18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. CHIFLEY) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
– by leave - I I desire to inform the House that the Governor-General has received the following cablegram, dated the 14 th November, 1948, from the Private Secretary to the King:-
I am to inform Your Excellency that Her ‘ Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh, was safely delivered of a Prince at 0.14 p.m. to-day.
The Governor-General has advised the King that the news of the birth of a Prince was received by the Government and the people of Australia with the greatest pleasure, and has asked His Majesty to convey felicitations to Their Royal Highnesses.
– by leave - On behalf of honorable members of the Opposition in this chamber, and of the people of Australia, I express great pleasure at the terms of the message that the Prime Minister has just read to the House. This royal birth, at this time of rapidly changing world affairs, has more than ordinary significance. The interest and enthusiasm that the event has aroused in the great democratic countries of the world, particularly those which formerly were monarchies, is also not without deep significance. The birth of a son to the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh will ensure a continuance of the Crown as a lasting symbol of the great British Common-
I wealth of Nations. We on this side of j the chamber, on behalf of the Australian people, wish Their Royal Highnesses great happiness in the birth of their child who, we all hope, will be privileged, in health and strength, to continue the traditions associated with the great British Empire.
- by leave - On behalf of the Australian Country party, and in the temporary unavoidable absence of its leader, I wish to say that we join with all other sections of the people of Australia, the British Empire, and, in fact, of the Englishspeaking world, in wishing a happy birthday to our new Prince. We congratulate the fortunate Royal parents upon the birth of a son and heir and wish them a.11 long life and happiness.
– In view of the concern of Tasmanian fruit-growers about the marketing of the coming season’s apple crop, I should like the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to provide certain information in which both I and the honorable member for Franklin are interested. First, has acquisition under State legislation definitely been decided upon ? Secondly, will the Commonwealth back up the acquisition plan financially? Finally, will the case price of the fruit be fixed by the State Government or the Australian Government ?
– There will be no Commonwealth acquisition in respect of the forthcoming Tasmanian apple and pear crop. Some months ago, at the request of the Premier of Tasmania, the Australian Government undertook to make available to the Tasmanian Government the services of the Australian Apple and Pear Marketing Board, to act as agent for the Tasmanian Government in respect of the Tasmanian crop. I understand that the Tasmanian Government will enact legislation empowering the Australian Apple and Pear Marketing Board to act as its agent. In addition the Australian Government has agreed that any losses that may be sustained as a result of the marketing of the Tasmanian apple and pear crop through the Tasmanian Government’s agent, the Australian Apple and Pear Marketing Board, will be borne by the Australian Government, provided that the rates of advances for the Tasmanian crop this year are at the same level as last year’s rates, and provided also that a contract is entered into, between the growers and the Tasmanian Government, covering not less than 80 per cent of the Tasmanian crop.
– What about Western A ustralia ?
– The question I am now answering concerns the Tasmanian crop. The arrangement to which I have referred is also subject to an additional and very beneficial proviso that in the event of a profit being made through the marketing of the fruit, it will be available as an additional payment to the apple and pear growers over and above the initial advances to be made by the Tasmanian Government. To forestall another question that the honorable member for Franklin apparently intends to ask regarding Western Australia, I take the opportunity to now informing him that the position regarding the Western Australian crop is that the Government of Western Australia also asked that the Australian Government should endeavour to provide for the marketing of that State’s apple and pear crop. Exploratory talks were held in Canberra yesterday, and the Government of Western Australia has undertaken to acquire the Western Australian apple and pear crop and enact legislation to permit it to utilize the Australian Apple and Pear Marketing Board as its selling agent. The conditions that will apply in respect of the first advances to growers, conditions of sale, the meeting of any potential losses and the distribution of profits are on all fours with the arrangement that is now in the course of being arrived at with the Government of Tasmania.
– Last season only two States supplied the apples that were sold by the Commonwealth abroad. None came from South Australia. I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether South Australian applegrowers will share in the overseas market next season. If not, can he explain why?
– At the moment we have no contract or commitment with the United Kingdom in respect of the forthcoming apple and pear crop. The Australian Government is committed to meet any loss that Tasmania and Western Australia may suffer as the result of the marketing of their apple and pear crops. Their position is most difficult because only a small part of their crop is eaten locally. They are dependent on the overseas market. The other States have local markets that they are unable to supply fully themselves, and they have to import apples from Tasmania and Western Australia. Last season we decided that the difficulties of the apple and pear growers of Tasmania and Western Australia were so great and that the disposal of their crops was of such economic importance to the States themselves and to Australia generally that we were justified in allocs ting the whole of the United Kingdom’s order, which was for bulk supply, to Tasmania and Western Australia. It was considered that that course would not detrimentally affect the apple and pear growers or the economy of the other four States. That that decision was correct is best demonstrated by the returns that accrued to the apple and pear growers of the other four States. The whole of the United Kingdom apple contract was allocated to Tasmania and Western Australia, and the applegrowers of the other States did not have strong competition from Tasmanian and Western Australian apples. However, no firm order has yet been received from the United Kingdom forthe forthcoming apple crop, and I am unable at this stage to indicate the policy that will be adopted in respect of next season’s crop.
– In case the Prime Minister has not yet read the announcement in the newspapers or heard it on the air, I inform him that a by-election was held last Saturday in the Geelong State electorate in Victoria, a seat long held by the Labour party, and the result was in favour of the Liberal party candidate. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether this further expression of the dissatisfaction of the electors with socialists and socialization, coupled with the results of the State elections in Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, and Tasmania, and of by-elections in New South Wales does not seem to indicate that the Australian Government has now little moral right to govern?
– Order! What is the honorable member’s question?
– Will the Prime Minister give the people of Australia an early opportunity to indicate at the polls the opinion that they hold of his Administration? Will he undertake that the general election that is due to take place next year by effluxion of time 3hall not be unduly delayed?
– At the Geelong by-election last Saturday, the Liberal party candidate was returned as the result of receiving substantial support from the Communist party.
– The right honorable gentleman must have read this morning’s newspapers.
– I have not read this morning’s newspapers, but last night, 1. heard a broadcast announcement to the effect that 45 per cent, of the Communist candidate’s preference votes went to the Liberal party candidate. The date of the next Commonwealth general election will be determined in due course by the Government. I am not expecting that an election will be held immediately, and, at this stage, I am not in a position to indicate when one will take place. However, the honorable member for Balaclava may rest assured that the Government will not be in undue haste to hold the election simply because he is eagerly awaiting it. The honorable member also referred to the socialist schemes of the Government. [ remind him. that the Government has a mandate from the people, a political platform, principles and convictions. It proposes to carry out those principles and its political platform irrespective of the views of the honorable member for Balaclava.
Ci-aim of Employees - Innisfail Post Office - Opening of Registered LETTER
– Can the Prime Minister give to the House the details of the increases of salary granted to postal employees under a recent award by the Public Service Board? Is there discon tent in the Service as the result of the board’s decision? Did the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction receive in Canberra yesterday, a deputation representing postal employees? Is the Government taking further action to improve the salaries of- postal employees?
– Two increases of salary have been granted to publicservants in the lower salary groups. The first increase, which was given some time ago, involved a total amount of more than £1,250,000. .Recently, employees in the lower divisions were also re-classified, resulting in additional salary increases of £1,250,000. The salaries of officers in the higher classifications were reviewed by the Public Service Arbitrator. The increases of salary granted to officers in the lower divisions under consent awards, which were ratified by the Public Service Arbitrator, amount tn approximately £2,500,000. In addition, the value of superannuation has been substantially increased, because the Government has undertaken to pay from Consolidated Revenue a larger percentage towards superannuation benefits. However, I shall have a statement prepared showing the increases which have been granted not only to postal employees but also to public servants in the higher classifications. Yesterday, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction received on my behalf certain representatives of Public Service unions, but I have not yet had time to discuss with him the claim? that they put forward. Personally, I never expect anybody to be completely satisfied. Charles Kingsley has written that “ to be discontented with the divine discontent … is the very germ of the first upgrowth of all virtue “, and T assume that every person in the community is always striving to improve bis conditions.
– Some time ago I asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral whether provision would be made for a new post office at Innisfail. The Postmaster-General subsequently informed me that a new post office would be built at that town. There seems to be some delay in proceeding with the project. Innisfail is a rapidly growing town and the existing post office is both inadequate and shabby compared with other adjacent buildings. I have not been told when it is intended to erect the new building. Will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral impress upon his colleague the need to have the building provided as soon as possible?
– I shall be pleased to do as the honorable member suggests. I have seen the post office at Innisfail, and it is certainly not a modern building, and a town of such importance isentitled to something better. I shall ask the PostmasterGeneral to do all he can to expedite the building of a new post office at Innisfail, which is a growing and prosperous town in the honorable member’s electorate.
– I refer the Treasurer to a report that appeared in the press during the last parliamentary recess that a registered letter was opened at the General Post Office, Brisbane, which was found to contain about £700 in £10 bank notes, and that the money would be forfeited to the Treasury.I should like to know whether the sender of the registered letter, or the addressee, has yet been located, and whether the money has yet been paid into the Treasury.
– This matter was mentioned to me. I give the honorable member my assurance that I have not personally received the money. Investigations are being made and when a report has been received I shall inform the honorable member what has become of the money.
Airport at South Guildford - incident at Karachi.
– Will the Prime Minister inform me whether two requests by Premiers of Western Australia that the airport at South Guildford be named the Swan Airport have been rejected? I remind the right honorable gentleman that South Guildford stands on the banks of the Swan River, that a large part of the airport is in the Swan local authority, that Western Australia was known originally as the Swan River Settlement, that the swan is the crest of WesternAustralia, and that the black swan still flies over the Swan River. In the circumstances, will the Prime Minister or
Cabinet approve of the airport at South Guildford being named the Swan Airport, and thus meet the wishes of a majority of Western Australians?
– The Minister for Air will answer that question.
– Some time ago a request was made to the Government to consider re-naming the airport at Guildford, but it did not come from the Premier of Western Australia. I have not since heard of a similar request having been made. The airport is located at Guildford and has always borne that name, but if representations are made through the Premier of Western Australia that the name be changed they will be given consideration by my department.
– Several weeks ago I asked the Minister for Civil Aviation a question relating to an occurrence at Karachi, when an Australiabound Constellation aircraft was delayed and the Australian Government representative there interfered with the plans of the British Overseas Airways Corporation and insisted upon certain government officials travelling to Australia in priority to other passengers. The Minister promised me that he would give me a reply to the question, which I supplemented on the following day by letter. I now ask the Minister whether he proposes to give me a reply? If so, when may I expect it, and how does he propose to justify that piece of governmental interference?
– Answering the final part of the question first, I am not going to attempt to justify interference of any kind. After the honorable member asked his question, it became necessary for me to communicate with certain persons, I think at Karachi-
– Yes, only two days away.
– Karachi may be only two days away, but the fact is that I have not yet obtained the information which the honorable member desires. As soon as it reaches me I shall be glad to supply it to him.
– In view of drought conditions existing in areas adjacent to the pipe-line in the Woomera district, can the Minister for Works -and Housing inform me whether a decision has yet been made to allow pastoralists whose properties are affected by the drought to tap the main in order to water their stock?
– When the construction of the pipe-line to which the honorable member has referred was being considered the department gave particular attention to the possibility of water being drawn from the main in the event of drought affecting areas through which it runs. The main purpose of the pipeline is to supply water to projects in central Australia. However, arrangements are being made to enable water to be drawn off at certain points.
– For special purposes lit special times.
– That is so. Supplies may be drawn off, in drought periods, for the watering of stock.
Attitude of United States of America
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Deputy Chief of the Imperial General Staff, LieutenantGeneral Sir Kenneth Crawford, stated in a press interview at Darwin that America’s reluctance to divulge atomic energy secrets to Australia was to be deplored, and that despite the reason given by Americans that Australia’s security measures are inadequate he intends to discuss the matter during his visit to this country ? If so, in view of the Government’s repeated denials of the statements made by the members of the Opposition concerning the attitude of the United States on this matter, will the right honorable gentleman now acknowledge the truth of the Opposition’s charges in the light of the statement by LieutenantGeneral Sir Kenneth Crawford?
– On previous occasions I have commented on false reports being published in the press and I express regret that prominent visitors to this country have been misreported. Recently, I mentioned that the American Ambassador gave a statement to the press, but some sections of the press did not have the decency to publish it in full, but mutilated it. In this instance, a representative of the United Kingdom who is visiting this country as the Government’s guest has been misreportedI did not intend to raise the subject because instances of misreporting by the press are not unusual but I have received a letter from the Deputy High Commissioner for the United Kingdom which reads as follows: -
With reference to my letter of yesterday about the statements attributed to Lieutenant-. General Crawford, you will probably have seen in to-day’s newspapers that he has indicated that his present intention is not to give any further press interviews.
I have, however, ascertained from him that he has already denied that he discussed at Darwin the political question of security in relation to atomic bomb research. He states that ho was told of, and asked to comment on, the controversy here regarding the allegations that Australia was not receiving technical information from the United States on defence matters, and merely said that if that was the case, it was a pity. Unfortunately, the form in which be was reported emphasized the question rather than his comment.
This statement will, I hope, be of use to you if the matter should be raised in Parliament here and General Crawford would see no objection, if you thought it desirable to quote him as having said this.
– Did the Prime Minister read a cable message from New York in the press early last week reporting the comments of an American spokesman of the Atomic Energy Commission on the debate which took place in this Parliament when the missing documents case was discussed? Did he note that the spokesman said that the United States of America had no intention of giving top atomic energy research secrets to any country? Was not the Opposition attack in this respect therefore born in prejudice and cradled in political propaganda?
– I have explained in this House previously, and therefore it is not necessary to quote statements from newspapers,- that an act .passed by the United States Congress lays down very strictly that atomic energy research secrets are not to be given to other countries.
– That applies only to secrets that can be used for industrial purposes.
– The use of atomic energy for civilian purposes is covered by the act. When this matter was first raised I took the trouble to obtain a copy of the act from the United States of America. It is now in my office. It states very clearly that atomic energy secrets may not be given to other countries. It is apparent that honorable members opposite do not want to ascertain the truth. The original arrangement made between the late Mr. Roosevelt and Mr. Churchill regarding the use of atomic weapons followed the most complete cooperation between Great Britain and the United States of America on the subject. No agreement was reached at that time with respect to research’ in atomic energy for civilian purposes. The American act prohibits the supplying of information on that matter to any foreign power. I have no doubt that in one way or another there is consultation on this matter between the United Kingdom Government and the American Government, just as there is between the Australian Government and the United Kingdom Government; but the American Government must observe the conditions laid down in the legislation to which I have referred. It is well that those who wish to discuss atomic energy for political purposes should be clear about the facts.
– I have received the following telegram from the tin-miners at Maranboy, which is 270 miles south of Darwin : -
Cun you indicate when the proper authorities will release idle compressors at Alice for use om tin at Maranboy.
Will the Minister for the Interior instruct the field officers in the Department of Mines of the Northern Territory to ascertain whether any compressors are available at other tin-mining fields or at Alice Springs that could be made available to enable tin-mining to continue at Maranboy, where the conditions are difficult.
– I do not know of any compressors being available at Alice Springs. They are scarce everywhere, including the Northern Territory. I think all compressors are in use, unless they are being held in reserve for a particular project. I shall make inquiries and advise the honorable gentleman of the result.
– Following a question which. I asked the Prime Minister last week concerning the catastrophic damage done by hail to fruit-growers in Tasmania, I now ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether he has instructed the officers of his department to investigate the possibility of obtaining compensation for the fruitgrowers, who were virtually deprived of a year’s income by the storm ?
– A similar question was asked last week by the honorable member, and the Prime Minister stated that the usual procedure in such matters is for State governments to report the circumstances to the Australian Government with a request that compensation be provided. In such instances, I believethat it is necessary for the State government, concerned to show that the catastrophe was such that the provision of compensation was beyond the financial capacity of the State.
– A letter which appeared in the Melbourne Sun of the 1.3th November stated -
A soldier’s widow said in 50/50 that amended legislation increased her pension by Sid. a week. An official letter says I will receive 4-Jd. a week more. Any one notified of less?
In answer, a letter appeared in to-day’s issue of the Melbourne Sun, which read? as follows: -
Yes. I have been notified officially of mi increase in my war widow pension less than the 44d. a week instanced in 50/50 - my rise is2)d. a week. (Signed) “ IN-THE-DOUGH “ (Mentone) and “Disgusted” (North Fitzroy).
Can the Minister for Repatriation say whether the statements contained in those letters are correct?
– The recent legislation enacted by the Parliament provided for a flat rate increase of widows’ pensions by 5s. a week, hut those increases apply only to the pensions of war widows whose husbands- died because of warcaused disabilities. Of course, the rate of increase of pensions of the widows of ex-servicemen whose deaths were due, not to war service but to some other cause, may not be so great. For instance, if the pension paid to the widow of an exserviceman was 10 per cent., then the increase which she now receives may amount to only ls. a fortnight. Indeed, the increase, in some instances, may amount to only 5d. a fortnight. That conforms with the principle that has been enunciated by the ex-servicemen’s organizations in this country, and accepted by the Government, that all pensions paid should be on a pro rata basis. I imagine that that would be the position in this instance, but if the honorable member will supply me with the name of the widow concerned, f shall endeavour to obtain the precise information for him. If she is the widow of an ex-serviceman whose death was not due to war service, her pension would be increased by only 10 per cent, to 24s.
– In the absence of the Minister for External Territories, I. direct a question to the Prime Minister. In view of the desirability of integrating New Guinea with the Commonwealth of Australia in order that steps may be taken to provide for defence against aggression, will the Prime Minister examine the restrictions that are operating against trade between this country and New Guinea, and minimize them as far as possible if it be not practicable to remove them completely? Before meat, wheat, milk and other commodities may be sent from the mainland to New Guinea, at least four certificates are required under the existing controls. I should be glad if steps could be taken to simplify the arrangements in order that trade may be increased.
– A similar question vas recently asked by the right honorable gentleman. At present a part of New Guinea is controlled under a mandate, and I understand that in due course it will be placed under the trusteeship of Australia. In the meantime nothing can be done toward integrating it with Australia. Papua is, of course, Australian territory. T thought that I made it clear in my previous answer that there could be no integration territorially at present, but when the area comes under trusteeship we shall be able to take more adequate steps for the defence of New Guinea than we can take under the mandate. When the right honorable gentleman asked his previous question several days ago he mentioned the position in South Africa. When Field Marshal Smuts was Prime Minister of South Africa, there were some discussions about whether German Somaliland could be integrated territorially with that dominion. It is not the intention of this Government in any way to depart from the principles that have been laid down by the Trusteeship Council. When I spoke of integration, I referred to integration of the interests of the inhabitants of that area and of the people of Australia in regard to trade and similar matters. That question is now being examined. I have already explained that the residents of New Guinea ha ve no taxes imposed upon them by this Government. Once our trusteeship is approved, it will be reasonable to consider whether the laws that apply to Australia and to Papua can be applied to New Guinea so that that territory can be brought into closer relationship with us. That . matter will be examined, as the right honorable gentleman suggests.
– I have asked the Prime Minister on several occasions during the last three or four weeks whether the House is to be afforded an opportunity to discuss a governmental statement on foreign aif airs before the end of this parliamentary session. Has the right honorable gentleman yet given consideration to those requests? I do not desire that the statement should recapitulate the facts that are contained in the fortnightly review issued by the Department of External Affairs. The Prime Minister has made statements outside the House in connexion with Greece and the activities of Dr. Evatt, as President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, in relation to a settlement by the Big Four of the Berlin dispute. Is it intended to give the House an opportunity, before it adjourns, to debate these matters of farreaching importance, or does the Government propose so to order the business of the House as to preclude such a discussion?
– I have considered whether a statement should be made in regard to international affairs. I pointed out recently that rapidly changing world events made it very difficult to prepare a statement for the consideration of members of this House that would still be up to date when it was debated. I have been reluctant on previous occasions to give to the House what may be termed stale news or news which changing circumstances may render out of date. On Saturday morning I. considered whether a statement of the kind to which the honorable member for Warringah has referred could be prepared. There are some developments, particularly in western Europe, which it would not be profitable to debate at this stage. I regret that I am unable to tell the honorable gentleman whether I think that a. reasonably up-to-date statement can be made. I could make a verbal statement for the consideration of the House, but if I did so, the adjournment of the debate would be sought and it would not be debated immediately. The previous practice has been to prepare a statement and table it, and then, when honorable members have had time to consider it, to set aside a day or days on which to debate it. In present circumstances, I am afraid that such a course would not be satisfactory.
– The Prime Minister could make a verbal statement almost immediately.
– If I did so, a member of the Opposition would move the adjournment of the debate. I realize that the honorable member for Warringah takes a genuine interest in these matters, and I shall consider whether it is possible to prepare, at least, a short statement.
– Is the Minister for Com merce and Agriculture aware that the poultry industry is faced with a shortage of meat meal? If so, can he state the reason for the shortage? Is it because considerable quantities of meat meal are now being exported? Will the Minister take such steps as he can to ensure that the industry is provided with adequate quantities of this commodity?
– I can readily believe that the poultry industry has difficulty in obtaining its requirements of meat meal. However, to the best of my knowledge, no meat meal is being exported from Australia. In fact, not long ago I received representations on behalf of an abattoir pressing me very strongly to allow the export of liver meal, which is suitable for poultry feed. Despite that pressure, I refused to permit export licences to be issued. The company then complained that it could not find any market for the liver meal in Australia. The Department of Commerce and Agriculture thereupon undertook to find a local market, andI understand that the liver meal is now being absorbed by the poultry industry. The honorable member may rest assured that I am very concerned that the poultry industry shall prosper and be in a position to meet the requirements of the United Kingdom Ministry for Food under its five years egg contract with Australia. Meat meal will not be exported while the needs of the poultry industry remain unsatisfied.
– Will the Prime Minister indicate whether the Australian Government will, in any way, participate in the negotiations for the conclusion of a North Atlantic regional security pact? Has the Australian Government been kept advised of the details of the negotiations which have so far taken place? If the Australian Government is not invited to participate in the negotiations, and in the pact itself, will the right honorable gentleman state whether the Government is prepared to assure the contracting nations of its support of the principle of such a pact? I refer particularly to the United Kingdom and Canada.
– The Australian Government has no complaint to make about the information supplied to it by the United Kingdom Government. At no time in the history of the Government of which I have been a member for more than seven years, has more complete information been forwarded to the Australian Government than is now being furnished by the United Kingdom Government and by those interested in various overseas conferences. The Australian Government has been kept informed of every development and of opinions expressed in Great Britain and the countries associated with it. I do not think that I should comment on the North Atlantic regional security pact. The Government of the United Kingdom is well aware that in all matters relating to defence it has the support and assistance of the Australian Government, and where our advice may be of any value that is available also. There are occasions when the advice of Empire countries such as our own cannot be of any great value to the United Kingdom Government; but when our advice may be of value it is always freely offered. That has always been made clear to the Prime Minister of Great Britain and his Ministers. As this subject cannot be dealt with in a few words I shall have a statement prepared for the information of the honorable member.
Activities of Du. H. V. Evatt, M.P
– Has the Prime Minister seen the reported comments made in the United Kingdom and the United States of America regarding the proposal submitted to the General Assembly of the United Nations by the Minister for External Affairs which the Times in an editorial states “ not only ignores the Berlin blockade but the whole history of negotiations on Berlin”, and which American sources state “constitutes a rebuff for the western allies “ ? As the proposals by the Minister for External Affairs regarding Greece, and his suggestions to the Big Four nations concerning Berlin, seem, to have embarrassed all but Russia and certain minor nations, would it be possible for the Prime Minister to arrange for the Minister for External Affairs to extend his tour abroad and to visit Greece and Russia so that he may be better informed about who is to blame for the present trouble on the Greek border and for the blockade of Berlin ?
– I do not know whether the honorable member’s information on Greece is up to date. There have been certain resolutions of the General Assembly on thi9 matter. I understand that certain proposals with which the Australian Minister for External Affairs was associated have been debated. I believe that even Bulgaria, Albania, and Yugoslavia have agreed to endeavour to find some solution of the trouble iri Greece. I do not wish to deal with the internal politics of Greece at present, but it would be absurd to suggest that I, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, or any one else in the democratic countries was happy about the position in Greece. That does not mean, however, that we condone the murderous tactics of guerrilla terrorists. The constituent part of the General Assembly which was appointed to investigate the position in Greece has endorsed the proposals of the Australian Minister for External Affairs. Berlin presents a most difficult and delicate problem but, after all, Dr. Evatt is President of the United Nations General Assembly. He has been elected to that position by a substantial majority of nations, including the United Kingdom and the United States of America. I have said before that the Assembly cannot function until something has been done to secure final peace settlements with Germany and Japan. The Leader of the’ Opposition has stated, both in this chamber and abroad, that the United Nations organization cannot become workable until the obstacles to those peace settlements have been overcome. It is not the function of the United Nations to arrange peace treaties. Its function is to preserve peace after those treaties have been signed. As president of the Assembly, it is Dr. Evatt’s duty to induce parties to international disputes to settle their differences. His action does not reflect in any way on the stand that has been taken by the United States of America, France, and the United
Kingdom on the Berlin question. He has merely asked those powers to get together. It is in the interests of the Russians, as well as of the people of other nations, that we should all do our best to bring to this world at least some degree of the peace that ite people long for so much.
Revision of Income Tax Assessments
– I ask the Treasurer whether it is true that occasionally the Taxation Branch overstates the indebtedness of taxpayers, and that it sometimes becomes necessary for those taxpayers to secure expert assistance to have the matter adjusted. Will the Treasurer give consideration to the payment by the Commonwealth of the fees of tax experts who assist the taxpayers whose indebtedness has been overstated ?
– The answer to the latter portion of the honorable member’s question is “ No “. In many instances, the overstatement of the indebtedness of a taxpayer is due to his neglect to make a clear statement on what, for ‘salary and wage earners at least, is a simple form. Often, a taxpayer whose assessment is higher than he expected, failed to show either that he had a wife, or that his wife was fully maintained by him. If a taxpayer does not claim a rebate in respect of his wife, the assessor does not make a deduction of tax for her. Similar errors are made in respect of children, particularly those born during the taxation year involved in a particular return. Hundreds of people have written or spoken to me, claiming that they have been over-assessed, but usually the reason has been one of those that I have stated. If all salary or wage earners - I am not speaking now of the more complex company taxation - studied the form that they are required to fill in, and paid close attention to instructions the task of assessors would be much easier and assessments more .accurate. However, all human beings are fallible, and I have no doubt that assessors do make mistakes from time to time, but generally speaking, the fault lies with the taxpayer. I am not prepared to accept the suggestion that taxpayers should have the assistance of a tax agent or expert at the expense of the Commonwealth.
– Will the Prime Minister consider having a statement made either in this chamber, or in the Senate, of the reason for the shortage of ordinary insulin and of certain special types of this drug, particularly in South Australia? I have received letters alleging that the shortage is due to an industrial dispute in Victoria. If that is not so, will the Prime Minister explain why there is a shortage of this vita commodity ?
– This is the first complaint that I have heard of a shortage of insulin of any kind. It is true that during the Queensland meat strike some months ago pancreas glands which are obtained from cattle were not available for the manufacture of insulin, and there was a shortage of one particular type of this drug. However, it was not the variety that is used <by most patients. The Commonwealth arranged for chilled pancreas glands to be brought from Queensland and other States for the manufacture of insulin at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories at Melbourne and incurred considerable expense in providing this essential service. When a patient changes from one type of insulin to another, it. is usually necessary for him to spend some time in hospital. The honorable member may rest assured that I shall take the matter up with the Minister for Health, and, if necessary, the Commonwealth will again take the action that it took on the occasion to which I have referred.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware that a. serious shortage of labour in the sugar refining industry is a major factor in the scarcity of refined sugar in Victoria and the other southern States? Has thu Minister received any representations from sugar refinery operators for the allocation to this industry of Baltic and other ‘ displaced migrants? Is there any substance in reports that Australian workers engaged in the sugar refining industry are resisting the allocation of migrants to that industry and that this resistance has been a factor in excluding migrant labour from the sugar refineries? Will the Minister for Labour and National Service discuss with the Minister for Immigration the possibility of making migrant labour available for sugar refining work so that the shortage of sugar for domestic and industrial purposes may be overtaken?
– I answered a question on this subject last Friday. It was asked by the honorable member for Wide Bay.
– I am speaking of Victoria.
– The sugar shortage is Australia-wide, and we must not be parochial about these matters. We must take the broad national view. I have been anxious to ensure that sugar refineries all over Australia shall obtain Baltic labour. The industrial union covering the employees of sugar refineries raises no objection to the provision of such labour. In fact, the federal president of the union, Mr. Shortell, whose offices are in Sydney, is most anxious to see more workers brought into the industry, at least to capacity point, so that the work of producing sugar, which is so essential to the well-being of the people, can be efficiently carried out by the members of his union. The major problem connected with the provision of labour has been lack of accommodation. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited proposed that it be allowed to recondition a building at its Melbourne plant as a hostel for workers. The Footscray City Council and the union objected to that proposal. The union representatives did not object to a hostel away from the works, but it definitely objected to one at the plant. Several conferences were held, and the Government decided that that project would have to be abandoned. We tried to obtain accommodation for sugar workers at Watsonia military camp, but failed to do so. I am happy to say that on or about the 12th December next, between 80 and 100 workers will go into a hostel at the Fishermen’s Bend camp that has been made available by the Minister for Air, and will be em ployed at the plant of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited in Melbourne. The company’s objective was to obtain in Melbourne a reserve of 15,000 tons of refined sugar for the use of jam manufacturers, canners and housewives. It may be that it is rather late in the day to achieve that objective for this season, but I consider it likely that we will commence to accumulate that surplus from the middle of December onwards. I assure the honorable gentleman that only the physical problem pf providing accommodation for the workers has prevented us from doing more to overcome the sugar shortage than has been done so far.
Bill received from the Senate and (on motion by Mr. Holloway) read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 12th November (vide page 2950), on motion by Mr. Chifley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 16th September (vide page 532), on motion by Mr. Dedman -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill provides for some substantial changes in the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act 1930-1944. Honorable members on this side of the House consider that although the changes are substantial they are not unreasonable, because the march of events since the enactment of the original measure, and what one might term the change in the national conscience, demands some amendment to the existing legislation. Furthermore, experience gained in the years between the enactment of the original legislation and the present time has shown that amendments are necessary as a matter of administration of the law. The present measure is another step in a continuous progression in this and in other parliaments throughout the world which is subscribed to by persons of all kinds of political thought. There is a growing realization of the need to give a greater degree of security and protection to workers in industry. Honorable members will recall the origin of this class of legislation. If I recollect aright, it was in 1905 that the United Kingdom Parliament passed the first workers’ compensation act that provided compensation for workers who suffered injury or were affected by disease arising out of, and in the course of, their employment. It was sponsored by a Liberal government and was a landmark, because it enacted the principle that industry owed an obligation to workers in industry who suffered through accident or illness caused by their employment. That legislation was amended from time to time as experience, particularly administrative experience, dictated, and in time the parliaments of the Australian States introduced corresponding legislation. I well remember the original New South Wales act that was passed, if I remember rightly, by a non-Labour government, though that fact does not matter, because all political parties in this country have recognized the community’s obligation to protect workers against misfortunes arising from their employment. A continuous development has taken place in the scope of such legislation. I remember well the great struggle over the original condition that a worker was entitled to receive compensation if his injury arose “ out of, and in the course of, his employment “. Those words are still embodied in the legislation of some of the States, and in that of New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Some years ago, the law in New South Wales was changed by the substitution of the conjunction “ or “ for the conjunction “ and “. By that change the ambit of the legislation was widened con- siderably. I note that the same change has been adopted in the measure now before the House. It will liberalize thiexisting legislation and cannot be said to go too far. The change is certainly in line with the legislation operative in some of the States. There has also been a gradual extension of the rights of the worker to compensation. A worker i.= now entitled to compensation not only if his injury occurs while he is actually at work but also if it occurs while he i.travelling to and from work. We now have the conception that if a worker i:injured between the time he leaves hi.home to go to work and the time of his return, as long as both journey, are made without unnecessary deviation, he shall be entitled to the protection of the law. That principle has been extended, in various legislative enactments, and has developed in this bill. The dependants of injured workers receive compensation, not merely if they are legitimate dependants, but also if they are illegitimate dependants. Even women who are compendiously called *de facto wives are in some case? included.
All those developments indicate thai the community has widened its view of what its obligations should be to those who are injured during their work. One difficulty lies in coping with the malingerer. Any person who has had experience of this type of legislation, and of the hundreds of workers’ compensation cases which come before the courts every year, is fully aware of this. Nearly all States have found it necessary to establish special jurisdictions to deal with workers’ compensation claims, and. to my own personal knowledge, which, I am sure, is not fundamentally different from that of other honorable members, the case of the man who is not a bona fide applicant, who is not genuinely injured, or who does not genuinely become sick in his employment, has always been most difficult to circumvent. As a matter of administration, it is sometimes possible to cope with that class of case because this legislation, like similar State legislation, gives a good deal of discretion to those who administer it. I pause here to say that, in widening the ambit of this legislation as is being done, administration becomes increasingly important. If the act is administered unfairly and to an unreasonably restrictive degree, discontent will grow. If the act is administered too loosely and too sentimentally, exploitation and malingering will take place. Apart from the courts of law which have to try contested cases, those officers who are charged with the administration of the act have a serious duty to perform, and, under this legislation, which widens the benefits, their duty will be even more onerous than it has been.
We should ask ourselves how far we are prepared to go with this kind of legislation, unless we intend to give a complete umbrella cover to the employee from the day he begins his job until the day he retires on superannuation or a pension. En my opinion, we are reaching the limit. Is one still to regard this kind of legislation, as it was originally conceived, as legislation which should be related to the employment in which the worker is engaged, in other words, truly workers’ compensation legislation? My view is that we should limit the compensation to workers for injuries and illnesses in connexion with their work, and that an undue extension of the legislation, such as has occurred in some States, is wrong, and the Government should not allow itself to be tempted to follow that example in respect of Commonwealth employees.
I pass for a moment to comment on a few of the details of the bill. Clause 2 amends section 4 of the principal act, and the definition of “ active service “ is the first of a series of provisions which bring into the ambit of the bill all members of the peace-time defence forces. I cannot see any objection to the proposal to treat as Commonwealth employees for the purposes of compensation those who are members of the peace-time defence forces. I also point out that in the definition of “disease “, the bill makes a departure from the act, and I am not sure whether the alteration will work out as satisfactorily as those who have drafted the bill appear to think it will. The second schedule to the principal act contains a list of industrial diseases for which employees may receive compensation. The bill pro poses to repeal that schedule, and substitute the following definition : - “ disease “ includes any physical or mental ailment, disorder, defect or morbid condition, whether of sudden or gradual development, and also includes the aggravation, acceleration or recurrence of a pre-existing disease.
The result, as I see it, will be that compensation will be payable for a disease of any description, and not merely of the industrial kind, which can be said to be attributable to the applicant’s employment, or to be aggravated by his employment. However, I am not prepared to quarrel with that amendment before it receives a trial, but I suggest that it will impose a considerable responsibility on those who will administer the act.
Clause 4 of the bill amends section 9 of the act and I point out that in proposed new sub-section 1 the conjunction “ or “ is substituted for “ and “ in the words “ and in the course of his employment “. . The proposed new sub-section reads -
If personal injury by accident arising out of or in the course of his employment by the Commonwealth is caused to an employee, the Commonwealth shall, subject to this Act, be liable to pay compensation in accordance with the First Schedule to this Act.
That alteration is substantial. The thought will readily occur to honorable mem’bers that an injury may arise out of a man’s employment and not yet necessarily be in the course of his employment, and vice versa. The substitution of the words “ or in the course of his employment “ for the words “ and in the course-‘ of his employment “ will widen the scopeof the act. Such a provision is already in operation in New South Wales, and I believe that South Australia has adopted it; but, from my perusal of the most recent statutes of England and New Zealand which I have been able to obtain, it is not in force in those two countries. However, the alteration is in line with th( development of thought on this subject, and I am. not prepared to oppose it. Sub-section 2 of proposed new section 9a places a wider definition on the expression “ travelling to or from his place of employment”. That is to say, the conception that it is the duty of the State to compensate a worker, not only when he is injured actually at work, but also when he is travelling to and from his place of employment has been further widened. A few moments ago I referred to the definition of “ disease “. I notice that clause 5 of the bill, which amends section 10 of the principal act, provides for the payment of compensation in respect of the death or incapacity of an employee through disease caused by his employment. It reads as follows: -
Section ten of the Principal Act is a mended -
by omitting sub-section (1.) and inserting in its stead the following subsection: - “ (1.) Where-
an employee is suffering from a disease and is thereby incapacitated for work; or
the death of an employee is caused by a disease, and the disease is due to the nature of the employment in which the employee was engaged by the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth shall, subject to this Act, be liable to pay compensation in accordance with this Act as if the disease were a personal injury by accident arising out of or in the course of his employment.”; 1 repeat that instead of having, as hitherto, a schedule of industrial diseases it is now proposed to have this general provision that where it can be shown that any disease is attributable to, or aggravated by, the employment the employee is entitled to recover. In this day and generation one finds it difficult to criticize the extension of that principle, provided always that it be administered with restraint and wisdom. I could point to several other clauses which extend in other respects the provisions for the protection of the worker. However, I shall refer only to the provision relating to maximum compensation and that in respect of specific injuries. Under clause 8, which amends section 13 of the principal act, the maximum compensation is increased from £1,000 to £1,250. I find nothing to quarrel with in that provision, having regard to the diminishing purchasing power of money. I note, too, that under the proposed new Third Schedule, maximum compensation is increased from £800 to £1,000 where the death of an employee results from injury. At the same time, benefit payable in respect of children is increased from £25 to £50, and weekly payments in respect of incapacity are to be made at the rate of £4 a week plus certain other payments instead of a payment, as formerly, not exceeding twothirds of the employee’s weekly pay. In addition, the weekly payment in respect of a wife receiving periodical compensation payments is increased from £1 to 25s. One could point to other provisions all of which are calculated to bring the value of these payments more into line with the present-day purchasing power of money.
The only other matter to which I wish to refer is the experiment of adopting, apparently, some clauses of the South Australian legislation in cases where liability has been incurred in an accident involving not only the Commonwealth but also a third party. This has been a vexed question. Where the Commonwealth is liable to pay compensation to a worker and, at the same time, there has been a negligent act on the part of some third party whom the employee may sue, there is a difficulty in determining how far the rights of the worker who claims compensation from the Commonwealth are affected by his rights to claim compensation from the third party. This difficulty is attempted to be resolved by the proposed new section 17 which, apparently, adopts the South Australian system, and it appears on the face of it to be not an unreasonable provision. An attempt has also been made by proposed new section 17a to deal with the vexed question of election. A case will often arise when an employee is injured not only in circumstances which entitle him to workers’ compensation, but also to common law damages. The test in such cases is whether he was employed at the time he was injured and the injury has been due to negligence on the part of the employer or some one for whom the employer is responsible. In the case of the Commonwealth it would be some Commonwealth employee who by some negligent act makes the Commonwealth liable for common law damages on the ordinary grounds of negligence. It has always been thought that the worker should not be able to get damages both ways. Various attempts have been made to resolve that difficulty. Honorable members who are members of the legal profession will be familiar with case law on the subject of election. Proposed new section 17a attempts to state the matter in fairly simple terms putting it on the footing that the employee is not entitled to compensation independently from the two sources. If he obtains common law compensation on the footing of negligence he must set that off against the compensation obtainable under this measure. Honorable members on this side of the House do not cavil at this legislation. We are prepared to give it a trial because the Opposition desires as much as does the ministerial party to see that workers in industry are given reasonable protection against the misfortunes of their callings.
– I was pleased to bear the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) say that the Opposition does not cavil at this measure. I have been very interested in workers’ compensation for many years, and I welcome the views he has expressed, particularly as he is a member of the legal profession. There has been a growing recognition by both State and Federal jurisdictions of the responsibility of the community towards the worker in respect of injuries he may sustain in his calling. This measure applies only to employees of the Australian Government, other employees being covered by State legislation. Thos’e interested in this subject know the differences in the legislation of the various States with respect to workers’ compensation. Sometimes I think I should be more satisfied if this subject were covered solely by Commonwealth legislation. However, competition between Commonwealth and State legislation has the effect of giving an impetus to progress in this sphere. The honorable member for Parramatta mentioned that one provision of the bill has been taken from the South Australian legislation. Whilst the Government of South Australia has considerably improved its legislation in this sphere, industrial organizations and workers generally in that State are not satisfied with the present position. The honorable member referred to the payment of compensation in respect of injuries received by a worker on his way to or from his employment. That provision is not applicable in South Australia, an omission which reveals one weakness arising from the fact that both the Commonwealth and the States legislate independently in respect of workers’ compensation. I agree with the honorable member for Parramatta that it is often difficult to determine whether a claimant for compensation is malingering or not. Medical men themselves have a hard row to hoe in that respect. I come now to a. problem that is most difficult and that is the aftereffects of some injuries. I do not think that the State parliaments have satisfactorily solved it in any of their legislation. One of the most difficult is the problem of a man who sustains a hernia at work. About twenty years ago, I sustained a severe hernia while on a job and was immediately put into hospital. After about three months, 1 told my doctor that I thought 1 could go back to work. He said that I needed at least another three weeks’ rest. I said that it looked as if I was “polling” and that I wanted to go back to work. He replied that he knew how I felt, but that he was ready to give me a certificate that I should not be ready to return to work for another three weeks. Two or three days later, 1. went back to work, however, and my employer, probably unthinkingly, put me on to one of the heaviest jobs offering. Before half the day was done I .knew that the doctor was right and that I was wrong, and that I should not have returned. The next morning, because of a falling cif of the firm’s activities, I, along with several others, was given one week’s notice of dismissal. I did not object to that, because I knew that if I was not put off some one else would have to be. What did worry me though was that, if I had not been so anxious to get back on. to the job, I could have stayed away on compensation for another three weeks and kept my job. J realized, however, a,s I worked through my last week of employment with the firm, that I should not be able to take on such heavy work again. Ever since then I have had to be very careful about the sort of work that I accepted. I have had to avoid all heavy tasks, especially tasks like that which caused my hernia. T could name many other men in a similar position.. The scale of compensation payable 10 men who lose fingers and the like is 0et out in the Commonwealth and State workers’ compensation laws. There is no provision, however, “to cover such injuries as hernias that destroy a man’s, ability to continue in the occupation in which he suffered the injury. One man I know worked for a carrying .firm for 45 year3, during which he had to enter hospital three times because of a hernia. On the last occasion, the doctors- told him that nothing more could be done for him and that he must thenceforth confine himself to light work. His employers said that they could not give him any other kind of work than that on which he had been engaged, and that he must therefore leave the firm. No compensation was payable, because it was almost impossible for him to prove that his- capacity to work at his trade had been permanently reduced. That is an important defect of the compensation law that ought to be remedied.
I welcome this bill because it provides for generous increases of the amounts of compensation payable for specified injuries, and I am glad that the Opposition does not propose to cavil at the proposed increases, because I recollect that at the beginning of compensation legislation Liberal party men of the day, whose names I recall, and some of whom have passed away, took the view that responsibility should be shared equally by the employer and the employee in the event of injury in respect of which compensation was payable. Consequently, compensation was limited to one-half of the weekly wage previously paid to the injured worker. That principle was strenuously opposed by the workers on the ground that men who were incapacitated through no fault of their own should not have to accept only half pay as well a3 undergo physical suffering. As time went by, the compensation law was improved. A business man wants a return from both his labour and his capital. The only capital that fin employee has is his labour. As the employer is entitled to protect his capital, so should the employee hp entitled to the protection of his labour. Should injury at work render him unable to earn his living by his Labour, he should be entitled to adequate compensation. L do not propose to go into the details of this bill. I welcome it as a forward step. I hope, however, that it does not represent the limit of progress as far as workers’ compensation is concerned.
.- The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) analysed the bill very capably, and I do not intend to cover the same ground, but merely to seek information from the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) on three points. First of all, I should like to know what, effect the passage of the bill will have on the relatives of the New Guinea public servants who died during the war. When Japan entered the war, approximately 100 members of the New Guinea public service were taken prisoner by the Japanese, and most of them died in captivity. Many were drowned on the ill-fated voyage of the Montevideo Maru. on which they were herded, when it was torpedoed. A considerable period elapsed before anything was done to assist their relatives, and now the Government has decided to pay them the equivalent of a repatriation pension. In many instances I understand that that provision is inadequate. Will the Minister undertake to review the cases of those concerned ? I point out that the relatives of the deceased public servants did not receive compensation in accordance with that provided’ in the schedules to the bill. Although members of the Opposition support the measure, I consider that it is only fair to the persons concerned that its provisions should be made retrospective.
Under paragraph c of clause 9 of the bill it is proposed to amend section 14 of the principal act by the addition of a new sub-section (2) which provides that the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1920-1948, the Defence Act 1903- 1948 and the Naval Defence Act 1910- 1948 shall not apply to certain members of the defence forces. However, the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act, which was recently passed by the Parliament, is not mentioned. Some members of the Opposition criticized that measure because those who held temporary and acting rank in the services would be exelluded from its provisions. That act has already affected many servicemen unfairly. Eatings of the Royal Australian Navy, who, because of long and honorable service, had been promoted to the rank of temporary warrant officer, were excluded from the benefits of that act because of the definitions contained in it, which excluded officers. The aggrieved men put their case to the Naval Board and to the Minister for the Navy, but they -were told that they were not entitled to the benefits of the act because they were excluded from its operation under the definitions. The form in which the act was drafted has, undoubtedly, resulted in many members of a fine service being deprived of their due. I trust that the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction will ensure that the Minister for the Navy shall do justice to the men concerned.
This morning 1 received a telephone message from a munitions worker who has lost the sight of both eyes. He was formerly a member of the forces, but was later directed to the production of munitions. While on service, he lost the sight of one eye, through receiving a bullet in the head, which later resulted in his losing the sight of his other eye. As a civilian, he receives certain social service payments and other concessions, but he claims that they are quite inadequate. He has a family of four, and he states that he cannot live suitably on the amount which he is receiving. Although, in common with other members of the Opposition, I agree with the principles of the measure, I should like to know whether the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction considers that such cases will be adequately covered by the measure.
.- L support the views expressed by the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale), and I emphasize at the outset that members of the Opposition will support, any measure that is designed to protect the rights to compensation of any worker who is injured or suffers from any disease incurred in the course of or arising out of his employment. However, I am most dissatisfied with the provision in the bill, to which the honorable member for Parramatta made passing reference, that those who have a claim for compensation against the Commonwealth, indepen dently of their right of action at common law, are to be confined in their choice of legal remedy. I point out that the decision is a difficult one for the average workman to make. I have had some experience of the type of cases contemplated by the measure, and I took part in the original contests in the High Court which determined in what circumstances a plaintiff who had been injured and had received compensation under the New South Wales Act then existing was prevented from recovering damages at common law. In order to make clear my objections to clause 4 of the bill, which proposes to repeal section 9 of the present act and to insert in its stead new sections 9 and 9a, I point out. first of all that an individual employed by the Commonwealth may receive an injury in circumstances which render the Commonwealth liable at common law, irrespective of any statute, for all damages which he may have sustained as the result of his injury. The Commonwealth or its servants may have been negligent, and for that negligence it is answerable. However, proposed new sub-section 9 which it is proposed to insert in the act, will limit the right of injured persons very seriously. Paragraph a of subsection 1 of section 9 of the present act provides -
The employee shall not be entitled to recover compensation from the Commonwealth or any person or to receive from the Commonwealth any payment in respect of the accident, or in respect of the illness or incapacity arising from the accident, both independently of and also under this Act; but subject to this paragraph this Act shall not affect any civil liability of the Commonwealth under any other law.
Take the example of a man employed by the Commonwealth who is working behind a truck, the driver of which is also employed by the Commonwealth. Through the negligence of the driver the man is crushed by the truck. At common law he is entitled, if he can prove negligence, to recover damages from the Commonwealth. Those damages are not restricted to those provided by the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act 1930-1944, and he may bring his action at any time within, I think, six years. The measure now before us proposes to limit the time within which an action for damages may be brought by an employee who has received compensation to a period of twelve months from the date of the first payment of compensation. If the employee does not bring his action for damages within that period his right of action disappears. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) referred to hernia cases, which often cause difficulty in the courts. Similar difficulties also arise in the case of employees who suffer from other injuries which appear trivial at the time they are sustained. Instances have occurred in which those men have received compensation, and gone back to work. Two or indeed three year3 afterwards the full result of the injury has become evident, in terms of pain and suffering and their incapacity to earn their living. It is for that reason that I object to the provisions proposed in clause 11 of the bill, which raise a cardinal matter. Although the clause seeks to achieve simplicity, the interests of the workmen would be prejudiced by the provisions in their present form. Subsection 1 of proposed new section 17a provides -
Except as provided by this Act, an employee shall not be entitled, in respect of personal injury by accident arising out of or in the course of his employment by the Commonwealth, to receive compensation or any payment by way of compensation from the Commonwealth both independently of and also under this Act.
I point out that the effect of that provision would be that an injured worker could not receive both compensation by the Commonwealth, under the act, and also damages as a result of an action at common law. That is a general prohibition. Sub-section 3 of proposed new section 17a provides -
Where personal injury is caused to an employee in circumstances which appear to create a legal liability in the Commonwealth to pay damages in respect thereof and the employee has received compensation under this Act, the employee shall not be entitled to take proceedings against the Commonwealth to recover damages unless he commences those proceedings within twelve months after the date upon which he received payment, or the first payment, of compensation under this Act.
That provision should be read in conjunction with clause 8 of the bill, which seeks to amend section 13 of the principal act, by limiting the amount of compensation payable to an employee under the act to £1,250, except in the case of death or total and permanent incapacity, when provision is made for the payment of additional amounts. I think that the honorable member for Hindmarsh will bear me out in the contention that whenever a man receives an injury, his first impulse is to seek the payment of compensation. Normally, that is the right thing to do. Under the proposed legislation, however, an injured workman who may not be aware, when receiving compensation, that any additional claim arising out of the injury must be lodged within twelve months of the date of receipt by him of the first payment, will be unable to recover damages against the Commonwealth, although the full result of the injury may not become evident to him until after that period has elapsed. This is a matter to which the Government should give close consideration. I know of instances in which workmen have received what appeared to be merely superficial head injuries. After receiving treatment for those injuries they returned to their work. Subsequently, after a lapse of longer than twelve months, they were stricken down, as a direct result of the original injury and then suffered a long and severe illness. Those men then became “ odd lots “ on the labour market. Why should not men, in such circumstances, be entitled to claim against the Commonwealth? If my interpretation of the provisions of clause 11 of the bill is not correct, I should be pleased if the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) would enlighten me on the matters I have raised.
– That resolves itself into a matter of proof.
– I expect to receive the support of Government members in this contention, which I advance in the interests of the workers. It may be that a man’s apparent injury, following an accident, would be microscopic when compared with the subsequent effects. After receiving compensation for three or four weeks he may return to work, and after a period of over twelve months be overtaken by a cataclysmic change in his health, clearly attributable to the injury. Because of the operation of this provision lie would be precluded from recovering additional compensation from the Commonwealth. A. reply to any application that he may make in that connexion would amount to this: “You have received your payment under the Act. It is true that your injury whilst in our employ was due to our negligence, and in normal circumstances the Commonwealth would be liable. However, as you received compensation over twelve months ago, ‘by virtue, of this provision you now have no further claim against the Commonwealth.” I do not know whether the Government will endeavour to justify this provision, in view of its policy not to accept amendments submitted by the Opposition to proposed legislation, irrespective of their merit. I contend that tuy argument is conclusive, and to prove that it is sound I shall approach the matter from another aspect. It may he that a man who had .been injured, would -iccept a sum of money from the Government in full settlement of a claim then made for compensation. At that time, he might not have known that his capacity as a worker had been greatly diminished hy hie injury. If it were revealed to that worker, after receiving settlement, that his injury was of such a serious nature that his working capacity would be diminished for a. long time to come, what would be the position? In this connexion, sub-section 4 of proposed new section 17a provides -
An employee who recovers damages from the Commonwealth in respect of an injury shall not be entitled to compensation or any payment under this Act in respect of the same injury. . . .
There follow other words which do not affect the point that I am endeavouring to make. Quite clearly, the word “ recovers “ is intended to apply to instances in which a worker has applied for and received compensation, or has commenced proceedings for and obtained damages against the Commonwealth, in respect of an injury. In respect of ordinary compensation claims, I know of instances in which claimants were advised by administrative officers to accept certain compensation. I point out that, under the proposed legislation, once a claimant has signed a document to the effect that his claim has been settled on certain terms, in respect of any subsequent claim lodged the Government may reply, in effect, “You have no further claim, because you have already recovered “.
I shall advance two propositions. The first is, that if a man has a claim against the Commonwealth for negligence, that, claim should in no way be limited by the fact that he is also entitled to claim under a workers’ compensation act. If, however, he were successful in recovering damages against the Commonwealth, he should be required to give credit for the amount of compensation that he has already received under that act.
– Previously, if he received a workmen’s compensation he could not receive compensation from the Commonwealth.
– That is true. The New South Wales legislation provided for an option, which, in my opinion, was a substantial protection to workers. It. was found that juries were reluctant to say of a. worker that, at his option, he pursued a certain course. In a case in which I appeared, the High Court ruled that ‘before a worker can be said to have exercised his option it must be shown that he fully understood his rights in regard to alternative courses. The New South Wales legislation protects workers because of the difficulty of proving that a man chose, with full knowledge of his rights, to pursue a particular course. In this instance, the first question is whether the man has received compensation, and the second one is whether twelve months have elapsed since he received the first payment. If the answer to both those questions is in the affirmative, he is debarred from making a claim against the Commonwealth. I believe this to be a major matter of principle which should be dealt with in this legislation. It i3 a matter that strikes directly at the workers’ rights. My proposition is that if a man has a claim against the Commonwealth, the fact that he is a servant of the Commonwealth should not mean that his common law rights in respect of a claim for damages for negligence are more limited than are those of a stranger to the Commonwealth. I do not believe that that proposition can be denied. If it cannot be denied, then some amendment of this legislation must be made. If a man makes- a settlement with the Commonwealth in respect of a claim for damages at common law, that should not preclude him from the payment of workmen’s compensation if be is able to establish to the tribunal that, since the settlement was made, an incapacity unknown to him at the time of the settlement has revealed itself.
– Does the honorable gentleman propose that any limitation should be imposed?
– Only the same limitations as those that apply to an ordinary individual. I say that, in respect of a claim against the Commonwealth for- negligence, an employee of the Commonwealth should be treated in the same way as a stranger to the Commonwealth.
– He would have to prove his case?
– Yes. In my opinion, that is the only limitation that should be imposed. The difficulties in respect of these matters have been brought to the notice of the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) and myself on a number of occasions. My mind has crystallized, upon the proposition that a worker’s claim at common law should remain with him, subject only to the proviso that he should give credit for any workmen’s compensation that he has received. I believe that that is the right approach to the problem. That is the major matter to which I desire to direct attention.. I know of many cases in which what at first, appeared to be a minor injury revealed itself, after twelve or eighteen months, to be a very serious one. A. disease which is progressive in its nature may clearly be attributable to an injury that a man received in the course of his employment but, under the provisions of this bill, he will not be able to claim damages against the Commonwealth after twelve months following the payment of compensation under this legislation. In many instances, actions are brought claiming compensation for diseases contracted by persons in the course of their occupations. Those actions are brought under the common law and not under workmen’s compensation legislation. Certain chemical processes gene rate noxious gases, and a lack of proper ventilation in the factory in which they are used may cause a disease. The full significance of such a disease may become apparent only after a certain time. If a claim for damages for negligence is brought in those circumstances, an employee of the Commonwealth should be in no worse position subject to giving credit for his compensation received than that of a stranger to the Commonwealth .
Clause 11 proposes the insertion of a new section 17, which deals with the remedy against a stranger. It reads as follows : -
If an injury in respect of which compensation is payable under this Act is caused under circumstances which appear to create a legal liability in some person other than the Commonwealth to pay damages in respect of the injury - (a) the employee may take proceedings against that person to recover damages and may also make a claim against the Commonwealth for compensation, but shall not be entitled to retain both damages and compensation;
– The present wording is “ recover both damages and compensation “.
– That is so. If the inclusion of the word “ retain “ means that he must give credit for, it supports my argument with regard to a claim against the Commonwealth. There should not be one rule for the Commonwealth and another for a stranger whose negligence causes an injury to a Commonwealth employee. 1 am concerned about the meaning of this word. The first impulse of an injured workman is to claim compensation, because he needs it to keep his family from, week to week.
– He cannot wait to take action at common law. .
– His first impulse, and it is a natural one, is to claim compensation. Having obtained it, he spends the money. He may then wish to bring an action for damages against the stranger whose negligence caused his injury. He may be, for example, a messenger who, while engaged upon Commonwealth business, was knocked down by a. car driven by a civilian driver. If the civilian driver was negligent, an action lies against kim. If the messenger has received compensation from the Commonwealth and wishes to bring, an action for damages against the driver, what does the .word “retain” mean? Does it mean that he must give up the sum he has received in compensation before he can commence his action against the driver of the car? Most men would not be able to give it up, because they would, have spent it. If the word means only that he must give credit for what he has received, then another and. better word could be found to express that intention. I want to know precisely the meaning of the word “ retain “, which has been substituted for the word “ recover “. I know what the word “ recover “ means, but I am not certain as to how the word. “ retain “ will operate in respect of a worker who has otherwise a valid claim against a stranger for damages for negligence.
– in reply - The bill has received the general commendation of honorable members opposite. Apparently no exception is taken to it except in relation to one or two points. In fact, E think that the Opposition acknowledges that the Government is to be commended for having introduced the measure. I shall deal only briefly with such points as ought to be dealt with during the secondreading debate. The other matters can be dealt with more appropriately in the committee stages. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked, whether the bill would apply to employees of the Commonwealth in the territories of the Commonwealth. The answer is that it will apply to Commonwealth departmental officers who happen to be employed in the territories, but not to employees serving under the administrations of the territories. Employees in the latter category are covered by ordinances of the territories. Compensation is provided for them in that way.
– Axe the ordinances in tine with this, bill?
– The ordinances deal with entirely different circumstances, which could not be dealt with appropriately in a bilL of this sort. The honorable member for Balaclava also referred to payments which were made,, if 1 understood him correctly, under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act.
– No, under the Defend1 Forces Retirement Benefits Act.
– In either case, those matters could not be dealt with in this bill. If the honorable member will discuss them with me privately I shall endeavour to give him satisfaction. J understood the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) to allege that the amendments which will be effected by this bill to the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act, far from liberalizing the measure, would in fact place some limitation upon the methods and procedures by which workers- could obtain compensation.
– I did not say anything like that.
– The honorable member may not have sought to convey that impression, but that is definitely what 1 understood from his early remarks. Others with whom I have consulted since then also gained the same impression. However, it appeared from the honorable member’s later remarks that that was not his intention. It seems that the honorable member suggests that the bill, which indeed will liberalize the methods and procedures by which workers can obtain compensation, doe3 not go far enough. The act as it now stands provides that an employee who receives weekly compensation, which he is entitled to draw immediately upon suffering any incapacity, is debarred from seeking compensation at common law. That provision will be liberalized by the bill to enable an employee to apply at common law for compensation within twelve months of the date of receiving his first compensation payment.
– That has been done by arrangement in the past. _ Mr. DEDMAN.- That is so, but the bill will give legislative effect to a provision which is already in operation in some of the States. I believe that the very fact that such a provision applies in the States of New South Wales and South Australia demonstrates that it meets the requirements of persons who are so unfortunate as to become the victims of accident. I shall not discuss the matter further at this stage, but I shall have it examined in the light of the observations made by the honorable member for Warringah, and, if I decide that he has submitted a strong case, I shall take steps to have an appropriate amendment made to the bill during its passage through the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section four of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: - “4. - (1.) In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears -
County Court ‘ means a County Court,
District Court, Local Court, or any court exercising a limited civil jurisdiction and presided over by a judge or a police, stipendiary or special magistrate, of a State or a Territory of the Commonwealth, including any Territory administered as a trust territory by Australia in pursuance of Chapter XII. of the Charter of the United Nations; employee ‘ means - (e). . . but does not include an outworker or an officer or employee of the Public Service of a Territory;
Amendment (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to -
That, in the definition of “County Court”, the words including any Territory administered as a trust territory by Australia in pursuance of Chapter XII. of the Charter of the United Nations “ be left out.
.- Precisely what is meant by the reference to a de facto wife in the definition of “’ member of the family “ ? The definition includes - any woman who for not less than three years immediately prior to his death or incapacity was wholly or mainly maintained by the employee and who, although notlegally married to him, lived with him as his wife on a permanent and bona fide domestic basis and. who, at the date of his death or incapacity, is maintaining one or more children under sixteen years of age or is not less than fifty years of age;
It is regrettable that we must now legislate to give legal authority to this type of cohabitation. However, I want to know who will determine, as a matter of fact, whether a man is living with a woman on a permanent and bona fide domestic basis. Will that decision brlef t to the tribunal ? I do not know what “ bona fide domestic basis “ means, butI presume that it refers to a man and. woman who, though not married, live as husband and wife.
– That will be a matter for the authority to decide.
– The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) stated during the secondreading debate that, in relation to Commonwealth territories, the provisions of this bill would apply only to employees of Commonwealth departments who happened to be working in the territories. I should like the Minister to clarify the situation. What will happen in the electorate which I represent, the Northern Territory? ] point out that the Commonwealth has a number of employees in the Northern Territory who are responsible directly to departments, such as the Department of Works and Housing, which are administered from Canberra. The administration of the Northern Territory employs men who are governed by ordinances of the Northern Territory. Will the Minister inform me whether the bill will apply, for example, to employees of the Department of the Interior in the Northern Territory, who are under the control of the Minister for the Interior, through the administrator of the Northern Territory ?
– It will apply to employees of the Department of the Interior just as it will apply to employees of any other department.
.-. I refer to the matter mentioned by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr.
Spender). The existing act provides that “member of a family” means - . . wife of husband, father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, step-father, stepmother, son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter, step-son, step-daughter, brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, adopted child, mother-in-law. . . .
Lt; almost extends to uncles, cousins and aunts. All of the persons mentioned in the act are legal relations of the applicant. The bill will add a new provision which, after defining all the relatives stated in the act, includes persons whom we describe as de facto wives. I do not want to be captious about this, but it is necessary, as a matter of principle, that something should be said as to how far Parliament ought to go in dealing with cases of this sort. I realize that there are instances in which a woman, who has lived permanently with a man upon a basis which, although not legal, is at least honorable in the sense that it is bona fide and permanent, should not be excluded from benefits. I do not hold the view that merely because a union has not received the official sanction of the State or a church, the dependants of such a union should be denied all benefits; but in this provision the Government is going a long way, and proposes to take a step to which I think the Parliament should have its attention directed. In this legislation, which will be quoted as a precedent when later legislation is under consideration, we should make up our minds just how far we ‘are prepared to go to give effect to this principle. After all, the bona, fide home of a bona, fide marriage is the basis of our community life. Every piece of legislation which weakens that basis makes it easier for people to live in a looser way. Although, out of the kindness of our hearts, we may desire to. grant benefits to some unfortunate women, every departure from, the basic principle of a legal union strikes a blow at the community as a. whole. “Whilst I am not prepared to vote against the clause because of. the inclusion of this somewhat confusing definition of “ member of. the family “, it is my duty, as well as that of other honorable members, to draw the attention of the Parliament and the country to the limit to which, on the ground of sentiment, we should be pre pared to go in a direction which I believe will ultimately be injurious to the family unit.
– I should like the Minister to give a specific explanation of what is intended with respect to de facto wives. In cases in which a husband and his wife are living apart, and the wife is still dependent on the husband notwithstanding that he has taken to himself a de facto wife, is it intended that the total amount of compensation payable to his dependants shall be divided between the wife de jure and the de facto wife? Cases of that kind have frequently been brought to the notice of honorable members, who should be able to explain the law to those seeking advice. I ask the Minister to indicate to whom payments would be made in such cases.
.- I wish again to refer to the inclusion of a de facto wife in the definition of “ member of the family “. I have already indicated my view that it is regrettable that we should have to legislate along these lines. However, provision must be made to meet certain cases. A dependant may be a wife de jure or a de facto wife. Indeed, a person to whom this legislation applies may virtually have two wives. I am rather intrigued as to the reason behind the last portion of the definition of “ member of the family which reads - or any woman who for not less than three years immediately prior to his death or incapacity was wholly or mainly maintained by the employee and who, although not legally married to him, lived with him as his wife on a permanent and bona fide domestic basis and who, at the date of his death or incapacity, is maintaining one or more children under 16 years of age
I assume that that means that, at the date of the man’s incapacity, the woman is maintaining one or more children under sixteen years of age. The definition continues - or is not less than 50 years of age.
What is the magic about 50 years of age? I do not understand the reason for the dividing line between those under 50 years of age and those 50 years and over. Apparently, if a man who is living with a woman on what is termed a permanent and bona fide domestic basis - a very interesting description of an irregular relationship - is injured in the course of his duty, the woman is not entitled to any consideration unless she happens to be over the arbitrary or mystical age of 50 years or is maintaining one or more children under the age of sixteen years. Will the Minister state for what reason that age was chosen?
– Questions have been asked in relation to the definition of “member of the family”. The phraseology of that definition is not new. A similar definition was inserted by Opposition members in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) made it perfectly clear that he has no objection in principle to the inclusion of such a provision.
– I said that I was not prepared to vote against its incorporation in the clause.
– The honorable member indicated that he had no objection in principle to such a provision being included in the definitions clause. As in the case of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, it is left to the authority administering the legislation to decide to whom the payment shall be made. That cannot be decided until all the circumstances have been considered. For that reason no definite statement can be made as to- whether payment will be made to a wife, or to a member of the family as defined in the clause. Payment will be made to the dependant as determined by the authority administering the legislation.
.- I dc not agree with the principle in this legislation in. relation to a de facto wife. I was not present in the Parliament when a similar provision was inserted in the Australian .Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. In my view payment should be restricted to the legal wife or legal dependant. It is extraordinary that such a definition of “ member of the family “ should be included in a statute of this Parliament. The clause should be amended by the deletion of the provision in the definition of “member of the family”, enabling payments to be made to de facto wives.
.- The Minister distorted the sense of my words when he represented me as having said that I did not object in principle to the inclusion of provision for de facto wives in this legislation. That is not how I viewed the matter. I said that I was not prepared to vote against this provision, having regard to the fact that an attempt has .been made to hedge it round with many qualifications, and because it will ultimately be left to the discretion of the tribunal to decide whether or not a woman is, or is not, a de facto wife. In a sentence, I again make it clear that we should be extremely careful about extending the principle of granting benefits to people who are not genuine members of a workers’ family. I repeat that unless we underline in our legislation that the bona fide family is the basis of our community life, we shall get into trouble. I believe that the wording of this definition, which is said to have been copied from a definition inserted in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act in time of war, will cause a great deal of uneasiness. The honorable member for Warringah pointed out by interjection that provision for de facto wives was inserted in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act in time of war. That is quite true. In war-time, special circumstances exist, and we should be foolish to ignore them; but this measure does not have any relation to war. We are proposing to place upon a permanent basis the principle that unmarried women shall be entitled to the benefits of legislation of this kind. Those who have had experience of workmen’s compensation know that it is easy for mala fide claims to be made. We have all known of bogus claims under this type of legislation, by women who have purported to be de facto wives. I believe that the Government has made a genuine attempt to tackle this problem by making it as difficult as possible for such claims to be made under this measure. It is insisting upon a three-year period of permanent and bona fide, or ostensibly permanent and bona fide, domestic relationship; but let us be careful, and bear in mind that the step we are now taking is away from, and not towards, the married unit.
Amendment (by Mr. Dedman) proposed -
That, in the definition of “ employee” after paragraph (e), the words “an outworker or an officer or employee of the Public Service of a Territory;” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following paragraphs: - “ - (f) an outworker;
Service of a Territory of the Commonwealth; or
.- I wish to speak briefly on the Government’s proposal in this legislation to continue the war-time practice of treating an irregular association (between a man and a woman as a legal marriage. During the war there might have been some justification, on the grounds of expediency, for providing in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act for recognition of the rights of what are termed de facto wives. One does not have to be a purist in such matters to object to such a provision being made permanent by the National Parliament in other legislation. Under other statutes, those who go through the ordinary marriage ceremony suffer certain disadvantages if one may use that term which do not accrue to others who disregard the rules and conventions of modern civilized life. I refer to our pensions legislation.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - (Mr. Burke). - Order! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the legislation now before this chamber.
– I was making a brief comparison.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member may not refer to any matter that is not contained in the bill now under discussion.
– When the Government seeks the passage of legislation which confers certain benefits upon women who are described as de facto waves, am I not entitled to lay emphasis upon the disadvantages suffered by married women under other legislation already on our statute-book?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member must deal with the bill now before the committee.
– I propose to do so. I make only passing reference to this matter. If those members of the community who live according to the rules of society suffer certain disabilities, then surely others who do not live in accordance with those rules should not be free from those disabilities. I join with other honorable members in taking exception to the proposal to regard an irregular association between a man and a woman as a legal association, and to extend to them all the benefits of a legal association. This bill places de facto wives in the same advantageous circumstances as other ‘women who have accepted the responsibilities of marriage. A de facto wife can disown her association with her de facto husband at any time. She may also shun all the responsibilities associated with the marriage convention; but, under this legislation, as under other measures, she can enjoy all the advantages of a legal marriage. I do not pretend to pose as a purist in matters such as. this,nor shall I adopt the pharisaical attitude of condemning those who resort to certain modes of life ; but the Government is under an obligation to insist, as far as possible, upon the observance of the conventions of present-day society. There devolves upon members of the National Parliament a duty to make a critical scrutiny of legislation which, to some degree at least, may damage the fundamental institution of marriage, and all that hinges upon the recognition of that institution. I suggest, therefore, that the committee should re-examine this provision. The definition provides that a “ member of the family “ shall include - . . any woman who for not less than three years immediately prior to his death or incapacity was wholly or mainly maintained by the employee and who, although not legally married to him, lived with him as his wife on a permanent and bona fide domestic basis and who, at the date of his death or incapacity, is maintaining one or more children under sixteen years of age or is not less than fifty years of age;
Like the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), I wonder why 50 years has been selected as the age at which a woman who has lived in illegal association witha man should have conferred upon her the privileges provided for in this measure. Why not the. pensionable age of 60 years? At 50 years of age a widow, without dependants, becomes eligible for a widow’s pension. This bill confers upon the de facto wife the privileges and benefits that are enjoyed by other members of the com- munity who have gone through the legal marriage service, and accepted the obligations and responsibilities of marriage. AlthoughI do not criticize the Government in this matter, because the precedents for the provisions in the bill were contained in war-time legislation, I consider that, now that the war has been over for three years, we should study those provisions more closely before we write them into legislation as more or less an accepted part of peace-time practice.
Amendment agreed to.
– I refer to the new definition of “ mem- ber of the family “, which reads - “ member of the family” in relation to an employee, means the wife or husband, father, mother, grandfather, grandmother, step-father, step-mother, son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter, step-son, stepdaughter, brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, adopted child, mother-in-law or any woman who for not less than three years immediately prior to his death or incapacity was wholly or mainly maintained by the employee and who, although not legally married to him, lived with him as his wife on a permanent and bona fide domestic basis and who, at the date of his death or incapacity, is maintaining one or more children under sixteen years of age. . . .
References have been made to a similar provision that was inserted in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act. I have very vivid recollections of the occasion on which that amendment was made. Honorable members will recall that it provided that if a soldier had indicated his wishes by making an allotment of military pay to a woman who was not his legal wife, or had so indicated in his will, in the event of his death the pension was to go to that woman instead of to his legal wife. Honorable members on both sides of the chamber fought against the proposal of the then Minister for Repatriation, Mr. Frost, that it should be given to the de facto wife. Those honorable member who opposed the insertion of that provision were concerned not so much with the rights of the de facto wife as with protecting the rights of the legal wife, so that she should not suffer. AlthoughI consider that the deletion of that provision giving the benefit to the de facto wife might cause a wrong to be done to such women, I believe that the legal wife above all must be protected. But instances could occur in which the husband was unable to obtain a divorce from his legal wife, who might be unwilling to share a home with him and perhaps had not been a wife to him for many year and for that reason, I should be prepared to leave the provision as it is and allow the benefit to go to the legal wife, and, if thought necessary, to the de facto wife as well. I consider that the legal wife has to be protected, and I think that in certain cases the quality of mercy would not be strained if protection were given to the other woman as well.
Amendment (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to-
That, after the definition of outworker, the following definition be inserted : - “ ‘ Territory of the Commonwealth ‘ includes a Territory administered as a trust territory by Australia in pursuance of Chapter XII of the Charter of the United Nations: “.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Compensation for personal injuries to employees).
.- This clause incorporates a provision for the payment of compensation for an injury sustained by a person while travelling to or from his place of employment by the Commonwealth including any trade school. I draw the attention of the committee to the fact that under the original act it was provided that where a worker was injured travelling to or from his work he was entitled to compensation just as if he had been injured while actually at work. As I stated during my secondreading speech, that is an extension of the original principle and probably a beneficial one. Under the old sub-section 2 of section 9a of the act, the definition of “ travelling to and from work “, was - travelling between the employee’s place of abode and place of employment by thu Commonwealth and between either of those places and any trade, technical or other training school which he is required by the terms of his employment by the Commonwealth, or is expected by the Commonwealth, to attend, but does not include travelling during or after any substantial interruption of, or substantial deviation from the shortest convenient route for, any such journey, made for a reason unconnected with his employment or unconnected with his attendance at the trade, technical or other school, as the case may be.
I note that in the proposed section that definition of travelling to or from work is altered. Sub-section 2 of the proposed new section 9a states -
In this section, ‘travelling’ means travelling by the shortest convenient route for the journey and does not include travelling during or after any substantial interruption of the journey or any substantial deviation from the route made for a reason unconnected with the employee’s employment, attendance at the school or obtaining the certificate, treatment or compensation, as the case may be:
The relevant sub-sections previously also dealt with journeys between school and home and journeys made for the purpose of obtaining a medical certificate. I draw the committee’s attention to the fact that there is a substantial difference between the old and the new section. Where the old section defined travelling to and from work as travelling between the employee’s place of abode and place of employment, the proposed new section makes no reference to “place of abode”. Under it, travelling is described merely as travelling by the shortest convenient route for the journey. I desire to know why the term “ place of aboa “ has been omitted. I agree that a man travelling between his home and his work or returning home from work, travelling between his home and a trade school, should be entitled to compensation if injured during the journey. As I read the proposed new section, however, there is a complete silence about one of the terminals of his journey. Nothing is said about “ place of abode “. What is to be the ambit of this proposed new section? For how long after he leaves his work to go home or vice versa is a man to be considered as travelling should he meet with an accident on the way? I do not know what the proposed new section in tends, but there does not seem to be any definite definition so that one might be able to point to the beginning of a jour-‘ ney at one end and the terminus of it at the other. I seek some enlightenment about the meaning of the word “ travelling “ in proposed new sub-section 2.
– The definition of “ travelling to and from work “ was based on a somewhat similar provision in thi’ Workers’ Compensation Act of New South Wales. In that act and in the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act, the term “ place of abode “ is not defined,, and even the courts have found difficulty in placing a reasonable and uniform interpretation on its meaning, particularly when a temporary place of abode has been involved. In a recent case under the New South Wales act in which Judge Rainbow made an award against the worker, His Honour said -
Finally, 1 may add that if the lawmaker,in tended a person to be covered between hiplace of work and whatever place by chance or intention he should happen to spend the night, it would have been easy to say soindeed to have taken similar words to those which have been in the Queensland Act since 1916 and to have covered the worker “on hijourney to or from” his place of employment. It would in my opinion be desirable that a person so injured as the applicant should be covered by the act, and I see no sufficient economic reason why, if I. am correct, the act should be not amended.
The judgment also dealt with another’ point which was not raised by the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale). Sub-section 2 of proposed new section 9a implements the suggestion of Judge Rainbow in relation to the difficulty about ascertaining the place of abode.
– How far does it go?
– To or from his work.
– Where to and where from ?
– Obviously, to his work and from his work. This amendment has been drafted because experience has revealed a difficulty of defining “place of abode”. The suggestion that the amendment should be made originated in a workers’ compensation action in New South Wales.
.- in my opinion, the reason for the amendment goes much deeper than the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) has indicated. For the first time, provision is made by this legislation for the protection of military, naval and air force personnel, many of whom obviously have no normal place of abode. The two principles of the proposed new section are clear. They relate to compensation for injury whilst the person is travelling te or from his place of employment. The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) has sought enlightenment as to when a person starts from his place of abode to go to his place of employment. Protection is afforded by sub-section 2 of proposed new section 9a. Obviously, the person concerned has to start from somewhere, and he need not start from his place of abode. Some naval personnel, for instance, have no fixed place of abode. I am aware of the decision given by Judge Rainbow. Under the Workers’ Compensation Act of New South Wales, there was a limiting factor. The Government now proposes to liberalize the provisions of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act to cover an employee who is injured while going to or from his place of employment, subject to his not making any deviation.
.- The explanation which the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) has given is quite unsatisfactory to me.
– Cannot the honorable member argue the case with the honorable member for Warringah outside the chamber?
Mi-. BEALE. - Obviously the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) is unable to understand the meaning of this proposed new section. His explanation has made confusion worse confounded. I understand the explanation which the honorable member for Warringah has given, although I am not able to agree with it, but I have not been able to understand the explanation by the Minister. Some honorable mem bers may contend that a provision, stating that an employee must start from his home or place of abode will place an unnecessary limitation on his rights. It may well be that the place of abode is not necessarily the terminus ad quern or the terminus a quo. I notice from the smile on the face of the Minister that he does not understand the Latin, so I. shall translate the phrases into English.
– The honorable member is in error in thinking that I do not. understand his Latin.
– If the Minister condid ers that the place to which the employee is going should not be described as merely his place of abode, I fail to understand why the bill does not make that point clear. Why has not the Minister obtained a form of words which will indicate that it is not necessarily the place where he has his temporary or permanent home ? Surely it is not beyond the wit of the Minister and his advisers to devise a form of words to clarify the position. I admit that, sometimes, a provision stating that the employee must travel in a straight line, or as nearly as possible in a straight line without deviation from his home to his place of employment may lead to injustices. For instance, he may not have spent the previous night at his home. My objection is that this provision is too wide. Therefore, I urge the Government to re-examine it, and devise a form of words which, whilst doing justice to the worker, will also do justice to those who pay the piper.
– The way in which the proposed new section has been drafted is sensible and practicable. The discretionary power which has been allowed is necessary, as I shall show. An employee, who may be due to begin work at midnight, may take his wife to a motion picture theatre, leave her at the conclusion of the performance at 11 p.m., and proceed straight to his work. When he leaves the theatre, he is on his way to work. When he left his home, he was on his way to the theatre. The position is suitably met by subsection 2 of proposed new section 9a, which reads -
Iii this section ‘ travelling ‘ means travelling by the shortest convenient route for the journey and does not include travelling during or after any substantial interruption of the journey or any substantial deviation from the route made for a reason unconnected with the employee’s employment, attendance at the school or obtaining the certificate, treatment or compensation, as the case may be:
Some honorable members opposite are well aware of the difficulties that arise in the workers’ compensation jurisdiction of proving whether a man was on his way to work when he was injured. A man may depart from the direct route between his place of employment and his home in order to call at a hotel, and may be involved in an accident. In such a case, the court is required to determine whether the man was actually proceeding to or from his place of employment. Consequently, the discretionary power, which the proposed new section will confer upon the court, is necessary.
Another consideration arises. A “ place of employment “ may be a recognized place of employment, but an employee may be obliged to go to another place in connexion with his work. In the past, difficulties have arisen in endeavouring to elucidate exactly what that requirement involves. I consider that if, in the opinion of the court, the applicant for compensation was bona fide on his way to work or on his way from his place of employment to his home when he was injured, he should be entitled to receive compensation. I fail to see how we can. prescribe definite conditions such as travelling in a direct route from the home to the place of employment and vice versa. I agree that honorable members have some difficulty in understanding some of the provisions of this bill, but I remind the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) that one solicitor will frequently give a different opinion on an Act of Parliament from that of another solicitor, and if they are frank they will admit that they earn their living from disputes arising out of possible interpretations of complexities of the law. In allowing the court discretion to determine whether an applicant for compensation was bona fide on his way to or from hia work, we are acting very wisely.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 agreed to.
[8.18 J. - I move -
That the bill he now read a second time.
The proposals embodied in this bill envisage a change in the organization for the control of ‘broadcasting in Australia. As honorable members are aware, the art of broadcasting is still comparatively young and is developing rapidly from year to year. Virtually unknown during the first world war, it has since expanded tremendously throughout the world and, bearing in mind its great impact upon the lives and upon the pattern of thought of the people, its progress is continually presenting in Australia, as in the other countries of the world, the serious problem of ensuring that this great gift of science to mankind is utilized in such a manner as to advance the common good.
As in other countries, the Australian broadcasting services had their beginnings in experiments, official, commercial and amateur. The first actual demonstration of the transmission and reception of radio telephony was given in Melbourne, in June, 1920, and subsequently other experiments took place. These created keen public interest and several proposals were submitted to the government of the day for the establishment of a regular broadcasting service. Following discussions with the parties which had. submitted these proposals, regulations relating to the licensing of stations were promulgated in July, 1923, and the first service was inaugurated in Sydney in November of that year.
The first broadcasting station in Australia was established in Sydney in November, 1923, and it operated under regulations which provided for a “ sealed set “ scheme, listeners’ receivers being sealed ‘so as to limit reception to programmes from stations to which they paid a subscription. The “ sealed set “ scheme did not meet with public approval and in 1924 a new system was introduced under which class A and class B stations were to provide programmes. The class A stations obtained their income from listeners’ licence-fees and the class B stations derived their earnings from advertising. In July, 1928, the BrucePage Government decided to inaugurate a national broadcasting service under which the technical services of all class A stations would be owned and operated by the Government and the programmes would be provided under contract. In order to give effect to this decision, the class A stations were taken over by the Post Office when their licences expired, the erection of new regional stations in provincial centres was put in hand and, following the invitation of public tenders, a contract to supply programmes was given to a new organization, the Australian Broadcasting Company, for a period of three years commencing on the 1st July, 1929. In 1932, during the period of the Lyons Government, a broadcasting service still more national in character was brought into being with the passing of the Australian Broadcasting Commission Act. The commission, which comprised five members, was authorized to take over the existing studios of the class A stations and the Post Office was required to retain responsibility for the technical services.
Coincident with the development of the national broadcasting service, considerable progress was made with the expansion of the service provided by class B stations now known a3 commercial broadcasting stations. Licences for these stations continued to be issued by the Postmaster-General in accordance with the Wireless Telegraphy Regulations. By 1932, the number of class B stations had increased to 43, and some of them were providing a service in country districts throughout the Commonwealth. In 1941, the Parliament appointed a joint committee to inquire into and report upon wireless broadcasting in Australia, and, as a result of recommendations made by that body, the Australian Broadcasting Act was passed in June, 1942.. Subject to minor amendments made in 1946,- this act is still in force.
It is now six years since the present act was placed on the statute-book and there has been a remarkable expansion in the intervening period. Undoubtedly, the experiences of the war years, during which the public, because of restrictions in other directions, came to rely on broadcasting for the major portion of their relaxation and enjoyment, has helped to lay the foundation for the permanent position that radio has attained and will continue to hold in our way of life. It is interesting to observe that from l,320,00u listeners in 1942, the number has now grown to 1,730,000, and is still steadily increasing, whilst there are at present 34 national stations and 102 commercial stations operating in medium wave frequency band.
All this has necessitated increasing demands for the manufacture and marketing of transmitting and receiving equipment, with the result that broadcasting has developed into one of the largest industries in the Commonwealth. Despite the outstanding progress that has been made, new developments are now on the horizon and whilst it is hazardous to prophesy the future, one can be certain that the utilization of these will have important and far-reaching effects. These now developments have been made possible by the achievements of modern science in the field of communications. More specifically, they relate to the application to the service of the public of the latest radio developments in frequency modulation, television and facsimile.
We may now look forward to the introduction into Australia in the not distant future of television which will add vision to our conventional sound broadcasting and which will result in a wealth of new entertainment for the public. As we have learned from experience in the United Kingdom and the United States of America, television is a valuable medium for the presentation of informational and educational subjects to the community. Another service which will be introduced sooner or later in Australia is facsimile, which is a means of distributing new.= in printed form by radio.’ Since the war ended, facsimile has made- progress in America and whilst its application presents problems of some magnitude, it is apparent that it offers possibilities for providing a useful service, particularly to people living in rural or remotely situated locations. As honorable members are aware, the Government has already decided that frequency modulation stations should be introduced into the national broadcasting service in Australia in order that listeners might have available to them the most up-to-date aural broadcasting service that scientific endeavours have made possible. In these modern times we all have become, to some extent, scientifically minded, but we are prone to expect the fruits of invention to arrive fully developed. In actual fact, however, the development of new inventions to the stage of general public use entails considerable study and careful planning. In its anxiety to ensure that all progress in broadcasting techniques is co-ordinated and planned so as to bestow the greatest possible benefits on the Australian people, the Government considered it wise to make a complete review of the whole broadcasting structure as it exists to-day, particularly in view of the fact that certain weaknesses had manifested themselves. A realistic approach has been made to problems which will need to be surmounted by those directly concerned in the future administration of broadcasting. Obviously, any shortcomings which exist to-day must be corrected immediately if they are not to be perpetuated in the innovations of to-morrow.
Investigations made by the Government have shown that there are serious weaknesses in the existing broadcasting services to which attention must be given. For instance, the best possible use is not being .made in the interests of the whole nation of the limited number of frequency channels available in the standard broadcasting band and there is not proper coordination of programmes between the national and commercial services, and also between commercial stations themselves. The service provided to the less densely settled areas of the Commonwealth is poor in comparison with the multiplicity of programmes supplied to listeners in the capital cities and provincial centres, and listeners in some areas do not receive the variety and class of programmes to which they are entitled. Furthermore, programmes of a religious, political or controversial nature have not been presented in a manner acceptable to the general body of listeners. Although the national broadcasting service has been built up on sound and progressive lines and the programmes provided by the Australian
Broadcasting Commission are designed to meet, all tastes, the present system of financing the activities of the commission is inadequate under present-day conditions and could not meet the needs of an expanding service. A disadvantage which has also been evident is the fact that the commission does not include representatives of two departments which are vitally concerned with broadcasting - the Department of the Treasury on the financial side and the Postmaster-General’s Department in connexion with the technical facilities and requirements. The investigations made by the Government have also covered the adequacy of the existing arrangements under which the Post Office is responsible for providing and maintaining the technical facilities of the national broadcasting service, but it has reached the same conclusion as the Gibson Committee in 1942 which felt that, no better scheme could be devised. The Post Office, with its organization and reservoir of skilled technical personnel, is peculiarly fitted to undertake this phase of the national broadcasting service. There is no other authority in Australia which possesses at the present time the requisite staff and organization and, if the functions were taken away from the Post Office, there would be no alternative but to build up a more or less duplicate organization. Because of the extensive use of radio for telecommunication services, as distinct from broadcasting, a large body of technical experts in wireless must be retained by the Post Office.
In the broader field of broadcasting, however, it is clear that the time has been reached when responsibility for the overall control, direction and development of broadcasting in Australia, which are now undertaken by the Post Office in conjunction with its many other functions, should be transferred to a suitable authority able to devote its full time and energies to what is, after all, one of the most important industries in the country. Honorable members will agree, I feel sure, that in the past the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has played a valuable part in establishing and expanding broadcasting on fairly sound lines, but the possibilities and the problems of the future are so comprehensive and vital as to necessitate the undivided attention of an appropriate body specially, chosen for the task.
In other countries where broadcasting has grown rapidly the position has been met by the setting up of specialized authorities to control the industry and in the United ‘States of America - to quote one example - the Federal Communications Commission, which is an independent body with necessary autonomy, is carrying out the work. After studying closely the whole position in its relation to present weaknesses and probable innovations, the Government has reached the conclusion that conditions in Australia call for the formation without delay of a special board to control and develop broadcasting, and provision for this board is the main purpose of the bill. It is proposed that the board, which will be known as the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, will comprise three members who will be appointed by the Governor-General on a full-time basis and whose period of appointment and remuneration will be determined by him. No person having any financial interest, whether direct or indirect, in a broadcasting station or in the manufacture or distribution of broadcasting equipment will be eligible for appointment, and this stipulation should commend itself to honorable members on both sides of the House. All honorable members will, I am sure, recognize the importance of having a board which will be in a position to exercise its functions and powers in an unbiassed and impartial manner. The main functions of the board will be, first, to ensure the provision of services by broadcasting stations, television stations and facsimile stations and services of a like kind in accordance with plans approved by the Government; secondly, to see that the technical equipment and operation of such stations comply with appropriate standards, and, thirdly, to ensure that the programmes transmitted by national and commercial stations alike serve the best interests of the general public.
With regard to programmes, the Government is anxious that the board should not exercise its powers in an autocratic way and, consequently, provision has been made in the bill for the Australian Broadcasting Commission and represen- tatives of commercial broadcasting stations to ‘be consulted regarding matters in which they are directly concerned. The board will be expected to take requisite steps to ensure that programmes are of reasonable extent and variety, that adequate and appropriate times are set apart for broadcasts of divine worship or other matter of a religious nature, that equitable facilities are provided for the broadcasting of political and controversial matter, and that the advertising content of any programme is not excessive. Although the board will have to comply with government policy in regard to the general development of the broadcasting services, it will nevertheless have wide powers. Accordingly, any orders which it may issue will be laid on the table of both Houses of the Parliament.
One provision in the bill which should appeal to all honorable members is the power given to the board, subject to any directions of the Minister, to determine, after consultation with the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the conditions upon which a commercial broadcasting station may broadcast a programme of the national broadcasting service. This clause has been inserted to cover the interests of listeners, particularly those residing in outback areas, where the standard of programmes provided by the local commercial station may fall short of those broadcast from stations in the more populous centres. In Canada, where both national and privately owned stations are incorporated in the broadcasting service, the broadcasting authority is empowered with the same right, which it exercises freely to the advantage of listeners.
Another feature of the bill is the power to be given to the board, with the approval of the Minister and the Treasurer, to provide financial and other assistance to commercial broadcasting stations for the purpose of ensuring that programmes of adequate extent, standard and variety are provided in the areas served by those stations. This provision has also been included to meet the peculiar circumstances which exist in some rural areas throughout the Commonwealth where the local stations, mainly because pf their comparative isolation, do not receive much revenue from programmes originated in the capital cities, and are forced to rely mainly on revenue derived from local advertisers. It is the intention of the Government that those stations should be afforded some measure of assistance in cases where the board, as an independent and unbiased body, is satisfied that such a course is justified in the public interests.
Obviously, it will not be possible for the board to carry out its functions unless it is provided with staff possessing technical or other requisite qualifications. The board will form a permanent part of broadcasting activities in Australia and, that being so, the bill provides for the staff to be employed under the Commonwealth Public Service Act. In this way, officers will be entitled to the same benefits in regard to hours of duty, recreation and sick leave, superannuation and furlough, as are enjoyed by other employees in the Commonwealth Public Service, and their salaries will be subject to any relevant arbitration awards and the overall authority of the Public Service Board. Until the bill reaches the committee stage, 1 do not think that any helpful purpose would be served by saying any more concerning the board and its powers and functions, and I shall now refer briefly to other main features included in the bill.
Under the provisions of section 87 of the Australian Broadcasting Act, a broadcasting advisory committee has been established in each State to advise the Minister concerning matters connected with the operation of broadcasting stations. Each State committee is under the chairmanship of the local Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs, and comprises representatives of the national and commercial broadcasting interests and the general listening public. There is no intention to discontinue those committees, which serve a valuable purpose in the broadcasting field, but in view of the proposal to set up a special board the Government feels that the functions of the committees should be confined to ad… the board with respect to matters relating to programmes. In actual practice, the committees have concentrated on programme aspects.
As I have said, it is proposed to strengthen the Australian Broadcasting
Commission by the addition of a representative of the Department of ‘ the Treasury and an officer to represent the Postmaster-General’s Department. .The appointment of those departmental representatives will not affect in any “way the independence of the commission, whose deliberations ou the financial and technical aspects will be assisted by two experts in their respective fields. A similar policy has already been adopted with satisfactory results in connexion with other commissions, including the Overseas Telecommunications Commission and the Australian National Airlines Commission.
The method of financing the national broadcasting service has received a good deal of consideration, and it is clear that the stipulation contained in section 35 of the present act, that the. operations of the commission should be financially self-supporting, is impracticable, having regard, first, to the expansion of the national broadcasting service; secondly, to increased costs generally; and, thirdly, to the directions in which the service will have to be developed in the future to take advantage of modern innovations. During the past three years the commission has found it impracticable to operate within normal income from a proportion of the broadcast listeners’ licence-fees and it has been necessary for the Government to augment its income from Consolidated Revenue. Another important aspect is that the fee charged to listeners does not necessarily bear close relation to the services provided by the commission, since the establishment of additional national stations is determined not so much by the number of listeners in any particular area as by the desire to afford all citizens of Australia a service from at least one national station. Bearing those considerations in mind, it is proposed to adopt an arrangement under which the Australian Broadcasting Commission will be financed on the basis of the amount voted by the Parliament after consideration of the annual Estimates. In this way, an important public utility will be subject to the same control by the Parliament as exists in connexion with all government undertakings, and the commission will not have to depend upon a proportion of the fees paid by listeners as is the case today.
Associated with the new method of financing the commission’s activities will be the preparation of a threeyear financial plan. A similar arrangement was approved by the Government some time ago for the planning of the capital works of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, and it is operating with great success. In addition to covering the estimated financial requirements of the commission in providing programmes over a threeyear period, the plan will also embrace the finance required by the Post Office in respect of the operation and development of the technical services of the national broadcasting service. Adoption of the Government’s proposal will enable the commission to plan its activities well in advance. Naturally, the funds required to implement the threeyear plan will, in the normal way, be subject to annual appropriation by the Parliament, but the com mission will be enabled to proceed in the knowledge that it can anticipate, with a reasonable degree of certainty, the provision of moneys according to a programme. Similarly, the Post Office can provide the technical services in an efficient and orderly manner on the basis of an approved threeyear plan.
From time to time, references have been made in the House to the activities of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting, which now operates in accordance with Part IV. of the Australian Broadcasting Act. The Government considers that that committee should be retained, since it meets a real need, but, in view of the proposal to appoint a board which will operate on a full-time basis, it does not appear necessary or desirable to continue the existing provision. That provision throws on the Minister the obligation to refer to the Broadcasting Committee any matter which the Australian Broadcasting Commission or the Australian Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Stations requests him to submit to the committee. In practice, matters referred to the committee in the past have not emanated from the commission or the federation.
I have explained broadly the reasons underlying the principal provisions of the bill, and the steps which the Govern ment considers should be taken to ensure the sound development of broadcasting in Australia. I am quite sure that honorable members will realize, after studying the bill, that the Government, in submitting it to the Parliament, has been actuated solely by its responsibility to safeguard the interests of the listening public.
Bearing in mind that co-ordination and planned application of resources are likely to lead to the greatest advances, both in techniques and in programmes, the Government is satisfied that the measures proposed in the bill will result in a more comprehensive and better servicebeing rendered to the public. It is in this spirit that I commend the bill to the House. I heard thunder outside the House a few moments ago, and from that I assume that even Nature applauds the bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harbison) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the bill is to amend the Stevedoring Industry Act 1947 so as to enable the Fremantle Harbour Trust to be represented on the Waterside Employment Committee at that port. Section 36 of the Stevedoring Industry Act provides for the appointment of a waterside employment committee at any port, such committee to consist of not more than two representatives of employers and two representatives of the Waterside Workers Federation, except in the case of the port of Newcastle. The representation of employers on waterside employment committees is normally composed of one representative of interstate shipowners and one representative of overseas shipowners, those interests being the principal employers of waterside labour in most ports. In the port of Fremantle, however, the Fremantle Harbour Trust is a large employer of labour, the position at that port differing from most other Australian ports in that the Harbour Trust itself undertakes the work of handling cargo after it is landed from ships to the waiting lorries or other transport. Representations have been made to the Government by the Premier of Western Australia that in view of the circumstances existing at Fremantle the Harbour Trust should be given representation on the Waterside Employment Committee. The Government considered this request and decided that the Premier’s request should be complied with. It is not desired to deprive either the interstate or the overseas owners from representation on the committee, and it has, therefore, been decided to increase the membership of the Fremantle committee to six members, comprising three representatives of employers and three representatives of the Waterside Workers Federation. The present bill is intended to give effect to this decision. At the same time it is proposed to amend sub-section 3 of section 11 of the act, which erroneously included the word “ regulation “ instead of the word “ section “.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed (vide page 2981).
Clause 6 -
Section eleven of the Principal Act is ii mended -
. . .
Section proposed to be amended -
1 . - ( 1 . ) Where any compensation is payable by the Commonwealth under this Act to, or in respect of, an employee, or where, but for the fact that the employee is not incapacitated for work, compensation would be so payable. …
Amendment (by Mr. Dedman) agreed to -
That, before paragraph (a), the following paragraph be inserted: - “ (aa) by inserting in sub-section (1.), after the word ‘ work the words ‘ or but for the operation of clause (ii) of sub-paragraph (6) of paragraph (1a.) of the First Schedule to this Act’;”.
Under the provisions of the existing act, if an employee is granted sick leave with pay, he may elect to receive either sick leave with pay, or weekly compensation under the act, during the whole period of his incapacity. The insertion of the words proposed by the amendment would make it perfectly clear that an employee who elects to take sick leave with pay, would be entitled, also, to the cost of medical, surgical, and hospital treatment, which may be incurred by him.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I draw the attention of the committee to the fact that claused of the bill seeks to alter the provision of the existing act by the substitution of the word “ or “ for “ and “. There may be quite unexpected consequences as a result of such substitution. Sub-section 1 ofsection 11 of the principal act provides -
Where any compensation is payable by the Commonwealth under this Act to, or in respect of, ii n employee, or where, but for the fact that the employee is not incapacitated for work, compensation would be so payable, the Commonwealth shall, subject to the next succeeding sub-section, pay the cost of such medical, surgical and , hospital treatment in relation to the injury as is, in the opinion of the Commissioner, reasonably necessary.
Sub-section 2 of the section provides -
The sum for which the Commonwealth shall he liable in respect of the medical, surgical and hospital treatment of an employee shall be such sum us the Commissioner considers reasonably appropriate to the treatment afforded, having regard to the customary charge made in the community for such treatment, hut shall not in any case exceed One hundred pounds.
The result of the substitution of the word “ or “ between “ surgical “ and “ hospital “, for the word “ and “ between those words in sub-sections 1 and 2 of section 11 of the principal act, would give rise to a doubt about the full amount that would be payable by the Government, because the following words are proposed to be added to sub-section 2 : - but shall not exceed One hundred pounds unless the Commissioner considers that the exceptional circumstances of any case warrant special approval of an amount in excess of that sum.
The provision, as presently drawn, is that the total sum for which the Commonwealth shall be liable in respect of medical, surgical and hospital treatment, shall not exceed £100. As I understand the proposed provision, the Government intends that the Commissioner shall have authority, in special cases, to increase that amount. The inclusion of the words “ shall not exceed One hundred pounds as proposed by the clause, would appear to indicate that the amount for which the Government shall be liable in respect of medical or surgical or hospital treatment shall not exceed £100, and that, prima facie, the total liability under those three headings would be £300. I. should have thought that the intention would be that the Commonwealth should be liable only to the extent of £100 in respect of all three headings, except in special circumstances. If that is so, I contend that it would be necessary to insert the words “ in total “ after the words “ shall not exceed” in sub-section 2 of section 11 of the principal act.
– The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) suggests that the words “ in total “ should be included between the words “ exceed “ and “ One “ in sub-section 2 of section 11 of the principal act, to make clear that the total liability of the Government shall be £100, not three separate sums of £100 each. Consideration was given to this matter in the drafting of the proposed amendment, but it is considered that the words used make it quite clear that the total liability of the Government under this provision shall be limited to £100.
– I do not consider that that is clearly stated at all.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 7 to 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 (Remedy against a stranger).
– Whilst I. shall not detain the committee unduly in its consideration of this clause, I should like to know what precise meaning is to be attached to the words “the employee may take proceedings against that person …” which appear in paragraph a of proposed new section 17. The paragraph reads -
Presumably the words “ that person “ mean a person on whom liability may rest to pay damages in respect of an injury ; that is, other than the Commonwealth. I should like to know whether the word “ retain “. which appears in the proposed paragraph, means “ recover “. It may be that the proposed legislation has been drawn from legislation of one or other of the States, and that a judicial decision has been made in respect of the meaning of the word that I have mentioned. If that is so. I should like the Minister to inform the committee from what particular State legislation the proposed paragraph has been drawn, and what interpretation is to be placed on the meaning of the word “ retain “ which appears in that paragraph. As the matter stands it ie possible that this provision would preclude an injured workman or employee, from recovering damages against a third party for negligence’, having once received compensation, unless, in effect, he first disgorged the amount that he had already received as compensation. This interpretation might flow from the meaning of the word “ retain “ in the proposed paragraph, unless the meaning of that word has been interpreted differently by a court.
– The meaning of the provisions of clause 11 of the bill is perfectly clear. If the word “ recover “ were substituted for the word “ retain “ in paragraph a of proposed new section 17, the position would be that in the event of an accident occurring, in which an employee was injured, and for which a third party was responsible, the injured person could cause an action to be initiated, which could recover not only damages from the third party, but also compensation from the Commonwealth. I think it will be generally conceded that an injured employee should not be entitled 10 both damages and compensation as a result of an accident. It could well be that, after beginning to take advantage of compensation at a weekly rate from the- Commonwealth, such injured employee could initiate an action against the third party and recover damages, [n that case, the injured employee should not be permitted to retain the amount of compensation that had been paid to him. by the Commonwealth.
I am dealing with one case in order to illustrate what I think is already made clear by the wording of this clause. In a case such as that to which I have referred it- would obviously be- inappropriate for the- injured person to retain the compensation which had already been obtained from the Commonwealth and also the damages obtained from the third party. The clause means that the compensation which has already been paid to- him by the Commonwealth would be returnable to the Commonwealth in certain circumstances. In my opinion, the word “ retain is the correct one to use and the word “ recover “, which is now in the act, can lead to- misunderstanding.
.- L am satisfied to have drawn the attention of the Minister (Mr. Dedman) to something that he apparently considers to be quite clear. He tried to clarify the position by using the. word that I criticized, but I. do not see that that assisted the committee very much. It may well be found that a Commonwealth employee will not be entitled to recover damages from, or institute an action for damages against; a third party on the grounds of negligence if he has received money from the Commonwealth that he has not disgorged at the time he wishes to bring his action. That is the point that I. make, and I am prepared to leave it there. It seems to me /that not enough consideration has been given to the results that may follow from the use of this word, and which may prejudice the employee.
Paragraph b of this clause provides that the commissioner may request the employee to take proceedings and may, in effect, indemnify him. Paragraph c states -
Paragraph e, on which I think the committee is entitled to some enlightenment reads as follows: -
I direct the attention of the committee to the words - “ where the employee has received compensation less than the full amount of the damages to which he is entitled.
An injured person is entitled to receive the full amount of the damages that he can prove he has suffered by reason of the negligence of another person. Let us suppose that a Commonwealth employee makes an arrangement with the third party who is liable for damages for negligence to accept a sum of money from him in full satisfaction of his claim. It may well be that the amount of money that the employee agrees to accept is not the full amount of the damages to which he is entitled within the meaning of this clause. In those circumstances, the third party could be subject to a second claim or a second action on the ground that the damages, received by the employee were not the full amount of damages to which he was entitled. I can see the purpose of this clause, but I suggest that it is inaptly worded. I suggest to the Minister that between now and the time when the bill is submitted to the Senate consideration should be given to my observations.
– The honorable mem. ber for Warringah (Mr. Spender) says that he can see what this clause means and that, in his opinion, it is badly worded. I also think that I can see what the clause means, and, in my opinion it is very well worded. The persons who draft these bills are, I suggest, much more expert in these matters than is the honorable member for Warringah. I assure the honorable gentleman, however, that I shall cause the clause -to be examined again in the light of the observations that he has made, but I am fairly certain that it will not require to be altered.
.- We have been told that the proposed section 17 is taken from some South Australian legislation and that that is the justification for presenting it to the committee in its present form. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) invited the Minister (Mr. Dedman) to say where the clause came from, and suggested that if it was included in existing legislation he should tell the committee whether there is any case law on it. That seemed to me to be the appropriate way in which to deal with the matter, but the Minister was silent. If the proposed section 17 has been in force for some years in other legislation, it is almost certain that there has been litigation on it and that there are cases in which judges have decided what paragraph e means. We have not heard a word about that from the Minister. I suggest that, even now, he should tell the committee where this clause comes from. Has it been taken from the South Australian workmen’s compensation legislation? If so, is it in identical terms with that legislation? If it is not, what differences are there, and what is the reason for them? The Minister will not know that, but he can consult with one of his officers, who may be able to supply him with the information. In answer to the Minister’s observation that those officers know more about these matters than, say, the honorable member for Warringah, I ask why, if that is so, when legislation comes before a court of law it is so frequently torn to ribbons by the judges? I do not criticize the departmental officers but they are not omniscient. They sit in Canberra and cannot envisage all the possibilities. Litigants test these provisions in the courts, and again and again the legislation is weighed in the balance and found to .be horribly wanting. That is why we on this side of the chamber, who have some qualifications in this regard, feel justified in criticizing the legislation and inviting the attention of the committee to some of its details. It is all very well for the Minister to grin. He knows nothing, and he is not even aware that he know? nothing.
The word “ retain “ presents a difficulty. Does it mean “recover” or doe.? it not? Is it beyond the wit of man to devise a form of words that will make clear precisely what is intended, or state clearly that it is intended that anything which has been received by a claimant shall be taken into account in striking the final balance? Surely it is possible to do that ? If it is, why should not it be done before the bill becomes law, so that litigants may have the benefit of legislation that will not he shot to pieces later in a court of law?
I rose primarily to direct the attention of the committee to a matter to which the honorable member for Warringah referred in his speech on the motion for the second reading of the bill. In my own speech on the second reading, I said, dealing with the proposed new section 17a. that this system, which attempts to avoid the difficulties with regard to election that arise in, say, the New South Wales workmen’s compensation legislation, was worth a .trial. I remind the committee that section 17a provides that the employee shall not be entitled, in respect of personal injury or accident, to receive compensation from the Commonwealth, both independently of and also under this measure.
– Why does the honorable gentleman not fight a selection ballot now for the election?
– The observation of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) seems to me to be a masterpiece of irrelevancy. I do not agree entirely with the honorable member for Warringah, but I do agree that one part of section 17a should be looked at again. It is the part that provides that proceedings must be taken within twelve months after the date of the payment of compensation under this measure.- That may be too short u time to allow litigants within which to make up their minds regarding the degree of election which they require to make under sub-section 3 of the proposed section. The honorable member for “Warringah cited a very effective illustration, that of a man who is injured and takes compensation under the act but happens to have a latent injury which manifests itself, after a long period of time, in a way which neither the applicant nor the doctors who attended him could foresee. Such an injury might become apparent long after the period of twelve months had elapsed, and the door would then lie closed against a common law action for damages. I hear honorable members on the Government side interrupting, and i point out to them that we are endeavouring to make the law in this respect a little more liberal and a little more favorable to the worker. In spite of my statement we still hear guffaws from the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) and . the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), which show how little they understand this legislation and how little they care about it.
– What has happened all nf. once that has caused the honorable member for Parramatta to take up the cudgels on behalf of the workers?
– The honorable member for Herbert knows nothing about this matter and cares less. I do not believe that a worker should be entitled to compensation ad lib. both under the act and independently of the act. I believe that, inasmuch as damages obtained by common la.w action are, of their nature, compensation for an injury which a worker has suffered, the amount received by him under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act should be taken into account in assessing those damages. In exactly the same way, if a worker has already received compensation at common law on the footing of negligence, that amount should be taken into account in assessing what he should receive under this measure. He should not be entitled to receive two sets of damages. However, we agree that he should not be debarred from common law action by effluxion of time in circumstances which would make it unjust for the door to be closed against him. He should not be prevented from initiating action if it can be established, as a matter of proof in a court of law or before the Commissioner, that the injury from which he is suffering is due to something which took place more than twelve months previously. We ask that that period be reconsidered and extended. I do not suggest that it should be extended to six years, which is the period provided in the statute of limitations, within which a man must bring an action in common law, because I consider that the Commissioner for Employees’ Compensation is entitled to some finality.
– Six years was the period suggested by the honorable member for Warringah.
– I have already told the Minister that I do not agree in all respects with the honorable member for Warringah. It is of no use for the Minister just to smirk, because he is not prepared to allow the workers anything more than the period of twelve months that is specified now.
– That is more than the Opposition was prepared to give to the workers under the act.
– In my second-reading speech I indicated my general approval of the bill because it will extend benefits to workers. We on this side of the chamber, just as much as Ministers and their supporters, have always agreed with that principle. However, in examining the details of the bill in committee, the Opposition considers that the provision that a worker should not be entitled to recover damages at common law unless he commences proceedings within twelve months of the date of the first payment made to him under the act is not sufficiently generous. Very often men sustain injuries which do not manifest themselves until long afterwards. I know that there are difficulties of administration, and I know that we have to provide against the malingerer. We all know the man who is always after “ compo “, but the average Australian worker is not like that. We suggest an amendment to benefit the worker by giving him protection in the class of case which I have mentioned. That sort of case does not occur frequently, but, when it does arise, a man who receives a comparatively small amount of compensation under the act may be entitled to secure very large damages for his injury at common law on the footing of negligence. Many of us in the legal profession have obtained verdicts for amounts of thousands of pounds in such cases. Unless the bill is amended as we suggest, injured workers will be entirely debarred from taking action at common law after the expiration of twelve months from the date of the first payment made to them under the act. That period is not long enough. I invite the Minister to re-examine the matter and to agree to be more generous by permitting an extension of the period by means of an amendment of the bill when it is before the Senate.
.- I suppose that it may be considered impertinent of me .to address myself to this question after such legal giants as the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) and the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) have discussed it. However, am impelled to speak by the the attitude of the honorable member for Parramatta, who said that members of the Opposition are taking an interest in this matter because they want to do something for the workers. A subject of this kind requires no debate. That has been made evident by the speeches of honorable members opposite, whose only complaint is that certain words in the clauses should not be included at all. It is extraordinary to hear legal men complaining that words are not clear, because that seems to be one of the reasons why they manage to secure high remuneration for their services. Many of the arguments brought before courts of law are submitted to jurisdiction only because people are not able to understand the wording of certain acts. Anybody with ordinary common sense must know the meaning of the word “ retain “ in proposed section 17. It must be perfectly clear to anybody capable of intelligent thought who views the provision simply, and without applying a legal mind to it. If I understand it correctly, it means, merely that in certain circumstances persons who have been paid sums of money as compensation for injury will not be able to retain those amounts if they succeed in obtaining damages in another way. When I interjected during the speech of the honorable member for Parramatta, the honorable gentleman, who knowsnothing about the workers and their needs and desires, but knew that his remarks were being .broadcast said, in the hope that he might get some cheap political propaganda, that I knew nothing about the matter and did not care in any case. If _I know nothing about the matter and if I do not care about the needs and desires of the workers, the honorable member for Parramatta certainly has no right to say that he does. He said that the Minister (Mr. Dedman) did not know anything about the bill, but should ask officers who sit in Canberra, knowing nothing about what is taking place in industry, to explain to him the exact meaning of the proposed new sections. I submit that, if all these legal technicalities were left out of debates on matters of this kind, the people about whom the Opposition seems to be so suddenly and mysteriously concerned would be in a better position than they are in now. The honorable member for Parramatta and the honorable member for Warringah have raised arguments about paltry and unimportant issues. The discussion of matters of that kind should not occupy the time of this chamber for more than a few minutes.
– The committee system was instituted for that very purpose. _Mr. EDMONDS. - The committee should discuss the clauses of a bill in detail only when they warrant detailed discussion. .Surely honorable members opposite, who claim that the interests of the workers are their interests, should have no hesitation in accepting this clause. In the final analysis, sub-section 3 of proposed new section 17a merely limits the period during which an employee who has had the misfortune to be injured in the course of his employment may take proceedings against the Commonwealth to recover damages. I am at a loss to understand why there should be all this arguing and bickering on the part of the honorable member for Warringah and the honorable member for Parramatta about one word in the proposed new sub-section. I am to some degree in agreement with the honorable member for Parramatta regarding the period during which an injured employee should be permitted to claim, damages. I do not contend that twelve months is too short; it is certainly not too long. A period of twelve months or longer may elapse before an. injured employee is absolutely certain that he is entitled to claim damages. His health may deteriorate some time antecedent tothe date of his accident and that would entitle him to take proceedings for the recovery of damages. Whether or not twelve months be sufficient I agree at least that it is not too long a period.
– We should put up a fence so that the honorable member may sit on it!
– I do not need a fence. I have always steadfastly stood by the workers and I shall continue to do so. Throughout the years when honorable members opposite were in office they bad ample opportunity to amend this legislation to give, greater, benefits to injured employees;- but they failed to tlo- so-
– We introduced the principal act.
– All the present Go* vernment is endeavouring to’ do in this hill is rectify the mistakes in the principal act. I cannot understand the reason, behind the bickering that is being indulged in by the two legal giants who sit in opposition. They should support the clause.
.- It was curious to hear the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) discussing the suggestions by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) and the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale) for the liberalization of the provisions of this bill in the interests of the workers whom honorable members opposite generally are 50 vocal in claiming to represent. So that there may be no misunderstanding f shall read the portion of the proposed new sub-section to which reference was made by the honorable member for Warringah and the honorable member for Parramatta. It is as follows: -
The employee shall not be entitled to take proceedings against the Commonwealth to recover damages unless he commences those proceedings within twelve months after the date upon which he received payment, or the first payment, of compensation under this act.
The honorable, member, for Warringah suggested that sub-section 3 of proposed new section 1.7a. may in the long run detrimentally affect those who may be entitled to benefit from this legislation. IE a similar provision were incorporated in the Australian. Soldiers’ RepatriationAct how would it operate? Every one knows that in the course of his employment an employee may be injured and that in respect of many injuries it is not possible to make a final settlement within a period of twelve months. As such a provision would’ be completely unsuited to cover claims for compensation, arising out of injuries received by a serviceman during the war, so also is it completely unsuited to provide for the rights of those Commonwealth employees who sustain injury in the course, of their employment in time of peace. The honorable member for Warringah and the honorable member for Parramatta, who have had long experience of cases of this kind in the courts, have a great knowledge of this subject and what they have said should not lightly be disregarded. For honorable members opposite to say that the meaning of the proposed new sub-section is clear is no answer to the criticism levelled against it by honorable members on this side of the chamber. It is no answer to that criticism merely to say that the draftsmen responsible for the wording of the proposed sub-section know what they are talking about. I am certain of only one thing and that is that the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) does not know what he is talking about.
– That portion of proposed new sub-section 3 of section 17a which was read by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) does not give rise to any complications. Like the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. .Spender), I should like the period during which an employee may take proceedings against the Commonwealth to recover damages to be extended. The honorable member for Warringah referred not to proposed new section 17a but to proposed new section 17. The honorable gentleman said that the provision in paragraph a of proposed new section 17, which states that an employee may take proceedings against some person other than the Commonwealth to recover damages and may also make a claim against the Commonwealth for compensation, but that he shall not be entitled to retain both damages and compensation, is likely to create legal difficulties. As a layman I have no desire to pit my knowledge against that of the honorable gentleman. I point out, however, that parliamentary draftsmen in the States and the Commonwealth use different language to express the same intention. I saw many instances of that when I was a member of the Commonwealth Housing Commission. The interpretations of the intention of the legislation is left to the courts. A judge in a State becomes accustomed to the style of phraseology used by the parliamentary draftsmen in that State.
– I shall not have that.
– Proposed new section 17 reads -
If an injury in respect of which compensation is payable under this Act is caused under circumstances which appear to create a legal liability in some person other than the Commonwealth to pay damages in respect of the injury -
the employee may take proceedings against that person to recover damages and may also make a claim against the Commonwealth for compensation, but shall not be entitled to retain both damages and compensation
The intention is perfectly clear. An injured person has the right to accept compensation and in addition to institute proceedings in a court for the recovery of damages. If he is awarded damages and compensation he is not entitled to retain both. Paragraph b of proposed new section 17 reads - (/)) the Commissioner may request the employee to take such proceedings and, where the employee takes such proceedings on the request of the Commissioner, the proceedings shall be conducted on the employee’s behalf at the expense of the Commonwealth.
That, too, is quite clear. Paragraph c reads -
If he had received £800 in compensation and was then awarded £1,000 damages in the court, he would be required to pay back £S00 to the Government, leaving him the £1,000 damages clear. Paragraph d is as follows: - (<i) upon notice to that person, the Commonwealth shall have a first charge on money.payable by that person to the employee to the extent of any compensation which the Com monwealth has paid to the employee under this Act;
That paragraph is designed to protect thiCommonwealth by giving it a first charge on moneys payable to the employee to theextent of any compensation which th, Commonwealth has paid under the act. T cannot see that the employee has anything to fear under that provision. Paragraph e states -
The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) regards the wording of that paragraph as difficult to understand. Perhaps he, as a lawyer, can see weaknesses in the wording which might lead to litigation. The paragraph might baw been phrased differently, but the meaning seems to me to be clear enough. Paragraph / reads - (/) payment of money by that person to the Commonwealth under the last preceding paragraph shall, to the extent of the amount paid, be a satisfaction of the liability of that person to the employee. ‘
That paragraph merely provides that a person, who has had a verdict given against him in the court for damages, may satisfy the verdict by paying to the Court monwealth the amount of damages stipulated. If there be any ambiguity or lack of clearness in the wording of those paragraphs, I am sure that we may leave it to the Government’s legal officers to suggest such amendments as may be necessary. I agree with the honorable member for Warringah that the period within which a claim may be made should be extended, if possible.
.- J should not have risen to speak a second time on this clause but for the observations of the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds). He suggested in a sneering way that members of the Opposition, in addressing themselves to this bill, were doing so for propaganda purposes, and were not really interested in the welfare of the workers. I remind the honorable member that it was a Liberal government in England which introduced the first workmen’s compensation legislation in 1905. It was a non-Labour government which sponsored the first workers’ compensation act in New South Wales, and it was a non-Labour government which brought in the first Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act. We have been just as alert to protect the interests of workers as have honorable members who support the present Government. Apparently, the honorable member was stung by my reply to an interjection which he made. I did not mention his name at the time because I could not remember it, but since he has directed public attention to the incident, se much the worse for him.. He has suggested that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender) and I know nothing about the workers. I remind him that persons like the honorable member for Warringah and myself have spent a lot of our time battling in the workers’ compensation courts for the workers, so that we may claim to know something about workers’ compensation.
– Yes, and getting well paid for it.
– -The honorable member receives £1,500 a year for pretending to further the interests of the workers in this House. We on this side of the House have drawn attention to the possible injustice that might result from limiting to twelve months the period during which an employee may claim compensation. On this issue, the honorable member for Herbert has sat on the’ fence, “ with both oars to the ground “, as some one who used that metaphor once added. If I may be permitted to mix my metaphors still further, he is seeking to trim his sails to every political breeze. He has not risen and stated that he, as a. Labour representative, insists upon the period being extended for more than twelve months, and he has not done so because caucus has him by the throat. We know that twelve months is not enough. The employee may not know before the end of twelve months that he is sick.
– That is what I said, also.
– The honorable member said so, but he was not game to act on his belief. I now ask the Minister to reconsider the matter, and to extend the period to three years, or to give the commissioner discretion to decide that, if a worker’s injury is latent, so that it does not become known to him until more than twelve months have elapsed, he may still benefit under the act.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 12 to 16 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 30th September (vide page 1069), on motion by Mr. HOLLOWAY -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of the bill before the House is to provide for medical services in respect of tuberculosis, and for other purposes. The Opposition agrees to the bill in principle, although we believe that certain amendments should be made. The bill provides for the setting up of an advisory council of Commonwealth and State exports, and the plan envisages - (1) Radiological and bacteriological examination to locate infected and infectious cases; (2) increased accommodation and staff to house and care for sufferers; (3) financial assistance to sufferers and their dependants; (4) after-care and rehabilitation of sufferers; (5) research and development in methods of diagnosis, treatment and control of tuberculosis. Power to introduce this measure is derived from section 51 of the Constitution, which, as amended by the 1946 referendum, gives to the Commonwealth power to legislate on social services. The
State governments will continue to administer control, and to utilize their existing organizations and facilities. By reimbursement to the States, the Commonwealth will bear the cost of all new approved capital expenditure from the 1st July, 1948. Estimates of capital expenditure for the current year approach £500,000. The Commonwealth will also bear the whole cost of maintenance expenditure incurred by the States in diagnosis, treatment, and control, during the year 1947-48. The Division of Tuberculosis of the Department of Health has been established by the Commonwealth Government. That division will assist the States with medical and technical advice. The bill also makes provision for payment by the Commonwealth of subsidies to universities or other institutions to promote and assist investigation and research, and to develop courses of medical training in relation to the problems of tuberculosis. By this bill, the DirectorGeneral is empowered to take steps for the establishment, or taking over and conduct of, hospitals, sanatoriums, laboratories, &c. Dealing with the power of the DirectorGeneral, the Minister, in his secondreading speech, referred only to “ the establishment of hospitals, sanatoriums, &c”. The bill, however, adds the words “ or taking over and conduct of “. This seems to be another small-scale effort by the Commonwealth to gather to itself extra powers which are probably unnecessary. The Commonwealth has been asked by the State governments to prepare model legislation for the States dealing with compulsorily radiological or other examinations of the public, or provision for the restraint of recalcitrant infectious patients, or the compulsory treatment of sufferers from tuberculosis. It is estimated that, at present, there are between 30,000 and 4.0,000 sufferers from tuberculosis in this country. The disease is a scourge which must be of very great national concern, and one which, undoubtedly, requires a concentrated attack. I believe that in this measure, the greater emphasis is laid upon the necessity to prevent the spread of tuberculosis rather than upon the actual prevention of the disease itself. The fundamental necessity is to get at the root of tuberculosis, and to embark immediately upon preventive measures. That point has not been sufficiently emphasized. The Government’s attitude to this problem is typical of its approach to other health problems which have been the subject of legislation introduced into this Parliament.
Another point which I believe to be well worth the attention of the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) and of the Government is the necessity for a real attack by the Commonwealth and States on tuberculosis by means of a general information campaign to educate the public. That could be achieved by much more intense efforts through the press, over the air, in newsreel theatres, in schools and by the use of posters. One of the most effective preventive measures would be to make the general public fully aware of the dangers, and of the symptoms of tuberculosis. Some work of that kind is being done at present, but it is not as extensive as it should be. Probably one of the best methods of tackling this disease would be to start in the schools. In the report of the Social Services Committee, of which the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) was a member, dated the 1st July, 1943, the following statement appeared under the heading “Detection of the disease in early stages “ : -
Proposals for the locating of sufferers from tuberculosis in its early stage, when a complete cure is most likely to result from prompt and expert treatment, which are endorsed by high medical authorities, include -
Then follows a description of the Mantoux “ test -
That, I believe, is a constructive proposal which suggests a sound method of reducing the incidence of tuberculosis in this country.
There is one other aspect of this problem which, I believe, has not been given the attention that it deserves. I refer to milk supplies throughout the Commonwealth. Recently the honorable member for fremantle (Mr.Beazley) spoke of the milk supply in the National Capital. More attention should be paid to the sterilizing and bottling of milk. In some parts of the Commonwealth, milk is not even bottled. That, in itself, is a national disgrace. I consider, also, that more extensive use could be made of drugs, the value of which has been proven. One of the most effective of these is streptomycin, which, I believe, could be used on a more liberal scale than it has been in the past. Clause 4 of the bill, upon which the honorable member for New England . (Mr. Abbott) will move an amendment at the committee stage, provides -
In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears - “ the Council “ means the Advisory Council established under this Act; “ the Director-General “ means the DirectorGeneral of Health of the Commonwealth ;
The purpose of the proposed amendment is that the “Director-General” mentioned in the definitions clause should be the Director-General of Medical Services for Tuberculosis, lt should be obvious to the Government that administration of the antituberculosis campaign should be carried out by the best qualified specialist in that disease. I have no doubt that the DirectorGeneral of Health is extremely com petent, but obviously he would not have the specialized knowledge of tuberculosis that is possessed by the Director-General of Medical Services for Tuberculosis.
I shall have more to say about this measure when it reaches the committee stage. In conclusion, I repeat that we of the Opposition view this bill favorably in its general principle. There are, however, one or two provisions which we believe, require mending.
– I am sure that the present measure gives great satisfaction to honorable members and will give similar satisfaction to the public generally. For many years there has been a strong desire in the States for more action to be taken to fight tuberculosis. Measures for the treatment of tuberculosis have been confined mainly to the States, although the advice of Dr. “Wunderly, the tuberculosis specialist of the Commonwealth Health Department has been available to them. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) referred to the bottling of milk. I do not wish people outside to infer that every honorable member of this Parliament thinks that all milk should be bottled, because 1 personally do not think that the bottling of milk is by any means a cure-all for the evils accompanying the distribution of milk. Some years ago I served on a parliamentary select committee that took evidence regarding metropolitan milk supplies. One of the leading medical men in Adelaide gave evidence regarding the supply of pasteurized milk in bottle!–. He said -
I consider that the best milk is the warm milk fresh from healthy cows milked in good, hygienic surroundings with all cleanliness, and with the person getting the milk as early fis possible after its being taken from the cow.
That doctor was speaking about milk obtained from places near a metropolitan area. I agree that when milk comes to a metropolitan area from places far away, pasteurization is the only effective method of ensuring its cleanliness. I do not agree, however, with any suggestion that all milk should be bottled, because I have seen too many instances in which the bottle, that the consumers are led to regard as the guarantee of cleanliness, does not come to them straight from flu- pasteurization plant as they imagine. The honorable member stated that he looked upon the bill as a measure to deal with cases of tuberculosis already existing, a nd not with prevention of the disease-
Mr.Falkinder. - I said, “ not sufficiently with prevention”.
– I consider that we should expend the greatest possible amount of money on research in matters such as this because the only way to make research really valuable is to make ample money available for it.
– Does not the honorable member consider that brains are also necessary?
– Brains are also necessary, but I think that the honorable member who has just interjected realizes that when research work into any major subject is started, it takes a long time to get very far. Sometimes quite a large amount of money is expended and the research work does not get very far at all. [ recollect that when I was a member of the South Australian Parliament I told the Adelaide University Council that it could always depend on my support if it applied to Parliament for money for real research. I shall offer similar support to the present measure.
Some clauses in the bill make provision for money for research work at universities. There is a provision for post-graduate scholarships. Research work connected with tuberculosis must be carried out, I believe, apart from any preventive measures taken. I find, after a considerable amount of reading on the problem of tuberculosis, that remarkably successful preventive work has been clone. There is no doubt that preventive work is intended not only to cure a sufferer from tuberculosis but also to prevent the contraction of the disease by those who, because of some condition in their constitutions, are predisposed to it. I consider that we must recognize that there are some people who contract almost any complaint very easily whilst others have a natural resistance to disease. Speaking as a layman, 1 find that there are many families in which tuberculosis is prevalent although not hereditary. There are certain weaknesses in the constitutions of members of those families that provide the conditions in which tuberculosis thrives.
Recently, 1 was pleased to see that the Federal and State Governments had agreed to conduct a campaign to eradicate tuberculosis from Australia.
He went on to describe what he understands the governments are doing, and then he stated -
Will there be compulsory X-rays? Is it impossible to completely remove the economic worry from the patient if he is a bread winner? . . .
Allow me to congratulate your Government on the first positive action for some years to tackle the problem. My only worry is that it may hasten too slowly.
I have quoted that letter not merely to give credit to the Government but also as a recognition by a member of the public that this measure represents the first positive step taken to combat tuberculosis-. I understand that all the Stale governments have agreed to co-operate in this matter, whether they be Labour party, Liberal party, or LiberalCountry party governments. That man’s question regarding compulsory X-ray treatment has already been partly answered by the Minister in his secondreading speech, when he said that it was doubtful whether the Constitution would permit the use of compulsion in any scheme to X-ray patients. There is no provision in the bill for compulsory X-ray examination
– The governments of the States have promised to introduce legislation for that purpose.
– Such legislation may overcome the difficulty, but I know, as a former State parliamentarian, that it is difficult to get State parliaments to agree to compulsory examinations of such a kind. I hope that more success will be met with in the present instance. Regarding the economic side of the question, I have followed the history of several cases of tuberculosis over a period of from fifteen to twenty years, and my experience is that a big step forward will have been taken once the economic difficulties associated with the treatment of tuberculosis have been overcome. My experience has been that where a person is definitely suffering from tuberculosis and has gone into hospital, received treatment and has been brought back to a stage where he may return to work, the economic position of his family makes him return to work too 30on after his release from hospital and in a year or two his condition has deteriorated. I consider that the present measure makes definite provision to overcome the economic difficulty. Honorable members know what action has been taken to overcome the economic difficulties regarding treatment of soldier sufferers at repatriation hospitals. The Government has realized the importance of relieving sufferers from tuberculosis of causes of worry. A breadwinner who feels satisfied that the economic position of his dependants will be secure while he is an inmate of a sanatorium, will enter hospital more readily, and may respond to treatment more quickly than he would if he were labouring under an anxiety about their welfare. Another advantage of the financial assistance which the Commonwealth is providing is that sufferers will be able to remain longer in sanatoriums than in the past, when many of them were obliged to return to their occupations, before their cure had been completed, in order to maintain their families. Honorable members are doubtless aware that some invalid pensioners who are suffering from tuberculosis frequently “ drop their bundle “. After treatment for a few months, they may return to work for a short period, but the renewed onset of the disease again forces them to enter institutions. In a comparatively brief space, they lose heart. Under this bill, particular attention will be paid to the rehabilitation of sufferers from tuberculosis. They will be able to engage in occupations which will produce in them a feeling of economic security but will not be so arduous as to cause a renewed attack of the disease.
The Commonwealth must rely on the assistance of the States to implement its campaign against tuberculosis. For several years, members of the Parliament of South Australia have been pursuing a vigorous campaign for the provision of additional treatment facilities. Some honorable members from distant States may not be aware that sufferers from tuberculosis receive treatment in special homes, or institutions in the Adelaide hills. Members of the State Parliament have taken Commonwealth Ministers on visits to those institutions, and have urged the Commonwealth to provide financial assistance to enable the State Government to erect additional buildings for the patients and staff. The bill provides for radiological and bacteriological examination to locate infected and infectious cases, for increased accommodation and additional staff to house, and care for sufferers, for financial assistance to sufferers and their dependants, for after-care and rehabilitation of sufferers, and for research and development in methods of diagnosis, treatment and control of tuberculosis. The’ Commonwealth will bear the cost, by reimbursement to the States of all new approved capital expenditure of the States from the 1st July last for land, buildings, equipment and plant for use in the diagnosis, treatment and control of tuberculosis. The estimated expenditure in that field alone for the current financial year is approximately £500,000. I hope that the various States will be able to obtain the necessary labour and materials for the requisite building programme. Some honorable members contend that homes for the people should have first priority, and whilst I recognize the importance of that claim. I recognize that the Commonwealth has responsibilities for the health and education of the people, and a percentage of the labour and materials available should be ear-marked for the erection of hospitals, including institutions for the treatment of sufferers from tuberculosis. The Minister in his second-reading speech stated -
The campaign against tuberculosis is planned largely along lines recommended by the Commonwealth Director of the Division of Tuberculosis, after a survey in all States. The plan has been drawn in consultation with all State Ministers of Health, and was approved by the Premiers in conference in. Canberra.
The general means of combating tuberculosis are so well known that I need not relate them at length this evening. If a sufferer can receive treatment when the disease is still in the early stages, he has
– The Commonwealth ha* not obtained the services of the outstanding authority on tuberculosis, and is preventing him from taking part.”
- Dr. Wunderly, to whom, the honorable member for New England (Mr. Abbott) presumably refers, agrees with the Government’s campaign, and I assume that the Government will avail itself fully of his services, as well as the services of any other medical practitioner who desires to take part in the campaign against tuberculosis. Dr. Cowan, of Adelaide, has performed wonderful work in the treatment of tuberculosis but I know that, in the State Government, which is not a Labour administration, a certain amount of friction has occurred in connexion with his activities. In all branches of science, experts sometimes disagree. However-, ] am confident that the Government will avail itself of the services of any medical practitioner who is qualified to participate in a campaign against tuberculosis. I whole-heartedly support this legislation and hope that the States will co-operate with the Government in making the best use of the funds and facilities that will be placed at their disposal in this- fight against the scourge of tuberculosis.
.- I congratulate the Government upon introducing this measure if it means that the Commonwealth and the States are going to co-operate to the fullest possible degree iri dealing with the problem of the tr’eatment and eradication of tuberculosis in a systematic way. The method of procedure is set out iii clause 5 which provides that “ the Governor-General may enter into an arrangement with the Governor of a State for the provision by the .State, subject to agreed conditions, of services and facilities for the diagnosis, treatment and control of tuberculosis “. If the Government were to adopt a similar policy in dealing with all other medical and social problems and used State activities to the fullest possible degree if would’ make very much more progress iri this sphere. The first essential is the provision of adequate funds for the purpose of dealing with this problem because any half-hearted attack upon the disease’ will Be absolutely useless. Secondly, safeguards should be provided to ensure that the States shall use the money in accordance with the policy la’id down by the Commonwealth [ congratulate the’ Government upon having secured the services of Dr.” H. W. Wunderly as the Commonwealth Director of Tuberculosis. . The Government is- fortunate, indeed, in that respect. I also congratulate Dr. Wunderly upon the practical nature- of the report that he has submitted on this subject as a whole. However, I- am disappointed with both the measure itself and the second-reading speech made by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), who represents the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) in this chamber. The bill should be more specific. I-f this plan is to succeed, the Government must provide substantial sums of money. Therefore, the bill should contain specific safeguards similar to those provided in the Federal Aid Roads Act and other legislation which provides for specific liaison between the Commonwealth and the States. The measure should embody a schedule with a definite agreement as to what the States shall do over a period of years with the money to be made available to them. Only in that way can the Government ensure that the money shall not be wasted. Various attacks have been made upon my administration when I was Treasurer, but I challenge my critics to cite- one instance” in which I did not safeguard the expenditure of Commonwealth money made available to the States. I always ensured that Commonwealth policy would be carried out under such arrangements which were expressed in specific agreements embodied in the relevant measures.
The compaign against tuberculosis, if it is to succeed, must be realistic and practical. It is necessary, first, to consider the tools which we have at our disposal. The first set of tools we must secure are the supplies and equipment necessary to make ait effective attack upon this great scourge. Those supplies mid equipment must be adequate and of the right quality, and they must also be placed in strategic positions. The pre vention and eradication of tuberculosis will be’ obtained only by the successful treatment of suffer el’s from- the disease” and by the prevention of future” infection. I. shall set out briefly what I believe from my medical and administrative experienceto be the right method of attacking this whole problem. I make it clear that I approach this matter in an objective way, and- readily place my experience at the disposal of the Government because I am concerned only with the success of these measures and with the preservation of the health of the nation. Dealing first with the supply side, we must commence with .the human element, the personnel, and ensure the most efficient and economical method of utilizing the staff that is available for treatment, such as doctors, nurses and hospital staff generally. We must also maintain an adequate supply of personnel to cope with the work as the plan progresses. Secondly, on the supply side is the provision of adequate and efficient hospital buildings and beds for patients, and linked with that there must be- the most economical use of hospital and sanatorium capacity. In those institutions, we must provide adequate specialized equipment for the diagnosis and treatment of the disease, and they must he placed in strategic positions. A method must be evolved for the training of doctors to enable them .to become more efficient in diagnosing and treating the disease. This will involve treatment in clinics and thoracic wings in hospitals and convalescent homes. Next comes the problem of the rehabilitation and after treatment of patients cured of the disease in order to ensure that they shall not contract it again. General rules must be laid down for the prevention of infection by both general and specific means, and research must be undertaken into the modes of spread of infection and the manner in which the tuberculosis organism defends itself against all attacks which have been perfected by the medical profession. Finally, and’ perhaps the most important aspect of all, we must ensure the financial security and full nutrition of the relatives and contacts of patients. For this purpose we must undertake an educational campaign to ensure the whole-hearted co-operation of the community in carrying out these measures. Those are the tools which we require to fight the disease, and they must be adequate, efficient and up-to-date in every respect.
However, the measure does not make specific provision in respect of those matters. It does not contain any definite arrangement to be made with the States as to how and when these things should be done. The bill simply provides for making money available for these purposes, but does not contain sufficient safeguards to ensure satisfactory results. More specific safeguards must be provided to ensure that the Commonwealth’s policy shall be adequately carried out and that the money shall not be frittered away. The Government is also lucky in having at its hand the comprehensive report of Dr. Wunderly which throws considerable light upon the problem of tuberculosis as it exists at present and sets out methods of meeting that problem. I urge all honorable members to study that report carefully because it is most practical. Before dealing with the provision of sufficient human personnel for the treatment of sufferers from the disease, I point out that it is absolutely necessary to pool all existing resources, both human and otherwise, for treatment of all kinds.
Tuberculosis among ex-servicemen is a very grave problem. Much has been, and is being, done by the Repatriation Department. It is essential that there shall be the closest co-ordination of repatriation and civilian treatment. It may be possible to keep independent institutions for soldiers and civilians in the bigger capital cities and large rural centres, but the continuous maintenance everywhere of separate treatment of those two sections would be wasteful of trained staff and uneconomical. If separation of service and civilian sections is desired it should he possible to arrange that the patients be treated in separate wings of the same hospital and that service medical personnel be ensured to the ex-soldiers. That combination of effort would mean a bigger medical service numerically, and make the service more attractive to young doctors who are seeking a career. The pooling of the physical resources in this way would enable the best use to be made of our most modern equipment. As most of the contacts of ex-service patients are civilians, their cases must be investigated and treated by civilian practitioners. Therefore, it is necessary at the very beginning of this campaign that there should be a declaration of policy by the Australian Government that it will pool staff, beds and equipment. Just as peace is indivisible so the fight against tuberculosis, is indivisible. The greatest need on the supply side is sufficient skilled physicians, surgeons, radiologists, radiographers, pathologists and bacteriologists. The first task is to train our medical officers for the special work of curing and preventing tuberculosis. Few beds for patients suffering from tuberculosis are available at the general teaching hospitals. Indeed, the admission of tuberculosis cases is rather frowned upon because of the risk of infection of other patients and the difficulty of isolation. The shortage of clinical buildings and equipment can be overcome in part by the establishment of chest clinics and thoracic wings in all the large teaching hospitals. This would enable resident medical officers in these institutions to spend one month in their first year, and two months in their second year of residence in treating tuberculous cases. Postgraduate courses could be arranged at those institutions, especially if sanatoriums were closely asociated with teaching hospitals. To get advanced specialists, especially in thoracic surgery, it would be worthwhile to encourage appropriate medical officers to spend at least a year abroad in special training. Scholarships should be made available for that purpose. That also applies to other specialists in the tuberculosis field. It must be emphasized, however, that first-class men will be attracted to this most important side of medical practice only by first-class remuneration and conditions. In addition, the pooling of all our medical resources for both repatriation and civilian purposes would help by enhancing the opportunities for advancement.
The training of nurses is as important as is the training of doctors. Buildings and beds are useless if they are not fully staffed ; in fact, at the present time, some of our tuberculosis hospitals are using only half their beds because of the lack of staff. The nursing profession should be made as attractive as possible, and that can be achieved by introducing the improvements and amenities which I have indicated. In the first place nurses should receive adequate remuneration. They should certainly not be expected to work for less than the amount paid to waitresses, shop assistants and others who do not have to spend long years of training. The best possible living and working conditions should also be provided thus reducing the risk of infection, particularly of nurses engaged in caring for patients suffering from tuberculosis. “We must remember that sick people are not usually good tempered, and that when nurses have been looking after patients for eight or ten hours a day it is essential that decent living conditions should be provided for them, including the opportunity to enjoy proper social intercourse. Many country hospitals have been erected on the outskirts of towns, usually alongside cemeteries, and the location of the buildings, mid their surroundings certainly do not attract young women who might consider entering the profession. Provision should be made to enable nurses at hospitals situated outside country towns to visit the towns frequently. In the nurses’ quarters in such hospitals it is particularly important that proper provision be made for study and relaxation, and that facilities be provided for them to entertain their friends The hospitals themselves should be so constructed as to admit adequate fresh air, and the sites chosen should be as far removed as possible from industrial centres, where smoke and grime predominate. One of the most interesting features of Dr. Wunderly’s report is the reference to an innovation at the Westwood Sanatorium near Rockhampton, Queensland, which has succeeded in attracting a much greater number of recruits to the nursing profession. The members of the nursing staff work five weeks of 48 hours each, which is five half-days more than the award provides, and at the end of that time they receive three days’ leave on full pay, so that every six weeks they are off duty for a week on full pay. During that period the . nurses obtain a complete rest. After twelve months’ service the nurses receive six weeks’ leave on full pay. The Country Hospitals Board maintains a hostel at Yepoon for the benefit of the staffs of country hospitals, at which the nurses are charged only 2s. 6d. a day for bed and breakfast. The result of that innovation is that local institutions are well staffed.
Honorable members will realize the importance of . retaining the services of nurses, particularly in institutions for the treatment of patients suffering from tuberculosis. Because of the acute shortage of nurses at the Repatriation Hospital at Randwick, which has 240 beds, only 107 are occupied, and at the State Sanatorium at Waterfall, which has 468 beds, only 228 are occupied. I shall show presently how great is the shortage of beds for the accommodation and treatment of tuberculous patients in other States. It is obvious that if proper conditions were provided to induce young women to enter the nursing profession now many of them would complete their training at approximately the same time as the institutions which are now in course of construction were completed.
That brings me to a discussion of the irreducible minimum of hospital buildings and beds that are necessary to, solve the problem. In the medical profession it - is generally estimated that each State needs at least three beds for every death that occurs from tuberculosis in a year.’ On that basis we are short of hundreds of beds throughout Australia, and the shortage is even more pronounced because beds that could otherwise be used are not in use owing to the shortage of nurses and staff.
In Queensland the number of deaths from tuberculosis last year was 323, so that at least 969 beds are needed foi patients suffering from tuberculosis in the State. To meet the deficiency of several hundred beds, a 600-bed multi-story block is planned in Brisbane for active cases, and an 80-bed double-story block for chronic cases. In Victoria the number of deaths from this disease last year was 711, so that the number of beds needed is 2,133. There are 1,339 beds actually available, and 288 under construction, so that the deficiency is 506 beds. In South Australia, where 201 deaths occurred last year, 603 beds are required. Three hundred and eighty-three beds are provided so that there is a deficiency of 220 beds. I shall not weary the House with illustrations of the position in other States. I have said sufficient to show how desperate is the need of new buildings.
The shortage of beds means that the available beds must be used to the greatest advantage, which emphasizes the necessity for the fullest co-operation in the activities of the repatriation’ and civil tuberculosis services. For instance, in South Australia, of the 383 beds available, 255 are situated in sanatoriums and 128 in repatriation hospitals. Those beds, and those in new hospital buildings, must be used to the best advantage to overcome the existing deficiency. In new buildings provision should be made for four types of cases, namely, acute patients who have a good chance of recovery, acute cases who have no chance, chronic patients with infected sputum, and chronic patients whose infection is of a quiescent nature who need to be afforded an opportunity to rest in a convalescent home before discharge.
In choosing sites for these hospitals every attempt should be made to provide two advantages : First, the hospitals should be situated in healthy, airy situations away from industrial centres where dirt, dust and grime predominate^ and, secondly, the buildings should be situated so as to allow nurses to enjoy their freedom without being too isolated from outside social activities. Experience of the operation of hospitals and sanatoriums has shown that it is uneconomical to provide for fewer than 200 beds. However, it has also been found that the treatment of patients becomes too impersonal if the number of beds is greater than from 400 to 500. It must also be remembered that tuberculosis is frequently a chronic disease, which means that patients must stay for many months in those institutions. Therefore, attractive surroundings and comfortable wards and rooms, which are artistically arranged, are of material help in making the patient satisfied with his treatment and assisting his cure. I have already mentioned the fact that the provision of such conditions assists to attract and retain staff. The provision of small laundries and kitchenettes, conveniently situated, and proper housing for staff should be given proper consideration in all building plans.
I point out that at present very few thoracic wings exist in the teaching hospitals. The establishment of additional wings of that nature in the various teaching hospitals throughout the Commonwealth would prove of inestimable value in connexion with the training of doctors to combat the menace of this disease. On the other hand, there should be in existence throughout this country numerous chest clinics, each containing about twenty beds. Those clinics should be suitable for use as observation wards and could, if necessary, be used as temporary accommodation for patients, and for the treatment of special patients. Whilst each of those clinics could serve a population of between 100,000 and 200,000 people, I contend that wherever possible additional chest clinics should be established in order to serve smaller numbers, because of the difficulties of both the patients and the medical staff associated with travelling.
It is essential that the most modern radiological and bacteriological equipment obtainable should be installed in the sanatoriums, and in the thoracic wings at hospitals. In addition to the treatment of known sufferers from tuberculosis, a thorough examination of all sections of the public should be undertaken. This herculean task could be faced by routine examinations being made of ex-service men and women whose cases come up periodically for review in connexion with the payment of pensions, and the provision of treatment. As a matter of course, those persons could be X-rayed, and an examination made of their sputum. No great difficulty would appear to exist in the making of routine examinations of both out-patients and in-patients in the general hospitals. Furthermore, if it were possible to induce private medical practitioners to notify immediately all cases in which the presence of the disease is suspected, the persons so suspected of being infected could be required to attend at public health centres for thorough examination. Even if beds were not available in hospitals to accommodate all persons found to be infected, suitable steps could be taken to prevent their spreading the disease. Honorable members will remember that when the pensions payable to ex-service personnel who remained in hospital for treatment for tuberculosis were reduced considerably after a certain period of hospitalization, and those patients, as a result, frequently left the hospitals and returned to their bornes before being cured completely, the incidence of tuberculosis amongst children was much higher than it is at present.
The first step to be taken in such a campaign must be the examination of all persons suspected of being infected. The assistance of the States by the introduction of legislation to restrain recalcitrant patients would have to be sought. Such persons should not be permitted to move freely in the community, thereby spreading the disease. Whilst in some quarters it ha9 been suggested that compulsion should not he exercised in this direction, I contend that the only satisfactory manner in which to approach the task of eliminating this scourge from the community is by a compulsory radiological examination of the entire population. I point out that there already exists some degree of compulsion in this country. Diphtheria and typhoid are notifiable diseases, and when specific cases are brought to the notice of the health authorities, appropriate steps are taken to prevent people so infected from becoming a danger to the community in general. It is imperative that such a provision should exist in any civilized community, if the spread of disease is to be combated. The people living in the areas which are known to be badly infected should be the first to be examined. In industrial areas, such as in mining districts, where the incidence of tuberculosis is high, residents should be compelled to submit to radiological tests, and, if necessary, sputum tests. Members of communities who handle food in its various processes should be subjected to examination, since food is recognized as a medium for the spread of this disease. Educational staffs could also be examined without great difficulty. Teachers at our universities and schools, staffs at those, institutions, and high school students, could readily be examined. In addition, prospective employees in the transport, services could be examined before appointment, and the. re-examination of all employees in those services could also be organized readily. I point out thai prospective members of the permanent staff of the Public Service are thoroughly examined before appointment, and I cannot see any reason why temporary employees should not also be examined for tuberculosis. Examinations could also be carried out at antenatal clinics. Honorable members will, therefore, see that already large sections of the community are codified, and the task of organizing the examination of the remaining sections of the people could be handled without any great difficulty being experienced.
Having completed a thorough examination of the population and secured the necessary medical and nursing staffs, equipment for hospitals, and all other things necessary^ the matter of curing the patient must then be handled scientifically. In this connexion I point out that the after-care of patients is most important; if within a reasonable period such people are not required to report for re-examination to the institution from which they were discharged in some cases they may suffer a relapse. It would be futile to attempt to solve this problem by half measures. The re-examination of expatients is most important. That should take place at regular intervals until the examining authority obtains a bacteriological negative. If necessary, the re-examinations should be carried out at intervals over several years. Upon their discharge from sanatoriums, patients should be directed that at the least sign of fatigue or loss of weight they should return to the institution for reexamination and further treatment if necessary.
The rehabilitation of ex-patients is a most important aspect of the matter, which has received a lot of attention in England, where ex-patients now perform a large amount of work. At present there are, in that country, fewer than 35,000 cases in which tuberculosis has been arrested and ex-patients have not returned in their employment. No less than 80 pur cent, of the people, who have been cured there, have returned to their work, under village systems and in sheltered industries in their own homes.
In order to implement the scheme that I have suggested, the provision of 6,500 beds would be necessary in Australia, including those already available, to meet the needs of patients suffering from tuberculosis. I stress that a great deal of consideration must be given to the matter of deciding the areas in which tuberculosis hospitals and chest clinics should be established, due regard being paid to the probability of nursing staff and orderlies remaining there. In addition, the sites selected should be reasonably attractive.
I should like to see a schedule added to the bill to provide for a definite agreement with the various States, and also that provision he made for the expenditure of a specific sum of money during the next five or ten years for this purpose. “Whilst I agree that the States could best control the hospitals to be established for this purpose, as the Commonwealth will ‘ be providing substantial sums of money, it should retain some measure of control. It must be realized, of course, that the treatment of tuberculous ex-service men and women is the responsibility of the Repatriation Department exclusively. There is no reason why that care should not be given in conjunction with that of the rest of the civilian population. I hope that, as a result of this debate, the Minister will say whether any specific agreements have been made with the States and, if not, when we may expect them.
– I rise to support this bill with a good deal of satisfaction and pleasure. For some years I had the privilege, in company with other honorable members of this House, including the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan), of being associated with a joint parliamentary committee that was established to investigate, among other things, the problem of the treatment and cure of tuberculosis in Australia. I believe that, having taken evidence from many persons who are interested in the treatment and cure of tuberculosis in this country and from others who have had the opportunity to study the treatment and cure of thedisease in other parts of the world, thecommittee, of which I had the honour to be chairman, was very well informed: as to the opinion of medical men and: other interested people in connexion with this matter. The committee found that if there was one question on which there was almost universal agreement among; the medical profession it was the treatment and cure of patients suffering from tuberculosis. In its report of the 1st July, 1943, the committee made some positive recommendations. Having had the advice and guidance of the medical’ profession, its members felt that there was almost complete agreement upon how the problem should he dealt with.
I find myself, at least to some degree, in agreement with what wassaid by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). This bill represents an overall plan that has beenworked out by experts in the department,-, notably Doctor Wunderly, who made the report to which the right honorable gentleman referred some time ago, but not until he had made a complete survey of the incidence of tuberculosis in Australia and the States had agreed with the Australian Government on a common plan for dealing with the disease on an Australia-wide basis. This problem has been a thorny one for many years, and it is to the credit of the right honorablE member for Cowper that he has taken great interest in it. However, for some reason, nothing much was done until recently to attack it on a national basis. That was probably because the Australian Government did not possess the necessary constitutional power to do so, and also to some extent because the States could not agree on a common plan. Another important reason was that the public was not favorably disposed to the expenditure of the large sums of money that are involved in dealing with this problem. However, owing to the growth of education and the activities of various organizations, the public mind is now attuned to a sympathetic approach to it. Some of the credit for that must be given to the National Health and Medical Research Council. It was not until the Menzies Government appointed the Social Security Committee to investigate social problems that the public conscience was really awakened in regard to tuberculosis. The committee formed the opinion that it was largely an economic problem. Every one who gave evidence before the committee and with whom the members talked privately agreed that it was useless to put patients suffering from tuberculosis into hospital without providing for the economic needs of their dependants. In its report, the committee stated -
Expert medical opinion considers that the essential activities of a tuberculosis service can be broadly grouped under three main headings -
1 ) Search for persons who have a tuberculosis infection sufficiently developed to warrant the use of the word “ disease “, either active or inactive;
Treatment of the disease in a sanatorium; and
After-care and rehabilitation of patients discharged from the sanatorium. because of the economic factor already referred to, the patient where he is the breadwinner is reluctant to stop work and leave his family unprovided for, until with the development of the disease his physical condition compels him to do so. He is then in a much more serious condition and the prospects of a cure are proportionately lessened. Meanwhile, his family and associates have been exposed to active infection.
In evidence before the committee, Dr. Bruce White, who has had considerable specialist experience in tuberculosis, said -
I regard the tuberculosis problem as being essentially an economic one. The disease, in my opinion, definitely thrives in conditions of poverty. Those patients whose economic status is good on the whole do far better than the poor. I attribute this largely to freedom from want, and, to a certain extent, freedom from worryalthough even amongst the wealthy a certain amount of worry about the complaint must always exist.
The committee recommended that the economic needs of the patients and those associated with them should be provided for. Until we do that there can be no hope of getting the people to report for examination in the first place. It is all very well to say that compulsion should be exercised, but we must first provide accommodation for the treatment of patients. Moreover, until we are able to do that, I think it most unwise to go on a casefinding expedition. The right honorable member for Cowper proposed a long-range plan for the treatment of tuberculosis that would extend over a number of years. We are now considering a bill, prepared by the Government’s experts and drawn in legal phraseology, providing for a plan involving the co-operation of the Commonwealth and the States.
This Government will finance the erection of new hospitals and will provide the money for the operation of the plan. That arrangement and provision for the economic needs of those who suffer from this dread disease represents the first big forward step in the campaign. I am in complete agreement with the plan that is proposed by the Government because of its realism. The right honorable member for Cowper said that tuberculosis should be attacked step by step, beginning first with the training of doctors and nurses to lead the campaign. I do not disagree with him on that point. The Government has thought of all that, and has made provision accordingly in the overall plan which the bill will put into effect. The Government has an expert of very considerable standing at the head of the Department of Health. He has studied the problem of tuberculosis and the difficulties associated with its adequate treatment throughout Australia. As a first step, the Government has accepted his advice. That deals with the civilian aspect of the campaign. The right honorable member for Cowper also referred to repatriation treatment. During the last few years, I have had to make a close study of the repatriation aspect of this problem. The Repatriation Commission also has the advantage of expert advice on tuberculosis from Dr. Pennington. I am confident that there is complete harmony and co-operation on this subject between the experts of the Department of Social Services and the Repatriation Commission. There again, the Government has made a forward step. In addition, with my approval, which was readily given some time ago. Dr. Pennington conducts classes for students and others who are interested in eliminating the scourge of tuberculosis, at Heidelberg military hospital, where lectures on all- aspects of the-disease’ are” given. That represents’ another forward step in the campaign.
Et has been no mean feat to secure the agreement of. the States to operate a common plan. The bill is evidence of our success in that direction. It provides the framework of a plan which will take some years to complete. The right honorable member for Cowper, in suggesting that the Repatriation Commission ought to be more co-operative in the war on tuberculosis, said that vacant beds were being wasted. He referred specifically to South Australia. There is no need for me to deal with his comments at length. I merely point out that they were very wide of the mark. There is no real provision for the treatment of tuberculous patients in the repatriation hospital’ at Springbank in South Australia. However, a hospital is to be built specially for this purpose iri the repatriation block at Springbank. This will be done with the co-operation of the Australian. Red Cross Society, which proposes to expend a considerable sum of money on the project. Arrangements for the undertaking were completed only a few weeks ago, when I last visited South Australia. Co-operation between Commonwealth and State bodies has been planned in detail. A scheme has already been prepared by the Minister for Heal th (Senator McKenna), myself, and the State Minister, for Health for the construction of two tuberculosis hospitals in Tasmania. A multi-storied building will be erected in the southern partof the island, and a. chalet type of Building in the northern part. These hospitals will be used jointly by the Commonwealth and the State because the State is not able, on account of its small population, to conduct two such establishments on its own behalf. That plan will be put into effect as soon as possible. The repatriation specialist, Dr. Pennington, also conducts a number- of operations on civilian patients suffering from ‘tuberculosis whenever he visits Tasmania because the State, has no specialist to do that work. That illustrates the degree of co-operation that prevails between Commonwealth departments and the States.
This- bill also provides a plan which will open a . broader field of work: It will take some years to work out because of the physical difficulties associated with it, but at least: it is sound. I regretted the reference that was made” earlier this evening by the honorable ‘member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder)^ who said that the bill looked like another effort by the Australian Government to extend its powers. There is no suggestion of the Commonwealth gaining greater, power in this respect. Certain powers were transferred to it from the States by the decision of the people at. a recent referendum. Then is complete agreement between Minister? of the Commonwealth and the States. Irrespective of political views, they all agree that the plan should, proceed. Therefore, there is no foundation for the suggestion that the Commonwealth is seeking to gain, extra power for itself. It will provide all the money that is necessary for capital works and the’ running cost’s of the scheme. Although a figure of £500,000 has been mentioned, there is nothing to provide. that, two or three years hence, the cost of the- campaign against tuberculosis shall not be £2,000,000 a year. I do not think that I betray any confidence when. I say that the Government is fully alive to the possibility of increased expenditure. In fact, the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) often talks about the possibility, because he is specially inter1 ested in the campaign. This is a field in which we can make definite progress because we have the States in agreement with us and we can go forward step by step as the physical difficulties are overcome. The right honorable member for Cowper has referred to the training of nurses. That is a real problem, but it is by no means a new one. It has been developing for a- number of years, though it has become more acute during and since the war years. There are reasons for the shortage of nurses which I need not traverse’ now. . The Repatriation Department is alive to the existence of that problem and the need for the institution of measures to overcome it. Schools for the training of nurses have already been established in three States, and it is hoped that within the next few months schools will be established in all States with the exception of Tasmania.
The Commissionerfor Repatriation and I agreed that it was not fair, for the Repatriation Department, with 8,000 beds throughout the Commonwealth, to draw on the pool of trained nurses available for civilian nursing for the purpose of staffing our hospitals. We agreed to take a share in the training of nurses. Training schools have already been established in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. Additional training schools will, J hope, be established in Queensland and Western Australia at an early date.
I issue a word of warning that we have not yet reached the stage when we should no longer regard ex-servicemen as a privileged class. For many years, the tuberculosis sections of the repatriation hospitals will be operated as separate units in our hospitalization programme. [ believe that there is a sufficiently large field for the Department of Social Services and its specialists working among the civilian population to co-operate with the Repatriation Department. Indeed, an arrangement has already been made between those two departments under which civilian patients are admitted to repatriation hospitals where sufficient beds are available to accommodate them. That arrangement hasworkedout very satisfactorily. In that way, we are endeavouring to lighten the burden on the civilian hospitals, and to provide some relief for those unfortunate sufferers who have some hope of recovery. [ give my blessing to the bill. I believe it to be a good measure which goes as far as we are able to go at present, and to be sufficiently comprehensive to cover the needs of the whole of the community as they are estimated at present.
The provision for specialist services is adequate and satisfactory. Specialists who work in the field of tuberculosis will have sufficient elbow room to do a good job. They will be able to advise the Ministers on all aspects of the treatment and prevention of tuberculosis. This is a most humane piece of legislation, and I do not believe that there will be any real opposition to it, as there is nothing controversial in it. I trust that it will be given a speedy passage, and that its principal provisions will be given effect in the near future. Experts in the -field of tuberculosis treatment not only in Australia but also abroad have told me that if the problem of tuberculosis be tackled courageously, the scourge will be removed from our, midst within a reasonable period. We are prepared to use expert guidance wherever possible. In our planning, we shall provide for the economic needs of those who require hospital treatment and rehabilitation training when they have reached a certain stage in their progress towards complete restoration of health. We shall provide these facilities, as have Dr. Cowan in South Australia, and Dr. Henzell in Western Australia, and other noted medical men throughout the world. Colonies will have to be established in which sufferers from tuberculosis who have progressed to a certain stage of recovery may he accommodated with their dependants. All of those things cannot be done overnight. The bill constitutes an important step towards the solution of the problem of tuberculosis, and, accordingly, I give it my wholehearted support.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Ryan) adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
CommonwealthPublic Service Act - Appointments - Departments -
Defence - R. O. D. Noone, A. T. Smith, N.A. Vickery.
Prime . Minister - J.E. Richardson.
PapuaNew Guinea ProvisionalAdministration Act - Ordinances - 1 948 -
No. 9 - Co-operative Societies.
No. 10 - Customs Tariff (Papua).
No. 11 - Customs Tariff (New Guinea).
House adjourned at 1 1.12 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 to 5. During 1047 the Commonwealth Government deposited at the Bank of England in London an amount of 240,138.377 fine oz. of gold to the account of the International Monetary Fund and an amount of 114,285.714 line ox. of gold to the account of the Intern*tional Bank for Reconstruction and Development. These deposits were made in accordance with our obligations under the Articles of Agreement of the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank. The value nf the gold so deposited was f A3, 814,489, equivalent to $12,404,843. No other sales, exports, >r deposits of gold have been made by the Commonwealth Government during the years referred to.
d. - On the 21st October, i he honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) asked a question regarding the shortage of washing soda in Victoria. I have made inquiries into the matter and now advise the honorable member as follows : -
There is an acute shortage of washing soda i and the Grocers Association of Victoria advise i.hat they have had no worthwhile stocks since March, 1947. Manufacturers- state that the position has arisen through the shortage of soda ash, which is an essential ingredient. Caustic soda, another ingredient, is also in =hort supply, but the position is steadily hu proving. The supply of soda ash is also improving. I understand that manufacturers :ire maintaining supplies to hospitals and essential institutions, but will not manufacture for the general public. I might point out that the Commonwealth Government has no control over the price, the production or the distribution of either caustic soda or soda ash.
Publication “ Taxation and the Economy “.
asked the Treasurer, upon n alice -
y. - The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows: - 1 to 4. One thousand copies of this paper were ordered by the Treasury for departmental distribution. The cost of printing was £38 9s. 4d., and cost of distribution approximately £3. ‘.these charges were mot by the Treasury. Two thousand copies were obtained from the Government Printer by the Federal Parliamentary Labour party and paid for by that party.
n asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
With reference to the question asked by the honorable member for Bendigo on the 2nd September, regarding a statement in a- Sydney weekly newspaper concerning ex-servicemen in asylums, is the Minister yet in a position to give a detailed reply to the allegations contained in the article.
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The figures quoted in the article referred to are misleading. The number of ex-service personnel in mental institutions in each State, whose mental conditions have been accepted by the Repatriation Commission or War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal as being related to war service, is as follows: -
Special accommodation has been provided for repatriation patients in each State, except Tasmania where the numbers have not up to the present justified such a course, though plans are in hand for the erection of a modern repatriation block. One of the most modern mental hospitals was opened in Queensland in January last, this cost the Commonwealth. £130,000 and, of the 88 beds in three wards. 58 of them are in single rooms. There is adequate supervision of the care of patients by visiting repatriation medical officers including supervision of adequacy of treatment, diet, and general comforts, &c. Departmental patients are segregated in all except special cases, and’ this plays an important part ‘in the welfare of these patients. Not only are repatriation! accepted cases accommodated in the special blocks, but also non-accepted suitable cases are there up to the capacity of the accommodation with the approval of the government of the State and the commission except in Victoria, where the Government will not agree. At the; request of my department a complete census of all inmates of State mental hospitals throughout the Commonwealth is at present being carried out, and it is hoped that, as a result, definite information willbe available to my department as to the total number of inmates who think they areex-members of the forces.
Sir Bernard Freyberg, V.C,
y. - On the 3rd November, the honorable member for Franklin (Mr, Falkinder) asked me a question concerning the visit to Australia of Their Excellencies the GovernorGeneral of New Zealand and Lady Freyberg. I desire to inform the honorable member as follows: -
As a result of his and other representations, I extended an invitation to Their Excellencies to visit Tasmania. I have pleasure in informing the honorable member thatthey have accepted. It is proposed that the period of the visit will be from the evening of arrival in Hobart on the 15th December until departure on the morning of the 17th December. The Premier of Tasmania has been informed of the proposal.
d. - On the 3rd November, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr.White) asked if I would investigate the export of electrical fittings, and zinc oxide with a view to ensuring that Australian requirements were met. I have made inquiries into this matter and now advise the honorable member as follows : - ,
There is a strict control over the export of electrical fittings such as bakelite switches, plugs and sockets. This control has been administered by my department since the 6th September, 1948, and prior to this date, the control was administered by the Division of Industrial Development of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. The control was imposed because of the necessity for meeting the demands of the housing ‘programme, and also because of the shortage of moulding powders which are used in the manufacture of these fittings. Exports of these fittings are severely limited, and are confined almost entirely to the mandated territories and certain islands in the SouthWest Pacific, for which Australia is the only source of supply, and whose postwar rehabilitation requirements must be at least partly met. Exports of electrical fittings to all destinations for the period July, 1947, to date amount to 3,310 dozen, which covers all types, and which is a minute proportion of total production of these fitting’s. No figures are. available for the period prior to July, 1947. From the information supplied, it will be seen that any local shortage is not due to excessive exports. With regard to zinc oxide there is a complete embargo on all exports.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 November 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1948/19481116_reps_18_199/>.