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Wednesday, 17 May 1939

Mr Nairn n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -

Will he furnish (a) a list of claims for compensation made upon the Government arising out of the embargo against the export of iron ore from Yampi Sound, and (6) the decisions upon such claims?

Mr Menzies - Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.

Defence of Queensland.

Mr Street t. - On the 4th May the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) asked a question, without notice, regarding the defence of Queensland. Whilst denying the statement that Queensland is almost completely undefended, I promised to give a detailed reply indicating the specific measures provided for the defence of Queensland.

I may say, for the honorable member's information, that the primary consideration is that the defence of Queensland is inseparably linked with the general scheme of protecting the whole Commonwealth, and it follows that measures for developing the defence services must be framed on an Australia-wide basis.

The following specific measures are being undertaken for the . defence of Queensland and Northern Australia: -

Improvement of the fixed coast defences at Brisbane; provision of Air Force squadrons at Brisbane and Townsville; development of Darwin as a naval fuelling and operational base; development of Port Moresby as a naval, military and air base; provision of fixed coast and anti-aircraft defence, local seaward defences, fortress troops and a mobile garrison at Darwin; erection of a strategic wireless naval station at Darwin; provision of two Air Force squadrons at Darwin.

In addition, the Government has recently expanded the infantry units in the areas of Townsville and Cairns to an organization of two complete battalions, making the military units in Northern Queensland one light horse regiment, four infantry battalions, and one heavy artillery battery.

The security of the Queensland coast, in common with the rest of Australia, is effected by mobile naval and air forces operating from the defended bases at Brisbane, Darwin and Port Moresby, in the North Queensland area. The Government has aimed at a balanced scheme of defence designed to meet the needs of the whole of the Commonwealth, and in implementing the present defence programme is following a carefully prearranged order of priority so that the maximum degree of security may be provided for the whole of Australia.

Cil view of the foregoing considerations, it will be noted that the honorable member's fears regarding the lack of defence provided for Queensland are not soundly based.

Finance fob Homes.

Mr Menzies - On the 11th May the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) asked the following question, without notice -

Has the attention of the Treasurer been drawn to the statement- of representatives of building societies throughout New South Wales that they are unable to obtain finance foi thi building of homes, and consequently propose to. seek money for the purpose overseas? Will he take steps to have funds made available for the purpose by the' Commonwealth Bank?

I am now in a. position to inform the honorable member that loans by the Commonwealth .Bank to building societies, or any other -borrowers, are a matter for determination by the board of directors of the bank. I am informed by the bank that it has already made substantial loans to building societies, but in the present circumstances, and particularly having regard to the requirements for defence finance and public works, it regrets that it has recently been able to approve only a limited number of applications.

House Rents in Sydney.

Mr Menzies s. - On the 3rd May, the honorable member for Werriwa .(Mr. Lazzarini) asked the following question, without notice -

Has the Treasurer seen the report of the Commonwealth Statistician in connexion with housing, in which it is stated that the average rent in Sydney for houses of from four to five rooms is £1 ls. 3d. a week? Will he instruct the Statistician to prepare a publication showing what data he examined in order to reach that conclusion? Will he also instruct the Statistician to prepare a list, to be presented to this Parliament, of four and five roomed houses in Sydney that can he Tented a.t the figure cited?

I am now in a position to furnish the following information in reply to the honorable member's question: -

The actual average rental of four and five roomed houses in Sydney in the first quarter of 1039, as published by the Statistician, was £1 3«. Id. The origin of the £1 ls. 3d. quoted is not known to the Statistician.

The Commonwealth Statistician states that the rental averages published by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics are not necessarily the rentals at which vacant houses can be obtained, but the average rentals which wage and salary earners as a whole arc actually paying.

The figure of £1 3s. Id. quoted above fur Sydney is based on returns supplied by tenants themselves during the last census, brought up to date from quarter to quarter by means of index numbers derived from the actual rentals of a sample of houses in the metropolitan area exceeding 4,200 in number. AH the houses included in the sample have been inspected by the field officers of the Bureau of Statistics, and conform to the standard laid down for houses which may be included in the sample.

The Census and Statistics Act prevents the Statistician from disclosing the information requested in regard to the actual addresses of individual houses.

Price of Gold.

Mr Menzies s. - On the 4th May, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked the Treasurer the following question, without notice -

Will the Treasurer ask his department to make inquiries with a view to discovering tlie names of the men who daily fix the price of gold throughout the world? Where does such a committee or body of men meet?

I am now in a position to furnish the following information in reply to the honorable member's question : -

The price of gold throughout the world is not fixed by any one body of men. In the United States of America, for instance, the price is fixed by the President within limits set by Congress. As the United States of America is now the chief purchaser of gold, and the only large country in which the price of gold is still fixed directly by government action, the price of gold in other countries having a free gold market is determined within more or less close limits by the ruling rate of exchange between American dollars and other currencies. In such countries the price of gold can fluctuate "Between the " gold points ", i.e., the prices fixed by a consideration of the costs of shipment in either direction.

The absence of any restriction in the United Kingdom on gold imports and exports has established the London market as the great free gold market of the world.

Apart from the old statutory buying price of the Bank of England (i.e., the price fixed by British legislation before the departure of Great Britain from the gold standard, viz.. £3 17s. 10½d. an ounce of gold of standard fineness (22 carat) - equivalent to £4 4s. 11 5/1 Id. an ounce of fine gold), the authorities maintain no fixed price for gold in the United Kingdom.

For. further information in regard to this matter, I would invite the honorable member's attention to an informative statement appearing on page 24 of Volume Lj of Monetary Review, the publication issued by the League of Nations in regard to money and banking, 1937-38.

Canberra : Expenditure on Golfclub and Recreation Ovals - Road to Cotter River.

Mr Perkins (EDEN-MONARO, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister without portfolio administering External Territories) - On the 3rd May, the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) asked the following questions, upon notice: -

1.   What has been the expenditure by the department, to date, on the links of the Royal Canberra Golf Club?

2.   What was the expenditure in 1937-36?

3.   What is proposed to be expended in 1938-39?

4.   What has been the expenditure by the department on Northbourne and Kingston ovals ?

5.   What was the expenditure on these two grounds in 1937-38?

6.   What is proposed to be expended on these two grounds in 1938-39?

The Minister for the Interior has now supplied the following information: -


Mr.Perkins. - On the 10th May, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Green) asked the following question, without notice: -

Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior been drawn to the shockingly corrugated condition of the last 7 miles of the road between Canberra and the Cotter River reservoir? As this is one of the favourite sight-seeingmotor drives for tourists visiting Canberra, will the honorable gentleman seethat the corrugations are dealt with at an early, date by the grading plant in the possession of the department?

In reply, I have to advise that the Cotterroad is being improved, as funds become available, into a first-class main road, by the straightening and elimination of excessive curvature, and the provision of bituminous surfacing. An additional length of 3 miles is being surfaced with bitumen at the present time. The Cotter end of this road became out of shape, owing to the long dry summer of 1 938-39, but this portion will be reconditioned as soon as plant becomes available, and it is anticipated that this work will be completed within the next two weeks.

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