now the delegate will not see either him or his solicitor, or give any information on the subject. The purchaser approached the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley), who got in touch with the delegate. He was advised to approach the AttorneyGeneral's Department. Mr. Wilkins, of that Department, advised that the delegate _ did not have- power to reopen the matter without the consent .of the purchaser because his first refusal rendered the contract void, and that a new contract would be required if the case was proceeded with. The department was then instructed to go no further in the matter because the purchaser was told that it was claimed that the valuation submitted was false and that the original valuation of £6,050 was the true value. The purchaser went to the Attorney-General's Department taking copies of the various valuations with him. The department had not received permission to re-open the matter, and it was restored to the lists when the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) went overseas. The purchaser received from the Attorney-General a letter indicating that the Prime Minister had called for a report. The letter from the purchaser to the Prime Minister contained the following : -

Even in this report to you from the delegate he states that " approval would be granted to the transaction at the contract price of fB.0-50 provided an assurance was received from both parties that they desired to proceed with the contract".

The advice given to the Prime Minister was that the matter would not be reopened without the consent of both parties, but that undertaking had been violated. The matter has been re-opened on the basis of the original offer. The purchaser received another letter from the Prime Minister dated the 13th June, 1946, in which he was told -

This particular transaction has been closely reviewed and while you have received reports which support your opinion that the contract price was excessive, the department has evidence which shows that the purchase price was fair and .reasonable, as required under the Economic Organization Regulations.

Because of the difference in the' valuation figures submitted the proposal was given special attention by the departmental valuers and advisory panel. In addition the property was inspected by a departmental valuer fully conversant with the district. The concensus "of opinion with which I hold, is that the application has been correctly determined and I regret, therefore, that I am unable to. accede to 'your request.

The only deduction that can be made is that there must have been a conspiracy between the valuers of the English, Scottish and Australian Bank, the Rural Bank, the Department of Agriculture through its agrostologist, and the. independent valuer, because all of them said that the land was practically worthless. Later, I received a further letter from the Prime Minister in which the following paragraph appeared: -

Previous representations have been made not only by Mr. Morris, but also by the right honorable H. V. Evatt, and on each occasion the transaction has been reviewed. I do not think it is necessary to recapitulate the details of the case but I am attaching for your information a copy of my letter of 13th June addressed to Mr. Morris. It has been suggested that the consent issued should be rescinded but I am unable for two reasons to accede to this, first -there is no power under the regulations to withdraw a consent once it has been issued, and secondly evidence before the department confirms that the contract price is reasonable.

It will be seen that the department shifted its ground.

Mr Chifley - The honorable member will admit that the man did sign a contract.

Mr HARRISON - Yes ; but the contract contained a clause which made it- null and void if the delegate to. the Treasurer refused consent. That was the* opinion given by the Attorney-General's Department. Consent was refused and therefore, it is clear either that the delegate is wrong or that he has been a party to a conspiracy. [Extension of time granted.] Pressure has been brought to bear on this young man, and he is in danger of losing his deposit of £150 which is a part of his deferred pay.

Mr Chifley - His trouble arises from the fact that he signed the contract. .

Mr HARRISON - The AttorneyGeneral's Department, has said that the contract is null and void. This young man is being forced into litigation which he cannot afford. If there is no power to withdraw consent once it has been issued, there should be no- power for the delegate to act without the consent of both parties. The delegate said that the matter would not be re-opened without the consent of both parties, and surely ah officer of his standing should honour his undertaking. Should he fail to do so, there should be an inquiry. That a grossly misleading valuation was made is supported by officials of the English, Scottish and Australian Bank, the Rural Bank, as well as the agrostologist of the Department of Agriculture and an independent valuer. This young man can be saved the heavy costs of litigation if the delegate is forced to keep his original promise. In my opinion, the Treasurer should give further consideration to 'this matter, and ensure that justice shall be done to this exserviceman. The right honorable gentleman should insist that the official should honour his original undertaking. But he re-opened the case, and the Treasurer asserts that he can not do anything because consent has been given. I contend that the official should not be permitted to' reverse his original decision.

Mr Williams - He cannot alter the provisions of the contract.

Mi-. HARRISON.- The official has re-opened the whole case. If he had adhered to his refusal, the contract was null and void. The fact that he has reopened the case - gives new life to the contract.

Mr Morgan - No, not necessarily.

Mr Dedman - The honorable member for Wentworth desires to blame the Government for this man's own foolishness.

Mr HARRISON - No, I blame the Government because its officer stated categorically that he would not re-open the case without the consent of both parties, and he has broken his undertaking. In my opinion, the Government should not support an officer who is not prepared to stand up to his obligations in matters of this kind. I have stated the case fairly and clearly, and ask the Treasurer to see that justice shall be done in the interests of a young man who is trying to re-establish himself and who may lose his deferred pay because of a reversal of opinion by a government official.

Suggest corrections