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Wednesday, 20 November 1974
Page: 2610

Senator GEORGES (Queensland) - I have no doubt that Senator Steele Hall must be gratified that at last he has a few friends on that side of the chamber. It seems to me that all he has to offer to them is a few crumbs and they will come to his support. My memory is not short because I remember that a week or so ago they thought him to be a pariah, somebody who ought not to be listened to or agreed with in any way. Tonight even Senator Webster spent some time in praise of Senator Hall. I believe that tonight Senator Steele Hall has taken a particular partisan point of view. He presented a case which he thought might gain him some support. I think Senator McLaren dealt very suitably with Senator Hall's remarks.

What brings me into this debate is the charge by the Opposition, in particular Senator Webster, that we on this side had no interest in these Bills and were not prepared to support them. I make it very clear to the Opposition that we on this side find that there is an urgency to get this legislation through. To do this, if we have to deny ourselves the opportunity to participate in the debate, we are prepared to risk the criticism which may flow from the electorate. Our purpose is to prepare and discuss legislation, to carry out our policy and to get that legislation passed. When one considers the obstructionist tactics of the Opposition in this place one can realise how limited our time becomes to pass this and other legislation. The whole of this week -

Senator Carrick - You wasted all day yesterday.

Senator GEORGES - Do not interrupt me now. During the whole of this week and the whole of last week the Opposition continued to filibuster, to obstruct and to delay. I will always remember that the Opposition delayed a very important social measure.

Senator Baume - Which one?

Senator GEORGES -The Family Law Bill. By deliberate delaying tactics the Opposition is endeavouring to defer the passage of this Bill until next year. To me this is a subtle form of cruelty on the part of the Opposition which is preventing the passage of a Bill when its passage is inevitable. That is bad enough.

Senator Bonner - What has that to do with housing?

Senator GEORGES -I am speaking of the delaying tactics that Senator Bonner in particular and approximately six of his colleagues have engaged in to delay the passage of legislation in this place. Today we have witnessed the same procedure. We have endeavoured to restrain ourselves from entering the debate, but the rubbish that Senator Webster spoke in his contribution tonight needs some reply. As far as I am concerned, even if we must stay here until Christmas or beyond Christmas, if the Opposition is prepared -

Senator Bonner - We will stay with you.

Senator GEORGES -We will see what happens to you in the last week when you are eager to get home to other commitments.

Senator Bonner - That is up to you. Do not guillotine the debate.

Senator GEORGES - There is no chance of guillotining the debate in this place. Senator Bonner knows that. We have not the numbers. They have the numbers and they are ruthless with their numbers.

Senator Bonner - We will stay with you.

Senator GEORGES -When it is time for you to go home we will see how quickly the Bills go through. In the meantime the Opposition is endeavouring to frustrate legislation. Today it is endeavouring to delay this very important legislation. We have heard all sorts of propositions that this Government has deliberately brought the building industry to its knees. Speakers on the Opposition side have failed to state or to declare that what we are suffering at present is a result of policies which were initiated well before this Government came to power. The escalation of land prices commenced well before we came into power. The misdirection of moneys for building commenced well before we came into power. The unbridled development of housing societies without any financial control commenced well before we came into power. The uncontrolled speculation in commercial building commenced well before this Government came into office, and the use of labour, materials and moneys in the building of high rise commercial units and uneconomical shopping sites commenced well before we came into power. In endeavouring to control this sort of misuse of finance, this misuse of building effort, in endeavouring to control these things we unfortunately affected the normal home building industry.

Senator Carrick - You created the present situation.

Senator GEORGES - Senator, thecauses which led to the restrictions that the Government had to apply were causes that your side was responsible for. If one goes back into the records one will find the number of times that senators on this side of the chamber have spoken about the undesirability of investment in high rise commercial type buildings in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and other places, using money at 12 per cent interest and charging rentals to cover a 20 per cent return for a complete recovery in 8 years. That sort of policy was allowed to develop under your government and, as a result, we have a glut of commercial building in the main cities of Australia. We have thousands of square feet of carpeted luxurious space which cannot be used for ordinary living purposes, and you commenced that.

Senator Withers - You have wrecked the economy and it will never be used now.

Senator GEORGES -Senator Withers overexaggerates and he has to accept the responsibility for his over-exaggeration. Senator Townley also over-exaggerated. Let me say that you people, by your over-exaggeration of what is happening in the economy, have become the producers of the situation about which you warn us.

Senator Webster - That is what the socialists always say.

Senator GEORGES - The person I am going to refer to cannot be categorised as a socialist. Incidentally, Senator Webster must be more perceptive than I because he seems to be able to find quite a number of socialists about the place. My definition of a socialist apparently is quite different from his. To the honourable senator who has interjected about turtles, may I say that the turtle project to which he has referred was commenced when the Opposition was in office and will cost us a cool $2m before it is finished. I was speaking of the over-exaggeration of Senators on the Opposition side. This overexaggeration I am claiming to be dangerous, and I refer the Senate to an article in the 'Australian Financial Review' of today, Wednesday, 20 November 1974. The article states:

Recession, not inflation, is to be Public Enemy Nol.

If you read that article you will see that those who predict economic doom are the ones who are likely to cause that economic doom in a situation that is volatile. But what upset me very much about the comments of Senator Webster and Senator Townley was that they looked upon the prospect of a recession with glee.

Senator Townley - Rubbish.

Senator Webster - Rubbish.

Senator GEORGES -No. Why were you smiling before, when you made the statement? You smiled well enough, but you have not got the common sense to realise that a recession of the type that you hope for will affect you as much as it will affect everyone else, except that while it will reduce your level of living it will introduce many people in this country to extreme poverty. You know that well enough. Do not come into this place and over-exaggerate what is happening in the economy at the present time. There is a shift in the direction of the economy at the present time, in the building industry in particular, and the evidence of this will be seen in the next few months.

Senator Carrick - What did Bob Hawke say about employment today?

Senator Webster - Disastrous.


Senator Carrick - What! 300,000 unemployed not disastrous?

Senator GEORGES - Let us look at the figure of unemployed. It is higher than it ought to be, but it is a recurring situation. You must recall that in 1961, when the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies had to impose more draconic measures than we are prepared to impose on the economy, signs went up in Queensland: 'No labour wanted'. I have not seen such signs anywhere yet under this Government. What amazes me about honourable senators opposite is that they do not properly understand the system that they support. They do not properly look back into the economic history of the past 20, 30 and 40 years and realise that we go into a recessive period practically every 10 or 11 years. I would say that the measures that this Government imposed in the Budget were nowhere near as severe as those Menzies measures. Nevertheless, there have been some changes.

Senator Withers - Which Budget?

Senator GEORGES -Nevertheless, there have been some changes. Senator Withers is interjecting out of his place, but he is entitled to do that. I do that myself from time to time, but I do not get away with it. Apparently he has some special privileges.

Senator Carrick - The credit squeeze is the worst ever, and it has been brought about by you people.

Senator GEORGES - No, Senator, you missed the point. The causes of the present squeeze, as you term it- the credit restriction- were causes which you inflicted upon the economy. You must know, if you are any sort of capitalist, that you cannot make a decision in a short time which has an immediate effect. The decisions which have affected the economy at the present time were made under your government, and I outlined those previously.

Senator Carrick -He thinks 300,000 unemployed is all right. He said it is not disastrous.

Senator GEORGES -You are hoping for it, Senator.

Senator Carrick - No, you said it is not disastrous.

Senator GEORGES -I did not say that at all.

Senator Carrick - You did.

Senator GEORGES - I am saying that there is a shift in the direction of employment. There is a shake-out.

Senator Webster - Don't be silly. There will be no increased employment for the next 3 months.

Senator GEORGES -I am going to refer to your comments, Senator.

Senator Bonner - Why not come back to the Bill?

Senator GEORGES - I am coming back to the Bill.

The PRESIDENT -Order! Senator Georgeswill address the Chair on the Bill.

Senator GEORGES -Mr President,I wish to make a point in rebuttal of what Senator Webster had to say earlier.

Senator Webster - I don't know why you pick on me.

Senator GEORGES - Because you were the one who was most vocal and you were the one who most misrepresented the position, and you were the one who stirred us into the debate when we were prepared to get this legislation through. What worries me is that you can come in here and complain that as an employer you employ people but you have not been able to adjust your costs during the year to provide for 4 weeks annual leave and to provide for a 17 'A per cent loading

Senator Webster - That is right.

Senator GEORGES -You have said that. You have not been able to adjust your business in such a way as tq give some sort of economic justice to your worker. You do not even know why the 17% per cent loading is provided. It is because the situation which your Government created brought this economy to the stage where it was impossible for a worker to afford to take 4 weeks' annual leave because it costs more to take a week ?s leave than a worker receives in wages in your kind of employment. That is why the 1716 per cent loading was provided. Surely you, as an employer, should be prepared to improve the leave conditions of your worker. But, Senator, you ought not to be in so much distress. There should be plenty of work for you as a cabinetmaker or whatever it may be.

Senator Maunsell - Look at the cabinetmakers on that side.

Senator GEORGES -Cabinet-makers. The greatest user of furniture of the type that you would possibly make would be the school system in Victoria. Would that not be so? There is a great demand for school furniture in Victoria, because of the increased expenditure on education.

Senator Maunsell - Do they not make cabinets out of logs?

Senator GEORGES -Never mind. People are employed in cabinet-making, and Senator Webster is interested in it. I refer again to today's Australian Financial Review' which states that the State Government of Victoria has spent only 11 per cent of $5.7m offered by the Federal Government for new schools for Victoria's migrant children, according to a Federal report. We find that an amount of $5. 7m has been given to the State of Victoria.

Senator Webster - When?

Senator GEORGES - In this year.

Senator Webster - Ah! There is the greatest fact that we have had yet- in this year. Good heavens above. It was probably given last week. Could we have a short adjournment while we wait for Senator Georges to continue?

Senator GEORGES -We are not having a short adjournment. The point is clearly made that in spite of the high level of unemployment in the building industry to which honourable senators opposite have referred, the Victorian Government has not been able to commit the full amount of $5.7m. This is happening not only in Victoria but also in Queensland. Those States have not been able to expend the moneys which have been provided which would take up the slack in the building industry. The moneys could be used to employ not only cabinet-makers, but also french polishers, bricklayers, carpenters and building labourers. Where is the great hoax? The great hoax seems to be that the States cannot adjust to the changes that are taking place. The changes are that moneys which previously were directed to speculative building by big speculators can now be diverted to low cost housing and to the building of schools and hospitals.

The States have not been able to adjust, and there a gross under-spending of money by the States, especially in Queensland. They have not been able to expend the moneys. Yet we have this continual cry by the Opposition that there is great unemployment and no stimulation in the building industry. The States have not been able to adjust. The Federal Government has endeavoured to come into the building field through the new Department of Housing and Construction. But in the 2 years that we have been in office, by the obstruction of honourable senators opposite we have been forced to a double dissolution and to another election. We have not been able -

Senator Bonner - Do you mean double standards?

Senator GEORGES -It is not a matter of double standards. A lot of money was provided for Aboriginal housing.

Senator Bonner - What has that got to do with this Bill? It has nothing to do with this Bill. We dealt with that the other day.

Senator GEORGES - If Senator Bonner had been in the chamber earlier and had not just come in- I thank him for coming in to listen to me- he would have heard the remarks that were made earlier. There were other honourable senators to whom he could have listened. I make this point clear to him: The remarks made by the Opposition tonight have emphasised, underlined and re-emphasised the point that there is unemployment in the building industry, that the building industry is running down. Honourable senators opposite have said that there is a high level of unemployment and that there is not sufficient home building. There is sufficient money to stimulate the economy, but the States are not able to use the money in the ordinary housing field, through the housing commissions, and Queensland certainly is not able to use it through the Aboriginal and Island Affairs Department, which is one area in which Senator Bonner is most interested.

I turn now to the present situation in Australia. There are no building commencements, but there are many homes that have been built and still remain empty. I defy honourable senators opposite to deny that the causes of these homes remaining empty stem back to their Government. There was the high cost of land. A block of land cost $12,000 or $14,000 or $16,000 and a speculator would build a house on that block of land. He would lift the price of what we consider to be a modest type of house -

Senator Webster - You have been in government for 2 years.

Senator GEORGES -We have been in government for 2 years and you were in government for 23 years. The mess that we are experiencing at the present time can be traced back to your government.

Senator Webster - What is the lowest value of a house in Canberra?

Senator GEORGES -It is $35,000 for a modest type of house. But the house remains empty. The speculator cannot get his money because no one can purchase the house. The cost is far too high. It has escalated from the time that you were in Government.

Senator Carrick - Nonsense.

Senator GEORGES -Wait a moment. The speculator is finding difficulty in selling his homes in order to get further capital to build other homes. But the builder who is building for a person who has a loan has plenty of work.

Senator Carrick - You have destroyed credit. You have put up the interest rate.

Senator GEORGES -The cause of high interest rates again goes back to the decisions that you made. I have spoken before in this chamber about the pace setting of the building societies which honourable senators opposite allowed to develop in an unbridled way.

Senator Carrick - Are you opposed to building societies?

Senator GEORGES - Building societies would be the most inefficient way- and I have said this before- of providing low interest finance for homebuilding.

Senator Carrick - Are you opposed to building societies?

Senator GEORGES - I am not opposed to building societies.

Senator Carrick - Your Government is.

Senator GEORGES -Let me finish.

Senator Bonner - You are opposed to building societies?

Senator GEORGES - I am opposed to a multiplicity of building societies.

Senator Webster - You want one big central government building society.

Senator GEORGES -No. Senator Websteris talking rubbish, and he knows it. Any reasonable organiser of finance in the building industry would appreciate that with the multiplicity of building societies competing aggressively one against the other for more deposits by offering high interest rates, there should be some rationalisation in this area.

Senator Carrick - Rationalisation means destruction, does it?

Senator GEORGES - Rationalisation means the amalgamation of these small building societies which are duplicating services and running up costs.

Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson - Building society interest rates are fixed by the Government. What are you talking about?

Senator GEORGES - Building society interest rates are fixed by State governments which accept no responsibility for the overall national economy, and Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson knows it well. If Victoria lifts the interest rate for its building societies by 2 per cent, Queensland subsequently follows. Unless some assistance is given to building societies to rationalise their operations and bring their interest rates down, the loans provided through building societies will be loans which ordinary people cannot service. Many houses remain empty. Many houses remain unsold. Many speculators are unable to continue. It seems to me to be a strange commentary on the type of economy which honourable senators opposite support that these huge building concerns which enter into land and building speculation, under the slightest pressure and restriction find themselves retreating into backruptcy or liquidation. The poor small employer or employee for whom Senator Webster weeps is the first one who suffers in that sort of arrangement. The big speculator goes free. He escapes his responsibility behind the limited liability of his company. I have been stirred into speaking in this debate. I do not think I have spoken since the Australian Labor Party has been in government- at least not in this sessionas frequently as I used to. I have said my piece. I merely say to the Opposition that if it wants to obstruct, to delay, to extend debate it puts us in a position where we may have to match it speaker for speaker.

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