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Thursday, 7 May 1970

Mr ARMITAGE (Chifley) - It is quite obvious that the Acting Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) is still acting. It is quite obvious that he is trying to take every possible political advantage and that he has lost all sense of responsibility as to the provocation he is arousing. We speak of provocation and of what can occur. I think that a few people should read the editorial which appeared in a newspaper tonight. Honourable members on this side of the House are aware that probably I am 1 of the most hated people in the Australian Labor Party in New South Wales so far as the Communist Party is concerned. I was a full time official of my Party in that State and I do not think anybody would suggest that we in New South Wales are pro-Communist. All honourable members on this side of the House are informed on this matter and know that what 1 say is correct. It is obvious from many of the remarks from honourable members on the Government side of the House that they are not informed. I am concerned about this matter.

The Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) is laughing. I wonder whether he knows what a Com looks like. Of course all of us know his uncle. However, I think all honourable members should look at the editorial which appeared tonight in one of the newspapers in Sydney. This is hardly an old radical paper; it is hardly a young radical newspaper. It. is the 'Daily Mirror'.

Mr Pettitt - Hal

Mr ARMITAGE - Is the honourable member for Hume suggesting that it is proCommunist?

Mr Graham - It is pro-Labor.

Mr ARMITAGE - Not to my knowledge. It has turned round at the last minute in every election that I can remember for some considerable time and has supported the Government parties. The heading for this editorial is: 'A time for cool heads'. That is the lesson I wish to bring out tonight, because of the provocation that is taking place. If in this country something happens similar to what happened at Kent University in the United Stales, many of the people who have been unashamedly using this Moratorium issue for personal political advantage, including the Acting Prime Minister, will have to take a hard look at their consciences in the future. Government members are interjecting. I ask the House to give me a fair go. The Acting Prime Minister was given a fair go. If similar violence occurs in Australia, then honourable members on the Government side will have to look carefully at their consciences because of the provocation they have been using.

Mr Cohen - They are hoping for it.

Mr ARMITAGE - I sincerely hope that that is not so. This editorial in the 'Daily Mirror* states:

What is involved, primarily, in the Vietnam moratorium is a public demonstration of dissent against Australia's involvement in the war.

After going on to state that there could be varying points of view on this issue, it concludes:

And if all sides keep their cool - the moratorium marchers will do no more barm than the Anzac marchers did on April 23. Give them a fair go. They have a right to it.

J wish to quote from another publication that I have with me. lt is a copy of a speech made about a fortnight ago on the Vietnam Moratorium, lt states:

Vietnam is a controversial issue, and it is a controversial issue among democrats: among those who value and seek to maintain an 'open' and pluralist society. Men of good will and intelligence are to be found on both sides of (lie debate. Indeed, in view of the complexity of the problems of Vietnam it is better to say that nien of good will and intelligence are lo be found in every position in the multi-dimensional continuum of possible views about Vietnam. The facts, including both what happened in the past and what is happening now, are difficult to establish. They arc still more difficult lo interpret. The likely results of different policies that might bc attempted-

Mr Robinson - Who are you quoting?

Mr ARMITAGE - 1 will tell the honourable member for Cowper who it is and it w" give him a bit of a shock. I repeal:

The likely results of different policies that might bc attempted: for instance, leaving substantial US forces in Vietnam for an indefinite period, Vietnamising the war, trying to force a coalition government with the NLF on the South Vietnam government, withdrawing totally and absolutely, are all exceedingly difficult to weigh and assess.

I ask honourable members to keep in mind the phrase 'are all exceedingly difficult to weigh and assess'. That is what this man says. He continues:

The moral decisions involved must appear agonisingly difficult to all except those who have very simple-minded views of the nature of man and society.

Mr King - Who said that?

Mr ARMITAGE - This was stated by Professor Armstrong, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sydney, who authorised the pro-Vietnam war advertisement which appeared today in the 'Australian'. Even that man, who would not agree with the attitude of the Australian

Labor Party, admits that there must be differing points of view on this very great, very important and very moral issue.

This morning in this Parliament I witnessed one of the worst things I have seen in connection with this Campaign. The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Daly) asked what I thought was a most responsible question. I think most people who thought about his question would agree with me. He wanted to know what provocation was going to occur. He asked the Minister for External Affairs (Mr McMahon) to make an example by approaching President Nixon and protesting about the death of 4 young people at Kent University a day or 2 ago. At the same time, in order to ensure that this could not happen here in Australia and in view of the fact that this Government has done nothing but spend day after day talking about the Moratorium, he asked the Minister to accept the responsibility of approaching the State governments in order to ensure that police used the utmost reticence, the utmost care and the utmost forbearance so that an incident such as happened in the United States will not happen in Australia. What was the answer by the Minister for External Affairs?

Dr Klugman - It was a shocking answer.

Mr ARMITAGE - The honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) says it was a shocking answer and I agree. The Minister's reply was that it was a frivolous question to ask-

Mr Katter - I take a point of order. The Minister did not say it was a frivolous question.

Mr SPEAKER - Order! There is no substance in the point of order.

Mr ARMITAGE - I recollect clearly what was said in this House this morning and so does every honourable member who was here. The Minister stated it was a frivolous question. I ask very sincerely and very simply that this Government take the responsibility of approaching all State Governments, the Premiers or the Ministers responsible for the police, realising as I do - and I would not be loved by the Communist Party by any stretch of the imagination-

Mr Jacobi - You have been fighting them all your life.

Mr ARMITAGE - I am 1 of those who led the fight in New South Wales and I know their antics. The Government should do some work and should not use this for political capital as it has done steadily for the last few days. I ask the Government to take the necessary action and approach the State Governments and the Ministers responsible for the police. I realise that the police have a difficult job, but they should be asked to use every possible reticence, to take every possible care to see that in the days to come we do not have another Kent University here in Australia. I ask honourable members on the Government side - I appeal to them - to stop the provocation, to stop taking this action which is designed not to keep cool heads but specifically for the 1 purpose of gaining political advantage. Wittingly or unwittingly they are provoking the very set of circumstances that they say they wish to avoid.

I wish to deal specifically tonight with the question of war service homes and housing. Quite a lot has been said on the other issue. We have been speaking tonight on Supply, on a financial measure to give this Government the necessary finance to carry on until the Budget is accepted. It is time we got down to the serious issues which confront this Government and this Parliament and talked about some of the issues that are important to the people of Australia. I am surprised to hear the comments of honourable members opposite. I thought they supported returned soldiers and I am surprised to hear them scoff when I say I wish to deal with the important issue of housing and war service homes.

Before I deal with it I would like to touch on 1 other aspect. We heard the Acting Prime Minister deal with the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) on the export of merino rams. I mention this because of the arrogance that has crept into the attitude of Ministers. This arrogance was shown in the reply to the honourable member for Grayndler this morning, which I dealt with a little while ago. This morning the Acting Prime Minister, when asked by the Leader of the Opposition a question in respect of the export of merino rams, said that he adhered to the proposition that this was a matter for the individual to sell his wares, or words to that effect, and to get the best price for them.

Mr Lionel Bowen (KINGSFORD-SMITH, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Wherever they could.

Mr ARMITAGE - Yes. They were the words he used. Apparently he does not take account of the national interest; the individual can do as he will but the national interest can be ignored. The merino ram has been 1 of Australia's best assets for many years. The ban on the export was implemented by a Labor government and this Government has chosen to lift it. The Minister said the national interest can be ignored because a few people in the country wish to make a few quid out of the sale. We know what happens if a conscientious objector says: 'I do not wish to go to war'. The Acting Prime Minister has a different approach then; he says the needs, the will and best interests of this country must be observed and not the interests of the individual. But when it comes to the finances of one of his supporters, he says the individual's profit must obtain. 1 return to the question of war service homes. An amendment has been moved by the Opposition. It makes the point that the Government should allocate sufficient finance immediately to all successful applicants for war service homes. The purpose of this is to ensure that in the future applicants for war service homes, after they get approval from the Division, do not have to go to the userers, the private banks, the fringe banking organisations or the money lenders to obtain temporary finance for periods of some months. At times it has been up to a year before they can get their loan. The Government has been forcing them into the hands of the userers and this is why we have presented this proposition here tonight. I think in considering this proposition honourable members should keep in mind that in 1963-64 10,573 homes were provided. In 1968-69 the figure had dropped to 7,163. There was not the same demand for housing from returned servicemen. The cost in 1963-64 was $70.02m; repayments plus interest equalled $55. 16m. In 1968-69 the cost was $50. 19m; repayment plus interest equalled $72. 62m. In other words, whilst there was a net outlay by the Government in 1963-64 of $14.89m for war service homes, today there is a net gain by the Government of $22. 43m. Today the Government is making money and its net position from war service homes activities is a credit position. The arguments the Government used in 1964 for the restrictions it placed on war service homes - that is, that there was such a great delay in obtaining finance - no longer exist. The Government is making money from this scheme today. So. all these arguments that it uses against the provision of second loans, the discharge of existing mortgages and the various other proposals are no longer constant today in this year of 1970.

Let us look at why it is that the Government will not provide second loans. 1 refer to the case of a returned soldier who has a war service home. He leaves his home because, for example, he is transferred in his employment to the country or interstate. He is forced to go. Alternatively, he may have to leave his home because of illness. He may not be able to live in the climate of the area where his home is situated. This Government, except in very exceptional cases, will not provide a second war service home and will not even allow that person to transfer the extent of his outstanding mortgage on his war service home for the purpose of financing another home.

The Government talks about the portability of superannuation. I believe that superannuation should be able to be transferred. But apparently, when it comes to the question of giving a returned soldier a reasonable go and giving him portability of his mortgage, the Government says no. This cannot be done. I cannot understand why the Government will not allow the discharge of existing mortgages under the present circumstances in which it is obtaining a net receipt from the operation of war service homes. The Government would do this if it was a fair dinkum Government. Do not tell me that the Government does not refuse to do what I have outlined and does not reject cases such as I have mentioned. One case raised by me has been refused in the last few weeks after I personally saw the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin).

This was the case of a man who at this time is serving in Vietnam. Later, he will be a returned serviceman. He purchased his home 2 months before he received notification of his posting to Vietnam. Surely the proposition that he should be able to transfer his loan for the purchase of his home to the War Service Homes Division now is a reasonable one. Why should he not bc able to do that? If this Government is sincere in its advocacy of the Vietnam war and if it is sincere on all the other attitudes that it has expressed in this House in the last few days, surely the way in which it should be looking at this issue at this time is to say: 'Yes, this man is overseas in Vietnam now. We must be consistent. We must give him a war service homes loan'. As f have indicated, he purchased this home only 2 months before he received notification of his posting to Vietnam. He obtained his loan before he bought his house. Still, the Government will not give a war service homes loan to him after he has been posted to Vietnam.

Mr Foster - The Government is insincere.

Mr ARMITAGE - I think that these are some examples of the point that I wish to make. The honourable member for Sturt said that the Government is insincere in its approach. I think that it is insincere. If it is insincere it is time that it looked at this matter and corrected the anomaly very quickly.

Nothing is done still for former members of the Citizen Military Forces who, for instance, served in Darwin during the 1939-45 War. Those persons who joined the Australian Imperial Force, including honourable members in this House who joined the AIF, are eligible for a war service home loan. It does not matter whether members of the AIF served in Sydney, Melbourne, Darwin, anywhere else in Australia or overseas; they receive a war service loan.

Mr Foster - A man received one even if he was a base wallah.

Mr ARMITAGE - Even a man who was a base wallah in Sydney would be entitled to a war service home, as the honourable member for Sturt interjects. On the other hand, a member of the CMF who, during the war, served in Darwin and had an arm blown off in an air raid there is not entitled to a war service home. I have made inquiries on this subject. If the man is a member of the CMF, he cannot get the loan. He is entitled to it if he was a member of the AIF but not if he was a member of the CMF.

Mr Foster - He is discriminated against.

Mr ARMITAGE - Yes. This is the situation. Why are not single women who have served in our Forces - nurses and the like who are still single and who still have need of a home because they have depend.dants such as mothers and fathers - eligible for a war service home loan? lt is time also that we looked at the overall question of housing. We must consider the plight of young people today. 1 do not envy any young person or any young married couple who wishes to obtain a home today. 1 do not envy such people because I think that they have a very difficult job today. The mover of the amendment to the motion that this Bill be now read a second time, my colleague the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), pointed out some of the land prices that exist in the outer areas of Sydney. 1 point out to the House that I have one of the youngest electorates in New South Wales. It is 1 of the youngest electorates in the the Commonwealth.

Mr Duthie - One of the famous names too.

Mr ARMITAGE - 1 agree. Chifley is a very good name. It is a young electorate with young people. I do not envy those young people who are trying to obtain land in areas where an artificial shortage of land has been created. We should study very seriously and carefully how this artificial shortage of land has been created.

Mr Reynolds - What do those young couples think of the increase in interest rates?

Mr ARMITAGE - The position is, if we look at the situation in the outer perimeter areas of Sydney, that the price of land is rising to a very high level. The main reason for this increase in the price of land and the artificial shortage that exists is that the planning authorities such as the State Planning Authority of New South Wales refuse to release sufficient land so that a shortage no longer exists. I think that the Parliament should consider why this Authority refuses to release that land, lt refuses because it cannot provide the necessary services such as gas, electricity, water, sewerage, transport and the like. The authority says that it cannot provide these services and therefore it will not release the land. As the land is not released, so is an artificial shortage of land created.

Why does this situation occur? The Authority cannot provide these services because it has not received the necessary finance from the State Government. In turn, the State Government has not obtained the necessary finance from the Commonwealth Government so that it can provide money for these necessary services. The situation is reached where we and this Parliament must look at the policy propounded by the Leader of the Opposition in the last Federal election campaign. This proposal was that funds should be earmarked specifically for the perimeter areas of Sydney, these vast developing areas where these necessary services must be provided in order to remove this artificial shortage of land and to give young people the opportunity to buy their own land and to build their own houses. Funds should be provided and earmarked specifically for definite development projects in the outer perimeter areas of Sydney. I refer to areas such as those represented by the honourable member for Macquarie (Mr Luchetti), myself, and so many other members of this House. These areas are covered particularly by members on our side of the House.

I ask the Parliament and the Government to consider this policy carefully. 1 think that when we look at the matter of housing, we should consider the most important question of interest rates that was mentioned earlier by the honourable member for Barton (Mr Reynolds). In answer to an interjection by me, the Treasurer stated this morning: 'There is no restriction on private home building'. Apparently the fact that a higher interest rate is being charged and that a shortage exists of funds available for housing is not considered by the Treasurer to be a restriction on home building. I would ask the Treasurer to assess his policies on this matter carefully to ascertain whether this is correct or not.

Mr Speaker,I make this point as I made it earlier: I sincerely hope that this Government will look more carefully, more in conscience, wilh some humility and humanity at this issue of providing homes for our younger people so that they may bring up decent young Australian families to live a normal existence in a normal atmosphere. Secondly, I hope that the Government, despite the lack of coolness that has existed in the last few days and despite the obvious attempts to take a political advantage, either wittingly or unwittingly, which is provoking a situation that could result in serious consequences in the next few days, will reconsider these issues. As I have said, I speak as one who would be among the people in New South Wales least liked by the Communist Party. I have some knowledge of its antics. I say to the Government: Be careful in what you are doing because if anything does happen in the next few days those who have taken a political advantage of the situation will have to consider their consciences very carefully. Remember, there are varying views. T have quoted some tonight. I urge members opposite to be a little reticent and to exercise a little care. The most important thing is to see that there is no violence in the demonstrations which will occur in the next few days. [Quorum formed.]

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