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Thursday, 29 April 1965

Senator CAVANAGH (South Australia) . - I enter this debate as a result of the trend it had taken until Senator Murphy entered it. I think that he put it on the right track. He dealt with the importance of delegated power and said that Parliament should retain the power. Previously, the matter had been dealt with on the basis that it was purely a question of how much time it would take to get the regulations through or for the Minister to sign a document. That is not the important question. The important question is whether we should give the power to the Parliament or to the Minister. But I think it goes somewhat further than Senator Murphy took it. It goes to the very purpose of the Bill. When the Bill was introduced we were told that it was designed to attract certain money into housing construction. The investors are to be given gilt edged security whereby they will take no risks. In that way they will lend a greater amount of money for housing construction. But if we reached the stage in Australia where all available money was attracted to housing because of the gilt edged nature of the security, Australia could be in a bad position. Clause 5 was inserted in the Bill to prevent that occurring.

Clause 5 deals with two matters. First, it relates to classes of lenders, and secondly, to persons who may seek to lend money for housing. Under the Bill as originally presented the Minister had the right to declare classes of lenders. The illustration which the Minister gave us when he opened the present debate was that if mining companies wanted to invest money in housing he could approve of them as being a class of lenders. The Minister cannot say that the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd. shall be approved as a class of lenders, but he can say that mining companies will bc accepted.

Under clause 5(2.) it is provided that the Corporation, after considering whether a particular company's finances are sound or whether there are any other doubts about it, can approve of it as a class of lender. The Minister declares the class of lender that the Corporation must consider. Therefore, a particular class of lender would not lend money for a particular project if it was known that it would be disapproved of at some time in the future. Under clause 5(1.) once the -Minister approves of a class of lender he cannot revoke his approval, but the Corporation, after having approved of' a particular lender, can revoke its approval. However, clause 5(4.) contains the proviso that although the Corporation may revoke its approval of .a particular lender, all the rights accruing to that lender are maintained in respect of the particular loan which was entered into before the revocation of the approval. But once the Minister has approved of a particular class of person, it can continue to make applications. In the administration of the Act disagreement could arise between the Minister and the Corporation. There is the possibility of disagreement if, for instance, the Minister were to revoke the approval of a class of lenders. Should the Corporation act on the instructions of the Minister from time to time in relation to particular individuals? The important point is that the reason for the introduction of the Bill was to attract the investment of money for housing construction. It may be that in the future we will decide that it is far better for the development of Australia to attract money into some avenues of investment other than housing. Parliament should have authority to decide from time to time whether it is best for national development that money be invested. If any Minister should have authority to decide the best avenue of investment for national development, it should be the Minister ' for National Development rather than the Minister for Housing. If a mining company decided to invest money in housing next year, someone would have to say whether it was more desirable in the national interest that the company should invest its surplus money in housing rather than in mining. This is the very question which Parliament should have the authority to decide and on which it should have the knowledge.

It is obvious that the Minister for Housing, who is keen on his Department and Wants to see it grow, could simply declare all sections as classes under this legislation and attract all the available money into housing, lt was never the intention of the legislation that classes of persons should be declared as approved lenders and that these declarations should be revoked from time to time when in the national interest it was desirable that their particular money be invested in the gilt edged security of housing rather than in Other avenues. In the national interest, it might be more beneficial at a particular time for the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd., mining interests or manufacturing interests, to follow their normal investments and activities rather than to invest in the gilt edged security of housing. Obviously, that would be the time for the Minister or the Parliament to revoke a declaration that they were approved lenders.

Now is the time to determine whether the direction of investment for national development of Australia should be left in the hands of the Minister for Housing or in the hands of the Parliament.

This is an important question which Parliament should decide from time to time. I. ask the Minister to look into the question of revoking a declaration which, as has been complained today, would have the authority of an act of Parliament if it were made by regulation. Why would anybody invest in the housing field now if he knew that at some time in the future his status as a member of an approved class of lenders might be revoked? Obviously it is ah important function of Parliament, if it is' to serve its purpose, to direct the investment of money for certain purposes or the transfer money to other activities, lt should be able to say that in future no mining companies can invest money in housing and that they must invest in mining or some other activity.

The Minister has stated that members of an approved class of lenders would have to service a loan over a period and would therefore require some security. That is not covered by sub-clause (4.) of clause 5. Those who service the loans are not a class but are particular individuals, as referred to in sub-clause (2.). A particular person or company which makes a loan must have approval under subclause (2.). They are the ones which whom we are concerned.

The whole point at issue is whether the Parliament should retain the power to say what type of investment should be attracted to housing, and what class of persons should be allowed the security that this legislation provides, or whether this should be the function of the appropriate Minister, who may be a complete authority on housing but not a complete authority on the whole national interest and investment from time to time. The Parliament should retain that right. A party in its superior wisdom may say that money should not be invested by mining companies in housing if, as a result of this investment, the companies curtail their mining activities. It would be proper for the party to direct its members to vote in a certain way, in relation to the allowance or disallowance of regulations which would have the effect of permitting the transfer of the investment activities of mining companies to other fields. I do not think that anyone could complain about that. This is a very important matter. A government which is interested in the development of Australia in accordance with its own beliefs should have at all times the right to say what benefits will be given to companies to attract their money to the avenues of investment thought to be best suited for the development of the country.

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