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Wednesday, 31 May 1972
Page: 2367


Senator McLAREN (South Australia) - I wish to raise 2 matters which I feel are of great importance to the people of Australia. The first matter relates to the Homes Savings Grant Act, which I believe contains a great anomaly. Paragraph (b) of sub-section (2.) of section 20 provides: (2.) A grant under this Act shall not be made to an eligible person in respect of a dwellinghouse -

(b)   unless the amount that the Secretary is satisfied is the value of the dwelling-house, or will he the value of the dwelling-house when it is erected, does not exceed -

(i)   if the prescribed date in relation to the eligible person is a date that is not later than the twenty-seventh day of November, One thousand nine hundred and sixty-six - Fourteen thousand dollars; or

(ii)   in any other case - Seventeen thousand, five hundred dollars;

Paragraph (a) of sub-section (4.) of section 20 provides: (4.) For the purposes of paragraph (b) of subsection (2.) of this section, the value of a dwellinghouse is the value -

(a)   in the case of a dwelling-house not being a dwelling-house of a kind commonly known as a flat or home unit - of the approved interest owned or to be owned by the eligible person or his or her spouse, or by both of those persons, in the land on which the dwelling-house is, or is being, erected having regard to the dwelling-house and any other improvements that are, or are being, made to that land;

A person who buys a block of land, makes no improvements whatever to it and then proceeds to build a dwelling on it at a cost not exceeding $17,500 will qualify for the homes savings grant of $500. But an industrious person who buys a block of land, does not have the amount required to construct a home but in the meantime with the small amount he has available builds frences, a workshop or garage or lays paving, or undertakes similar types of improvements, finds when he has the amount required to pay a deposit on a dwelling and applies for a homes savings grant that the improvements he has carried out before lodging the application are included in the cost of the dwelling for the purposes of the Act.

I have spoken to officers of the Department of Housing in both Adelaide and Canberra. They have been most cooperative and sympathetic, but because of the terms of the Act nothing can be done to help those people who have gone ahead and made improvements to their land before applying for a homes savings grant. I and many other people believe that this is an anomaly. A person who is not prepared to make any improvements to his land until he applies for a homes savings grant receives the grant providing the cost of the dwelling does not exceed the amount stated in the Act, but a person who carries out improvements to his land before making application can be debarred from receiving the homes savings grant.

I have been told by members of the Department that it would be very hard to differentiate between people who are building a home and people who are buying a home. It would be hard to sort out the people who would be eligible in respect of improvements and the cost of the land as against the cost of the dwelling. Yet in the first part of the Act it distinctly says that the amount is applied to the dwelling. I would like the Government to do what it can to amend the Act so that young people who are genuinely seeking a grant to set up a home are not debarred from a grant because they have made improvements to their land.

Another anomaly arises because certain local government bodies have by-laws which require people to erect a certain type of front fence. The cost could vary from $200 to $600. If a young couple build a home to the value of $17,500, they may be hit with the local government requirement to build a fence and can thus be debarred from receiving a home savings grant. They may not want a front fence but are compelled to erect one. I make a plea to people in the Department of Housing to see whether something can be done to amend the Act as soon as possible so that the people to whom I have referred may be eligible to receive the homes savings grant.

I wish now to raise another matter. I have received correspondence from school organisations in South Australia and from voluntary organisations of the Methodist Church in relation to increased postal charges introduced in the last Budget. I have received a letter from Mr J. M. Cook, Secretary of the Allendale East Area School Committee, which states:

Allendale East Area School,

Allendale East, via Mount Gambier, S.A. 5291 24th March, 1972

The Honourable Senator G. McLaren, Parliament House, CANBERRA, A.C.T. 2600

Dear Sir,

On behalf of the Allendale East Area School Committee, I desire to draw your attention to the difficulties being encountered in the financing of the 'School Post'. The 'School Post' is a publication of the Australian Council of State Schools' Organisations, and for postal purposes, the PostmasterGeneral's Department has placed it in Category 'B\ As a member Committee of the A.C.S.S.O., we believe that the 'School Post' warrants classification in Category 'A', thereby easing the financial burden to the Council and its affiliates. State School Committees are primarily engaged in activities concerning the welfare and education of school children, and increased postal charges on our magazine means less money for our main purpose.

We therefore earnestly request you to make representations to the Postmaster-General to have the 'School Post' reclassified into Category 'A'.

Your faithfully,

J.   M. COOK

I contacted the Postmaster-General's Department and received a reply from Senator Cotton. It stated briefly that the issue had been carefully examined on a number of occasions and the Minister regretted that it was not possible to vary the classification of the publication concerned. Senator Cotton enclosed a copy of a statement which had been prepared regarding the classification of school parent organisation journals. With the concurrence of the Senate I will have a copy of that statement incorporated in Hansard.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows):

POSTAL CLASSIFICATION OF REGISTERED PERIODICALS PUBLISHED BY SCHOOL PARENTS' ORGANIZATIONS

Almost half the loss sustained in the provision of postal services is caused by the transmission of registered newspapers and periodicals at concessional rates of postage. The reduction of the extent of the concessions for registered publications and the application of stringent eligibility conditions were necessary to contain the loss.

Registered publications are now classified in three categories, namely Category 'A', Category B' and Category 'C. Category 'A' registered publications are confined to country newspapers and periodicals, and newspapers and periodicals published by religious, charitable and welfare organizations, and by educational, scientific or technical organizations having the dissemination of knowledge as their principal object. Other publications on the register before the 31st December 1971, or for which applications for registration were lodged by that date are classified in Category 'B'. However, any applications for registration lodged after the 31st December 1971, in respect of publications not eligible for Category A' can only be considered for Category 'C classification.

To be regarded as a 'country' periodical for postal registration purposes, a journal must be primarily concerned with 'country' subjects - those subjects which are an essential part of country life as distinct from capital city life. The publications of parents' organizations associated with schools are not of special interest to country people, as distinct from city people, as they con- tain information of common interest to people in all areas.

The Post Office is unable to regard the various school organizations, for postal purposes, as either charitable or welfare organizations. Charitable organizations are considered to be those which devotea substantial and continuing effort to the relief of the poor or afflicted and have this as one of their principal objects. A welfare organization is considered to be one whose objects are actually directed to and whose activities are substantially and continually involved in assisting, supporting or improving the conditions of life of underprivileged or disadvantaged persons or groups within a more favourably placed community.

Educational organizations must have the dissemination of knowledge as their principal object. School parents' associations are not regarded as educational organizations in the generally accepted sense of the term in that they do not have a substantial degree of systematic or formalised education in their activities.

Publications issued by school parents' organizations, therefore, are not eligible for Category 'A' classification. However, the Category 'B' rate, which is applicable to this kind of publication registered as a result of an application lodged by 3 1st December 1971, still represents a substantial concession when compared with the normal printed matter rate.

I have also received a letter from Mr Keith Smith, Secretary of the Board of Management of the 'Central Times', a Methodist Church publication in South Australia. Mr Smith wrote: 26th April 1972

Dear Senator,

I write to you on behalf of the Board of Management of this newspaper which is the official publication of The Methodist Church in South Australia,

Our Board is deeply disturbed at the impact of increased postal charges which were imposed under the last Federal Budget. Under the provisions of the Budget, bulk postage rates covering items such as periodicals and newspapers were increased by 50 per cent, compared with an increase from 6c to 7c in first class postage. We are concerned that this measure involves a serious additional burden to organizations of a charitable, religious or philanthropic nature, which are dependent for their existence and support on the good-will of members of the community. Newspapers and periodicals such as 'The Central Times' provide an essential means of maintaining such support.

Particularly in recent years, there has been wide-spread recognition by Governments of the importance of voluntary social agencies and the contribution which is made for community wellbeing by organizations such as churches. As the result of this recognition, the responsibilities of churches and welfare organizations have been enormously increased and the need for additional financial contributions from members of the public has resulted.

In the case of our own paper, increased postal charges will require an additional $1,438 in a full year.

On behalf of the members of the Board and the 13,500 Methodist families who read 'The Central Times', I would urge you to use your influence to have this unfair imposition removed. I also request you to strenuously resist any proposal which will have the effect of 'Taxing' charitable and religious organizations whose funds come entirely from voluntary contributions from members of the public by increased postal charges or other financial measures.

Yours faithfully,

Keith Smith

I have raised these 2 matters to point out to the Senate the significance of the work done by voluntary organisations in the religious and educational sectors of the community. Irrespective of the answer I received from the Postmaster-General's DepartmentI again make an urgent plea to the Government to give due consideration to these people when framing the next Budget. As they have said to me in correspondence, they are working on a voluntary basis. If they were to abandon their work and throw the burden back on the Government, the Government would find that it was up for an amount far in excess of that which it receives from the increased postal charges payable by these people. The increased postal charges do not apply only to religious or school organisations. This problem is experienced also to a large extent by trade unions and the motoring organisations in each State. Because of the increased postal charges for the newspapers that they publish for and distribute to their members, these bodies have had to increase their fees. This has had a detrimental effect on their endeavours to inform people of what their organisations are doing. The circularisation of these periodicals has had to be reduced. This is not helping those organisations in the job of work that they are attempting to do. That is why I am raising these matters today.







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