18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. My attention has been drawn to a speech by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) on the Appropriation Bill, in the course of which he made some reference to me which I strongly resent. I did not hear the honorable member’s speech, but my attention was drawn to his references to myself by the speech made by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr.Rankin), at a later stage in the same debate. The honorable member for Herbert, who has supplied me with a printer’s proof of his speech, is reported in Hansard to have said this about me -
When somebody asked him whether he would provide ships to send Communists to Russia, the gallant old gentleman said, “No. Let emswim “.
No one asked me such a question. This is a weak invention of the honorable member for Herbert, who continued -
There was a time when the right honorable member for North Sydney did not want to deport Communists.
He then went on to talk about organizations known as “ Aid toRussia Committees “ and said -
However, when Germany invaded Russia there was a tremendous stampede by anti-
Labour flag-wavers to join the Aid to Russia Committees alongside the Communists . . . We were fighting communism then, when many people who now accuse us of being either Communists or associates of Communists were working alongside Communists on those committees. They thought that the Communists were a great team of chaps in those days! One of the most ardent of those flag-wavers was the right honorable member for North Sydney, who said, when he shook hands with no less an identity than Jack Sharkey, “ The sins that you have committed in the past do nut matter, Comrade. We are pals now. Good on you, jack Sharkey! “
I can hardly believe that any one outside a mental home would give a second thought to this farrago of childish nonsense, but lest there should be people who . might be tempted to accept it at its face value, I desire to say that these statements are untrue. They are also silly. The honorable member’s statement that I called Sharkey “ Comrade “ is worse than silly; it is a wicked slander. I have never called any one “Comrade” in my life. Whenever I have had the power I have banned and interned members of the Communist party. Throughout my public life I have been opposed to communism and its cant terminology. From the day I entered public life to the present, I have been opposed to communism, fascism and nazi-ism. I believe in democracy and have done all that one man could do to ensure that government by the people, for the people through the parliamentary institution which we have inherited from our forefathers, shall be preserved.
– I havebeen misrepresented by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), and I desire to make a personal explanation. The right honorable gentleman has accused me of being a lunatic. I do not agree that I am a lunatic. However, there is an old saying to the effect that “ the more we live together, the more we grow alike”, and perhaps my mental powers are failing as the result of my association here with members of the Opposition. The right honorable member for North Sydney has stated that at no time has he referred to anybody as “comrade”, or talked to Sharkey and the Communists..
– I did not say that.
– The right honorable gentleman certainly said that he had never called anybody “ comrade “ in his life.
– That is right.
– I quote an extract from the report of a speech made by the right honorable gentleman on the 22nd June, 1941, as follows: -
Everybody is my friend who stands at my right hand in this fight.
I don’t care twopence whether he calls himself a Communist or capitalist.
What he did in the past would be forgiven and forgotten if he was with us in this struggle against the tyranny of Nazi-ism.
I am a Christian, and Christians believe in repentance even at the eleventh hour.
I say to my comrades in the Communist party : “ You have made some remarkable changes of front in the past, but your attitude should now be clear and unmistakeable.
Many nations have set out to conquer Russia, but none has succeeded.
Napoleon, a far greater man than Hitler, tried, and he failed miserably.
– I rise to order. I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, where, in the quotation which the honorable member for Herbert has read, there is any proof that he has been misrepresented by the right honorable member for North Sydney. I do not consider that the quotation is in any way relevant to the original statement by the right honorable gentleman.
– Order! [ think that the honorable member for Herbert is proceeding beyond the point of a personal explanation. I suggest that he allow the matter to rest at this point.
– I desired to make a personal explanation because the right honorable member for North Sydney stated that nobody outside a lunatic asylum would ever say that he had called a Communist “ comrade “. Obviously, that is misrepresentation.
– I did not say a “ lunatic asylum “. I said a “ mental home “.
– The right honorable gentleman may have it that way if he likes. I say that, at some time in his life, he did refer to Communists as “ comrades “.
– Will the Prime Minister investigate certain information that has been conveyed to me in the following terms: That a confidential notebook belonging to a union organizer and containing copies of his course at the Communist party’s central school is now in the hands of the security service, and that a Communist party document hat been circulated to members stating that that note-book has fallen into the hands of the authorities? If such an inquiry proves the foregoing to be true, then, in view of the fact that a ballot is now in progress in the New South Wales branch of the Federated Clerks Union, will the Prime Minister make the note-book and the Communist party circular available for immediate publication, so that the link between the union that I have mentioned and Marx House will be publicly revealed ?
– The honorable member has asked me a curious kind of question. I consider that he should have addressed it to the Minister representing the Acting Attorney-General, who administers the security service. If the security service is handling the matter to which the honorable gentleman has referred, I should think that it would not want all the information, that is, if there if any information, about the subject disclosed to the general public. However, as the honorable gentleman has asked me to examine the matter, I shall arrange to do so in conjunction with the Acting Attorney-General.
– Can the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction give me any information about the acquisition of estates in the Mirrool irrigation area of New South Wales for the land settlement of ex-servicemen ?
– A number of properties in the irrigation area to which the honorable member has referred are being considered for the purpose of the land settlement of ex-servicemen. Only last week I approved of one such property. To date, in New South Wales, about 440 properties, totalling 4,250,000 acres, have been approved by the Commonwealth for that purpose.
Reconstruction Training Scheme
– No doubt, the attention of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction has been drawn to the shortage of teachers and nurses in most States. The shortage was acute last year, and it has not yet been overcome. I ask the Minister whether any thing is being done under the reconstruction training scheme to relieve the position in those vital professions ?
– A good deal is being done under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme to train nurses and teachers. Approximately 1,700 persons are now being trained in the nursing profession, and about 60 persons are awaiting training. Approximately 1,800 persons are undergoing training as teachers under the reconstruction training scheme, and a number of other persons are awaiting training in that profession.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that no person may be registered as a waterside worker unless he is a member of the Communistcontrolled Waterside Workers Federation? If so, is that not a denial to ex-servicemen of their preference rights, and is it not an infringement of the liberty of those opposed to Communist domination of trade unions? Will the Prime Minister take action to correct this position ?
– The provisions of the Stevedoring Industry Act are well known to the honorable member. The act gives preference to members of the Waterside Workers Federation in the stevedoring industry. That is one reason why the Waterside Workers Federation has had special representation on the Stevedoring Industry Commission. I have no information that I can vouch for on the subject, but I am informed that more than half of the members of the federation are ex-servicemen. This has no relation to communism, but preference has been given by the. Arbitration Court hundreds of times to unionists in other industries. So there is nothing unusual la preference being given in their calling to members of the Waterside Workers Federation. I shall ask the Minister for Shipping and Fuel to have a short statement prepared in reply to the honorable member in order that he may be fully informed of the conditions under which labour is engaged on the waterfront.
– In view of the great importance of bitumen to the future of Australia’s country roads, can the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction tell me whether a bitumen factory is being built near Melbourne? If so, is it a 100 per cent. private company project, or is the Australian Government giving it financial assistance? What will be the annual productive capacity of the factory when it has been completed? What quantity of bitumen products is being imported into Australia at present and from where do the products come?
– The quantity of bitumen imported into Australia last year was about 135,000 tons. That was rather an abnormal importation and probably this year a somewhat lesser quantity will be imported. There is, of course, considerable production of bitumen already in New South Wales; but there are pro. posals on foot for the erection of two factories in Victoria which will produce bitumen. One is to be erected at Altona by the Vacuum Oil Company Proprietary Limited. The production from that factory will, I understand, be about 20,000 tons a year. I am not in a position to say when the factory will be completed and bitumen will be actually produced. The other factory, which it is proposed to establish in Victoria, will be at Geelong. It is to be erected by the Shell Company of Australia Limited. I am not able to say what will be the output of that factory. The proposal of the Shell Company of Australia Limited is more of a long-range character than that of the Vacuum Oil Company Proprietary Limited. Representatives of both of those companies are having discussions with officers of the Industrial Development. Division of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction, because there are one or two angles in relation to the production of bitumen which, it is considered, should be brought to their notice. The Australian Government is not interested financially in either of the two companies, but it is giving them assistance in their proposals.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government regards the possible Communist threat to Hong Kong as being of significance in relation to the defence of Australia ? What view does the Government take of the discussions that are taking place in Hong Kong on a defence level? Did the Government make a request to be represented at the discussions? If so, has any officer representing Australia been sent to Hong Kong for the purpose? If so, who is the officer?
– The defence of and developments at Hong Kong have been the subject of discussion at a high level between the British Government and myself. The Australian Government has been kept fully informed, first, of the intentions of the British Government with regard to Hong Kong, and secondly, of the matters that will be discussed by the United Kingdom Minister for Defence, Mr. Alexander, on his visit to the colony. Mr. Alexander is charged with other missions as well as that in regard to Hong Kong. The Australian Government has not been represented at any discussions with the defence authorities in Hong Kong, nor has it made any request for such representation, but we have been fully informed of what is taking place. The British Government requested that a ship which is now being used for the transport of migrants to Australia should be released by us if it was required by that Government for certain work. I discussed the request with the Minister for Immigration. The request has been acceded to, and the ship will be made available for use by the British Government if it is required. Other inquiries regarding shipping were made, and all of them have been replied to. The honorable gentleman has raised the general question of an attack upon Hong Kong. I am not aware that any suggestion has been made of an attack upon Hong’
Kong, at any rate at the moment, by the rebel Communists, or whatever they may be called, in China.
– There are Communists in the Kowloon Peninsula.
– Probably over 90 per cent. of the inhabitants of the Kowloon Peninsula and Hong Kong itself are Chinese, and I assume that the rebel Communists have many sympathizers in those areas. Hong Kong is a British possession. The Kowloon Peninsula has been leased to the British Government. Speaking from memory, the term of the lease is for 100 years, from 1899 to 1998. As far as I know, no suggestion of an attack upon Hong Kong or the Kowloon area by the rebel Communists has yet been made. The Australian Government has been kept fully informed of the intentions of the British Government in regard to Hong Kong, but I do not think that I should be justified in saying anything further about the confidential information that has been supplied to me.
– Last Tuesday I asked the Minister for Immigration what steps were being taken by the Government, in connexion with its immigration policy, to facilitate the return to Australia of Australian girls married to Americans. The Minister promised to obtain further information on this matter. Is he yet in a position to furnish this information ?
– American exservicemen are eligible to apply for assisted passages to Australia under the Empire and allied ex-servicemen’s scheme. The scheme is designed especially to attract those American ex-servicemen who married Australian girls during the war and who are now living in the United States of America, by allocating to them the highest priority of travel. Furthermore, children of these marriages who are under the age of twelve years may receive assistance amounting up to 100 per cent. of their passage money up to a maximum of £35 sterling. Although we have not been able to secure a block of bookings on the vessel Aorangi for the sole use of assisted passengers, my representatives in America have not been idle, as is evidenced by the fact that on its present voyage Aorangi is carrying 70 assisted passengers. Even larger allocations of accommodation are expected on subsequent voyages. Already under this scheme approximately 1,500 people have travelled from America to Australia, and almost all of these were Australian women returning with their American ex-service husbands and their young children. Migrants who do not choose to wait the long period now required before sea passages become available are making more and more use of air travel.For instance, 97 assisted passengers have travelled to Australia by air from America since the 1st January last. We are doing our best to help Australian girls in America who are married to American ex-servicemen to return to Australia with their husbands and families, and, although shipping presents difficulties, there is a steady flow of these very desirable young families. When people come by air we make the same contribution towards the cost of the passage as we do in respect of people who come by sea.
– How would they obtain the dollars for air travel?
– We cannot produce dollars for them but we do our best to help them. Most of them are able to earn sufficient dollars to pay their passage if they travel by sea. The fare on Aorangi, in any event, is paid in sterling; and not in dollars.
– In directing a question to the Prime Minister I point out that I asked his predecessor, the late John Curtin, whether he would see that in any peace adjustment an effort would be made by the Government to acquire rights for Australia to oil-bearing territory within the Dutch East Indies group. Has any effort been made to secure approved oil-bearing areas for Australia? In view of Australia’s everincreasing dependence on petroleum and the ever-rising prices of petroleum products, will the Government consider the advisability of making an attempt now to acquire in Indonesia, Middle East areas or elsewhere, petroleum rights similar to those that are continually becoming the possession of other countries, and from whom we are forced to purchase? Has the Prime Minister’s attention been drawn to a statement in to-day’s press that the Royal Dutch-Shell petroleum interests’ profit for the last calendar year was £7,500,000?
– The answer to the latter portion of the honorable member’s question, which I shall deal with first, is that I have not seen the statement referred to in this morning’s press. Regarding the portion of the question that related to a question asked of my predecessor, the late John Curtin, the answer is that inquiries have been made about whether it might be possible for Australia to acquire for the purpose of searching for oil by arrangement with other countries concerned, certain areas in the Pacific that might be acquired on long lease. These inquiries have not been successful. I believe that the general position is that because of the present world position no country which has territory that is possibly oil-bearing is prepared to relinquish it. What we have done is to give the greatest possible assistance to prospecting companies in their search for oil in areas that are either Australian territory or mandated territory under Australian control. I am speaking, not of any one company, but of a number of companies. We have made available a considerable amount in dollars for the purchase of equipment for use in the New Guinea area. We have not been able to do more than that. All possible assistance has been given where the territory concerned is directly or indirectly under Australia’s control.
– Will the Minister for Works and Housing permit me to take him for a ride to Bungendore and Captain’s Flat, and if he returns safely from that journey, which is a peril to life and limb every yard of the way because of the condition of the roads, will he ask departmental officials to reconsider their refusal to lend a little bit of roadmaking plant to the Yarralumla Shire Council to put the roads in order? Will he point out to his officers that, in these days of dollar restrictions, jha re and share alike is not a bad policy? At present, the owners of sawmills on the south coast refuse to send timber lorries over those roads, and thus timber, which is urgently required for the housing programme in Canberra, cannot be obtained.
– If the roads are as bad as the honorable member suggests, I regret that I shall have to decline his invitation. However, if it is true that the delivery of timber to Canberra is being held up because of the condition of the roads, I shall examine the position, and see whether we can help to improve it.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government has been informed of the statement that Mr. Evan?., representing the Australian Council of Trades Unions, made before the Arbitration Court, that trade unions will oppose the introduction of incentive payments in industry? Does the Prime Minister adhere to his statement that he approves of incentive payments, with certain safeguards? If so, what action has the Government taken to convince trade unionists of the desirability of incentive payments? Will the Prime Minister day in what industries incentive payments are now being made, so that trade unionists may be- induced to accept his advice on the subject?’
– I did not see the statement by Mr. Evans, who represents the Federated Engine Drivers and Fire men’s Association. I understand that he is appearing as an, advocate before the Arbitration Court in the basic wage case. I know that incentive payments were considered by the Australian Council of Trades Unions, and they have been discussed by me and the Minister for Labour and National Service, with representatives of the Australian Council of Trades Unions at various times, sometimes formally, and sometimes informally. The Minister for Labour and National Service has on a number of occasions said that he favours incentive payment with proper control. Indeed, control must he strict in order to ensure that there is no abuse. In days gone by,, incentive payments were used by many employers to the grave detriment of the workers. I have myself made certain broadcast statements on this subject indicating that I favoured the introduction of incentive payments, but .only if the system were strictly policed. Moreover, the system can be applied only to certain industries. Incentive payments are at present being made in a number of industries, and have been accepted by the trade unions concerned. In those industries, incentive payments, or bonus systems, have operated for some considerable time. I shall a-,k the Minister for Labour and National Service to supply the honorable member with a list of the more prominent unions the members of which work under incentive payment systems.
– Will the Prime Minister indicate what salary and allowances are being paid to the new Director-General of Security, Mr. Justice Reed? Will the new security service come under the administrative control of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, or is it attached to the Prime Minister’s Department, and subject to the Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department in regard to appointments and expenditure? Will the Prime Minister investigate a report that one of the senior officials to be appointed to the new service held the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the local intelligence service during the war, but was demoted to the rank of lieutenant for wrongfully wearing 1914-18 service ribbons to which he was not entitled? Will the right honorable gentleman call for a report made during that period by Mr. Justice Reed and for his findings in this particular case?
– The emoluments to be received by Mr. Justice Reed as Director-General of Security were agreed upon as the result of an arrangement for the loan of his services made between the Attorney-General and the Premier of South Australia. I am not clear what precise arrangements were made in regard to salary and allowances. I know, however, that it was agreed that they should be commensurate with the task which Mr. Justice Heed has been called upon to undertake. The Director-General of Security will be under the administrative control of the Attorney-General’s Department. As Prime Minister I issued a special directive to the Director-General giving a general outline of the work he is to perform and intimating that he is to have direct access to me at all times. I have not discussed with Mr. Justice Reed the subject of salaries to be paid to officers of the new security service; that matter has been the subject of discussion between the Director-General and an officer loaned by the Public Service Board so that relativity may be preserved between the salaries paid to officers of the security service and other officers employed in the Public Service. Appointments to the security service will be left entirely to the Director-General of Security. He will appoint such officers as he regards as most suitable for appointment. I am not able to say what appointments have been made. One name was mentioned to me by a member of the Opposition and I understand that the person concerned has been appointed. Apart from that, I know of no other appointments or proposed appointments. The Director-General of Security has been given absolute discretionary power in that regard. Mr. Justice Reed is a man of high repute who has had considerable administrative experience. The honorable member has asked me to make inquiries into the appointment or proposed appointment of a certain officer to the security service. As I have said, the Director-General has been given complete authority on security matters and 1 do not propose to interfere with him in the discharge of his functions.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health relating to the Darwin Hospital. In view of the sincere endeavours of the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Gunson, and of the Hospital Superintendent, Dr. Sendak, to clear up the legacy of maladministration handed down to them, will the Minister immediately consider adopt ing the practice that has been followed in Queensland and Western Australia for the last half century, and have elected or nominated a hospital committee to control the affairs of the Darwin hospital, so that people who have been sneaking into the hospital for propaganda purposes or to further the ends of communism, may be prevented from doing so in the future, and so that the hospital may be properly administered ?
– The honorable member made a similar request during the debate on the Appropriation Bill yesterday. I have already referred the remarks he then made to the Minister for Health. I shall also draw the attention of the Minister to the honorable member’s question.
– Has the Prime Minister seen an article in to-day’s issue of the Daily Telegraph in which it is reported that Mr. A. Cooper, manager of the Australian division of Reader’s Digest magazine, stated at a meeting in New York on foreign trade -
Australia hold rich rewards for business men with courage, imagination and enterprise 1
Mr. Cooper is also reported to have stated-
Australia would, become the greatest industrial centre in the Pacific.
In view of the misapprehension under which members of the Opposition are evidently labouring about this subject, will the right honorable gentleman give the widest possible publicity to these excellent statements, which prove the soundness of the economic policy adopted by the Labour Government and pay great tribute to the able administration of the Prime Minister ?
– I did not read the article to which the honorable member has referred, but it was mentioned to me that a very prominent American correspondent had made eulogistic references to the soundness of Australia’s economy the great possibility that Australia offers for the investment of American and other foreign capital, and the rapid industrial development of this country.I should have thought that these developments would have been apparent to all but the most biased persons, who would have the people believe that because a Labour Government is in office in this country opportunities for the investment of overseas capital have in some way been diminished. The soundness of the Australian economy is made apparent by the very great number of inquiries that we have received from overseas investors and from large companies that wish to establish new businesses or branches of their businesses here. What is of more consequence; perhaps, is the fact that the very largest of Australian companies, including the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, have announced their intention of greatly expanding their activities. The Government welcomes these proposals, because, when they reach fruition, materials and commodities which Australia now has to import, in some instances from hard-currency countries, will be provided locally. I believe that the confidence in Australia shown by the captains of industry completely refutes the statements made by some honorable members opposite or their supporters that because a Labour Government is in office, Australia does not offer great opportunities for industrial expansion and the investment of overseas capital.
– I address a question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. What stage has been reached in the discussions between the Australian Meat Board and the United Kingdom Government concerning the new schedule of prices for mutton, lamb and beef? When will an announcement of the new Australian prices be made? Can the Minister state the exact terms of the agreement between Argentina and the United Kingdom in regard to beef prices, and will he state what effect such prices will have on future discussions between the Australian and United Kingdom Governments in relation to meat?
– The Australian Meat Board made a recommendation to the Government, which, in turn, conveyed certain advice to the United Kingdom Government. When a reply is received from the United Kingdom Government a prompt announcement of prices will be made.
– Has the Minister any information about the agreement between the United Kingdom and Argentina ?
– I am not able to convey to the honorable gentleman any details of the Argentinian deal with the United Kingdom.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Health been directed to a statement in this morning’s press to the effect that the Government of Canada has adopted a health scheme along the lines proposed by the British Medical Association in Australia ? Will the honorable gentleman ask the Minister for Health to examine the reasons for that decision, and, in particular, to examine the statement made by the Canadian Minister for Health that his Government believes that the regimentation of doctors must mean, among other things, a lower standard of medical efficiency?
-Whilst I do not agree with the statement to which the right honorable member has referred,I shall bring it to the notice of the Minister for Health.
– I lay on the table the report of the Tariff Board on the following subject: -
Wine Industry; financial assistance for advertising.
– Is leave granted ?
Government Members. - No.
Leave not granted.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-1947, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House the results of its investigations, namely: - Extensions to the City West telephone exchange, Melbourne.
The proposed work is required urgently to provide for the expansion of exchange equipment. The plans of the building as submitted to the committee provided for the extensions to be set back approximately 5 feet from the alinement of the existing exchange building to conform to the Victorian Widening of Streets Act. The committee in paragraph 4 of Its summary of conclusions states that the extensions should be made to conform to the present alinement of the city west exchange building and that negotiations should take place, on a departmental level to obtain the agreement of the council for the extensions to be regarded as part of the old building and for the structure to be on the same alinement. I concur in the committee’s recommendations and instructions will be issued accordingly. The estimated cost of the building extensions is £197,300.
.- The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) is seeking the approval of the House to expend £197,300 on extensions to the City West automatic telephone exchange in Melbourne. Whilst thousands of people are awaiting the installation of telephones, many thousands of people are waiting for homes. About a month ago, [ placed on the notice-paper a question in which I asked the Minister for Works and Housing about the number of post offices, and other public works, including premises for the Commonwealth Bank, that are being constructed throughout the Commonwealth, the estimated expenditure on those projects, and the number of employees and the quantity of materials required for the undertakings.
I received the reply that the information would take some time to compile, but that I would be supplied with an answer in due course. My question was then removed from the notice-paper.
– Does the honorable member object to the proposed extensions to the City West automatic telephone exchange ?
– By proceeding with a large public works programme at this stage, the Government is depriving thousands of deserving people of homes, lt is futile for the Minister to claim that the materials which will be used for the extensions to the City West automatic telephone exchange will be different from those required for the construction of homes. The extensions to the telephone exchange will require bricks, timber, plaster and cement, and the materials required for that project will be drawn from the general pool from which bricks and timber are supplied for home building. The House should be given a more frank statement about this matter. The Minister should have given me the information that I sought in my question before he submitted thi3 proposal to-day. Public works at the present time deprive home builders of urgently needed labour and materials. I know that the Minister will say that the proposed extensions to the City West automatic telephone exchange have been approved by the Public Works Committee, but that does not mitigate my complaint. The entire public works programme should be reviewed, and public works should be reduced in this period of emergency, when the highest priority, apart from defence requirements, should be given to home building.
– I hope that the House will pass the motion moved by the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon). We must have telephone exchanges. We cannot concentrate entirely on home-building. We cannot have a disproportionate programme. Unless telephone exchanges are built, the fulfilment of the requirements of all those needing telephone facilities will be impossible. I think the number of telephones in use in Australia is 50 per cent. more than it waa in 1938-39, but it is not near the number required. The demand for telephone services can be met only according to the capacity of the Postmaster-General’s Department to supply not only the actual instruments and lines leading into the homes but also the telephone exchanges through which the lines have to he fed. Telephones cannot be had without telephone exchangee. Throughout the war, it was impossible to build telephone exchanges anywhere in Australia. Melbourne is in a bad position in regard to telephone requirements and the possibility of supplying requirements. Sydney is even worse off. Indeed, there is no part of Australia that is not in need of telephones. The House should be prepared to accept the report and recommendation of the Public Works Committee, which is representative of all political parties and both Bouses of the Parliament. I understand that the committee was unanimous on the need to build this telephone exchange for Melbourne. One is already being built on the eastern side of Melbourne. [ hope, as member for Melbourne, that telephone exchanges will be built, not on narrow streets, but on a. new alinement, because, sooner or later, these narrow streets will have to go. But that is another matter. I am prepared to see telephone exchanges built in Melbourne even at the expense of the city’s ultimate progress. However, I do not think we should say now, by a vote of this House, that only houses must be built at this time. We need houses, hospitals, factories, telephone exchanges, schools and shopping centres. It is a matter of getting a proper balance of all those needs. I think the Public Works Committee has done a good job.
.- [ have no intention of opposing the motion, but I think the time has come to say something about the Government’s public works programme, because, ae the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has said, public works do absorb a considerable quantity of building materials. The position in Australia is chaotic, because no one engaged in the building trade knows- where he can obtain materials with which to build houses and other structures. I agree with the Min ister for Information (Mr. Calwell) that many other buildings are almost as necessary as are houses. I rose mainly to ask the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) to try to supply honorable members and the public of Australia with an approximate inventory of the building materials of various kinds that are available in order that the builder* who are trying to build homes may hav* an idea where they may obtain material with which to finish their jobs. If he did so, he would do a great public service. I should like him to indicate, first, what Australian materials, such as iron, steel and cement, are available, and, secondly, what materials need to be imported. I should like him also to see that orders for materials that need to be imported shall be placed well ahead of the commencement of the projects for which they are needed to ensure the unhindered completion of those projects.
.- Once again we find the reactionary mind of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) at work. He opposes everything brought forward from this side of the House. As an honorable member representing a Victorian constituency, he should be ashamed of himself, because Melbourne is one of the greatest cities in the world. That is something of which he should be proud. To-day, in Melbourne, thousands of telephones are connected to manual exchanges, whereas small suburbs have the benefit of automatic exchanges. The object of the proposed new Melbourne telephone exchange is to convert the system from manual to automatic operation. That will ensure better facilities for both local calls and trunk-line calls for the people of Melbourne and of Victoria generally. The honorable member objects to that in his usual way. He tries to make petty political capital by saying that the Government is carrying on a large building programme throughout Australia to the detriment of people needing homes. The Public Works Committee consists of representatives of both Houses of Parliament and the three political parties - the Liberal party, the Australian Country party and the Labour party. All the members of the committee investigated the position closely and unanimously approved of the erection of the new telephone exchange. I am amazed that the honorable member should try to make political capital out of the committee’s recommendation instead of helping his great city to develop. In moving for the adoption of the report and recommendation of the Public Works Committee, the Minister for Works and Sousing (Mr. Lemmon) did not say that the erection of the building would start immediately. It will probably take twelve months to get the proper plans and specifications out and a contract signed for the erection of the building. Then, if it is difficult to obtain steel and cement locally, they may be imported. The imported materials would be dearer than the locally produced materials, but there would be no competition with the various housing authorities for the locally produced articles. When the honorable member was a Minister nobody could get houses. Young couples had to live with their parents and parents-in-law because of the scarcity of houses. Yet there were plenty of men and materials available. I repeat that the honorable member should be ashamed of himself in not wanting Melbourne to have this automatic telephone exchange.
.- I am a member of the Public Works Committee and, although I do not associate myself with the attack on the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) by the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan), I believe that it is essential that the proposed new work should be approved. The committee investigated closely the effect the new building might have on the housing problem in Melbourne, which we all know is difficult, as it is in all other cities of Australia. The information that we received from the engineers, the architects and the people arranging for the purchase of materials for the building was that, with the exception of steel, all the materials required would be readily available by the time the building was started. The committee was unanimously in favour of the proposal. I think it is essential for the progress of Victoria that the building should be erected.
.- [ have much pleasure in supporting the motion. It is remarkable that any honorable member of the House should object to the provision of telephone exchanges. Telephones are one of the great necessities in life. We ought to realize that the development of country districts is to a large degree dependent on the development of the cities. I am one who would like to see telephones installed in’ every home in Australia. We can hardly realize what a great convenience the telephone is until it has been cut off from us. I was one of thousands who lost his telephone in the depression. A home without a telephone is seriously deficient, especially in country districts. Telephones save men outback hundreds of miles of travel.
– Whilst 1 do not altogether oppose the building of the telephone exchange in Melbourne, I ask the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) whether he is not of the opinion that there are other telephone exchanges that require building or re-building before this proposed Melbourne telephone exchange is built? 1 believe in first things first. The soldiers’ settlement at Robinvale, Victoria, has a telephone exchange installed in a small iron building. There has long been a township of Robinvale and now there i* a very progressive soldier settlement there. I have asked many times for the erection of an adequate building to house the telephone exchange.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must confine his remarks to the motion that is before the House.
– Does the Minister consider that extensions to the City West automatic telephone exchange in Melbourne should take priority over extensions that are required to be made to a telephone exchange that is used by soldier settlers ?
. - I desire to make it clear at the outset of my remarks that I do not oppose this motion. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has urged thai homes should be provided before telephone exchanges. I mention in passing that the honorable gentleman continually advocates that the Government should df everything possible to rehabilitate returned servicemen. Telephone exchanges in South Australia have not the necessary equipment to enable the postal authorities to make further telephone lines available to those who wish to have telephones installed. Many ex-servicemen in my electorate have complained to me that without telephones they are unable to make a success of their businesses. Before the extension of the telephone exchange in Melbourne is proceeded with, I ask the Minister to give consideration to the needs of exchanges, such as those in my electorate, which are unable to make further lines available.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is not entitled to indulge in electoral propaganda when speaking to this motion.
– Before this proposed work is undertaken, I ask the Minister to consider the plight of other telephone exchanges that need additional equipment.
– I agree that it is desirable to build new telephone exchanges and to improve those that are already in operation. The work that is proposed to bo done on the City West automatic telephone exchange in Melbourne will necessitate the use of quantities of steel, which is now in short supply. It is to that aspect of the matter that I propose to address myself. I have received a letter from the Landsborough shire council in which it is stated-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must confine his remarks to the question that is before the House, which is concerned with extensions to the City West automatic telephone exchange, Melbourne.
– The Landsborough Shire Council has received advice from the Co-ordinator-General of Public Works-
– Order 1 The honorable gentleman’s remarks have uo reference to the question that is under discussion.
– The making of extensions to a telephone exchange involves the use of steel.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must obey the ruling of the Chair.
– I am informed that a licence has been granted to Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited for the export of large quantities of steel, which is one of the materials that will be used in this proposed work. Because of the shortage of steel in Australia, the Queensland Government i3 being forced to import large quantities of reinforcing steel and spun cast iron piping that are required by local authorities in Queensland. I ask the Minister whether such an export licence is at present held by Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited ?
– in reply - The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has stated that he wrote a letter to me in which he asked to be informed of the amount of money that is being expended upon post offices, and that I have not supplied him with the required information. In fact, the honorable gentleman’s request related to all building work that is in progress on behalf of the Commonwealth. Last year the Department of Works and Housing expended approximately £20,000,000 upon Commonwealth works, including defence works. It will be seen, therefore, that the preparation of a full statement containing the information for which thf honorable gentleman has asked would involve a tremendous amount of work.
The priority that is to be given to work on a telephone exchange is a matter for the Postal Department, which has a works programme that has been approved by the Government. Any proposal by the Postal Department that work upon a certain project shall be begun ie examined by a priorities committee. If the proposal is approved by that committee, it is referred to the Public Works Committee for the Parliament to decide whether it should be carried out. T remind the honorable member for Balaclava that the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale), the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse), and Senator O’sullivan, all of whom are members of the Opposition parties, are serving on that committee. They can put forward the views of the Opposition upon any proposal that is submitted. The Public Works Committee examined this proposal and, in the light of all the circumstances, including the availability of materials, recommended unanimously that the proposed extensions should be made. The policy of the Government is that if work upon government buildings requires the use of scarce materials that are used in the construction of houses, those materials are imported, if it is possible to do so, in order to avoid interfering with the housing programme.
If Parliament approves of the project, its order of priority in relation to all other Commonwealth works is determined by a Cabinet sub-committee consisting of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction, and myself with the Minister concerned. In this case the Postmaster-General would be co-opted on the committee.
– I desire to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable gentleman claim that he has been misrepresented?
– I claim that the Minister has misrepresented me, although I am sure that the honorable gentleman did so unwittingly. He said that I wrote to him a letter asking for details of expenditure upon government offices and post offices.
– I said that in his speech the honorable gentleman referred to post offices, but that his letter related to all Commonwealth buildings.
– I did not write a letter to the Minister.
– The honorable gentleman put a question on the notice-paper.
– The Minister said that I wrote a letter to him. I desire to correct that statement. If there is to be a choice of homes or telephone exchanges, I shall choose homes.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman will need to find another home if he does not resume his seat.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 8th June (vide page 731).
Department of Commerce and Agriculture.
Proposed vote, £290,830.
– When the committee was discussing the proposed vote for the Department of Commerce and Agriculture last night. I directed the attention of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) to the sale of wheat to the United Kingdom. I emphasized that we should do everything possible to assist that country in its great fight to regain its former prosperity and pointed out that my remarks were not intended to suggest that we should not do more than we were doing to help the United Kingdom. I referred to the sale to the United Kingdom of 60,000,000 bushels of wheat at a price much lower than that which could have been obtained for it, and asked the Minister why the Australian wheat-growers should be called upon to bear the cost of that concession to the United Kingdom. The Minister appeared to misunderstand the purport of my remarks. He started to say that the sale had been made after consultation with the Australian Wheat Board. That may be so. but it has nothing to do with my question. I remember that when the now famous wheat deal was made with New Zealand. the Minister also said at that time that the board had been consulted. That fact, however, did not prevent the Government from making up, out of Consolidated Revenue, the difference between the price paid by New Zealand and the world parity price.
– The Government took that action under pressure of public opinion.
– I repeat that the fact that the wheat board may have concurred in the agreement has nothing to do with the matter. What I want the Minister to explain is why the wheat industry should bear the whole cost of the concessional sale to the United Kingdom. [f Australia wishes to help the United Kingdom, and I can assure the country that this side of the House wishes to give that country the greatest possible assistance, the burden involved in doing so should be borne by the whole people, and not by any one section of it alone. The Minister should give us a better understanding of the Government’s policy regarding this matter. But he spoke about other things and said, “ If you want a fight on this subject I shall give to you “.
– I did not say that.
– The Minister says that he did not say it, but I say that he did do so. If the Minister wants a fight on the subject of his department he would not go very far to get it. The Minister for Information (Air. Calwell) pointed out in this chamber that the Opposition had not taken advantage of motions for the adjournment of the Souse to speak on certain matters or to make complaints. I have taken such opportunities on ‘ several occasions. On the last occasion on which I did so, 1 raised the subject of refunds from wheat tax with the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, but he was not in a very good mood that night. As I have said before in this chamber, the Minister, when he is outside the chamber, treats everybody as one would expect any gentleman to do, but inside the chamber he changes altogether and will throw anything he can get at an opponent. On the occasion to which I have referred I drew his attention to a great mistake that he was making in a speech about the wheat industry, and he said to me, “ The honorable gentleman is like a clucky hen. He asks questions and prattles away when he has been given the answer “. I was only trying to correct the Minister on that occasion because the information he had given the House was not correct. Later on he said, “I give it up. The honorable gentleman is impossible”. I ask the committee to judge who was impossible on that occasion. I was then informing honorable members that certain men in the north-eastern corner of Victoria were being put off their wheatlands through acquisition by the Victorian Government, and that the lands were being transformed into large holdings for grazing and were no longer available for wheat-growing. I said that, as these men were being put off the land, and as many of them could not continue wheat-growing, they should be repaid at least a fairly large proportion of the amount that they had contributed in wheat tax to the Wheat Stabilization Fund. According to my notes, the Minister replied -
I have told the Victorian members-
– Would the honorable gentleman mind quoting from the Ilansard report?
– IIansard will bear out what I say, word for word. Thf Minister said -
I have told the Victorian members of th* Australian Wheat Growers Federation repeatedly that we shall keep the problem in mind, but that there is no need to act at present in view of the fact that the wheat growers have had refunded to them their tas in respect of the 1945-40, 1840-47 and 1947-4H crops.
I spoke to the Minister that night about this and asked him if he would correct hi? statement that the 1946-47 and the 1947-48 tax had been refunded to the growers, and he said, “I do not want to discuss it any more with you “. The other day he said that he must have been misreported if Hansard had recorded that he made the statement I have quoted. He also said when speaking in this House -
The only outstanding tax collected from th» wheat -growers is the tax on the crop that ha» not yet been completely marketed.
Those remarks were made on the 16tb March, 1949. The Minister made three statements on this occasion and was right only once, because, when he made the statements, the tax had not been returned for the 1948-47 crop and in fact it was not refunded until the last Thursday in May this year. Of course, it has not been returned for the 1947-48 crop, nor is there any prospect of it being returned. If a man make* a little mistake about some figures I can overlook it, but such a mistake as the Minister made is printed in Hansard and is read by the wheat-growers, who in the present instance have asked me. “ Why have we not yet received the money that has been refunded ? “ Worse than that, the people in the cities think that the money has been returned. It if time that the Minister put this matter in order, and explained that he made a mistake. I do not wish to be hard on him, but he has made a gigantic blunder, and I object to being called a “ ducky hen “ when I try to correct him.
. -The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) has made statements today that appear to me to have some substantial basis. If what he says is correct -he apparently believes it to be so, and indeed it may prove to be correct - all I jan say is that I withdraw and apologize. [ think that that is. the right thing to do always when a mistake has been revealed, [f I conveyed unintentionally to the honorable member last night that I was misreported in Hansard, I withdraw that also, because I have found that Ilansard is remarkably accurate, in fact, more so than most honorable members. If, in the course of dealing with this subject on the occasion that he has mentioned, I stated that deductions for the wheat stabilization fund from 1947-48 crops were in the course of being repaid. I made a mistake. If the honorable member will look at the records of debates he will find repeated statements by me that the 1945-46 and 1946-47 deductions had been refunded. It is quite possible that during a night sitting, after a long day in the chamber, I confused the respective years.
.- Last night the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) referred to the recent sale of wheat by Australia to the United Kingdom, and said that, in his opinion, the farmers were being called upon to meet a commitment that, to say the very least, was unfair. He said that be was in accord with the policy of sending foodstuffs to England at as low a price as possible, but was not in accord with the practice adopted by the Government of making one section of the community “ carry the baby “. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Air. Pollard) stated in reply that the negotiations between Australia and the United Kingdom on the sale of wheat had to be concluded in a terrific hurry. He then blamed the wheat-growers’ representatives for not being in attendance at the meeting of the Australian Wheat Board that decided the details of the sale, and in conclusion, as the honorable member for Wimmera has stated, he said that if anybody wanted a fight he could have it. 1 think that this is an occasion on which the Minister can probably clear this matter up to the satisfaction, to some extent at least, of the wheat-growers. The negotiations regarding the sale of this quantity of 60,000,000 bushels of wheat to Britain were carried out over a long period. Let us consider for a moment the commitments and responsibilities of the board under the stabilization plan that was adopted last year in legislation passed by this Parliament. Once the wheat is delivered to sidings in the various States it becomes the property of the Australian Wheat Board, which acts as trustee for the growers, and is responsible for marketing it. The board alone has the authority to sell wheat, subject to certain directions that may be given to it by the Minister. It is held responsible for the finalization of any sales made under the direction of the Minister. The fact that the Minister has given a direction does not remove that responsibility from the board. The Minister may issue a direction and then, if the results of the action taken as a result of his direction are unsatisfactory and arouse complaints, he can free himself of responsibility by attributing any blame to the board. In other words, we have a wheat board ostensibly clothed with certain powers, but, in fact, exercising no power whatever. I maintain that any interference by the Government or the Minister with the authority of the board is not in the best interests of the growers. It destroys the principle of grower-control.
Let us consider the negotiations that took place with the Government of the United Kingdom for the sale of 60,000,000 bushels of wheat. The board offered wheat at 14s. 5id. a bushel. That did not suit some people. I understand that the Prime Minister did not want the board to take advantage of the conditions arising out of our position in the sterling area. Consequently, the board later offered 60.000.000 bushels of wheat to the United Kingdom Government at 14s. a bushel, which was 5-Jd. less -than the price originally proposed. Had the deal been closed on that basis the difference in price “would have cost the growers £1,375,000. Has any other section of the community - the manufacturers or commercial interests, for example - been asked to contribute directly £1,375,000 so as to relieve the general taxpayers of the full burden of assisting Great Britain? If we are to help Britain, the whole community should shoulder the cost. According to press reports, while the negotiations over the deal were in progress, some one in Canberra instructed our London representatives to offer the wheat to the Government of the United Kingdom at 13s. 8d. a bushel, representing a further reduction of 4d. That offer coincided exactly with certain criticism in the House of Commons directed against Sir Stafford Cripps and others for their socialist schemes, and their commercial deals on a government-to-government basis. When the wheat was offered at 13s. 8d. a bushel, those who were under criticism in Great Britain were able to say : “ There you are. We breasted the counter, and were able to get the wheat at a reduction of 4d. a bushel through dealing on a government-to-government basis “. However, even the price of 13s. Sd. was to be paid on only 20,000,000 bushels, and then only if the wheat were shipped before the 31st March. The price for the next 20,000,000 bushels was to be 12s. 10½d., but only if it were shipped before the 31st July. If everything goes according to schedule, the International Wheat Agreement will come into force on the 1st August, and the last 20,000,000 bushels involved in the deal will still remain to be shipped, and the maximum price payable under the agreement is lis. 3d. a bushel. Thus, the wheat-growers are being asked to contribute, on behalf of the general taxpayers, uo less than £3,208,333 in order to assist Great Britain.
When a representative of the growers protested against the activities of government officials, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and the Prime Minister for interfering in matters that come. properly within the functions of the wheat board, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture attacked him in this House because he is one of the few members of the ‘board who is prepared to make the position known to the people, and particularly to the original owners of the wheat, the growers. After the contract was concluded on a governmenttogovernment basis, a hurried meeting of the wheat board was called, and the Minister said last night that six of the growers’ representatives were absent.
– I said that six members were absent.
– Well, they were growers’ representatives, in the main. Four of them were, at any rate. The Minister should have said why they were absent. I understand that one of them was on holiday in Tasmania with his wife. He was enjoying a well-earned vacation, after it had been put off for a considerable time. There seemed no reason why he should rush back to attend a meeting of the board, especially as the negotiations with the United Kingdom had been going on for so long. The instruction to Australia’s representatives in London to offer the wheat at 13s. 8d. was given in December, but the board was not informed of this fact until February of this year. Evidently, there was no great hurry about the matter and another week’s delay would not have mattered. One of the members of the board was appointed to represent commercial interests. I am not going to abuse him. I have known him for twenty years, but I do not know where he received his commercial training.
– Does the honorable member know how much wheat Mr. Teasdale has delivered during the last four years?
– He is a primary producer, but he has not been actively engaged in growing much wheat recently.
– Yet he was nominated to represent the Western Australian wheat-growers.
– The ‘ Minister nominated as commercial representative on the board, a union representative on the Metropolitan Council of the Australian Labour party, in Perth. He. the commercial representative, issued a press statement in which lie said that the growers were receiving a very good price compared with, the time when they were paid only 2s. a bushel for their wheat. Of course they are receiving a good price, but why should one section of the primary producers, whether they be wheat-growers or dairymen or woolgrowers, have to bear the entire cost of providing assistance to Britain? We are all sorry for the people of Britain, and are anxious to help them, but the help should be given at the expense of the whole community. This most recent deal is similar in some respects to the deal made with the New Zealand Government, though it is not quite so barefaced. In the case of the New Zealand deal, deliberate lies were told before the truth was disclosed. The position in relation to the present deal should be explained by some one on behalf of the Government. I have obtained my information from the press, and I now ask the Minister whether it is correct. Was an instruction sent from Canberra to representatives of Australia in London instructing them to offer Australian wheat at 13s. Sd. a bushel, after it had already been offered at 14s? Is it true that tie offer was made in December, whereas the wheat board was not informed of it until February of this year? Having delayed so long, was the Minister justified in. calling a meeting of the board at such short notice to complete the transaction? Finally, is it fair that the wheat-growers, who undergo the toil and risk of producing wheat for export, should be required to contribute £3,208,333 to help another government put its socialist programme into effect, when the rest of the Australian community is not required to contribute one penny ?
.- In reply to the last statement made by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton), all I need to say is that the community of Australian taxpayers first contributed “ £25,000,000 and later £10,000,000 to the assistance of Great Britain. That is the only comment I wish to make on the honorable member’s speech. Honorable members from time to time receive complaints from wheatgrowers. Wheat-growers have complained particularly about the recent price of 13s. 8d. a bushel obtained with respect to the contract made between the United Kingdom and Australia. I assume grower representatives have been appointed to the Australian Wheat Board. Not until after a sale has been made are complaints usually received from growers. I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) whether the growers’ representatives on the board were consenting parties to the contracts made with the Governments of the United Kingdom and India. What guidance, if any, did the Government obtain from the board, and in particular, from the growers’ representatives on the board ?
.- I showed some hesitation in rising because I thought the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) would reply to a very positive, direct and simple question addressed to him by one of his own colleagues. I am astonished’ that the honorable gentleman did not face up to it. As the Minister was not prepared to reply, I can only attempt to reply from the knowledge that I possess on the subject. If my interpretation of the position is wrong the Minister will have an opportunity to correct me. The facts as related by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) may be summarized by saying that the Australian Wheat Board was asked to advise the Government apropos the intended sale to the United Kingdom Government of a large parcel of wheat. It was asked what it considered to be the value of that wheat. My information is that the board advised the Government at the end of last year that it considered the value to be 14s. 5-Jd. a bushel f.o.b. I am further informed that the board was then asked to take into consideration, when placing a value upon the wheat, a message from the Prime Minister to the effect that it should not have regard to the facts that Australia was the only important sterling seller of wheat, that many countries were most anxious to buy wheat, but were also equally anxious to buy commodities which could only be purchased in the dollar area, and that, in those circumstances, they were prepared to pay a comparatively high price for wheat in Australia, which is in the sterling area, in order to conserve their dollar resources for the purchase of other commodities in the dollar area. I am further informed that the board was also asked to take into account the view held by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture that, in respect of so large a sale, it might consent to some shaving of the price. I am informed that the board considered both the message from the Prime Minister and the view expressed by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and that, in a spirit of reasonableness and willingness to meet the views of the Government, it reduced its estimate of the value of the wheat from 14s. 5½d. a bushel to 14s. a bushel for the 60,000,000-bushel sale. That, I understand, took place in February last. I am also advised that while the board was considering the matter the Government was conducting negotiations behind its back on a diplomatic level. I understand that correspondence passed between the Australian Government and the Australian High Commissioner in London, Mr. Beasley, and Sir Stafford Cripps and the British Ministry of Food, as the result of which the Government disregarded the advice of the board and made the sale at 13s. 8d. a bushel, thus giving .away at that point 4d. a. bushel on 60,000,000 bushels of wheat. The answer to the question asked by the honorable member for Fremantle is that the growers’ representatives on the board did not approve of that transaction. Later, as the result of further inter-government communications, which passed behind the back of the board, it was proposed that the price of the 60,000,000 bushels of wheat should be determined, not at the time of the making of the arrangement for the sale, but quarter by quarter. The Government agreed that the price of all wheat which remained undelivered at the 31st March should be reduced from 13s. 8d. to 12s. 10½d. a bushel and that that price should remain in effect for the following three months. It was contemplated that further variations of the price would be made at the end of each quarterly period. Discussions with the board had proceeded over a long period, beginning as far back as November last. Then, suddenly, a meeting of the Australian Wheat Board was summoned. Indeed, the meeting was called so suddenly that grower-members were summoned by telegram, and so complex was the business to be placed before that meeting that the telegram ran into hundreds of words. I am informed that some of the growers’ representatives were not able to attend for reasons which have been stated in part by the honorable member for Swan and for personal reasons. They advised the board by telegram or letter, however, that they did not approve of the further reduction of price. That is the reply which the Minister should have given to the question asked by the honorable member for Fremantle. All of these moves were made in defiance of the views of the elected representatives of the growers on the board. I am astonished that the Minister did not immediately rise and answer the question asked by his colleague. Apparently the honorable gentleman did not want to make what was an inconvenient explanation which would reveal the fact that the Government is not guided by and does not accept the advice of the statutory body established by it to control this major primary industry. This Government made a great show of its regard for producer interests by re-organizing the boards established to control various primary industries. Commodity boards have been reconstituted to give the elected representatives of the growers majority representation. That decision on the part of the Government must have sounded like sweet music in the ears of the primary producers. ‘ It was designed to lead them to believe that at last they were to control the marketing of their own products and that such an innovation had been made possible only as the result of the wise administration of the Labour Government. That may be the legal position, but it is not the actual position. Every act of the Parliament establishing a statutory board to control a primary industry contains a section giving to the Minister power to override the decisions of the board. I do not propose to canvass that matter now because I have had a great deal to say about it on other occasions. I merely say that the Government has no intention to allow the elected representatives of the primary producers to control the sale of their commodities.
The second point that I wish to make is of the very greatest importance and consequently I should like the Minister to advise me in regard to it. It is provided under the wheat stabilization legislation, which was formulated by the Australian Labour party and enacted by this Parliament, that when wheat is delivered to licensed receiving agents the property in the product passes from the wheat-growers to the Australian Wheat Board. From that point onwards the property rights in the wheat remain with the board. In simple and unequivocal language the law provides that it shall be the function of the Australian Wheat Board to handle the sale of wheat. If, however, the board wants to sell wheat for 15s. a bushel, the Minister has authority to instruct the board to sell it at some other price. He may direct the board to sell the wheat for 13s. or 14s. a bushel. What the law does not provide, however, is that the wheat, having become the property of the Australian Wheat Board, cannot be sold by any one else. In the case now being considered wheat was sold, not by the Australian Wheat Board, as it should have been, but by the Australian Government. In other words, the Government sold property which it did not own. That, to the best of my knowledge, is the legal position. If my interpretation of the law is wrong, the Minister may correct me.
– I assure the honorable gentleman that it is wrong.
– The wheat-growers and I also would like to bo reassured on the matter, but that is my opinion. I invite the Minister to say whether he considers that the Government, having introduced legislation to constitute the Australian Wheat Board as the sole owner of the wheat, should reserve to itself the right to disregard the law, and to regard itself as the owner of the wheat, and sell it. I do not think that the Government has the right to do that. Within the last week Commonwealth regulations relating to petrol rationing and the employment of women have been declared invalid by the High Court. The Government is not above the law, butI think that, in regard to wheat, it has acted as if it is above the law. I was astonished that the Minister did not rise earlier to reply to the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), even though he was prepared to disregard members of the Opposition. I hope that, when he does reply, he will deal with the point which I have raised. The circumstances, briefly, are that the Government has constituted the Australian Wheat Board with a majority of growerrepresentatives, and has gone seriously and tediously through the motions of asking the board to state what it considered to be the value of the wheat. The board arrived at a figure of 14s. 51/2d. a bushel, and the Government then asked it to reconsider that figure, and, if possible, reduce it. The board was prepared to reduce the amount to 14s. Are we to understand that it is the practice of the Labour Government, after having gone through all those motions, to disregard the advice of the Australian Wheat Board?
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I had not intended to deal with the whys and wherefores of the wheat contract with the United Kingdom at this stage of the proceedings; but the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) has been so remarkably restrained on this occasion that I think that it may he desirable to disillusion him about some of the statements that he has made, and expose the falsity of the view that has been expressed by certain members of the Australian Wheat Board in the press. The speeches by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) and the honorable member for Indi reveal that they have relied for their information on this subject very largely on an article published in the Victorian Countryman and other journals.
– By Mr. Chapman?
– No,by Mr. Teasdale. When I have explained the situation, the honorable member for Indi will realize that he has been misinformed on this subject. The article to which I have referred gives only a part of the facts, and, therefore, the honorable member for
Swan and the honorable member for Indi, perhaps innocently, have berated the Government for actions that it has never committed. The article in the Countryman. is entitled, “Wheat Contracts with United Kingdom Government - Mr. Teasdale tells of Negotiations “. It reads as follows: -
When reporting the proceedings of the Adelaide conference of the Wheatgrowers’ Federation, Mr. Simpson, of the W.A. Farmers’ Union, stated that delegates from all States had expressed bitter feeling on the methods adopted in finalizing negotiations for the sale of 00 million bushels of wheat and flour to Britain.
This week Mr. J. S. Teasdale, a member of the Australian Wheat Board, commented on Mr. Simpson’s t statement.
I shall not read the whole of the article, but I do not desire to tear any of the material out of its context, or in any way to do Mr. Teasdale an injustice. I assume that Mr. Teasdale has been correctly reported, although we must always allow for the possibility that people are misreported in the press. The article continues -
Mr, Teasdale said that in his opinion there were good reasons for such dissatisfaction, but unless the full circumstances were frankly placed before the general body of producers then there could be no assurances given against repetition. A well-informed public opinion was the best bulwark against misuse of power.
Continuing, Mr. Teasdale stated he had already directed public attention to the fact that negotiations for the sale of a large quantity of wheat had been taken out of the hands of the Wheat Board and transferred to authorities in Canberra, who, in turn, deal through the High Commissioner in London.
I want honorable members to mark the next paragraph, which reads as follows : - “On 26th November last”, he said, “the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture ordered the Wheat Board to cease making offers of new crop wheat, except in minor quantities. At that date the board was lawfully empowered to carry on the ordinary duties of a selling organization, and the market value f.o.b. for distant destinations was 15s. 6d. and 16s. Cd. for nearby countries “.
Mr. Teasdale makes a strong point of the fact that I instructed the board, on the 26th November, to cease selling wheat. I gave that instruction, but I acted on very sound reasoning. In previous debates, I have referred to the judgment of Mr. Justice Williams in the Nelungaloo case. His Honour pointed out that the Commonwealth had undoubted power to wind up transactions, such as the sale of wheat to the United Kingdom, commenced during the war-time era. The issue before the court related to the 194.5-46 crop, and His Honour held that insufficient time had elapsed to allow the Commonwealth to wind up its war-time transactions with the United Kingdom Government. As the result of that judicial view, the Commonwealth was not prepared, after the disposal of the 1947-48 wheat crop, which it had also acquired under its war-time powers, to acquire any more wheat, and carry on the transactions that it had undertaken under those powers. But a stage arrived when the State governments, wheat-growers and wheat-growers’ organizations, became deeply perturbed, because the Commonwealth’s war-time powers to acquire wheat had practically expired. They considered that unless the Commonwealth took action to -ensure an orderly marketing system in the peacetime era under constitutional powers, the wheat-growing industry would revert to the chaotic state that existed between the end of World War I. and the outbreak of World War II. Having those facts in mind, the Premiers raised the matter at a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers in 1947. A motion was submitted to the conference to the effect that the Premiers approved the acquisition of the 1947-48 crop only - I invite honorable members to mark the word “ only “ - and that, in the meantime, action be taken by the Commonwealth and the States in an endeavour to pass complementary legislation to deal with the wheat situation. Fortunately, that endeavour has been successful. As the result of the co-operation of Cabinet, the State governments and the wheat-growers’ organizations, and a great deal of work by the Department of Commerce and Agriculture and myself, a constitutional wheat-marketing scheme has been launched for the peace-time era. The Premiers did not favour the acquisition of wheat after 1947-48, and the Commonwealth concurred in their view. Mr. Teasdale made a statement to the effect that I, as Minister, prevented the Australian Wheat Board from disposing of or entering into a contract in respect of 1948-49 wheat. My action was taken in the light of that unanimous decision of Commonwealth and State Ministers, irrespective of their political views. Would Mr. Teasdale, in his right and honest senses - if he has any - be prepared to say that, by virtue of those facts und the decision of the High Court, the Commonwealth did not take the sane course? Would it have been sensible to allow the former Australian Wheat Board, of which Mr. Teasdale was then a member, to take action to sell wheat from the 1948-49 crop?
The explanation that I have given satisfactorily disposes of the false and stupid case put forward by Mr. Teasdale in that newspaper article. I shall now reveal how inconsistent certain persons have been. The former Antral ian Wheat Board was still acting under National Security Regulations on the 24th and the 26th September, 1947, when it considered a request from myself as Minister that it should advise me of its views on a long-term agreement to supply wheat to the United Kingdom. The request followed an exploratory discussion with Lord Addison in Canberra. Mr. Teasdale moved -
That, in view of the fact that the board an at present constituted has a potential life of one year or until the wheat of the 1948-49 season is disposed of, the board does not feel authorized to deal with matters beyond the marketing of the 1947-48 crop.
The motion was ruled out of order, and the minutes of the meeting state that Mr. Teasdale indicated that, in the circumstances, he could not be a party to the discussions, and, accordingly, left the meeting. But Mr. Teasdale apparently regarded my action as ministerial interference, because I prevented the former Australian Wheat Board from entering into negotiations when legislation had been passed to constitute the new board. Does anybody say that in the light of that statement Mr. Teasdale has a peg on which to hang his hat? Honorable members will see the kind of propaganda that has been disseminated. I do not object to fair criticism, indeed, I enjoy it, but, unfortunately, it appears that some of the members of the Australian Wheat Board, particularly the grower-members, have endeavoured to score off one another, and some are frightened of others. I have now disposed of that particular paragraph in the report of Mr. Teasdale’s speech.
– Is the previous paragraph that the Minister has read true or untrue ?
– This is not a questionandanswer session. At the moment, I am addressing the chamber. The honorable member for Swan, who has already spoken in this debate, made a very poor fist of his case. He based his speech on information supplied by Mr. Teasdale. I have shown how completely stupid and inconsistent that gentleman has been in the matter.
The Australian Government was anxious to assist the wheat-growers. The Commonwealth act was proclaimed on the 26th November, 1948, and received the Royal Assent on the 17th December last. The South Australian act was assented to on the 2nd December, the Western Australian act on the 21st December, the Tasmanian act on the 15th December, and the Queensland act on the 17th December. Delivery of wheat before the date of the Royal Assent was deemed to be delivery under the act. The first deliveries of the new crop of wheat, shown by the Australian Wheat Board, were in the fortnight ended the 18th December, 1948. Those deliveries were made in New South Wales and Queensland, but those States had not, at that time, proclaimed their complementary acts. The date of the inauguration of the new Australian Wheat Board was the 16th December, 1948. As I have stated, the Commonwealth act was passed on the 26th November of that year but the appointment of sufficient members, was not completed until the 16th December, 1948. The establishment of the new board was delayed to give the old board a final meeting before the new board operated and to fit in with the usual meeting of the board. Immediately the appointments had been made to the new board and, indeed, while the old board was holding its final meeting, I communicated with the old board. Its members were fully aware, of course, of the position, and the personnel of the new board was almost identical with the personnel of the old board. A request was made to the old board that those of its members who were members of the new board should attend an urgent meeting of the new board on the morning of the 18th December, 1948. It was not physically possible for me to call for a meeting to be held earlier than the 18th December. I made it my business to go to Melbourne with the intention of launching the new board with my ardent blessings, because it was largely my own creation, after long years of work by my predecessor, the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Scully), who is now VicePresident of the Executive Council. To my astonishment, I found that the members absent included Mr. J. S. Teasdale, who could have been present had he so desired and who now complains that I had stopped the old board from selling wheat from the new 1948-49 crop under the old National Security Regulations. The grower-member from Queensland, Mr. Armstrong, was absent. Mr. Cavanagh, from New South Wales, was absent. Mr. C. P. Chapman was absent. Unfortunately, Mr. Gatehouse was ill. I can understand that members of a board cannot always be present at board meetings, but it is strange that four growermembers were missing from the inaugural meeting of a new instrumentality, created to handle wheat in peace-time. I was disappointed and disgusted to think that, after all the efforts to launch the new authority, its grower-members apparently considered it of so little significance that four of them were absent from the first meeting. Great urgency resided in the fact that the world wheat markets were declining. The Australian Government had been asked by the Government of the United Kingdom to enter into a contract for the sale to it of a vast quantity of wheat. It was urgent, if the contract was to be entered into at an advantageous figure, to enter into it at the earliest possible date while the market was favorable to the seller. The board then decided that it would meet on the 2Sth December, only three days before the new year, to consider the request of the Government of tho United Kingdom. I was very conscious that in the Old Country the Christmas holidays are of some length and that, if we were to respond to the butted Kingdom’s request for a contract, promptitude should be the order of the day. We got the board assembled at last with a quorum present on the 28th December. The United Kingdom proposals were placed before the members and it was asked to advise the Government of what it considered was a fair and reasonable figure at which to sell to the United Kingdom. After much discussion and the lapse of some days, we were informed that the board considered 14s. a bushel was the price at which wheat should be offered to the United Kingdom. It is true that subsequently the Government informed the board that it had decided to make an offer to the United Kingdom at 13s. 8d. a bushel. We asked the board what it thought of that figure. It is on record that after further consideration at a later meeting, the board agreed that 13s. 8d. was a suitable figure. The Government concurred.
– The Minister is suppressing the fact that certain members of the board sent messages that they did not agree to that figure.
– No quibbling by the honorable member or the Australian Wheat Board can erase from the board’s records the fact that, after consideration, it agreed to that figure. That the matter was urgent is shown by the fact that when the first effort was made to get the board together on the 18th December, Chicago wheat futures were 14s. lid. a bushel in Australian currency. When the board met in February, Chicago wheat futures had fallen to 13s. 2d. The Government’s anticipation of a falling market was an anticipation that was not shared by the board which was apparently not prepared to meet more often than fortnightly to deal with the contract. But the offer of the United Kingdom had the full concurrence of the board. The United Kingdom Government communicated again with the Australian Government and indicated that it was not prepared to pay 13s. 8d. a bushel over a long period for 60,000,000 bushels. It made counter offers that were submitted by the Government to the board for approval or rejection. The board, backed by the Government refused to budge from the figure of 13s. 8d. Finally, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Stafford Cripps, on behalf of the Government of the United Kingdom, sent a cable to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) suggesting that a certain figure might be agreed to. The Prime Minister and I discussed the matter and, although the cable was marked “ persona], private and confidential “, we were good enough, on the expectation that the board could be expected to keep as confidential much of the subject-matter other than the price suggestions contained therein. We could have sent it extracts from the cable. This miserable humbugTeasdale, in his attacks on the Australian Government, in his newspaper articles and in his campaign of misrepresentation, notwithstanding that he did not deliver more than seven or eight bags of wheat to the Australian Wheat Board over a long period of years and is reputedly a wheatgrower
– That is only about twelve bushels.
– The gestapo has been working all right. The Government has a dossier on every one.
– I have a dossier on the honorable member. I have only to listen to him and know that he is repeating verbatim the stories told by Mr. Teasdale. Mr. Teasdale said in justification of his breach of faith -
In view of the fact that the Stabilization Act makes it illegal for any person or organization other than the board to sell or purport to sell the Australian crop, no obligation of silence can be sustained in respect to a breach of the law.
Fancy asking a man like that to keep a confidence! I knew that he would not and that he could not be expected to do so. Decency could not be expected from him. It did not matter much, however. Anyway, he went on to say -
If Mr. Beasley has occasion to write to the Prime Minister–
It was not Mr. Beasley, but Sir Stafford Cripps - and such communications are ipso-facto sacrosanct from public view, then they should remain in the archives of the Prime Minister, where they belong. At no time has the board authorized Mr. Beasley toact as salesman on its behalf. As a matter of fact, no act, State or Commonwealth, grants the board powers of delegation.
The fact remains that the contract entered into with the United Kingdom had the concurrence of the board. The Government of the United Kingdom would not pay 13s.8d. a bushel for 60,000,000 bushels for the full period of the contract. It communicated to the Australian Government its preparedness to pay 13s. 8d. for all wheat delivered to the end of March and, from memory, 12s. 91/2d. for wheat delivered thereafter to the end of July. The prices to be paid for subsequent deliveries of wheat were to be the subject of further negotiations or to bo determined in accordance with the terms of the International Wheat Agreement. The Australian Wheat Board refused to agree to the proposal made by the Government of the United Kingdom and made a counter offer of 12s. 101/2. instead of 12s. 91/2d. for March to July deliveries, which I communicated to the Government of the . United Kingdom. The United Kingdom acceded to that figure. Yet, we get this kind of nonsense from Mr. Teasdale, who said -
The board was requested by the representative of the Minister to do two things -
To receive a message from the Prime Minister that the board was not to take cognizance of any advantage which might be deemed to arise out of the fact that Australia is in the sterling area.
To make some deduction from the true market value in the light of the large volume involved, i.e., 60 millions.
That is incorrect. Mr. McCarthy attended the meeting of the board to give information which could not possibly have been in its hands. He often attends meetings of other somewhat similar authorities for the same purpose. Every time he has attended meetings of the Australian Wheat Board he has been thanked and applauded by members of the board for the information that hehas given. To excuse the board for its decision and to say that it was requested to do what it did by the Prime Minister is utterly false. Doubtless, Mr. McCarthy pointed out that it was probably the view of the Government that some considerationshould be given by the board to the magnitude of the deal and that the price to be fixed should be related to the circumstances. The mere fact that a government official attended the meeting of the board in an advisory capacity did not stop it from sticking to the last ditch and placing the onus of making a decision on the Government. The board did not do that. Its members accepted the responsibility and agreed to make a counter offer to the Government of the United Kingdom of 12s. 10½d. a bushel. We communicated that offer to the Government of the United Kingdom. In what way, therefore, were members of the board directed or over-ridden or how were its wishes ignored? The honorable member for Indi talked about the legal aspect and said that, in the absence of a direction from the Minister to sell the nation’s wheat, the authority to do so resided by law in the Australian Wheat Board itself. That is another one of Mr. Teasdale’s contentions. It may be right, constitutionally. I do not know. But I attended a meeting of the board, and that issue was raised by members. Mr. Teasdale was absent. I said to the board, in effect, “ The Australian Government has no desire to be chasing you all over the place or to be standing on your doorstep dictating your business and directing you and interfering with your work. The Government desires to work harmoniously with you and to have you make a success of your operations. There is power under the act to direct you to do practically anything. I do not desire to use that power; but, if you take the attitude that yon want directions, and that you will do nothing without directions, and if you are going to squabble, I shall have no hesitation in giving a general direction that yon shall not sell wheat or transact any business at all without directions from the Government. I am sure you do not want that. There may be one man who does, but I am sure that the majority of you do not want such action to be taken “. But, if because of this alleged legal point, the board, apparently, will do nothing without a direction from the Minister, it would be an unfortunate and bad state of affairs, because, as the honorable member for Indi knows, when the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill was brought down, some honorable members opposite objected to the proposal that the Government should have an over- riding authority. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) and the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride) know that when that subject was raised honorable gentlemen opposite said that the overriding power was a power that should be rarely used. It appears that some members of the Australian Wheat Board desire that, as a protection for themselves, that power should be exercised. They fear to do anything of their own volition. They say, “ We question the right of the board to do this or that without a direction “. My reply is, “ I do not want to give you general directions, but, if yon so desire, 1 shall examine the matter “.
– Does the Minister think that the reason why the board is afraid to accept responsibility is that the market is falling?
– That is probably one of the factors that is influencing these people. The wheat market has been falling for the last six months. Some of the grower members have faced up to the problem as they see it. I do not object if members of the hoard disagree with the Government, but it is a different matter when, in an endeavour to score off each other, some of them make statements to the press which, in some instances, are contrary to the truth and utterly illogical. Mr. Teasdale has criticized me for ordering the hoard not to sell the 1947-48 wheat. Let us consider the vital meeting of the board that was held to determine whether it would accept the offer from the United Kingdom of 13s. 8d. and 12s. 9½d. a bushel and at which the board decided that the second figure should he 12s. 10$. When that counter offer was made to the United Kingdom Government, through the Australian Government, the United Kingdom Government signified its acceptance of the price. Four grower-members were absent from that important meeting. It seems that on vital occasions the grower-members of the hoard absent themselves from meetings. The absentees were communicated with bv telegram in an endeavour to ascertain their viewpoints.
– Were their viewpoints ascertained ?
– Why did not the Minister mention that fact?
– What was the date of the meeting to which the Minister has referred ?
– It was held on the 7th and 8th April, 1948. The record that I have reads as follows : -
Board agreed 13s. Sd. to United Kingdom for shipment to March 31st, and 12s. 10-id. for shipment to July 31st. This was for shipment to United Kingdom itself.-
As I have said, four of the growermembers of the board were absent from that meeting.
– Mr. Teasdale . was present.
– He turned up on that occasion.
– Was there any growermember who did not attend the meeting who indicated that he approved of the price of 13s. 8d. a bushel?
– Some of the growermembers lived up to their responsibilities. They attended the meeting and expressed their opinions.
– Of the growermembers who did not attend the meeting, all but one sent a message opposing that price. The other member said that he would abide by the decision of the majority of the grower-members.
– One of the absent members indicated his dissent by telegraph. Subsequently, he telephoned to say that, in view of what had happened, he was prepared to accept the view of the majority. He then stated in the public press that he was one of the dissentients.
Mr. Chapman has told a better story than has Mr. Teasdale. In a statement by him, published in the Countryman, of the 27th May, 1949, the following passages appear: -
After exhaustive discussion by the board and all relevant factors given full consideration it wa-s considered the maximum value of Australian wheat to U.K. would be approximately 14s. 5d. per bushel, and for London Pood Control areas 15s. 5d., India 1.5a. od. The question of any reduction of price by reason of the magnitude and a possible downward trend in prices was then reviewed.
Ultimately a resolution was moved that the price be 13s. 9d. to U.K., 14s. 9d. to L.TT.C. 14s. 9d. to India, all f.o.b. bulk basis.
Motivated by the thought that there would be some dickering with the price, I moved an amendment which was carried to the effect that the price be 14s.- U.K., 15s.- L.F.C. and India.
The Commonwealth Government did not accept the recommendation of the Board and offered the wheat to U.K. at 13s, 8d., L.F.C. 14s. 8d., India 14s. 8d.
What Mr. Chapman conveniently omitted from his statement is that, when the Australian Wheat Board was asked its opinion of an offer of 13s. 8d. a bushel, it concurred in it, thereby endorsing the action that was taken by the Australian Government at a time when the market was falling very rapidly. The final price that was agreed upon for the whole of the contract was not even 13s. 8d. a bushel. The judgment of the Government on that occasion was sound and was endorsed by the Australian Wheat Board. At every stage of this unfortunate business, when the Australian Wheat Board was communicated with and asked its views, it endorsed the actions of the Government. It endorsed the Government’s offer to the United Kingdom of 13s. 8d. a bushel. The board did not accept the offer of 13s. 8d. and 12s. 9£d. a bushel that was made by the United Kingdom. It made a counter offer of 13s. 8d. and 12s. 10-Jd., and that was accepted by both the United Kingdom and Australian Governments. These figures were lower than those which had been suggested earlier by the Government.
I hope that the unfortunate wrangling among members of the board, the telling of different stories by individual members and the absenteeism of grower members, will cease. I hope that the new members of the board will work together and that a deaf ear will be turned to the commercial interests that are endeavouring by every possible means at their disposal to create distrust in the minds of the wheat-growers and to destroy the Australian Wheat Board and our wheat marketing and stabilization plans and throw us back into the chaotic conditions that existed in the period between 1919 and 1939. Circulating in this colin try is a booklet that has been written and edited by prominent members of the Conservative party in Great Britain. It is circulating widely amongst the conservative interests and merchant interests of this country. Its intention is to spread the idea that the bulk buying system of the United Kingdom Government is an evil one and to sow the seeds of distrust in the minds of the Australian people. Its aim is to destroy the bulk buying organization of the United Kingdom Government and to discredit and destroy our marketing and stabilization schemes. Mr. Teasdale has always been opposed to the
Stabilization scheme and has continually endeavoured to sow the seeds of distrust in the minds of other members of the Australian Wheat Board. In my opinion, Mr. Teasdale has not been honest in his dealings with regard to this matter. I have no quarrel with men who disagree with me but who tell the whole story. Mr. Teasdale has said that I prevented the board from selling the new season’s crop to the United Kingdom when prices were approximately los. or 16s. a bushel, but twelve or eighteen months earlier he walked out of a meeting because he was not prepared to discuss a long-term contract with the United Kingdom that would have extended beyond 1947-48. All the cards are on the table. I have had to say some harsh things. I understand that all but one or two members of the Australian Wheat Board are comparatively happy about the things that have been done. There has been some dissent, but. in regard to the contract with the United Kingdom and the prices that were finally agreed upon, the board itself accepted those figures and the Government accepted the board’s recommendation. I hope that that will dispose for all time of the misstatements that are being made by destructive-minded people.
.- The tirade that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) has directed against Mr. Teasdale will not affect the opinion of the wheat-growers that the Government has interfered in negotiations for the sale of their products. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Bea’.lev) asked, by way of interjection, whether the members of the Australian Wheat Board are getting the “jitters” because the price of wheat is falling. In reply to that interjection, the Minister said that they were trying to throw the responsibility on to the Government. At the time when the negotiations in respect of the sale of this 60,000,000 bushels of wheat were begun, inquiries were being made for wheat at approximately 14s. a bushel. The wheat could have been sold at that price, but the Government would not accept it. The wheat-growers are not fools. They watch the market reports that appear occasionally in the press and calculate for themselves what, their wheat is worth and what they should receive for it. Other information is supplied to them by fearless members of the Australian Wheat Board who are not “ Yes “ men. It is upon those facts that they make their decisions-. The wheat-growers are very disturbed about this deal. The Minister has not answered the most important question that has been asked in this debate. The farmers want to know why they should be called upon to contribute to any country a sum in excess of £3,000,000 when the rest of the population are not called upon to do likewise. This deal affords positive proof of the incompetency of public servants successfully to negotiate the sale of wheat.
If the wheat-growers of Australia were asked their opinion of Mr. Teasdale, the gentleman to whom the Minister has referred so kindly - save the word! - they would say unanimously that he is one of the best-informed men in this country upon wheat matters. Notwithstanding that, the Government does not invite men like him to act as its advisers in negotiations such as these. In this inglorious instance, the representatives of the Australian Government negotiated this deal at a time when, on the other side of the Atlantic, negotiations were in progress for an international wheat agreement. In view of the fact that under the agreement of last year the price of wheat was fixed at approximately two dollars a bushel, or 12s. 6d. Australian currency, and that there was a demand for the selling price to be lowered, is it likely that men like Mr. Rank, who conducts most of these deals for the United Kingdom, would give way to people who were asking 14s. a bushel? Incidentally, when the first offer was made some of the wheat was on its way to the United Kingdom and further shipments were sent shortly afterwards. We must get down to brass tacks. If a man goes to his neighbour to buy sheep and asks the price of them, and if the neighbour then tells him to take the sheep with him and to discuss the purchase price in a fortnight’s time, who has the better end of the stick? It is the man who has taken the sheep with him. What the Minister has said to-day will not dispel the feeling of the wheat-growers that they have been, if not betrayed, fooled in these negotiations. The Minister said that the board had endorsed the price. The board had in fact no other option than to endorse it, because the whole business was presented to it as an accomplished fact that the Government had finalized and that could not be altered by any protests from the board. Such things happen all along the line. We saw a similar happening recently when the Australian Wheat Growers Federation sent representatives to Canberra to meet the Minister in connexion with another matter that is now on the notice-paper, and we read in the press that they had agreed under protest to certain action because they had no other course. That is the kind of thing about which the wheatgrowers are complaining. Negotiations are carried out behind their backs, without there accredited representative being consulted and being given a certain amount of responsibility. The Minister has stated that the responsibility for this sale was the board’s. The board did not finalize the sale–
– It did.
– It did not. It was a government deal and the Minister himself has said so. One of the other reasons for the disquiet in the minds of the wheat-growers over the Government’s policy is that they believe that governmenttogovernment sales between Australia and Britain are simply intended as face-savers for the socialist Government of the United Kingdom. Instead of assisting the wheat-growers, as the Minister claims the Government does, it is, in fact, depriving them of their rights. But
I shall not say anything more on that matter now because the damage has been done, unfortunately. Honorable members on this side of the House have endeavoured during this short debate to obtain some of the facts connected with the matter and we have already gleaned a few. I notice that the Minister did not quote a certain paragraph of Mr. Teasdale’s letter when I asked him about it, but completely avoided it.
– If the honorable member will identify the paragraph I shall read it.
.- In his lengthy speech the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) has substantially confirmed whatI stated when I spoke last on this matter. It is true, however, that he has wound up his facts in such an involved manner and has so woven through his speech a thread of attack and abuse against the representatives of the wheat-growers that he has rather confused the issue. Nevertheless he has confirmed the facts that I placed before the chamber. I am permitted to speak twice in this debate, and this is the second occasion on which I have risen to address the committee. The Minister may speak as often as he likes and I have no doubt that any competition between us would end with his having the last word, so I shall not attempt to have it now. I have risen principally to make some remarks about Mr. Teasdale, whom the Minister has taken to task in such harsh words. I say, without the slightest reservation, that the Minister’s attack on John Teasdale is shameful.
– Like the honorable member’s attack on the late Sir Louis Bussau.
-John Teasdale was, no doubt, as the Minister has said, absent from a meeting of the Australian Wheat Board in December.
– And from a later meeting that I attended.
– All right, he was absent from two meetings, and may have been absent from others.
– In Decemberhe attended a Farmers Union meeting in Western Australia, which he apparently considered to be more important than the meeting of the Australian Wheat Board.
– Order! The Minister must cease interjecting.
– I am sure that Mr. Teasdale could not buy a piece of elastic without the Minister or some of his minions knowing it. The Minister has revealed quite clearly that any one who crosses the political path of any Minister of this Government has his movements checked with such thoroughness that a Minister can state where he was on a certain date, or perhaps how many bushels of wheat a wheatgrower put into the wheat pool. I have not the slightest doubt that the Minister could say how many men I employ and how many lambs I truck, if it suited him politically to do so. It is the policy of this Government to maintain a dossier on any one who crosses its political path. I use the term “ maintain a dossier “, but that term refers to the identical practice that is followed in totalitarian countries. Under the authoritarian governments of such other countries the instruments that maintain a scrutiny such as this Government maintains are known by various names. In Germany the organization that had that responsibility was known as the “gestapo”, and in Russia a similar organization has borne several alphabetical names such as “ OGPU “ and “ NKVD “.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! The honorable member must confine his remarks to matters relevant to the proposed vote now before the committee.
– The Government of Australia maintains a scrutiny on people, which is why the Minister is able to tell me that Mr. Teasdale was in Perth on a certain day.
– I read a report in the newspapers about where he was on that day.
– The Minister could also tell me how many bushels of wheat Mr. Teasdale put into the wheat pool. I say that he has revealed this Government for what it is. It employs men on the public pay-roll, paid for by money extorted from the taxpayers, to keep a day-to-day scrutiny upon the private lives of individuals who may inconvenience it in a political sense.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable gentleman must return to the matter under debate.
– I return to the matter of Mr. Teasdale. He may have been absent from two meetings of the board. In fact I accept the statement that he was absent from two meetings. He was absent from other meetings also, no doubt. Mr. Teasdale has been a member of wheat hoards since the beginning of the last war. He is a man of more than 60 years of age.
– He is nearly 70.
– He is not nearly 70. I know his age.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman must address the Chair.
– In any event, he is a man in his middle sixties.
Mr. Pollard interjecting,
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The Minister must not interject.
– If the Minister was an honorable member on this side of the chamber and interjected in such a manner, he would run the risk of being thrown out.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! I take the honorable member’s remark as a reflection upon the Chair. The Chair has called the Minister to order and does not favour either side of the House.
- Mr. Teasdale is not a. young man hut he has devoted the whole of his life to what he conceives to he public duty. He isone of the most active public men in Australia. He has spent his life working for the producers. The
Minister may, or may not, agree with me when I say that.
– I have not criticized Mr. Teasdale personally.
– The Minister states that he has not criticized Mr. Teasdale personally. He only described him as “this miserable humbug Teasdale”.
– I was speaking of a “ political humbug “,
– The Minister also said, “He has not been honest”.
– That is correct,butI was referring to political honesty, or Australian Wheat Board honesty.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! I ask the Minister to cease interjecting.
– I should like your protection from the Minister, Mr. Temporary Chairman.
Mr. Archie Cameron interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen) does not require assistance from his own side of the committee any more than he does from the Government side, and I must ask that interjections cease.
– I desire to put on record the truth regarding a man whose name has been besmirched to-day in this chamber. A report appeared in the press a few weeks ago to the effect that Mr. Teasdale was recognized by the air company by which he had travelled, as a man who had travelled half a million miles.
– What a martyr!
- Mr. Teasdale flew the long distance backwards and forwards between Perth and Melbourne, almost exclusively in connexion with his duties as a member of the Australian Wheat Board. That is a substantial physical feat for a man of more than 60 years of age. Nobody, either among those who agree with Mr. Teasdale or those who disagree with him, would deny that he is one of the most knowledgeable men in Australia regarding the merchandizing of wheat.
– That is right.
– He has never sought to exploit his knowledge by establishing a business as a wheat merchant. He has never engaged in wheat speculation. He has devoted his life, first to farming as a wheat-grower, and later to co-operative enterprises on behalf of wheat-growers. He has been honoured by the Australian Wheat Growers Federation by being chosen as its representative on the Australian Wheat Board. He was the principal power behind the establishment of the first bulk-handling system for wheat in Australia, a system that has been invaluable to the wheat-growers of Western Australia. He is the chairman of trustees of the Western Australian bulk-handling system, the correct title of which I cannot recall.
– Was he not honoured by His Majesty?
– He has been honoured by the King and also by the Wheat Growers Federation. Even if be does inconvenience the Minister he ought not tobe subjected to bitter, virulent attacks.
– Mr. Teasdale has not inconvenienced me in the slightest.
– In carrying out his duties in connexion with the Australian Wheat Board, Mr. Teasdale, during the last ten years, has travelled 4,000 miles every fortnight, except for rare occasions on which he has missed meetings of the board. For doing all that travelling and discharging his duties on the board he has been paid the princely salary of £500 a year. He is a man who, I have not the slightest doubt, would be snapped up any day by private enterprise and paid a salary of at least £5,000 a year. That is not an exaggeration, because the former manager of the Australian Wheat Board, Mr. Thompson, was paid, by both the Menzies Government and the Curtin Government, a salary of £5,000 a. year. We know that Mr. Teasdale has at least as much knowledge as Mr. Thompson and, in fact, I should be prepared to say more knowledge. His reward for giving his services for such a small salary is to be described by the Minister as “ this miserable humbug Teasdale “. The Minister also said that Mr. Teasdale is not honest. I desire to put it on record now that Mr. Teasdale is serving the wheat-growers of this country and has been given by them greater recognition, than they have given to any other wheat-grower. The Minister has quoted at considerable length from an article by Mr. Teasdale that was published in the Countryman. No doubt the Minister quoted it exactly. What the Minister has not pointed out, however, is that an almost identical article was written by Mr. Chapman.
– I quoted from that one, too.
– Mr. Chapman, however, has not been attacked.
– Yes he has.
– Yet Mr. Chapman criticized the Government in almost identical terms to those used by Mr. Teasdale. But Mr. Chapman is a good Labour supporter.
– He is not.
– His brother-in-law is one of the members of the Government party in this chamber, and that has kept him free from criticism.
– I criticized him for ringing up on the telephone and running out on his telegrams.
– The Minister did not mention that matter before.
– I am mentioning it now.
– The Minister mentions it when it is dragged out of him. A distinction is drawn by honorable gentlemen opposite between people like Mr. Chapman and people like Mr. Teasdale. Any one who supports the Government, or is a Labour man-
– I do not know anything about Mr. Teasdale’s political opinions.
– I repeat that any one who supports the Government may offer criticism and his name will not be dragged in the mud, but any one who happens to be a political supporter of the Australian Country party, as Mr. Teasdale is-
– I do not know what his political views arc.
– The Minister should know that Mr. Teasdale once stood as a candidate for the Australian Country party.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member for Indi must address the Chair.
- Mr. Teasdale is an honorable gentleman who has given invaluable service to the country at great cost to himself, but because he has criticized the Government we have been treated to a diatribe against him. It is disgraceful that Mr. Teasdale should have been so attacked. I do not suggest that, in future, the Minister will find Mr. Teasdale on his side politically. Of course he will not, but I say that, in the future, as in the past, Mr. Teasdale will give the best that is in him to the wheatgrowing industry according to his views, and the best that is in him to this country. A man who is prepared to give his best, whether it be for the wheat-growers or the trade unions, ought to be immune from bitter personal attack. I hope that there will be an end to such occurrences, and that spokesmen for the Government, every time a critic hurts them, will discontinue the practice of producing letters for the purpose of attacking the critic. A little while ago, the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), referring to the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann), said, in effect: “I have a letter here. I have been waiting for him for some time”. The Minister said that Mr. Teasdale had delivered only eight bags of wheat.
– He is not a substantial grower.
– He was a substantial wheat-grower until he gave his services to the co-operative movement and, . as the Minister knows, he still has an interest in wheat-growing.
, who is the physical and mental counterpart of Hesse. When any one on this side of the House answers criticism from a member of the Opposition, the honorable member for Indi says, “ Oh yes, you have a dossier on him from your gestapo service “. The honorable member ought to know because, as I have said, he is the physical and mental counterpart of one of the leading nazis. In comparing Mr. Teasdale with Mr. Thompson, the honorable member said that Mr. Teasdale had given as much service to the wheatgrowers as Mr. Thompson had done, yet Mr. Teasdale received only £500 a year for his work, whereas the country paid Mr. Thompson £5,000 a year. Such a comparison is ridiculous. The organization of the wheat industry involves more than marketing arrangements, and requires a greater knowledge than a mere knowledge of the market. Mr. Thompson was in control of the physical handling and disposition of the wheat. The position was much the same when Mr. Teasdale was chairman of the Western Australian Wheat Pool. It was a very successful pool, organized by the growers, but the actual management of the pool was also carried out by Mr. Thompson. When the co-operative bulk handling scheme was brought into being, it was again Mr. Thompson who was responsible for its actual working. He was not called the manager, but as secretary he directed its activities. Therefore, there can be no real comparison between the services rendered to the wheat-growers by Mr. Teasdale and Mr. Thompson.
The honorable member for Indi said that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) had criticized the chosen representative of the wheatgrowers. I wrote down the words, “ chosen representative “, and I hope I am not misquoting the honorable member. If so, I am open to correction. It is untrue to say that Mr. Teasdale is the chosen representative of the wheatgrowers. Let me tell honorable members how Mr. Teasdale got on to the board. The Minister for Agriculture in Western Australia asked the wheat section of the newly formed Farmers Union to submit to him a panel of six names, from which he or the Government would select a representative to sit on the board. The executive of the organization met, and drew up a list of six names for submission to the Minister. Mr. Teasdale’s name was not on the list. Telegrams were sent to the six men whose names were on the list stating that the Minister wanted to know urgently whether they were prepared to accept appointment. As I have said, Mr. Teasdale’s name was not on the first list submitted. The matter was supposed to be urgent. I forget the number of hours within which replies had to be received. Five of the six men communicated with replied, but one of them happened to be away from his farm undergoing hospital treatment in Fremantle. He did not even receive the telegram, but because he did not reply within so many hours, it was assumed that he had refused appointment. Mr. Teasdale’s name was then slipped in as sixth on the list.
– By whom?
– By the wheat section of the Farmers Union, I assume, and the Minister was advised, probably by the secretary of the organization, but I have never inquired.
– I did not describe Mr. Teasdale as the chosen representative of the growers.
– The honorable member accepted that description of him at first, but now, when I have exposed it as untrue, he shifts his ground.
– Originally, he waa elected by the growers. At the present time, the representative of the growers on the board is a nominee, but that does not disprove my assertion that when the growers had the power to elect their own representatives they elected Mr. Teasdale.
– The growers did not elect Mr. Teasdale to the present wheat board. When the executive of the wheatgrowers’ section of the Farmers Union submitted its panel of names, it indicated that the first name on the list was its choice. Its second choice wa9 the second name on the list, its third choice was the third name, and so on. The name of Mr. Teasdale was not even among the first six. Eventually, by the action of the secretary of the executive, his name occupied sixth position on the list. The State Government ignored the first, second, third, fourth and fifth nominees, and went to the bottom of the list in order to appoint Mr. Teasdale. We have now to inquire why his name was not on the original list. The answer is that, his name was omitted for the very sound and logical reason that he stumped the country districts in Western Australia, Victoria and, I believe, in South Australia, trying to persuade the wheatgrowers not to accept the stabilization plan. Seeing that, subsequently, the growers decided by a majority vote to support the plan, it is not surprising that they did not put his name on the original panel from which their representative was to be chosen. Later, the Government of Western Australia ignored the choice of the wheat -growers, and appointed to the board a man who had stumped the country opposing the stabilization plan.
– Who appointed the commercial representative to the board?
– I am speaking about Mr. Teasdale. He was appointed to the board, but he was not elected by the growers. The honorable member for Swan claimed that Mr. Teasdale had a great knowledge of the wheat-growing industry. I have never denied that. The honorable member said that, because he had a knowledge of the industry, he should have been accepted as an adviser. As a matter of fact, he would have been the worst kind of adviser.
– I did not say that he should have been accepted as an adviser. I said that he was a good man, with a wide knowledge of the industry.
– The second reason why he ought not to have been appointed to the board is that he is not now a wheatgrower. For the last five years he has sent in not more than three or four bags nf wheat a year.
– How did he get that wheat if he did not grow it?
– The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) is himself a wheat-grower. Does he suggest that a man who delivers only three or four bags of wheat in a season should be regarded as a wheat-grower? As a matter of fact, Mr. Teasdale delivered those few bags of wheat as a token in order to qualify himself to retain his licence as a grower. It is a dishonest sham for a man to call himself a wheat-grower, and to retain his licence as a grower, when he delivers to the board only 12 bushels of wheat in a season, but that is the man who, according to the honorable member for Indi, is a paragon of virtue. He became a member of the board in defiance of the wishes of the growers of Western Australia and, in that respect, his action wa3 dishonest.
– Does the Minister claim that Mr. Teasdale produced only four or five bags of wheat in the last five years?
– For each of four years he delivered only four bags of wheat. Last year, he delivered four and a half bags. Apparently, he is getting on in the world, because his production is increasing. That is the man whom the honorable member described as a worthy representative of the wheat-growers. I think I have completely demolished the arguments of the honorable member for Indi. It has happened many times that some one has had to rise on this side of the chamber to prove that statementsmade by the honorable member for Indi were untrue. Of course, I am not surprised that the honorable member should’ try to defend Mr. Teasdale who, on many occasions, has prepared the data upon which the honorable member has attacked the Government. On at least four or five occasions the honorable member for Indi has submitted motions for theadjournment of the House on cases that were prepared and submitted to him. by Mr.- Teasdale. The last speech madeby the honorable member on the International Wheat Agreement Bill was also prepared in the office of Mr. Teasdale.. Indeed, it was written by a gentleman in Western Australia who complained that he had to return from a holiday in order to write the speech. Is there any wonder that the honorable member wriggles in his seat when these truths are made known? He professes to be the mouthpiece of the wheat-growers and claims to be omniscient in matters relating to the wheat industry, hut all of his speeches on that industry are written for him by people in Western Australia.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Does the honorable member claim that he has been misrepresented ?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I ask the honorable member to be brief and to keep his remarks to the point.
– My explanation can be simply and briefly made. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) has said that certain speeches which I have made in this chamber were written for me, and that the last speech which I made on the. International Wheat Agreement Bill, and speeches which I made on other occasions when I have submitted motions for the adjournment of the House were written for me. That is a complete invention on the part of the honorable gentleman. There is not a vestige of truth in his assertion. I usually make extempore speeches in this chamber. When I speak on behalf of the two Opposition parties, as I have been authorized to do in respect of the wheat industry, I invariably read a speech which I have prepared and submitted to the members of the two parties so that they may know the views which I propose to express. I have never read a speech in this chamber other than on the occasions when I was declaring the policy of the two Opposition parties after my written speech had been submitted to and considered by them. I prepare my own speeches. There is not a vestige of truth in the Minister’s allegation.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Social Services.
Proposed vote, £289,750.
– Having regard to the large sums of money collected from the people by way of social services contribution, I think that the time has arrived when something should be said about hospital benefits. Victorian hospitals still have to rely on funds collected on Hospital Sunday and on appeals made through churches and the voluntary contributions of publicspirited citizens. As the people are called upon to pay heavy contributions for social services, they should not also be called upon to finance our public hospitals by appeals on Hospital Sunday and in such ways. At present the Government makes a contribution to the maintenance of hospitals of 8s. a day for each occupied bed. In respect of beds in public wards payment is made in the first place to the State governments which distribute the proceeds to the hospitals. In respect of beds in intermediate and private wards, the payment is made direct to the hospitals concerned. It has recently been estimated that the cost of maintaining an occupied bed in a hospital is approximately 30s. a day. The hospital authorities have to finance the additional 22s. a day as best they can. Many people are under the impression that the proceeds of the social services contributions are utilized for the maintenance of hospitals. Nothing could be more further from the truth. The Government is expending large sums of money on its free medicine scheme. Surely, the provision of adequate hospital benefits is of vastly greater importance than the provision of some specific medicine for rheumatism or the common cold. Too many people in the community have to undergo hospital treatment for months and, in some cases, for years, because of the devastating effects of disease. Thecost of their maintenance has to be largely borne by the hospitals concerned. I appeal to the Minister representing the Minister for Health to consider the urgent necessity for increasing the hospital benefits rate.
.- I listened with interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) in relation to the hospital benefits. The honorable member is under a misapprehension about the method by which the amount of 8s. a day for each occupied bed was arrived at. I have a fairly intimate knowledge of the subject because I was fortunate enough to be a member of a committee that recommended a hospital benefits scheme to the Government, which, with a minor modification of the daily bed rate, was subsequently adopted. The payment of 8s. a day was not intended to cover the actual cost of maintaining a hospital bed. Eather was it intended to be compensation for the average amount collected by public hospitals in pre-war years from their public ward patients. If my memory serves me aright, the average overall amount collected by public hospitals in all States in respect of each occupied bed in public wards averaged 4s. lOd. That was due to the conditions that existed at the time the calculation was made. The committee of which I was a member recommended the granting of a daily subsidy of 6s. 6d. for each occupied bed. The State Premiers decided to accept 6s. a day. I do not know the present cost of maintaining a bed in a public ward. It may or may not be 30s., as the honorable member has suggested. However, he made a wrong approach to the problem when he said that the Government regards the payment of 8s. a day as being sufficient to cover maintenance costs. The hospital benefits payment is merely a subsidy to compensate the hospitals for the amount they .had collected in past years from public ward patients. To-day the hospitals receive 8s. a day for each occupied bed in public wards, an amount which is almost 100 per cent, greater than the average amount they received from public ward patients in pre-war years. I believe that the hospital benefits payments have been of great advantage to our hospitals. In pre-war years many people received treatment in a hospital and left the institution without paying anything. The low average of 4s. lOd. was due to the payments made by hospital schemes in operation in New South Wales. Hospital benefit schemes comparable with the New South Wales Metropolitan Hospital scheme did not exist in Tasmania, Western Australia and South Australia.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to a discussion of the administration of the Department of Social Services.
– I merely want to point out that at the time our calculation was made the return from the hospital benefit schemes in some States was as low as 3s. 3d. a day. I mention these facts in order to show the honorable member for Wimmera that the payment of 8s. a day for each occupied bed has no relation to the cost of maintaining a hospital bed.
– I am always rather diffident about differing from my friend, the honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly), but I want to put him right on this occasion. As far as it goes, his statement is correct, but it does not go far enough. The committee to which he has referred made a survey of hospital costs throughout Australia. The survey revealed that the average daily cost of maintaining a bed in a hospital was 12s. 9d. or 13s. Taking that figure into consideration, the committee thought that it would be fair for the Government to meet one-half of that cost, and accordingly it suggested that a payment of 6s. 6d. a day for each occupied bed be made. The honorable member stated that the committee had recommended 4s. lOd. a day. I am sure that the basis of the committee’s recommendation was that the Government should meet one half of the cost of maintaining beds in hospitals at that time. The committee considered this matter about five years ago. I agree with the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) that the cost of maintaining hospital beds has increased tremendously during the last few years. From my experience of the bush nursing hospitals in Victoria, I am convinced that it ranges from 30s. to £2 a day. Yesterday, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) referred to the high cost of maintaining beds at the public hospital at Darwin. Those high costs apply in all parts of the Commonwealth and, because of that, there is good ground for seeking additional assistance for hospitals under the provisions of the Hospital Benefits Act.
.- There are three points which I wish to make in connexion with the proposed vote for the Department of Social Services. Some of them are known to the Minister and have been debated before, but no action has been taken in regard to thom. I refer in the first place to the fact that the age pension is not payable to persons who come from overseas, even though they be British migrants, until they have been resident in Australia for twenty years. That restriction is very unfair, and its existence prevents many British families from coming to this country. Prospective migrants are entitled to social service benefits in Great Britain, and, consequently, they are reluctant to forgo those benefits by coming to Australia. I know of many cases, as al.°o does the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), of elderly English migrants without means having to work until they are in the seventies and eighties because they are not eligible for the age pension. It is high time that the Government amended the legislation to give relief to these people.
The second point I wish to make is that the invalid pension is not in all instances payable to persons under the age of 21 years. We have heard a great deal about the scourge of tuberculosis which may invade any home. I have brought to the notice of the Minister many cases in which young girls in employment have developed tuberculosis and have been unable to earn their living. A young girl may be ordered not to work, and may be obliged to remain at home for six months, twelve months or oven longer until she can be admitted to a sanatorium. During that period, the Government does not contribute to her subsistence if her father is in receipt of a reasonable income. I notice that the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) shakes his head.
– Because the honorable member for Balaclava is wrong.
– Whether the patient receives subsistence depends upon the father’s income.
– The honorable member for Griffith butts into a number of argu ments when he does not understand the subject, as he did earlier to-day when he defended alterations to telephone exchanges in preference to accelerating the home-building programme. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson), who is a little more sympathetic, and hae a better knowledge of the position, agrees with me. The means test is applied sometimes in a strange way. I do not know how much income a father is permitted to receive before a daughter suffering from tuberculosis is ineligible for subsistence. The girl may have been earning £3 or £4 a week, and when her medical adviser orders her to remain at home, the family is deprived of some of her income. In addition, she must have special foods and attention. Consequently, the home is deprived of a part of her earnings, and incurs an additional expense in caring for her until she enters a sanatorium. The Government should examine that position. I am not attacking the Government necessarily on this matter but, as honorable members will realize, this is a human problem. If it has been overlooked in the pact, it should be corrected now.
I come now to my third point. An ex-serviceman who receives a pension for a war disability that he has sustained is not eligible for the full amount of unemployment relief. I realize that this subject is a hardy annual. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), who represents the Minister for Health (Senator -McKenna) in this chamber, will recall that we discussed this matter as long ago as 1944. Despite strong submissions by members of the Opposition on a number of occasions in the intervening years, the Government remains obdurate. With the approach of the election, Ministers may be more disposed to heed our request. On the 30th March, 1.944. we *were considering the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Bill, and the then honorable member for Parramatta, Sir Frederick Stewart, asked the Minister for Labour and National Service to explain why a pension for a war disability was taken into account in determining the amount of unemployment benefit to which an ex-serviceman was’ entitled. On that occasion, the Minister expressed concern, and said that the matter would be adjusted. The honorable member for “Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) submitted an amendment for the purpose of giving effect to the Opposition’s view on the matter, and Sir Frederick Stewart asked the Minister to postpone the consideration of the clause. The honorable gentleman declined to accede to Sir Frederick’s request, but promised to submit the proposal to Cabinet for consideration on the following Tuesday.
– I did so.
– -The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) suggested that Cabinet might meet that evening to consider the proposal, but the Minister replied that some Ministers were occupied in. the Senate and would not be able to attend a meeting of Cabinet at that time. He continued -
I shall present this proposal to Cabinet with the same degree of sympathy as the honorable member for Wentworth has shown. He is aware that the bill will not be implemented for some time.
The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) asked “ Then why should we hasten to pass it ? “, and the Minister replied as follows : - 1 have given my word, and I ask honorable members to accept it.
– I kept my word on that occasion, as I do on all occasions.
– To what effect?
– That is a different matter altogether.
– I suppose that the Minister merely said something to somebody offstage, and the anomaly has not been rectified. Therefore a pension that an ex-serviceman who has lost an eye or a limb receives is deducted from his unemployment relief payments. That practice is preference to ex-servicemen in reverse. Some honorable members opposite may not be aware that an exserviceman does not automatically receive a pension for a disability that he has suffered. The loss of an eye, or f acial disfigurement is a handicap to an ex-serviceman who is seeking employment. Does the honorable member for Griffith approve of the present situation, wherein an ex-service man’s disability pension is deducted from unemployment relief payments which he may receive ?
– I shall explain my views on the matter in a few minutes.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I ask the honorable member for Balaclava to address the Chair, and not to invite interjections.
– The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and some other honorable members opposite spoke in support of this proposal last year, when I had an opportunity to raise this matter.
– How did they vote?
– They did not vote for the amendment, because they are subject to the iron rule of caucus. Had they dared to vote for the proposal they would have been cast into political oblivion. I know that they are chained to the caucus wheel, and are not free agents, but, at least, they have hearts, and they have expressed their sympathy for the case that I am advancing. This anomaly has existed for too long. I have received letters from the Minister for Health on the subject. Like the genial Minister for Labour and National Service, he is also sympathetic, but sympathy is not enough. Five years ago the Minister for Labour and National Service promised to do his utmost to have the anomaly adjusted, but the position has not been altered. Perhaps the Minister cannot persuade a majority of members of Cabinet to adopt his view, but, surely, in five years, he has had time to win support for it. If the honorable member for Parkes and certain other honorable members opposite voice their views in favour of my proposal, the class of ex-servicemen to whom I have referred may yet receive justice. I do not think that many exservicemen are involved, and the additional amount of money for which the Commonwealth would become liable would not be large. The Government throws away money in many directions, but disregards this human problem. If the economic recession about the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has spoken, affects Australia, disabled ex-servicemen may become unemployed. Every honorable member opposite will have to accept his share of the responsibility if the Government refuses to correct this anomaly.
.- Once again, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) is wrong. A person under 21 years of age is not debarred from receiving an invalid pension. At sixteen years, an invalid child becomes eligible for the pension. The Commonwealth has also made available to the States £250,000 a year for the care of tuberculous patients. The honorable member for Balaclava has quoted the case of a girl who was ordered to leave her employment and remain at home until she could enter a sanatorium for treatment. She may receive subsistence from this fund on application to the Government of the State in which he resides.
– Plus the pension.
– The moment a person receives a pension because he is suffering from tuberculosis, he may approach the Government of the State in which he lives for subsistence out of the Commonwealth grant of £250,000 per annum. The States administer that grant on behalf of the Commonwealth in order to assist tuberculous patients. A man with a wife and one or two children may receive as much as £6 a week from that fund so that he may leave his employment and obtain proper treatment for six months in an endeavour to effect a cure. The Commonwealth has made a great effort in that respect. Indeed, the Labour Government has been expanding its social services programme ever since it has been in office, and it is spending at the rate of £80,000,000 a year on social services for the people. Before the outbreak of World War II., when the honorable member for Balaclava was a Minister in an anti-Labour government, the total annual budget of the Commonwealth was only £80,000,000. I recall that the then Treasurer (Mr. Menzies) presented the first £100,000,000 budget in 1939. This year, the Labour Government will expend approximately £88,000,000 on social services alone.
– Thanks to the primary producer.
– Thanks to everybody. The primary producer to-day is living off the fat of the land, paying off his mortgage and driving around in expensive motor cars. His s’tandard of living to-day is better than it has ever been.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to relate his remarks to the Department of Social Services.
– The Labour Government has set out to give social services covering all stages from pre-natal care to pensions for the aged. Our social services are equal, if not superior, to those of any other country.
– What about our hospitals ?
– Patients should be very pleased that the Commonwealth is paying a part of their hospital fees.
– Tell that to the hospitals.
– I shall do so. Two of the greatest hospitals in Australia are situated in my electorate. Before the Commonwealth introduced the hospital benefits scheme, people in Victoria had to beg assistance from the other States in order to defray the cost of their public hospitals.
– They still have to do that.
– The State Government, and not the Commonwealth, is responsible for that. Various hospital funds have been established in New South Wales, but Queensland has the Golden Casket which provides golden opportunities for all sick people.
– Has the “ golden age “ dawned in Queensland?
– The “golden age” has existed in Queensland for many years.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order ! I ask the honorable member to discuss the Department of Social Services.
– The administration of the Department of Social Services is all that can be desired. The Australian people are proud of and grateful for the social services that they receive from this Government. They enjoy social security. Everybody who is not a red hot tory is most gratified with our social services system.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
– I move -
J hat the bill be now read a second time.
I should like it to be clearly understood that the purpose of this bill is to maintain what every Australian has understood to have been the law of the land for the past 48 years. The bill is designed to continue the administration of the Immigration Act according to the interpretation of it that was thought to be correct by governments of differing political complexions throughout the whole of those 48 years, until a recent High Court judgment revealed that the act had certain weaknesses never before disclosed. There has been a great deal of controversy over certain events which have led to the introduction of this bill, and the voices of the Communists, the seekers after cheap labour and the sentimentalists, have been loud in the land. But, so far a9 this House is concerned, there can hardly be any argument at all about the purposes of the bill or its necessity. Our policy of restricted immigration simply cannot be maintained if certain recently discovered flaws in the original Immigration Restriction Act are not corrected. Any person who opposes the bill must, by so doing, label himself a disbeliever in any effective restriction where immigration is concerned, and one who wishes to destroy the living standards and way of life that have been built up in this nation in litle more than a century and a half. The Immigration Restriction Act, which came into operation in 1901, made provision for thu grant of certificates which, exempted the holders from the provisionsof the act and thereby enabled persons, who otherwise would be prohibited from landing, to enter Australia for a stipulated period. This system, which hassince continued to operate, has proved highly satisfactory in every respect. It has enabled arrangements to be concluded with the Governments of Asian countries under which their nationals can be admitted as businessmen, students and tourists without infringing the basic principle on which our immigration policy is based. In this way, the system ha3 made no small contribution towards the development of trade and the maintenance, of friendly relations with our northern neighbours. The grant of certificates of exemption is not, however, confined’ to non-Europeans but has been, and is, widely used in connexion with the admission of Europeans, both British and nonBritish. In particular, it has enabled the immigration authorities to permit the entry of those persons who were technically prohibited immigrants under the restrictive provisions of immigration legislation, but whose admission could not well be denied on humanitarian grounds. The system has the added advantage that it enabled the immigration authorities to exercise full control over the persons admitted under its provisions during the whole period of their stay in Australia. On all counts, therefore, it is most desirable that the principles on which the system is based and which have operated so successfully over 48 years should continue unchanged.
In the administration of the system, it has always been the practice to grant certificates of exemption without actually declaring the person concerned to be a prohibited immigrant or subjecting him or her to a dictation test. In its recent judgment on the case of an Ambonese woman, the High Court, however, laid it down that if, as the act now stands, a person is admitted to Australia without being declared a prohibited immigrant at the time of entry or has not been subjected to and failed to pass a dictation test, he or she cannot lawfully be issued with a certificate of exemption. The
High Court judgment has very farreaching effects. What it means, is that thousands of certificates of exemption which have been issued to occidentals and orientals are ineffective. In the case of grantees who have been here for five years or longer, and a substantial number of non-Europeans admitted under specific conditions come within this class, they have completely passed from the control of the immigration authorities, unless and until amending legislation is brought into being to rectify this situation. In the case of those who have been here less than five years, it will be necessary, in order to retain control over them, to subject each one to a dictation test and on failure to pass the test, to issue them with fresh certificates of exemption. Some idea of the magnitude of this task will be gained from the fact that there are over 35,000 Europeans alone, widely spread throughout the Commonwealth, now here under exemption. The judgment will also affect the Department of Immigration’s administrative procedure in regard to future applications for the admission of non-Europeans, displaced persons of European origin and certain other classes of migrants. To ensure that control may be exercised over such persons, it will be necessary to have them declared prohibited immigrants at the time of entry or alternatively to apply a dictation test shortly after landing before they can be issued with certificates of exemption. Either procedure would be objectionable inprinciple and would give rise to serious administrative difficulties. If the principles which have underlaid our immigration policy since federation are to be preserved and if we are to maintain a full measure of control over those we admit to our shores, it is imperative that action be taken to validate the position as regards the certificates of exemption granted to those already here and to remove any administrative obstacles in the way of those arriving in future. Unless such action is taken, our immigration policy will for all practical purposes become impossible of application. This bill will rectify the position which has arisen as a result of the High Court’s decision and restore thecontrol which the immigra tion authorities have always previously exercised by -
Act to provide that, in future, certificates of exemption may be issued to persons who are actually prohibited immigrants and also to immigrants who are subject to the contingent liability of being subjected to a dictation test within five years after arrival; and
It is appropriate at this stage to refer to the question of an Australian immigration quota for non-Europeans, which some very good citizens have advocated and for which some other people, a small hut noisy minority, have set up an insistent clamour. It is claimed that the grant of a token quota, under which only a few non-Europeans would he admitted each year, would satisfy the aspirations of our northern neighbours and would allay the resentment which, it is said, they feel at being allegedly discriminated against on racial grounds. According to this argument, once a quota has been granted, our neighbours would be quite content that our doors should remain barred to the rest of their nationals. Such an argument, in my view, is quite fallacious. The claim is also made that such a system could in no way affect the composition of our present population, but that its adoption would lead to much friendlier feelings between the various countries. It is true that a measure of discrimination on racial grounds is exercised in the administration of our immigration policy. That is inevitable in a policy which is based on the concept that the homogeneous character of the population, which settled and developed the country, shall be maintained. Australia does not, however, stand alone in this regard. The dominant factor of the United States immigration law is the preservation of the ethnic composition of the population of that country and that principle is inherent in the immigration laws of all countries. Non-Europeans as well as Europeans practise it. For instance, Malaya and Burma restrict the immigration of Chinese and Indians, Indonesia and the Philippines restrict the immigration of Chinese, and Ceylon restricts the admission of Indians. Unfortunately, the application of .this principle in Australian immigration policy has been magnified and distorted in a fashion which has led to a mistaken belief on the part of many of our northern neighbours that we regard them as racially inferior and because of that we apply to them a policy of total exclusion. Let me make it perfectly clear that our policy is not, and never has been, directed at the total exclusion of non-Europeans; nor is it based on any assumption of racial superiority. The ideal which underlies our policy is the preservation of the homogeneous character of our population and the avoidance of the friction which inevitably follows an influx of peoples having different standards of living, traditions, culture and national characteristics. The wide use of the very misleading term “the White Australia policy” by newspapers and others has been largely responsible for the misconception that has arisen in regard to the policy. I emphasize that the term has no official basis and wherever possible I have avoided its use, not only because it describes our immigration policy inaccurately, but because it can be regarded as offensive to non-Europeans. It does not appear in any of our legislation or regulations or in any laws of any State parliament. One of my first actions as Minister for Immigration was to stress on my new department that the language used in official correspondence must make no reference to this term or to any other expression concerning the pigmentation of other people’s skins or anything else that could give offence. I would earnestly urge that this lead be followed by others. The term “the White Australia policy” might be described as journalese. As to the claim that Asian peoples would be satisfied with a token quota, let us face the facts fairly and squarely. Pressure of population in the main Asian countries has been so intense that for years outlets have had to be found for their surplus people. Millions of Chinese now live in other countries, and a report issued some little time ago by the United Nations stated that the Chinese Government desired that numbers of its people should still emigrate, although various countries had placed limitations on their entry. Japanese, before World War II., established communities in South America, Hawaii and the United States, and Indians have also gone abroad in their thousands, principally to Malaya, South Africa, Fiji and Burma. Population pressure in these countries continues undiminished and only recently the Minister for Immigration in the Indonesian Provisional Republic suggested northern Australia as one of the areas to which Indonesians might go to relieve overcrowding in Java. In the face of these facts, is it conceivable that these countries would rest content with a token quota amounting to five or one hundred or five hundred or even one thousand persons from each Asian country annually? The advocates of the quota policy presumably base their proposal on the system which operates in the United States immigration law. What they overlook is that under United State, law, quota restrictions are imposed on Europeans as well as non-Europeans and that the immigration policy of that country is in effect a restrictive one. Australia, on the other hand, eagerly seeks European migrants to the full capacity to which it can absorb them because it feels that it can absorb them. They are not likely to create problems of miscegenation and the like.
The policy of encouraging European migration to the fullest possible extent must be pursued with the utmost vigour if our economic stability and future welfare are to be assured. It is unthinkable that, situated as we are, we should adopt a quota system which would apply to Europeans and non-Europeans alike. Such a course would, firstly, greatly limit our capacity to increase our population and, secondly, would definitely affect the ethnic composition of our population. It would, above all, frustrate our development as a major industrial Pacific nation. On the other hand, a quota system which applied only to non-Europeans could not be construed otherwise than as a policy of racial discrimination in its worst form. It would not satisfy non-European aspirations, but would be most hurtful to non-European susceptibilities.
Turning to the actual result that would be achieved by the adoption of a quota -for non-Europeans based on the United States system, we find, taking into account the comparative populations of tho two countries, that Australia would admit five nationals each from certain Asian countries each year. This would be nothing like as generous as the numbers which may be admitted under our existing policy as merchants, local traders, assistants, students, scientists and tourists. The most vociferous advocates of a quota system are political agitators, and certain newspapers whose loyalty, to the preservation of the principles embedded in our established immigration policy is, to be charitable, more than dubious. These people, following the line of the opportunist in politics, have never hesitated to malign the Government’s actions and, by mischievous propaganda, have attempted to create dissention and ill will towards us on the part of our northern neighbours. They march shoulder to shoulder with the Communists, who have never masked their hostility to those principles. Because of their actions and associations, any cause which such people support can only be viewed with the gravest suspicion. This Government, like the overwhelming majority of the Australian people, is steadfast in its adherence to our established immigration policy, and I give the House the firm assurance that we will resolutely resist any attempt to whittle down that policy or any opening of our doors which could possibly lead to our population eventually being submerged by peoples alien to us in thought, aspirations, culture and way of life.
The nature of this continent is not such that it could offer any worth-while relief to the many millions of people who, unfortunately, are compelled by various causes to lead miserable and undernourished lives in overcrowded Asia. The introduction into Australia of as many of them as we could take would be only an insignificant contribution to the solution of the problem. In fact, it would create new problems within Australia without solving a single one of the troubles that exist elsewhere. There is no evidence anywhere on the face of the earth that great aggregations of peoples of widely differing standards of living, culture and ideals, can live together in the one community in peace and mutual prosperity. When such association is attempted, at worst it leads to hatred, bloodshed and continual outbursts of ferocious civil war. At the very best, it produces furtive fear and dislike, with one race or the other in a hopelessly subordinate position, doing the menial work of the nation and living mean and ambitionless lives on a level somewhere between that of domestic animals and that of free human beings. That “ very best “ is not good enough for Australia. In some lands, the existence of vast, underprivileged sections of the community provides certain physical comforts for the superior groups. But the spiritual and mental effects of such exploitation of man by man are degrading alike to the exploiter and the exploited. The young people of the race which considers itself superior are brought up in daily contact with “ man’s inhumanity to man “ on a level that would shock and horrify moat Australians. I hope that Australians will never be brought into such close contact with these conditions that they will become inured to them. Indeed, I hope that, until such conditions have been wiped from the face of the earth, Australians will always be shocked and horrified by them. The Australian is not a man who harbours prejudices against his neighbour because of creed or colour. Within this country, such non-European residents as are here legally - and they number many thousands - are treated in the same way as other human beings. There is no segregation and no discrimination, social or otherwise. There are no doors closed against any people. Every Australianborn person is an Australian citizen, whatever his ethnic origin; and every Australian citizen has equal rights with every other citizen. During the war and since the war, we have shown in the most practical ways our desire to be very good neighbours to the races that surround us, and Australians are held in high esteem by such people as men and women of goodwill and high principles.
But I believe, and I think most Australians believe, that most of the troubles of the Asian countries of to-day have been inherited from the Asia of yesterday. Countless generations of oppression and monopoly, of exploitation by native and foreign capitalists, of immense wealth and dire poverty, or war, of slavery and of native religious intolerance have produced the conditions that exist to-day. The job for the Asian, who is a man of goodwill and patriotism lie3 right in his own country and not in seeking will o’ the wisps in new lands or, in undertaking pioneering work of a kind for which his background and training and disposition do not equip him. The way in which we can best help these neighbours of ours is the way in which we are helping them, that is, by offering training to their young men and women, technological knowledge to their industrialists, example and guidance in social organization, and by trading with them and helping them in every way towards a higher standard of living in their own countries.
This land is our land, to own and to develop. Our claim to hold this country and to continue its development rests not on conquest nor on feelings of hostility to any other people. It is based on the great work of our fathers, our grandfathers and great-grandfathers - the men who explored our great continent, tilled its land, built its cities, and developed its industries. Our forefathers handed to us a proud heritage. “We can only preserve our heritage for our descendants by preserving the homogeneity of our race, and that we must and will do. We cherish no annexationist ideas, we covet no other territory and we have no imperialist ambitions. On the contrary, we are eager to help the countries surrounding us to grow and prosper and to increase their wealth and the happiness of their people. In short, we want to assist our neighbours to achieve great social and industrial development.
The title of the bill has been described so as to permit any honorable member who advocates the adoption of a quota system, or any one who feels that the discretionary powers now exercised by the Minister should be whittled down, or more clearly defined, or, in fact, altered in any way that he desires, to submit any amendments without the possibility of such amendments being ruled out of order only on the technical ground that the amendments go beyond the title of the bill. Honorable members on the Opposition benches will, therefore, have every opportunity to put their opinions on restricted immigration matters, if they have any, to the test. If they fail to take advantage of this opportunity and do not divide the House and the committee on the issues on which they feel strongly, they will have no right in future ever to mention the subject of restricted immigration again. With the predominant thought in my mind that this bill is good for the Australians of to-day and the Australians of to-morrow and that it will advance the cause of Australia Fair, I commend the measure to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill and the bill introduced this session to amend the Immigration Act are complementary in that the object of both is to remedy defects revealed by the High Court judgment in the case of an Ambonese woman married to an Australian man. The Immigration Bill restores to the Government control over immigrants admitted under exemption’ in normal circumstances in accordance with immigration policy. This bill deals with a special class of persons, namely, those who were permitted to enter wilder special circumstances during the war.
Some thousands of people, who normally would have been refused admission - and I emphasize that point - were given refuge here during the war purely on compassionate grounds. Others who entered irregularly during that period, and they were not a few, were permitted to remain for the same reason. In all these cases, permission to enter or remain was given on the definite understanding that these people would return to their own countries at the conclusion of hostilities. It is pleasing to record that the great majority of them made no demur at returning and accepted repatriation without hesitation. There has remained, however, a minority of some hundreds who have consistently ignored all warnings given them. They have, in fact, made it plain that they do not propose to abide by their obligations to the country which gave them refuge in time of danger, and that it is their intention to remain here, permanently if they can, but, in any case, so long as it suits them to do so. Among this recalcitrant minority are some whose only thought during the war period was to further their own selfish ends and who apparently felt no compunction if they jeopardized the lives and safety of Australians engaged in battle areas. They include men who deserted merchant ships in Australian ports and refused to go to sea again, even when the war ended. The ships which they deserted were urgently needed for the carriage of equipment and supplies to Australian and Allied troops on the battlefronts. Others among the refugees were indentured labourers from Pacific islands, such as Nauru and Ocean Island. Some of these also proved most difficult to deal with, and their presence in Australia in the war years was not very helpful to this country. No government could, of course, afford to ignore the impudent challenge to its authority from this hard core of passive resisters. Unfortunately, the decision of the High Court of Australia in the case of the Ambonese woman has, for the time being, restricted the Government’s power to deal effectively with the problem of repatriating these people, and it has become necessary to seek fresh power to enable the policy of the Government and, I emphasize, of the Australian people, to be put into effect. That is precisely what the bill seeks to achieve.
The main clauses of the bill are clauses 4 and 5. Proposed section 4 will, with certain specified exceptions, bring within the scope of the act all aliens who entered Australia during the war, and also certain non-aliens who came here by reason of circumstances attributable to the war. It is necessary to include the latter class, as a number of the persons in regard to whom it is desired to take action are British subjects. Proposed section 5 provides that any person to whom the act will apply may be deported pursuant to an order of the Minister. The remaining clauses of the bill do not call for any special comment. They are machinery measures designed to ensure that when a deportation order has been issued it shall not be rendered ineffective by action on the part of a deportee or any other person, and that a transport company shall not unduly delay providing a passage for a deportee, when called upon to do so.
I have been consistently abused by an irresponsible minority in this country goaded on by a section of the press, because, as Minister for Immigration, it has been my duty to see that the basic principles of our immigration policy are not undermined. No doubt these people, whose real aim is to break down the policy upon which the composition of our population has been built and to which we so largely owe our advancement and prosperity as a nation, will falsely claim that this bill will create enmity with our Asian neighbours. The people who will make such charges are the people who want to see enmity created. They are not lovers of their country; they are its false friends. In their efforts to arouse hostility to our immigration policy the Government’s traducers have attempted to exploit a few individual cases where compassionate grounds might have seemed to justify the grant of permanent residence. The class of case selected is usually one where a non-European has married an Australian woman. Our critics have, however, found it convenient to ignore thousands of other cases which, on compassionate grounds, have equally as strong an appeal, but which, if judged on that basis. would eventually destroy the homogeneous character of our population and create a racial minority, with the strife and dissension which invariably arise in countries with mixed populations. I can truthfully claim to have administered our immigration laws consistently with precedent and with humanity.
Deportation is essential to the effective administration of immigration legislation, and every Minister who has had charge of the Immigraiton Act, no matter what his political party was, has deported migrants who failed to observe the conditions that governed their admission. Nor has the fact that a nonEuropean, admitted temporarily, may have married an Australian woman, ever been regarded as a ground for authorizing his permanent admission. Previous Ministers frowned on such marriages and did everything in their power to discourage them. I shall quote a few instances as evidence of this. They are as follows -
In doing as they did, these Ministers merely gave effect to the principles which underlie our immigration policy. None of them was, however, assailed on the score of harsh and intolerant administration as I have been. The fact that all were non-Labour Ministers will, no doubt, account for the difference.
If any additional evidence is required to refutethe charge, made recklessly and maliciously, that I have been unnecessarily severe or intolerant in administering the Immigration Act, a comparison of the deportations effected by the United States and Australia will supply it. During the years 1946 and 1947, which provide the latest figures available, the United States deported 33,038 persons, or approximately one deportation for each 4,200 head of population. During the same period, Australia deported 143 persons, or approximately one deportee to 48,000 head of our population. America deported its unwelcome guests to Asiatic, South American and European countries alike. As far as I can ascertain, the normal operation of American law on deportations is very, very rarely noticed in the American press, and also very rarely in the Australian press. The newspapers of that country do not give prominence to any but exceptional cases, and certainly never for the purpose of deliberately poisoning relations between the United States and other countries in order to try to force their views on their Government. But then, the American press is owned and edited by patriotic Americans.With regard to the immigration policy of the United States, some interesting points were made by Sir Frederic Eggleston in a statement to a Sydney newspaper as recently as last Thursday. Sir Frederic is, of course, a distinguished Australian who has served this country as its Minister to China and to the United .States and was, at one time, Minister for Railways in a Nationalist Government in the State of Victoria. Sir Frederic said -
America’s exclusion of Orientals was always ruthless before the establishment of the quota system and now, outside the quotas, it is still ruthless for all migrants. Few exceptions are made, and deportation follows any violation of temporary permits.
Notwithstanding the” trifling quota of Orientals by the United States, Australia has always been, and still is, more lenient in her policy than America.
The difference is that American action is taken as a matter of course by the people of that country and is not ventilated in the press, whereas, in Australia, criticism has a political basis and is made without a knowledge of the circumstances of each case, in ignorance of Australian policy, and in ignorance of the policy of other countries.
In addition, the liaison between the Australian Associated Press and Reuters is used to ventilate cases in Asiatic countries in order to get an additional stick to beat the political tom-tom. The result is that grave damage is done to Australian interests without any real cause whatever.
After these very pointed comments, Sir Frederic continued -
The U.S.S.R. totally excludes all migration. Malaya, Siam, the Philippines, and Indonesia all have exclusion policies with small quotas, or none at all. Most of these countries have interna] discriminations against foreigners, while there are practically none in Australia. Canada and New Zealand, I understand, have a passport system of entry by which complete control is retained over admissions. These countries escape criticism while we, by the action of the Australian Press, are made the Aunt Sally for attack in South-East Asia.
It must be obvious to the meanest intelligence that nobody can say whether we are unjust to the Filipinos in the person of Sergeant Gamboa unless the treatment of Filipinos generally is known, nor can he say whether Indonesia has been treated badly in the case of Mrs. O’Keefe unless he understands that thousands of Indonesians, who were given sanctuary here during the war on a solemn promise to return, have gone back in pursuance of the promise given.
The Australian Natives Association, an Australia-wide organization with the largest membership of ny friendly society in this country, composed entirely of native-born Australians and representing members of every religious and political faith has, through its federal officers, pledged its unwavering support for the maintenance of our immigration laws, and staunchly supports the repatriation of war-time evacuees.
The Returned Servicemen’s League has left no room for doubt as to where it stands on the question of the maintenance of our established immigration policy or as to the return of persons given refuge in this country during the war. A resolution adopted by the Federal Executive of the league, meeting last, month at Hobart, re-affirmed its traditional policy. The resolution reads’ -
That this executive pledges its unwavering support for the principle of a White Australia and agrees with the decision of the Government to repatriate war-time evacuees whom it admitted to Australia under specific conditions as to their return and, approving as it does the Commonwealth’s gesture in giving them sanctuary at that time, it will support any legislation which the Government may consider necessary to empower it to effect the return of these people to their countries of origin in accordance with the conditions under which they were admitted.
There is a marked similarity between the views held by Australian and American ex-servicemen on this question. The National Convention of the American Legion which is the counterpart of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, held in November, 1945, resolved -
That all war refugees who have been enjoying our sanctuary, haven and hospitality shall be returned promptly to the countries whence they came.
The resolution went on to say -
Post-war immigration will receive the very earnest attention of the Congress during the current session; in fact, a special subcommittee of the Congress has been engaged since early summer on a survey not only on the broad subject of immigration but also on deportation and naturalization legislation. Already available reports of their meetings indicate a coalition of various types of organizations and minority groups whose particular functions appear to be assisting the aliens within the deportable classes to avoid deportation, and in aiding and abetting the naturalization of aliens generally. Their primary interest is the aliens rather than tlie general welfare of their country.
Some of the legislative proposals of these groups would increase immigration; grant lawful entry to aliens now here in violation of our laws; confer citizenship on persons lacking the ordinary educational requirements . . . and relax existing deportation laws.
The minority groups referred to in the legion’s resolution have their counterpart in Australia, and the legion’s comment regarding the American groups could apply with equal force to the few unpatriotic Australians in whose eyes a handful of people admitted to this country as war-time evacuees, finds greater favour than the present and future wellbeing of their own country.
The Government’s authority has been challenged by a comparatively small group, whose members have flagrantly abused our hospitality and have shown, in no uncertain manner, that they are not readily amenable to our laws. We cannot allow that challenge to pass unheeded, or to gloss the matter over, as has been suggested. It would be tantamount to abdicating a sovereign right if we failed to take action that would show conclusively that it is solely for the Government of Australia to say who shall enter our shores and under what conditions they shall be permitted to remain. This bill, which is specially designed to deal with the war-time evacuee problem, puts the position of the people concerned beyond all doubt. Once their cases have been disposed of it will have fulfilled its purpose.
Let me give this warning : I am determined that no matter who criticizes or who complains; no matter whatunAustralian activities the haters of this Government and of this Government’s maintenance of our immigration restriction laws and practices may resort to, those laws and practices will remain unchanged and unchangeable. They are rooted in the hearts and minds fo the Australian people, and any political party that would tamper with them would do so at its peril.
Let the Liberal party and Australian Country party members of this Parliament, together with their de facto leader, the sole representative of the Lang party here present, divide the House on the measure, if they can muster the courage to match their votes with their oftexpressed views on my administration of this problem. They will do so at their own risk. I. shall, therefore, await their speeches and watch their votes with very great interest. The Australian people will also watch and will pass their judgment a few months hence. I am supremely confident of what that judgment will be.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Harrison) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed (vide page 806).
Department of Social Services.
Proposed vote, £289,750.
.- I take this opportunity to ask the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), who represents the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna), what is the present position regarding the Mental Institution Benefits Act, which was passed through this Parliament last year. Under that act, it was provided that the States should be granted a sum of money to enable them to relieve the relatives of persons in mental institutions of the obligation to contribute to their support. It was a peculiar piece of legislation in that it contained, as a schedule, not an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, but only a draft of the agreement which it was hoped would ultimately be reached. I have received many letters from people in Queensland expressing disappointment at the fact that they have obtained no relief under the provisions of the act, but are required to continue supporting relatives in mental institutions. Like much of the social service legislation for which this Government is responsible, the provision I have mentioned seems to have achieved very little. I do not want to discuss in detail how ineffective has been the Government’s so-called free medicine scheme, and its hospital benefits scheme. Here is another instance in which the Government’s efforts have failed dismally. No payments have been made in Queensland under this legislation, and I understand that very little has been done in any other State. What does the Government propose to do about it? Is it going to continue trying to bluff the people, or will it do something to give them the relief they had every right to expect when the act was passed ? I know that, in order to make the legislation operative, complementary legislation must be passed by the various State parliaments. Therefore, I ask the Minister whether the States have taken the necessary action to put this scheme into effect.
I endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) regarding the pensions of disabled servicemen. For a long time honorable members on this side of the House have tried to get the law amended so that pensions paid to ex-servicemen for war disabilities will not be regarded as income when they apply for unemployment relief. We first raised the matter in 1944, when the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) moved an amendment to exclude such pensions from the income of applicants. Pensions received by ex-service men or women should not be regarded as income. Even the taxation branch, which rightly enough grabs at anything it can get, does not regard war pensions as income for taxation purposes. Under our social services legislation, however, the pension of an ex-serviceman is taken into account when assessing the amount of unemployment benefit to which he is entitled. A service pension should be regarded as compensation to an ex-serviceman for a war disability which he must carry with him for the rest of his life. In 1944, the Minister undertook that he would bring our representations before Cabinet. I understand that he did so, but that he did not succeed in persuading Cabinet to act. It is evident, however, that he was impressed by the case we submitted. Again, in 1947, we reminded him of the matter, and speech after speech about it was made by honorable member.” on this side of the House. Once more, the Minister said that he would do something about it, but nothing was done. Last year, when the War Pensions Appropriation Bill was before the House, we made further representations. Members of the Opposition could not have been more persistent in their representations “ti behalf of exservicemen. By refusing to grant our request, the Government is showing scant consideration for the claims of service pensioners. I now suggest that the Minister ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the Minister for Social Services to have legislation prepared to ensure that justice shall be done to disabled ex-servicemen.
– This afternoon, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) discussed the position of invalid pensioners between the ages of sixteen and 21 years. The act provides that they may receive full invalid pensions if their parents are not in a position to maintain them adequately. Difficulty arises, however, in deciding what represents adequate maintenance. Generally speaking, I have found the Deputy Director of Pensions in South Australia most sympathetic in this matter, but it is difficult for him to assess exactly the amount of pension which should be granted. Rules have been laid down for the guidance of officials, but they are not always easy to apply. I know that the department is always prepared to meet claimants when extra expense is involved for the purchase of special foods or medicine for an invalid child. As a matter of fact, the department has been fairly generous. Nevertheless, the deputy director is bound by the act, and must keep close to its provisions. I suggest that the whole matter might be reconsidered with a view to abolishing altogether the means test for parents of invalid pensioners between the ages of sixteen and 21 years. Once a pensioner attains the age of 21 years, no account is taken of any income but that of the pensioner. I am sure that the extra cost to the Treasury would not be sufficient to justify continuing the discrimination in the case of pensioners under 21 years of age. The present provision sometimes operates harshly against the ordinary working man. The department assesses his income according to his earnings for the previous year. His earnings may decline by as much as fi or 30s. a week, but he cannot obtain relief in respect of his invalid child until he can show that his income has been permanently reduced. I am sure that if the means test were abolished in such cases that would prove not only an act of grace to the parents but also of great benefit to the pensioners themselves, who would not need to worry about being a burden on their parents.
Under the sickness benefit provisions, applicants have sometimes to wait a long time before receiving payments. I have taken the matter up with the Deputy Director of Pensions in South Australia, who has told me that, under the regulations as they stand, it is impossible to reduce appreciably the time which elapses before the making of the first payment. Complaints are continually being made of the long delays that occur before the department sends out the first cheque for the sickness benefit. When a man is sick his wife is usually worried and her difficulties should not be increased by compelling her to attend the offices of the Department of Social Services in an attempt to hasten the payment of the sickness benefit. In many instances, because of the long delays that take place in the issue of the first cheque for the sickness benefit the unfortunate family is forced to appeal to the State relief department to enable them to carry on. Every effort should be made to simplify the administrative procedure relating to the sickness benefit. I am well aware of the difficulties of administering the scheme but I urge the Minister to confer with the Director-General of Social Services with a view to ascertaining whether it is possible to simplify the procedure and shorten the delay. The forms to be filled in by applicants could, 1 think, be simplified. No one appreciates more than I do the great value of the sickness benefit, and no one is more concerned than I am to ensure that payment of the benefit shall be strictly limited to those entitled to it by the law.
– Can the honorable member suggest how that could be done?
-It is not of much use to make a suggestion in this chamber.
– This is the place in which to make it.
– A great deal of the information sought in the application form is, I think, unnecessary. The form could very well be simplified. Everything should be done to make more simple the task of filling in the form. When the legislation first came into operation applicants were given seven days within which to lodge an application for the benefit. If applications were not lodged within the specified period payment of the benefit commenced from the date of application. The legislation was subsequently amended to provide that applicants must submit claims within six weeks from the date on which their illness began, and that in special cases extensions of the prescribed period could be granted. It is difficult for those who become ill to prove that, because of their illness, they were unable to make application for the benefit. Unless an applicant can prove that he suffered from a mental illness he has very little chance of convincing the department that his claim is genuine. The departmental officials state that an applicant’s wife or a member of his family or a friend could have made the application on his behalf. Fortunately, the number of instances in which the sickness benefit has been refused because of failure to make application within the prescribed time are very few. The form which applicants for the benefit are required to complete contains a great number of questions. When a person becomes ill he does not know for how long he will be incapacitated and very often he does not bother about filling in the form. If he submits it within six weeks of the commencement of his illness no difficulty arises, but if that period be exceeded he has grave difficulty in proving to the department that he was unable to submit his application before the expiration of the prescribed period. I do not make these remarks in any spirit of hostility towards the department or the Minister. I merely make a few suggestions in the hope, that consideration will be given to them. I hope that my comments in this chamber will carry more weight than do personal representations to the Director of Social Services.
– The people think that the Government has not been quite fair with them.
– That is so. When a person is ill and under strain his worries should not be increased. I appeal to the Government to liberalize the provisions of the act.
– I listened with a great deal of interest to the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson), who said that he spoke more in sorrow than in anger about anomalies in the administration of the social services legislation. The observations made by the honorable member were very cogent. He is well aware, of course, that his arguments would carry very much greater weight in the caucus room than they do on the floor of this chamber. I do not suggest that the honorable member preferred to make them here in the hope that they would earn him some additional votes.
– I do not need more votes.
– The case made by the honorable member is so strong that he should have no difficulty in getting his colleagues to assist him in influencing the Minister to liberalize the legislation. I wish to deal with two aspects of this legislation, about which I speak more in anger than in sorrow. I have dealt with these matters on other occasions, even us !oni ago as March, 1944. I then directed attention to a grave anomaly in respect of servicemen who were in receipt of war pensions and I moved an amendment of the legislation in an attempt to correct it. My amendment was rejected. I shall briefly re-state the case to-night. So much support was given to my representations by returned soldier members of the Government-
– Both of them?
– They so strongly supported me that the Minister said he would be prepared to take the matter to Cabinet for re-examination. I believe that the honorable gentleman did so, but Cabinet, with its characteristic lack of regard for the interests of exservicemen, failed to rectify the anomaly. An ex-serviceman who has made a sacrifice in the service of his country by having lost a leg, an arm or an eye, and who is in receipt of a pension for that disability, has the value of bis war pension deducted from the unemployment benefit, if, having accepted employment - of which there are very limited opportunities for such men - he later becomes unemployed. Because of that anomaly a limbless >r blinded ex-serviceman is placed at a disadvantage by comparison with an unemployed person, who, during the war, stayed in Australia and enjoyed the high wages paid during that period. Can any honorable member say that that is fair and just treatment of our limbless and blinded ex-servicemen? Such pensions are not assessed for income tax purposes, but the Department of Social Services extracts its moiety on the basis of every £1 of pension paid. Why should there be such discrimination between a limbless or blinded ex-serviceman and a non: serviceman? Let me take a case in point. A limbless ex-serviceman who receives a pension of £2 15s. a week, plus an allowance of 10s. a week, would, if he lost his joh, be ineligible for the unemployment benefit; but a single man not in receipt of a war pension who loses his job is entitled to an unemployment benefit of £1 *s. a week and can earn an additional £1 a week, makins; his possible total earnings £2 5s. a week. The ex-serviceman in receipt of a war pension of £3 5s. a week is completely excluded from the benefit. Is there any justice in penalizing the man who fought for his country and lost a limb or an eye in its defence? Is there any justice in an administration which says to such a man, “ We shall give you a pension to compensate yon for your disability, but if. perchance, after a long struggle, you obtain employment and subsequently lose it, we shall penalize you because of the payment of your war pension and says to the hale and hearty non-serviceman, who received high wages during the war, “ If you lose your employment you shall be entitled to full benefit under the unemployment benefit scheme”? Why is there this discrimination? Why should a disabled ex-serviceman, who surely is entitled to the greatest possible consideration by the country, he placed at such a disadvantage? It was for the purpose of correcting that anomaly that I proposed an amendment of the legislation in 1944. Because of the obvious *justice of my case ^ the Minister said that he would refer it to Cabinet for examination. No action has, however, yet been taken by tha Government to correct the anomaly. Surely the Minister can convince the
Government of the wisdom of introducing legislation to abolish that anomaly. Members of the Opposition have pressed for such legislation time after time. The Standing Orders preclude me from submitting the necessary amendment during this debate. Only the Government cau introduce the amending legislation. But whenever the opportunity arises, I shall direct attention to that disability.
I regret that the act restricts unemployment and sickness benefits payable to a man upon attaining the age of 65 years or a woman on attaining the age of 60 years.
– That is not so.
– I shall read the relevant section of the act.
– That is not necessary.
– I have stated the position correctly, and the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) is wrong. That provision means, in effect, that every man on attaining the age of 45 years will be relegated to the scrapheap.
– No thought is further from the Government’s mind than that.
– Does the honorable member for Boothby speak for the Government! He was wrong once, and he may be wrong aga;n.
– No, the honorable member for Boothby is correct.
– Many men, on attaining the age of 65 years, consider that they will be capable of working for another five years. On every £1 that they continue to earn they are required to pay the social services contribution. Should one of those persons become unemployed or ill, his age will exclude him from receiving unemployment or sickness benefits. I have referred many of these cases to the Government, and some of them have been adjusted by or, gratia payments.
– There iB a special provision to cover such cases.
– Not all of the eases that I have referred to the Government have been adjusted. From 65 years of age onwards, a man may continue to work for nine months and be unemployed for the remaining three months of a year.
While he is working, he contributes to the National Welfare Fund, but he will not receive unemployment or sickness benefit* as a matter of right when he is out of work or ill for a few months. It if intolerable to provide in legislation that a man, on reaching the age of 65 years., shall be relegated to the scrap-heap. Some men in this category resent that provision. They say, in effect, “ If we are willing to continue to work and contribute our social services tax, then we should, by right, receive unemployment or sickness benefits when we are out of work or become ill “. That matter hat also been discussed at great length is this chamber, but the Government hu not rectified the anomaly.
– It has done so.
– I agree that * special provision is made for ex gratia payments, but men in the category to which I am referring are not entitled to unemployment or sickness benefits as a matter of right.
– They may receive those benefits by an administrative act.
– They should receive the benefits as a matter of right. The act. should be amended accordingly.
.- The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr Harrison), in the kind of tirade to which we have become accustomed, has referred to men being relegated to the scrap-heap on attaining the age of 65 years. He has. complained that if a man continues t<< work after he reaches that age, he is not entitled to receive unemployment and sickness benefits. Those statements prove that the honorable member is completers out of touch with the real position. Ov many occasions, trade union leaders it Adelaide and. persons over the age of 6ft years have approached me on this matter The act provides for a discretionary power, under which that class of person may be paid unemployment or sicknessbenefits. provided they return to work at the earliest opportunity. The honorable member for Wentworth is frequently wrong. Last night, the Minister foi Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) proved that the honorable gentleman’s submissions on another matter were incorrect. The honorable member fo.
Wentworth does not represent the rank and file of the working class, and, therefore, they do not come tohim with their difficulties.
– I desire to direct attention to a matter that, for some time, has troubled various people in the community, including myself. It was raised in the first instance by the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna). On the 29th May last, is a broadcast address in Tasmania, he was largely concerned to provethat the Labour party socialists were really not socialists, but he also commented on several other matters. Referring to social services, he spoke of the great work that this Government was doing in connexion with the issue of serum and vaccine through the States. He used the following words : -
As a further part of its preventive campaign, the Commonwealth was providing free ofcost through State governments serums and vaccines needed for the prevention and treatment of diphtheria and whooping cough.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - Order! The honorable member should discuss that subject under the proposed vote for the Department of Health.
– I understand, with the greatest respect, sir, that that statement was issued from Tasmania by the Minister for Social Services.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Un fortunately for the honorable member, the Chair happens to be in command at’ the moment. The matter to which the honorable gentleman is referring should be discussed under the proposed vote for the Department of Health.
– I ask you, sir, to permit me to make my submission now. I realize that the Minister for Social Services is also Minister for Health. The report of the broadcast address, which I hold in my hand, bears the words “ with the compliments of the Minister for Social Services “.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order I There are different appropriations for the Department of Health and the Department of Social Services.
– That is so, but the Minister was referring to one of the social services provided by the Government - the issue of serums and vaccines.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- The Chair cannot be concerned with that.
– The Minister stated that the serums and vaccines needed for the prevention and treatment of diphtheria and whooping cough were provided free of cost through State governments. 1 desire to prove that serums and vaccines for the treatment of those complains are not provided free of cost, andthat supplies cannot he obtained.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN. - Order! The honorable member may not argue the matter at this stage. If he proceeds with that line of discussion, he will be asked to resume his seat.
– If you, sir, give that ruling, I shall be compelled to resume my seat, but I shall raise the matter later. This is the second occasion to-day on which I have endeavoured to discuss it. I trust that I shall be more fortunate the third time.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- That will depend upon the circumstances.
.- It ill-becomes the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) to refer to men being relegated to the scrap-heap when they attain the age of 65 years. This Government has increased expenditure on social services from £16,000,000 to £88,000,000 annually in a few years, and has ensured that never again shall men be put on to the scrap-heap, as they were before World War II. When antiLabour governments were in office, expenditure on social services was paltry. The wider expense on social services benefits under the Labour Government has made is possible for fewer and fewer people in the community to suffer such a tragedy as that of being relegated to the scrapheap.
This debate has developed into a hunt for anomalies, and provides honorable members with an opportunity to refer to anomalies in the social services legislation. I desire to discuss a matter affecting pensioners. During World War II. some age pensioners let their homes, and, at the moment, are renting other houses. The moment an age pensioner leaves his own home, his pension is reduced. I shall quote a particular case in order to illustrate how an anomaly has arisen. An age pensioner and his wife in my electorate in Tasmania own a home in a certain town. That dwelling is now occupied by an ex-serviceman. The age pensioner rents a home in another district,, for which he pays 12s. 6d. a week, and he receives only 5s. 6d. a week rent for his own home. His wife and he will be unable to regain possession of their home until the landlord and tenant regulations are suitably varied or repealed. Under the existing provisions, certain persons who rent houses are protected against eviction. In that category, there are ex-servicemen, and I agree that they should be protected. Such persons cannot be evicted from the homes that they are renting unless they smash the property, or, in other ways, prove to be completely undesirable tenants. But a hardship arises, because the age pensioner and his wife are paying more rent for the dwelling they are occupying than the amount that they receive in rent for the house that they own, and their pension has been reduced because they are occupying another home. The age pensioner concerned is receiving £3 10s. 6d. a fortnight. The full pension is £4 5s. a fortnight. The reduction from £4 5a. to £3 10s. 6d. is made because he Ls not living in his own home.. I intend to raise this subject at the party meeting preceding the introduction of tie budget and its complementary legislation in the hope that the anomaly will be removed. The anomaly would, cease to exist, I think,’ the moment the landlord and’ tenant regulations went out of existence, though, some time - would elapse before the man I have in mind, and men like him, could regain possession of their premises.
. I wish to support as strongly as I am able the speeches made by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis,) and the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) about the claim of exservicemen for social service benefits. As those honorable gentlemen have pointed out. the ex-serviceman’s pension is different from any other form of pension or any other form of payment.
It is merely an attempt, which does not in any way achieve real success, to compensate him for the disability that he incurred in the course of war. That disability is not the result of a mere accident; for it has been incurred on our behalf, and, in the latest war; in moat instances, at our behest. Men were sent into conditions and positions where their lives were at .stake very often, for weeks and months at a time, and, when the disability occurred, we incurred .a debt to the men who were disabled. To describe the effort made to discharge that debt as a compensation income in the ordinary sense of the word seems to be a complete negation of all that we claim ‘ that the serviceman fought for. I wa» present recently with the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) at a conference of ex-servicemen. The only occasion on which real indignation was shows was when this matter, which was on the agenda, came up for discussion. One man said that only my presence as a member of the other eez prevented him from expressing himself more forcibly than he had done, although his terms were not at all weak. This point is not on all fours with other points raised in this debate. It if more important than any of them for it relates to the discharge’ of a debt of honour and we should regard it in that light.
Another point about the sickness benefit that I wish to raise is possibly somewhat new. It concerns a farmer. There are many farmers, as every honorable member knows, who are not in affluent- circumstances. They make themselves a living which is in many respect* comparable with that of the rather lowerpaid wage-earners. A man in my district applied, for the sickness, benefit and nif application was refused. The grounds of the refusal were stated in a letter that I received from the Deputy’ Director of Social Services. He stated -
Claimant’s income is derived from milking cows and selling potatoes. The medical certificate furnished with hia claim shows lie way incapacitated from 12.7.48 to 8.9.43. During this period his cows were not producing milkThey “ came in “ about the middle of September, and were then milked with thetance of his wife.
The 1948 potato crop was sold before claimant became incapacitated. Although a loss of income is claimed through inability to plant the next season’s crop-
And I want this to be particularly noted - claimant has stated that he only intended to plant late potatoes. These would normally have been planted in September, and as he was then apparently recovered from his sickness, it is considered loss of income through incapacity has not yet been proved.
My point is that that man is a contributor to the National Welfare Fund from which all social service benefits, are derived. Yet he has to prove special circumstances before he is able to claim from the fund. A large number of thos* who claim benefits make no contribution to the fund. I am not contesting that at the moment. I have expressed certain views that perhaps some honorable members will recall. But I point out that the man who contributes to the fund right through should reasonably be able to expect that when he claims benefits, his claim will be granted. I should like to analyse the reasons that were given for the refusal in the case T have mentioned, [n the first place, his income is said to be derived from milking cows and selling potatoes; but, as a matter of fact, his income is derived from a year’s work and not merely from the work performed during the period when the cows are in full production or the potatoes are actually being harvested and sold. The man’s whole year contributes to the success or otherwise that he achieves in earning his income. His cows have to be looked after co a certain degree when they are not in milk. It is pointed out that when the cows did “ come in “, the man’s wife still had to help in milking them, showing that in normal circumstances, had he been working for wages, he would not have been able to resume full employment. Another point, as everyone who knows anything about farming, particularly potato farming, knows is that although one may plan to plant only late or early potatoes, seasonal conditions, the availability of seed and fertilizers and things like that will influence one’s decision as time passes, and it may be that, owing to seasonal conditions, if one plants in September, one’s whole crop will be lost or that one cannot plant because of abnormally wet weather. So there is. a special case for consideration in regard to the small farmer who becomes incapacitated. I point out, in fairness to the Director-General of Social Services, that he stated that if it could be shown that a longer period of illness occurred, another application could be made. It is the general basis of the matter that I am trying to put to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services.
There is another point arising from the remarks of the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie). Some time ago I raised this matter and the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) promised to look into it to see what chance there was of amending the act. It is in connexion with a person who lives in his own home but is in such a state of health that it is necessary for him to live where he canhave some kind of companionship. Because he is a pensioner he cannot afford to pay any one to come in. A case which came particularly to my notice - and there have been others as well - is that of a man who has already suffered two strokes and is therefore, as honorable members will recognize, in a condition in which he should not be left alone. He could very easily fall into a fire and be burnt while unconscious. He could also fall and be seriously hurt and no one would know anything about it. Because he is a pensioner and has no other income he cannot afford to bring any one into his home. He has two married daughters and a sister-in-law, each of whom has offered him a home, but if he accepted their offers and sold his own home he would lose his pension. I suggest that something be done to cover cases such as that. It might be possible to do so by conferring discretionary powers upon the Minister. That would probably be as good a way as any other in which to avoid difficulties such as these, but I would prefer some special provision to be included in the act. I ask the Minister to ascertain what the decision of the Prime Minister is in regard to this matter. If the decision of the right honorable gentleman is adverse to pensioners, I invite him to reconsider it, because extreme hardship is being suffered by many old people who are unable to care for. themselves.
– The position of a civilian widow to-day is not a satisfactory one. The pension to which she is entitled is not sufficient for her to live on, particularly if she has a young child. Therefore, she is forced to go out to work in order to supplement her pension. If she has no home of her own, she probably has to pay a high rent. If she has a young child, it is not always possible for her to go out to work. I have in mind the case of a young widow who has a more or less permanently sick child. In order to give the child the care that it needs, she must either remain at home, which, in this instance, is one rented room, and tend to the child herself, or pay some one else to do so while she is at work. A woman who attends to this child during the day must be paid at least £2 10s. a week. The rent of this widow’s room is over £1 a week and medical expenses have been and are likely to continue to be high. If she stayed at home, it would be impossible to feed, clothe and keep herself and the child warm on what was left from the pension after payment of the rent. The small amount that she is entitled to earn without affecting her pension would not be sufficient to pay for the child’s care while she was away from home. Therefore, she goes out to work to earn enough money to support herself and her child, and thus forfeits her pension. Honorable members must know of many similar cases. Women such as the one to whom I have referred have no security and suffer much anxiety. The payment of a pension would give them a feeling of security, because they would know that, even if sickness interrupted their employment, a sum of money would be coming into the home each week. These women have a horror, of failing health and they suffer mentally because of their inability to save for a rainy day. They have a nagging fear that their children will suffer. There is little rest for them, because when they have finished their day’s work they must perform their domestic duties at night. If a war widow is entitled to earn without limit-
– Surely there is a slight difference between the two categories.
– I shall develop this argument as I think fit. If a war widow is entitled to earn without limit, the same concession should be extended to the civilian widow. When a civilian widow and a war widow work side by side the difference is very noticeable. 3 urge the Minister to give sympathetic consideration to this matter.
Before the sitting was suspended, the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) said that the Government hat provided social services for people of every age. The Government’s record in regard to social services is a very good one, and I am sure that there are many thousands of people in Australia who are grateful for the help that has been given to them. However, the honorable member for Griffith was wrong. Children of pre-school age have been completely unprovided for. They appear to have been entirely overlooked, if not forgotten. These children have outgrown the baby clinic but are not old enough to attend primary schools. It would be of great assistance to widows who live in rooms and who must go out to work in order to maintain themselves and their children if the Government provided financial assistance for the establishment of creches and nurseries throughout the country. If that were done, the health and general well-being of many babies and young children would be improved. In the metropolitan area of Melbourne, only 600 children can be cared for in creches or nurseries while their mothers are at work. In other cities of the Commonwealth the number of children that can be cared for in this way is probably even less than 600. The welfare of young children and their mother* deserves serious consideration by the Government. I am continually receiving letters and pamphlets on this matter, which has received consideration by the Government in at least one instance. Recently I saw a picture of a delightful kindergarten. It was housed in a converted army hut. It was well-equipped and beautifully decorated, and was for the use of the children of migrants. The caption of the picture stated that the facilities were provided so that the children might become good Australians. The Minister knows where I saw that picture. Probably every honorable member on the Government side of the chamber has seen it, although I do not suppose that honorable members of the Opposition have bad the opportunity to see it. The illustration caught my attention because, if it be important to provide nursery and kindergarten facilities to make good Australians of young immigrants, it is just as important that attention be given to the task of making good Australians of Australianborn children. I commend the suggestion to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services.
.- 1 support the remarks of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) and the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons), who criticized the application of the means test to war pensions. The matter has been raised in this place several times, and I do not wish to discuss it at great length now. However, I fear that the point that is of real importance has been overlooked by some of the speakers. That point lies in the fact that the Social Services Consolidation Act provides that income in excess of £1 a week shall be deducted from sick,ness or unemployment benefit. Before that provision can affect a sick or unemployed ex-service pensioner, he must’ be receiving a 40 per cent, pension. The 100 per cent, pension to-day is £2 15s. a week; a 40 per cent, pension would be 22s. a week.
– That is the rate for h single man.
– Yes. A pensioner with a wife, or one who was a widower with children, would be in the same position. Any income that he received in excess of £1 a week would be taken into account in assessing sickness or unemployment benefit.
– He would get more rhan 22s. a week.
– A single exserviceman suffering from 40 per cent, disability would be entitled to a pension of 22s. a week. If such a man applied for sickness or unemploy ment benefit, to which he would be justly entitled if he were sick or out of work, having paid the necessary contributions that are demanded by this Government, the amount by which his pension exceeded £1 a week would be deducted from the benefit. As the honorable member for Darwin pointed out, the pension paid to a disabled ex-serviceman is entirely different from any other pension. It is a payment granted to an individual in order to compensate him for the loss of his physical value on the labour market, lt is supposed to be a generous offer by a thankful people “ to make the left leg as long as the right “. When such a man applies for a benefit to which he is justly entitled and learns that the means test is to be applied to the pension that he has earned in the service of his country, it comes as a very rude shock to him. This matter was debated here at considerable length early in 1947. I became slightly heated on that occasion and told the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) that I was ashamed of him and his Government. The right honorable gentleman said that he would not lose any sleep over that. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), who, I believe, is seriously concerned about the injustice, said at the time that he would do what he could to remove it. But as far as I know, nothing has been done about it. I maintain that the situation could be rectified by means of regulation or some other process that would not involve the waste of time that would occur if amending legislation were submitted to the Parliament. The subject was debated again last year when the Government introduced a bill to consolidate the social services legislation. Again the Government failed to produce tangible evidence of its intention to right the wrong. It must know that its own supporters in this chamber supported my complaint. Unfortunately, when the matter was put to a vote, they had to answer the crack of the whip. 1 again ask the Government to take remedial action. Not many men are affected, and the amendment that I suggest would not cost the Government any considerable sum. Even if the change would be costly, that would be only a meagre excuse. The Government has no excuse. The men are not asking for anything to which they are not entitled. I appeal to the Minister for Labour and National Service and to other supporters of the Government to raise this matter in caucus and try to force the Government into action. The application of the means test in these cases is a stigma upon the people of Australia. Everybody knows that an exserviceman who receives more than a 40 per cent. disability pension must have something seriously wrong with him. Applicants for disabled ex-servicemen’s pensions must pass searching tests. Very often their claims are rejected at first and granted only upon appeal. It comes as a very rude shock to such men, if they are forced into sickness or unemployment, to find that a means test is applied to the financial reward that is being paid to them as a token of gratitude by the people. I cannot understand why supporters of the Government allow it to perpetuate this injustice. When the means test was first made applicable to the pensions of disabled ex-servicemen, the Minister then in charge of social services told exservicemen’s organizations that there had been an oversight and that the anomaly would be rectified. That promise has been repeated time and time again by members of the Labour party, but nothing has been done about it. The Government knows that the anomaly exists, and so do the people. All that is necessary to remove it is to excise a few words from a piece of legislation. Again I appeal to the Government to remove them without further waste of time.
.- I rise to speak about the proposals that were made by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison), particularly in relation to the age limits applied to sickness and unemployment benefits. It is true, as the honorable member for Wentworth said, that the Social Services Consolidation Act provides that the benefits shall not be payable after the age of 65 years in the case of a man or of 60 years in the case of a woman. Such limits are imposed by social service laws in countries throughout the world. A cardinal principle of social service legislation is that there must he some such limit. Various countries have different age limits, and proposals have been made from time to time to reduce the limits in Australia. I point out to the honorable member for Wentworth that section 124 of the Social Services Consolidation Act, relating to “special benefit” states -
The Director-General may, in his discretion, grant a special benefit under this Division to a person -
That invests the Director-General with discretionary power to grant a special benefit. Indeed, the special benefit has been paid on a practically unlimited basis. As honorable members may recollect, some months ago the employers on the Sydney waterfront locked out many thousands of men, particularly in the Balmain area. Many of those men who were over the age of 65 were working very well in industry, but suddenly found themselves locked out by the employers. The Government, by a Cabinet decision and in collaboration, I presume, with the Director-General of Social Services made payments to these men over the age of 65 for the time that they were out work.
– The next section of the act also provided some benefit to them, did it not?
– I read section 124 a moment ago. Section 125 states -
The rate of a special benefit payable to any person shall be such rate as the DirectorGeneral, in his discretion, from time to time determines, but not exceeding the rate of the unemployment benefit or the sickness benefit which could be paid to that person if he were qualified to receive it.
The point that I desire to make is that there has to be an age at which this benefit becomes payable or ceases to become payable.
– Under the act nobody canbe thrown on the scrap-heap.
– That isso. Qualified persons have the right, under the act, to receive the benefits even though they are over the age mentioned in the original provision. There is one other matter that I desire to deal with in a few words, in relation to a subject that was raised earlier this evening. I refer to the payment of the subsidy of 8s. a day for each hospital bed. This payment is made under the Hospital Benefits Act. In my opinion that rate is not intended to meet the cost of maintaining a bed in a hospital on a per diem basis, but is intended rather to compensate the public hospitals of Australia for the loss of the amounts that they used to receive in pre-war years from such public ward patients as were able to pay for their treatment. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) who served with distinction on the Social Security Committee said that he considered that the payment was related more to the actual daily cost of hospital beds. I wish to clarify that point aud say that when we investigated this scheme and endeavoured to make a recommendation about it on which the Government could work we considered three methods. One was a grant to the States for hospitals on costs per diem.
– Order! The honorable member cannot discuss that question under this heading. It is covered by another heading.
– I was making a passing reference to the fact that the committee considered the question of subsidizing the hospitals by up to 50 per cent, of the cost of beds. The view of the committee, as contained in paragraph 30 of its report was -
After careful investigation of these three alternative proposals, we consider that the payment of a flat rate subsidy based on the highest State average of revenue from patients’ fees is the most equitable and desirable basis for a Commonwealth hospital benefit scheme, to confer the benefit of free public bed hospitalization or an equivalent allowance towards the cost of an intermediate or private bed in a public or private hospital of an approved standard, and that the rate of subsidy be 6s. 6d. per daily occupied bed, subject to the conditions herein stated.
– Order ! The honorable member is dealing with a matter that comes under another proposed vote.
– - 1 was merely mentioning it to show that there was a slight misinterpretation of the committee’s view by the honorable member for Flinders, perhaps due to a slip of memory. I merely wish to clarify the position. There is a false impression in the community that that payment was intended to cover the full cost per diem. It is true that when the report was prepared the average cost of maintaining a bed in a hospital waa. about 13s. 6d. a day. .
– Order ! I have given the honorable mentber very wide latitude in this matter. I1” remind him that we are dealing with, the proposed vote for the Department of’ Social Services.
– I conclude by thanking the Temporary Chairman for hia- indulgence.
.- I rise to support the proposition advanced by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) regarding the reallocation of pension payments to disabled ex-servicemen. The simplest way to emphasize the case for those people is, surely, merely to refer to the regulations as they now stand. The position at the moment is that a disabled ex-serviceman who has suffered the loss of a limb or an eye, for instance, receives a payment from the Government in respect of that loss. I say that strictly speaking these payments are not pensions as pensions are normally understood to be, particularly as they are made to people who have lost some faculty in the service of their country. They are not pensions, for instance, in the same way as the age and invalid pensions are. The men who receive them are not pensioners nor should they be classed as such. These payments are compensation for certain sufferings that these men have undergone and, as all honorable members know, they are very inadequate compensation compared with the compensation received by civilians who have suffered similar injuries in accidents. Recently we have read in the press of the case of an man who lost an eye in a road accident and received compensation of £2,000. Almost every day we read of people who have lost, perhaps, a leg, or have been otherwise badly smashed up in an accident, who have been awarded as compensation, amounts that run into thousands of pounds. The Government says in effect, that a man who is injured in his employment shall be compensated for an injury, even though he may be a millionaire. I may say, in passing, that I know people who are almost millionaires and who are drawing such payments, quite rightly I believe, because they have undergone certain sufferings. It makes no difference whether they have returned to (if they are in) employment or not. But the Government says that the minute a disabled ex-serviceman becomes unemployed he is no longer entitled to compensation. How can this proposition possibly be defended by the Minister? Does a man’s arm grow again because he loses his employment? Does the eye that he has lost, suddenly start to see, and so justify the cessation of payment? I cannot imagine, and I am waiting to hear, how the Minister can defend the harsh attitude that he has adopted on this matter. There are other aspects of it that 1 consider are worthy of mention. An exserviceman who is disabled pays his social service contribution while he is in employment, and therefore, he should receive social service benefits to the full, when he is out of employment. Even aliens who have resided in this country for as short a period as twelve months are entitled to the full scale of social service benefits. Nowadays the Treasurer often rises in the House and tells us that this is a time of buoyant revenues and record savings. I ask the Minister frankly whether, if these provisions concerned the miners or the watersiders, he would insist that they should be interpreted in the harsh manner in which they are being interpreted in respect of ex-servicemen. When these facts were pointed out to him by the two honorable members on this side of the committee to whom I have already referred, the Minister had the nerve to say that on previous occasions he had given their proposition his moral support. Could anything be more despicable than these crocodile tears, this pretended support, when he knows very well that he is the responsible Minister and by the least insistence on his part could see thaijustice was done in this regard? After all, this is the Government, above any government, that should accept some responsibility for men who have been maimed in the defence of this country, because, as honorable members know very well, it did not keep our battalions overseas up to strength, with the result thai many an ex-serviceman who had been wounded had to go back into the firing line and run the risk of being wounded again. We know that because of th<footling defence policy of this Government, and because of its failure t<> reinforce this country’s fighting units, it should, more than any other government, do the decent thing as far a.exservicemen are concerned and honour its debt to them.
.-! heartily support the views that have been expressed by my colleagues on this side of the committee. I do so with great feeling because, I too have raised this matter many times since 1944. But the attitude of the Government has remained as it was in the beginning. I have never understood why the Government has not viewed sympathetically the requests in connexion with this matter that have been made by honorable members on both sides of the chamber. The attitude adopted by the British Government towards its ex-servicemen who have suffered disabilities in the various wars in which Great Britain has been engaged if entirely different. The system is very much the same there as it is in this country. Disability pensions are paid in respect of the loss of limbs or other bodily disablement. There is this difference, however, that the Government of Great Britain considers that these pensions are the personal affair of the men concerned. It takes the view that, although the Government is unable to restore a lost eye or a lost limb, it can, to a degree, recompense the ex-servicemen financially. It considers that this financial assistance belongs to the individual personally and should not be taken into consideration for income tax purposes. As far as I know it is not taken into consideration with a view to limiting any of the new social benefits in the United Kingdom. We believe that we should carry on the British tradition of justice and that no notice should he taken here of what we choose to call a pension when eligibility for the unemployment benefit is being assessed. The time has arrived when the Government should review the whole situation. As has already been stated by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) our revenue is buoyant, and the amount that would be involved in making the concession for which we are asking would not bo large. I am disappointed that during this debate not one Government member has supported the remarks that have been made by the Opposition. When this request was first made in 1944, however, a number of ex-service Government members supported it, no doubt believing, as we do, that justice should be done. Why is it that to-day not one voice in support of our request has been heard from the Government side of the chamber? Is it -because caucus has squashed what little spirit those honorable members had in this regard, or is it because the honorable gentlemen concerned have changed their minds? This natter should be reviewed by the Government without further delay so that justice may be done.
.- I draw the attention of the Government to the fact that under the present system age pensions are not payable to people who come here from overseas until they had been resident in Australia for twenty years. This matter has been raised many times previously and the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has admitted that he knows of instances in which hardship is being caused to elderly people. I have asked repeatedly that this provision be amended, and I hope that appropriate action will be taken.
As I have pointed out before, tuberculosis sufferers under 21 years of age do not receive an invalid pension without the application of the means test. Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was roundly abused by the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) for saying sso. The honorable member has a thick skin, and he said in a loud voice what he thought about the matter. However, I was pleased tthat the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) supported my remarks. I know from correspondence that I have received from the Department of Social Services that what I have said is true. If a young person who contracts tuberculosis, gives up his job and lives at home, a pension is not immediately payable to him if Iiib father is in work and is able to support him. He may, of course, get some recompense from the State. That means that considerably less money comes into the home and others have to suffer in consequence. I hope that the Minister will heed my representations, which were supported by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, and see that the necessary very simple adjustment is made.
The third matter to which I shall refer is one on which many of my colleagues have already spoken. It is what I term a deduction from the dole. If an ex-serviceman has a disability for which he is receiving compensation, that amount is taken into account in assessing any unemployment benefit payable^ although for income tax purposes it is not regarded as income. When certain amending legislation was being considered last year the Opposition moved an amendment to this provision that shook the Government because its own ex-service members spoke in support of our proposal. We thought then that an adjustment would be made. I point out that, if in the future the men for whom we are speaking become unemployed there will be no “ golden age” for them. Sympathy and promises made in the Parliament are not enough. I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) to give a specific undertaking to-night that he will again take this matter up with Cabinet and see it through. That is what he said he would do in 1944. I realize, of course, that the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) is the responsible Minister. Government members must know that the Opposition is unanimous on this subject and that ex-service members on the Government side of the chamber know that the request is made in. the interests of common justice. Let justice, be done.
.- I identify myself with other members of the Opposition with relation to the very unjust treatment that is being meted out to ex-servicemen. This matter should be approached on a non-party basis. It is well known that ex-servicemen in receipt of more than a 40 per cent. disability pension are penalized if they are unemployed and are seeking a job, despite the fact that’ they have paid social service contributions. The existing provision is grossly unfair. Let the Government take all the credit forany amendment to rectify this anomaly, but let the amendment be made sothat an injustice may be removed. It is of no use merely to say that consideration will be given to the matter. That is cold comfort to those ex-servicemen who may be affected.
. -Earlier this evening,I said that the Commonwealth subsidy of 8s. a day for each occupied hospital bed was inadequate. The honorable member for Martin (Mr. Daly), who spoke after me,apparently misunderstood the position, because he sought to rebuke me by declaring that the amount of8s. was never intended to cover the whole cost of maintaining a bed. No one ever thought that it was. All I suggested was that the subsidy should be increased.
M r. Holloway. - I thought the honorable member was opposed to a national medical service.
– I contend that when the Government is taxing the people in order to defray the cost of social services, the people should receive a return for their contributions. I believe that it is better to subsidize hospitals than to give people free medicine that they do not need. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Conelan) said that the Government was spending at the rate of £80,000,000 a year on social services, whereas in 1939 the whole Commonwealth budget did not amount to a great deal more than that. I agree, but. in 1939 the people were not paying the social service contribution. Now they are paying it, and the Government should spend the money in the best way.
I endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr.
Thompson) about the sickness benefits. I also wish to pay tribute to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway), who represents in this chamber the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna). On several occasions, the Minister has helped me by presenting cases on my behalf to the Minister for Social Services. Recently,I supplied the Minister with particulars of a a case, and he is now attending to the matter. I refer to it now only because it is a good illustration of the sort of thing about which the honorable member for Hindmarsh spoke. A nurse fell ill, and had, herself, to go into hospital for treatment. Her doctor certified that for some weeks her condition was such that she was unable to apply for sickness benefit, but that towards the end of sixweeks. which is the period allowed for the submission of applications, she was able to use her hand to sign a document. However, she did not apply until after the period of six weeks had elapsed, with the result that she was eligible to receive the benefit only from the date of the application. The authorities claim that, even if she did not know the conditions applying to the sickness benefit provision, her ignorance does not constitute a valid excuse, and nothing can be done about it. I submit that, in a case of that kind, the provision should be administered with some elasticity, so as to enable such persons to draw the full benefit.
– The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) said that the Commonwealth hospital benefit was too low, and other honorable members have supported him. The Government agrees that the health of the people should be a first charge against the revenue, but we are not allowed to make it so. We do not believe that people should go around the streets with tin cans collecting money for hospitals, and that is why we are trying to put into effect a complete national medical service. However, in these matters, we can work only in co-operation with the States. In agreement with the State governments, we have introduced a hospital benefit scheme; and also a scheme for granting assistance in respect of patients in mental hospitals. We asked the States to provide free hospital treatment for patients in. public wards. At a conference between representatives of the Commonwealth and States, we asked to be informed of the average payment received in respect of each occupied bed in public wards, and a figure was worked out by accountants. They took the year 1943-44, which was a good year, and arrived at a figure of 6s. a day. The Commonwealth agreed to pay that amount, which was later increased because the States claimed that it was not enough. Following that conference the Commonwealth and State governments agreed that 8s. a day was sufficient to cover the loss of revenue from patients in public wards sustained by the hospitals. The hospitals are, therefore, now receiving as much as they did previously. Although the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) charged the Government with having neglected to provide sufficient funds for mental hospitals, the fact is that the Australian Government initiated the suggestion that the payment of hospital benefits should be extended to cover the unfortunate inmates of mental institutions. We appropriated funds for that purpose, and requested the State governments to enact the legislation necessary to implement the proposal. However, the Governments of Tasmania and South Australia are the only ones yet to have completed their part of the contract. Payments have already been made to those two States for that purpose. I suggest to the honorable member that he approach the Government of Queensland and endeavour to persuade it to complete its part of the bargain, because we are willing to pay the money as soon as the conditions agreed upon have been fulfilled. To summarize my remarks concerning the hospital benefit scheme and the participation therein of patients in mental institutions, the position is that if the State authorities can show that a payment of 8s. a bed a dayis not sufficient to cover the costs of maintenance, we are prepared to consider increasing the payments. I add that the whole matter was reviewed at thelast conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has again complained of the treatment given to elderly people who come to this country from the United Kingdom. The Government has carefully considered the position of such people, but as a matter of policy we do not want particularly to encourage aged people to come to Australia from other parts of the Empire–
– But the people oh whose behalf I complained were not old when they came here.
– The honorable member referred to people who came to Australia recently, and, therefore, could not. possibly have lived in this country for twenty years, which is the prescribed period of residence to qualifyfor payment of an age pension.
– I was referring to people who have resided in this country for 25 years and more.
– People from overseas do not have to reside in Australia for 25 years to become eligible for the age pension; twenty years’ residence is sufficient. Our legislation provides that even Australians who have lived abroad must reside here for twenty years to become eligible for age pensions, and we cannot conscientiously treat people from overseas better than we treat our own people. The Government has given sympathetic consideration to the position of aged people from abroad who have not resided in Australia for twenty years. We hope to make a reciprocal arrangement with the governments of other dominions similar to that which we made with the Government of New Zealand, and we sent delegates to London to confer with representatives of other dominions in an effort to evolve a practicable scheme. Under that agreement with New Zealand people from that country who come to Australia are treated as though they had resided here all their lives, and similar treatment is extended to Australians in New Zealand by the Government of that country. The honorable member also asserted that invalids are not eligible for the invalid pension until they attain the age of 21 years, and later he added that they had to submit to a means test.
– I said that in the course of the first speech that I made on the proposed vote for this department. The Minister for Labour and National Service can obtain verification of my statement .from the honorable member for Hindmarsh, who supported me.
– I believe that the honorable member did say that, but I can check my recollection by referring to Hansard later. The fact is that invalid pensions are paid to children who have attained the age of sixteen years, and a means test is applied to all applicants irrespective of their age. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) and the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Sheehan) have mentioned this matter whenever invalid pensions have been discussed in the House. The Government has made the application of the means test to applicants for invalid pensions much more flexible than it once was. The means test that is applied to the income of the members of the family of an invalid child of sixteen years provides for exemptions of £2 10s.- a week in respect of each adult member of the family and 25s. a week for each junior member. The aggregate income of a family would have to amount to £9 10s. or £11 a week before it was taken into account in determining the applicant’s eligibility. The case of. sufferers from tuberculosis was stressed, and I admit that a very good case was established on their behalf. At the same time I do not think that honorable members generally realize the scope of the liberal treatment provided for in the agreements made between the Commonwealth and State Governments. This Government is making available to the States approximately £250,000 a year for sufferers from tuberculosis. A man who receives a pension for tuberculosis also receives the invalid pension, and he is eligible to receive any other kind of pension to which he is entitled, with the exception that if he is an ex-serviceman, he is cared for by the Repatriation Department. An invalid pensioner receives £2 2s. 6d. a week, and an allowance of £1 a week is paid to his wife. In addition, he receives the allowance paid to sufferers from tuberculosis, and his wife- is paid ah allowance of £1 5s. a week by the State authorities. A tuberculosis sufferer, who has -a wife and child, receives £4 7s. 6d. a week. Money is provided by the Australian Government to the State governments to pay the allowances. If a patient is receiving treatment in a sanatorium he is still entitled to the pension. The State governments now have authority to expend,’ through their Departments of Health, portion of the money paid to them by the Australian Government in order te supplement the allowances paid to a family so that its. members will not be destitute while the head. of the family is receiving treatment in a sanatorium.
The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) mentioned two or three matters. I shall deal, at this stage, with the point that she raised yesterday. The honorable member pointed out that an/ apparently large staff of Commonwealth health officers is engaged at Launceston, which she apparently regards as a comparatively small centre. I point out that the staff comprises Commonwealth and . State officers. The honorable member said that fourteen officers are engaged in the Launceston office, and she inquired whether the reason for that number of officers was that the staff had recently been augmented to administer the provision* of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act. The answer is “ No “. Launceston is the head-quarters for the entire Commonwealth health service in Tasmania. Two members of the staff are engaged on clerical work connected with the pharmaceutical benefits scheme,’ hut the remaining twelve, officers include a number of highly qualified and well-paid officials, who are engaged on important scientific work, and two or three specialists, who are encaged on research associated with accidents and injuries suffered by women during pregnancy.
The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) complained that men aged 65 years are debarred from receiving sickness or unemployment benefits, and if one were to administer the regulations in accordance with a narrow, legal construction, that statement would be correct. It must be borne in mind that thu legislation that regulates the payment of age pensions was enacted during a period of widespread unemployment, when it was believed that such benefits should be carefully restricted. At that time age pensioners were not permitted to earn more than £1 or £1 5e. a week without it affecting their pension. Of course, when the act was introduced by 4 non-Labour government there were 300,000 or 400,000 unemployed. The unemployment benefit was intended to be paid only for short periods. When the scarcity of labour became acute we recognized that it would be foolish to insist that immediately a worker had reached the age at which he or she became entitled to the age pension eligibility for he unemployment benefit should cease.
– Is it not a matter of principle ?
– We did not amend the legislation, but we advised the Director-General of Social Services to disregard the provision limiting the payment of unemployment benefit to persons not entitled to the age pension. Similar, advice was issued in regard to the sickness benefit. As long as elderly people are fit to return to work we do not insist that, should they become unemployed or ill, they should apply for the age pension rather than the unemployment or sickness benefit. If, of course, unemployment or sickness is of long duration, the Director-General of Social Services instructs them to apply for either the age or invalid pension. We are encouraging elderly men to remain at work in an endeavour to meet the labour shortage. We are also training invalid pensioners in various avocations. In the circumstances that exist to-day it would be foolish for the Government to insist that when workers reach the age at which they become eligible for the age pension they should no longer be entitled to the sickness or unemployment benefit. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) was perfectly right in saying that payments of the sickness and unemployment benefit are made to men over the age of 65 years.
The honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) referred to certain anomalies in the administration of the social services legislation. Anomalies are inevitable in the administration of any legislation. Unfortunately, we cannot reach perfection. As in the workshop, so in the legislative field, there is never complete efficiency and a complete absence of anomaly. The honorable member referred to the problem, at which the honorable member for Hindmarsh has been hammering for the last two years, which arises when the value of a property is held against a person in assessing his pension rights. That problem has been given very serious consideration. The honorable member for Wilmot stated the case of a pensioner who owns a home, but, having let it, is unable to recover possession, and has to rent another home. In such cases the value of the pensioner’s property is assessed against him and his pension ip reduced accordingly. I admit that that appears to be an anomaly, but that is the law. If a pensioner loses his house as the result of a fire the insurance payment is not held, against him for pension purpose* provided he utilizes that money within a reasonable time to build or buy a new home. The same principle applies in respect of pensioners whose homes are demolished as part of a slum clearance scheme. The compensation paid to such pensioners is not held against them provided that, within a reasonable time, they buy or build another home. Most of the problems raised by the honorable member for Wilmot can be solved by the exercise of the discretionary power vested in the Director-General of Social Services.
The honorable member for Darwin referred to the position of farmers in relation to the sickness benefit. The sickness benefit scheme is based on the fundamental principle that to become eligible to receive the benefit a person must lose income. Self-employed persons may become ill, but their businesses go on without their guidance. In such cases no sickness benefit is payable. Similarly, if a wage or salary earner becomes ill, and his emoluments are continued by his employer, he is not entitled to the sickness benefit. In order to qualify for the benefit a sick person must be involved in loss of income. Obviously, the Director-General must have held the view that the person whose case was dealt with by the honorable member for Darwin did not lose income.
– That could not be easily established.
– That is true. The Director-General may have made a wrong decision. I assure the honorable member that that aspect of the legislation is now being given further examination. The honorable member also referred to’ the case of an invalid pensioner who, having no one to look after him, could not leave his home.’ Provision has been made in the legislation for an attendant’s allowance of £1 a week to be granted in such cases. Such an allowance could he paid to a daughter.
– The pensioner to whom I have referred would still have to remain in his home because both of bis daughters are married.
– That is one of the problem cases that frequently arise. Provision is made in the legislation for the payment of an attendant’s allowance to invalid pensioners who are not able to get about.
– The person to whom I referred is qualified as an age pensioner and not as an invalid pensioner.
– If he is unable to leave his home he should apply for the invalid pension. The honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) referred to the welfare of children between the kindergarten and the school commencing ages. The Commonwealth does not exercise control over child welfare. In the main that is a responsibility of the States. It is true that during the war, in an effort to induce married women to go to work, we built schools and child welfare centres and trained child welfare officers. Indeed, the Government is at present negotiating with the States with a view to assuming full responsibility for child welfare. If those negotiations bear fruit, the case mentioned by the honorable member will be covered.
Several honorable members opposite referred to the assessment of a war pension as income for the purpose of determining eligibility for the sickness and unemploymentbenefits. Whether or not the pension paid to an exserviceman for war injuries should be regarded as income or compensation is a very old argument. The view of the Government is that no person is entitled to draw more than one pension from Commonwealth funds. Whether or not that policy is fair is another matter.
– Why does not the Government rectify the anomaly?
– It is not true to say that nothing has been done in that matter since 1944. In 1944 an income exemption of 12s. 6d. was allowed. The exemption has since been raised to 30s. in respect of all benefits other than the unemployment benefit. The reason why we have not bothered to put unemployed disabled ex-servicemen on the same footing as other members of the community, is that there are none to-day, and I do not think that there will be any for years to come.
– How does the Minister know that?
– I do not know it for certain, but that is my opinion, and that is the reason why the matter has not been given further consideration. The only answer that I can give to Opposition members is that the exemption has been raised from 12s. 6d. to 30s.. but the policy has not been changed.
– I have never heard a more futile explanation from any Minister.
– It is not an explanation.
– Well, it is a statement.
– It is an answer.
– The Minister has said that the policy of the Government is that no person should be paid more than one pension from Commonwealth funds. He now claims that that was not an explanation or a statement, but was an answer. I say that it is not an answer, but it is an admission of the Government’s inability to face up to its obligation to provide adequately for disabled exservicemen who may be thrown on to the unemployment market. The Minister has said also that there are no unemployed disabled ex-servicemen. How does he know that? Ex-servicemen realize that if they are in receipt of a full disablement pension it is of no use for them to apply for -unemployment relief, and so they do not apply. A significant feature of this debate is the fact that not one Government supporter has denied the observations made by honorable members on this side of the chamber. The reason for that, of course, is that, in 1944, a suggestion that the necessary amendment be made to entitle disabled ex-servicemen to draw unemployment relief, met with the acclaim of some honorable members opposite and, fearing pressure from Government supporters, the Minister agreed to take the matter back to Cabinet, to have something done. He did so, but nothing has been done. The matter has been raised in this chamber every year since that time. Now the Minister says that ex-servicemen who may suffer grave disabilities as a result of their service to this country, are to be told that if their pension exceeds £1, it will be taker into consideration in calculating unemployment or sickness benefit, although no similar penalty is imposed upon other members of the community who may be in receipt of friendly society benefits. Even an ex-enemy alien is entitled to better treatment than a disabled exserviceman. In 1944, I managed to wring from the Minister the admission that a person who had been interned as an enemy alien during the war could, if he had subsequently established domicile in this country for twelve months, receive the unemployment and sickness benefit. Therefore, disabled ex-servicemen who fought for the privileges that we now enjoy are at a disadvantage compared with ex-enemy aliens whose blood brothers may have caused their disabilities. In fact, the social services contribution paid by ex-servicemen can be used to pay unemployment or sickness benefits to ex-enemy aliens. The only reason that the Minister can advance for the continuance of this state of affairs is that it is the settled policy of the Government that only one pension shall be paid to any person from Commonwealth revenue. I remind the Minister that hut for the sacrifices of the men in our fighting forces, he would not be able to sit in his place to-day in this democratic chamber. I have no doubt that the incapacity suffered by many ex-servicemen is a grave disability in their endeavour to find employment, and may eventually lead to loss of employment by many who to-day have jobs. Nevertheless, they, have been told to-night by the Minister that further consideration cannot he given to them because it is the policy of the Government that two pensions shall not be payable to any individual out of Commonwealth revenue. If that is the Government’s policy; it is very poor indeed, and the Minister’s answer is most unsatisfactory to exservicemen. The situation is anomalous and I am sure that the Minister himself and other honorable members opposite feel their position keenly. Even if only one ex-serviceman is being penalized by this iniquitous rule, that is sufficient justification for amending it. In the years to come, I am afraid many ex-servicemen will be penalized by their injuries. Surely in view of this country’s promises to its servicemen, the Government should be generous in compensating them for any disabilities’ that they may suffer as a result of their war service. I emphasize that payments in respect of disabilities should be regarded, not as pensions, but as compensation. The Minister has prated of Government policy merely to get himself out of an awkward position. I am sure that many honorable members opposite feel as keenly as I do on this matter. Government policy cannot he accepted as an excuse for inaction. As I have said, members of our fighting forces fought for the privileges that we enjoy to-day and they should be given the utmost consideration.
– If there is any one in this chamber who consistently talks a lot of humbug it is the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison). He loves it and thrives on it. The proposed vote now under discussion is that for the Department of Social Services. Members of the Government do not claim to be perfect. Indeed, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) has admitted that there are gaps in the Government’s social services programme. However, since Labour has been in office, it has increased expenditure on social services from about £18,000,000 to £80,000,000 annually. Repatriation expenditure has also been increased. Possibly, by the end of this year, we shall be expending money on social services at the rate of £100,000,000 a year. The honorable member for Wentworth has spoken at considerable length about the sufferings of servicemen during the war, and the debt that this country owes to them. It is perfectly true that every serviceman, whether he sustained the loss of a limb or returned to Australia unscathed, suffered for his country. However, the honorable member for Wentworth is guilty of cant when he speaks of what this Government has failed to’ do for ex-servicemen through its social services legislation. I recall that when the honorable gentleman was a Minister in an antiLabour government, hundreds of persons, good, bad and indifferent, marched to the front door of this building and clamoured for work so that they might earn a few shillings with which to buy food for their families. None of those persons received unemployment benefits. I remind the honorable member for Wentworth that the scale of unemployment benefits to-day is £1 5s. for the husband, £1 for the wife and 5s. for a child. Although the anti-Labour government in which the honorable member for Wentworth was a Minister did not provide unemployment benefits, he now prates about what the Labour Government should do in the sphere of social services.
– He is insincere.
– He is sincere to the degree that he hopes that his submissions will register in the minds of some people. He plays up to ex-servicemen. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton) made the position a little clearer when he referred to the benefits payable to exservicemen. The statement that exservicemen do not receive unemployment benefits is incorrect. Of course, they do ! If an ex-serviceman is receiving a proportion of a pension, he does receive some benefit.
– The amount must be less than £1.
– days when the honorable gentleman was a Minister, ex-servicemen and other citizens did not receive any unemployment or sickness benefits. The only right that they possessed was to carry a swag, and to pick up a crumb here and there throughout the country.
– It is useless for the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr White) to say “ rubbish “. He knows that I am telling the truth. The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) and I attended a conference of ex-servicemen a few days ago, and her description of what occurred at that meeting is perfectly correct. However the fact remains that ex-servicemen do derive a benefit.
– In most instances.
– That is so. For the loss of an eye, a 50 per cent. pension is payable.
– The loss of an eye is » small thing, of course!
– The loss of an eye is a 50 per cent. pensionable disability and is a physical handicap. I am not trying to belittle that. Members of the Opposition have made a sentimental approach to this subject. Should they ever regain office, they will have the privilege of stopping up the gaps in our social services legislation. The Government admits that some gaps exist to-day. but over the years, it has made remarkable progress in providing for the needs of the less fortunate members of the community. Whenever the opportunity arises members of the Opposition register indignation at the Government’s social services, programme. Although they did not introduce unemployment and sickness benefits when they had the opportunity, they pick out the small gaps that remain in our social services legislation. The honorable member for Wentworth has uttered a good deal of humbug in this debate, but when he was a Minister, he did not do anything to improve our social services.
. -I am astonished that the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard), has taken the line that he has, but I am not amazed -.hat ex-servicemen in general have taken the line that they have concerning him. Se does himself a grave disservice in
Attacking the problem as he has done, [f the truth were known, I do not think that he does his own heart justice. He has adopted the attitude that most honorable members opposite adopt when members of the Opposition produce an absolutely unanswerable charge against them. They always recall the days of the financial and economic depression, and ask why the government that was then in office did not do this or that. That kind of reply has nothing whatever to lo with the present problem. Any one who seeks to excuse some omission from bis own programme by referring to an omission in someone’ else’s programme is - If-condemned.
The Minister has mentioned that expenditure on social services may soon be £100,000,000 per annum. It is a poor thing, if, in an expenditure of £100,000,000, provision cannot be made for an ex-servicemen’s disability. He has spoken of this particular gap in the social services legislation as if it is one - of a number of small things. In truth, it is >ne of the large things. We cannot divorce this matter from sentiment, a right and proper sentiment, the kind of sentiment that justifies us in sending men - to die. The Government must recognize chat fact. Honorable members opposite refer to the days of the depression, and to omissions on the part of another government . in that period. . But at least, in those times, the pensions of ex-servicemen were not interfered with in relation to those of the rest of the community. No ex-serviceman was penalized in any way compared with any other citizen.
– Tell us about the Lyons Government.
– Honorable members opposite should not forget that we of the worst days of the depression occurred long before the Lyons Government took office. I do not often become heated, but when I see men like the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) sniggering-
– Who is sniggering?
– The honorable member is sniggering. I cannot refrain from becoming heated when an honorable member, regardless of the political party to which he belongs, seeks to excuse an act of injustice, by referring to another act of injustice. Because my brother did a wrong action does not in any way excuse me for doing a similar action. Thai approach to the problem is completely unmoral. I sincerely hope that- the Government will’ see. this matter in the proper light, and refrain from excusing its omissions by referring to the omissions of another government in other days.
.- A» the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) has already spoken twice on this vote he is not afforded an opportunity, under the Standing Orders, to answer the remarks made by the Minister, although, if he had that opportunity, I have no doubt he would be capable of doing so, because he is a fearless fighter and has always sponsored the cause of the ex-serviceman. It ill becomes the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) to attack the honorable gentleman, in the way he has. I was glad to hear the Minister speak on this subject, because it vitally concerns .the administration of his department.
– It does not concern my department ; it is directly related to social services.
– I was pleased to hear the Minister admit that, in respect of this matter, a gap exists in social services. Of course, there must be gaps in respect of any legislation. However, the Minister failed to tell the committee what he proposes to do about the matter. He seemed to brush it aside as being of no importance.. In those circumstances, we can only assume that neither he nor the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) intends to take any action, that they will not bother to consider it. That is the impression which they have given to the committee. As the Minister has admitted the existence of this gap, he should assure us that he will take steps to have it closed.
I propose to discuss briefly the Opposition’s proposal that child endowment should be provided in respect of the first child under sixteen years of age. The liberalizationof child endowment in that way would be of real benefit to families ; first, because the payment is made direct to the mother who will spend it for the purpose for which it is intended, whilst no temptation is placed in the way of the bread-winner to expend it on his own behalf-, and, secondly, because the payment is free of tax.. Thus, it gives a real lift to family income. It is at least a small incentive to Australians to increase the population of this country. All of us admit that the Australian-born child is the best migrant. The reason for the Government’s’ refusal to provide child endowment in respect of the first child remains a complete mystery. Honorable members opposite have been sufficiently courteous to admit that child endowment was introduced by a non-Labour government. However, as they admit that child endowment is of great benefit to families, why does the Government refuse to provide it in respect of the first child ? Until that is done endowment will not be payable in respect of the eldest child, even in a family of fifteen. Therefore, the Government cannot rely on the argument that by refusing to liberalize the benefit in this way it will discourage larger families, or that the payment in respect of the first child would tend to restrict families to one child. Any married man will agree that the provision making endowment available in the first instance to the second child under sixteen years of age will not encourage large families. If the Government agrees that child endowment is beneficial, what is its objection to providing endowment in respect of the first child which, as I have said, would be a real help to families? Is the Government holding its hand in this matter simply because the Opposition has so strongly advocated this improvement?
Proposed vote agreed to.
Pharmaceutical Chemists: Alleged Black-list.
Motion (by Mr. Holloway) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- All things come to those who wait, and ] have been waiting, since the Government refused this morning to give me the opportunity to do so, to make a full statement on a matter of considerablepublic interest. The Government’s action in this respect has been miserable and mean and proves that in this instance it does not want the truth to come out. I wish to make a short statement relating to the black-listing of a chemist who carries on business in my electorate, and I shall do so in spite of the fact that honorable members opposite are bawling out thatI should be cut off the air. I refer tothe case of Mr. Wherrett, who was placed on a departmental black-list and refused supplies of a serum for diphtheria for a patient unless he paid cash for it.I raised this matter in the first instance on the 27th May. A day or two later the Director-General of Health made a statement to the press that a black-list was in existence in respect of only one, or two, chemists in New South Wales whohad run up large accounts and consistently refused to pay them after they had received letters from the Crown Solicitor. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) who represents the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) in this chamber, said in the House yesterday that Mr. Wherrett’s name had been placed on that black-list in December, 1939, but that neither he nor the department could say what amount was involved, or in respect of what articles or in what circumstances the indebtedness bad been incurred. I now tell the House that at that time Mr. Wherrett had only recently started to practise as a chemist. He did not purchase any goods on credit from the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, and he did not owe the laboratories a penny. The Minister in the long, evasive and oleaginous statement that he made yesterday said that Mr. Wherrett’s name had been on the black-list since December, 1939. Since that time, for a period of ten years, Mr. Wherrett had been permitted to purchase goods on the ordinary credit system. I have his records in my hand. They show that for what he bought in April he paid in May, when he bought in July he paid in August, when he bought in September he paid his account at the end of November, and he paid his accounts in April and May last. 13.e conducted all of his transactions on ordinary credit terms.’ His transaction* with the laboratories were not numerous because he preferred to deal with private suppliers. He paid all of his account? on ordinary credit terms. On the 3rd May, he received an urgent order for diphtheria serum for the immunization of eight children. I assumed that the serum was required for treatment, but the Minister’s statement that it was required for immunization is correct. The serum was required urgently because the children were undergoing a course of inoculation which, if it were interrupted because of failure to obtain the serum, would have had to be commenced again. When Mr. Wherrett telephoned the laboratories to obtain the serum he was refused a supply unless he paid cash on the ground that his name was on the laboratories’ black-list. The following Morning, the 4th May, he went to the laboratories and his request for a supply of the serum was again refused for the reason that his name was on the black-list. When he asked that he should be given the reason in writing that request was refused also. That is a significant fact. According to the Minister’s own long statement, which was given to me yesterday, Mr. Wherrett’s name was taken off the black-list on the 6th May, two days after he had been refused supplies.
– And before the honorable member raised the matter here.
– Long before I raised it here, but after he had raised it with the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. He was refused supplies because his name was on the black-list. It had been there for ten years. Directly he inquired why it was on the black-list, instructions were given to take it off. That is shown by the Minister’s statement. The next significant thing is that Mr. Wherrett was not told that his name had been taken off the black-list. That is why I raised the matter in this House on the 27th May. He assumed that his name was still on the black-list. In the dim, distant days of December, 1939, Mr. Wherrett’s name was put on the departmental black-list. It was put there secretly and without his knowledge. The suggestion is now made that he must have owed money to the department, but the department is not able to say how much he owed or for what reason he owed it. He has asserted through me in this House, and he says it again, that neither then nor at any other time did he owe the department a stiver and that he paid on the ordinary credit terms. The Minister has proved that hp paid. Tt was only small amounts, a few shillings a year, because he dealt in only a small way with the department. That assertion is proved right up to the hilt by the fact that he was given credit for the ten years his name was supposed to be on the black-list. Directly he found that it was on the black-list and complained, it was taken off the list. Why was his name taken off the black-list if it should have been there because of some wrong action on his part? It is abundantly clear that his name should not have been on the black-list. It is also abundantly clear that he was given credit when, according to the Minister’s own statement, he should not have been given it. As he says, his name should not have been on the blacklist because he had never owed the department money. It is entirely wrong that an honest and honorable man carrying on his profession should have been treated by the department in this way. I can understand mistakes occurring; every one can understand mistakes occurring, but it is very wrong that when a mistake was made by the department, it whs not frank and ready to admit it. That is the real gravamen of my complaint. What may seem to the Minister and other honorable members opposite a small matter, is a matter of major principle. These are the days in which the ordinary citizen needs all the protection that he can get from members of Parliament against improper departmental action. If ever there was a case in which it has been shown that some one made a mistake involving an honest man, it is this case. I deeply deplore and bitterly resent the fact that no one was honest or frank enough to admit the mistake instead of producing the greasy and evasive statement that was produced in the House yesterday.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, Ac. - 1949-
No. 35- Federated Clerks’ Union of Australia.
No. 30 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 37 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
No. 38 - Printing Industry Employees’
Union of Australia.
No. 39 - Hospital Employees’ Federation of Australasia.
Commonwealth Public Service Act -
Appointments - Department of the Interior - D. D. Best, N. S. Conrad.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act-
National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (18).
National Security (Prices) Regulations - Order- No. 3430.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for -
Defence purposes - Wacol, Queensland.
Postal purposes - Tathra, New South Wales.
House adjourned at 11.24 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
Mr.Bernard Corser asked the Minister representing the Acting AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
How many cases were dealt with and disposed of by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in 1944, 1945, 1946, 1947 and 1948?
asked the Minister representing the Acting Attorney-General, upon notice -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
h asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the right honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows: -
g asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions’ are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 June 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1949/19490609_reps_18_202/>.