18th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Deputy SPEAKER (Mr. J. J. Clark) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10.30 a.m.
– Has the Minister for Immigration noticed press reports that Mrs. Tony Ang, of Brisbane, is returning to her Chinese husband in Hong Kong? Is this the woman upon whom the tory press has expended columns of its space and upon whom Queenslanders have expended a lot of unnecessary sympathy and £332 of their hard cash? Does the Minister know whether Mrs. Ang has booked a passage ?
– Mrs. Ang, to whom the honorable member for Brisbane has referred, went to Hong Kong with her husband when he was deported in June last, and she returned to Australia in August to tell stories of their “ filthy “ and “awful” plight in Hong Kong, to use her own WOrds. The Australian press, which is always eager, to exploit such” stories in the prosecution of its malicious campaign against Australia’s immigration laws and against me personally, played up the Ang case. Since then Mrs. Ang has apparently decided that things are not so “awful” and “ filthy “ in Hong Kong after all. She is definitely returning to Hong Kong. In fact, she has .booked passages for herself and her three children on Changsha, which will leave on the 21st October.
– Has the Minister for Immigration read press reports and editorial comment on the case of Frank Jang, a Chinese living in Queensland, and the allegations that he has been summarily ordered to get out of the country by the end of this month, although he has lived here for nineteen years?
– The reports on this case are false, as usual, and the hysterical editorials, consequently, are based on fallacious premises. As a matter of fact, an application by this man to remain in Australia was refused as far back as 1940 by the then Minister for the Interior, Senator Foll, who also ordered that Jang’s wife should leave Australia. Far from Mr. Jang, who is also known as Joe Young Chew and Young Chew, being under orders to leave Australia by the end of this month, I have granted him exemption until the 30th April of next year-
– I rise to order. I understand that the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) has asked a question, without notice, .but the Minister i» obviously reading a prepared statement in reply. I should like to know whether he is in order in doing so.
– The Minister should have naked for leave to make a statement on this matter.
– Order! The procedure is entirely in order. The honorable member for Hume has asked for information, and the Minister is providing it.
– That is a very good way of avoiding the necessity to ask for leave to make a. statement upon the subject.
– This is factual information, too, Mr. Deputy Speaker, unlike the attacks which have been made upon me.- As I was stating when the honorable member for Flinders rose to order, I had granted Mr. Jang until the 30th April of next year so as to afford him an opportunity to secure employment with a Chinese firm eligible to retain his services as an assistant under exemption. If he is successful in obtaining such a position, his exemption will be extended periodically in accordance with existing policy. I shall briefly state the facts of the case. Mr. Jang was allowed to enter the country in 1930 to take charge of his father’s business in Ayr, Queensland, while his father visited China. The parent did not return, and the son was granted yearly extensions so that he could help his mother to carry on the business. Later, those extensions were continued on condition that the business maintained a turnover which entitled it to the services of a Chinese assistant. Although the business failed to do so, Jang was permitted to remain here and help his mother. Eventually, the business failed and Jang, who engaged in farming, was allowed, together with hig wife, to remain here in accordance with war-time policy. All those happenings occurred under the administration of Ministers when the Opposition parties were in office. After the war, Jang was granted further extensions to allow him to arrange his affairs, and on the grounds of financial hardship. Last July, he was granted an extension until the 31st October in order to give him an opportunity to harvest a crop of potatoes. Now, he has been given another extension to afford him the chance of remaining in Australia as an assistant under exemption. All the attacks that have been made upon the Government, the Department of Immigration and myself on this matter are based upon entirely false premises.
– How many children has Jang? Is it a fact that he has five children, all of whom were born in Australia? Is not that information in the Minister’s brief? If not, it is a pity.
-Order! 1 ask the Leader of the Opposition to refrain from interjecting.
– The Leader of the Opposition is entirely out of order.
– Can the Prime Minister inform the House how the new world trade pattern, under which the United States has agreed to grant approximately 250,000,000 dollars worth of import concessions, will affect Australia? Can the right honorable gentleman say to what degree Australia will share in the concessions, what concessions we will have to make in return, and what effect the new pattern will have upon Empire preference, and upon Australian trade generally?
– The Minister for Postwar Reconstruction will answer the question.
– As recently as the 18th March last I announced that tariff negotiations would take place at Annecy, France, among the countries that were contracting parties to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and a number of other countries that desired to accede to that agreement. The negotiations commenced in April and concluded on the 25th August.
– Is the Minister’s answer going to take the form of a statement?
– I am answering the honorable member’s question. During the course of the afternoon I shall give to honorable members a list of the concessions received by alf fLc participating nations, and that list will answer in part the question asked by the honorable member. However, I have deemed it wise to make this statement in reply to the question asked by the honorable gentleman The acceding countries which have concluded negotations at Annecy are Denmark, Finland, Greece, Italy, Sweden. Dominica, Haiti, Liberia, Nicaragua and Uruguay. The concessions that were made during the negotiations have been embodied in the Annecy protocol of term? of accession to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which was opened for signature at the head-quarters of the United Nations at Lake Success yesterday. The signature of that protocol by twothirds of the contracting parties to the present general agreement in respect of any one of the acceding governments will represent a decision in favour of the accession of that country to the general agreement, which was concluded at Geneva in 1947. The concessions made at Annecy by the present contracting parties may be implemented at any time until the 30th May, 1950. Australian trade with the ten acceding countries is relatively small, and amounted in 1947-48 to only 2.8 per cent, of Australia’s imports, and 4.1 per cent, of Australia’s exports. It is, therefore, a very small part of our export and import trade generally. In the course of these negotiations concessions were obtained from five countries, and those concessions will be of value to Australia; but by far the greatest emphasis must be laid on the concessions that were obtained from the United States of America. The concessions obtained by Australia are not of great direct importance because Australia had already obtained all the concessions that it could from the United States of America at the conference at Geneva in 1947, including the valuable concession of a reduction by that country of its tariff on Australian wool. The American tariff on Australian wool was reduced by 25 per cent., and the tariff on other Australian primary products was also reduced. However, concessions made by the United States of America at Annecy are of considerable indirect value in that they will assist to develop the trade of countries outside Australia that export to the United States of America, which is, of course, in the dollar area. That concession must assist in relieving the dollar shortage generally. However, as I indicated previously, during the afternoon I shall place before honorable members a list of the concessions obtained by the contract parties.
– How will the agreement affect British Empire preference?
– That question involves consideration of a number of matters. Empire preference has two angles. The first is the reference obtained by British goods in dominion markets, and the second is the preference obtained by dominion goods in the United Kingdom market. Australia did not agree, during the negotiations, to any alteration of the preferences which we enjoy in the United Kingdom market on any item in respect of which we have any significant trade with the United Kingdom. The Dominions, of course, did not agree to the elimination or reduction of preferences which the United Kingdom enjoyed in their markets without its consent.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether it is a fact that the Australian Government intends to despatch a trade mission to South American countries? Will the members of the mission investigate potential markets for both Australian primary and secondary products in South America? Is this action part of the Australian Government’s efforts to earn more dollars?
– It is a fact that in order to investigate very fully the possibilities of developing reciprocal trade between Australia and South American countries, and particularly to earn dollars, the Government has arranged for a trade commissioner and an assistant trade commissioner to visit South American countries and make a survey of trade possibilities. It is hoped to develop reciprocal trade that will be mutually advantageous to both Australia and the countries concerned.
– Is the Minister for Air aware that the Mildura branch of the University of Melbourne will close at the end of this year, and that the buildings, which will be vacated, were originally designed and used by the Royal Australia Air Force as a fighter operational unit during the 1939-45 war? Does the honorable gentleman know that this station was an outstanding success, because of its perfect runways, and the ideal -flying conditions that were experienced in that district? Will he consider the establishmnt of a permanent Royal Australian Air Force station at Mildura so that those facilities may be utilized and economy practised?
– I am aware that a fighter operational unit was stationed at Mildura, and I have also heard that after the end of 1949 the University of Melbourne will not require the use of the buildings that have been provided for it there. The honorable member has suggested that the air-to-ground radio communication school at Ballarat should be moved to Mildura, and other suggestions have been made that the camp at Ballarat should be converted to an immigrant depot. I have examined these suggestions very recently. In fact, I visited Ballarat last Saturday in order to ascertain for myself the requirements of the Royal Australian Air Force training school there. The station is well equipped, but because of the delicate1 nature of the instruments used for training purposes it needs to be situated in an area free from dust and its rooms must be air-conditioned. Therefore, there is no likelihood of the school being transferred to Mildura. I know that the aerodrome at Mildura is well equipped. I also know that the Air Board carefully considered the requirements of all Air Force stations before determining where they should be located. I cannot offer the honorable gentleman any reason to hope that an Air Force school of any kind will be established at Mildura, but I shall have the matter further examined. I am sure that all possible economies are being practised by the Air Board, and therefore it seems unlikely that the honorable member’s wish will be gratified.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister, concerning what is known as the Hurstville grocer case. Apparently a regulation prevents a grocer at Hurstville from selling tea at less than the price fixed by the New South Wales prices authority. Will the Prime Minister have that regulation amended so that the grocer may even, give away tea if it pleases him to do so? Will the right honorable gentleman take that action in view of the fact that the Government favours healthy” competition amongst traders ?
– I have not had an opportunity to obtain all of the details of the case that the honorable member has mentioned. Australia’s tea supplies are bought by this Government on a governmental basis overseas. At times the Government has difficulty in obtaining the quantity that it needs, and at times also it has difficulty in obtaining supplies at a reasonable price. Consequently, the Tea Control Board, which consists of wholesalers and retailers, has been formed. It arranges the price of tea, after consultation amongst its members, having in mind the desirability of maintaining stability of the retail price and preventing fluctuations with every variation of the price paid by the Government in its overseas bulk transactions. I understand that a regulation was promulgated to provide, in effect, the maximum and also the minimum price for tea. I am not fully conversant with the subject, but I understand that the New South Wales prices control regulations prevent traders from selling tea at less than the fixed price and that there is also a regulation that provides for the stabilization of tea prices so as to prevent constant fluctuations. It is desirable that there should be a stable retail price under the system by which the Government purchases bulk supplies overseas and provides a consumer subsidy on tea. Apparently competition is often not appreciated by people engaged in private enterprise. I have not seen figures covering transactions in the last fortnight, but I know that some of the tea that is now arriving in Australia will cost the Government 5s. per lb. landed in this country. If consumers had to bear the full costs, they would have to pay 6s. per lb. for tea on some occasions at any rate. But due to the Government subsidy, and to the operations of the Tea Control Board in the field of distribution, the public has been able to buy tea at a price which has remained steady. I have mentioned the matter to the Minister for Trade and Customs, who is examining the relevant regulation, and I shall let the honorable member know the result of his investigations.
– In view of _ the announcement yesterday by the Minister for Defence that Australia had just taken part in important defence talks, will he explain how Australia’s defence policy can be linked inseparably with Britain’s commitments under the North Atlantic Pact and Western Union agreement, since we have no adequate defence forces at the moment to defend our own territory? What are Australia’s future commitments as a result of the defence talks? Will the House be given an opportunity to discuss the reports which the Secretary for Defence, Sir Frederick Shedden, has made to the Government?
– Honorable members will have ample opportunity to discuss those matters when the proposed vote for the Department of Defence is being considered.
– I do not know about ample opportunity, but there will be some opportunity.
– The honorable member suggested in his question that Australia’s defence forces were inadequate. That is untrue. Our defence forces are at greater, strength than ever before in peace-time. It is true that the Government has entered into an undertaking with the Government of the United Kingdom to make a far greater contribution to the defence of the British Commonwealth of Nations than Australia has ever made before. It ought to be obvious to the honorable member that, since the United Kingdom has commitments in connexion with the North Atlantic Pact and the Western Union arrangement, there must necessarily be discussions between the defence authorities of Australia and of the United Kingdom, so that those various commitments can be lined up with what Australia has undertaken to do in order to help the British Commonwealth of Nations in the overall defence scheme. It is impossible to discuss the subject adequately in answer to a question but, as I have said, the honorable member will have an opportunity to discuss it further when the Defence Estimates are being considered’.
– Can the Minister for Works and Housing say how much money was made available for the construction of war service homes last year? How much has been made available since the end of the war, and how much was available during the year immediately preceding the outbreak of the last war?
– The amounts made available for the construction and purchase of war service homes since the end of the last war have been as follow : -
En this year’s budget, provision is made for the allocation of £15,000,000 to be expended under the war service homes legislation. I cannot state offhand how much was expended on war service homes in 1938-39, because a large amount of money voted for such housing was undoubtedly devoted to meeting administration expenses. In order to discover the actual amount expended on the purchase and construction of war service homes, t would be necessary to analyse the figures. T can say, however, that for the year 1938-39, which was twenty years after the end of World War
I., there were still 474 unsatisfied applicants for war service homes, and only 27 war service homes were built in that year.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether the Government consults him and the officers of his department and the Minister for Health before the drafting of legislation involving constitutional issues such as have arisen in respect of banking, petrol rationing and pharmaceutical benefits? If so, will the right honorable gentleman table the opinions expressed by himself and the Minister for Health and his departmental officers on legislation dealing with those subjects? What reform, if any, does the right honorable gentleman contemplate making in his department in order that the Government may be more adequately advised on constitutional matters?
– The honorable member has raised a very important question which deserves a full answer. Nobody ought to know better than the honorable member that the powers of the Parliament on all matters are subject to constitutional limitations. When we review the history of the Parliament, we find that since federation dozens of cases have occurred in which legislation enacted by this National Parliament, has been invalidated to some degree by the decisions of the High Court. I could cite many such examples which have arisen under governments of all political parties. With respect to the Government’s source of advice on legislation involving constitutional issues, the honorable member has referred only to banking, petrol rationing and pharmaceutical benefits; ‘but since the outbreak of the recent war in 1939 and including the period since the present Government assumed office in 1941, probably from 150 to 200 constitutional cases have come before the High Court and, I suppose, in approximately 90 per cent, of those cases the Government’s legislation, including numerous regulations under the National Security Act, has .been upheld by the court. One very important piece of legislation that was upheld by the court was that which established the uniform income tax. There have been other cases of very great importance. But the only cases that receive attention from the point of view just expressed by the honorable member are those in which the court’s decision has been adverse to the Government. In respect of the three subjects mentioned by the honorable member the Government has not relied for advice mainly upon Ministers of the Crown, but has obtained advice from professional advisers and highly skilled experts, who, as practising members of the bar, were at the top of their profession. In order to assuage the honorable member’s thirst for knowledge I point out that in the pharmaceutical benefits case the advice received from each of a large number of lawyers and counsel was that that legislation was valid. The Government obtained that advice not merely from government officials, but also from distinguished practitioners at the Bar.
– Two of the justices agreed with it.
– Yes ; the decision in the pharmaceutical benefits case went against the Government by four votes to two which meant that if one of the four had been of a different opinion the Government would have succeeded. The Government has the duty of carrying out the will of the Parliament, and in doing so, it has obtained, and will continue to obtain, the best advice possible.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether Australia still adheres to the proposed internationalization of Jerusalem that was worked out at the United Nations conference in December, 1948, whereby the City of Jerusalem and its environs as far south as Bethlehem were made an international zone. If not, does Australia accept the division of the city that has since been agreed to by the Israeli and Trans-Jordanian military commanders as the result of armed force? Does the Government regard the present division of the city as having any possibility of permanence? In view of the uncompromising claims on territory at present occupied by King Abdullah and M.
Sharett, does the Government consider that it is practicable to press for “ effective United Nations control “ of the city under conciliation commissioners? Since both Israel and Transjordan are prepared to accept the internationalization of the holy places but not of the city is there any likelihood of Australia supporting that more limited proposal?
– The original decision of the United Nations was made in December, 1947, and reaffirmed in December, 1948. One object was the political partition of Palestine, but one of the essential features of the settlement was, as the honorable member knows, the internationalization, under the United Nations, of both the City of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. The United Nations General Assembly regarded the government of Jerusalem and Bethlehem as a matter far transcending the particular disputes between the Arabs and the Jews as to the government of Palestine. The special status of J Jerusalem and Bethlehem was accorded recognition because of their deep significance to Christians and the Christian Church. This was entirely apart from the necessary protection of the Holy places, monuments and churches throughout Palestine. Accordingly, Jerusalem and Bethlehem were to be set apart for international control as a corpus separatum. As chairman of the Australian delegation and of the Palestine Committee, I adopted this view, and so did the vast majority of delegates. We have steadfastly adhered to this principle. We did not agree with the suggestion of the conciliation group that there should be any partition of Jerusalem and Bethlehem with sovereignty or control divided between the Governments of Israel or Jordania. I agree with what the honorable member suggests that in any event, it should be possible to obtain a decision that will ensure the protection of the Holy places. But that is only one part of the great problem. At various times, I have stated, as the Prime Minister has restated, the clear principle that it is not only a question of protecting the Holy places. We should stick unfalteringly to the principle of an international regime for Jerusalem and Bethlehem. There are difficulties, of course, but these will be overcome provided the United
Nations adheres to its decision in relation to the partition of Palestine and the international control of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, as it has successfully adhered to its decisions on many other matters. So far as Australia is concerned - and the leaders of all Christian Churches are in agreement - we shall adhere steadfastly to the principle of a United Nations international regime for the whole of Jerusalem and Bethlehem as a corpus separatum.
– I recently visited in my electorate a mine where there is a large dump of pyrites, which contains a considerable quantity of sulphur. Sulphur, I understand, is largely bought in the dollar area. Does the Prime Minister consider it possible to set up a small consultative body representative of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the Treasury with a view to its conferring with the heads of the various dollar earning industries to see whether it is possible, either by improved technical methods or by a readjustment of economic factors, such as the tariff, to earn more dollars than are being earned at present?
– Some reference has already been made to the matter mentioned by the honorable member. Bather than proceed forthwith to adopt the suggestion of the honorable member, I shall ask the Bureau of Mineral Resources to make an examination of the problem. It is true that a large proportion of the sulphur constituent of fertilizers which comes from hard currency areas has increased in price as the result of sterling devaluation. However, Australia is now able to obtain supplies of sulphur from Sicily and I am hopeful that, by drawing upon that source, we shall be able to obviate some expenditure of dollars. As the honorable member may know, other plans are also in progress, particularly by one large company, for the development of an industry for the extraction of sulphur from factory fumes. If such an industry were established it would meet all Australia’s requirements of sulphur. I shall arrange to place the matter that the honorable member has raised before the Bureau of Mineral Resources and shall let the honorable member have what information is available as soon aspossible.
Gold-mining. Mr. BLAIN.- I ask the Minister for the Interior a question which relates to battery charges and cartage subsidy in respect of the mining of low-grade ores at Tennant Creek. By low-grade ores I mean those assaying say 7 dwt. a ton and particularly those assaying slightly under 5 dwt. a ton. By way of explanation, I point out that many of the mines at Tennant Creek, the ores from which are now assaying 3 oz. to 5 oz. a ton, originally assayed under 5 dwt. a ton. Under the present system of battery charges and cartage subsidies, those who mine low-grade ores are penalized. I ask the Minister, therefore, whether he will confer with his officers at the Mines Department and with the miners and lessees at Tennant Creek with a view to arriving at a new schedule of battery charges and cartage subsidies bo that the department will be protected from the few unscrupulous persons who take advantage of the cartage subsidy on low-grade ores, and will at the same time protect and encourage honest gougers to go out and prospect for and develop mines assaying 5 dwt. a ton or slightly under.
– I cannot understand the honorable member’s statement that there is any disagreement regarding battery charges at Tennant Creek at the present time. The honorable member knows that for a number of years much dissatisfaction existed over battery and cartage charges. Some people attempted to take advantage of a clause in the agreement covering this matter, hut that clause has been tightened up. On my recent visit to Tennant Creek, T was advised by everybody concerned, with one exception, that prospectors and others associated with the development of Tennant Creek were in agreement with the Government’s new policy on battery and cartage charges. I am very surprised that this question should have been asked, following the experience that I had on my recent visit to Tennant Creek.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House what quantity of dollars was made available to Metropolitan Portland Cement Limited for the purchase of plant in the United States of America? Was the amount used up entirely? Is the plant yet in operation? Has the undertaking given by the firm that the plant would be the means of earning dollars for Australia been realized? If not, are there any immediate prospects of the plant becoming a source of dollar earnings?
– Figures in relation to the quantity of dollars made available to the Metropolitan Portland Cement Limited for the purchase of plant in the United States of America are already on record. They were supplied by me in answer to a question by the honorable member for New England, and I have not looked at them recently. At the time both the question and the answer aroused a good deal of interest. Although I can remember the original figure, interest charges and freight would also have to be taken into consideration. I understand that portion of the plant has arrived in Australia. I should like to make it clear to the honorable member for Reid that I always view with grave suspicion claims advanced by people seeking an allotment of dollars, that the equipment for which those dollars are required will, in turn, earn more dollars. From some of the claims advanced in support of applications for dollars to purchase capital goods one would imagine that we would have a surplus of dollars within a short time. Dollars were allocated to Metropolitan Portland Cement Limited to bring plant to Australia, not because of the hope that that plan would earn great quantities of dollars, but because the numerous projects being undertaken by the Australian Government, State governments, and private companies warranted the importation of additional cement-making plant. It is true that at that time it was claimed that this additional plant would enable Australia, ultimately, to export cement to the Philippines and other dollar countries. However, I did not attach much importance to that claim because 1 realized that a considerable time would elapse before it could be realized.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation inform the House of the percentage loadings that were carried by aircraft operated by Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited during the year ended the 30th June, 1949, and also the total number of passengers that were carried by the aircraft of the respective operators during that year?
– Some time ago the honorable member for Wakefield told me that he intended to ask this question, and I obtained the figures. If I remember rightly the honorable member asked me to supply him with the information by letter. The approximate loading carried by Trans-Australia Airlines over the whole year was 68 per cent., whilst that carried by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was 69 per cent. The total number of passengers carried would bear the same relationship to those percentages. In the first quarter of this year, the percentages of passengers carried to the load factor were: TransAustralia Airlines, 76.4 per cent.; Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, 74.6 per cent. I shall obtain and furnish to the honorable member, as soon as practicable, detailed figures relating to the whole year.
– A few weeks ago I asked the Minister for Labour and National Service a number of questions about unemployment in Australia. Can he now inform the House whether the number of unemployed, which was temporarily increased as the result of the coal strike, has yet fallen to the prestrike level, or is it still higher than it was before the strike began?
– The unemployment figures at the end of last week, which I received yesterday, show that the position is now a little better than it was prior to the coal strike. At the end of last week 969 persons were in receipt of the unemployment benefit. That number is 210 less than the number . of recipients during the preceding week, and 2a lower than the lowest figure attained before the coal strike.
– Last week the Prime Minister informed us that certain trading banks had issued writs challenging the validity of certain sections of the Banking Act 3945. I should like to know whether the right honorable gentleman will inform the House to-morrow how many writs were issued and the names of the plaintiffs, and whether he will lay on the table of the House copies of the writs served on the Commonwealth in each case.
– The Leader of the Opposition knows that when I mentioned this matter in the House last week I referred to the case of the Melbourne City Council which is before the High Court.
– That is an entirely different matter.
– The right honorable gentleman is well aware that the Melbourne City Council challenged certain sections of the Banking Act 1945. Of course, he attempts to indicate that the arrangements made for the issuing of the writs were purely the business of the Melbourne City Council. It is well known that discussion which took place with regard to that matter-
– The Prime Minister is withdrawing his statement about the banks having issued the writs?
– I wish to make it perfectly clear that the statement which T made to the House, indicating that the private banks had questioned the validity of the Banking Act 1945, is borne out by letters which were written by the private banks to the Commonwealth Bank.
– The right honorable gentleman is dodging the issue.
– The letters which were written by the private banks can be produced at any time the right honorable gentleman wishes to see them.
– I should like to see copies of the writs about which the Prime Minister misled the House.
– Order ! I shall have to issue a writ against the
Leader of the Opposition if he is not careful.
– The Leader of the Opposition has been very irritable lately. I am afraid he must have some foreboding of disaster. I extend to honorable members the courtesy of listening attentively to their questions, and I expect a similar courtesy from them when I reply. It is perfectly true that the statement which I made in the House last week was associated with a writ that had been issued by the Melbourne City Council in regard to this matter, but I have no doubt that it was supported by the private banking institutions.
– That is merely a shuffle.
– On the 9 th September, I asked the Attorney-General several questions about a report that Communists in Pacific countries had convened an international conference at Peking, China, to discuss a red master plan for the Pacific area. I suggested that permission be not given to Australian Communists to attend the conference because of the already great danger from communism in this country as evidenced in recent years by widespread industrial hold-ups and strikes. The right honorable gentleman undertook to make inquiries and let me know the result. I should like to know whether he has made the promised inquiries. If so, what was the result, and when may I expect a statement on the matter?
– The answer to a substantial portion of the honorable member’s question was given in a reply that I made recently to another honorable member. The laws of this country do not give discretionary power to the Executive to refuse passports to Australian citizens who want to go overseas. That was the law when a government, supported by the honorable member for Moreton, and including, I think, the honorable member for “Wentworth as Minister in charge of immigration, was in office. The issuing of passports is within the jurisdiction of the Department of Immigration. I referred the honorable member’s original question to the DirectorGeneral of Security, as I do all matters relating to the security of this country. If he provides me with an answer that can be published, I shall certainly furnish it to the honorable member.
– When I get it.
Broadcasting of Proceedings
– Are you aware, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the broadcasting of proceedings of this chamber apparently broke down at 12.40 p.m. last Friday? I have received letters about this matter from listeners in central New South Wales. I can produce those letters if necessary. The cessation of the broadcast was noticed also by listeners at the Hotel Canberra and the Hotel Kurrajong. If you have not any knowledge of thecause of the interruption, will you make inquiries and report to the House on the matter?
– I have no knowledge of any break-down in the parliamentary broadcast. However, I shall have inquiries made and inform the honorable member of the result.
Publication of Comic Strips
– I ask the
Prime Minister whether it is a fact that the Government proposes to have made for use during the forthcoming general election campaign, certain comic strips to portray the plans and record of the Government ? If so, does the Government contend that dramatization over the air should be unlawful, but that dramatization by comic strips should be lawful? Further, I should like to know whether it has taken the Government eight years to find out the true vocations of some of its members.
– I can inform the honorable member that the Government - and I assume that the honorable member referred to the Australian Government - is not spending any money on comic strips. Incidentally, that is known as picturization and not dramatization. I understand, however, that some sections of the Labour movement - not the Government - have issued some pamphlets which contain picturizations.
– I did not know that the Labour party had any sections. I thought that it was united.
– The Opposition has divisions, but I have used the word sections in this instance. I understand that a section of the Australian Labour party in one State is issuing picturization pamphlets. I do not know more about it than that. It is doing that itself, and I do not think that it is anybody else’s business.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Works and Housing been directed to the information that was supplied yesterday to the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council by a representative of the Department of the Interior that families in Canberra are living in garages and other structures not intended for human habitation? Is not this disgraceful state of affairs a damning indictment of the Government’s housing policy? What action does the Government intend to take to eradicate slum living conditions in Canberra?
– I have read a report in the Canberra Times in which reference was made to, I think, six family units that are living under unsatisfactory conditions. During the last three years the population of Canberra has increased by approximately 40 per cent. No other city in Australia of a comparable size has had such an enormous percentage increase of its population. The present housing difficulties in Canberra are the result of the inadequacy of the building programme that was in progress here before the war, when the parties to which honorable gentlemen opposite belong formed the Australian Government.
Motion (by Mr. Johnson) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Representation Act 1948.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave -I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this measure is to ensure that there shall be no disparity in the payment of the parliamentary allowance as between members of the House of Representatives elected at the forthcoming general election and the senators elected at that election who will take their seats immediately the new Parliament meets.
The Parliamentary Allowances Act provides that the allowance payable to a member of the House of Representatives shall be reckoned from the day of his election. The Solicitor-General has advised that, in accordance with that provision, the allowances payable to the new members of this House who are elected at the forthcoming general election are to he reckoned from the day of that election. Honorable members are aware that in each State seven senators will be elected at the forthcoming general election. Four of these will be new senators who, in order to bring the Senate up to full strength, will take their seats immediately. Thus, when the new Parliament meets there will : be a number of new senators and a number of new members of this House who will take their seats simultaneously. “Without the passage of this bill, while the new members of the House of Representatives would receive the parliamentary allowance from the date of the general elections the payment of the allowance to the new senators would not commence until the date of the meeting of the Parliament. It is considered that such a differentiation between new members and new senators would be inequitable and anomalous. To avoid that inequality and anomaly, I ask the House to approve of this bill.
I wish to make it clear that the provision that is contained in clause 2 of this measure relates only to the four new senators in each State who will be elected at the forthcoming general election and who will take their seats immediately the Parliament meets. It will not alter in any way the existing provisions of the Parliamentary Allowances Act in respect of senators elected, either at the forthcoming general election or at any future election, to fill periodical or casual vacancies.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Johnson) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-1948, as amended by the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1949, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Declaration of Urgency.
. -I declare (a) that the Estimates of Expenditure are of an urgent nature; (b) that the resolutions preliminary to the introduction of the Appropriation Bill are urgent resolutions; and (c) that the Appropriation Bill is an urgent bill.
Question put -
That the Estimates of Expenditure be considered of an urgent nature; that the resolutions be considered urgent resolutions; and that the Appropriation Bill be considered an urgent bill.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. j. j. Clark.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Chifley) proposed -
That the time allotted for the consideration of the remainder of the Estimates, the resolutions and the stages of the Appropriation Bill, be as follows: -
.- The time schedule that has just been circulated indicates the farce to which the business of the Parliament is being reduced by the present Government. Last week supporters of the Government “ stone-walled “ during discussion of the Estimates introduced by the Government that they support, but because the Opposition has an opportunity during this week to reveal the maladministration of the Government by continuing the debate on the Estimates in the normal manner, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) seeks cover by proposing to “ guillotine “ the discussion. Let me examine the proposed allocation of time, because it is interesting to realize the degree to which it is proposed to restrict debate. Although 36 proposed votes still have to be agreed to, only fourteen and three-quarter hours of actual debate will be permitted to the committee, which means that approximately only 24 minutes of the committee’s time will be available for discussion of each proposed vote. To highlight this limited schedule, and to show how utterly absurd and farcical the debate on the Estimates of the remaining departments will become, I invite the attention of the committee to the proposed votes for “ Defence Services “, which include the votes of the Department of Defence, the three armed services and the Department of Supply and Development, and the proposed votes for “ Miscellaneous Services “, “ Refunds of Revenue “, “ Advances to the Treasurer “, “War (1914-18) Services” and ““War (1939-45) Services “, which total approximately £153,000,000. Only two and a half hours will be available for discussion of those votes. In other words, the public money is to be poured down the drain at the rate of more than £1,000,000 a minute without members of the committee being afforded a proper opportunity to discuss whether the expenditure should be reduced or whether the departments concerned are being administered in such a way that the contributing public will receive the maximum benefit for the expenditure. That is a complete farce, and it is bringing the Parliament into disrepute. Quite obviously the Prime Minister, who is rushing into a general election, does not want the misdemeanours of the Government to be brought before the public, and so he proposes to apply the closure to the debate. That is the story behind the motion submitted by the right honorable gentleman. Does he care whether the taxpayers’ money is being expended without proper consideration, or whether it is proper that the public funds should be appropriated at the rate of more than £1,000,000 a minute ?
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the motion before the Chair.
– The fact is that honorable members on both- sides of the chamber will be permitted a total of only 24 minutes or less than half an hour in which to discuss the proposed vote for each of the 36 heads of expenditure covered by the motion submitted by the Prime Minister. Has any honorable member ever heard of such an absurdity? Has any honorable member, or any one else, ever dreamed that such a thing could happen? It could not happen in any parliament but this one which is controlled by a totalitarian Government. That Government cares nothing for the traditional principle that no Supply shall be granted until honorable members have had a proper opportunity to ventilate the difficulties and grievances of their constituents and of the taxpayers generally. That ancient principle is being violated by the proposal of the Prime Minister, and honorable members on this side of the chamber might well be excused if they refused to participate in such an absurd arrangement as has been placed before us. Of course, supporters of the Government, who are secure in their numbers, realize full well, in their complacency, that all they need to do is to authorize the Government to go ahead with its proposal. Their attitude is, in effect : “ Go ahead, but protect us from the wrath of the Opposition by preventing it from exposing your misdemeanors and maladministration by obscuring them from the people. What does it matter if £1,000,000 a minute is to be voted ? Do not give the Opposition an opportunity to speak. Let us appropriate the money and disburse it, but do not give the Opposition an opportunity to say what they have to say concerning it or to place the misdemeanors of the Government before the people.” I am absolutely disgusted with the action proposed by the Government, and the only construction that I can place upon the Prime Minister’s attitude is that, since the Government is rushing into a general election, it does not want its misdemeanors placed before the public.
– I object to the proposal to curtail so drastically the time available to honorable members for discussion of the proposed votes. I point out that the committee is to be permitted only until 6 p.m. to-day to complete discussion of the Estimates of the Department of the Interior, which we have already been debating, and to discuss the Estimates of the Department of Works and Housing, and the Department of Civil Aviation. Honorable members want to examine the finances of the departments, but leaving aside the Estimates of the Department of the Interior, which the committee has been discussing, we are to be permitted less than two hours to discuss the votes of the Department of Works and Housing and the Department of Civil Aviation. Those proposed votes total £1,700,000 and £5,367,000, respectively. Under the time-table, honorable members are allowed only one and a half hours in which to complete the consideration of the proposed vote for the Department of the Interior, and to dissect the Estimates for the Department of Works and Housing and the Department of Civil Aviation. Every honorable member is permitted, under the Standing Orders, to make two speeches, each of half an hour’s duration, on a department, but the time-table allows only one honorable member to take his full time of one hour, and another member to take only one-half of his allowable time. Consequently, many members of the Opposition will not have an opportunity to speak on the Estimates for various departments. The position will be aggravated because the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) and the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) take a prominent part in these debates and invariably use the whole of their time.
A further examination of the time table reveals the severity of the Prime Minister’s proposals. The consideration of the Estimates for the Department of Trade and Customs, the
Department of Health and the Department of Commerce and Agriculture must be completed in one and a half hours. The Estimates for the Department of Social .Services, which is prominently before the public now, the Department of Supply and Development, and the Department of Shipping and Fuel must be disposed of in a similarly brief period. The House will meet at 10.30 a.m. to-morrow, and after questions without notice, the Estimates for the Department of External Territories and the Department of Immigration will be considered. Those proposed votes must be finally dealt with by the time the sitting is suspended at 12.45 p.m. Honorable members will be allowed two and a quarter hours in which to analyse the proposed votes for the Department of Labour and National Service, the Department of Transport, the Department of Information, the Department of Post-war Reconstruction and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. I am particularly concerned at the proposal to provide only one and a half hours for the consideration of “ Miscellaneous Services “, “ Refunds of Revenue “ Advance to the Treaturer “, “ War (1914-18) Services “ and “War (1939-45) Services”. When honorable members on this side of the chamber endeavoured to raise certain matters during the consideration of the Estimates for the Department of the Treasury, the Department of External Affairs and the Attorney-General’s Department, the Chair ruled that those subjects should be discussed when the Estimates for “ Miscellaneous Services “ were under consideration. Honorable members desire to raise various matters, such as the Banking Act 1947, which should be discussed in the interests of the taxpayers, but we shall be prevented from doing so. This action to stifle free speech in this chamber is not a credit to this democratic institution. What is even more important, the listening public will be denied their undoubted right to bear members of the Opposition dissect the Estimates of Expenditure for the financial year 1949-50. The budget debate affords honorable members an opportunity to raise matters of general interest to taxpayers, and address themselves to national and international affairs, but the Estimates provide an opportunity for a discussion of details of expenditure, in the course of which we may indicate extravagances and anomalies. Although I am not optimistic of the result, I appeal to the Prime Minister not to deny to members of the Opposition their right of freedom of speech in the Australian Parliament.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 7th October (vide page 1138).
Proposed vote - Department of the Interior, £1,695,000 - agreed to.
Department of Works and Housing
Proposed vote, £1,700,000.
– I direct attention to the substantial increase of the provision for postage, telegrams and telephone services in die Estimates for the Department of Works and Housing. The proposed vote of £60,600 this year i9 out of all proportion to the provision that is made for this item in the Estimates of other departments, with the exception of the Department of External Affairs. I realize that the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) has considerably increased the charges for telegrams, and telephone services, but those increases are not sufficient to account for the difference of £10,924 between the expenditure of £49,676 on this item last year, and the proposed vote this year. I am pleased to note that the actual administrative costs of the Department of Works and Housing have been reduced, but that is only to be expected. The foundations of various major projects have now been laid, and once that work has been completed, the next expenditure on them in the course of a year is usually lower. However, I should like the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) to explain the reason for the anticipated high cost of postage, telegrams and telephone services. Apart from the reduction of administrative costs, the estimated expenditure on nearly all other items, with the exception of one or two, shows an increase compared with last year’s expenditure. Some of those increases are necessary, and I do not criticize them. As the Minister for Works and Housing is not in the chamber, the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell), who is at the table, may be able to supply the information for which I have asked. I shall reserve any other comments that I have to make on this department until that reply has been given.
– The question is that the proposed vote be agreed to.
– Before you put the question, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I shall take my second period. I hoped that I should be able to reserve it until the Government had supplied to me the information for which I had asked, but evidently that information is not forthcoming. I notice that the Minister for Works and Housing is now coming into the chamber, and I hope that he will explain the reason for the increased provision for postage, telegrams and telephone services this year. I have now availed myself of my second period, and will not be able to speak again on the Estimates for the Department of Works and Housing. Even if I am not satisfied with the Minister’s reply, I shall be forced to grin and bear it.
– The increase of the proposed vote for postage, telegrams and telephone services is accounted for by the enlarged activities of the Department of Works and Housing. I 9hall illustrate the position with comparative figures. The value of works which the department undertook in 1946-47 was £6,900,000, and in 1947-48 it was £9,400,000. The figure for 1948-49 was £17,250,000. During the last twelve months, the department has launched some major undertakings. The displaced persons programme consists of temporary work, some of which is carried out by day labour, but most of which is undertaken by private contractors, and it is represented this year by a proposed vote of more than £4,000,000. Expenditure on the guided weapons range in South Australia will exceed £3,000,000.
Responsibility for such major projects, in addition to the normal functions of the Department of Works and Housing in connexion with the construction and maintenance of all Commonwealth undertakings, whether they be for civil purposes or defence purposes, involves a tremendous increase of the department’s effort. That extra effort naturally leads to a considerable increase of expenditure on postal, telegraphic and other forms of communication.
– I have a criticism of the Department of Works and Housing which arises from its procedure, in connexion with many of its undertakings, of either occupying land under lease or acquiring ownership and then erecting buildings without consulting the municipalities concerned. I have taken great exception to some of the methods that have been used by the department in the electorate that I represent. For instance, it has erected extensive buildings of a temporary nature for the housing of new Australians without conferring with the municipal authorities. I know that the Government must proceed with works of that character, but the department should not undertake them without first consulting local governing bodies. The present procedure is to go ahead without advising municipal councils or asking them whether they consider that the proposed works will be detrimental to future development in the districts that are affected. The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) may be able to explain the reasons for the procedure that the department has adopted, but I register my strong protest against it.
– A building contractor at Darwin has told me of some practices that have been adopted by the Department of Works and Housing in that area which call for an explanation by the Minister. Builders at Darwin are concerned about what they regard as a threat to their interests. They claim that a Sydney company known as John Stubbs & Sons Proprietary Limited has contracted to do about £200,000 worth of building work at Darwin about which, apart from five blocks of flats now under construction, officials of the Department of Works and Housing at Darwin know nothing. The works which John Stubbs and Sons Proprietary Limited has contracted to perform are on such a large scale that local builders fear that little work will be left for them to do. They consider that their interests are being prejudiced by the infiltration of the big company, which has adopted practices that are likely to be .detrimental to small contractors. They fear that the company will take all of the major contracts and will then move out of the territory, leaving the local builders out on a limb. It is alleged that, as the result of a conference between representatives of John Stubbs and Sons Proprietary Limited, the Australian Workers Union and the Building Workers Industrial Union, an agreement was reached whereby the company is permitted to pay its employees allowances over and above their ordinary wages. The allowances include £1 a week each for married men living in barracks and £1 10s. a week each for married men living with their families. I understand that the agreement has been sent to the Registrar of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to be filed. The local builders claim that, as they are bound by court rulings, they would not be permitted to pay similar allowances as a means of attracting building labour, even if they could successfully recover the higher costs that would be involved by increasing their tenders. In addition to the unfair advantage that the company has already obtained, local contractors allege that the company is buying building supplies locally . and thus depleting the resources available to them. Another complaint is that buildings that are being erected for the use of the Department of Works and Housing are to be made available to John Stubbs and Sons Proprietary Limited for use as a joinery works. They also state that, when tenders were called for the construction of those buildings, a local builder submitted a price that was £500 in excess of that submitted by John Stubbs & Sons Proprietary Limited but that the company complained later that it had believed that it was tendering on a substantially labour-only basis and was allowed to add £500 to its original estimate without fresh tenders being called. Evidently there has been some leakage of information about tenders that calls for investigation by the Minister. I do not know whether the statements that have been made to me are true. I merely submit them to the Minister and suggest that they require a searching investigation. The honorable gentleman may not be able to obtain all of the information offhand and, if he is unable to reply to me during this discussion, I shall understand his position. However, I take advantage of this opportunity to inform him of some of the discontent that exists amongst builders in Darwin. Another complaint relates to buildings that are used for accommodation. Darwin builders claim that John Stubbs and Sons Proprietary Limited was given the use of a building for which they, as a collective body, had applied unsuccessfully eighteen months previously. It seems that, although local builders have not been allowed to use the building for accommodation purposes, it was made available to John Stubbs and Sons Proprietary Limited without any argument. Perhaps the Department of Works and Housing is prepared to make special concessions to the company in order to obtain greater expedition in the completion of contracts. There may be logical reasons for everything that has been done. Nevertheless there is danger in the practice. There is a danger, it is suggested, that the Government will, by the lavish distribution of contracts, encourage big firms to take on work in Darwin, thus putting out of business the small, local contractors who have contributed to the development of the town in the past. Of course, the complaints may be due to commercial jealousy, to the resentment of the small men at the encroachment of big business concerns. I suggest that the Minister look into the matter, in order to see whether the complaints are well founded.
– It is true that my department has entered into a contract with John Stubbs and Sons Proprietary Limited to construct certain new works in the Darwin area at a cost of £200,000. The manner of letting the contract is not different from that employed in respect of contracts let to A. V. Jennings Construction Company Proprietary Limited, which has a contract for house construction in Canberra, the largest single contract of the kind in Australia; to John Grant and Sons, in Canberra; and to Concrete Constructions Proprietary Limited, for the building of the new administrative block in Canberra. There is only one feature which makes me a little doubtful about the contract with John Stubbs and Sons Proprietary Limited. The managing director of the company is none other than the publicity director of the Liberal party, Mr. Stewart Howard, who was paid some thousands of pounds to try to humanize the Right Honorable R. G. Menzies. I hope he is a better contractor than he is a humanizer. We have encouraged the company to undertake work in Darwin, just as we have encouraged other firms to undertake reconstruction work at Port Moresby, Lae, and other places in the islands.
John Stubbs and Sons Proprietary Limited received no advantage’ regarding wages over other contractors, and it is not correct to say that a recent wage increase was made by agreement. The fact is that the Shell Oil Company Proprietary Limited obtained a consent award from the Arbitration Court because of certain special conditions. 1 do not say that the figures involved were exactly those mentioned by the honorable member, but they were approximately the same. Once the court had created a precedent, and declared that men doing that particular work were entitled to receive so much, the john Stubbs organization obtained the same conditions from the court, not by consent, but by judgment.
I come now to what has been said regarding the use of buildings. When I was in Darwin recently, we were trying to obtain accommodation for the employees of any contractor who would go to Darwin. It was arranged with the Minister for the Army (Mr. Chambers) that the officers’ quarters of the Larrika Barracks should be made available for use by a contractor who would bring workers to Darwin. There was a tag tied to the arrangement. We had to carry out certain repair works on the barracks as a first priority job. That was a little bit of horse-trading. Our purpose was to ensure that new workers, carpenters, plumbers and other tradesmen, would be brought to Darwin. 1 assure the honorable member that there was nothing in the arrangement detrimental to local builders. The programme for new works provides for the expenditure of £2,000,000. The contract under discussion is for £200,000. only, to be expended over two or three years. Thus, it forms a very small part of the programme for Darwin alone, not counting the programme for the Northern Territory as a whole. There will be plenty of work for all local contractors. We are constantly inviting tenders for work and receiving none. I have a close personal knowledge of what has been done in Darwin. I have discussed the matter with the Director-General of my department, and I would not vary any of the decisions that have been made. Our purpose throughout has been to hasten the building programme in ‘ Darwin where, I admit, progress has not been as rapid as we could wish, due to our inability to get contractors, engineers, &c.
– Is John Stubbs and Sons Proprietary Limited doing the work on a cost-plus basis?
– It is being done under the system known as cost, plus a fixed fee. Under the cost-plus system the department agrees to pay to the contractor what the job costs, plus a fee of 5 per cent, or 7-J per cent., according to the nature of the job. For some jobs, supervision costs by the contractors are higher than for others, and this is allowed for in the contract. The disadvantage of this system is that contractors might be induced to drag a job out, knowing that the more it costs the greater will be their fee.
– And has that system beer abandoned ?
– Yes. Under the present system, the cost of a job is worked out by the costing accountants. If they fix the cost at, say, £50,000, we agree with the contractor to pay him a fee of 5 per cent, on £50,000. If the job costs more than that, because the price of materials has increased, or for any other reason, the contractor would still receive only 5 per cent, on £50,000. Therefore, the natural desire of the contractor is to finish the job as quickly as possible, because the sooner it is finished the sooner he will receive his fee. That is termed the fixed-fee contract, and quite a number of works are being carried out under that arrangement. I hope that we shall soon be able to revert to the firm price contract. However, while some degree of uncertainty exists in the cost structure, contractors are reluctant to submit firm price tenders, and those who do so invariably allow a substantial safety margin to protect themselves against a sudden rise of costs. We believe that under those conditions the firm price tender would be far more expensive than the fixed-fee contract. As at the 30th August last, the most recent date for which figures are available, the department was employing 11,000 men on its works programme whilst contractors to the department were employing 5,000 men. Therefore, we have not only the ordinary means available to the department to check contracts on the fixed-fee basis with relation to costs of materials, but also the final check afforded by the employment of day labour on many works similar to those being carried out under contract. That arrangement provides an additional means of ensuring that we shall obtain reason-, able value for every pound that we expend.
– The Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon) did not reply to the point that I made. I again ask him whether it is the practice of the department to ignore the local government authority in the laying down of roads and the provision of water mains in areas that are being sub-divided for residential purposes ? Doe9 the department consult with the local government authority concerned before it undertakes such work? I referred to the action of the department in ignoring the local government authority at Finsbury North, South Australia.
– I regret that I overlooked the point that the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr.
Thompson) raised earlier. In every instance the department consults with the local government authority.
– It did not do so in the instance that I have cited.
– The honorable member wrote to me on the subject some time ago and I informed him that I was examining the matter. I am still endeavouring to ascertain the facts of the case. I say definitely that it is not the policy of the department to try to ride roughshod over the local government authority when undertaking works in areas that are being subdivided for residential purposes. That will never be the policy of the department so long as I am in charge of it ; and I am sure that it would never be the policy of the present permanent head of the department who is one of the most courteous men that I have ever had anything to do with. The honorable member stated that at Finsbury North the local government authority was completely ignored by the department. I shall be very surprised to learn that that was so. If the honorable member’s allegation is proved to be correct, it will be the only instance in which the department has ignored a local government authority in carrying out thousands of undertakings.
– I take this opportunity to make a plea on behalf of the small builders at Darwin, many of whom have been in business for the last twenty years and, indeed, practically pioneered building construction in that area. To-day, most of those small builders are not able to compete with firms like John Stubbs and Son3 Proprietary Limited because they cannot command sufficient financial resources. They say that John Stubbs and Sons Proprietary Limited went over their heads to secure a concession to occupy the Larrakeah barracks. In these circumstances, they have asked me to request the Government to assist them to obtain sufficient finance to undertake works for which contracts are now being let. It is suggested that the Government might assist them by guaranteeing their overdrafts. They say that although they have been in business in Darwin for over twenty years they simply cannot obtain the requisite finance at present to enable them to submit tenders on a straight-out basis as they did some years ago. Therefore, instead of giving one or two big firms carte blanche, as it were, with respect to’ contracts amounting to, say, £500,000, the Government should assist those small builders in the way I have mentioned to enable them to obtain a fair share of the work now about to be put in hand. Perhaps, the Government could make available small loans to these builders for that purpose.
The Minister stated that John Stubbs and Sons Proprietary Limited had practically been compelled to pay higher wages as the result of a judgment given in respect of the Shell company, a decision that affects all alike. It is somewhat strange that none of the small builders at Darwin mentioned that aspect of the matter to me. Their story was that John Stubbs and Sons Proprietary Limited has contracts for such big works that it simply does not care what rates it pays to tradesmen and labourers so long as it obtains the man-power it requires. In those circumstances that company is reported to have boasted that it is prepared to pay wages at rates even above those set out in the judgment to which the Minister has referred. The feeling apparently is that that company, knowing that it has the Government’s contracts all signed, will expedite each contract and go on to the next. The Minister pointed out that under a fixed fee contract the contractor would receive only the percentage agreed upon regardless of any delay or increased cost that might arise in completing a particular contract. In those circumstances a big firm like John Stubbs and Sons Proprietary Limited can undermine small builders by attracting their employees with offers of higher wages. As the time limit is most important under the fixed fee system, small builders have little or no chance of competing with a big firm which can attract the best tradesmen available with a view to completing in three months a contract that would ordinarily take from four to five months to complete. For reasons of equity, the Minister should carefully examine the possibility of the larger contractors stealing tradesmen from their smaller competitors. Competition for qualified tradesmen is almost continuous in Darwin. It is only natural that a man will go to the place where he gets the best reward.
The Minister also said that officers of the Department of “Works and Housing, by which, I assume, he refers to architects, engineers and building surveyors, keep a careful eye on expenditure on works. I presume that they compare the cost of day-labour jobs with the cost of contract jobs in order to prevent contractors from wasting public money.
– That is right.
– That is a good idea, but I wonder how the cost clerks operate in building, railway construction and in earth moving jobs which are proceeding in the Northern Territory at present. In the old days of railway const-ruction, when I was so employed, the cost clerk and the engineer were entirely different people. It is dangerous to have the engineer and the cost clerk the same person.
– Hear, hear !
– I fear that that practice is adopted in the Northern Territory. It is dangerous, too, if the architect is the cost clerk. When I was engaged in railway construction work in Western Australia, the engineers were never allowed to handle payments.
– Does the honorable member mean time-sheets?
– We took out costs on a yardage basis. Gravel for the railway line was taken from the ballast pit and placed in hoppers. I distinctly remember that it cost ls. 4d. a cubic yard to put it on the line. It cost a certain amount to lift it. The ganger and the time-keeper had to present figures to the head office. If a new ballast pit was opened, and it cost 2s. a yard to put the ballast on the line ready for the lifting’ gang, a memorandum seeking a reason was immediately forthcoming. The engineer had to supply the reason. The Harbours Board of South Australia never allows engineers to control costs, because there is an unconscious bias to make the figures fit the estimates. Professional status is in jeopardy if a work costs more than the estimate. Very few engineers axe- game to put their reputations at stake by costing, these- days. Therefore, the- hoard appoints cost clerks to supervise the- costs of works. They have, to report daily or weekly. They are never more than a week behind in reporting, should there be anything astray in the cost of the work as compared with the estimate. The engineers cannot fake figures to bring the cost up to or down to their estimates.. They cannot charge details, in connexion with one job to another job. There can be no “ cooking “ of the books or resorting, to a trust account. I should like the Minister to assure honorable members that cost clerks, employed by his department are separate from the- engineers, architects or building surveyors who have made estimates, and hope to prove their reputations by having the final cost of jobs very near to- their estimates.
I refer again to the. desirability of logs df timber being brought to Darwin from North Borneo. Only a fortnight ago I read in the press, again that logs from North Borneo were being unloaded at. Brett’s wharf, Brisbane. Three and a half years have, elapsed since I first urged the Minister to take that course. The logs could be treated by local workmen at Darwin. The resultant timber would accelerate the rebuilding of Darwin. But the Minister takes no notice, at, all of my suggestion. The manager of the North Borneo Trading and Timber Company, Mr. Parnell, who waa a prisoner of the Japanese during the war, rehabilitated the whole sawmilling industry of North Borneo with machinery that he bought in northern New South Wales in 1946. All the sawmills and timber yards in North Borneo were burnt by the Japanese during the massacre at Sandakan. Yet the industry has been restored. Darwin, however, still awaits rebuilding. I wish the Minister would see the light. A fumigating plant similar to that at Bretts wharf could be established at the Darwin wharf to fumigate the timber on arrival. I hope that the Minister will heed my suggestion.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of CIVIL Aviation.
Pro-posed vote, £5,367,000.
.- I wish tol make some observations on the item “ Payments to. contractors for conveyance of mails, £725,000”, under Division 64, “ Domestic Air Services “. My observations constitute- charges against Tran*Australia Airlines in respect of its accounts. First, it has manipulated its accounts^. I think, quite dishonestly. Secondly, it has been extravagant and kas, wasted; the- public money. Honorable members know perfectly well that I am never one to, bring wild charges against persons or government departments on the floor of the- chamber. Therefore, I trust that the facts that I am about to disclose will, receive, at the least, the attenion of honorable members. I say quite deliberately that they are facts. The information that I am about to give to the committee is what I know to be the truth. I make it clear that I make no reference to the operational staff of TransAustralia Airlines, the pilots and the airhostesses and the rest of the staff employed on maintenance. I agree with the Minister - and I am sure that all other honorable members who have’ travelled by Trans-Australia Airlines aircraft - will also agree that the service provided by that organization is second to none in the world. I am glad to be able to make that statement. I am also glad to be. able to say that I make no reference to the work done on the administrative side. The administrative officers give loyal service to the country. My charges are directed against those people who are responsible for the policy of the organization. Those are the people whose activities I consider require some investigation by this committee and by the Government.
My first charge relates to the manipulation of the accounts of Trans-Australia Airlines. The balance-sheet for the year ended the 30th June, 1948, contains an item marked “ stores “. The value of stores is shown as £S08,203. That figure, gives a completely false picture of the position as it actually was at that time. During that year stores to the value of no less than £58,000 were either stolen or not accounted for by documents. At the end of that accounting period the commission wrote up the value of its stores which it had, in the first instance and to quite a large degree, bought cheaply from disposals, so as to cover those losses. Thefts occurred in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. As an illustration of how the administration of Trans-Australia Airlines was being carried out I shall quote a case that occurred in Sydney. A firm of contractors entered into a contract with Trans- Australia Airlines to carry out certain electrical installation work in the commission’s hangars in Sydney. Quite a large amount of the materials that were used for that work was taken from TransAustralia Airlines stores and was never signed for. The result was that it had to be written off as a complete loss. That is only one of the numerous instances that have occurred over the past year. What did the commission do? It took what it apparently thought to be the rather clever course, but which I say was a most dishonest course, of writing up the value of its stores by approximately £200,000. The result of that action was that the commission showed in its balance-sheet an amount that was very much in excess of the actual value of the stores. That, would be a serious action for an individual to take, hut it was a much more serious one when taken by government officials. The losses of stores are not mentioned at all in the balance-sheet. The balancesheet of a private company makes an accounting in respect of any serious losses or thefts of stores. If there is any writing up to be done by private companies - and there sometimes is - that fact is also shown in the balance-sheet. In this instance, however, nothing of that nature was done.
I turn now to my second charge, but before going into the details of it, it may be interesting to examine the position in which Trans-Australia Airlines now finds itself compared with that in which it should be in view of the advantages it has had. Trans-Australia Airlines was born with a silver spoon in its mouth. It has had three privileges granted to it which have not been granted to any other airline company in this country. In the first place the Government. has provided it with a large amount of capital in two amounts. In the years 1947 and 1948, that capital amounted to no less than £3,670,000 and no interest was charged. Another £700,000 is now to be given to Trans-Australia Airlines, but I shall not particularly refer to that fact at the moment. Any other company which commenced operations on such capital, and paid interest at the rate of, say, 4 per cent, per annum would have had to pay £150,000 a year in interest. In other words, in two years Trans-Australia Airlines was given a present of £300,000. That was the first silver spoon. TransAustralia Airlines gained the second silver spoon in the form of a government subsidy. Instead of being paid at the rate of .025d. per lb. a mile for the carriage of mail it has received and still receives £325,000 a year in mail subsidy. As all members of the committee know, that payment represents considerably more than that which Trans-Australia Airlines would have received on a poundage and mileage basis. It is very difficult, and in fact, almost impossible, to discover from Trans- Australia. Airlines balance-sheet how much mail was carried in the last financial year. The balance-sheet merely gives the total poundage of mail carried; but gives no details of mileage, and it is therefore impossible to work out the actual cost per lb. a mile. But there are some ways of getting an idea of what that amount is. At the end of the year immediately preceding the establishment of Trans-Australia Airlines, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was carrying mail for the Government and was being paid at the rate of .025d. per lb. a mile. In that year Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited received about £100,000 in mail subsidy. We know from the various statements made in Trans-Australia Airlines balance-sheet that the amount of mail carried by that organization is 174 per cent, more than the amount carried formerly by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. Translated into terms of pounds that increase means that had the subsidy been paid on a poundage and mileage basis TransAustralia Airlines should have received about £274,000 in mail subsidy last year, or £50,000 less than it actually received. In other words, Trans-Australia Airlines was £50,000 better off last financial year than it would have been had it been paid on a poundage basis, and was considerably more better oft! the year before.
The third charge relates to the question of dollars. When Trans- Australian Airlines wants dollars to buy new aircraft the Government makes them available. It has received 1,263,000 dollars for the pur-chase of aircraft, but the Government has refused to make dollars available to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited for the replacement of a number of that company’s aircraft.
– That is what the Government calls fair competition.
– It is completely unfair competition. The privileges that I have mentioned should have got TransAustralia Airlines off to a flying start so that it should have been able to make profits. Instead of that we find that its disclosed losses - and I use the word “ disclosed “ deliberately - were in round figures, £506,000 in 1946-47, £300,000 in 1947-48 and £95,000 in 1948-49, making a grand total of about £903,000 in three years. Trans-Australia Airlines displays placards all over the Commonwealth bearing the statements, “ Trans-Australia Airlines carries its millionth passenger “. I suggest that a suitable placard might well be, “ Trans-Australia Airlines loses its millionth pound “.
– It has not done so vet.
– I have mentioned TransAustralia Airlines losses and the writing up of stores by an amount of £200,000 because those facts put a completely different complexion on the 1947-48 balance-sheet. If Trans-Australia Airlines stores had not been written up in value by the extravagant and ridiculous amount that I have mentioned, the losses for that year would have amounted to £500,000.
I turn now to the waste and extravagance on the administrative side. The balance-sheet as a whole shows that operational costs amount to £2,592,000, and overhead to £1,400,000. In other words, the overhead is equivalent to 50 per cent, of the operational costs. The overhead of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, however, is equivalent to only 30 per cent, of its operational costs. That figure is exact and true.
– Is the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) citing figures from the published balance-sheets?
– I have obtained the information from a friend of mine who is well informed on this subject.
– I should like to see the honorable member’s authority.
– My friend is not available at the moment. I have many sources of information. During the past few months many highly placed officials have resigned from the service of TransAustralia Airlines. I venture to say that they know a great deal more about the affairs of that organization than does the Minister himself. I shall endeavour to compare what is taking place to-day in the services operated by TransAustralia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. As we all know Australian National Airways is a most efficient organization, in respect of both the flying skill of its air crews, and its administration. Furthermore, that company makes a profit.
I charge Trans-Australia Airlines with gross extravagance in relation to the number of personnel employed on its administrative staff. In the traffic” department of its head office in Melbourne, the company employs a traffic manager, an assistant traffic manager, a passage superintendent, an assistant passage superintendent, a freight superintendent, and an assistant freight superintendent - six officers in all. Furthermore, at each of the six major air-ports in Australia, Trans-Australia Airlines employs a traffic superintendent and a freight superintendent. In addition, a traffic manager is employed at the Melbourne air-port and another at Sydney. That compares strikingly with the fact that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited employs only a passenger superintendent and a freight superintendent in its head office, whilst at each air-port only a chief traffic clerk is employed. Trans-Australia Airlines employs in the sales department of its headquarters, as well as at each of the six major air-ports, both a superintendent and an .assistant superintendent of sales. That contrasts sharply with Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, which employs only one sales superintendent at its head-quarters.
Turning now to the accounting side I joint out that at its head office in Melbourne Trans-Australia Airlines has the following staff: chief accountant, deputy chief accountant, head office accountant, cost accountant, stores accountant, revenue accountant, expenditure accountant, assistant expenditure accountant, assistant cost accountant, and assistant stores accountant. None of these officers receives less than £600 a year salary. At the head office of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, however, there are only a chief accountant, an assistant accountant, a sub-accountant, and a cost accountant. At its branch office in Sydney Trans-Australia Airlines employs 68 accounts officers, compared with fifteen employed by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited.
– Trans-Australia Airlines has the advantage of using public money.
– It is wasting public money. The figures that I have cited are very significant because they prove what can be done by an efficient, soundly-run private enterprise, compared, with an inflated bureaucracy. As the Minister told us at question time to-day, the mileage flown and passengers and freight carried by both Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited are approximately the same. The only appreciable difference is that Trans-Australia Airlines operates the service between Darwin and Adelaide, and has taken over the services that were operated previously by Qantas in Queensland. But TransAustralia Airlines maintains five less frequent services than does Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. In common with many other countries, Australia subscribed to the International Aeronautical Conference at Washington. I have before me the voluminous report of the regulations of that conference-
– I have seen the publication to which the honorable member refers.
– It is a most interesting document. Amongst other things it specifically sets out how the accounts of all aviation companies shall be pub lished. The Department of Civil Aviation has notified all of the airline operators in Australia of the form in which their accounts must be rendered. The circular states that operating revenue must be shown under the following headings: passenger, mail, freight, excess baggage, charter and special flying, and other transportation. TransAustralia Airlines, however, shows all operating revenue under one heading. According to the balance-sheet that has just been published, the revenue of TransAustralia Airlines for the year ended the 30th June, 1949, was £3,804,766. Why does not the Government conform to the rules of the aeronautical association to which it subscribes ? Why should TransAustralia Airlines be permitted. to adopt one procedure whilst other airline operators in Australia are compelled to follow another procedure? It is apparent that every effort is exerted by the Government to cover up what is happening. Apart from being unfair competition this is straight-out dishonesty.
I shall now refer specifically to ways in which money is wasted by Trans-Australia Airlines. Every branch manager of Trans-Australia Airlines is given a motor car, which he uses at week-ends.
– How does the honorable member know that ?
– I know a great deal about what happens in Trans-Australia Airlines. The branch manager in Sydney is supplied with a chauffeur because he does not drive himself. To my knowledge he is driven by a chauffeur in this car at week-ends. Government petrol is used for the purpose. In addition to his normal wage of about £7 a week the chauffeur is paid overtime. In the course of a year, the chauffeur receives about as much in overtime as his normal salary. It is the custom of TransAustralia Airlines to hold monthly meetings in each of the capital cities in turn. In every instance, officers are transported by air and, during their absence from their home States, receive a livingawayfromhome allowance. For officers in receipt of a salary of up to £1,000 a year, the allowance is 25s. a day; for officers receiving in excess of £1,000 a year the daily rate is 30s. These conferences last from two or three days, and sometimes for longer periods, and consequently these allowances involve the expenditure of a considerable amount of money. Such conferences are attended by ten officers from the head-quarters of TransAustralia Airlines in Melbourne, as well as by the branch managers from each of the States. There appears to be no justification for such a gross waste of public money. Instead of moving the mountain to Mohammed - the mountain in this instance being represented by the greatly inflated Melbourne staff of the organization - why not move Mohammed to the mountain? It gives me no pleasure to make these charges against the administration of Trans-Australia Airlines; but I am bound to do so when my notice is drawn to these things. It is extremely difficult for me to understand why a government instrumentality should descend to such a low level of behaviour, lu theory, there is no reason why government enterprises should not make profits, but it is our unfortunate experience that when they enter the field of commercial activities they are all too frequently conducted at a loss or, if they make profits, they make very extremely small profits indeed. I have mentioned some instances of what I regard as downright dishonesty on the part of this government instrumentality. I trust that my friends on the opposite side of the chamber will pay attention to them and will tone down a little their view that great advantages must inevitably be derived from public ownership.
– I have listened carefully to the statements made by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan), who, I think, can reasonably claim that he generally does not make wild statements in this chamber. He has emphasized that his criticism of TransAustralia Airlines has been made in good faith, and, though I have no reason to doubt his claim, I believe that his information has come from people who are interested in a rival organization. I remind him that whilst Trans-Australia Airlines presents in its annual reports facts and figures relating to its operations, which are freely made available to every member of this Parliament, itsgreat rival in the field of commercial aviation, Australian National AirwaysProprietary Limited, not being a publiccompany, does not publish even an annual balance sheet. Not long ago the directors of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited were said to be contemplating converting the company into a public company, -but nothing eventuated. I suspect that the honorable gentleman based his charges on information which he obtained from a rival organization which is gradually being superseded by Trans-Australia Airlines because of the excellence of the service rendered by the government instrumentality. No such criticism can be made of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited because it does not publish information relating to its operations. It has been said that Trans-Australia Airlines was, as it were, born with a silver spoon in its mouth. Statements of that kind are not based on facts. It is true that in the first twelve months after the establishment of Trans-Australia Airlines - but which did not cover twelve months of actual operation - the loss sustained amounted to £500,000; but that loss was largely due to establishment charges which have to be met by any organization of that kind. The main difference between Trans-Australia Airlines and the private airline organizations is that whereas the Government furnished the money for the establishment of Trans-Australia Airlines, the private airline companies invite the public to subscribe their capital. Honorable members opposite have said that during the seven years of the war Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited did not receive any assistance from the Government. I remind them that between 1939 and 1945 Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited received from the Government in respect of mail contracts no less than £2,544,000. Payments were made to the company for the carrying of cipher books on a poundage basis. Cipher books, which were regarded as precious cargo, to be safeguarded at all costs, took precedence over passengers on all services operated by the company. Because the company then had a virtual monopoly in the field of commercial aviation, it was able to charge highly remunerative rates for its services. I remember that a rather humorous incident occurred during the war as the result of the regulations governing the carriage of air-mails. The then Postmaster-General, after rising early in the morning and travelling out to Essendon airport to board an aircraft bound for Sydney, was told by the company’s officials that he could not board the aircraft. He said, “ There are no other passengers on » board. Why should I not travel on it ? “ He was told that the aircraft was filled to capacity with His Majesty’s mails which, by his own instruction, were given precedence over passenger traffic. The company received £13 13s. for the carriage of 200 lb. of mail from Melbourne to Sydney. For the carriage of the same weight in passengers, it would have received only £6 10s. on the basis of the fares then ruling.
– Does the Minister suggest that Trans- Australia Airlines is now carrying airmails at a lower rate?
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) has raised a pertinent point. Trans-Australia Airlines is under contract with the Government to carry all mails that are offering, and the rats charged is in accordance with an agreement made between TransAustralia Airlines and the Government. Some indication of the additional mail carried by Trans-Australia Airlines as the result of the stoppage of the steamer services between Tasmania and the mainland, and during the period of the coal strike, can be gained from the fact that between tha 1st June, and the 11th August, 1949, additional mail carried by that organization amounted to a total of 1,614,962 lb., or more than 720 tons. The huge loads caused by the dislocation of other transport services during the coal strike involved the provision of special freighter flights to all parts of the Commonwealth. The Australian National Airlines Commission, in its annual report for the year ended the 30th June, 1949, stated that 150 special flights had been necessitated by emergency requirements within the period of six weeks that commenced on the 21st
June, 1949. Under its contract TransAustralia Airlines is obliged to carry not only surcharged mail, but also during periods of dislocation of other transport services, and without additional cost, all other mail that may be offered, including copies of the parliamentary debates containing speeches such as that which has just been made by the honorable member for Flinders. The honorable member will agree that that would be a very significant service to the people generally. The honorable member has made what he considers to be an analysis of the accounts of Trans-Australia Airlines. He has charged the Government with having been wasteful and extravagant. Comparisons may be interesting. To be fair to the honorable member, I concede that he did make some comparisons, but the fact is that the management of Trans- Australia Airlines has gradually overtaken the results attained by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, and I say with some pride, that, in the coming year, Trans-Australia Airlines will be budgeting for a profit. That is a great achievement in three years. Trans-Australia Airlines started with one aeroplane in September, 1946. To-day, it has 31 aircraft operating over a total of more than 1 3,000 route miles. We on this side of the chamber believe that we have reason to be proud of that record. If honorable members opposite had any sense of fair play or justice, they, too, would be proud of* it; but it is part and parcel of their policy to decry any government undertaking, and acclaim private organizations, although, as far as Australian aviation is concerned, most private enterprises, with the exception of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited are kept in operation by a subsidy which guarantees to’ them approximately a 7 per cent, return, on capital investment. TransAustralia Airlines took over from Qantas non-paying airlines in Queensland, lt has always been my policy as Minister for Civil Aviation to provide air services to the outback regions whenever it has been possible to secure the permission of the States to do this. Such services frequently have to be run at a loss. It is the object of Trans-Australia Airlines to provide the best possible air services to the people of Australia. That policy will be continued, yet as I have said, TransAustralia. Airlines will show a profit next year unless something unforeseen happens. Let me tell honorable members what has been done with Qantas. In the two financial years since it has been a governmentcontrolled line, Qantas has shown a profit greater than that made ‘ while it was a private enterprise. Honorable members opposite do not like these things because they want the people of this country to believe that government enterprises cannot operate at a profit. I remember reading an article in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, written by its expert on aviation, Dudley Osborne, who said that the first time that a government airline showed a profit, he would eat his article and the Daily Telegraph in Martin-place before a public audience. On the very next day, a profit of £79,000 for Qantas under government control was announced. I have not heard of Mr. Osborne eating his article or the Daily Telegraph. Absurd statements are made from time to time in an effort to decry an enterprise of which honorable members opposite should be just as proud as we on this side of the chamber are. I believe that my pride in Trans-Australia Airlines is amply justified. The honorable member for Flinders, admitted that he had no complaints about the service provided by Trans-Australia Airlines. His criticism was directed to what he considered to be high overhead costs due to overemployment. I do not think that I should be expected to know just how many people ure employed by private airline operators on similar work. I have not had an opportunity, nor am I likely to be given an opportunity, to examine the methods of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. That organization is able to keep well under cover, and I have no doubt that it will continue to do so.
– Its methods have been revealed here to-day.
– The honorable member for Flinders revealed only those things that he considered would support his criticism of Trans-Australia Airlines. I am not accusing him of unfairness or dishonesty, but I believe that he was most unwise to advance the argument that he used to-day. I remind him that the accounts of Trans-Australia Air lines are audited by the Auditor-General of the Commonwealth, and that his charges would appear to suggest that the Auditor-General is not competent.
Opposition members interjecting,
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - Order! Interjections are far too persistent.
– The honorable member for Flinders had an uninterrupted hearing when he made his speech.
– Not quite.
– Almost. Certainly he had no interruptions from me and very few from this side of the chamber. However, if he wants to prevent what I am saying from being heard or recorded, he may succeed by his constant interjections. As I have said, the Auditor-General audits the accounts of Trans-Australia Airlines. He knows exactly what has been done, and any charge of dishonesty in the presentation of the Trans-Australia Airlines accounts reflects on the Auditor-General. The inference is that the Auditor-General’s staff is inefficient because it is not capable of discovering dishonest practices. I refuse to believe that. I believe that, no matter what government may be in office, the Auditor-General discharges his duty to the Parliament faithfully. He would not permit Trans-Australia Airlines or Qantas to put before the Parliament information that was misleading. He is a man of undoubted capacity and probity. The criticism of the accounts of TransAustralia Airlines that has been voiced’ today is completely unworthy of the honorable member for Flinders, and I regret that he has allowed himself to be fed with propaganda which has the definite object of discrediting the performance of TransAustralia Airlines, an organization that has the reputation in the aviation world - I agree that it does not get much credit in the press of this country - of being one of the finest airlines in the world. It has expanded amazingly, and gives a splendid service at very little cost. In fact, its fares are the lowest in the world. That is a significant fact that should be remembered.
I shall deal with one or two further points of the criticism offered by the honorable member for Flinders. He spoke of writing up stores. I do not know whether he meant stores or spares.
– I suppose spares would be included. No doubt the honorable member was referring to American disposals equipment purchased cheaply and later written up to a reasonable value. I remind him that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, too, purchased disposals equipment which is in use to-day; but I do not suggest that that equipment is inefficient or that it ha9 been responsible for mishaps. The honorable member for Flinders gave the impression that to improve the apparent financial position of Trans-Australia Airlines, the value of certain stores had been deliberately written up. Let me cite an example of private industry. Yellow Carriers Limited has written up the value of certain of its assets. Is there anything dishonest About that? Or is it only dishonest if done by a government enterprise, if, indeed, it has ever been done? I have 3MJ doubt that the honorable member believes that what he has said is correct, but the information has been supplied to him from a source which is very angry at the progress made by Trans- Australia Airlines. No company can pay dividends until it makes profits, and until TransAustralia Airlines reaches the profitmaking stage, which, I hope, will be very coon, we cannot look for any return on the moneys that have been provided to that organization. The same would apply if Trans-Australia Airlines were a private concern. The honorable gentleman knows that quite well.
It is probable that one of the reasons why Trans-Australia Airlines has been so successful is that its managers, submanagers and other responsible officials have held monthly meetings. Am I to assume from the remarks that the honorable gentleman has made that TransAustralia Airlines is such a burden upon the community that the anti-Labour parties will abolish it if they are successful at the forthcoming general election? I venture to suggest that honorable gentlemen opposite would not dream of doing that. If they were in a position to do so, they would probably hobble the organiza tion in such a manner that it could not hope to make profits, as it will be permitted to do by a Labour government. It may be that employees of Trans-Australia Airlines who are paid £1,000 a year receive an allowance of 25s. a day and that those in receipt of salaries of over £1,000 a year receive an allowance of 30s. a day when they attend monthly meetings. I venture to suggest that in most private enterprises men holding comparable positions receive similar allowances, but the company from which the honorable gentleman has obtained his information may find it possible to pay smaller sums and still retain its employees. Frankly, I do not consider that the allowances to which reference has been made are extravagant. Presumably the officials concerned are competent men who are called together to determine the best methods of operating Trans-Australia Airlines. Everybody will admit that the organization functions successfully and safely. I do not regard monthly meetings as a gross waste of money. TransAustralia Airlines examines its position from time to time. That is the purpose of the meetings. If regular monthly meetings of executives were not held, the position of Trans-Australia Airlines might not be as satisfactory as it now is. I do not suggest that there is no room for improvement in the organization. The officers of Trans-Australia Airlines admit freely that there is room for improvement, and they are prepared to act upon any constructive suggestions that are made by the honorable member for Flinders or any other honorable gentleman. After all, Trans-Australia Airlines is our own airline, and constructive criticism may prove very helpful to it.
The honorable gentleman referred to a form, which he waved about, and to a document which he said he would like me to read. I understood from the honorable gentleman’s remarks that the document has been compiled by the International Civil Aviation Organization. The form is apparently one that is used by branches of the Department of Civil Aviation for the purpose of collecting information from airline companies which require subsidies. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has consistently opposed such information being given to the department, and has declined to supply the information. It has adopted the attitude that the department has no right to request information of that kind. The Australian National Airlines Act provides that the Treasurer shall determine the form in which the accounts of Trans-Australia Airlines shall he presented. He has that opportunity to obtain all the information that he requires. However, if the criticism is intended to be a helpful one, we shall consider it. I pay the honorable gentleman the tribute of saying that usually he does not make wild statements in this chamber, although he has spoiled that record to-day.
Mr. Turnbull interjecting,
– The honorable member for Flinders has covered a wide field in his criticisms, and doubtless he expects a detailed reply from the Minister. That is what I am endeavouring to do.
It is apparent that Trans-Australia Airlines is gradually overtaking Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. Both of the organizations are rendering good service to the community. Their load factors are very high - -probably higher than those of the majority of American airlines. During the period of six months to which I have just referred, the fleet of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited consisted of 37 aircraft and that of TransAustralia Airlines 31 aircraft.
The honorable member for Flinders, has suggested that dollars have been madeavailable to Trans-Australia Airlines and! not to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. Earlier in the budget debate the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) referred to the expenditure of dollars by Trans-Australia Airlines upon the purchase of new aircraft during the last two years and stated that private airlines had been refused dollars for similar purposes. The dollar expenditure by Trans-Australia Airlines to which the honorable gentleman referred was in respect of five Convair airliners. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Hamilton), although he has not had very much to say about this matter recently, did forecast the Convair aircraft as complete failures and as being likely to cause almost a disaster in Australian civil aviation. Inspired by Smith’s Weekly, the honorable gentleman repeated his charges from time to time. He and those who have backed him now look very foolish indeed. The order for the five Convair airliners was placed in December, 1946, before the dollar position became serious. The Convair is one of the few post-war types of aircraft now in service. It represents a significant advance in air transport, speed, comfort, and economy of operation. That, coupled with the f act that the five aircraft were obtained at a very favorable price, makes their possession a valuable asset to Australia. I emphasize that the order for the aircraft was placed before and not during the period of dollar stringency. I hope that no further suggestions will be made that preferential treatment in regard to dollars has been extended to Trans-Australia Airlines. The honorable member for Franklin has been informed that during the two years that ended in March, 1949, no dollars were made available to private airlines for the purchase of aircraft. He alleged that private airlines wanted to expend dollars to purchase modern aircraft, but I assure him that no private airline applied for dollars to purchase Convairs or similar type of post-war aircraft. According to my recollection, the only applications received for dollars to purchase aircraft were for the purchase of DC4, or Skymaster, aircraft and certain aircraft manufactured for personal use. The airline that applied for permission to import Skymasters was subsequently granted a licence to import such aircraft. They were, in fact, purchased and are now being operated on internal routes in this country. It is a fact that Trans-Australia Airlines is the only Australian airline that possesses a fleet of modern post-war aircraft, but that is due solely to the foresight of Australian National Airlines Commission, which ordered Convair aircraft when it was permissible to import aircraft from the dollar area. At that time no private Australian airline desired to purchase Convair aircraft. In fact, at that time, no private airline would consider purchasing them. When Trans-Australia Airlines announced its intention to purchase Convair aircraft, there was a great deal of public criticism of those aircraft and, although I have no proof, I believe that most of that criticism was inspired by rival airline operators. I repeat that at that time commercial airlines could have purchased Convair or Martin 202 aircraft to replace DC3 aircraft, but they did not avail themselves of the opportunity. It was then alleged that those aircraft were dangerous to operate, and involved risks to the public. The fact is that no such risks were involved, and there never were any risks associated with the aircraft. The efficiency and safety of Convair aircraft have been amply demonstrated since. Whilst I claim no technical knowledge of aircraft, I was convinced during a visit that I made to the factory where Convair aircraft are manufactured, when certain technical information was placed before me in a form that could be understood by a layman, that the purchase of Convair aircraft by the Australian National Airlines Commission would be a sound investment. Of course, in view of the successful operation of those aircraft by Trans-Australia Airlines I can quite understand the envious attitude adopted by its competitors, now, because they have to compete with a concern that is operating superior aircraft.
– :Does the Minister infer that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited could have purchased Convairs or other modern American planes at the same time as TransAustralia Airlines purchased such aircraft I
– They could have bought Convair or Martin 202 aircraft at that time, but, I repeat, they did not choose to do so. The criticism levelled at the Government that it made available to the Australian National Airlines Commission dollars for the purchase of modern American aircraft, but withheld dollars from private airline operators has been proved untrue, and I am glad to have the opportunity to refute that criticism. I regret that the time available to me does not permit me to deal with other criticisms of Trans-Australia Airlines and of the Government generally, because I am always glad to receive and to reply to helpful or constructive criticism. However, when a member of the Opposition persistently voices criticism of the Government that cannot be substantiated, members of the Opposition must be prepared to listen when a member of the Government refutes such criticism.
– The Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Drakeford) ha3 said that he will be proud when Trans- Australia Airlines shows a profit, and all I add is that every one will be glad when the Government’s airline pays its way. The Minister expressed the hope that before long the airline would show a small profit, but even if ‘it does contrive to do so a number of charges must still be debited against it. A fact that has not yet been revealed is the amount paid to the airline by the Government for the carriage of mails. From the examination of official figures that I have made, the amount of the air-mail subsidy appears to have been increased during the last twelve months by £75,000, bringing the total payment under this head to £400,000, which represents, according to my calculations, approximately 3s. per lb. I point out that when Oceanic Airways operated from Sydney to deliver mail in the flooded area of New South Wales the Government paid it only 4d. per lb. An examination of the budget figures also indicates that a substantial part of the loss incurred by the Postmaster-General’s Department is due to the payment to Trans-Australia Airlines of an exorbitant subsidy on the carriage of air mail.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed vote has expired.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Department of Trade and Customs
Proposed vote, £1,750,000.
.- The time that has been allotted for the consideration of the Estimates for the Department of Trade and Customs, the Department of Health and the Department of Commerce and Agriculture is only one and a half hours. I make my protest against the severity of that restriction.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Burke). - ‘Order! The committee has not yet decided that the Estimates for those three departments may be considered together. Up to this point, the Estimates for each department have been considered separately, and that procedure will be followed unless the committee decides otherwise.
– May I intervene at this point? The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed votes for the three departments is only one and a half hours, and if we follow the procedure that was adopted this afternoon of considering the Estimates for each department separately, it is inevitable that any debate on the proposed vote for the Department of Trade and Customs will occupy the whole of the time, and the Estimates for the Department of Health and the Department of Commerce and Agricul ture will not be discussed. Therefore, I suggest that if any honorable member should desire to speak on any one of the three departments, he should be permitted to do so. I notice that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard) is “ rarin’ to go “ on his particular department.
– Only if I am required to do so.
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- If it is the will of the committee, the three departments may be taken together.
Department of Trade and Customs
Proposed vote, £1,750,000.
Department of Health
Proposed vote, £547,000.
Department of Commerce and Agriculture
Proposed vote, £908,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
– In order to facilitate the discussion, I shall confine my remarks to the Estimates for the Department of Trade and Customs. I am one of those people who have always held the Tariff Board in high regard,but I consider that when it investigated the cotton industry, it fell down on the job. I desire to place on record my complaint about the delay that has occurred in presenting to the Parliament the Tariff Board’s report on the Queensland cotton industry. The board began its investigation in May, 1948, after the Queensland Cotton Board had made representations to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) to refer the industry to the board for inquiry and report. Approximately seventeen months have since passed, but the report has not yet been submitted to the Parliament. I understand that the board completed its report in May, 1949, and I am also reliably informed that it took only three days to investigate the industry and compile its report.
Cotton growing is the most neglected potential primary industry in Australia. Nearly all of our requirements of cotton have to he imported, and large quantities of those imports are purchased from the dollar area. Even if the production of cotton in Queensland were .expanded one hundred-fold, our requirements .would not b,e fulfilled. It -is -regrettable that the Tariff Board Las $ak«a 5© long *P report on this industry, -which it has investigated on many previous occasions. My opinion is that there should have bees no delay whatever, because the general knowledge that the board should have -of this important industry should have enabled it to make its report in a short time.
There are two great drawbacks to cotton-growing at the moment. One is the absence of a guaranteed price, and the other is the need for irrigation m the cotton-growing areas. When the House of Bepresentatiy.es re-assembled on the 7th September last, I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs to inform me when the Tariff Board’s report on the cotton-growing industry would be laid on the table, and whether he would expedite the presentation of the document. The honorable gentleman undertook to submit my question to the Minister for Trade and Customs. After I had waited a fortnight for a reply, I renewed my request, and I received the same courteous reply to the effect that my question would be referred to the Minister for Trade and Customs. Another fortnight elapsed, and I again inquired about the report. To date, the document had not been laid on the table. Meanwhile, the cotton-growing industry is languishing. I remind the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture that the period for planting cotton in Queensland is from the 15th September to the 15th October. To-day is the 11th October. It is futile to expect growers to plant seed when they have not been informed what the guaranteed price, if any, will be. I regret this indifference on the part of the Government to the representations that have been made to it on behalf of the industry. Because of the absence of a guaranteed price last year, the production of cotton was only 600 bales. For many years, the average production in Queensland was 12,000 bales. Primary producers began to grow cotton in that State as Jong ago as 1861, when imports of the commodity almost ceased because the Civil War was raging in the United States of America. In the period 1861-71, the production pf cotton in Australia reached a total of 14,000 bales per annum. The acute shortage of cotton in this country during World War I. .caused the industry to !be reintroduced in Queensland, and year after year, production was as high as 12,000 bales per annum. Because of the absence of a -guaranteed price, production last year fell to 600 bales, in spite of our experience in World War II. when cotton was almost unprocurable. If the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture will examine the relevant figures, he will find that Australia imports annually £15,000,000 worth of cotton fabrics and yarns, and raw cotton. No other item in (the tariff offers Australian primary producers, and a section of secondary industry, such a great field for expansion as the cotton industry does. Huge sum* of money are invested in plant for ginning cotton, and many hundreds of thousands of pounds’ worth of plant have been installed in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria for the manufacture of cotton goods. The Government and the Minister for Trade and Customs, by their failure to expedite the presentation to the Parliament of the Tariff Board’s report, are doing a great disservice to an important primary industry and to a prominent secondary industry, which have such great opportunities for expansion.
In its anxiety, the Queensland Cotton Board has repeatedly made representations to the Minister for Trade and Customs, and as recently as the 15th September last, it addressed strong representations to the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) on the matter. The following telegram was sent to the Prime Minister : -
Cotton planting season again passing without adequate guaranteed prices to cotton growers. Present world price no inducement to growers when excessive overhead on small crops takes away benefit of world prices. Board request announcement of interim guaranteed price of 9s. 5d, per lb. seed cotton for 1960 crop pending delayed Tariff Board’s report and Government’s decision. Would appreciate your personal attention to save industry going out of existence.
Those representations revealed the anxiety of the Queensland Cotton Board to ensure that the production of cotton in this country shall be encouraged.
Australia should exhaust ever y possibility of reducing the importation of cotton from the dollar area, and, above all, of keeping coton-growers in the industry. Some honorable members may not be aware, that the by-products of cotton are most valuable.. For instance,, high protein dairymeal and edible oils come- from that source-.. Speaking in general terms, one: might say that there are one hundred and one. uses fo.r the by-products of sotto©, and we- should be able. to. supply oar own requirements. . I remind the Minister f oar Commerce and Agriculture that a motor tyre contains moise cotton than rubber, because I consider that that example will convey to honorable: members somme idea oi the importance, of cotton to this
Gauntry. I could speak, qsl this proposal adi. considerable length* but I shall not da, so because the- Government has: restricted the time available for discussion. I have submitted to- the Minister very potent reasons why the Tariff Board report should be presented to the Parliament and why the Government should announce, without further delay, its policy in relation to the industry. In. the main, what is- sought by the- growers is a guaranteed price of 3-2d. pes lb. for raw cotton for ai period of five years. The situation of the industry has- been dealt with in many lengthy letters and reports that have been addressed to the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. I am at a loss to understand why this important industry, which has such great potentialities, has. been neglected.. Many primary producers could plant cotton in conjunction with their other activities. Dairy farmers and general farmers could grow cotton profitably and without interfering with other forms of production. Cotton has an assured demand, and it could provide security of employment for many Australians. We import cotton piece goods, cotton yarns, cotton fibres and raw cotton, much of which is purchased in dollar countries. If the Minister will investigate market conditions and the. possibilities of local production, he cannot fail to be impressed with, the potentialities of the cotton industry. I strongly urge the Government to announce before this session ends a scheme for providing a guaranteed price over a period of five years so that we can be assured of increased local1 production
Unless we take action along these lines, many of our major industries will go to the wall. We have seen importations of raw tobacco into this country restricted. At the same time we have had unrestricted importations of tobacco from the United Kingdom and South Africa, much of which has been obtained from dollar sources. In addition, the imported article often comes in tin containers - a further drain on dollars. A committee, such as that suggested would also sap that this Parliament was kept properlyinformed if attempts were made to dump inferior goods in this country. The Australian textile industry is already threatened. There is considerable unemployment in that industry. There was a trade union deputation to the Government the other day. In those circumstances, it is not enough to delegate all responsibility to the Tariff Board. Many of the problems are political. There is the instance of British manufacturers withholding supplies of nylon raw material from Australian manufacturers until the British firms had sufficient export surpluses to flood the Australian trade.
To show the urgent need for such a committee - a committee which, in my opinion, is just as essential a<s the standing commitees on public, works and broadcasting - we have the recent example of the threatened destruction of the Australian spark-plug industry. In 1944, that industry employed 1,000 Australians. To-day, there are less than 100 in the industry. The industry could take its case to the Minister. It did. But he could only tell it that he was bound by the Geneva agreement. It could take its case to the Tariff Board. But the board could only conduct a hearing and then table a report in this Parliament dealing with the facts. The Tariff Board ‘ could not intervene to suggest a change of government policy. Only a properly constituted committee of this Parliament could do that. Such a committee could also take into consideration the important economic and political factors involved. This Parliament should be kept advised when such an important industry finds itself in jeopardy because of agreements entered into by the Government. The spark-plug industry is vital to the nation’s security. Both the Australian and the American forces used Australianmade spark plugs during the war. The industry was built up by protection given to it by the Scullin Government. It became a strategic industry during the war. But now it is threatened. There is no machinery to keep this Parliament advised when industries such as this are going to the wall. There is a dollar content in spark-plug manufacture. The United States is the usual source of insulators, which are the imported ingredient in the finished product. Licences to import insulators nave been refused in this country. But in England, an Americanfinanced company imports insulators from the United States. They are then shipped to Australia from Great Britain in tin containers. That is a glaring example of a dollar anomaly that can only be rectified by representation of the case on the highest level. British manufacturers have been able to flood the Australian market because they are not subject to restrictions such as those imposed on Australian manufacturers. Should not this Parliament find out why Australia is bound by the Geneva agreement, whilst British manufacturers are apparently immune? South Africa has imposed, import restrictions on goods from Australia. Our exports to South Africa are to be cut by 75 per cent. This will result in loss of vital trade, followed by more unemployment in Australian industries. Given a fair deal, the Australian product can compete with the imported article, both in price and quality, but a policy of restrictions can throttle any industry. If our industries go to the wall, then our security will be endangered.
Australia survived the last war mainly because of its industries, which had been built up behind a high tariff wall. We were free to protect our industries. To-day, all that has changed. The international trade agreement has stripped us of our chief economic defence. There is no guarantee that other countries will observe their commitments. The first to break them are invariably the big nations.
The internationalists in this country may regard the collapse of an industry such as the spark-plug industry as a minor matter, but there are many Australian industries lin the same position. It is the responsibility of this Parliament to see that they are protected. Otherwise, there must be unemployment. Unless we are careful, our industries will disintegrate, and we shall have only public works left. Both the Public Works Committee and the Broadcasting Committee have been able to obtain agreement between various interests on many important principles. Sometimes it has been impossible to reach agreement but, at any rate, there has been a proper examination of all available evidence. A standing committee of this Parliament could deal most quickly and effectively with such problems as the current threats to the textile and spark-plug industries. When the membership of the Parliament has been increased, as it will be after the coming election, it will become all the more necessary to appoint such a standing committee. I ask the Government to inquire specifically and immediately into the matters I have mentioned.
– I support the remarks of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), who asked for an immediate decision by the Government regarding the cotton industry* in Australia. The Tariff Board has consistently refused to present its reports on this industry in time to be of any use to growers during the current season. In fact, it has become noted for its delays in this respect. An inquiry by the Tariff Board was asked for as early as May of last year, and the growers have been pressing for a decision ever since. I understand that the board’s report has at last been handed to the Government. However, if the seed is not planted this month it will be too late. Indeed, I am afraid that it is already too late, because growers have not time enough now to prepare their land for sowing. If the seed is sown after October, there is danger that the crop will be damaged by frosts before it matures.
I have always maintained that dollars could be saved by stimulating the production of cotton in Australia’, and my argument is supported by the figures I have just .cited. Unfortunately, the industry bas been neglected. In 1941, the Government guaranteed the growers 15d. per lb. for their cotton. This guarantee was repeated in 1946, in spite of the fact that production costs had increased greatly in the meantime. The guaranteed price remains the same to this day, so it is no wonder that the cotton-growing industry in Australia is practically extinct. As better prices are being received for other commodities it is obvious that primary producers will not undertake the growing of cotton und’er existing conditions. The Minister stated that growers received on the open market a price higher than the price I have mentioned. However, up to 1948, prices control prevented them from obtaining the open market price. Subsequently, they received a higher price, but because of instability in the industry generally, and the fact that the guaranteed price introduced in 1946 for a period of five years still remained at 15d. per lb., they were not given any incentive to plant cotton. On behalf of the industry I again urge the Government to make a declaration one way or the other on the guaranteed price. Growers need some encouragement to plant at least a proportion of a full crop. Good rains fell in the cotton-growing districts in Queensland last week, but seasonal conditions in that State are such that probably a month will elapse before another change in the weather occurs. Should it not rain again within the next month growers will have missed the opportunity to plant. Unless they are enabled to take advantage of last week’s rain I am afraid that no cotton at all will be planted in Queensland this season.
I should like the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture to indicate clearly what the Government intends to do about the finding of the committee which investigated costs of production in the dairying industry. That committee reported that costs of production of butter bad increased by 3d. per lb., 2ii. of which consisted of an increase in the farmers’ costs and a halfpenny of which consisted of an increase in factory costs. The statement that the Minister made a few days ago concerning the Government’s attitude on this matter was evasive. He merely dealt with ancient history and told us about what other governments had done. I am not interested in what past governments did or failed to do. What the dairy-farmers want to know is what the Government proposes to do now to fulfil its promise that for a period of five years it would guarantee to producers a price that would meet the increased costs of production on the basis of the finding of the advisory committee. That promise was definitely made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), but the Government so far has honoured it for one year only. The Government can well afford to fulfil that promise, and it has a duty to do so, particularly a9 it is practically the sole taxing authority and the States, consequently, cannot afford to provide such payments to, the dairy-farmers. At present the Government is providing a subsidy on butter in order to stabilize the price to the public. That subsidy should be increased sufficiently to return to the dairy-farmers the increased costs of production. That method of enabling the farmers to recoup additional costs is probably the most practical available, because no government or political party desires that the increased costs should be passed on to the consumers. The Government should follow that course regardless of the fact that prices control has been transferred to the States. Primarily, the issue is whether the Government intends to honour the promise that it has made to the dairying industry. It can do so by increasing the price stabilization subsidy that it now makes available in respect of butter.
In replying to the statement made by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) that production in the dairying industry was decreasing, the Prime Minister said that the Leader of the Australian Country party had failed to take into calculation the production of whole milk. I point out that allowing for the production of milk and butter combined over-all production is still less to-day than it was in 1939. The latest figures made available by the Commonwealth Statistician show that there are now 262,000 fewer dairy cattle in Australia than there were in 1939. Therefore, when the Prime Minister said that the Leader of the Australian Country party was evading the issue he, himself, was giving an evasive reply. He did not keep to the facts when hs said that the Leader of the Australian Country party had merely relied upon a statement that had been supplied to him and had failed to take into account the production of milk. What are the facts? Whereas in 1938-39 production of butter totalled 203,500 tons, production in 1947-48 had fallen to 161,794 tons, or a decrease of 41,706 tons. During the same period the production of cheese declined from 194,706 tons to 157,294 tons, or a decrease of 37,492 tons. Whilst the production of preserved milk products increased from 29,705 tens to 88,421 tons, or an increase of 58,716 tons, that increase would be equivalent of only 3,000 tons of butter and would not nearly make up the deficiency of 79,198 tons of butter and cheese combined. The real test is that the actual production of milk and the actual number of dairy cows in production have decreased. I emphasize that existing prices do not offer sufficient incentive to dairy-farmers to ‘ increase production. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture said that the prices being received by the dairy-farmers to-day are the best that they have ever received in the history of the industry. That is not correct. I have been a dairyfarmer ever since the end of World War I. and I know that I have never received a higher price for commercial butter than I received immediately following the conclusion of that conflict when, for a considerable period, the price was 2s. 5d. per lb. Another point is that the committee that inquired into the cost of production in the industry based its estimate of the increase of costs on a 56-hour working week for farm workers. Obviously, dairymen find it impossible to hire labour at award rates because no persons are prepared to work on the basis of a 56-hour week when they can obtain equal wages in other industries that have a 40-hour working week. Why should the finding he based on a 56-hour week instead of the 40-hour week? I return to my starting point. I want to know whether the Government intends to honour the Prime Minister’s guarantee to the industry. Obviously, the industry is falling between two stools - the Premiers of the States and the Federal Treasurer. The Treasurer has the money, but he is hanging on to it and is not passing it to the industry to which it is due under the terms of his promise.
.- I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs to take up with his colleague the question of making some alterations of the method of censorship of films. The censorship of films and literature is administered by the Department of Trade and Customs, but the systems are quite different. The censorship of literature is not administered solely by departmental officers. There is a right of appeal, and the appeal is considered by persons deemed to be qualified to judge literary values, for instance, men who occupy the chair of English at Australian universities. But the censorship of films is conducted by civil servants. I am not joining in the cry against them, but I do suggest that there ought to be an alteration of the procedure of the film censorship. I take it that the purpose of film censorship ia to prevent the entry into and the exhibition in Australia of films that might be salacious or might influence adolescents in the direction of violence. A fairly good job is done in the censorship of salacious films, but I do not think the censors are very exacting in the second category. I am not quarrelling with the application of censorship because no one would ever be satisfied with the work done by censors. My suggestion is that the censorship system does not allow for what I might describe as an expert or refined judgment of the difference between what is shocking for a specific purpose and what is shocking for the sake of sensationalism or box office appeal. I refer particularly to the censorship of the film The Snake Pit, which shows the inefficiency and backwardness of lunatic asylums in the United States of America.
In its original form, it had a number of horrifying scenes, which were cut out in both the United Kingdom and Australia. No one who has been through a lunatic asylum in Australia or who has discussed the treatment of lunacy with those charged with it would suggest for a moment that we have nothing to learn from the film. It is not unusual to read in the press, from time to time, that the system that we have is far from perfect. ‘ I refer to the fact that there is generally one doctor to every 1,000 patients. We have not gone beyond providing restraint of lunatics. I do not canvass that matter, because it is one for State administration. The point that I am trying to make is that the horrifying aspects of The Snake Pit were treated by the censor in exactly the same way as he would have treated horrifying aspects of a film, the horror of which was intended entirely as a box office attraction. As a film the horror of which was designed directly to provide attraction, I instance the film Dracula. In the film, The Snake Pit, leading actors and actresses acted for a definite purpose. In literary censorship, there is differentiation and the right of appeal. Those who are experts determine whether that which may appear salacious or shocking has a purpose and whether, for the sake of literary quality, the salacious or shocking aspects should be sustained. The same should be true of the stage and the film. I did not think that we can have that degree of discrimination so long as the censorship of films is conducted entirely by administrative officers. I hope that the Minister will take up with his colleague the matter of film censorship.
The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) spoke about the need for a committee to review tariffs, and he seemed to think that the tariffs should be reviewed in an upward direction. I should like the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs to explain how often the Government reviews tariffs. We are always hearing of the need for the protection of Australian industries by means of the tariff. They are vis-a-vis Great Britain and they are protected by the exchange rate of 25 per cent, and by freights. Some of the derivatives of the Australian steel industry, which produces steel at half the cost of steel imported from Great Britain, are still asking for tariff protection, and some of them have it, in spite of these gross advantages, plus the low cost of Australian steel. How often do tariff reviews take place to see whether those firms that are availing themselves of tariff protection are not polling on it? In other words, how often are investigations of their efficiency conducted to see whether they are maintaining efficiency in return for the tariff protection that they are granted ?
.- I rise mainly to refer to the failure of the Government, after a considerable time, to bring before the country an acceptable national medical health scheme. But before proceeding with that matter, I wish to express my agreement with the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) about the classification of films, particularly those that are alleged to be suitable for children. I propose to offer criticism under two heads. First, I direct my attention to films that are said by the Commonwealth Film Censorship Board to be suitable for children when it is quite obvious that they are unsuitable. Many such films offer an incentive to violence. The Department of Information produces many publications that appeal more to the infant mind than to the adult mind. Perhaps, it would be possible for it to produce films more suitable for children than many of those that are passed as suitable for children. My second criticism is that, although the censorship classifies certain films as unsuitable for children, there seems to be no enforcement of the classification and the penalties are not exacted from the people that allow children to see them. The honorable member for Fremantle referred to the film, The Snake Pit. I saw it recently in Melbourne. There were many children in the audience. No one seems to be responsible for preventing children from seeing films that the censorship regards as unsuitable for them to see.
I now turn my attention to the failure of the Government to bring down an acceptable national medical health scheme. Honorable members on this side of the committee realize very well, as well as do honorable members opposite in fact, the drawbacks and shortcomings of the dental and medical services available to Australia. We also realize that in a country as wealthy as Australia it should be well within the bounds of possibility for the Government to bring down some legislation that will provide the people with better medical and dental services than are now available to them. Honorable members know that, for the great proportion of the people in this country, full dental service is practically non-existent. There seem to me to be two great drawbacks in the medical services provided under the present system. First of all there is a chronic shortage of everything connected with the medical profession. There is a shortage of nurses, of doctors and of hospitals. My first criticism is that the Government has, in connexion with any legislation or any scheme that it has brought forward’, done nothing positive to increase-
Mr. Sheehy interjecting.
– The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) may speak later, but he will not be able to point to any one hospital built in recent years to relieve the shortage of beds, or to the provision of more doctors. Schemes have been outlined, but nothing has been done. The second drawback is the high cost of medical services to the public. As other honorable members have frequently pointed out, medicine is nowadays becoming more and more expensive, and therefore more and more of a burden to wage-earners who have illness in their families. Into this state of affairs, in which shortages and high costs combine to make the obtaining of complete medical service difficult, the Government has introduced a scheme for the nationalization of medical services. That is the Government’s answer at this stage. It has announced itself in favour of a scheme that is exactly the same, in the long-run, as the scheme which, operates at present in Great Britain. As it is being said now that the Government intends to continue with some form of national medical service despite the High Court’s recent ruling in respect of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act, it might be relevant to mention some of the aspects of the national health scheme now operating in Britain. The cost of that scheme is more than £250,000,000 a year. As the population of Great Britain is about 50,000,000, the cost of the scheme is £5 a head. That figure compares very unfavorably with the cost of a subscription of a friendly society or of an insurance premium, in which members of the public may participate if they so desire. So my first criticism of any national health scheme is that it costs far too much in comparison with the value of the services rendered. There; are various perfectly obvious reasons for that. .First of all, in a national health scheme there tends to be over-staffing on the administrative side. That has happened in Great Britain and it also happens in Australia in Government departments concerned with medical matters. 1 need not go into the details of that aspect, because they have been stated here before, and time is limited in this debate.
Another factor which is becoming more and more evident in Britain is the deterioration in the quality of the medical service rendered, and indeed the near indifference to quality of service which is becoming apparent as the scheme progresses. I personally have reason to be grateful to the medical profession and would not criticize it unjustly, but doctors are, after all, human. In a scheme in which rewards to the doctor are based on the number of cases treated, and not on the quality of service given, the quality of service naturally deteriorates. It is not possible for me to give instances of that fact, and it would not be possible for any other honorable member except perhaps the honorable member for Denison (Dr. Gaha) to do so. But we have been repeatedly told by eminent British surgeons who visit Australia that what I have said is correct. A national health service has the undesirable quality that all that is intimate in the life of a person becomes a matter for official action and becomes, in a sense, public property. At least, the privacy between the medical practitioner and the patient is completely destroyed.
If we desire to know how nationalized medicine will work in Australia all we need to do is to examine those instances in which we have a form of nationalized health service already. I refer to repatriation hospitals, for example, and to the Heidelberg Military Hospital in particular. Again I shall not quote what I think, but what I have been told by leaders of the medical profession. During the last war, Heidelberg Military Hospital was considered one of the very finest hospitals in Australia, but now it is considered just about the worst. The reason for that change is that civil servants were placed in charge of that hospital over the heads of the medical profession. The truth of the matter is that medicine administered by legislation and regulations is nearly always bad medicine, and that is a drawback which, we should remember, will be spread throughout the entire medical system of this country if a national medical scheme is widened to include everybody instead of only repatriation patients. As I have said, the Government’s answer to the present position is nationalization. I suggest that nationalization is completely unnecessary. What are really required in this country at the present time are more small local hospitals and more decentralization, instead of nationalization and centralization, which seem to be the Government’s objects. After all, we have had operating in this country for years a scheme which, although it is not extensive enough is, in principle, very excellent. Probably most honorable members have in their electorates, as I have in mine in the Oakleigh Community Hospital, a system that provides an excellent service to local people. Such a system, as honorable members know, is maintained partly by government grants, partly by receipts from patients, and partly from amounts raised by local drives for funds. Such hospitals have their own doctors, equipment and buildings. They also have a proportion of free beds available for patients who cannot afford to pay for service. Finally, those institutions are run at a profit. Last year the Oakleigh Community Hospital made a profit of £500. The provision of more hospitals of that kind is the real need in this country. We require more small local hospitals rather than more great hospitals in metropolitan areas to which people must come from all over the State, leaving their relatives and home surroundings. The big hospitals are run at enormous cost and, in Great Britain, have proved to be the reverse of efficient. Honorable members opposite have time and time again risen in this chamber and attacked private hospitals and the medical profession which, they have said, should be brought under the control of the State. When honorable members opposite themselves get sick do they rely on the service that they want the people to have? Three honorable, members opposite have fallen sick in the last year. How many of them went to public hospitals and insisted on the provisions of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act being followed in their particular cases? Not one! What may be good enough for the people is apparently not good enough for those honorable members.
.- I shall refer to the remarks of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann) in connexion with primary production. We have had a continuous story from honorable members opposite over the radio, through the press, and in their other propaganda media, to the effect that under this Government primary production in Australia is being ruined and driven out of existence. Although the honorable member cited some figures in relation to butter production, which are correct, he failed to refer to other sections of primary industry, under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Pollard), that show a considerable improvement on the 1938-39 figures. The Opposition has charged the Government with quoting only the money values of primary products, which are very much higher now than in 1938-39 because of the high prices being obtained for our primary products overseas. Therefore it is good to be able to answer the charges of the Opposition by citing actual figures of primary production in this country. I shall now do so in order to disprove some of the wild utterances that have been bandied around Australia by members of the Opposition, particularly members of the Australian Country party. The figures that I shall cite were supplied to me by Dr. Roland Wilson, the Commonwealth Statistician. The Production of wheat in 1947-48 was 220,116,317 bushels, compared with 155,368,621 bushels in 1938-39, an increase of almost 65,000,000 bushels. In 1947-48,. 40,696,992 bushels of oats were produced compared with 15,554,735 bushels in 1938-39. The production of two-row and six-row barley reached 20,855,932 bushels in 1947-48, compared with 10,830,714 bushels in 1948-49. The production of blue and grey peas increased from 11,628 tons in 1938-39 to 22,799 tons in 1947-48, whilst the production of cheese increased from 29,304 tons in 1938-39 to 41,478 tons in 1947-48. Considerably increased production has been achieved in relation to powdered and condensed milk. Production rose from 29,705 tons in 1938-39 to 92,575 tons in 19417-48. The production of butter decreased from 203,500 tons in 1938-39 to 162,054 tons in 1947-48. I remind the committee that two severe droughts since the war have affected primary production considerably. That is particularly true of dairying. I point out also that the consumption of whole milk within Australia has greatly increased since 1938-39. This is attributable, not only to the increase of the population of Australia, but also to the increased purchasing power in the hands of the people. Before the war many people in this country could not afford to buy whole milk every day as they can afford to do to-day. Because the consumption of whole milk within Australia has increased so considerably, less whole milk has been available for the production of butter, both for home consumption and for export. It is interesting to note that the production of milk for all purposes was 1,168,000,000 gallons in 1947-48, which is 2.3 per cent, above the average for the three pre-war years up to 1938-39. The production of wool, also, has increased considerably. Last year 3,720,388 bales of wool were exported, compared with 2,916,385 bales in 1938-39. The production of linseed rose from 175 tons in 1938-39 to 273 tons last year, whilst the production of fresh fruits, jam and tinned fruits, potatoes, onions, eggs, and fresh fish la3t year was considerably above the 1938-39 levels. Yet the Opposition is constantly feeding into the ears of the Australian people the lie that this Government is strangling primary production in Australia. That that is utterly untrue is proved by the official figures that I have cited. It is obvious to all fair-minded people that the farmers have never been better off than they are to-day. They are assured of overseas markets and receive guaranteed prices for certain of their products. .To-day the farmer knows when he plants his seed the price that he will receive for his harvest. That was not so before the war. We have got away altogether from the idea of farmer eating farmer, which was the old order, when a farmer would watch his neighbour before deciding whether he would sell his crop immediately or store it in barns for sale in the future when the market rose. To-day the small farmers have equal treatment with the big farmers in respect of prices.
From time to time the Opposition has charged this Government with being interested only in the industrial side of our national economy. During the last eight years the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and his predecessor, the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) have done more for the farmers than ever the so-called Australian Country party and the Liberal party ever thought of doing before the war. The promises that were made by members of those parties filled Hansard volumes and newspaper columns of this country prior to 1939. However, the present Opposition parties accomplished barely anything of lasting good for the primary industries of this country. Labour will be able to go to the country at the forthcoming general election with an honest record of what it has done for the farmers, which is more than can be said of the Opposition. We have honoured all of our promises. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. McBride), who is interjecting, is the head of a big wool concern and could say what has been done for the wool industry in the last eight years. Hs will not do so, however, because he would have to give this Government a pat on the back, which would not be in keeping with the honorable member’s thoughts at this stage.
I shall refer again to the aspects of butter production that have been mentioned by the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann). I understand that the increased consumption of whole milk in Australia is equivalent to 26,000 tons of butter. In other words, an additional 26,000 tons of butter could have been produced had there not beenthis increased consumption of wholemilk. This is indicative of rising prosperity and the stabilization of our economy as applied to the rank and file wage and salary earners of this country, who to-day can afford to buy many more commodities than they could buy before the war.
– I wish to make a plea on behalf of the cotton industry in northern Australia. I congratulate the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) for placing some interesting statistics before the committee in relation to the cotton industry in Queensland. I remind honorable members that the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Davidson) gained his seat in this chamber because of his Labour predecessor’s inactivity in relation to that cotton-growing area. In my efforts to press home what is happening in Queensland in relation to the cotton industry I shall mention the views of Mr. B. Johnson, the general manager of the Queensland Cotton Marketing Board. For over fifteen years I have been making representations about the desirability of developing the cotton industry in the Katherine district in my electorate. I have before me a big file of correspondence in connexion with that subject. It is high time that the cotton industry was brought directly under the control of the Government. I consider that the Government is avoiding its responsibilities and sheltering behind the Tariff Board. Mr. Johnson, who succeeded Mr. Young, is fully qualified to state the position. I shall read to the committee his reply to me of the 21st July, which is, in effect, an indictment of this Government. His letter reads -
Regarding your inquiry as to the prospects (or the Queensland cotton crop in the forthcoming season and, in particular, the industry’s future prospects, I regret to inform you that the Board is gravely concerned and fears that unless an immediate incentive is given to growers to plant cotton the industry in Queensland is likely to go out of existence.
As you are no doubt aware, the Commonwealth Tariff Board in May this year conducted an inquiry into the matter of assistance to the industry. This inquiry was the result of an application made by the Cotton Marketing Board to the Commonwealth Government, before planting season in 1048, for an increased guaranteed price return to growers, who since f 04 1 have been guaranteed lod. per lb. of raw cotton.
I produce a sample of cotton which was grown on Mr. Pascoe’s farm in the Katherine River district. I have been informed that it is of better quality than cotton grown in Queensland. The letter continues -
In 1946, the Commonwealth Government amended the Raw Cotton Bounty Act, continuing the guarantee of 15d. for a further fiveyear period, this same guarantee being renewed at a time when world prices were rising with a certainty of being at a high level for some years.
Price control which operated prevented the Cotton Marketing Board from obtaining these high world prices in 1940, 1947 and 1948, and the Board was forced to sell its cotton to the Government during this period at prices which in some cases were 12d. per lb. below the price being paid by the Government for imported raw cotton of similar grade.
Surely that is an indictment of this Government. The letter proceeds -
Since 1941 prices for other primary products have risen steeply; the dairyman, for example, was on a price parity with cotton in 1941, but to-day is receiving almost twice the price and the cotton-grower is still guaranteed the 15d. that he was given in 1941. ‘Due to this disparity in prices, shortage of labour, and the Commonwealth Government’s war-time policy, which gave priority to food crops, and which the board willingly accepted, the industry has declined from an average annual production of 12,000 bales to less than 1,000 bales this year.
It is an amazing thing that this primary industry is neglected when the Australian spinning industry’s rapid expansion requires in the vicinity of 70,000 bales of raw cotton each year. In addition, over 200,000 bales of raw cotton are imported annually in the form of cotton piece goods. Indications are at the present time, that with the dollar exchange position so acute, many former buyers of United States of America cotton are forced to seek supplies of raw cotton from soft currency areas. This results in much greater competition for supplies from these countries and Australian spinners may yet have great difficulty in obtaining cotton suitable for their requirements.
That cotton is a most essential defence need was instanced by the Government’s urgent appeal to growers to expand the industry before the Americans came into the last war and our supply lines were secured. We may be more isolated in the future and this prospect alone demands that the industry be maintained.
Another important aspect that is often lost sight of, is that the cotton industry produces as by-products valuable stock food and edible oil, both of which are in extremely short supply to-day in Australia.
Up to the early war years, the Cotton Marketing Board produced a yearly average of over 2,000 tons of cottonseed meal unsurpassed as a milk and butter producer, and 600 tons of edible oil.
At the present time production is down to approximately 200 tons of meal and 50 tons of oil. In its recent case to the Tariff Board the Cotton Marketing Board has asked for a net return to growers of 9.5d. per lb. of seed cotton, which, it is considered, is in parity with price returns for dairy-farmers and competitive crops.
The cotton-growers are not asking too much in seeking to be placed on parity with dairymen. The letter continues -
To enable growers to prepare their land: and plant an increased acreage of cotton for next season, it is most essential that the Commonwealth Government’s decision be made known within the next two or three weeks. If a decision is delayed any longer, even if favorable, it will lose all effect in influencing farmers to increase their acreage of cotton for the coming season.
Should you desire further information on the Cotton Marketing Board’s case to the Tariff Board, you could obtain a copy of the transcript of evidence from the Commonwealth Reporting Branch, Post Office Place, Melbourne.
Enclosed is a press cutting from to-day’s Courier-Mail which shows the expenditureon recent raw cotton imports.
Mr. Johnson has made it clear that the Government, through the Tariff Board, has sadly neglected the cotton industry which is such an important factor in the development of northern Australia. I have sought to convince the Government of the desirability of establishing this industry in the assured rainfall belt in the Northern Territory. The cottongrowing areas of Queensland are subject to the vagaries of an uncertain climate. Because of seasonal variations Queensland cotton-growers cannot guarantee to produce a crop. In the northern areas of the Northern Territory the monsoonal rains never fail. Queensland cotton experts have informed me that staple of the quality which I have exhibited to honorable members to-night could be produced in Queensland only under irrigation. I ask the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), both of whom have shown a great interest in the development of northern Australia, not to reject the possibilities of growing cotton in areas of assured rainfall in the Northern Territory. The article in the Courier-Mail which was forwarded to me by Mr. Johnson was written by a staff reporter. I shall not weary the committee by reading the whole of it. I shall merely read the headlines and the opening paragraph. The article is headed, “ It’s plain murder”, and the opening paragraph reads as follows: -
Queenslanders have cause to be angry with the Federal and State Governments for allowing the cotton industry to die. And it is dying, make no mistake.
The writer goes on to say that the Queensland Government is not pulling its weight in relation to the cotton-growing industry and. that it has refrained from criticizing the Commonwealth because of the fear of repercussions. In general, the writer of the article charges the Hanlon Government with having neglected the cotton industry.
– What are the honorable members views on the plans of the Government for the production of beef in the Northern Territory?
– I hope to discuss those plans during the consideration of the votes listed under the heading “ Miscellaneous Services “. I ask the Government to give very close consideration to the desirability of developing the assured rainfall belt of the Northern Territory as the future cotton-growing area of Australia.
– I propose to say a few words in reply to the violent attack made by the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) on the Government’s free medi cal service. In spite of the violence of his attack the honorable member clearly indicated that he favoured the establishment of such a service. His attack on the members of the medical profession was very unfair. I would not by any means speak, as he did, about the ability and the generosity of the members of that profession. My complaint against them is merely that they are too conservative and too obstinate to allow the Government to implement its free medical service. The honorable member also referred to our repatriation hospitals, especially to the Heidelberg Military Hospital. It is well known to students of repatriation matters, and to medical authorities inGreat Britain and the United States of America, that Australian repatriation hospitals are equal to the best repatriation hospitals in the world in respect of medical and nursing services, and the training of nurses. They have made a name for themselves, particularly in the field of plastic surgery. Why the honorable member for Henty should cast any reflection on our hospitals generally, and particularly on the Heidelberg Military Hospital, which is a repatriation institution, I cannot understand. He rose apparently to say something about the failure of the Government to provide some sort of national medical scheme. His remarks about the shortage of nurses, doctors, and hospital accommodation were quite correct. We all know that those shortages exist. I remind the honorable member, however, that the Government has set aside £1,000,000 for hospital construction in conjunction with the States. Therefore, failure to build new hospitals is not due to lack of money. Unfortunately, the States are no more able to build hospitals than is the Commonwealth. Everybody knows the reason. Priority has to be given to housing and other urgent requirements, with the result that supplies of labour and materials are insufficient for large-scale hospital schemes. Part of the Australian Government’s national health plan is to increase hospital accommodation throughout the Commonwealth as soon as possible. Bush nursing schemes too are being fostered. Special attention is being paid to one-doctor towns. The honorable member for Henty did not direct any criticism at the Government’s medical plans. He merely complained that existing medical services are inadequate and too expensive. In effect, his complaints were directed against the present organization of the medical profession. I repeat that he said some things about medical men that I should be most reluctant to say. Our doctors do a good job. Everybody knows that they are doing the best that they can do for their patients. In the depression years, most medical men did not receive payment for half of their work. I have good cause, to know that because I frequently had occasion to approach doctors for assistance on behalf of patients. One does not forget these things.
I thought that the honorable member for Henty would have made some charges against the Government for having failed to implement a national medical service, and I believe that that is what he meant to do, but everybody knows why that has not been done. Lack of money, is not the reason. Ample funds are available, and the necessary legislation has been passed. The absence of a national medical service to-day is due to the continued obstinate opposition of the medical profession. Nobody should need to be reminded of that. Every move that the Government has made has been checkmated by the medical profession. I was associated with some of the earlier conferences with the British Medical Association, and I know that the leaders of that organization will never submit to a national medical scheme of any kind. However, I am confident that, if a compulsory vote were held in the medical profession, a majority of practitioners, particularly the young doctors, would support such a scheme. It is not the Government’s fault that there are not enough doctors or hospitals to-day. The Government has done its best. Many of the 4,000 or 5,000 medical students on whose behalf this Government has paid university fees, and purchased text-books and equipment, are now coming into the profession and beginning to practice. Most of them have come through their courses with flying colours. Undoubtedly a large percentage of them would not have been able to fulfil their desire to practise medicine had the necessary finance not been provided by the Government. No other government in this country has ever embarked upon such an ambitious scheme. I hope that the honorable member for Henty will not say again what he has said to-night about our hospital services.
– I have said it before and I shall say it again.
– Not long ago, a Commonwealth-wide nurses’ examination was held, and of all the training institutions in this country - many of them with very high reputations in the British medical world as schools for the nursing profession - the repatriation trainees received the highest marks. Therefore, I do not know on what information the honorable member based his condemnation of our repatriation hospitals. The Government has done everything in its power to implement its medical scheme. It believes that the medical profession is rendering a great disservice to the people of Australia by denying to them the benefits of that scheme as well as depriving them, of free medicine. The taxpayers of this country are already paying for those services, but further progress has been checkmated by successful appeals to the High Court by people who are opposed to the Government’s plans. That is not the Government’s fault. It is the fault of those individuals who wish to deny to the Australian people benefits to which they are entitled and for which they are paying. There is no reason why the people should not be given those benefits. The Government is ready at any moment to provide the necessary services. To ensure that medicine shall be free to a patient a doctor has only to write his prescription on the authorized Commonwealth form; but the medical profession will not co-operate. I cannot imagine therefore what foundation the honorable member has for his charges, but I am glad that, to-night, he has drawn the attention of the public to the need for a national medical service because of theinadequacy of the service now provided to the community by the medical profession.
.- I had intended to say something to-night about the cotton industry, but in view of the limited time at my disposal I can only say, “Do not blame the Tariff Board; blame the Government “. A former government gave the assistance necessary to bring prosperity to this industry, and this Government should make the necessary funds available without delay. The tariff generally has been allowed to drift, and must be overhauled. The new government will do that.
I propose now to refer to a non-party matter which, I am sure, has the interest of all honorable members. The Flying Doctor Service is of immense benefit to Australia. It is of interest to three departments - the Department of the Interior, the Postmaster-General’s Department, and the Department of Health. There are 432 flying doctor outposts throughout Australia. The service is asking that its grant be increased by £37,000. At present it receives only £7,500. The rest of its expenditure is financed by private subscriptions. There are flying doctor centres at Wyndham, Port Hedland, Alice Springs, Kalgoorlie, Broken Hill, and in various parts of Queensland. I was atWyndham last month. Splendid work is being done, not only for white residents of our northern regions but also for aborigines. This is not a matter for levity, and I regret that honorable members opposite do not regard it seriously. They should visit some of the flying doctor outposts and see for themselves how dependent our out back residents are upon this splendid medical service. I hope that their request will be favorably considered.
– Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed votes for the Department of Trade and Customs, the Department of Health and the Department of Commerce and Agriculture has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Department or Social Services
Proposed vote, £976,000.
Department of Supply and Development
Proposed vote, £1,292,000.
Department of Shipping and Fuel
Proposed vote, £810,000. (Ordered to be considered together.)
– On almost every occasion on which the honorable member forWilmot (Mr. Duthie) has spoken this year, he has directed attention to the fact that this is an election year, and, therefore, that one cannot expect anything but propaganda from the Opposition. The election seems to be worrying the honorable gentleman a little. I propose to give him some reassurance to-night by indulging in a little praise of the Government. One of the actions of the Government of which I and, I think, all honorable members on this side of the chamber heartily approve, is that it has taken steps to rehabilitate certain pensioners and to make them useful citizens, capable of supporting themselves either wholly or partially. I desire to direct the attention of the Government to the possibility of extending the scope of that work by giving assistance to organizations that are now attempting to habilitate - I shall not use the word “ rehabilitate “ - persons who were born mentally deficient or who have shown themselves later in life to be mentally retarded It is estimated that there are approximately 30,000 of those persons in the Commonwealth. It is not easy to ascertain the precise number, but the figure of 30,000 has been arrived at by people who are working on behalf of mentally deficient children. They have pointed out that the work they are doing will avoid the necessity for the expenditure of large sums of money upon pensions. If we can make people who would normally become invalid pensioners useful and self-sup- porting citizens we shall do something, not only for the individuals concerned, but also for the Treasury. I suggest that the organizations that are engaged upon this work should be assisted financially by the Government. I know of a case that may be of interest to honorable members who have not studied this question. It concerns a boy who was regarded as being hopelessly mentally deficient and not a suitable pupil for any school in Australia. A society that undertakes the care of mentally deficient children studied him. After a considerable period of time, it was discovered that he had a great interest in animals and a real talent for dealing with them. He is now a youth in his teens, and is employed on a farm to look after the animals there. He is earning a good wage and is an exceedingly happy person. If he had had no interest upon which to centre his faculties, he would have grown up to be a person without aim or object and would have been a charge upon the State.
Another matter to which I wish to direct the attention of the committee is blindness. Many blind people who are now in receipt of pensions from the State i:ould have been prevented from becoming blind if we had instituted a scheme for research in connexion with .blindness. It may possibly be said that this question should have been discussed when the proposed vote for the Department of Health was under consideration by the committee; but, as it is linked with the payment of pensions, it may properly be discussed also on the proposed vote for the Department of Social Services. In almost every country in the world surveys of the numbers of blind people, types of blindness and the causes of blindness have been undertaken. It must not be thought that blindness follows the same pattern in every country of the world or in every district within a country. Owing to climatic conditions or geographical features, the incidence of blindness in certain districts may be higher than, it is in other districts. The Ophthalmological Society of Australia has devised a scheme for dealing with this problem. For the expenditure of £5,000 a year, the Government could establish ii body to examine the problem in a scientific and systematic manner. Th, society has published not only the outline of the scheme, but also the details of it. I suggest that this is a matter which should receive the attention of the Government. The only figures relative to blindness in Australia that are available are those that were obtained during the 1933 census. At that time there were, according to the census figures, 3,S79 blind people in the Commonwealth. Owing to the fact that no later statistics are available, it is very difficult to ascertain the present number, but an examination of the statistics that have been prepared by other countries shows that the incidence of blindness in those countries is very much greater than thi 3933 census would suggest that it is in, Australia. Therefore, we can assumethat there are more than 3,879 blind people in this country. The incidenceof blindness in the United Kingdom is 170 persons in each 100,000, whereas,, according to the 1933 census figures, theincidence in Australia is 58.7 persons in each 100,000. It is probable that in Australia the proportion of blind people is nearer to 170 in 100,000 than it is to- 58.7 in 100,000. “Working on that basis, it is estimated that during the next ten. years approximately £4,000,000 will be expended upon the payment of pensions to blind people in this country. The Ophthalmological Society of Australia, is, in a small way, already undertaking some investigations, notably in Tasmania, through the agency of Dr. Hamilton and Dr. Counsell. It has found that the average age at which blindness occurs is 12.7 years for females and 18.5 yearsfor males. Blindness is sometimes inherited and can occur in infancy and at later ages. Its causes are many and various. It is estimated that at least 70 per cent, of blindness could be prevented. In recent years a number of types of blindness have been found to be preventable that were not earlier thought to be preventable. I do not propose to go into details. I hope that 1 have said enough to make the members of the committee realize that this is a matter of importance, not only to those who suffer from blindness but also to the community as a whole. Further, it is of some interest to the. Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). The outline of the scheme placed before me is concerned with the investigation of the causes of blindness and the prevention of blindness. The investigation of causes envisages the conduct of statistical research into the causes of blindness and the correlation of those causes with various other factors. Under this head the society states -
It is considered that in order to carry the above into effect, certain expenditure involving the report of a research officer is essential.
It is also proposed that pathological research shall be conducted into certain ophthalmic diseases of major importance, particularly glaucoma. The society then outlines certain methods that should be adopted to prevent blindness, including the education of general medical practitioners, skilled medical officers, and mid wives in measures to prevent blindness and ophthalmic disease. I. point out that the education of midwives in this matter is important because many cases of blindness have been due to accidents in childbirth. The council also proposes that employers and employees and members of the public generally should be educated in means of preventing ophthalmic disease, and that sight-saving classes should be conducted for children with defective vision. It also advocates improvement of the facilities for the diagnosis and treatment of eye disease and the passage of appropriate legislation. “With the approval of the committee I shall incorporate the following statement in Hansard : -
DETAILS OF THE SCHEME.
Investigation of Causes. - Part One - Statistical Research.
The first necessity is the provision of a model form for the certification of the blind. A form, similar to that used by the Prevention of Blindness Committee under the Ministry of Health of Great Britain, could be used with advantage. But the International Association for the Prevention of Blindness hope to draw up an international form.
Statistics would be collected by the use of a form which can only be completed by an ophthalmic surgeon after a thorough examination of the patient. If a local ophthalmic surgeon is not available, the form would be filled in by the research officer. In any case the research officer would check the form and ask for further details if necessary.
Examination of all persons in blind institutions by the research officer or by the ophthalmic surgeons attached to the institutions.
Co-operation by the members of the Ophthalmological Society of Australia (B.M.A.) in recording data concerning blind persons met during the course of private and hospital practice and in the transmission of such data to the Research Officer.
Preparation of classified lists of districts with numbers of cases and causes of blindness with the object of discovering the relationship of the causes of blindness to -
1 ) Geography,
Standards of living,
Conditions of health,
Occupation - e.g., trachoma, pterygium, keratitis, iritis and cyclitis of tubercular and other origin, phlyctenular disease, cataract and deficiency diseases, myopia, &c.
Industrial injuries - perforating wounds, traumatic cataract, detachment of retina, optic atrophy, sympathetic ophthalmitis, chemical burns, &c.
Industrial diseases - miner’s nystagmus, &c.
Heredity and consanguinity -
Congenital syphilis, congenital nystagmus, congenital cataract, retinitis pigmentosa, macular degeneration, coloboma, aniridia, buphthalmos, Leber’s disease, strabismus, myopia, &c.
Facilities available for pre-natal and natal care -
Birth injuries, ophthalmia neonatorum, interstitial keratitis.
Standards of general and social education -
Re the taking of early advice and treatment, gonorrhoeal and syphilitic eye disease, hygiene of vision.
Facilities available for the examination and treatment by ophthalmic surgeons and for hospital accommodation.
Investigation of Causes - Part Two - Pathological Research.
One of the chief objects of the Ophthalmological Society of Australia (B.M.A. ) is the promotion of research in ophthalmology. Various members of the society are engaged in research into ophthalmic diseases and the council of the society is in a position to encourage members with special aptitude to become interested in such pursuits. In conjunction with the scheme now submitted the council will expedite its comprehensive plan to obtain the most effective results from the material and knowledge available.
To date the following research work is being conducted by members of the society: -
Investigation of the retina and other ocular tissues of Australian reptiles, monofremes and marsupials.
Experimental work with the perfused eye.
The absorption of blood within the eye -
Eales disease and related problems.
The reaction of the vitreous in glaucoma.
The treatment of pterygia by various methods.
Suppression and other problems of strabismus.
The use of contact lenses.
Congenital glaucoma, hydrophthalmia, Schlemm’s canal - its origin, its comparative anatomy and its reaction to disease.
Analyses of blindness in private practice and public hospital.
The council is giving particular attention to glaucoma which is one of the three great causes of blindness amongst the 6,000,000 blind persons in the world. A special committee is being formed to deal with this problem alone.
Education of the medical practitioner by-
Campaign of publicity in the medical press for the work of the committee.
Instructions to school medical officers concerning squint, phlyctens, corneal conditions, &c. (3)Revision courses in ophthalmology for general practitioners.
Education for midwives in the prophylaxis of ophthalmia neonatorum.
Education of the employer and employee in the prevention of industrial eye injuries.
Education of the public by the use of -
Pamphlets to be distributed at the out-patients departments of all hospitals dealing with the seriousness of eye disease, the procedure necessary to obtain treatment, the dangers of unqualified practitioners, hygiene of vision, &c.
Pamphlets on individual diseases (on the lines of the pamphlet on cataract issued by the Prevention of Blindness Committee in England) to be issued to patients with those diseases.
Note. - Diseases to which pamphlets are applicable may be divided into -
Those treatable in the individual, e.g., cataract, early glaucome, squint, detachment of the retina, &c. Those preventible by taking precautions, e.g., industrial injuries, sympathetic ophthalmitis, ophthalmia neonatorum and other eye diseases of venereal origin. Those preventible in the next generation, e.g., congenial syphilis by treatment of the parents, retinitis pigmentosa, macular degeneration, coloboma, buphthalmos, aniridia, congenital dislocation of the lens, Leber’s disease, &c, by avoidance of parenthood. (Pamphlets on opthalmia neonatorum to be distributed through obstetric departments of hospitals and through midwives. )
Preparation of educational films (such as used by the National Eye Service of Great Britain) for exhibition in schools and cinemas.
Propaganda by radio broadcasting.
e) Establishment of sight-saving classes for children with defective vision. Apart from the steps taken at Hobart and Melbourne, Australia is backward in this matter. The Ophthalmological Society of Australia (B.M.A. ) is in touch with the International Society for the Prevention of Blindness which is giving valuable advice on the subject.
Improvement of the facilities for the diagnosis and treatment of eye diseases. The extension of improved services to outlying parts should be undertaken as soon as practicable.
Certain legal reforms may eventually become necessary, but they will only emerge as the preceding work nears completion, e.g. -
Compuslory notification of infectious eye disease, e.g. ophthalmia neonatorum, trachoma.
Compulsory prophylaxis of ophthalmia neonatorum.
Institution of inquiries into cases of ophthalmia neonatorum and other preventible diseases where neglect by parents or attendants is suspected.
Obligatory use of protective veils and goggles in industry, the obligation equally to rest on the worker and the employer and compensation to be withheld if the worker has failed to avail himself of the protection provided.
Institution of greater facilities for advice on transmissible eye diseases, e.g. a state-aided eugenics bureau from which advice could be obtained.
It is realized that most of the matters referred to above are not the direct concern of the National Health and Medical Research Council and such matters will be taken up with the proper authorities in due course.
NOTES OF THE CONDUCT AF THE PROPOSED SURVEY.
It is proposed that the research officer should function under the executive committee and that his primary duty should be the examination of a sufficient number of records with the object of compiling information concerning the causes and degrees of blindness and impaired vision in Australia. As his work develops it may be advantageous later to widen the scope of his activities as set out hereunder.
It is suggested that the research officer should -
consult with the Commonwealth
Statistician and work in close touch with him ;
prepare summaries and reports as required for consideration by the executive committee;
forward to all oculists willing to cooperate in research, forms and suggestions for the collection of data in their practices;
collect and file data. It would probably be advisable to ask for the first batch of reports after the first two or three months. The method of recording could be then checked and new suggestions issued where necessary. The file must be such as may form a nucleus of a complete register of the blind. Duplication must be guarded against. The most readily available sources of existing records are those associated with the ophthalmic departments of public hospitals and the intermediate eye services of Sydney and Melbourne ;
assist oculists in investigating special cases, e.g. inheritance. In some cases of familial and hereditary disease, the patient in question may not be able to supply sufficient details concerning his relations. If the oculist is prevented by distance or lack of time from making investigations, the research officer should under take them;
perform research work;(a) Statistical - primarily on birth injuries, inheritance and congenital diseases; (b ) experimental - primarily on glaucoma;
act as an information bureau on all questions of ocular hygiene;
investigate the causes of blindness of inmates of all blind asylums and kindred institutions; (9) analyse pension records.
Accommodation’ for Research Officer.
It is not anticipated that there will be any difficulty in securing free accommodation from the various medical bodies in the larger capital cities.
Finally, the details of the organization proposed to he established are important. It is recommended that a director of research be appointed at a salary of £2,000 per annum, with a full-time technical assistant at a salary of £750. Two typists at a salary of £300 per annum each would be required, and travelling expenses would approximate £1,150 per annum. The provision of hooks, stationery, postage, &c, would require £500 per annum, making a total of £5,000. I suggest to the committee that the establishment of such a body as that proposed, which need not necessarily function for many years, would save many members of the community from blindness, and would ultimately result in a considerable saving to the Treasury, which now has to find funds for the payment of pensions to those afflicted with blindness.
– I congratulate the Minister for Postwar Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) on the excellent work that is being done in various rehabilitation establishments. Those honorable members who have had the opportunity to visit those establishments must have been amazed at the magnitude of the work accomplished. Many young people who were unable to do any useful work for periods of as long as from ten to fifteen years have now been placed in useful employment because of the rehabilitation treatment that they have received. However, I recently brought to the notice of the Minister the unfortunate predicament of young people between the ages of sixteen and 21 years who are unable to earn incomes because of various disabilities, but are not entitled, owing to their age, to receive an invalid pension or rehabilitation training. The Minister replied that he was keen to do something to assist such individuals, and I again ask whether it is possible for them to receive rehabilitation treatment.
Under the vote for social services, provision is made for the payment of pensions to widows and various other classes of deserving persons, but I point out that one very deserving class of the community that appears to have been overlooked completely are the female relatives of aged people who are not sufficiently ill to be admitted to a public hospital, but because of their chronic infirmity have to be cared for by their relatives. The burden of caring for aged and infirm persons falls usually upon the daughters and daughters-in-law of old people, and it is frequently a very heavy burden. One often encounters instances of the wife of a working man, with perhaps four or five children to look after, having to care for an aged relative. Because of the additional work and worry imposed upon the woman of the household, her health has, in many instances, become undermined. It seems to me almost a crime that in this country, where so much has been accomplished in the provision of assistance for the aged and invalid and for the rehabilitation of disabled persons, those who have to tend to aged relatives should not receive any assistance from the Government.
– Does the honorable member want the children of aged people to escape their responsibilities?
– I am afraid that the honorable member does not understand the point that I am endeavouring to make. I desire that the burden of * caring for aged and infirm persons should be removed from the shoulders of their relatives by the provision of institutions where aged persons, whose maintenance should not be fairly placed upon the shoulders of their relatives, could be properly looked after. The major responsibility in such matters rests with State administrations, but the National Parliament, particularly during the term of the present office, has assumed a great deal of responsibility for the provision of social services, and I consider that it should not overlook its responsibility in this matter. I invite the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain), who interjected a few moments ago, to accompany me on a visit to the home of a married couple with four small children, and to witness the unequal struggle that the man’s wife has to wage to care in addition for an aged relative, who is not so ill as to justify his admission to a public hospital. I know of many other distressing cases in which the surviving member of a childless marriage finds in his old age that he is no longer able to care for himself, but is not entitled to obtain admission to a public hospital. I ask the Government to direct the Department of Social Services to examine the possibilities of doing something to relieve the hardship suffered in such cases. It should be possible to establish institutions of some kind where aged people could be cared for and receive appropriate medical treatment. I recognize that there is some substance in the interjection by the honorable member for the Northern Territory, and that some children evade the responsibility of looking after their aged and invalid parents. I appeal to the Minister to investigate the possibility of providing proper infirmaries, in which aged persons may obtain the attention that they so urgently need.
.- I direct attention to serious anomalies in the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act. Every person who is in employ ment is compelled to pay the social service) contribution, and in return, he is entitled to receive unemployment benefits, when, for reasons beyond his control, he becomes unemployed. However, the act does not provide for two classes of persons, although they are required to pay the social services contribution. The first of those classes are wage-earners under the age of sixteen years. For a number of years, I have had to make representations on behalf of young people who have been compelled, because of family reasons, to begin work early in life. One young girl was required to take a position shortly after she .had attained the age of fourteen years. After she had turned fifteen, she met with an accident in which her hand was injured, and she was unable to resume work for a considerable time. Because she was under the age of sixteen years, the department was unable to pay unemployment benefits to her. I regard that position as distinctly unfair, because the girl had been required to pay from her meagre earnings a social services contribution of 6d. a week.
The second class of person who is not eligible for unemployment benefits, although required to pay the social services contribution, comprises those who continue in employment after they have reached the age of 65 years. They may enjoy good health and be efficient workmen, but when they become unemployed or ill, they are not eligible for unemployment or sickness benefits.
– If they are temporary employees, they are entitled to receive unemployment or sickness benefits.
– They must follow a weary routine of applying to the department before they may receive the benefits. I contend that they are entitled to the benefits as a right, because they are compulsorily required to pay from their earnings the social services contribution. I suggest that elderly people, who are efficient and enjoy good health, and who continue in employment, should be eligible to receive unemployment and sickness benefits, particularly when they pay the social services contribution. They should not have to submit to the humbug to which they are at present subjected.
– The honorable member considers that the age limit should be abolished ?
– I believe that any person -who pays the social services contribution should receive unemployment and sickness benefits as a right.
The amount that an ex-serviceman receives is a form of compensation for a serious injury that he sustained while serving his country in World War I. or World War II. ; but when he becomes ill or unemployed, the department reduces the unemployment and sickness benefits payments by the amount of the war pension. During the budget debate, I referred to an ex-serviceman who had an excellent record in the war. In 1946-47 he paid social services contributions totalling £21 10s., and in 1947-48 an amount of £26 8s., and he expected to pay in 1948-49 slightly more than £30. In round figures, he would pay in social services contributions £78 in three years, and he considered that those payments were a form of insurance that would entitle him to receive unemployment benefits if he became unemployed. During the coal strike, the ex-serviceman was stood down because his factory was unable to operate without coal or electricity. He had been severely injured in the war, and had been granted a pension of £4 lis. 6d. a fortnight. I emphasize that the pension is a payment for a physical disability, and a form of compensation for the pain and anguish that he suffers year after year. From time to time, he must enter hospital for medical treatment. Because he received that small pension, he was not eligible for unemployment benefits when he became unemployed during the coal strike. Any attempt to get money out of the Department of Social Services is as difficult and “ chancy “ as trying to win a prize in Tattersalls sweep, or any other lottery. That ex-serviceman, who shed his blood for this country, has spent long periods in hospital, and is still seriously disabled. He pays the social services contribution, but he is denied unemployment benefits. That position is indefensible, and I hope that the Minister will reconsider it.
– The amounts which the honorable member has mentioned would include income tax and social services contribution.
– No; I emphasize that those payments were social services contributions. Another ex-serviceman, who was employed in industry, was stood down during the coal strike for seven weeks. As the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) knows, the strike was caused because the Government refused to stand up to the Communists in this country. Indeed, it has even fraternized with them. For that reason, the situation is made the more contemptible. The ex-serviceman to whom I have referred, married recently, and desired to purchase and recondition a home, and furnish it. He and his wife discussed the matter, and both decided to work and apply their joint earnings to supplement his savings and deferred pay for the purpose of discharging their indebtedness as quickly as possible. The wife who was a stenographer received a salary of £5 10s. a week. The exserviceman paid approximately £60 in three years as social services contribution, but when he became unemployed during the coal strike, the department ruled that he was not entitled to unemployment benefits. The reason given was that his wife was in employment. That man has to repay the money that he has borrowed for the purchase of his house, and interest thereon, and also insurance on the dwelling and the furniture. The Government extracts from him in social services contribution an amount of £20 a year, but, because his wife is working, he is debarred from receiving unemployment benefits. The wife, earning £5 10s. a week, was forced to contribute to the National Welfare Fund. The Government’s attitude in such cases is completely impossible to understand. Unemployment benefits represent a form of social insurance, to which every citizen who contributes should be entitled when he loses his employment. The treatment of that ex-serviceman has been disgraceful. The Government boasts about having a reserve of £100,000,000. in “kitty”. Of course it must have a big balance if it refuses to meet its obligation to pay benefits to persons who are forced out of work by industrial trouble. The administration of this branch of the social services scheme has been so unsatisfactory that the community has become disgusted. I ask the Minister to investigate the treatment of youths under sixteen years of age who are forced to contribute to the National Welfare Fund. citizens over the age of 65 years who are put to a great deal of trouble in order to get what they ought to receive automatically, and pensioned ex-servicemen.
The principle of withholding social services benefits from wounded exservicemen because of the payments that they receive as a small measure of recognition of their sacrifices in war is wrong and unjustifiable. Their pensions have been gained at the cost of great anguish, and most of them are debarred by their disabilities from participation in sport and many other activities. They are horribly handicapped in life, yet the Government adds to their sufferings by refusing to pay them social services benefits for which they have contributed. If it refuses to pay benefits to them, it has no right to compel them to contribute to the National Welfare Fund. The legislation governing such cases must be reviewed. The Government must make a definite decision one way or the other. It must either concede to these men the right to draw social service benefits for which they have paid their premiums, or decide that they shall not pay social services contribution. It is inhuman to compel them to contribute when they have no hope in the world of obtaining unemployment benefit while they continue to draw their pensions. These pensioners have no prospect of recovering from their .injuries. They must carry their wounds to the grave. The method of administering our social services scheme is causing intense dissatisfaction throughout the community, particularly amongst ex-servicemen. Therefore, I ask the Minister to take action before this Parliament is dissolved to remove the anomalies that I have mentioned. Unless he does so, victims of such injustices must wait for at least six months until the next Parliament assembles before they can hope to secure redress of their wrongs. The Minister undertook to deal with these anomalies on a former occasion, and I believe that he did hia best to persuade the Government to remove them but without avail. I ask him to renew his efforts to achieve justice for these deserving citizens.
.- I . support the statements that were made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) concerning the rehabilitation of invalid pensioners and other disabled citizens at such places as Mount Breckan in South Australia. The work that is being done there represents a further step in the right direction that has been taken by this Government. It was refreshing and unusual to hear a member of the Opposition in the person of the honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) compliment the Government upon its activities to help our less fortunate citizens. People who have been disabled by industrial accidents and by other means are given an opportunity at Mount Breckan to fit themselves for new vocations in life. Activities such as those should have been undertaken many years ago, but, as usual, projects of such an enlightened character were left for a progressive Labour Government to carry into effect. The fact that control of the distribution of petrol was taken out of the hands of the Australian Government is common knowledge. As soon as that step was taken, oil companies reduced the supplies of petrol issued to retailers in South Australia. I recently toured the electorate that I represent, and many service station proprietors told me that the oil companies had reduced their quotas on two occasions since rationing had been abandoned without offering any explanation of their action. More than one retailer told me that the first reduction was of 200 gallons a month and that the second was of 300 gallons a month. When the rationing scheme was discontinued, statements were broadcast throughout Australia that there would be plenty of petrol for everybody. Unfortunately, as has happened whenever the Government has lost the right to control the distribution of scarce commodities, the results have been calamitous. Petrol retailers have given great service to the community, and have worked in complete co-operation with the Government in carrying out the petrol rationing scheme. Some of them have suffered so much since rationing was terminated that they have told me that they will be glad when the coupon system is re-introduced. Because of the reductions that have been made by the oil companies, many of them have lost a considerable part of their incomes and have been forced to reduce their standard of living. It was pleasing to learn last week that the Government would provide for the former scale of distribution to the general public to be restored under the scheme that will be introduced soon. I do not know why the oil companies reduced the supplies issued to service stations, and the retailers themselves do not appear to know the reason. All sorts of rumours have been floating about the country. Motorists have had great difficulty in obtaining petrol in some of the country towns in South Australia for some months past. The situation became so bad that appeals were made repeatedly to the Premier asking him to do what he could to influence the oil companies to increase retail quotas. Many service station proprietors depend for their livelihood entirely upon the sale of petrol and oil. I hope that, when rationing is re-introduced, they will be allocated at least as much oil and petro! as they received under the former rationing scheme. During the war, they cooperated fully with the Government and it is only right that they should be restored to the position that they were in before the abolition of rationing.
– Last year, an amount of £394,496 was paid to the Postmaster-General’s Department and to State authorities in connexion with the administration of petrol rationing. The estimate for this year is £300.000. Although rationing was abolished some months ago, it is apparent that the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) expected that it would be restored. Many factors contributed to bring about the failure of the system of free trading in petrol. Because of the coal strike, the demand for petrol increased greatly. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) said that the strike was responsible for the consumption of an extra 5,000,000 gallons. In my opinion, if he had said 35,000,000 gallons he would have been nearer the mark.
Then, because people were scared into the belief that there would be a shortage, many of them resorted to hoarding. No one with a sense of fairness approves of hoarding in such circumstances, but it took place. Supplies of petrol to service stations have been severely cut, and I should like to know why. For instance, one large service station in. Kingaroy has received only two deliveries of petrol in a mon t]i instead of five, and no more is to be delivered until the 25th of this month. Another garage in the same town exhausted its supplies on the 8th October, and will have to wait until the 25th October before getting more. Supplies to one garage have been cut by 38 per cent. They did not sell petrol in drums, so that they contributed in no way to the hoarding of petrol by consumers. There is plenty of petrol at the two depots in the town, so that there appears to be no reason why consumers should not be supplied. If more than the normal quantity of petrol has been sold in drums the oil Com.panies themselves, not the service stations, are responsible. Did the Government instruct the oil companies to restrict petrol sales to two-fifths of the normal quantity? How are country people to carry on when their garages cannot supply them with petrol ? They cannot get petrol from other garages because, as new customers, they would be refused supplies. Country people, when they come into town, can get only two gallons of petrol at a time, just enough to take them home again. I should like to know whether supplies have been restricted at the order of the Government, or whether the oil companies have taken it on themselves to reduce deliveries. I suggest that the big companies are culpable. When rationing was in force, one of the major companies was allocated 55 per cent, of the petrol imported into Australia, so that it was quite content that rationing should continue. What is going to happen between now and the 25th of the month, when fresh supplies will become available? Motorists cannot move about the country unless they take with them enough petrol to get home again.
I was informed recently by a representative of one of the major oil companies that the allocation for defence purposes is made in full, and it is a very large quantity. I do not know that I should disclose the quantity reserved for defence purposes, but if the Government is insisting upon the withdrawal of the full quantitystipulated by law, it looks as if it is taking advantage of the existing shortage of fuel in order to aggravate the situation, and provide an excuse for re-introducing rationing. I believe that if everybody had behaved honestly, and the people had not been scared by the Government into believing that there would be a scarcity, the free marketing system would have worked satisfactorily. Of course, if there is to be a shortage of petrol, rationing is the only way out. The manager of the service station who provided me with data on this subject concluded his letter with these words -
We now feel in our present embarrassment that the reward of virtue is indeed a doubtful one.
The black marketeer thrives under the rationing system. If the oil companies have sold large quantities of petrol in drums they should have a record of the transactions, and action should be taken to prevent the hoarders from benefiting at the expense of other people. The public cannot be expected to carry on without petrol between now and the 25th of the month.
– Answering the point raised by the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) and the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Adermann), I assure the committee that the Government did not issue any instructions to the oil companies because the Government has no constitutional power to do so.
– Did the Government ask the companies to do anything ?
– It is true that at a meeting held some considerable time ago the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) explained to the representatives of the oil companies how serious it would be for the country if the consumption of petrol exceeded the quantity normally consumed while rationing was in force. As the result of the Prime Minister’s representations to the oil companies, I understand that all of them undertook to restrict the issue of supplies of petrol to the quantities that had been issued during the rationing period. That is all that the Government has done. Most certainly, it has not issued any instructions to the oil companies how they should distribute the petrol that is available to them. The honorable member suggested that the Government was building up oil stocks for defence purposes with the deliberate objective of aggravating the position.
– I said that I was repeating something that had been said to me.
– On a previous occasion the honorable member was very wrathful when a Minister repeated a remark that was made to him about the honorable member, yet the honorable member has adopted that very practice on this occasion.
– I said that I was repeating something that had been said to me.
– I accept the honorable member’s assurance that he made that qualification. Supplies of fuel oil for defence purposes must be maintained at a certain level as a precaution against a possible emergency. I do not believe that the honorable member would suggest that those reserves should be depleted in order to overcome the temporary difficulty to which he has referred. The Government has not done anything that would aggravate the present shortage of petrol supplies. I repeat that it has no authority whatever to interfere with the oil companies in the distribution of their supplies. The honorable member suggested that in certain townships some garages had ample supplies of petrol whilst garages in rural areas in the same districts had no supplies.
– I said that the oil depots had supplies but that the garages had no supplies.
– In any event, the Government has no power to interfere with the oil companies in the distribution of their supplies. However, I was present at a meeting at which the representatives of those companies promised the Prime Minister that they would do their utmost to ensure that supplies of petrol issued during the period since the lapse of rationing would not be greater <than the quantities issued when rationing was in operation. The Government has no control whatever in respect of the distribution of petrol to garages.
– A few days ago I asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services a question which I think he did not clearly understand. I spoke of the plight of the widow and children of a new Australian who had died very shortly after arriving in this country. I, personally, made inquiries from officers of the Social Services Department and was informed that a widow’s pension could not be paid in such circumstances but that the widow must apply to the British Government for a widow’s pension. The Minister may recall that when I raised this matter I asked that an interim pension be paid to this widow until such time as the British Government could make the necessary arrangements for the care of her family. However, the Minister when replying, said -
Presumably the honorable member is concerned about how quickly women migrants may obtain the widow’s pension if their husbands should die and they are left destitute. Under existing provisions, if the husband of a migrant is killed while working in industry, the widow would immediately become eligible for the social service benefits similarly to native-born Australians in such circumstances.
In the case that I cited the husband was not killed while he was at work. From inquiries I have made I have found that there was no possibility of a widow’s pension being paid in this instance even for an interim period. I again mention that case in the hope that the Minister will be able to provide relief for the widow and family concerned. “With respect to the financial resources of pensioners, I have received a letter which contains a complaint that I should like to place before the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services. The relevant paragraph of the letter reads -
As you no doubt know pensioners, prior to the last adjustment, were allowed to have £80 in the batik. For every £10 above that they were liable to a reduction of ls. <5d. per week. At the last adjustment the permissible amount was raised to £100 but the Commissioner seems to have assumed that any one who had more than £80 in 1944 or 1945 is “bound to have more than £100 to-day, for the same deduction goes on. It may, .perhaps, be argued that such pensioners can apply again but many do not know of the alteration whilst others are reluctant to go through the mill again, and there seems to be no reasons why they should be expected to do so it the law says they are entitled to a full pension so long as they have no more than the stipulated capital, now £100. I feel sure it is not in accordance with the wishes of the Prime Minister.
Apparently, that practice is still going on. I ask the Minister to loot into this matter with a view to obviating the suffering so caused to many ^pensioners.
– I wish to deal very briefly with three matters. I draw attention to certain anomalies in respect of social services benefits, and I urge that they be examined. 1 have received a letter from a constituent of mine in which she says -
From the Cth of December last year until the 16th May this year I was in two hospitals and out of work for that .period and unable to earn any money whatever.
Now I have already placed my case before, the Social Service Office, but of course they say it is hopeless as I did not apply earlier.
It was because for the first eight weeks I’ was too ill to do so. Secondly, I thought that as I was eligible for assistance, time did not matter, so left it until I had had a holiday on doctor’s orders.
I have forwarded three certificates from doctors to the effect I was unable to earn anything whatever. Certificates came from Dr. Donovan Foy, Dr. John McNamara and Dr. George Duncan, the three of whom I am still under for treatment. I am only now in a part-time .position on account of my health. I thought I should have heard something from the department by this, so I would be most grateful, and I feel sure you may be able to do something for me.
It is obvious that this woman was too ill to apply to the department for assistance. Subsequently, she went on holidays to convalesce. She supplied three medical certificates which pointed out that she was incapacitated for that period during which she had paid social services contributions. When she made representations to the department she received a reply to the effect that as she had not lodged her application within the specified time it was not possible to consider it. This woman has made compulsory social services contributions. Her condition was attested by the three doctors who attended to her. She was not in a condition of health to make the claim within the period specified by the regulations. All she was concerned about was the recovery of her health. She had: not time to worry about technicalities like the time limit imposed by the regulations. I believe that the Minister has discretion to waive the “ red tape “ requirements of the regulation. If he has not, he ought to have. Of course, if six or twelve months after having been ill, a person discovers that sickness benefit could have been claimed and decides to claim accordingly, the claim should be rejected. This woman’s case is not like that and further consideration should be given to it. I hand the letter to the Minister.
– I will look into the matter.
– The Australian Labour Government pays little regard to age pensioners and to whether or not their pension enables them to keep abreast of the rising cost of living. This was indicated last year, when the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services said naively in this chamber that lack of staff made it impossible for the Government to date the meagre pension increase that wa3 then proposed from the commencement of that financial year. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has exhorted the people to avoid inflation, and has launched savings campaigns for this purpose. But those who take his advice will penalize themselves, because they will be unable to participate in the social service benefits for which they make contributions, which are the equivalent of a tax. In February of this year, obviously without a full recognition of the circumstances, the Prime Minister wrote to more than 20,000 employers throughout Australia asking their cooperation in the national savings campaign. Those who save for old age, either by direct savings bank deposits or by contributions to superannuation funds will be penalized because of their thrift, for their savings will be treated as income and they will be subjected to the means test when their participation in social service benefits arises. Consider as an illustration a man who has retired at the age of 60 on superannuation of £4 a week. Should his wife be of the same age, be eligible for a pension, and have no income, her husband’s superannuation militates against her receiving the full age pension. In the assessment for social services benefit purposes, half of her husband’s superannuation would be credited to her as income, and, because of that, her theoretical income would exceed the permissible income, and the excess would be deducted from the rate of her pension. Her husband would have to wait for five years before becoming eligible for the age pension, and even then, his superannuation would be in excess of the permissible income, and his pension would be reduced accordingly. The joint income of the couple, from the £4 a week superannuation of the husband and the reduced weekly age pension of fi 12s. 6d., payable to the wife when the full rate of the pension is £2 2s. 6d., would be £5 12s. 6d. a week. Contrast that with the £4 5s. pension and £3 a week permissible income of a married couple, each in receipt of the age pension, who have made no effort to take the Prime Minister’s advice to save to avoid inflation. Their total weekly income is £7 5s. Under this unfair system of assessing the rate of pension, the husband will have paid social services contributions from which he will receive little return, because he contributed to a superannuation fund to avoid becoming a charge on the State. The anomaly could be fairly adjusted by disregarding the superannuation income of the husband in assessing the pension of the wife, thereby allowing her to obtain the full pension. Alternatively, the adjustment could be made so that the wife’s pension should be reduced only when her husband’s superannuation, plus her pension, exceeded £7 5s. a week. That would be equivalent to the total permissible income of a married couple both of whom receive the age pension. Thrift should not be penalized, and superannuation should not be subjected to the means test.
Some time ago, I had something to say about the “ Mac “ boiler and the failure of the Department of Shipping and Fuel to take the opinion of experts in the construction of the boilers for Commonwealth ships. The answers to questions that I asked revealed extraordinary situations about the movement of ships equipped with the “ Mac “ boilers. They did not have the success that was first claimed for them. I have received a communication from a gentleman whose name I shall make available to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Fuel if he desires it. He has high-lighted some matters associated with the boiler that the Minister may care to explain. This is what he writes -
What previous experience did McNeil ever have of designing boilers? What knowledge possessed him to adopt such a type? Were all channels for a suitable type investigated? When a boiler of a new type is (proposed, and the designer has full confidence, a specimen boiler is usually built and used for most exhaustive experiments. Careful records are taken and checked for consumption of fuel and water and the general production of many other details. The following questions require answers which can be supported by evidence : -
Did McNeil consult any person re the wisdom of this design?
Was a sample boiler built and were exhaustive experiments carried out?
Were the defects in design ever pointed out to McNeil ?
How many boilers were built?
How many were installed in ships?
How many were Bold and sent up country ?
Who built the boilers?
What was the total cost?
Was this boiler patented?
Was McNeilpaid royalty on each boiler built?
What is the total fuel consumption compared with that of a Scotch boiler to produce steam for the same power?
The failure of the “Mac” boiler hasbeen freely discussed on the waterfront, but nobody dares to come forward and supply all details because they fear victimization from this powerful ship building board. One highly qualified marine engine and boiler designer told me that the boiler tubes were spaced too far apart and that the heat went up the funnel before doing its work to the full extent, also the tubes were too large, and everybody knew it. If such things are pointed out to Mr. McNeil he only flies into a temper and shouts out abuse.
I place those points before the Minister to show that there is still a great deal of concern about the earlier use of the “ Mac “ boiler. I have raised this question on more than one occasion and I do not propose to go into the details as I did in my earlier approaches to the subject. I ask the Minister: Has that “Mac” boiler been replaced? Has it been superseded by another type of boiler ? Has Babcock and “Wilcox Limited replaced that type of boiler in Common wealth ships ? Has that type of boiler been improved upon ? If not, can the Minister justify the extraordinary expenditure that was incurred originally by the placing of the boiler in the ships and the wasting of the taxpayers’ money thereby ? I have raised this point to clear up some doubts that I still have in my mind about this matter, because I should hate to think that there was a continuation of the waste of expenditure involved in the use of this type of boiler.
– I shall deal seriatim with the point raised by honorable members. The honorable member for Darwin (Dame Enid Lyons) raised a matter that comes purely within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna). She spoke about the prevention and cure of blindness. I shall draw the attention of the Minister for Health to that matter and to the fact that she was permitted to put it on record in Hansard.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Thompson) and the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Sheehy) referred to the rehabilitation of pensioners. Rehabilitation where it applies to pensioners, now applies to invalid pensioners only. Those honorable members stated that they considered that it should be extended to cover other pensioners also. Such an extension has been considered by the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) and the Minister for
Health, and has also been discussed at Cabinet meetings. It is the Government’s intention to make such an extension. The honorable member for Hindmarsh also said that certain groups of old people required the provision of institutions with medical and nursing attention. No such place is in existence at present. Most homes of a similar type are overcrowded, and there are probably scores of such people in the same position as are the people mentioned by the honorable member. However, consideration has been given to that matter. It is part of the Government’s housing plans to build special homes for individual old people, as well as community centres which would have a medical and matron service attached. That would be a very desirable project.
– Something of that nature is being done by religious bodies, but they cannot fully meet the need that exists.
– The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) raised some important questions. The cases to which he referred would be isolated cases that would not occur very often and which ought to be corrected when they did occur. He spoke about men who work after they have reached the age of 65 years and about lads who may be in regular employment when they are still under the age of sixteen years, and also may become idle while still under that age. He raised the point that unemployment benefits should be payable to such individuals when they are thrown idle. When the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act was passed the minimum age of persons entitled to unemployment benefit was set at sixteen years, and the maximum age at 65 years, because the act was brought into operation when the Government was providing against the possibility of a depression. Nobody then thought that a man would work after the age of 65 years because in a depression there would be so many young men available for employment, and it was not expected that children would have regular employment while they were still under the age of sixteen years. The Government has appealed to men and women to work on after the normal retiring age if they are able to do so. The real test of eligibility for unemployment benefits is loss of income. If a person over the age of 65 years loses his income and can show that he has been employed and is now unemployed, authority has been given to the Director-General of Social Services to pay unemployment benefits.
– That is being done.
– That is so. The honorable member for Moreton has suggested that there should be no age limit. We do not want children to work under the age of sixteen years because we consider that that should be the school leaving age. I have never encountered a case of a boy of under sixteen years of age becoming unemployed and applying for unemployment benefit. A lad under the age of sixteen years would have to be fairly fit to obtain a constant job and to become unemployed so that he could apply for unemployment benefit. If that happened, however, he would receive the benefit. As long as he could prove that he had been employed and had become unemployed he would not be asked when he applied whether he was under the age of sixteen years or not. I shall speak to the Director-General of Social Services and discover whether any such cases have occurred. I consider that payment should be made to such youths.
– What about soldiers? I have quoted two cases.
– That is an old question, but I do not desire to omit to answer it now. I do not think that the cases that the honorable member mentioned were as bad as he conveyed. If a soldier and his wife were both at work-
– And both paying premiums.
– There is no such premium. They do not pay the social services contribution for unemployment benefit alone, but also for sickness benefit, pensions, child endowment, maternity allowance, funeral allowance and other social services.
– The pay-roll tax provides for child endowment.
– The social services contribution meets all, not only one, of the social services. The honorable member for Moreton said that a soldier’s pension should not be considered as income when eligibility for a pension or unemployment or sickness benefit is assessed. That matter is now the subject of serious discussion by the Ministers and the officers of the Department of Social Services and has also been discussed by the Cabinet, which is now awaiting a report.
– The Minister told us that about three years ago.
– Does not the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) want it to happen?
– The Minister should not twist my words. I said that he had said the same thing three years ago.
– I know I did, and I am saying it again. The honorable member will be sorry when it happens, because he will then not have any propaganda to put over.
The honorable member for Bourke (Mrs. Blackburn) mentioned some special cases. She quoted a case of a new Australian married couple and desired to know if, in the event of the death of the husband, the widow would receive the widow’s pension. I replied to that question recently, when I stated that the Government’s policy was as quickly as possible to give to new Australian settlers when the Government was certain that they had settled here for good, the same rights and privileges as other Australian citizens received. Under that policy, residential qualifications would be suspended in appropriate cases. I have never encountered a case such as that mentioned by the honorable member. The real position is that the DirectorGeneral of Social Services deals with all these cases on their merits, and if a new Australian lost her husband, was destitute and in difficulties, and the case was put to the Director-General, he could, under the relevant act, permit payment of the widow’s pension. If he did not approve of the payment to her of a widow’s pension he might secure for her a position where she could earn her own living. However, he has authority to grant her a widow’s pension if he considers that the circumstances warrant that course. The honorable member also asked whether the department would refuse to pay sickness benefits when a period of time had elapsed before application for such benefits was made. The time limit originally laid down in the legislation has been extended, and the Minister may grant a further extension if the circumstances warrant that being done. The honorable member cited the instance of a person becoming sick, subsequently returning to his work after recovering, and then sustaining a loss. The honorable member asked whether that person could be paid retrospectively. She also instanced the case of a woman who was sick and went away for a holi day in order to recoup her health, and asked whether that woman could be paid sickness benefit after her return. I do not think that she would get it if she deferred applying until then. Reasonable time limits are imposed. I shall cause that matter to be examined tomorrow. If the woman did not make application before because of ignorance or some other good reason she would be paid. The honorable member also referred to superannuation payments. I point out that the permissible income has been increased to 30s. a week. The honorable member inquired whether a man and his wife who were both eligible for the age pension, and who had not saved anything or contributed to a superannuation scheme, would get £7 5s. a week between them from the Government. They would not get anything of the kind.
– I referred to the allowable amount of income.
– They would get only £4 5s. a week from the Government. The honorable member also mentioned the case of a railway man or public servant who received £4 a week superannuation upon retirement. If that amount were divided by two, so that the retired employee and his wife each received £2 a week, they would each be eligible for a full pension less 10s. a week.
– Would not that apply only if the man were over 65 years of age and his wife were over 60 years of age?
– That is so. Their combined income from superannuation and pension would be £7 5s. a week. The only way to overcome the difficulty to which the honorable member has referred would be to abolish the means test. That, also, is being considered.
– I shall mention several matters briefly and I trust that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) will have time to reply to them. I consider that provision should be made for a person who becomes very ill to obtain free hospital service. I have never been in favour of the supply of free medicine for the treatment of minor ailments such as the common cold or rheumatism, but I believe that a person suffering from a serious injury, such as a broken leg, should be able to obtain hospital services absolutely free of charge is he or she is unable to pay. I point out that the free services at present received by a person in those circumstances are only made possible by contributions to the hospital by the public. Although the cost of maintaining an occupied bed in a hospital is 30s. a day, the Australian Government provides only 8s. a day. I remind honorable members that when the cost of maintaining a bed was 14s. a day the Government supplied 6s. a day.
– Can the honorable member say where hospitals are charging 30s. a day?
– Every hospital authority in Australia has declared that hospital costs are over 30s. a day as I have stated.
– That is ridiculous.
– The VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Scully) is demonstrating how little he knows about this subject. Only recently a high official of the Charities Board in Victoria told me that that was so. It is of no use the Minister trying to distract me from my subject by interjecting. The amount contributed by the Government is only 8s. a day. There should be some way of paying the full amount as a charge against social services.
– A patient can get into a private hospital for less than 30s. a day.
– I contend that there should be no necessity for appeals to be made to the public periodically for funds in order to keep our hospitals going. After paying social services contributions people are not anxious to subscribe to funds for this purpose.
– The honorable member is advocating socialism.
– I bring to the notice of the committee the fact that the volume of interstate cargo handled at Victorian ports in 1947-48 was about 500,000 tons less than in 1938-39. The gradual decline of shipping tonnage around the coast of Victoria is alarming. I support entirely the remarks of the honorable member forWentworth (Mr. Harrison), who made a plea on behalf of age pensioners. If the Government can assist those people in any way its action will have my support.
– I wish to correct the statement that has been made by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr.. Turnbull) about hospital charges. There is no charge for treatment in a public ward of a public hospital. The publio wards are absolutely free. There isno question of who will pay the cost. The patient does not have to pay it. The Australian Government contributes 8s. a day, and the remainder is paid by the State government concerned. There is no additional charge at all. There are quite a number of public hospitals in Tasmania. Any person who enters a publicward in one of those hospitals may receive treatment absolutely free because of the arrangement that exists between the Commonwealth and the State. That applies in Victoria also. Of course, should a patient enter an intermediate ward he is called upon to meet a portion of the fee. This is quite apart from the operation of hospital contribution funds. The organizers of those funds make their own arrangements. They are banded together. I remind honorable members that I have a good knowledge of hospital contribution funds because of the evidence that was placed before the Social Security Committee, of which I was chairman. I stress that treatment in public wards in public hospitals is absolutely free to the public.
– Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed votes for the Department of Social Services, the Department of Supply and Development and the Department of Shipping and Fuel has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Repatriation - M. F. Stephens.
Supply and Development - J. N. Casey.
J. O. Cuthbert. W. J. Perry, C. E. Prichard, J. H. Rattigan, D. M. Traves.
Works and Housing - A. J. G. Stevenson.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for -
Department of Civil Aviation purposes -
Adelaide, South Australia.
Postal purposes - Rock Park, Victoria.
Papua and New Guinea Act - Ordinance - 1949- No. 6- Supply (No. 2) 1949-50.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1 and 2.-
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 October 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1949/19491011_reps_18_204/>.