20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– In accordance with the wish that honorable members expressed on Friday last, I attended St. Andrew’s Church on Sunday on behalf of this House. At the thanksgiving service to commemorate the jubilee of the Commonwealth, prayers were offered for His Majesty the King, the Commonwealth Parliament and Australia. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and other Ministers, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and other honorable members were also present.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister a question which is prompted by the large number of representations that I have received concerning a musical society known as the Musica Viva Society, an Australia-wide body which is famed for its chamber music and which is in danger of being wound up unless it receives assistance quickly. ‘WAU the Prime Minister examine this matter and, if necessary, confer with the Treasurer in order to ascertain whether it is possible to enable the important work of this society to continue I
– This matter has been mentioned to me recently. I shall examine it and discuss it with the Treasurer. I cannot profess to be very familiar with it and I am not aware of any specific request that has been made, but I shall certainly look into the matter.
– I rise to make a personal explanation as I have been misrepresented. Yesterday, insinuations by Mr. Olive Evatt, the Chief Secretary in the New South Wales Government, to the effect that I have been concerned in the lighting of a fire at a fire-fighting demonstration were published in the Sydney Morning Herald. Those insinus- tions are completely and absolutely false. I attended a meeting of fire fighters at French’s Forest-
– I rise to order. Whatever may have been stated in the newspaper article in question the honorable member has not claimed that it misrepresented anything that he- has said or done in the pursuance of his parliamentary duties. What the honorable member may have done outside of his parliamentary activities is not the concern of this House.
-Order! I have already ruled that whenever an honorable member claims to have been misrepresented, either in this chamber or in the press, I will permit him to state the facta of the matter. That ruling applies equally to both sides.
– I attended the meeting in order to discuss with various people certain constructive proposals in connexion with the prevention of bush fires, and how the Commonwealth could assist in that connexion. I hope, when, speaking to the motion for the adjournment of the House this evening, to furnish honorable members with details of that discussion. There were present at the demonstration-
– Order 1 The honorable member may not proceed along that line. He must confine his remarks to the matter on which he has been personally misrepresented.
– I did not have anything to do with the lighting of the fire and, in fact, I did not know that it was going to be lit, until I saw people lighting it. It was lit in the presence of, and under the direction of the Deputy Chief Fire Officer of New South Wales, who is under the control of the Board of Fire Commissioners of New South Wales which, in turn, is under the control of Mr. Olive Evatt, Chief Secretary in the New South Wales Government.
– Order ! The honorable member can deal only with his own personal position.
– Yes, indeed, sir. What I am pointing out is that I have been misrepresented in the newspaper report. Not only is it a gross insinuation, ‘but also it is a lying insinuation, because the officer concerned was an officer of a board that’ is controlled by the Chief Secretary in the New South Wales Government. Mr. Olive Evatt must have known, when he- made the statement, that he was lying.
– In view of the report that the New South Wales Government has approached the Australian. Government for a grant of financial assistance for the relief of those who have suffered damage through bush fires in New South Wales, will the Prime Minister inform me whether any similar request has been made by the Queensland Government for assistance to deal with the disastrous losses which, have occurred because of bush fires in Queensland? Will the right honorable gentleman inform me whether, in the event of such a request being made, it will receive the favorable consideration of the Government?
– As the honorable member knows, it is not the practice of the Commonwealth to deal with such matters, which are not directly within its zone of activity, although the Government deeply regrets the occurrence of such disasters. It was not the practice of the previous Government and it is not our practice to deal with these matters directly, but only on application from the State government concerned. An application from New South Wale* was received by myself yesterday, I think, and we immediately acceded to the proposal put forward. The Government has made an immediate provision of an initial amount for the relief of distress caused by the bush fires in New South Wales. There is no record of any such application having been received by my department from theGovernment of Queensland. If and when such an application is received, the Government will naturally at once give it most close consideration.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister that relates to Queensland’s urgent need for Commonwealth aid as the result of heavy losses that have been- caused by drought and bush fires which have already devastated the cattle-growing country in the coastal belt and the cane-growing areas of that State. These disasters have resulted in considerable losses of stock and of productive capacity which is estimated - at millions of pounds. I direct the Tight honorable gentleman’s attention to the fact that the Commonwealth made grants on a 50-50 basis to New South Wales and Victoria in respect of drought losses that were suffered in those States in 1947. Is the Government prepared to make available assistance to Queensland on similar terms? If so, -will the Prime Minister take early action to invite the Queensland Government to submit a plan and estimate of assistance that is required by those who are in urgent need of help to make good losses that they have already suffered and also to help them to ameliorate the effects of the catastrophe they have suffered. As the assistance that the State Government makes available through organizations, in the dairying industry is limited to loans in respect of fodder relief, will the right honorable gentleman suggest that under any joint government grant that may be made available these fodder debts be liquidated and that au increased measure of fodder relief be provided in order to enable a greater proportion of grown and young stock to be saved from perishing which, otherwise, will be inevitable even should good rains now occur?
– It is not part of the function of the Commonwealth to ask a State government to submit a claim on a matter of the kind that the honorable member has raised. The practice of the Government and, indeed, of the Commonwealth, for a long time has been that if a State government puts forward a proposal that relates to some calamity of this kind the Government considers it in the light of the proposal put forward by the State. No proposal at all has been put forward by the Queensland Government to the Commonwealth on this matter. If and when one is submitted to the Commonwealth, as was done in the other instance to which the honorable member has referred, the Government will consider it.
– By way of ‘preface to a question that I address to the Treasurer, I point out that it is generally agreed by all honorable members that housing is one of the most urgent and vital problems confronting Australia to day. In view of the statement that has been made that many builders will be out of work in the new year, as a result of the control of credit and rising costs, will the Treasurer give urgent consideration to a complete reversal of the Government’s loan policy until the supply of homes is equal to the demand? I point out that the demand for houses has fallen off sharply during the last three months, following governmental restriction of credit.
– I can add nothing to the remarks that I made about housing when winding up the debate on the budget. I direct the honorable member’s attention to the report of that speech.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the House whether there is any possibility of an interim payment from Joint Organization wool profits being made to contributors who are no longer associated with the wool industry? Can the Minister give any indication when that scheme will be finalized?
– I think that last week I answered a question similar to the one that has been put to me by the honorable member. The reply is, shortly, that the Government is awaiting advice from is legal advisers or whether it can properly make a disbursement in full to persons who have left the wool industry before the recent hoorn in wool prices, having regard to the fact that there is at present an undecided case before the High Court. As soon as practicable, which means in part after I have had some consultation with growers’ representatires, the Government will devise a basis upon which payment of Joint Organization profits will he made to all who are entitled to participate. Then appropriate legislation will be introduced, ‘perhaps subject to the decision of the High Court in the case now before it, not later, I hope, than the next session, of the Parliament.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Immigration. Is it a fact that since the year 1948, ‘ deportation orders have been issued against 137 immigrants and that only 97 of persons involved have in fact been deported? Can the Minister advise how many of the immigrants who have not been deported have completed their gaol sentences and when action will be taken to deport them ? In view of the existing crime wave, will the Minister arrange to call together immediately the special committee which has been set up by the Government to investigate crime among new Australians? Such an action on the part of the Government would reassure lawabiding new Australians who at present feel that a stigma has been placed upon them.
– I have given a good deal of information about this matter to the honorable member for Lang, who has had questions regarding it on the notice-paper. Recently I approved of a further reply to a question asked by him which I imagine will have reached him by now. “When the honorable member for Phillip or some other honorable member previously raised this matter, he made some alarming statements about the number of unexecuted warrants in force against immigrants. It was on the basis of that statement that I made certain investigations and found that the facts were certainly not in accordance with the suggestions that had been put forward. I shall ascertain whether I can obtain information along the lines asked for by the honorable member. I shall also ascertain whether the committee that he referred to has been meeting, and if not, when it proposes to meet.
– Is it a fact that the Postmaster-General has received many complaints regarding the obsolete and inadequate system of handling business at many post offices in suburbs around Sydney ? Has the business of the Postal Department increased very considerably in the last few years? Will the honorable gentleman say whether his department has formulated any plans for coping with the increasing business, or whether he intends that the public shall continue to suffer inconvenience?
– As the honorable gentleman has said, during the last fewyears there has been a great increase of postal business. One of the methods that the Postal Department proposes to adopt in order to enable it to cope with the increased postal business in Sydney is to erect, in the heart of the honorable gentleman’s electorate, a modern mail branch building, in which mail will be handled by the most modern methods. The branch will be designed to deal, noi only with the postal business of the electorate that the honorable gentleman represents in this Parliament but also with that of every other part of Sydney. When that project has been completed, many delays will be avoided.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral give consideration to the desirability of following the example that has been set by the Malayan Government by permitting, for a period of approximately a month before Christmas, gift parcels to be sent to the United Kingdom at half the usual postal- rates ?
– I do not know what the Malayan Government is doing in this connexion, but I can hold out no hope of a decrease of the postal charges upon gift parcels and food parcels sent from this country to the United Kingdom. Already such parcels are being conveyed at a loss to the revenue of the department.
– Are you, Mr. Speaker, aware of the dispute that has arisen as a result of the decision of a newspaper group to institute syndicated Dress reports of the proceedings of this House? If so, have you examined both sides of the case? As the supreme authority in this House in regard to the press gallery, have you reached any decision concerning your own position in the matter? Do you intend to take any action yourself?
– I received, as, 1 understand, did all honorable members, a letter from the newspaper owners concerned. I thought there was some useful material in it. I invited the President of the Press Gallery to examine the letter in order that members of the gallery might learn officially of the nature of the proposals that had been made. So far, no request has been made to me. I hope that soon a meetingwill be held at which the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber, myself and our opposite numbers in the Senate, will give some consideration to these matters. As soon as a decision has been made, it will be conveyed to the House through the normal channels.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to the vigorous, widespread publicity and propaganda campaign that is being conducted throughout Australia in connexion with the ownership, control and operation of air services in this country? If so, is he aware that, although a sale, merger or interference in other ways with Trans-Australia Airlines is being advocated in special articles in some newspapers, the leading articles in most of those newspapers express opposition to those courses? Some time ago, the right honorable gentleman intimated that the position of Trans-Australia Airlines was being considered. Will he say now whether the Government has decided to sell Trans-Australia Airlines, merge it with other airlines or otherwise interfere with it? “Will he thus quell the persistent campaign in the interests of less efficient operators which, without the slightest warrant or justification, is agitating the public mind?
– If I might confine myself to the non-propaganda portion of the question that the honorable member has asked, I may say that apparently he has been much more fortunate than I have been because, although I have seen a great deal of propaganda in the public sheets I am bound to say, so far as I have seen, that 90 per cent. of it was in favour of Trans- Australia Airlines.
– Hear, hear!
– I thought that the honorable member was suffering from the idea that the propaganda was against Trans- Australia Airlines. All I can say is that I am quite unmoved by this propaganda one way or the other. The question of the future of airlines has been under active consideration by the Government and I anticipate that within a day or, at the outside, two days, I shall be able to make a statement about the policy of the Government on the matter.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether it is proposed to move the parliamentary post office from its present position in King’s Hall to some other site within the building. If so, will full regard be given to the need to place the post office at a point where adequate natural light will be available and where there will be sufficient ventilation to dissipate noxious and, perhaps, toxic fumes that are emitted from the pneumatic telegraph tubes?
– It has been decided to remove the post office from King’s Hall during the recess and to place it on the lower floor immediately in front of the steps that lead from the main entrance. The whole matter has been investigated by the Joint House Committee, which I am sure, was unanimously in favour of the proposal to move the post office to the location that has been selected. The points that have been raised by the honorable gentleman are being attended to by the officers whose responsibility it is to see to defects of that kind.
– In view of the fact that a meeting of the Council of Australian Local Government Associations is at present being held in Adelaide, can the Treasurer indicate when a decision will be made concerning the making of a grant, to compensate for the non-payment of rates, by the Australian Government in respect of properties owned and occupied by the Commonwealth?
– An interdepartmental committee was appointed to investigate, report and recommend upon this very complex matter. The report of the committee has been received and I hope this week to be able to call together the Ministers concerned in order that a decision may be reached.
– I address a. question to you, Mr. Speaker. Are you aware that when the House adjourned on Friday last only three members of the Opposition were then present? Would you, as Speaker, approach the Leader of the Opposition in an endeavour to ensure that in the future the members of the Opposition shall take a greater interest in the business of the House?
– It is not my duty to count the number of honorable members present until my attention has been called to the lack of a quorum. I then do so. Nor is it my duty to confer with any party leader concerning the numerical strength of his party’s representation in the House at any given time.
– By way of personal explanation concerning the statement which you have just made, Mr. Speaker, may I point out for your information-
– Order ! The honorable gentleman said “ by way of personal explanation “. I am not in need of any information at the moment.
– I ask for leave to make a statement on the matter.
Government Supporters. - No!
Leave not granted.
– May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, a question relating to the proceedings of the House?
– You may.
– I wish to know whether you are aware that during a division of the House on Friday afternoon last, of a total number of 65 supporters of the Government, no more than 43 or 44 could be mustered? If that is a fact, will you arrange for the Government to maintain its numerical strength at full capacity when the House is obliged to sit on Friday afternoons?
– Order ! In every division which was taken in the House on Friday a quorum was present. I have no more intention of attempting to exercise influence over the Government in this connexion than I have of attempting to do so over the Opposition.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. -In the interests of the woolgrowers of Australia and in view of the increasing use of rayon and other synthetic fibre clothing, will the Minister confer with the Minister for Trade and Customs concerning the implementation of textile labelling regulations in order that purchasers of clothing may know exactly the type of cloth in the clothing which they purchase ?
– The Government has been concerned with this matter for a considerable time. I undertake to ascertain the present position from my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs. I assure the honorable gentleman, and also the wool interests concerned, that it is the desire and intention of this Government to protect both the reputation of wool and the consumers of wool by ensuring that textiles are described correctly.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that the whole or a part of the Commonwealth’s shares in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, which were disposed of by this Government, were secured by the Radio Corporation of America or by its nominees. If the right honorable gentleman is not able to give that information now, will he obtain it, and supply it to the House?
– I shall endeavour to get the information for which the honorable gentleman has asked.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Health, refers to the administration of the scheme which has been introduced by the Commonwealth for the distribution of milk free of charge to school children. Is the right honorable gentleman completely satisfied with the efficiency of the administration of State governments, particularly the Government of New South Wales, in carrying out that scheme on behalf of the Commonwealth? I am prompted to ask that question because of the following statement from Taree which was recently brought to my notice: -
Parents of children attending the kindergarten section of the Taree Primary School were under the impression that the Federal
Government is providing free milk for children, as stated by the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page). This promise is not being kept.
I, therefore, ask the Minister whether he is satisfied with the efficiency of the Government of New South Wales in the distribution of milk to children, free of charge, under the Commonwealth scheme.
– At the present time, between 500,000 and 600,000 schoolchildren are being supplied with milk by the various State governments through the medium of their Departments of Education, which have agreed to carry out the scheme. I consider that the Department of Education in New South Wales has done a most creditable job, on the whole, in that respect, but it has not been able to obtain adequate supplies of bottled milk, which it is eager to make available to school children. The kindergarten section of the Taree primary school is possibly one of the places in which that difficulty has been encountered, though I doubt whether that is so, because I understand that there is a big milk organization at Taree. However, I shall make inquiries from the Minister for Education in New South Wales with the object of ascertaining whether any difficulties of the kind to which the honorable gentleman has referred, have arisen.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service discuss with the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board the provision of amenities for waterside workers at Beauty Point, on the west Tamar, in Tasmania? I point out, in explanation of my question, that those men now serve three wharfs, at, Beauty Point, Inspection Head, and Bell Bay, at which the project of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission is established. They have been trying for a long time to have a hall erected and other amenities provided for them at Beauty Point. They are doing a grand job on both sides of the River Tamar, and have absolutely no amenities at Beauty Point. Will the honorable gentleman do his best to get those essential amenities for them ? I also point out that the Port line of ships from overseas will call at Beauty Point next year, with the result that the work of those men will be greatly increased.
– I shall discuss the matter with the chairman of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, and pass on to the honorable member the information I obtain.
– On Friday last, I directed attention to a report that Communists in Korea had committed atrocities against prisoners of war, and I asked whether the Government proposed to join with other members of the United Nations in protesting to the Communists. The Minister for the Army made a limited statement on the subject, and I now ask him whether he has any further information to give about these alleged breaches of the Geneva Convention.
– I said in reply to the honorable member last Friday that I would seek from Lieutenant-General Bridgeford, who recently took over from Lieutenant-General Robertson command of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan, full information about the allegations which had appeared in the newspapers. I know that he is making his first official call on the Australian battalion in Korea, and that he will visit officers in command in the British Commonwealth Division, including General Cassells, and other commanding officers from New Zealand, Canada, Pakistan, and India. This morning, when I found that no reply had arrived from LieutenantGeneral Bridgeford I sent a remind. When his reply comes to hand, I shall make it available to the honorable member.
Motion (by Dr. Evatt) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson) and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), on the ground of ill health.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Loan (Housing) Bill 1951.
Common wealth Employees’ Compensation Bill 1951.
Land Tax Assessment Bill 1951. Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Bill 1951.
Wool Sales Deduction Legislation Repeal Bill 1951.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the report, which is associated with the visit of the Minister for External Affairs to The Hague, to the effect that an economic union between the Australian territories of Papua and New Guinea, and the Dutch territory of New Guinea, is proposed? Can he inform me whether there in any truth in that report ?
– The report, to which my attention was directed, appeared in the New York Times on the authority of one of the European correspondents of that usually reliable newspaper. I have been in communication with the Minister for External Affairs, and he has informed me, as he has already informed the press, that the statement which has been attributed to him is completely without foundation. The whole matter is a complete fabrication. Indeed, there is some evidence to suggest that the report was written before my colleague arrived at The Hague.
– by leave - I move -
Honorable members will recall that earlier in this session the House agreed to the appointment of a parliamentary delegation to attend the inauguration of the Legislative Council of Papua and New Guinea. The council is the creation of this Parliament and is being inaugurated under the Papua and New Guinea Act. I am sure that all honorable members will wish to express their interest in the territory and their hope for the successful functioning of this body by agreeing to the motion and confiding it to our delegation to convey to the council.
.- On behalf of the Opposition I have much pleasure in seconding the motion. The inauguration of the Legislative Council of Papua and New Guinea will mark a further stage in the history of two territories that are destined to be great territories. It is fitting that the House should make formal recognition of this further advance in the development of the territories.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I have received from the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) an intimation that he desires to .move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely -
The injury being suffered by the people of ‘ Australia, especially workers on small wages and those dependent on small fixed incomes, as a result of the Government’s refusal to do anything to arrest the ever-increasing cost of living, and to prevent the making of excessive profits.
.- I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Eight honorable -members having risen in their places,
– My purpose is to direct attention to the critical situation that exists in Australia to-day as a result of the Government’s refusal to do anything positive to control increasing prices and prevent the making of excessive profits by great commercial and manufacturing undertakings. The situation assumes a more critical and serious aspect when we take into account the fact that the Government proposes very soon to close this Parliament for a period of approximately five months. First, in order to put this matter in its proper perspective, we must decide whether the Government actually made a promise, which was repeated on a number of occasions, to put value back into the Australian £1. Members of the Government and their supporters, of course, would like to forget that election promise now, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has even denied in this chamber that it was ever made. Therefore, I propose to quote briefly from the policy speech that the right honorable gentleman made to the people of Australia in 1949.
– Order ! The urgent matter of public importance on which the honorable member’s motion is founded includes no reference to putting value back into the £1 or to the Prime Minister’s election promises. The honorable gentleman must confine his remarks to the terms of the letter that he submitted to me, which he himself prepared.
Mr.WARD. -I contend that putting value back into the £1 has a direct relationship to increased prices.
– Order! I rule that putting value back into the £1 is outside the terms of the letter which you sent to me and on which the motion is founded.
– All I can say is that it is a most peculiar ruling.
– Order ! The honor- . able member will withdraw and apologize for his reflection upon the Chair.
-I shall certainly do so.
– Order! That is not a withdrawal.
– Well, I withdraw and apologize. It appears to me that I am being deliberately obstructed.
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat. I will not tolerate that sort of conduct from anybody in this chamber and I will not hear the honorable gentleman any further.
Government Supporters. - Hear, hear !
Motion (by Mr. Ward) put -
That the honorable member (or East Sydney (Mr. Ward) be further heard.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 15
Mr. Pollard having made an observation,
Question so resolved in .the negative.
AI>. SPEAKER-Order! Before honorable gentlemen move back to their own places I wish to call the attention of the House to the fact that I am now faced with a set of circumstances for which I know no precedent.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That leave be (riven to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the validation of collections of duties of customs under Customs Tariff Proposals.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– Is leave granted?
Opposition Members. - No.
– I heard at least two honorable members say “ No “, and accordingly the leave of the House is refused.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a hill for an act to provide for the validation of collections of duties of excise under Excise Tariff Proposals.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 15th November (vide page 2139), on motion by Mr. Holt -
That the hill he now read a second time.
.- The bill before the House proposes three alterations to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Two of the proposed amend ments relate to legislation that wa3 introduced fairly recently. The third, if it becomes law, will affect appearances before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. I propose to deal with the proposed amendments separately. In the first place, I shall confine my remarks to the two which might be regarded as noncontroversial. Earlier this year a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was placed before the House to which very strong exception was taken by the Opposition. That measure provided for the transfer from conciliation commissioners to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court of certain powers which previously had been exercised by conciliation commissioners. It was proposed that the subjects of sick leave with pay and long service leave with pay, which previously had been dealt with by conciliation commissioners, should in future be dealt with by the court. As a consequence of the passing of that amendment certain difficulties have now arisen in connexion with proceedings before the court. Recently a test case was heard in order to determine the respective powers of the court and the ( conciliation commissioners. The wording that had been used in the amending bill has created a good deal of confusion and misunderstanding with regard to the jurisdiction of the two authorities concerned.
The legislation to which I have referred amended sections 13 and 2’5 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act by limiting -the power of conciliation commissioners and extending the powers of the court in order to enable it to alter award provisions for annual or other periodical leave with pay, sick leave with pay or long service leave with pay. The amendments made it quite clear that the determination of periods of sick leave or of long service leave was within the jurisdiction of the court. The determination of payments to be made in respect of such leave was also placed within the jurisdiction of the court, but as both of those powers were fenced around with restrictions and provisos, it was thought that the court might only have the power to grant a period of sick leave and long service leave with pay while the subject of the qualifications necessary for receiving such leave was a. matter for determination by the conciliation commissioners. So involved did the matter become that it was necessary for a test case to be heard by the court in order to determine where the jurisdiction of the conciliation commissioners ended and the jurisdiction of the full court commenced.
The amendment to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act was not requested by employer or employee organizations, but because those amendments were passed by this House those parties have had to pay very heavy costs in order to clarify the respective powers of the court and the conciliation commissioners. In view of the fact that that position was created by government legislation, I consider it to be a fair and reasonable suggestion that the Government should bear the expenditure that has been necessary. in connexion with the interpretation proceedings which were heard during the last few weeks. The bill before the House provides that when a conciliation commissioner makes an award, notwithstanding the powers of the court in respect of sick leave, annual leave and long service leave, the conciliation commissioner may include in tha award provisions relating to any one of those three subjects which are contained in the award that is about to be superseded. Such provisions, under the proposed amendment, may be transferred from the old award to the new award se long as they are not altered in any way. The proposed amendment contains a good deal of common sense. It will enable the conciliation commissioners to perform their functions more satisfactorily because it will prevent the delays which at present occur in making new awards and it will generally further the cause of arbitration. For that reason the Opposition raises no objection to that particular amendment.
Earlier in this session a conciliation and arbitration bill was introduced which contained a provision for very extensive records to be kept by trade unions. It provided also for the filing of very long and involved returns with the court in regard to membership of trade unions. Opposition members expressed very strong resentment at the proposal and endeavoured to prevent it from becoming law. It was pointed out at the time that the records which would have to be filed as a consequence of the enactment of that legislation would involve the trade unions in a tremendous amount of work- and very great expense. It was pointed out that in many cases it would be difficult to observe the requirements of the law because of the peculiar nature of the industries covered by many unions. In expressing opposition to that legislation the Labour party spoke from its knowledge of the trade union movement and its workings. Honorable members on this side of the House are familiar with the organization of the trade union movement and they know how much work would be required in order to keep the records and honour the obligations imposed by that legislation. For instance, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds), the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron), and a number of other honorable members, are trade union officials who have had many years’ experience of keeping records to enable the trade union movement to function.
– The honorable member should have included himself iri the team.
– They have pointed out the impracticability of keeping records in a large number of instances where work is seasonal and nomadic in character, and generally subject to all sorts of industrial influences. All I regret is that the Minister for Labour and National Service was unable to accept the very good advice that we gave him on that occasion, that he would be wise not to pursue that particular amendment. I understand that the Minister has since met representatives of the trade union movement, who have been able to explain to him in detail the practical difficulties involved in complying with that portion of the legislation. As a result, the Minister has now announced that in certain instances it shall not be necessary for those returns to be filed.
The amendment proposed by the bill before the House is a simple one. . In effect, it means that where the Registrar of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court is satisfied that an organization keeps its register of members in such a form and in such a manner as to enable those records to be readily used by the Registrar in the event of an election taking place, a certificate of exemption from the furnishing of quarterly returns, either wholly or in part, will be given to that organization. That certificate will continue to operate just for so long as the records are kept by the organization to the satisfaction of the Industrial Registrar. That is a practical and commonsense way of overcoming a difficulty that was seen at the time that the legislation was being discussed, and which, on further investigation, has been found to be proven. Because the amendment contained in the bill will make the arbitration machine work a little more easily and effectively, the Opposition raises no objection to that amendment, and will, in fact, support it.
Having dealt with the two proposals that have relation to the smooth working of the arbitration machinery, I now turn to the portion of the bill that is extremely controversial. In order that honorable members might appreciate the almost revolutionary change that is proposed by the Government in respect of arbitration machinery, I propose to read to the House the existing provision in the act in relation to the representation of parties by a barrister, solicitor, or paid agent. Section 46 ,(2.) of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1951, which deals with the representation of parties, reads -
No party shall, in any proceedings before the Court, be represented by counsel, solicitor or paid agent, except by leave of the’ Court and with consent of all the parties. In any proceedings before a Conciliation Commissioner, no party shall be represented by counsel, solicitor, or paid agent.
It will be seen from the provision now contained in the act itself that there is a total prohibition of representation by a barrister, solicitor or paid agent in proceedings before a conciliation commissioner. But in proceedings before the court, a barrister, solicitor, or paid agent may appear with the consent of all the parties and by leave of the court. The proposal contained in clause 4 of the bill is so revolutionary and far reaching in character that one wonders on whose recommendation the Minister has been inspired.
– I quoted the Chief Conciliation Commissioner.
– I shall have something to say about that, because the Chief Conciliation Commissioner has not asked for the proposed new provision. The clause provides that section 46 (2.) of the principal act shall be deleted, and that the following new sub-section shall be inserted in lieu thereof - (2.) In proceedings before the Court or a Conciliation Commissioner, a party shall not, except by leave of the- Court or the Conciliation Commissioner, as the case may be, be represented by counsel, solicitor or paid agent.
A principle that has been followed since 1904 is to be thrown overboard, and counsel, solicitors and paid agents are to be permitted, as a matter of right, to appear not only before the court but also before the conciliation commissioners.
– I hope that the honorable member is not trying to mislead the House. They will be able to appear only with the consent of the conciliation commissioner.
– Yes, or the consent of the court, as the case may be. In days gone by, almost without exception, the court has, upon application, agreed to counsel, or a solicitor, being present. The trade union movement has always opposed the appearance of barristers and solicitors in applications before the court and conciliation commissioners. I stress that the principal act provides that no party shall be represented before a conciliation commissioner by a barrister or solicitor. In 1904, the very first act made that prohibition and hedged it round with the provision that the consent of the parties or the leave of the tribunal was required. In 1910 the Conciliation and Arbitration Act was amended to strengthen that prohibition, and barristers, solicitors or paid agents were not permitted to appear except by the consent of all the parties. They were not allowed to appear merely by leave of the court. In 1928 a comprehensive amending Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was introduced into the Parliament. That measure was strongly resisted by the trade union movement which believed that it could do great damage to the principles of conciliation and arbitration. The provision contained in that measure was to the effect that ‘barristers or solicitors should not appear in proceedings ;of an industrial nature except by leave of the court or by consent of all the parties. According to that legislation .there were two ways in which ‘barristers and solicitors ‘could appear before the court - first, by leave of the court, and secondly by the consent of the parties. It is noteworthy that the previous amending legislation allowed them to appear only by consent of all the parties.
In the 1930 amending act the prohibition was again tightened. That act mad,e it necessary to have two consents before ,a barrister or solicitor could appear in the .relevant proceedings. They could not :appear except by leave of the court and the consent of all the parties. That provision has remained in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to the present time, although in 1948 there was a variation which does not affect the validity of my argument. In 1948, what is known as “ streamlined conciliation and arbitration “ was introduced. The functions of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration were limited by the act which introduced the new form of conciliation and arbitration procedure. Conciliation commissioners were appointed, and their principal function was to carry out the duties of conciliation and, in the event of agreement not being reached, to make awards. The 1948 Conciliation and Arbitration Act specifically prohibited barristers or solicitors from appearing before conciliation commissioners, but because the full Commonwealth Arbitration Court had the function of interpreting the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and deciding legal questions that might be raised before Conciliation Commissioners, Section 46 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1948 provided that when judicial proceedings were before the court barristers and solicitors could appear as a matter of right.
I now refer to the present condition of State industrial jurisdictions. I emphasize as strongly as I can that from the stand-point of the trade union movement the .appearance before industrial tribunals of barristers, solicitors and paid agents is fraught with the greatest danger to the smooth working of our conciliation and arbitration machinery. State courts have also adopted that viewpoint. In Queensland and Western Australia, where State courts have been set up to deal with industrial matters, barristers and solictors are prohibited from appearing except in matters in which the court is required to exercise a judicial function. There is no industrial court in Tasmania. In Victoria there is a Court of Industrial Appeals, and there is no limitation on the appearance of barristers and solicitors before that tribunal. In New South Wales and South Australia the appearance of barristers and solicitors is permitted. Therefore it will be seen that in two States they are prohibited from appearing, in two States they are permitted to appear, and in one State they are permitted to appear only in the Court of Industrial Appeals. In the remaining State there is no industrial court. In all the States where wages boards, conciliation committees or conciliation commissioners operate, the law provides that in no circumstances shall barristers, solicitors or paid agents appear. In Victoria tie law is so clear that provision is made in the Victorian Shops and Factories Act that no solicitor or barrister can be a member of a wages board unless it be a wages board that deals with the legal professions. Accordingly, they are not permitted to be members of any wages boards excepting those which deal with such occupations as that of solicitors’ clerks, where naturally solicitors are employers.
– What do the conciliation commissioners themselves say about all this?
– I shall come to that matter later. It will be seen that throughout the legislation of the States and the Commonwealth there is a continuity of prohibition against the appearance of barristers and solicitors in conciliation or arbitration proceedings before the industrial authorities. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) and the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) have asked what the conciliation commissioners themselves say about this matter. To answer them I shall quote from a roneod copy of the Minister’s second-reading speech on this measure. It is not necessary to read at length from, that speech because the essential thing is the- view expressed by Mr. Conciliation Commissioner Mooney about the appearance of barristers and solicitors before industrial authorities. The Minister indicated that Mr. Mooney had said -
From information conveyed to me I believe that a number of organizations, particularly the smaller ones which cannot afford to employ a person solely on this type of work, or with not enough of it to enable its officers to obtain the necessary knowledge and experience, would welcome a change in the act to at least provide that such representatives, should be permitted to appear with the consent of the commissioner and all the parties.
The view expressed by Mr. Mooney is in line with the present provision of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, but this bill does not attempt to retain that provision. It proposes to give conciliation commissioners the right to allow barristers, solicitors or paid agents to appear before them if it seems desirable to them that they should so appear. The bill goes much farther than does the opinion expressed by Mr. Mooney.
Let me deal with the practical objections that will be raised to the very revolutionary change that it is proposed shall be made. As one who has been associated in many capacities with the trade union movement during the last 40 years, I say without hesitation that, if the proposed amendments of the principal act are made, they will sound the death-knell of conciliation under our conciliation and arbitration system, and will prevent any possibility of harmony in industry from being achieved. What is proposed would be a most dangerous innovation that would make proceedings for the determination of industrial disputes under our conciliation and arbitration machinery costly and, as far as small organizations were concerned, ruinous. The industrial disputes with which the conciliation and arbitration machinery is intended to deal are disputes between an employer, or a number of employers, in an industry and employees in that industry. The settlement of such disputes should not involve legal battles. Machinery for the settlement of disputes should enable employers’ and employees to discuss matters about: which they are in dispute and, by using their knowledge of tha industry to which they belong, find a solution, satisfactory to both sides,, of the- problems that have arisen. Any one who has attended industrial con.ferences. whether called by the court or by a conciliation commissioner, know& that when the parties to a dispute are able to discuss’ the mattery at issue regardless of points of law and legal technicalities, there is always a reasonable chance’ that a solution will be found. But experience has shown that when barristers and solicitors are employed, proceedings become lengthy and costly, that hostility between the parties increases because of the points that are raised by the lawyers, and that, when a decision is reached, only too frequently the parties leave the court or the conference room, not with a better understanding of each other’s problems but with embittered feelings, and are further apart than ever.
Let me give the House some idea of the expense in which parties’ to proceedings of the kind with which we are dealing would be involved if legal representation were permitted. I want to emphasize the difficulties that would confront the trade union movement.
– Why should it be assumed that the court would give this authority, as it were, heedlessly?
– Because of our experience in the past.
– We have never had a provision of this kind.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has said that we have not had experience of such difficulties in the past.
– I said that we have never had experience of dealing with conciliation commissioners on this footing.
– I am sorry if 1 misunderstood the Minister. In the basicwage case which was heard before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court noi very long ago, and which lasted for approximately two years, the parties to the case objected to the employment of counsel. Then a number of persons intervened in the proceedings on behalf of interests which might have been affected by the decision of the court, and the courtruled that the interveners could be represented by counsel. Consequently, a most extraordinary position arose. The parties to the case were not represented by counsel, but intereveners who, at the most, could be regarded only as being on the fringe of the dispute, were so represented. What happened on that occasion was that counsel employed by the interveners took over the conduct of the employers’ case, and was in fact regarded as the representative of the employers.
– That is an anomaly that will be rectified by this bill.
– It is an anomaly that may be rectified by this bill, but the bill should be designed to prevent that kind of thing from occurring and should not make it possible for a principle that had been found to be extremely satisfactory to be overthrown. In some cases, in which the parties have agreed to representation by counsel, the trade unions concerned have been involved in thousands of pounds of legal costs. If this bill be passed, trade unions throughout Australia will have to pay heavy legal expenses in order to hold their own against employers, who undoubtedly will be legally represented in proceedings before the court or before conciliation commissioners. In order to show what will occur if this bill becomes operative let me give the House an illustration of how legal costs have mounted up in the past. I have received a letter dated the 16th November from the secretary of the Australian Boot Trade Employees Federation in which it is stated that, in securing the footwear manufacturing industry award of April, 1951, that organization was involved in legal costs of £393. From the early days of our arbitration system, that organization has been very closely associated with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and has at various times been required to wage determined fights for the upholding of principles. Doubtless honorable members will recollect the famous Whybrow case, in which the question of the common rule came before the High Court for decision. It was a constitutional case in which the Australian Boot Trade Employees Federation was involved. The union had to defend its award and the rights of its members. A copy of a letter that was sent to the organization by solicitors at that time shows that in fighting that case the organization was involved in legal expenses of approximately £2,000.
– Was that a case in the High Court?
– That is so.
– How can an organization appear before the High Court without counsel?
– I have pointed out that, as a result of fighting a constitutional case that arose from an award made by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, the organization was involved in heavy legal expenses. What would be the position if employers had the right to employ counsel to represent them in proceedings before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court or before conciliation commissioners? Doubtless the employers would elect to be represented by counsel. The trade unions would feel obliged to employ counsel also, and consequently would be involved in considerable expense. We must prevent that kind of thing from happening. We must prevent our system of conciliation and arbitration from being destroyed as a result of proceedings before the court or before conciliation commissioners having become very expensive. I suppose that no system that has yet been evolved for the settlement of industrial grievances and for fixation of wages and conditions of employment is more satisfactory than the wages boards system which is in operation in Victoria. It is a simple, expeditious and inexpensive means of enabling the parties in an industry to meet round the table. The representatives of those parties, who are limited in number, discuss matters in dispute, and if they cannot reach agreement, the chair- . man of the board decides the issue. Because the parties are familiar with the nature of their industry, they are able to debate fully questions that arise in respect of various classes of work and to state clearly the real problem that is involved. Very frequently they are able to reach agreement. When the system of conciliation commissioners was introduced in 1948, the desire of the government of the day was to establish in the Commonwealth sphere of arbitration a similar simple, expeditious and inexpensive form of arbitration that would enable the parties, who thoroughly understand the industry and the classes of work performed in it and know each other because of their association in the industry, to grapple with problems that arose and in a common-sense way resolve their differences. Thus, conciliation commissioners would be enabled to make awards .that would ,be satisfactory to all the parties.
So far, there has been no suggestion - the Minister has not cited any case to the House - that ‘ the absence of barristers, solicitors or paid agents from proceedings before conciliation commissioners has in any way thwarted or frustrated conciliation commissioners in making awards. Prior to my election as a member of the Parliament, I frequently appeared before conciliation commissioners who were appointed under, the 1947 act and I, personally, found that the absence of barristers, solicitors and paid agents obviated waste of time that is caused when involved technical points are raised. The parties were able to discuss the real problems that had arisen and proceedings were not delayed in any way at all. I assure the House from my persona] experience in the arbitration court that the appearance of barristers, solicitors and paid agents in proceedings will militate against the expeditious settlement of disputes and will cause enmity between the parties and prevent industry from functioning smoothly. Previously, when only the parties themselves appeared before the full court in the basic wage case and in the standard hours case, the court was able to deal with each of those matters in considerably less time than it is able to do under the present system. I appeared in such cases before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in 1930, 1932, 1933, 1934 1937 and 1940. In each of those instances, the representatives of the employers and of the unions put their respective cases and the time that was taken to determine the hearing did not exceed eight weeks whilst, in some instances, it did not exceed four weeks. Because only the parties concerned in industry participated in the proceedings, the court was able to obtain all the infor mation that it desired. The economic position of the country was surveyed and both sides had ample opportunity to present their case, with the result that within a short time after the conclusion of the hearing the court was able to announce its decision. [Extension of time granted.] In all of those instances, all the evidence and information that the court required was given expeditiously. However, in the last standard hours case and in the last basic wage case in which barristers and solicitors appeared in the proceedings, all sorts of legal and technical points were raised and days were spent in argument upon certain sections of the act with the result that nearly two years elapsed before the court was able to deliver its judgment.
The unions . had bitter experience of those long-winded hearings which involved them in considerably increased legal expenses. Unfortunately, such conditions will, if this measure is carried, become a regular part of proceedings before both the court and conciliation commissioners. I am not being merely theoretical or speaking from the stand-point of an onlooker. I am speaking as one who, for many years, has participated in proceedings in the Arbitration Court and before conciliation commissioners, conciliation committees and wages boards. I emphatically repeat that the appearance of barristers, solicitors or paid agents in proceedings will do more harm to arbitration than any amendment that has been made to the arbitration law since its inception has caused. Nothing should be done that would prevent the parties themselves from discussing their grievances and endeavouring to determine the issues that arise between them. I believe in the principle of industrial conciliation and arbitration. I fought for it when many who now support it were opposed to it. Many in the trade union movement endeavoured to make the arbitration machinery as effective as possible. We found that the best method of establishing good relations between the parties was to enable them to discuss their own difficulties under conditions which ensured that their attention was not distracted from the task that confronted them. Legal gentlemen are too prone to raise all sorts of technical questions with the result that parties are not brought closer together but are forced further apart. The introduction of barristers, solicitors and paid agents in proceedings before conciliation commissioners will be fraught with grave danger. Therefore, I strongly oppose the measure and urge the Minister to give fuller consideration to this matter. I suggest that he should ascertain the views of the Australian Council of Trades Unions, because on more than one occasion that body has expressed opposition to this proposal. Any alteration that is made along the lines now proposed will be bound to have a serious effect upon the views of trade unions generally with respect to the efficacy of arbitration in the future. A large number of influential trade unions in Victoria which might easily have transferred to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court have preferred to remain under the wages board system because that system enables such bodies to effect prompt settlement of differences. There is a complete absence of legal technicalities. The atmosphere of the court is entirely removed from the wages board system. When employer and employee meet together they do so as co-workers in industry who are endeavouring to evolve a settlement of matters that are of special interest to them and which affect the industry with which they are concerned. The presence of barristers, solicitors, and paid agents destroys that atmosphere which is essential to the proper functioning of arbitration and the building up of a proper spirit in industry. For those reasons, the Opposition strongly opposes the measure and suggests to the Minister for Labour and National Service that certain sections of it might well be withdrawn in order that further consideration could be given to the matter. The Opposition suggests that the views of the Australian Council of Trades Union should be placed before the Minister in respect of this proposed revolutionary change of arbitration policy.
.- This bill proposes three simple amendments of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Full consideration of two of the proposed amendments involves some understanding of the whole of our machinery for conciliation and arbitration. Especially, it involves a consideration of the drastic changes which were made in the arbitration system by the amendments introduced by the Chifley Government in 1947. Two of the amendments proposed by this bill are further items in the long and expanding list of attempts to make the 1947 system work and to overcome the difficulties caused by the act of 1947. Unless drastic improvement takes place in the near future, I believe that the 1947 amendments will go far towards destroying the arbitration system.
Although I criticize the 1947 system, 3 do not do so in a party political spirit. We should strive to hold the arbitration law, above party feelings. Honorable members on both sides of the House appreciate the necessity for doing so. They know that the problem in the industrial field is to achieve industrial justice together with industrial peace. If we are to achieve peace in industry we must put behind us the old feelings of sectional strife and class bitterness and try to reach the goal of a united Australian people working for the prosperity that can be won. It has become increasingly well known of recent years that in the United States of America there is a widespread appreciation, both by management and by labour, that prosperity is expansive. [Quorum formed.] It is by united work that the interests of both labour and management can best be served and greater production achieved. If that fact can be more fully appreciated in this country we shall all be better off. One of the instruments through which prosperity may be reached is a settled and satisfactory industrial law. I ask that my criticism of the 1947 system be accepted in that spirit.
This bill has only three purposes. First, it seeks to clarify some doubts concerning the powers of conciliation commissioners to retain, in an amending award, existing provisions for annual leave with pay, sickleave with pay, and similar matters. Secondly, it seeks to remove the prohibition against the appearance of barristers, solicitors and paid agents before conciliation commissioners; and thirdly, it seeks to modify the provisions of section 91 of the principal act which requires a union to lodge with the Registrar every quarter a return of its members. Honorable members will recall that by amendments of the principal act earlier this year, which had the object of providing for clean ballots in unions, provision was made that unions should lodge returns of members and their addresses every quarter. I am sure that the present proposed amendment of section 91 will be acceptable to honorable members on both sides of the House. The Government does not wish to embarrass unions by obliging them to make unnecessarily frequent returns. The proposed amendment will enable the Registrar to dispense with the rigid application of section 91 whenever satisfactory arrangements are made to provide a ready list of names and addresses of members of unions which would be available during an election if one were ordered by the court. I do not think that anything further need be said in connexion with that amendment.
The second proposed amendment concerns section 46 of the principal act. Under the existing law, members of the legal profession may appear before the court only by leave of the court and all of the parties concerned. They cannot appear before conciliation commissioners at all. Over the years, a number of attempts have been made to debar the legal profession from appearing before legal tribunals. Invariably, those attempts have been found to be misguided. The absence of legal practitioners always leads to greater delay, less clarity, and bad law. It is interesting to speculate upon the source of such attempts. An examination of the speech of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) will show that the ancient prejudice against the legal profession still exists. As far as I can understand, the objection of the honorable member to the appearance of members of the legal profession and paid industrial agents before conciliation commissioners was based on the ground of expense, the somewhat extraordinary ground that because technical points would be raised, bitterness would be increased, and the ground that increased delays would be caused. I do not think that any of those grounds is tenable. I consider that the presence of legal practitioners leads to less expense in the long run, because they help the tribunal to reach correct conclusions, whereas unskilled persons flounder about in technical fields and frequently reach wrong conclusions. As far as increasing bitterness is concerned, I consider that the reverse is clearly true, because the skilled practitioner who presents a case calmly and dispassionately is far less likely to provoke bitter feelings than is the strong partisan case presented by a litigant appearing in person. The claim that the presence of members of the legal profession leads to delay is clearly untenable. The proper, orderly presentation of a case, which requires skill and experience, inevitably leads to the shortening of proceedings. The experience of lawyers practising in the industrial jurisdiction reinforces my contention, as, indeed, does the view of the commissioners themselves. If an illustration were needed of the saving of time by the skilled and technical presentation of a case, I invite honorable members to consider this debate. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) took less than fifteen minutes to present his arguments in favour of the bill, whereas the honorable member for Bendigo occupied 55 minutes in answering them.
During the Minister’s second-reading speech, he referred to the advisability of allowing legal practitioners to appear before conciliation commissioners, and cited some remarks of Mr. Conciliation Commissioner Mooney when presenting his first report, as Chief Conciliation Commissioner, on the operations of the act. The honorable member for Bendigo found it unnecessary to read the whole of the commissioner’s remarks. He read only the last paragraph, from which he drew some false conclusions. Therefore, I propose to ask the House to listen to the whole of the commissioner’s remarks on that subject. I read from a reprint of his report, as follows: -
Generally, as to the operation of the act, I wish to call attention to the prohibition contained in section 4(i (2.), as follows: -
He then quoted the provisions of the subsection -
In any proceedings before a Conciliation Commissioner no party shall be represented by counsel, solicitor or paid agent.
Having completed his quotation from the act, he proceeded -
A majority of the commissioners consider that this prohibition deprives them of the aid of skilled and experienced representatives nf both employees and employers. Some of us who kavu occupied the position of conciliation commissioner for a number of years realize the value of such help, and I am able if my own experience to say that the attendance of such representatives at conferences lias conduced to the settlement of disputes, and, generally speaking, has expedited rather than retarded the hearing when the dispute has come to arbitration.
From information conveyed to me, I believe that u number of organizations, particularly the smaller ones, which cannot afford to employ a person solely on this type of work, or has not enough of it to enable its officers to obtain the necessary knowledge and experience, would welcome a change in the act to at least provide that such representatives should lie permitted to appear with the consent of the commissioner and all the parties.
That quotation provides ample evidence of the arguments which I have been submitting to the House about the necessity, to allow the skilled presentation of a case, when a conciliation commissioner himself considers that it is fit to allow such representation. We all know - and the honorable member for Bendigo, with his long experience in the industrial field, to which he referred several times in his speech, should know - that the small organizations have been put to considerable embarrassment because they cannot retain on their staffs a skilled industrial advocate, whereas the large organizations may do so. I know of at least one case which was before a conciliation commissioner last year in which an absurd position arose. A member of a union put his organization’s case to the conciliation commissioner, with his “voice” silent beside him. His address had been written out by a paid industrial advocate, who sat beside him in the court. The union representative referred continually to that advocate for advice during the hearing of the case. In other words, the skilled industrial advocate presented the case through the medium of the union representative, and the whole court, including the conciliation commissioner, was well aware of the fact. That sort of farcical business can do no good to the system, the unions, the employers, or any one else and it is high time for the conciliation commissioners to be permitted to have skilled assistance if they themselves decide that such assistance is necessary. That is the purpose of the amendment which I am discussing. 1 hope that the quotation, in full, of the remarks of Mr. Chief Conciliation Commissioner Mooney have disposed of those long and tedious arguments, founded in prejudice, which have been advanced by the honorable member for Bendigo.
I come now to the remaining amendment which will be made by this bill. Actually, it is the first of the amendments in the order in which they have been presented to the House, but I am dealing with it last because it opens up such a wide field of discussion. I refer to the amendment to section 13 of the act, which provides the only limitations to the powers of conciliation commissioners. That section states, in effect, that the conciliation commissioners may not deal with the following matters: - Standard hours of work, the basic wage for adult males, provision for annual and periodic leave with pay, including sick leave with pay or long service leave with pay, and the basic wage for adult females. Section 25, which is complementary to section 13, gives those four matters expressly to the court. Consequently, the powers of the court, and the powers of the conciliation commissioners, are mutually exclusive. As the act now stands, if an applicant seeks an award dealing with annual leave with pay, sick leave with pay or long service leave with pay he must go to the court for it. But conciliation commissioners are continually amending awards, and making new ones. So a conciliation commissioner has no power to deal with the provision for leave with pay, even if such provision is already in the award which he is amending. If the amendment of an award, which contains a provision for leave with pay is under consideration, doubt arises as to the power of a conciliation commissioner to include such a provision in the new. or amended, award.
– Who was responsible for that position?
– I shall deal with the interjection by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) in a moment. That position is caused by the extraordinary legal tangles which have arisen under the act of 1947, about which I shall say more later. An applicant for an award, in the case to which I have referred has to go to the court for that part of the award which relates to leave with pay. I understand that litigation is pending on that subject at the moment. In the circumstances which I have outlined, the amendment now under consideration is clearly necessary. I should not have referred to it if it were not for the fact that it provides an excellent example of the legal t;ingles into which the whole system has fallen as a result of the impracticable and unworkable division of powers between the conciliation commissioners and the court. The Minister for Labour and National Service, when he referred to that amendment, said that employers’ organizations and the Australian Council of Trades Unions had suggested that the conciliation commissioners, when they were renewing awards, should be permitted to continue the existing provisions in relation to annual leave and sick leave. I have no doubt that that is correct. But what the Minister might have said was that, if it were not for the absurd and destructive division of ‘powers between the court and the conciliation commissioners, such an amendment would never have been necessary. It is instructive to observe that the amendment of section 1.3 is the fifth which has been necessary since 1947.
A few minutes ago, the honorable member for Hindmarsh asked me who was responsible for the position to which I referred. The responsibility rests with those who devised a system which would not work. My statement is borne out by the fact that no fewer than five amendments have been found necessary in four years to overcome the difficulties of the system.
I shall now examine the background of the industrial legislation. Before 1947, the whole of the Commonwealth’s industrial power was vested in the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration; that is to say, it was vested in the judges. In constitutional theory, the power of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court is limited to interstate disputes; but, in practice, it extends to all the industries which choose to apply for a federal award. The court exercised four func tions. It declared the basic wage after a systematic and lengthy inquiry. It then determined the marginal rates for skill which were to be paid in addition to the basic wage. The court also dealt with hours of work, and all the other working conditions which can be regulated by awards. Finally, it arbitrated in individual disputes. Some of the duties and functions of the court were difficult and their performance took a long time. As we all know, the court, before it declared the last basic wage, conducted an exhaustive examination for nearly two years. The court took time to arrive at a decision in a case, and the parties to an individual dispute often had to wait a long time before the matter was heard. The result was impatience on both sides at the delays involved in the settlement of industrial disputes. So, in 1947, the present Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who was then Attorney-General, introduced his “ streamlined “ arbitration system. Under that legislation fifteen conciliation commissioners were appointed, and since, then the number has been increased to eighteen. They were given duties in particular industries as assigned by the Chief Judge, and within the sphere of industry to which they were assigned they exercised all the powers of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court except the four matters expressly denied to them by section 13. Upon the conciliation commissioners rests the grave responsibility of fixing marginal rates for skill. It 13 quite plain that there is a serious and irreconcilable division of authority between the court and the conciliation commissioners. The court determines the basic wage, standard hours, leave with pay and the basic wage for females. The conciliation commissioners determine all other matters, and their powers, and the powers of the court, are mutually exclusive. This divided authority was described by the late Chief Judge Drake-Brockman as “ the dichotomy of arbitration “ and he criticized it very trenchantly in his first report, from which I quote as follows: -
The Conciliation Commissioners do not exercise any part in the jurisdiction which is reposed in the Court. They have been made a distinct and independent /)art in the jurisdiction which is reposed in the Court. They have been made distinct and independent part of the arbitration machinery and no appeal lies to the Court from them. The Court is accordingly in no way responsible for their work or decisions or for the co-ordination thereof. It has no power to exercise directly a co-ordinating influence upon them. It appears that its only province lies within the limits of the expressed power of alteration conferred by section 25 of the Act. The whole purpose of the Act appears to have been to provide a scheme and method of conciliation and arbitration dissociated from the Court Up to the present, as may perhaps have been expected, there are many indications of a disturbing lack of uniformity. For instance, some Conciliation Commissioners appear to be more influenced with the desirability of preserving a continuity of principles long established and found to be just and equitable than others upon whom the previous decision of the arbitration authority have exerted less influence.
In other words, every conciliation commissioner is a law unto himself. Some of them have a well-founded idea of continuity and cohesion; others deal with each matter as it arises without regard for principle. The Chief Judge also criticized the absence of the right of appeal from determinations of the conciliation commissioners, claiming that, only by the exercise of that right, could cohesion be assured. He said -
Close attention should be given as time goes on to any failure to achieve uniformity in matters of broad principle. It may be necessary, and indeed it has been urged by Conciliation Commissioners in conference, that a measure of co-ordination, to be provided by some form of appeal, at least in matters of general importance, should be included in the provisions of the Act .
The results of this division of authority have been as plain as they have been unfortunate. In the first place, the division has led to almost endless litigation. The honorable member for Bendigo complained of the cost of industrial proceedings The principal reason for the high cost is the division of authority between the conciliation commissioners and the court. I refer the honorable member to six important cases, two of which reached the High Court, and the others the Full Bench of the Arbitration Court. In all of them the point-to be determined was the field of authority of the conciliation commissioners and of the court. The six cases are those that related to the Ozone Theatre, and the Tea-Breaks, both of which went to the Full Bench of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and then to the High Court, and Nil Margins,
Female Minimum Rates, Gas Employees, and the Basic Wage, which managed to stop at the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
The bill now before us contains the fifth amendment of section 35 of the act, the operation of which has led to much litigation and delay, and to everincreasing costs. Perhaps a more serious fault that arises from the present divided authority is that no single authority in Australia is charged with the duty of considering the total wages bill. The Full Bench of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court declares that basic wage. Then, in the various industries, the conciliation commissioners declare the marginal rates, which are just as important as is the basic wage itself. The national economy is affected just as much by marginal rates as by the basic wage; yet no one has the duty or right to consider the effects on the national economy of an increase of the basic wage, or of marginal rates. The court has authority to declare the basic wage, but no authority to fix marginal rates. The conciliation commissioners are under no obligation to consider the effect of wage variations on the national economy, because they deal only with marginal rates in particular industries.
A further objection is that no uniform principle is applied in determining marginal rates, and a fourth is that there is constant competition in various industries for increased marginal rates, because every time a higher rate is given in one industry it becomes a yardstick by which the next applicant measures his claim.
– That is how we progress.
– If the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) believes that such a system represents progress, he cannot complain when we find ourselves threatened by mounting inflation, which the Commonwealth Arbitration Court can do nothing to control. If I have heard the honorable member complain once about inflation, I have heard him do so a dozen times, yet he seems to oppose the idea that there should be a single arbitration authority charged with the duty of judging the effect of wage variations on the national economy. It is not of much use to criticize the present system without suggesting something better. I do not presume to have a solution for all our industrial problems, but I do suggest that the court which determines the basic wage should also have authority to declare margins for skill. The court, having heard evidence and declared the basic wage, would know the background of economic and industrial conditions, and would be in a position to fix margins. There would be no need for further hearings by conciliation commissioners such as that now taking place before Mr. Commissioner Galvin in the Metal Trades case. Thus, time would be saved, and irritating expense and delay would be avoided.
There is another factor as well. Under the existing system, conciliation commissioners are charged with a duty which is frequently beyond their experience and ability and which, indeed, would be beyond the experience and ability of any single individual. That duty is the declaration of marginal rates.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I am sorry that the honorable member for Evans’ (Mr. Osborne) was obliged to sit down before he had completed his amazing proposal to transfer to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration the duty of declaring margins. If ever such a proposal were to be taken seriously by the Government, chaos more complete than any that we have experienced previously would result. I should like the honorable member to remember, before he repeats such a foolish suggestion, that some awards include over 200 different classifications, each of which requires a separate and distinct examination. Some classifications, indeed, require almost as elaborate an examination as does the basic wage. The metal trades award has 243 different classifications and the motor body building award has 233 that would have to be dealt with by the court if the honorable member’s proposal was put into effect. It would be utterly impossible for the court or a conciliation commissioner to establish for any class of work a margin that could be applied uniformly in all industries because conditions of work differ greatly in various industries and in various localities. It would be unfair, not only to the workers concerned, but also to the employers to establish a fixed margin for a particular classification by a single overriding decision.
I refer to the classification of motor truck drivers as an example. District councils in South Australia employ motor truck drivers, some of whom assist in the loading of trucks as well as to drive the vehicles. Yet, under another award, the tradition is that a truck driver shall never leave the cabin of his vehicle in the course of his work. Surely a trade union would have the right to argue that the truck driver who is obliged to help to load his truck is entitled to extra payment above the rate paid to a driver who has merely to drive a truck. Surely, also, the employer would have the right to argue that the driver who assists to load his truck and therefore spends about three-quarters of his working time doing labouring work, should receive less than ib paid to a man who is employed solely as a driver because his truck is loaded by mechanical means. There are two sides to every such question, and each particular case would have to be dealt with on its merits. I do not think that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has taken the suggestion of the honorable member for Evans seriously because I noticed that he smiled when the honorable gentleman made it. Therefore, I shall not waste any further time on the foolish proposition.
– There was no connexion between the two events.
– Then the Minister must be just as bad as is the honorable member who made the proposal. If he did not think that it was silly, he ought to do a little more study of the system of arbitration and industrial relations because it was one of the most absurd proposals ever made in this Parliament. If the Minister cannot see the absurdity of the proposal,, he should examine his conscience and determine whether or not he ought to resign his portfolio and take over some other Cabinet position.
The amendment of the principal act in relation to the keeping of membership records by trade unions for which the bill provides represents an acknowledgment of the justice of the arguments that were advanced by members of the Opposition when that provision was originally debated in this House. Honorable members on this side of the House told the Government then that its proposals for the keeping of membership records were stupid and absurd, but the Government chose to ignore our criticism. At a later stage, I shall show that the final proposal of the Government in this bill to give to conciliation commissioners the right to permit legal practitioners to appear before them involves difficulties that make it just as absurd as all the other provisions. The Opposition will accept the proposal in relation to the keeping of membership records because the amendment will at least make ii had position a little better. The fundamental objection of the Opposition to any government having the right to interfere with the internal affairs of trade unions will still remain firm, of course, until this Government has been thrown out of office by those whom is seeks to oppress and replaced by a government that will be truly representative of that great majority of Australians who work for their livelihood, whether under industrial awards or in their own businesses. It is all very well for the Minister to scream his head off in this chamber, and outside it, demanding the co-operation of the trade union movement. Why should he expect the trade union movement to co-operate with the Government, which, whenever it is considering a matter that vitally affects the unions, goes ahead in complete secrecy without even consulting responsible representatives of the trade union movement? Nobody can convince me that the Minister has consulted responsible trade union officials on the Government’s proposal to permit lawyers to appear before conciliation commissioners. No union official who understands the system of industrial arbitration would agree to such a plan. Therefore, we can safely assume that the Government has chosen to ignore the trade union movement in the preparation of this bill, which is of vital concern to the movement. What right therefore has it to ask the trade unions to co-operate with it? It has treated them with contempt ever since it assumed office. The Government seeks the help of the trade unions and the Labour party only when it finds itself in difficulties as a result of its own incompetence. Then it comes screaming cap in hand to the trade unions for cooperation! Unless the Government changes its attitude, it will soon find itself with a first-class industrial dispute on its hands because the trade union movement will not continue to tolerate unjust interference with its internal affairs. I warn the Minister that some of the big unions will tell the Government to mind its own business should it try to interfere in their internal affairs.
The trade unions will be involved in great expense if they are forced to engage legal practitioners to represent them in the court and before conciliation commissioners. The Government knows very well that the conciliation commissioners do not want to have lawyers appearing before them. What will happen will be that the courts will be cluttered up with legal men who will waste time with a lot of legal jargon that has no real relationship to industrial disputes. What we want in this country is more conciliation and less arbitration. The honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) was merely advancing a plea on behalf of members of his own trade union. He is a lawyer, and n» doubt it suits him and other lawyers in this House to support a proposal like this, because they know that it will mean a beanfeast for the people whom they represent here. I am not prepared to present the legal fraternity of this country with a beanfeast at the expense of the workers. I maintain that, if it is really concerned about the success of conciliation, the Government will be more likely to achieve such success by allowing the employers themselves to negotiate direct with trade union officials and not be hampered by the intrusion of the legal fraternity into affairs that should not concern it at all. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), who is a lawyer, has, no doubt, some personal interest in this matter. He is probably most anxious that this bill shall pass in order that the legal fraternity, of which he is a member, may benefit at the expense of the workers. It would not be so bad if it were only a matter of the lawyers taking the workers’ money, bad as that would be in itself, but they will do worse than that. They will hamper the course of justice, make the speedy settlement of disputes absolutely impossible, and spend a great deal of time raising technicalities just to impress their clients. I have had some experience of lawyers in court, and I consider that it would be difficult to find worse conciliators. But the Government is apparently not very much concerned about conciliation. It places the emphasis on arbitration. It believes that the workers should be arbitrarily told what they must accept.
– “ Coercion” is the correct word for it, because the Government knows that, in accordance with the economic plan that it has fashioned, the time is approaching when it will find it handy to be able arbitrarily to impose on the workers worse conditions - reductions of wages and increases of hours. I believe that when legal men intrude in industrial disputes a settlement is practically impossible. My experience has always been that the only thing that a lawyer ever does in such cases is to parade his “ super knowledge “ of some fine technicality of law that has nothing to do with the dispute. Lawyers who appear in arbitration courts in connexion with industrial disputes reel off great strings of Latin phrases in order to impress a certain point on the judge. I had the delightful experience in Adelaide of hearing a judge tell a lawyer that the Latin quotation that the lawyer had used was wrong, that in any event it was not relevant to the point, and that in addition his pronunciation of the Latin words had been faulty. We have heard similar vocal displays of legal learning in this House, a number of members of which are also legal men. The Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) is noteworthy for making Latin quotations, even in the course of presenting a case to the House. I maintain that it is not necessary to have legal jargon and a lot of Latin quotations in an arbitration court in order to reach a settlement. What we need in arbitration courts is common sense. We should have the kind of system that operates in South Australia, where the direct representatives of the men and of the employer are members of wages boards who meet round a table and discuss their points of view. Almost invariably they arrive at a satisfactory decision. In fact, under the South Australian industrial code, a lawyer is prohibited from appearing in wages board proceedings. I know of a case in the Industrial Court of South A.ustralia in which a lawyer who appeared for a client actually intervened and prevented a settlement because he believed that a settlement on certain terms would be prejudicial to some other client of his. We could have instances of lawyers with about 30 or 40 different clients considering themselves under an obligation, while appearing for one client, to protect the interests of the other clients at the same time. Under such circumstances, what hope would there be of achieving settlement of industrial disputes in which lawyers were engaged ?
Much could be done to alter and improve the arbitration system in directions quite different from that which the Government is taking. The Government should remember that among the main causes of industrial troubles are demarcation disputes and disputes over trade union membership. We find almost invariably in connexion with such disputes that some lawyer will creep in garbed in wig and gown, trying to look very wise, never smiling except when he considers a smile is required, and attempting to make it appear by his peculiar dress and head-dress, that he has more brains than anybody else. All he does right throughout the proceedings is to disrupt the opportunities for a settlement and to cause anguish and complete confusion. I think that the Government, if it wishes to improve the arbitration system, might well consider the adoption of a provision that when- a judgment has been delivered in connexion with an industrial dispute, a printed copy of the judgment” shall be- forwarded to every individual member of the trade unions and every individual employer concerned. Judge Morgan, of the Industrial Court of South Australia, who, in my opinion, with one possible exception in Australia, has the finest brain on industrial matters in this country-
– He is a lawyer.
– That is true, hut he is the first to deplore the appearance and interference of lawyers in cases for the purpose of preventing the settlement of a dispute. It is noteworthy that Judge Moran is one of the few men in the Australian courts who has had the good sense to disregard completely the silly technical jargon and Latin phraseology of legal-
– Legal nitwits, as the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has said. He completely ignores them. Not only that, but he issues written reasons for his judgments. Those reasons are so sound that usually everybody concerned is compelled, as a matter of justice, to agree with him. I do not consider him to be infallible. L am sure that he himself would be the last person to claim infallibility, but in the main his judgments are well reasoned and thoughtful. Above all, his one aim in life it to mete out justice as he sees it. The tragedy is that the reasons for his judgments, which he issues in written form, never see the light of day. Nobody ever sees them and often employees are dissatisfied with a judgment which they would gladly accept if they were given the opportunity to read the judge’s reasons for his decision. I suggest to the Minister that some provision should be .made in the act to compel conciliation commissioners and Commonwealth Arbitration Court judges to give written reasons for their decisions, and that the written reasons be published and circulated among the people who are affected by them. If conciliation commissioners may, at their discretion, permit lawyers to represent parties who appear before them, it is a safe bet that such permission will never be refused by any conciliation commissioner who may be appointed by this Government, because I have no doubt that the Government will appoint only lawyers to these positions. When a lawyer, acting as a conciliation commissioner, finds that one of his ilk is seeking a nice fee from a trade union or an organization of employers, permission to appear on behalf of that union or organization will not be refused.
This bill shows the Government’s complete contempt for the trade union movement. The Government knows that the trade unions will have to hear heavy costs if it becomes law. It is regrettable indeed that the Government did not seek the views of the trade union movement, including the Australian Workers Union and the Australian Council of Trades Unions, on this proposal. I venture to say that no union of standing would agree to any scheme that would give to the employers the right to litter the courts with hoodlums who, generally speaking, will know nothing about the matters with which they will have to deal, but will endeavour instead to parade their expert knowledge by raising technical points and bewildering their hearers with a series of Latin phrases.
Motion (by Mr. Lawrence) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Representation of parties).
.- Again I protest against the intrusion of this principle into our arbitration system. The proposal is so revolutionary that it may well sound the death-knell of conciliation as it is practiced by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to-day. During the growth of conciliation and arbitration practice in this country over the last 50 years, many trade unions have trained their own representatives to appear before the courts. Such organizations include the engineering unions and the railways unions, certain officers of which devote the whole of their time to the preparation and presentation of cases to the courts and to conciliation commissioners. Similarly, although in comparatively recent years, organizations of employers have trained their own advocates. There is not a chamber of manufactures in Australia to-day that has not at. least one trained arbitration court representative. Indeed, in Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales andSouth Australia, individual sections of chambers of manu factures have their own arbitration experts. As a consequence of the growth of arbitration machinery of the type now in operation both sides in the industrial field have gathered together staffs of trained persons who are practised in court procedure and methods and, as a consequence of long association with various industries, are fully conversant with the character of the work done by those engaged in those industries. The application of the principle of legal representation in proceedings before conciliation commissioners will have tragic consequences. Far from improving our arbitration system it will greatly lessen the efficacy of conciliation proceedings. It will cause the unions to adopt a hostile attitude to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court itself. It will engender in the minds of the workers generally the belief that the Government is making conciliation and arbitration as difficult, as expensive and as ruinous as possible to trade unionists. Nothing is more likely to cause trade unionists - probably the number will be greater than we contemplate at the moment - to place greater reliance on direct action for the expeditious settlement of their grievances. If, as a consequence of the appearance of barristers and solicitors before conciliation commissioners, hearings of industrial claims become more protracted and more expensive than they have been in the past, industrial unrest will be increased instead of diminished.
I express these views because I know how impatient and frustrated the workers feel when, because of conditions over which they have no control, the consideration of their claims is delayed. This legislation will do nothing to attain the wish of all Australians for improved relations between employers and employees. It has been our experience in the past that when barristers and solicitors have appeared for the parties in proceedings before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court technical difficulties have been raised and all chance of an amicable settlement has sometimes disappeared. At the end of the proceedings the hostility between the opposing parties has sometimes become so great that on more than one occasion workers at mass meetings have determined that never again will they allow their grievances to he made the -plaything of barristers and solicitors, and have resolved to resort to direct action as a means of remedying their disabilities. Those who understand the psychology of industrial workers appreciate that the intrusion of court atmospheres and court procedures in hearings before conciliation commissioners of industrial disputes, some of which may be only trivial, is most unfortunate. Honorable members opposite have strongly stressed the need for improved relations between employers and employees. No better means of improving those relations could he conceived than the present system under which the grievances of the workers are considered by conciliation commissioners. As long as participation in proceedings before conciliation commissioners is confined to laymen who have a knowledge of the industry involved and can speak the language of the employers and employees engaged in it, good results must flow. Once the atmosphere of a court is allowed to intrude in the proceedings and the issues are allowed to become clouded by abstruse legal arguments advanced by barristers and solicitors the value of the conciliation system is completely destroyed. If the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) is sincerely desirous of promoting harmonious relations between employers and employees he should agree not to proceed with this clause of the bill.
The proposal to allow barristers, solicitors and paid agents to appear in proceedings before conciliation commissioners has been most strongly opposed in the councils of organized labour. During the last 47 years the Parliament on more than one occasion had made it abundantly clear that, except with the consent of the parties and of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, barristers, solicitors and paid agents should be kept out of industrial cases. This legislation is evidence of the Government’s intention to destroy that admirable safeguard. It is regrettable that during the last two years so many amendments have been made in our industrial arbitration legislation.
– Order! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
. - The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) has used flowery and colourful phrases, and has indulged in most extravagant language, in his attack on this clause. He has described it as revolutionary and has said that it will sound the death-knell of arbitration and will destroy the industrial life of this Country. I invite honorable members to examine the proposal calmly against its background. We have introduced in this amending legislation two provisions that have been gladly accepted by Opposition members. That fact in itself is evidence that we have not been completely unmindful of the needs of those whom Opposition members claim to represent. Let me remind the honorable member for Bendigo, who described this proposal as one that constitutes a revolutionary change, that in recent years other revolutionary changes have been made in our arbitration legislation. Indeed, in 1947 a Labour government made the most revolutionary and sweeping change in our arbitration system that has been effected since federation. I refer to the division of authority over industrial matters between the judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and the conciliation commissioners. That revolutionary change was very strongly criticized by the non-Labour parties that were then in Opposition. We considered that it was a bad move which would weaken the arbitration system; it will not conduce to the settlement of disputes but will make them all the harder to settle. Since that time our forecast has been proved to be correct. There has been an increase of the number of disputes and of the number of working days lost through strikes. We had noted that trend during the years that have since passed and, having come to office, have tried to patch the system up and make it work without making any change so radical that it would destroy the atmosphere of goodwill and co-operation that we sought to engender.
The proposal before the House did not have its origin in any proposition enunciated by the Government. The proposal embodies, in principle and in substance, the recommendation of the Chief Conciliation Commissioner. Honorable members opposite have stated that the implementation of the proposal will wreck the arbitration system and make conciliation impossible. The Government in its approach to this matter has been guided largely by the Chief Conciliation Commissioner, who, in his first official report, recommended that skilled representatives be given the right to appear before conciliation commissioners by leave of the commissioners themselves.
– He made two provisos.
– I know of the provisos; but the honorable member will not deny that, in substance, he said that it would conduce to the speedy settlement of disputes if in some cases skilled representatives were permitted to appear before conciliation commissioners. He did not recommend that they be permitted to appear in all cases. Certain cases would not warrant the appearance of counsel, but other cases, because of their complexity and the important issues that they raise, warrant the appearance of such representatives before commissioners. The Chief Conciliation Commissioner, in his report, said -
The majority of the commissioners consider that this prohibition deprives them of the aid of skilled and experienced representatives of both employees and employers.
The then Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, Judge Drake Brockman, said -
The generally held view of commissioners is that these provisions deprive them of the skilled assistance to which they should be entitled and which they most urgently need. [ am of the same opinion. I feel also thai the general effect is that the smaller union? of employees and employers are the more seriously disadvantaged.
Opposition members alleged that thi> Government had not consulted representatives of the trade unions on this matter. As I said during my secondreading speech, the Government did consult representatives of the trade unions concerning the proposed amendments. I do not claim that those representatives approved of the proposal. But representatives of employers also have stated their views and have demanded sweeping alterations of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which have not been embodied in this legislation. The Government has considered the views of all sections of industry and has formed its own judgment. In doing so it has considered also the views of no less experienced and capable authorities than the Chief Conciliation Commissioner and the former Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. In reply to Opposition criticism that the Government will wreck the arbitration system by making such changes as those proposed without consulting the unions sufficiently I repeat that I have tried to be fair to both sides of industry. Ironically enough, only last week a formal protest was made to me by one of the most important employer organizations in Australia that I had not consulted the employers’ representatives sufficiently and had given too much attention to the views of the unions. In the light of those circumstances I think I can claim that the Government is trying to do justice to all.
There is evidence that the course which the Government has adopted is paying dividends. If the present trend continues for the remainder of this year, not only will the number of days lost through strikes this year be less than half the number of days lost through, strikes last year, but as well, the proportion of days lost to the total number of days worked in Australia will be smaller than the corresponding figure in respect of any year since 1942. I say that with some pride and satisfaction. I believe that there are fairminded men on both sides of industry. There are men in the trade unions, some of them leaders of the unions, who recognize that the Government is genuinely trying to act justly and to make the arbitration system work. I remind Opposition members of the action that has been taken by a section of the Federated Ironworkers Association and a section of the Federated Clerks Union of Australia under the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which those honorable members so bitterly opposed. This trend is particularly encouraging. Fewer than two days in every thousand days worked have been lost in industry this year. That is the best record of its kind in Australia since the year in which Japan came into the war. Whatever views honorable members may have on this clause, which is the only one that has been opposed by the Opposition, I suggest that in view of the circumstances that I have mentioned and in view also of the recommendations that have been made by the Chief Conciliation Commissioner and the former Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, they should he prepared to give the Government’s proposal a trial. If it be found to be not satisfactory, then it can be re-examined. The Government believes that the proposed amendment will promote the efficient working of the arbitration system and invites the committee to support it.
– I listened to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) with some interest because I think that he does understand industrial problems, but one statement that he made rather astonished me. The Minister said that during this year fewer working days had been lost in industry than had been lost for many years past. Yet he wants to alter the legislation that has made that state of affairs possible. The fact that existing legislation has produced favorable conditions is not a reason for making that legislation worse by altering it. I have had experience in the trade union movement for a large number of years and I can assure the Minister that the unions are conscious of their responsibilities. Consequently, they do not wish to have any alterations made in a system that has been referred to as “ streamlined arbitration “.
The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) presented the Opposition’s case in a very well-reasoned manner, and I consider that some appreciation of the views that he advanced ought to have been evidenced in the Minister’s speech. “What the Minister has said, in effect, is that if, during the next couple of years, it becomes apparent that the alteration has not proved satisfactory, the provision can be changed again. I spoke against the act that this bill proposes to amend, because I considered that its provisions were revolutionary. Usually a revolution is intended to achieve a step forward, but this bill is a retrograde step. The Minister said in his second-reading speech -
The measure now before the House proposes that, in future, the court and the conciliation commissioners shall have the authority to decide whether or not the parties shall be represented by counsel, solicitor or paid agent in proceedings before them. The Government considers that this will provide sufficient safeguards, if indeed they are required, to prevent the unwarranted appearance of paid representatives.
The honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) has referred to the matter of representation before the court. He read to the committee a copy of a report that was made by the Chief Conciliation Commissioner. I have great respect for Mr. Mooney, but I remind the honorable member that he was trained in the office of Brennan and Rundle, lawyers.
– The former Labour Government re-appointed him as Chief Conciliation Commissioner.
– During the years that I have known him, he has acted as a representative of trade unions, but in this respect he has given more attention to legal aspects than to industrial aspects. If the existing provision has proved satisfactory over the year3, and has resulted in fewer strikes, why alter it?
– The Government is not yet satisfied.
– The mere fact that the Government is perturbed about industrial conditions does not warrant an alteration of the provision. Honorable members who are associated with trades unions view the proposed alteration with a great deal of suspicion. I do not suspect the Minister personally, because I believe that he is fairly well informed on the industrial side as well as on the legal side of this subject.
Some years ago, in company with Mr. Chapple, of the Australian Railways Union, I represented the Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen in the famous application to the court known as the “ 10 per cent, case “. The Victorian Railways Commissioners, who sought to reduce the wages of railway employees, were represented by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and Mr. Ferguson, who is now a judge, as well as other legal luminaries. The court was presided over by Chief Judge Dethridge, who listened attentively to all the submissions. As honorable members are aware, the Conciliation and
Arbitration Act 1904-1951 lays down that legal representatives may appear before the court only with the consent of both parties to the action and by the leave of the court. It is a fact - although I do not like to say so - that the court treated with contempt the arguments that were advanced by Mr. Chappie and myself, despite the fact that we had been highly respected union advocates for many years. The learned judge stated that, although he was very interested in our submissions, he considered tha t on such highly legal and technical matters he should have the assistance of legal luminaries. Mr. Chappie and I were secretaries ofour respective unions. The formidable bar of legal luminaries that opposed us received from 30 guineas to 50 guineas a day, and their juniors, also, were highly paid. After a protracted hearing, the court decided that the case was not an ordinary arbitration case, but rather an application for a variation, and we were ruled out. The court decided that the railway employees should suffer the proposed 10 per cent. reduction of wages. The sting of that decision will never be forgotten by them. They believed that legal representatives should not have been permitted to appear before the court, and that the hearing should not have been prolonged as it was. Although I am not complaining about that decision I point out that the two railway unions concerned could not afford to pay high legal fees for representation before the court. The membership of the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association totalled about 10,000 men, who paid an annual subscription of 30s. I mention that fact to prove to supporters of the Government that many trade unions, particularly those with a relatively small membership, cannot afford to engage paid agents or lawyers to represent them.
I realize that the Government desires to have this legislation passed as soon as possible, but I must point out that it is overlooking certain vital factors. I am convinced that trade union advocates are quite competent to argue the merits of a case before a conciliation commissioner and that it is not necessary to obtain assistance in court from legal luminaries, some of which is more legal and technical than illuminating. Lawyers frequently succeed only in confusing the conciliation commissioners.
– Is not the honorable member overlooking the fact that all the conciliation commissioners have had long industrial experience, and. that it is within their discretion to permit or deny legal representation before them?
– No. I am not forgetting that. I also remember that Chief Judge Dethridge took the view that the lawyers should have their say. Although I have nothing to say against lawyers as such, I point out that the Prime Minister, who. was a very powerful advocate in the application that I have mentioned, had the backing of public money, whereas the union advocates were restricted by the financial position of their unions. I appeal to supporters of the Government to consider carefully the submissions that have been made by the Opposition.
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
Motion (by Mr. Gullett) put -
That the question be now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the clause be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C.F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses 5 and 6 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment: report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - I desire to inform the House that Captain W. R. Butters, a member of theHouse of Assembly of the Union of South Africa, is within the precincts of the chamber. As a naval officer, Captain Butters was present at Gallipoli at the landing and again at the evacuation.
With the concurrence of honorable members, I shall invite him to take a seat on the floor of the House beside the Speaker’s chair.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
Captain Butters thereupon entered the chamber, and was seated accordingly.
Debate resumed from the 14th November (vide page 1997), on motion by Sir Earle Page -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill is an attack upon every one in this country who needs hospital care. It will take away rights and benefits that every Australian citizen has enjoyed for the last six years. By repealing the hospital benefits legislation of the Chifley Government, it will pull down a splendid edifice of social progress in Australia. But the destruction of that edifice will be only temporary. The edifice will be built again. The Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) has sought to obscure his intentions with fine phrases, but the evil that this bill will do cannot be concealed. It will restore the odious means test in public hospitals, re-establish a system of payment by patients in public wards of such hospitals, and impose a new compulsory flat-rate insurance payment as a condition for the enjoyment of benefits for which every Australian citizen has already paid in full by his social services contribution.
There is satisfaction in life for the
Mian who strives for a social ideal and who sees at least one step taken towards the goal that he is seeking. That was the position in 1945 when the Parliament passed the hospital benefits legislation, of which the Labour party has so much cause to be proud - and not the Labour party alone, as I shall show. I suppose that a perverted satisfaction is derived by the wrecker - the man who cannot build and who, therefore, takes pleasure in destruction; the man whose envy of another’s achievement urges him to undermine that achievement. It appears to me that that is the only kind of satisfaction that the Minister for Health can derive from this measure, unless it be satisfac tion at the applause of the British Medical Association, the only body in Australia to-day that is applauding these proposals.
The first thing this bill seeks to do is to repeal the hospital benefits legislation which was introduced into this Parliament in 1945, and which will always remain a monument to my distinguished colleague, Senator James Fraser, who introduced it. What is wrong with the legislation that it must now be repealed and totally destroyed? It provided for the payment by the Commonwealth to the States of a sum of 6s. a day, which was increased to 8s. a day in 1948, in respect of all occupied beds in public wards and in non-public wards alike. In return, each State agreed to take steps to reduce its charges to patients in non-public wards by at least 6s. a day and also to ensure that no means test should be imposed upon or fees charged to patients occupying beds in public wards in public hospitals. The Commonwealth paid to the States more than the hospitals had previously been able to collect from publicward patients for treatment, accommodation and medicines. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, has spoken of a loss of revenue to public hospitals as a result of those provisions, but hs is contradicted by the official figures, which show that the payment of 6s. and subsequently 8s. a day was at all times more than the public hospitals of any State had been able to collect per bed patient per day in the public wards of those institutions. As a result of the operation of that scheme, except in the case of a very few denominational hospitals, patients occupying beds in public wards of public hospitals received free medical attention, free accommodation, and free medicine.
The Commonwealth went further under that legislation. It undertook to reimburse the States the salaries paid to medical and other professional personnel who attended in-patients in public wards. In 1948, the Chifley Government carried the scheme still f urther by undertaking co pay the States additional sums to cover the cost of medicines supplied by public hospitals to patients in non-public wards and to out-patients, the cost of medicines supplied to patients in public wards having .been paid by the Commonwealth from the beginning of the scheme. 1 emphasize those provisions because they reveal the inaccuracy of the statements that the Minister made in his secondreading speech about the Chifley Government’s legislation.
What is there that is so objectionable in the legislation for which the Chifley Government was responsible in 1945 ? It abolished the means test. Is .there any honorable member who -wishes to see a moans test re-established in this country when once it has been abolished? Is there any honorable member who does not subscribe to the ideal of the complete abolition of the means test in respect of all social services benefits? Is there any .honorable mem’ber who hr.2 not from time to time publicly professed his support of and adherence to that great ideal? Yet every honorable gentleman opposite will be required to vote for this measure, which provides for the restoration of the ‘ means test in respect of patients in public wards of public hospitals throughout this country. The measure that the Government is determined to destroy made provision for the treatment, free of charge, in public wards of every man, woman or child in this country, irrespective of income. Admission to a bed was governed only by the gravity and urgency of the illness from which a person was suffering. Is there any honorable member who does not regard that as the proper condition that should govern the admission of patients to hospital? Yet, every supporter of the Government will be required to vote for the abolition of that splendid provision which represented a notable step forward in social services legislation. Does any honorable member believe that persons who have paid according to their means for the provision of hospital benefits are not entitled to receive such benefits? Under the Chifley Government’s hospital benefits plan, the social services contribution was graduated according to the ability of the income earner to pay. A person paid that contribution according to his, or her, means. A rich man paid more than a poor m,an did, but each was equally entitled to receive hospital benefits solely on the ground of urgency of his illness. That provision is now to be totally destroyed.
Let no one pretend that the Chifley Government provided the existing range of benefits out of some magic treasure chest or by waving some financial wand. It did not. Those benefits were paid for in full by the people themselves who then became entitled to receive them. Everybody paid for them and everybody became entitled to share them without degradation, humiliation or discrimination on income grounds. That provision was not made solely by ‘the Labour party which was then in office. The legislation, which is now to be mutilated, was introduced by the Chifley Labour Government upon the unanimous recommendation of the Social Security Committee on which all parties were represented. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) was one of the three representatives of the anti-Labour parties on that committee who put their signatures to its report and subscribed to all the reasons that it advanced why that provision should he written into our social services legislation.
– The committee did not recommend that the means test should be abolished.
– I advise the honorable member to read again that committee’s recommendations to which he subscribed. The only significant difference between the hill that was presented to the Parliament and the recommendations that the committee made was that the Treasurer of the day succeeded in .persuading the States to accept a subsidy of 6s. a day for each occupied bed whereas the committee recommended a subsidy of 6s. fid. in that respect. The present Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) also was a member of that committee and subscribed to the legislation which he will now vote to destroy. I take it that he has accepted these proposals in Cabinet and has thus already swallowed his words. I shall be astonished if the honorable member for Flinders, who has a reputation for adherence to his beliefs, so humbly swallows the recommendations to which he put his signature a few years ago. Rut the Government has spoken and those provisions are now to be repealed. The seal of cabinet has been set to the decision that existing hospital benefits are to go by the board, the means test is to be restored and payments by patients in public wards are to be established. At the same time, however, the tax that was imposed to pay for the benefits is not to be abolished. Every penny of that tax is to be retained and, indeed, the tax itself is to be increased.
I emphasize that the people were required to pay in full for the benefits they were given. They paid for them in full through their social services contribution which, together with their income tax, was deducted from their weekly wages, or salary, and, up to the present, they have enjoyed those benefits. They are now to be required to continue to pay for such benefits but the benefits are to be taken from them. As though that, were not enough, the Government is now imposing an additional compulsory payment upon every citizen who desires to use hospital services in this country. That is the second thing that this iniquitous bill will do.
– It will do nothing of the sort. The 8s. subsidy will be retained.
– Third, this bill restores the means test in respect of hospital treatment.
– It does nothing of the sort.
– It matters not what gobbledegook or mumblechook the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) may resort to in order to conceal his intention, the fact remains that each State government will be required to restore the means test in respect of treatment in public wards of hospitals. Will the Minister deny that the proposed Commonwealth subsidy of 12s. a day to a hospital in respect of a patient is to be conditional upon the patient insuring with a private insurance society for a minimum benefit of £2 2s. a week? A new compulsory contribution must be paid by every citizen before the hospital in which he, or she, is a patient can qualify to obtain the Commonwealth subsidy of 32s. a day. There can be no doubt about that. The patient has already paid for the full benefit through social services contribution. He will now be obliged to pay for that benefit again to a private insurance society. Under this bill, patients’ rights are to be reduced and they are to be obliged to pay double for such reduced rights. If prospective patients do not choose to insure themselves, the hospital will have to charge them at the rate of at least £6 6s. a week for treatment in a public ward in order to obviate incurring loss in respect of treatment which patients up till now have received completely free under the Chifley Government’s plan.
– That is nonsense.
– The Government will not pay the full subsidy of 12s. a day to a hospital in respect of a patient who has not insured for a minimum benefit of £2 2s. a week, a payment which the Minister intends shall be made direct to the institution. Therefore, the hospital will have to impose that substantial charge upon a patient in respect of treatment in a public ward in order to recoup a charge which, throughout the lifetime of the Chifley Government’s plan, had not been levied. For the last six years a. patient has been entitled to service and treatment in return for his social services contributions. Under the intense pressure that will be exercised by the proposed scheme a person will be obliged to insure. A most extraordinary feature of the new Government plan provides that the insurance benefit for which the citizen pays a premium and which until now has been paid to him as a cash settlement in order to assist him during his time of illness in hospital, will in future not be paid to him at all. Instead, it will be paid direct to the hospital as part of the cost of his medical treatment while in hospital. Until now, a person who has belonged to a private insurance scheme has received a cash benefit. Because he has not been able to earn, that benefit has given him a few pounds a week with which to assist his family. By means of the proposed scheme, that benefit to which he has subscribed, is to be taken away from him, and the whole payment is to be made direct to the hospital.
Government supporters interjecting.
– Order ! I must ask honorable gentlemen sitting on my right to maintain silence. They will have an opportunity to speak after the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) has finished.
– Apparently, when the proposed scheme begins to operate a person is to consider himself lucky to be in hospital, to be allowed to pull his forelock, and to say “ Sir “ when some one is kind enough to speak to him, because the third part of the proposed plan will compel hospitals to impose a means test, even for admission of patients to public wards. It will be a sorry day indeed in our history when a sick man must undergo examination by an official, who will peer into the details of his financial resources, before he may be admitted to a public ward free of charge. That will be a humiliating procedure, although procedure of that kind is not unknown in this country.
– It is done in respect of out-patients at the present time.
– The Minister for Health now attempts to justify it by saying that it applies to out-patients at the present time. Apparently, he also wishes to extend the practice to inpatients.
-Order! I ask the right honorable gentleman to restrain himself. He has the right of reply.
– Most people in this country thought that that practice had gone for ever from social services benefits. I suggest that it will be to thy everlasting political disgrace of the Minister at the table if the practice is restored during his occupancy of the worthy and high office of Minister for Health. Of course, the right honorable gentleman stated during his secondreading speech that the new weekly insurance premium in respect of hospital benefits will be a very small amount. He said that it will be only a few pence a week, although he was vague concerning the precise details. I assume that the payment of 3d. a week by a single man will entitle him to a benefit of £2 2s. a week, and perhaps the payment of ls. a week by a family man will entitle him to a benefit of a larger sum. The Minister has spoken airily of the vast sums of money that are spent on beer, spirits and tobacco in this country, although he omitted to mention that those sums are only vast because of the vast taxes that are imposed on those commodities by the Government of which he is a member.
I accept the truth of the contention that hospital costs have risen, but so have wages and incomes. The taxation revenue of the Government has increased accordingly as a direct result, and in direct ratio. If 12s. a day is now an appropriate sum to be paid in respect of each occupied bed, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) can well afford to provide thai amount from the immense surplus for which the Government has budgeted. TinTreasurer has said that the surplus will be £114,500,000, but,- it has been variously reckoned as more likely to be between £250,000,000 and £300,000,000. In any event, it will be more than sufficient to cover the £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 which would be required to finance an increased subsidy. The straight-forward action that this Government should take is to increase the Commonwealth subsidy from Ss. to 12s. a day and to do it without restoring the means test, without reinstituting charges for admission to public wards, and without establishing a new compulsory hospital benefits insurance scheme. Why does the Government not take such action? The answer is to be found in the words of the Minister during his second-reading speech, when he said -
In Australia, since the enactment of the Federal Hospital Benefits Act, the governments are carrying 80 per cent, of general hospital costs. In the United States the governments carry only 14 per cent, of general hospital costs. The other 86 per cent, comes from the general public. If a hospital revenue position similar to that in the United States could be established here, by means of a system of insurance, it would become evident that more government funds would be available for extension of medical schools and for dealing with the question of home nursing.
Of course the right honorable gentleman has only recently returned from the United States of America with these ideas. The Minister has said that the present insurance premium is to be only a few pence a week. I suggest that it is clear from the words of his second-reading speech that his intention is to reduce the Government contribution towards the cost of upkeep of public hospitals to a mere 14 per cent, and to impose upon the public the responsibility of providing the other 86 per cent, of the revenue which is required to conduct such hospitals. At the same time, the Government will continue to impose the highest rate of social services contribution, in addition to income tax and other taxes. It seems to me that the Minister intends to levy a small contribution now, and then, as time goes by, progressively to increase the rate. As he stated during his second-reading speech, he also intends progressively to relieve government budgets of the cost of hospitals in this country. If we are to revive the system of bazaars, public appeals and button days as means of raising revenue for public hospitals, it will be a sorry day indeed. The hands of the clock of social progress in this country will definitely be turned back. Either the Minister intends to take that retrograde step, or a far higher compulsory insurance will !be levied upon every citizen than will be imposed by this bill. Why does the right honorable gentleman propose to adopt that course? The answer is that the insurance contribution which he proposes to levy is to be at a flat rate. The poorest man in the country is to pay exactly the same amount each week for his hospital benefit as will the richest man. Once the Government’s contribution has been reduced to 14 per cent., and the principle of a flat rate of insurance has been established-
– The honorable member is not stating the position correctly.
– The figures which are quoted in your own secondreading speech-
– Order ! Will the honorable member address the Chair?
– I shall do 30. The figures which the Minister has quoted in his second-reading speech, show, as he himself has recently admitted, that a specific payment will be made by a single man, and a specific payment by a married man, irrespective of their incomes. I remind the right honorable gentleman that the principle that each person shall contribute for social services according to his means has been established in this country. The Minister proposes to destroy it.
The House is not often confronted with social services legislation which is so blatantly reactionary as is the present proposal. It may be worthwhile at this stage for me to summarize the measure. It is proposed to repeal the only Commonwealth condition which is imposed upon the States by the Hospital Benefits Act, which provides that the States must ensure that no means test and no charge will be imposed upon patients in the public wards of hospitals. That provision will be repealed by this bill. The means test, and the right to charge patients in public wards are to be restored. Of course, the Government does not propose directly to compel the States to re-introduce the means test, but the present scheme will exert the strongest pressure upon them to do so. In fact, the States will he bound to re-introduce the means test if they desire to finance their hospitals under the new plan. The payment of 8s. a day by the Commonwealth will be continued; but if the patient is insured against hospital expenses, and if the body with which he is insured pays the insurance benefit direct to the hospital in which he receives treatment instead of to him, the Commonwealth will then, and only then, increase the subsidy to the hospital to 12s. a day.
The subsidy was 8s. a day in 1948. The Government proposes, under this bill, to increase that subsidy to 12s. a day. I regard such an increase as a reasonable balance in accordance with the changes n money values and purchasing power which have occurred since 1948. But the Government now attaches conditions to its willingness to make that payment, and its proposals will cause, not one, but a number of new pressures. The States will be obliged to persuade or compel prospective patients in public hospitals to enter into private insurance contracts, so that the States may collect from the Commonwealth the benefit of 12s._. instead of 8s., a day. As I have stated, the payment of 8s. a day is completely out of keeping with present living costs, and Commonwealth revenues. There is no reason why a citizen should pay insurance premiums so that the State may benefit unless the State reintroduces a means test and imposes charges. The proposals constitute a most powerful pressure on the State to make charges and to re-establish the means test. The fact that citizens must pay the insurance premiums, and that the- payment will be made by the insurance society to the hospital is meaningless unless a State restores the means test in respect of patients who are admitted to the public wards of hospitals under its administration, in order that they may obtain that insurance money.
A State, in order to obtain the higher rate of benefit from the Commonwealth, will have to persuade or compel insurance societies to pay insurance benefits direct to the hospitals, and not to the patients. Such a system will mean interference by a State in the agreement between thu citizen and his insurance society. Pressure upon a State to re-introduce the means test and to make charges will involve pressure upon prospective patients to insure themselves, and to pay a part or the whole of their hospital charges. At present, patients are treated in public wards free of charge, and if they choose to insure with a society, they are permitted to retain those benefits in order to tide their families and themselves over the period of sickness. The new proposals are, indeed, a reversion to the old order. They will destroy the Australia-wide uniformity of the Commonwealth hospital benefits scheme. Some States will impose a means test, and other States, though they may struggle against it, will eventually be driven to follow suit. All States will have varying charges for the public wards their hospitals, and insurance societies will have varying premiums and benefits. In other words, Australian citizens will be treated differently according to the locations in which they live.
As I have already said, this House is not often confronted with social services legislation that is so blatantly reactionary as is this hill. Usually, progress in the field of social security is hard won against opposition which is bitter enough at the time, but once the ground has been won, the forward step is not openly retraced. Every progressive social step which has been taken in this country has been furiously assailed by the Conservatives at the outset, but has been reluctantly accepted, and finally adopted by them a.their own offspring, even while they prepare to resist the next social reform. That is the customary pattern. We have seen it with age and invalid pensions, child endowment, widows pensions, pharmaceutical benefits and the like. Those progressive social steps, when they were originally proposed, were resisted by th.Conservative forces in this country. Eventually, those social services were reluctantly accepted, and then adopted by the Conservatives as a part of their programme. However, we are now witnessing the rarer spectacle of the force*of reaction openly showing their hand, and endeavouring to make this nation retrace a great progressive social step. For the moment, those forces of reaction will succeed, but in terms of years, their victory will be short lived. King Canute could no more hope to hold back the tide than the honorable. members opposite can hold back the longing, the aspiration and the determination of the common man to obtain for himself and his loved ones a measure of peace, happiness and social security.
The Hospital Benefits Act, which is to be mutilated and even destroyed by this bill, was a part of the life work of a man who saw it as a step forward by this nation towards the beckoning light on the hill. Though the edifice of social progress, which is represented by the hospital benefits legislation is pulled down to-day by this Parliament, the Labour party will re-build it to-morrow, stronger and more splendid that ever. And the people of Australia will help Labour in that task.
– The essential purpose of this bill is to give the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) power to negotiate agreements with the States. We have just listened to a long speech from the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). I could not follow him through all the by-ways along which he wandered, but I gathered that the burden of his song was that the bill would take away something from the Australian people. If the Minister were really proposing to take away from the people something that they are already enjoying, and to which they are entitled, very few honorable members of this House, or of the people outside it, would support the bill, but in actual fact the bill does nothing of the sort. It does not propose to take anything away from the Australian people. Eather does it provide for giving them something more than they now have. Under the present agreement, the Commonwealth pays to the State governments a subsidy of 8s. a day for each occupied hospital bed. No one has suggested, least of all the Minister, that this subsidy should be withdrawn. It will continue to be paid, as now, from. Commonwealth revenue. It is proposed, however, that those Australian citizens who voluntarily assume t,he obligation of insurance will be entitled to additional- benefits. There is no compulsion on any one to take out insurance, nor will there be any compulsion on a State to alter in any way its methods of hospital administration, but the opportunity is to be accorded, and rightly so, to the individual to exercise « little individuality.
– Those who can afford it.
– Yes, those who can afford it. No one else need do so. The opportunity should be afforded to the individual to make some contribution to his own well-being, and each State is to be entitled to participate in the proposed benefits on a voluntary basis. At present, not every one who wishes to be admitted to a public hospital is accepted without a means test. There is a means test. Under the legislation passed while the Chifley Government was in power, the means test for admittance to public hospitals was retained only for pensioners and persons in receipt of workers’ compensation, &c. Thus, the means test was applied only to people who should not have been subjected to it.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro tried to make out that the effect of the bill would be to limit entrance to hospitals. That has never been done, nor will it be done under the proposed system. This legislation will not prevent any one from going into hospital. If any one benefits under the legislation it will be those who cannot afford to make an extra contribution, because the longrange effect will be to ensure that more hospital beds are available, and to remove from beds in public hospitals those who can well afford to pay for the use of other beds. The honorable member for EdenMonaro suggested that the people were paying for hospital benefits through their social services contribution. The fact is that that contribution has never paid fully for social services. It is really no more than a nominal social services con.tribution, A man’s social services contribution is really part of his income tax, and this Government has very sensibly treated it as such.
As I have said, the essential purpose of this legislation is to give the Minister for Health power to negotiate agreements with the States, and I understand that the States have already gone a long” way towards accepting the principles enunciated by the Minister in his secondreading speech.
What are the objectives of a good hospital policy? There are many and I shall enumerate some of them. First, there should be sufficient accommodation in hospitals to meet the needs of the community. Secondly, there should be adequate ancillaries for diagnosis and treatment, in the form of X-ray and pathological sections and so on. Thirdly, these facilities should he available to all members of the community. Fourthly, and hy no means the least important, there should be preserved the personal relationship between the doctor and his patient wherever this is possible. We should recognize in this regard the value of private hospitals. I do not mean only separate institutions, but I have in mind private wards and private beds in large public hospitals, which enable the doctor who has treated his patient outside to follow him into the hospital. No public ward, no matter how well run and equipped it may be, provides facilities to enable the doctor to do that.
Any good hospital policy should be identified with responsible citizenship, and that principle is fully recognized in the Minister’s proposals. The bill will revive community interest in the management of hospitals. Under it, hospitals will cease to be impersonal insituations run by government instrumentalities, and will become community centres where the sick of the community are treated, and into which doctors will be able to follow their patients so as to treat them to the best of their ability. That is a highly desirable actuation.
At the present time, hospitals are starved for money, and there are not enough beds to meet the needs of the community. In fact, there is a shortage of many thousands of beds. The problem is, not whether patients can pay for hospital treatment, but whether there are beds in the hospitals to receive them. Surely, a system which will improve, as this system will do, the general financial standing of hospitals, and at the same time withhold from no one benefits they at present enjoy, is worthy of support! It is estimated that the loss to Australia’s hospitals caused by the implementation of the 1945 agreement has reached the level of £6,000,000 a year. Much of that money will become available again under this scheme. Those persons who contribute to the scheme on a voluntary basis will be able to secure, as a result of their own efforts, benefits over and above those that oan be provided by the Government from the taxes that it collects.
I believe that the bill will have another entirely admirable effect. It will counteract the increasing tendency to centralize hospitals. The centralization of hospitals is caused largely by lack of finance, both absolute and relative. Inadequate government contributions are made under the provisions of the existing agreement, and that causes absolute lack of finance. The costs of hospital equipment and management are steadily increasing, and that causes relative lack of finance. In these circumstances, all hospitals tend to lean more and more heavily on the governments of the States in which they are situated. The struggle has become so difficult for private hospitals that many of them have already gone out of existence. I shall discuss the question of private hospitals later. As public hospitals become more centralized, they lose a great deal of their intrinsic value. I am sure that the Minister for Health will agree that a huge hospital which is a part of a centralized system loses the personal touch, which is of more value in restoring human beings to health than all the advances that science has made over recent years. The effect of this bill will be to eliminate the tendency towards centralization, with vast central institutions managed by a State bureaucracy. Hospitals will be able to collect more funds for their own use than would be possible otherwise, and they will be able to stand on their own feet. I believe that the enormous advantage that will accrue to the whole practice of medicine in the largest sense as a result of this bill will be of immense value not only to the medical profession but also to the people of Australia as a whole.
Many Australians believe that private hospitals might as well go out of existence because they are incapable of supplying the services that are necessary in modern times for the restoration of health to sick and injured people. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Neither in the medical field nor in the surgical field can any public hospital, with the best will in the world, provide the surroundings for many patients that can be provided in private wards and private hospitals. I hope that we shall never regard the practice of medicine and the hospitalization of patients as being entirely technical and scientific matters. The private hospital, including the private ward at a public hospital, where the doctor and his patient can be brought into close relationship free of all the disturbing factors that are present in a public ward, is one of the most potent and efficient forces in the community for the restoration of health. The process of restoring health to a patient is not merely a technical procedure, either surgical or medical. It. is a far deeper and more complex process than that, and, if this country were to lose its many excellent private hospitals, as it might do under the present system of hospital finance, an irreparable injury would be done to the best interests of public health.
Not much more remains to be said about the bill. It has the support of the medical profession throughout Australia and also the support of the great friendly societies. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro was at great pains to say that the Minister for Health proposed to force the people to insure themselves with private companies. The fact, of course, is that they are to be invited to insure voluntarily, not with private companies, but with non-profit organizations or with the great friendly societies, which have already played an important part in the development of health insurance on a voluntary basis in Australia. I remind t,he House that one of the greatest objections raised by the Labour party against the national insurance scheme that was proposed in 1938 was that -
By partially overlapping the field of friendly society activity, it tends to discourage young men and women from joining these associations of self-help, thus threatening the continued strength of the friendly societies.
This scheme will have a directly opposite effect to that. It will promote a general tendency to self-help. If self-help is worth having, if personal initiative is worth having, if individuality is worth having, then this bill is well worth having.
.- The Opposition opposes this measure because it is contrary to a fundamental principle of Labour policy, which favours the gradual amelioration of the means test with a view to its ultimate abolition. The bill virtually will restore the means test for hospitalization and will throw overboard the hospital benefits legislation of the Chifley Labour Government, which will be repealed in its entirety. In substitution for that legislation, the Government proposes to introduce a so-called voluntary insurance scheme under which the people will be pressurized and virtually conscripted into joining insurance societies to cover the costs of hospitalization and medical treatment. The Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) described the bill as a small measure with a major objective of far-reaching importance. It is somewhat like the iceberg. Only a small part of the scheme is visible on the surface. The greater part is concealed, and its full implication is left to one’s imagination.
We were told in the Governor-General’s Speech at the opening of this Parliament that the Government would introduce a comprehensive health bill to deal with medical benefits, hospital accommodation and medical research. The major and far-reaching objective of what the Minister has naively described as “ this small bill “, which consists of twelve innocentlooking clauses, is not apparent. As with the iceberg, we must look below the surface in order to gain a knowledge of its full scope. The Minister admitted in his second-reading speech that the measure is far reaching and has a major objective and that in fact, it will completely reverse the Chifley Government’s policy in relation to this matter. Under that policy the Federal and State Governments accepted responsibility for 80 per cent, of the cost of hospitalization, the remaining 20 per cent, being borne by the public and being provided mainly through various charitable institutions and persons and the proceeds of lotteries. The Government proposes under this scheme to emulate the system that is in operation in the United States of America, which is the home of private enterprise. Under the American system the public provides 86 per cent, of hospital funds and the United States of America Government bears a mere 14 per cent. The Government proposes to follow that procedure despite the fact that the Australian people are already heavily taxed to provide for Commonwealth social services through the National Welfare Fund, which was established by the Chifley Government specifically to finance hospital and other benefits. The public will therefore be paying twice for hospitalization.
We were told in the Governor-General’s Speech that the Government had in hand - a close study, involving further prolonged research, into the incidence of the means test, with a desire to encourage thrift instead of penalizing it, and at the same time not to impair our economic stability.
Government members have been profuse in their protestations about the need to abolish the means test. In the outline that the Minister gave us the views that he expressed to the Brisbane Medical congress in May last year, he assured us that his scheme would ‘impose no means test and that the benefits to be provided by the Government would be on a flat cash basis for each item, of medical service, irrespective of income, but that insurers might insure for higher benefits. Let us examine the assurances of the Minister in the light of this bill, bearing in mind the fact that the community has already been taxed to provide for the National
Welfare Fund so that all citizens would be assured of (hospital benefits irrespective of income. They have paid for those benefits by means of social services contribution, and are entitled to them. When the Government took office the National Welfare Fund was more than £130,000,000 in credit. The Government knows full well that the -cost of hospitalization has risen along with other costs. Yet despite the huge surplus that it has budgeted for this year, and the swollen nature of the National Welfare Fund, it is evading its responsibility to meet increased hospital costs. It is passing the buck to the people who will have to pay a second time for hospital benefits. It is hard to see how double taxation will encourage thrift and not impair the economic stability of the country. Economic stability has already been impaired by the financial measures that the Government has gagged through the Parliament, and its miserly Scrooge-like attitude to this and other social services benefits is no encouragement to thrift, even if the people have anything left in their pockets after the Treasurer has been through them.
This proposal will actually re-impose the means test for hospitalization by the back-door method of abolishing the safeguarding provisions of the agreements with the States which the Chifley Government made, and which stipulated that no means test was to apply to hospitalization, and that no fee was to be charged for medical or nursing service or for medicines supplied to public-ward patients. Far from encouraging thrift this measure will penalize the public because it will allow the States to reimpose such charges and fees, and so will force the people into joining socalled voluntary insurance societies. This is a blatant form of compulsory insurance which the Government parties and the Minister for Health “have long had in mind, similar to that over which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) resigned from a previous ministry. The Minister has at various times described the proposal as one of “ self help “. In effect, the people must provide their own lifebolts, or they will be left to sink. There will be no ship of State at hand with a warm-hearted pilot aboard to rescue them, as there was under the Chifley scheme If a person is in ill health and is out of his depth financially, the stony-hearted skipper aboard the Page anti-Labour hospital ship will look the other way and pass him by - unless he has provided himself with his own lifeboat by joining one of those so-called voluntary insurance societies which it is proposed to establish. In effect, a person who has not subscribed beforehand for the lifeboat will be left to drown, irrespective of whether he was financially capable of subscribing for it or not. Thar, is a heartless policy.
– It is economic regimentation.
– Order ! The honorable member for Perth is not iri his proper seat.
– The Government is assuming that 85 per cent, of the people will respond to its attempt to conscript them, by its intimidatory tactics, into this so-called voluntary scheme. But if the scheme misfires, what then? The plight, of the sick and the suffering will be chaotic. As the Minister has stated, a new race of medically poor has sprung up in this country because of the high cost of medical treatments, operations and drugs, and because of delays in getting hospital beds. Already it is estimated by responsible State authorities that there are 10,000 patients awaiting hospital beds in New South Wales and that the total hospital bed shortage in Australia is 18,000 beds. With the growing population and the influx of immigrants the States will be in a hopeless position if further Commonwealth aid is denied them. In my own electorate where 100,000 people live, there is not one public hospital. People have to go to adjoining centres. With the population increasing at the rate of 5,000 a year, more and more doctors are needed in that electorate to cope with the demand for medical services, yet some medical men have actually left the area because of lack of hospital facilities. There is not even one public maternity hospital in the electorate.
To fathom the Government’s proposal it is necessary, as I have said, to probe beneath the surface and also to trace the history of the proposal. It should be remembered that there have been long and protracted negotiations between the Minister and the British Medical Association. As far back as April last year the Canberra Times warned that it was authoritatively stated that there was no possibility of a national health scheme being finalized until after the Federal Council of the British Medical Association had met at the end of May that year. Subsequent to the meeting of that body it was announced by the federal president of the British Medical Association, Sir Victor Hurley, that the Federal Council had advised the Minister for Health that it approved the principle of a scheme of subsidized, voluntary, contributory medical insurances. His real masters having spoken, the Minister thus had the green light to go ahead. First of all he threw overboard the Chifley Government’s plan of free medicine, which the British Medical Association had bitterly opposed from its inception and in the full implementation of which it had refused to co-operate. It even went so far as to levy £10 10s. a head on its members to establish a fighting fund of up to £100,000 to bring about the downfall of the Chifley Government. This bill is apparently the pay-off, and therefore its full implications should be carefully watched, especially as the right to impose fees for medical services in public hospitals will be restored by it. I am reminded of the experience of a former Yew South Wales Minister for Health, Mr. Weaver, who was presented with a bill that had been prepared by the British Medical Association, which would have given virtually a monopoly of health services to members of the British Medical Association to the exclusion of all other practitioners. He flatly refused to accept the bill although he was an antiLabour Minister, and was promptly removed from his ministerial position and was effectively muzzled by being elected Speaker of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly - apparently an effective way of dealing with a strong-minded party man who might be a thorn in the side’ of the Government. If the British Medical Association can dictate overall policy, to what lengths may it go on the administrative side? Already there is a close preserve in the control of sonic public hospitals which enables a number of privileged doctors to obtain beds for their patients to the exclusion of the patients of other doctors, who are thus forced to relinquish their practices in certain districts, as I have already mentioned.
The details of this scheme and thu character of the proposed insurance bodies must therefore be watched carefully to ensure that they will not operate to the detriment of the community as a whole, and that the public will not be exploited for the benefit of a privileged few. It is to be hoped that provision will be made in any agreement with the States to ensure a wider scope for medical men who are precluded under present conditions from using public hospitals. The Constitution precludes legislation against monopolistic tendencies such a.? is contained in the United States statutebook. Medical, societies have been brought within the ambit of the Sherman anti-trust laws in the United States of America. Not long ago, a number of medical societies were prosecuted and converted for having engaged in restrictive practices. Therefore, the only safeguard that can be provided in implementing this scheme is the inclusion of prohibitions against such practices in the agreement with the States. The Minister concluded his speech with the comment -
Mankind is a very poor thing if it is entirely selfish in its outlook and habits. Goodwill and charity furnish the oil that makes it possible for the world to go round.
There are two sides to that matter. All selfishness does not reside in the general body of the community. The Minister’s appeal should be directed also to the leaders of the medical profession whose primary objective should be not personal gain but to relieve the suffering of mankind. Admittedly, doctors are entitled to a fair reward for their services and, undoubtedly, there are many men of goodwill and charity in the medical profession who are eager and willing to give of their best to the community but are prevented from so doing by the restrictive practices and rules of the British Medical Association. If this measure were intended to give greater scope to that section of the medical profession, and appropriate provisions were to be incorporated in the agreement with the States, one would not be so disturbed, but the Minister should be more specific about that matter, and disabuse the public mind of any doubts that it may entertain. Many progressive members of the medical profession, realizing that medical science and practice in this country are very backward, favour more modern and scientific methods of preventing and treating sickness and disease, but because some such methods are regarded as unorthodox, they cannot be used in public hospitals and even in private practice, doctors are precluded from co-operating with so-called outsiders under penalty of expulsion from their organization.
The Minister indicated that if this scheme were successful, more government funds would be available to extend medical schools. Previously, the right honorable gentleman had stated in his address to the British Medical Association congress at Brisbane that some method had to be found to provide improved medical and hospital services. At least, the bill will allow for that course to be followed if the Minister is sincere in those protestations, because the proposed agreement with the States is left- open and will not be incorporated in the legislation as was the agreement under the Chifley Government’s scheme. Clause 5 of the bill states -
The Commonwealth may enter into an agreement with a State for or in relation to the provision of hospital benefits at such rates and subject to such conditions- [ emphasize the words “ subject to such conditions “ - as are specified in the agreement in respect of persons who are patients in public hospitals in that State.
Under the original agreement, portion of the Commonwealth’s contribution had to be set aside to meet capital charges such as the building and equipping of hospitals. That provision was subsequently waived, but the matter could and should be reviewed under this measure to ensure that hospitals shall be kept up to date and so be able to cope with the growing demands of the community. The Minister claimed, of course, that that was one of the objects of the scheme, but provision should be made for it in the agreement, and the agreement should be referred to the Parliament for ratification. Otherwise, the Minister, or those administering the scheme, will have a blank cheque, and the Parliament will not have any say in this matter or on other aspects of administration. The Minister’s remarks in this connexion were contradictory and difficult to follow. At the outset, he said that the bill would restore to the State governments control of administration and policy. It is not clear also whether the Commonwealth Government will accept responsibility foi research as was announced in th,GovernorGeneral’s Speech. Under thelegislation which is to be repealed, the agreement with the States reserved to the latter control of teaching and research in public hospitals. The repeal of that provision will give to the Commonwealth an opportunity to assume some responsibility in this connexion. The Commonwealth will also have a greater say on such matters as the installation of modern methods and equipment and education of the community as part of a sickness and disease prevention campaign. TinMinister indicated in his Brisbane’ address that that was one of his aims. He said -
The effect of the scheme must be to raise the level and standard of medical care and treatment, and not to degrade it; -to build up the self-respect and morale of the people at large and not undermine it; to stimulate progress in the art of healing and encourage continuous research.
Why not permit Parliament to have some say on this aspect of the matter, and incorporate appropriate provisions in the proposed agreement to ensure that the public will get something for the money that it will have to pay in taxes? In particular, the agreement should provide for the setting up of diagnostic clinics at public hospitals to enable people to seek early advice on the prevention of disease or on the treatment of disease before it reaches a more serious or malignant form. The Commonwealth is already charged with the responsibility to pay allowances to sufferers from tuberculosis. Diagnostic clinics need help to prevent this dread disease and ultimately to wipe it out, thus saving money to the Government in the long run. Similarly, the States should be encouraged and assisted to establish clinics for the Kenny treatment of poliomyelitis and chiropractic treatment, both of which are well established in other parts of the world although they are still looked upon by the medical profession here as being unorthodox, unproven, or contrary to traditional ideas and practices. Despite what the Minister might say to the contrary, the Kenny treatment is well established in the United States of America and in many other countries including even some countries behind the Iron Curtain. There are fourteen Kenny clinics in those countries including Czechoslovakia and the law in that country provides that sufferers from poliomyelitis must have the benefit of the Kenny treatment. It is amazing to me therefore, that medical men in this country, with a few exceptions, will not even investigate this method simply because it was discovered, apparently quite accidently by a humble bush nurse, and not by a qualified medical practitioner. Likewise, the excellent work of chiropractors in curing many complaints that do not respond to orthodox methods is still not recognized by the medical profession in this country, although in the United States of America it has been legalized in 44 States and 20,000 licensed practitioners with degrees are serving approximately 30,000,000 people.
– Order ! The honorable member appears to be getting right away from the bill.
– I am dealing with some of the matters for which I consider provision should be made in the proposed agreement.
– The bill relates to hospital benefits.
– The Minister himself said that, under this legislation, medical schools would be established, hospitals would be equipped, and so on. I am dealing now with the establishment of medical schools and the attitude of medical men to certain new ideas. That attitude hindered many great reforms in medical science - even some advocated by members of the medical profession itself. As the Minister said in his address to the Medical Congress -
Great names stand out - Hippocrates, Galen, Hunter, Harvey, Jenner and Lister - all these had to fight opposition of their colleagues in securing the acceptance of their reforms and ideas. ,
If we are to adopt American methods, therefore, some choice must be offered to those desiring newer or more modern kinds of treatment. That is vital to this legislation which will set up a new system in this country. Referring to the American system the Minister stated in a recent press announcement -
Private groups cater perfectly for the little recognized emotional element which is present, in choosing hospitals and doctors. People do not like to have their doctors and hospitals chosen for them. Each person is free to pick exactly the type of insurance he feels will fit his special need.
Where is there any such assurance in the bill or in the proposed agreement? If the scheme is to be voluntary and the American precedent is to be followed, some choice of the kind of service required should be allowed to individuals and groups such as Seventh Day Adventists, Christian Scientists and others, who adopt health treatments as a part of their religious philosophy. These are probably the emotional elements to which the Minister has referred, and their interests should be protected. We cannot adopt some portions of the American scheme and graft on to them some of the traditional ideas of the British Medical Association. If we do so we shall have merely a hybrid or piebald scheme, half Yankee and half British, which is totally unsuitable to the conditions that exist here. The attitude of mind of members of the medical profession towards new ideas which has kept back any reforms in medical science was aptly described by one of its members, Dr. F. J. Gwynne, the well-known radiologist of New Zealand, formerly of Macquarie-street, Sydney, who is reported in the New Zealand Herald to have said during the course of an address to the Auckland Rotary Club -
Lately, in Australia, Mr. W. M. Hughes-
– Order ! I have repeatedly reminded honorable members that they must refer to other honorable members by their constituency and not by name.
– I was quoting from a newspaper extract. It referred to the right honorable member for Bradfield, (Mr. Hughes), who formerly represented the constituency of North Sydney. The extract reads -
Lately, in Australia, Mr. W. M. Hughes had criticized the attitude of the British Medical Association to certain unorthodox medical treatment, and quite rightly. Doctors were npt to become narrow minded and intolerant towards treatment that originated outside their ranks.
Criticizing the set lectures and narrow limits of the medical curriculum, and the tendency to too much specialization, Dr. Gwynne is reported to have said -
By the time medical students finally qualified they had lost the critical faculty and the tendency of all this was to make doctors credulous of claims offered on behalf of new drugs and instruments, and of statements they read in medical journals, because they could not separate the significant from the insignificant in their years of training. They herded together for mutual protection in professional societies and clinics and condemned unorthodox practices without investigation - in thu hope of stemming the rising tide of quackery. Research was not a matter of buildings and endowments but an attitude of mind. The unorthodox must be given a chance.
This bill provides for the reimbursement of medical fees charged by public hospitals. Many doctors, particularly those who were critical of the Chifley Government and of the Labour movement, have advocated the adoption of incentive payments for workers in industry. I suggest that they be given an opportunity to share in the system of incentive payments on the basis of results achieved in keeping the community in good health. Let them impart their knowledge of the human machine to suffering mankind in clinics established for the purpose of informing the general public as well as medical men of th, latest developments in the science of medicine. The original derivation of the word “ doctor “ was “ teacher “. Knowledge of the human machine should not be the province of only one section of the community. In conjunction with medical schools and clinics, lecture halls should be provided in which medical men could advise the people about the right way of living. Provision should also be made in the agreement with the States for regular clinical observation of children in their formative years, especially to check any tendency to bad posture, which, it is claimed by some authorities, leads to breakdown of the system generally and renders it prone to many diseases. A recent report of the Commonwealth Department of Health, which was financed between 1947-50 out of national fitness funds as a national fitness project, and which contains statistics that were compiled after a survey of posture of children, gives some interesting and alarming facts about the effect of bad posture. The project covered a factual survey of 35,000 school children.
– Order ! The honorable member is completely outside the ambit of the bill.
– The Minister has said that he is greatly concerned about the efficient and unwasteful expenditure of public moneys. I am endeavouring to show that the institution of preventive measures, which the Minister himself has advocated, the establishment of health clinics and the regular observation of posture among school children are matters of vital importance.
– Order ! I remind the honorable member that the bill has two purposes. It provides for the repeal of two acts that are now on the statutebook and it deals with matters concerning the provision of hospital benefits.
– I submit, Mr. Speaker, that what I am saying is relevant to the bill. You, sir, are dealing with the preamble to the bill; I am dealing, with the bill itself.
– Order ! There is no preamble to the bill.
– I do not know upon what grounds you have based your ruling, Mr. Speaker. Clause 5 provides that the Commonwealth may “ enter into an agreement with a State for or in relation to the provision of hospital benefits “. If the text of the proposed agreement had been incorporated in the bill as it was in the legislation enacted by the Chifley Government in 1945 and 1947, we should have had an opportunity to analyse it. The Minister has prevented us from doing so by omitting the agreement from the bill. We want to know whether he intends to do the things that he repeatedly said he would do when he was in opposition, and we want to be assured that the millions of pounds that will be expended under this legislation will be wisely expended in the establishment of clinic^ and in the education of the people generally, and of members of the medical profession in particular, in the latest developments in medical science. A Commonwealth department initiated the survey to which I have referred. I take it chat it did not do so merely for fun and that it intends to make use of the information which it has compiled. Some very alarming facts were revealed in the survey.
– I have already ruled that the honorable member may not discuss that subject. If he deliberately transgresses my ruling he knows what to expect.
– -I have not the time to object to your ruling, Mr. Speaker. I want to make the best use .of the few minutes that remain to me. The people should be educated in health matters. They do not desire the public hospitals of Australia to be crowded with patients. We should do our utmost to develop a physically fit and healthy nation. The survey to which I have referred dealt with aspects of health other than that of bad posture. It indicated that bad nutrition, environment and psychological factors, coupled with bad housing conditions, disturbed home life, and domestic and financial worries, were factors in bringing about bad health. Indeed,, the burden of the additional taxes imposed by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) may well be a contributing factor to bad health. The Commonwealth and the States are responsible for assisting the people to overcome these problems. Trained nutritionists, psychologists and social workers should be attached to health clinics, in addition to the usual technicians, such as physiotherapists and the like. In the long run. preventive measures will effect considerable savings in hospitalization. Instead of over-crowded hospitals and expensive hospitalization empty hospital beds should become the order of the day.
– Order ! The honorable mouther’s time has expired.
.- Honorable members would not wish rae to endeavour to follow the wanderings of the honorable member for Reid (Mr.
Morgan) in his contribution to this debate. As he completely disregarded the bill and discussed topics that were clearly outside its ambit, it might bc well for me to outline the principles that are incorporated in the measure. The purpose of the bill is to give authority to the Government to conduct negotiations and to enter into an agreement with the States for the provision of hospital benefits for the general good of the community. The bill restores to State governments operating in a federal constitutional setup primary responsibility for health and the control of public hospital administration and policy. Whatever we may think about proposals of this kind we must realize that responsibility for the administration of any hospital benefits scheme rests upon the State governments, and that the Commonwealth can enter the field only with the agreement of the States. The bill will provide a means of repairing the damage that was done to hospital revenues by the hospital benefits agreement which was drawn up by the Chifley Government in 1945. The Premiers of the States criticized that agreement very severely and stated that it would seriously affect the finances of the hospitals, which would not reap the benefits claimed for them by those who had originated the proposal. What was predicted at that time has now happened and the nation is in a serious plight as far as hospital accommodation is concerned. The agreement imposed conditions on the hospitals which have resulted in a loss of revenue estimated at £6,000,000 a year. That rate of loss is increasing as wages and other costs continue to rise.
The bill before the House will enablepatients in public hospitals to enjoy amenities which are enjoyed by those in private hospitals. By the payment of a contribution of 3d. a week the single man will have his hospital expenses paid to the amount of 18s. a day, comprising 6s. a day in insurance payments and 12s. a day subsidy. A contribution of 6d. a week will entitle a married man to receive- £1 4s. a day in benefits, representing 12s. insurance payment and 12s. subsidy. Any person may, by paying increased’ contributions, receive greater benefits. By providing for the payment of most adequate benefits this measure will encourage people to apply for hospital insurance and enable the hospitals to become solvent. The payment of a few pence a week will insure people against sickness which may cost pounds a week. Hospitals will benefit considerably from the Government’s proposals. Prior to the introduction of the medical benefits legislation of the Chifley Government in 1944 there were a number of hospital benefits organizations in this country which had a very large membership. Those organizations assisted hospitals in various areas considerably. By contributing to the upkeep of the hospitals they made it possible for the government to give greater assistance in the extension of facilities than would otherwise have been possible. The main responsibility of governments in relation to hospitalization should be to provide buildings and equipment. The hospitals should then be able to meet their operating costs from current revenue.
It has been proposed that payments made under this scheme should be permissible deductions for income tax purposes. Therefore the bill will encourage thrift. The Government has provided a free medical service for pensioners. During the winter of their lives, when they can no longer earn money, these people can now obtain the services of a general practitioner free of charge. I have no doubt that, eventually, these free services will be extended. However, not every service that the people require can be financed from taxation. A good deal has been said by Opposition members about the elimination of the means test. Under the legislation that was introduced by the Chifley Government certain classes of people were discriminated against and they had to pay for treatment in hospitals. Out-patients were subjected to a means test. “Workers’ compensation cases were not covered by the Chifley legislation. Deductions were made from age and invalid pensions when the recipients were admitted to hospital. The scheme before the House represents a much sounder approach to hospitalization problems than the legislation of the Chifley Government. Opposition members have asked why the Government has not introduced a more comprehensive health scheme. [Quorum formed.] When information relating to a particular measure is being given to the House the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) frequently seizes the opportunity to delay the debate.
-Order! The honorable member for East Sydney was within his rights in calling attention to the state of the House.
– This Government has introduced a proposal for the general welfare of the people which will bring credit to it. In September, 1950, when the Government had been in office only a very short time, it made a great contribution to the health of the people by the introduction of legislation providing for pharmaceutical benefits. Provision was made for drugs which were considered essential in the treatment of certain diseases to be provided free. All important drugs in common use were placed on the free list. This has made it possible for people in every walk of life to have the benefit of the most modern drugs. The Government has provided a medical service which I am sure is appreciated by the whole nation. The doctors are co-operating with the Government to the utmost extent possible, because they realize the importance of the provision to the people of this country. As a result of the medical scheme that was introduced in February last, pensioners and persons who are receiving tuberculosis allowances are now able to obtain the services of general practitioners for themselves and their dependants free of charge. That provision is being availed of extensively. There are about 470,000 pensioners in this country who are eligible to receive the benefits. Taking into account their wives and children, such benefits are being provided for about 650,000 persons. I confidently believe that, at some future date, the Government will introduce a comprehensive medical benefits scheme.
– If the British Medical Association will allow it to do so !
– The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryson) appears to be preoccupied with such considerations. However, I believe that everybody in this country will co-operate when a sound scheme is brought forward by the Government. Already the medical profession is co-operating in the provision of benefits under the existing schemes.
In July, 1950, the Commonwealth undertook to assist the States in connexion with an anti-tuberculosis campaign, and is providing considerable finance for that purpose. It is therefore obvious to all honorable members that, step by step, this Government is legislating to assist all sections of the community. Ultimately, it will achieve a comprehensive scheme to provide benefits for all members of the community who need them. That scheme will prove to be a worthy example to other countries of what can be achieved by sane Government.
In December last the Government initiated a scheme to provide milk free to school children, in order to enable us to build a strong, healthy race. The nation will be saved considerable expenditure in the future as a result. The States are co-operating to ensure that, wherever practicable, school children shall receive regular issues of free milk. The Government has provided funds to enable medical research to be extended. In view of the incidence of disease it is evident that research in this direction should be furthered in the interests of the health of the community. As honorable members are aware, the flying doctor service provides valuable assistance to the people who are living in the outback areas. Already the Commonwealth has provided for financial assistance to the amount of £12,500, and has undertaken to pay a subsidy of £10,000 a year for the next three years. This will ensure that people living in sparsely settled areas will receive the benefits of medical science that are available to the residents of the thickly populated areas. The Government has also provided assistance to the Red Cross Society in connexion with the establishment of blood banks.
T have mentioned all of these matters in order to remind the House of the progress that has been made by this Government to protect the health of our people. I turn now to the measure before the House, Its provisions are further proof of my assertion that, within a reasonable time, there will be achieved in this country a comprehensive medical scheme. The criticism that has been voiced by honorable members opposite stems from the fact that the nation disagreed with Labour’s socialist policy as evidenced in its legislation of 1945 to provide free medical benefits. Many Ministers of State governments expressed their disagreement with the principles on which that scheme was based. State Ministers bear the responsibility of administering hospital benefits, and are fully seised with what should be done in this connexion in the best interests of people of this country. They met in Canberra on the 16th January last, and passed the following resolution : -
Having regard to the Commonwealth’* notice to terminate the existing Agreement under the Hospital Benefits Act, this conference of Health Ministers recommend to their respective governments revision of the Hospital Benefits Agreement on lines generally approved by which Heads of Agreement 4-10, with tinexception of 9(1), are omitted. The new Agreement will permit the efficient and economic handling of the life-saving drugs provided under the Second Schedule to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act to hospitals in which lifesaving drugs will be made available free by the Commonwealth to all in-patients in private, intermediate and public wards and all out-patients and make provision at the discretion of the respective governments for the inauguration of voluntary hospital insurance schemes which will attract twelve shillings per day hospital subsidy.
I direct the attention of honorable members particularly to the concluding portion of the resolution, wherein the State Ministers of Health expressed in advance approval of the principles that are now embodied in the bill before the House. I submit that those gentlemen, who occupy responsible positions, are in a far better position to express an accurate opinion about health matters than are honorable members opposite who are only concerned with the political aspects of this measure and not with the health of the Australian people.
– Who were those gentlemen?
– At least three of the Ministers present were Labour Ministers for Health. Therefore, honorable members opposite will realize that the opinions that I have mentioned were expressed by men who know something about their own business, who hold responsible office and who will not waste time on the political aspects of health matters.
The measure before the House is of great importance to the whole of Australia. It seeks to restore to the States the power to administer their own hospitals, and to the bodies which directly control the hospitals a greater measure of responsibility. There was a time in this country when citizens took much greater interest in their local hospitals than they do to-day. They made many efforts to help their hospitals by serving on hospital hoards and by raising money. Since the Chifley Government’s Hospital Benefits Act was implemented, control ha3 been taken away from State governments and out of the hands of local hospital boards. That has caused a decline of public interest in the hospitals. Local voluntary effort has been very greatly discouraged. This measure will restore a great measure of local interest in hospitals.
Before the implementation of the Hospital Benefits Act 1945 records show that the hospital income derived from nongovernmental sources was always greater by about 50 per cent. After the implementation of that act hospital revenue from local sources declined to 20 per cent, of the income formerly derived from those sources. That clearly indicates how our hospitals have suffered under the socialist policy. At present we are desperately short of hospital accommodation. No progress is being made in the extension of hospital buildings because of lack of finance. I suggest that that is a direct result of the socialist activities of the previous Government in directing local interest away from hospitals. Since the Chifley Government’s act came into force the hospitals of this country have lost at least £6,000,000 a year in revenue. T. suggest that that is a very serious loss, not only to the hospitals, but also to the people, because almost every town and city in the Commonwealth is desperately short of hospital accommodation and facilities. If the Labour Government’s policy had not been introduced the hospitals would have been better off by £6,000,000 a year, and we may be sure that a large proportion of that money would have been expended to provide the facilities that are so necessary to-day.
Prior to 1945 sources other than government provided 50 per cent, of all hospital revenue. Since then the revenue from such sources has fallen to 20 per cent. That indicates a very serious falling off in local interest, which has been solely caused by the Chifley Governments Hospitals Benefits Act. According to this bill, if a single man insures for hospital benefits of £2 2s. a week, when it becomes necessary for him to obtain those benefits the Government will subscribe £4 4s. a week. Therefore he will get hospital benefits valued at £6 6s. a week for a contribution of 3d. a week. I believe that Australians can carry responsibility, and I therefore think that, many additional people will take advantage of the Government’s proposals and insure themselves and their families for hospital benefits.
For 6d. a week a married man oau insure himself and his family to the amount of 12s. a day for hospital treatment. To that the Government proposes to add another 12s. a day upon hospitalization. Before the introduction of the Chifley measure, voluntary hospital benefits insurance organizations were in operation throughout the country. Interest in these has since declined, and one of outpresent difficulties is to restore the local interest that was of such value to our hospitals. The State governments have approved in principle of this measure, and if it is adopted our hospitals will benefit greatly. The benefits outlined in the bill will prove their value, and then further benefits will follow them.
We cannot afford to neglect our responsibility to ensure that the people are kept healthy. There are only about 3,500,000 people in Australia who are able to work. They have to bear the responsibility of developing and defending the country and maintaining our ordinary services. We cannot afford, to have any of. those people laid aside through illness. Therefore » measure such as this, by helping to preserve the health of the people, will be of great and lasting benefit to the maintenance and development of Australia.
.- The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) admirably presented the case for the Opposition against this bill. I rise to support him. Before proceeding to my main argument I desire to make some observations about certain statements that were made by honorable members on the Government side who have preceded me in this debate. The honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) stated that this bill would enable agreements to be negotiated with the States. The Opposition believes that while the measure proposes to give permission to the Australian Government to negotiate with the State governments, there is no indication in the bill of what kind of agreements will be made. Indeed, it is proposed to give the Government complete power to negotiate agreements of whatsoever kind it may desire. That appears to be quite definite from a perusal of the bill, notwithstanding statements to the contrary that have been made by Government supporters.
Reference has been made to the belief that the 8s. a day which is now paid in respect of hospital patients will continue to be paid, but there is no reference in the bill to that amount. We join issue with the Government on the measure because it proposes to give complete power to the Commonwealth to make any kind of agreement with the States. The honorable member for Oxley proceeded to make the extraordinary statement that this bill would provide more hospital beds. Just how making available more finance to hospitals will provide more beds has not been explained. I believe that every hospital in Australia is to-day short of beds, but that is not attributable to financial difficulties; it i3 because of staff difficulties. There is not one hospital in Australia which, if it had the necessary staff at its disposal, could not make more beds available than it is using at present. [ know of one hospital in a metropolitan area of New South Wales that is compelled, owing to shortage of staff, to keep no fewer than 50 beds unoccupied. Therefore, the argument of the honorable member for Oxley, who, incidentally, is a member of the medical profession, that the effect of this measure will be to make available more hospitals beds cannot be sustained. Those who know something about this problem realize that the reason why more hospital beds are not available in public hospitals is that there is a lack, not of money, but of staff.
The honorable gentleman stated also that the operation of this measure would improve the doctor-patient relationship. How it will do that, I do not know. He went on to say that, that being the case, the hospital-community relationship also would be improved. Has the quality of that relationship deteriorated as far as our public hospitals are concerned ‘( There have always been people throughout Australia who have been sufficiently public spirited to interest themselves in this phase of our national activity. There may have been a decrease of financial contributions to State hospitals, but the Government has not proved, and J know from my own experience that it would be impossible to prove, that there has been a deterioration of the relations between the hospitals and the public.
The honorable member for Oxley concluded his speech with the statement that this measure has the support of the medical profession throughout Australia. If that were not so, the bill would not now be before the House. The Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) has my deepest sympathy. Ministers for Health in both the State and Commonwealth spheres have always found themselves in an embarrassing position. That position has not been improved by the existence of the British Medical Association. It is a matter for regret that in recent year.? that organization has assumed a pseudopolitical form, with devastating effects upon itself. I do not expect honorable gentlemen who are members of the British Medical Association to agree with me, but I say definitely that tinassociation has degenerated into a political organization which is controlled by a body of men who are more politically minded than they are public minded. Many members of the British Medical Association now admit that they were misled when the Chifley Government’s legislation was before the Parliament. They do not conceal their opinion of tb; advice that was tendered to them by their organization at that time.
If the British Medical Association persists in playing politics, it must accept the consequences of its action. I do not hesitate to criticize the attitude that it has adopted and to say that it contributed to no small degree to the confusion that existed in the mind of the public during the 1949 general election campaign about the effect of the health legislation of the Chifley Government. During that campaign, members of the British Medical Association paraded the country and publicly opposed the Chifley Government. They had a right to do so, but, having entered into the political arena, they should not object when they are criticized. I do criticize the leaders of the British Medical Association not so much for the opinions that they express as for using those opinions to coerce the rest of the members of their organizations.
I suggest that the honorable member for Oxley and the Minister for Health devote their attention to persuading the British Medical Association to confine its activities to the medical sphere and to refrain from intruding in the political sphere. The British Medical Association occupies a unique position in this country because no graduate in medicine may, except in Tasmania, practise in a public hospital without having first become a member of the association. Honorable members who praise the British Medical Association give the impression that the community is under an obligation to it, but where would the members of the association be unless they had the public hospitals of this country in which to gain experience in their profession? They are enabled to become as proficient in their profession as they are only because of the experience that they can gain in our public hospitals. The leaders of the British Medical Association would be well advised to leave politics alone occasionally and devote their energies to other activities. To-day the medical profession is suffering from the effects of over-specialization. The day of the general practitioner is passing because medical men are over-specializing. That is having a bad effect upon the community. I suggest that the British Medical Association could more profitably devote its attention to matters of that kind than to intrusion into politics.
The honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Eggins) made the amazing statement that the increase of the cost of hospital administration was due to the Chifley Govern ment’s legislation. Absurd statements of that kind have been made frequently is this debate by honorable gentlemen opposite. They may be useful for propaganda purposes, but they do not appeal to anybody who wishes to make a factual approach to this problem. The honorable member for Lyne said also that hospital development is being retarded because the States have lost £6,000,000 as a result of the operation of the existing scheme. If the sum that is available for hospital development in this country were increased by £25,000,000, not one additional hospital could be built at present. Doubtless, every State has its own programme of hospital development, just as it has a housing programme. Those housing programmes are not being retarded owing to the withholding of finance although the position may be different when the effects of this Government’s financial policy are felt. The States have money available for expenditure upon the erection of new hospitals and the extension of existing hospitals. Every honorable member who takes an interest in the development of hospitals knows that the States have earmarked funds for that purpose, and that the development of hospitals is being retarded, not because of the alleged loss of £6,000,000 but because of lack of labour.
The Minister, in his secondreading speech, said that the measure had objectives of far-reaching importance. The Opposition strongly objects to the provision for the re-imposition of the means test. That is a retrograde step which we shall contest every inch of the way. I am unable to agree with many of the statements that the Minister made. He claimed that under the measure the control of hospital policy would be restored to the States. He said that rich and poor alike are now admitted to public wards without payment, or question, despite the acute shortage of hospital beds. What is wrong with that? Does such a condition of affairs justify the reimposition of the means test? He appeared to argue that one could possibly become rich if one became incapacitated and became a patient in a public ward. He claimed that any person, who found it necessary to obtain hospital treatment, would be better off if he, or she, were insured and that regardless of the degree of benefit for which insurance was effected hospital treatment, in any event, was very costly. Prior to the passage of the 194.5 act many families were obliged to expend their life savings upon hospital treatment for one of their members who had met with a serious accident or had contracted a dangerous illness.
The Minister also claimed that the measure would restore to the States control of hospital policy. I should like to know how and when the States have been deprived of such control. No SUCk development has occurred in New South Wales. In respect of that .State, at any rate, the Minister’s statement was incorrect. He also said that deductions were made from age and invalid pensions and the tuberculosis allowances in respect of the treatment of recipients of such benefits in homes and hospitals. That practice is followed in New South Wales as a matter of policy; but this measure will not make the slightest difference in that respect. When the 1945 measure was before the Parliament, various persons expressed fears about the possible implications of the abolition of the means test. Some claimed that, as a result of that move, members of the medical profession would refuse to render honorary service in public wards. For instance, Sir William McKell, who was then Premier of New South Wales, said - 1 have received very strong protests from an association, which represents 140 hospitals in New South Wales, against the adoption of the scheme. They express the view that it will affect the honorary medical services.
Mr. Dunstan, who was then Premier of Victoria, made a similar prediction. He said -
It has been suggested to me that the abolition of the means test will cause the withdrawal of honorary medical services from the hospitals.
Such predictions have been proved to be completely groundless. Costs have an important bearing upon hospital administration. The relevant figures are most informative. Whereas in 1945 the weekly cost for each occupied bed in New South Wales averaged £5 7s. lOd. it had increased to £5 13s. 5d. in the following year. By 1950, that cost had risen to £11 12s. 9d. whilst last year it had risen to £12 12s. 9d. I cite those figures from the latest annual report of the Hospitals Commission in
New South Wales. That commission determines hospital .charges in that State. In the metropolitan area, the daily charge for treatment in private wards is 30s., less 8s., and. 24s., less 8s., for treatment in intermediate wards, whilst treatment in public wards is free of charge. Events since 1945 have fully justified the legislation that the Labour Government passed in that year. That legislation was introduced on the recommendation of the Social Security Committee which wa6 representative of all parties in the Parliament. Provision was then made for free hospital treatment, and the Labour party was justly proud of that achievement. The predictions to which I have referred have been proved to be completely groundless. That legislation conferred a great hoon upon the community. I repeat that, in many instances, persons are unable to meet the cost of treatment in intermediate, or public, wards. Before the introduction of the 1945 legislation more than one family in Australia found that their savings went as the result of expenses which had been incurred because of accidents to members of the family. I very much fear that re-introduction of the means test will mean a reversion to that undesirable state of affairs.
.- This measure aims at repairing the damage that was done to State legislation by the hospital benefits agreement that was entered into by the Chifley Government in 1945 and provides for the introduction of voluntary prepaid hospital benefits insurance. The honorable member for Martin (Mr. O’Connor), in common with the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), plainly showed that he is a strong supporter of nationalization of medical services. It is clear that anything contrary to that objective will incur his displeasure. The bill now before the House will help not only to prevent the nationalization of medical services but also to unravel the tangle in which hospital finance was left by the Chifley Government.
This measure is based upon the principle of self-help. I congratulate the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) and the Government upon having made a genuine attempt to revive appreciation of that principle in certain sections of the community. During recent years those sections have been disposed to regard the Government as a benencent dispenser of true aid and as a supporter oi idleness. The payment of hospital benefits at the present time presents complex problems for the Minister for Health. It is a reproach to governments and to citizens alike that our hospitals should be staggering along on the verge of bankruptcy. 1 submit that this bill represents a sincere attempt on the part of the Government to retrieve the hospitals from that position.
The legislation introduced by the Chifley Government in 1945 provided for the payment of a subsidy of 6s. a day and for alleviation of the means test in order that every one might be permitted to enter charitable hospitals. Since that legislation was enacted, contributions by the public to the support of hospitals have decreased considerably. That decrease applies particularly to Victoria. In 1943 it was necessary for governments to provide only 43 per cent, of the money needed for the upkeep of charitable hospitals in that State. Since 1945 that percentage has increased, and to-day it has reached GS per cent. I have no doubt that a similar position exists in other States of the Commonwealth. An honorable member has stated this evening that the figure in New South Wales is 80 per cent, at the present time. The reason for that decrease of public contributions is that the Labour Government which was in office in 1944 and 1945 trumpeted throughout the land that it would subsidize hospitals and that from that time onward hospital treatment would be free to the poor and to the rich alike. Those who Could afford to pay for hospital treatment may be pardoned for having believed that their obligation to contribute ceased from that time. The result has been that the responsibility for the upkeep of hospitals has fallen more and more heavily on governments. It is unfortunate that those who need hospital treatment most are those who have the greatest difficulty in obtaining such treatment.
– Therefore, the cost of such treatment should be the responsibility of governments.
– I assume that the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) believes that those whose means prohibit them from paying for hospital treatment should do without such treatment. That is in line with the general attitude of the Australian Labour party to-day.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro made a speech that was calculated to deceive the people and which contained inaccurate statements. For instance, he stated that the provisions of this bill will cancel the subsidy of Ss. a day which is paid at present to public hospitals. I suggest that the honorable gentleman either did not read’ the bill or intentionally made statements that were calculated to deceive, because the bill distinctly provides in proposed new section 3 (2.) that-
Notwithstanding the repeal of the Acts specified in the last preceding sub-section, financial assistance to a State shall continue to be payable as provided by those Acts so long as the agreement with that State authorized by or under those Acts is in force.
– The bill also provides for the immediate repeal of those acts.
– Financial assistance to a State will continue for as long as the agreement with the State remains in force. Proposed new section 6 provides that payment of hospital benefits may be made in respect of persons who are patients in public or private hospitalsin a State or a territory of the Commonwealth.
I should have thought that members of the Opposition, in their criticism of this bill, would have referred to thefact that this is merely an enabling measure. At some unspecified period the requisite machinery for implementing the provisions of the bill will he set in motion. I doubt whether the Minister for Health had any alternative to the presentation of an enabling measure, because the acquiescence and co-operation of thevarious State Ministers for Health is necessary before voluntary hospital benefits may come into operation. As all honorable members are aware, the position in relation to hospital treatment variesthroughout the Commonwealth. Consequently, when a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers is held, the
Commonwealth Minister for Health must have a certain degree of freedom in order to deal effectively with the requirements of the various States. I regret that it has been found necessary to introduce a bill which is merely an enabling measure, but I take solace from the fact that a certain degree of freedom is thus left to the Minister.
The main object of this legislation ia to ensure that those in need of hospital treatment and unable to afford it may receive such treatment. In Victoria today, 3,500 persons are awaiting beds in hospitals. In other words, there is a hospital bed shortage in that State of 3,500. I have no doubt that the figures for other States are similar. As a result, hospital committees are at their wits’ end concerning finance. This measure will provide some assistance in that respect, inasmuch as the management of a hospital will know from time to time how much money it may reasonably expect to receive in payments under the voluntary insurance scheme.
I agree with the honorable member for Martin (Mr. O’Connor), who considers that the shortage of hospital accommodation will remain acute for some time, but I remind him that, as a result of this bill, hospital finances will be placed on a proper basis. As labour and building materials become more readily available, additional hospitals will be constructed, and the shortage of hospital beds will gradually be overtaken. I ask the Minister whether persons who are not able to obtain accommodation in hospitals will be able to draw benefits if they are obliged to accept nursing in their homes.
– The Commonwealth is discussing that matter with some of the States at the present time.
Mi-. HAWORTH.- It is most important. Some measure of assistance should be granted to such persons. I consider that, if they subscribe to a national insurance scheme, they are entitled to receive some benefits from it during the period in which they receive treatment in their homes while they are awaiting admission to hospital. The Minister may be able to clarify another matter when he replies to this debate. In spite of the present inflationary conditions, the com munity is not short of money ; in spite of the high cost of medical advice, people ‘ can afford to consult doctors; and in spite of the lamentable lack of beds, patients can sometimes secure admission to hospitals. I should like the Minister to inform me what will happen when a subscriber to an insurance scheme becomes financially embarrassed. I consider thai, the proposed scheme should carry such an individual for a limited period.
– Provision is being made to meet such cases.
– I am glad to obtain that assurance from the Minister. I believe that the new scheme, which hai already been tried in the United States of America with great success, will be accepted by the majority of Australians. Any measure that develops in people the will to help themselves should be encouraged in every way. The purpose of thi? bill is to help those people who are prepared to help themselves. Every wage earner who is a taxpayer must contribn te t.n the cost of the national health scheme, oven in its present incomplete stage. ( consequently there must be no discrimination and class distinction. Hospital attention, drugs, and the services of general medical practitioners and of specialists, must be freely available to all citizens. That is the object of the Government iii formulating a national health plan. Subject to all the reasonable safeguards that experience, and the abuse of health schemes in other countries, have revealed to be necessary, such a health scheme will go a long way towards producing a healthy and contented people. That is the objective of the Government, and its reason for presenting this measure to the House.
Mr. GOES ON ANDERSON (Kingsford Smith) [10.36 1 . - I agree with only one of the statements of the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth), and that is his remark that this bill, in itself, is merely an enabling measure. It certainly has no meat on its bones, and it contains no conditions that may be incorporated in agreements with the States. Consequently, honorable members are at a great disadvantage when they attempt to assess the worth, or otherwise, of the bill to the community. Good health is a nation’s greatest asset, and the reduction of the number of persons who are entitled to benefit under a national health scheme is a retrograde step. The hospital benefits legislation, in its present form, provides that a patient in the public ward of a hospital shall be treated free of charge, and that the Commonwealth shall make a contribution of 8s. a day in respect of such a patient. Notwithstanding the assurances that have been given by Government supporters, I believe that the bill will alter that position. Clause 3 (1.) provides for the repeal of the Hospital Benefits Act 1945, the Hospital Benefits Act 1947 and the Hospital Benefits Act 1948. Sub-clause (2.) states -
Notwithstanding the repeal of the Acts specified in the last preceding sub-section, financial assistance to a State shall continue to be payable as provided by those acts so long as the agreement with that State authorized by or under those Acts is in force.
Sub-clause (3.) authorizes the Commonwealth to enter into an agreement with a State in order to provide that any agreement with it that was authorized by the three hospital benefits acts shall cease to be in force. Regulations may be promulgated at any time under this enabling bill to cancel the existing agreements between the Commonwealth and the several States. Such agreements, even if they are not brushed aside, will have only a limited time to run, and the bill does not suggest that, when they expire, they will be renewed. Therefore, the only payments that will be made to hospitals will be those that will be authorized under this legislation. A person who wishes to become eligible for hospital benefits will be required to contribute at least 6d. a week to an approved society.
As I have stated, the purpose of this bill is to repeal the hospital benefits acts, which provide for the making of agreements between the Commonwealth and the States. The assumption, when those agreements were signed, was that they would remain in force until the date of expiration. But this bill provides that they may be terminated at an earlier date. Even if those agreements are not terminated, they will have only a limited time to run, and the benefits that are now payable under them will cease upon the date of expiry unless they are ‘renewed.
The House has not been given an assurance that they will be renewed. .
Under this bill, hospitals will be deprived of benefits and payments that they now receive, yet no specific provision is made in it to replace them. The speeches that have been made by some Government supporters in this debate have amazed me. I have been a director of a public hospital for a number of years, and I have been interested to discover how much advice can be given to me by so many people in this chamber, who have taken no interest in the administration of public hospitals. I regret that some of the statements that have been made are misleading. The honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) made a number of submissions, in which, no doubt, he firmly believes, but I am particularly concerned with his assertion that this bill will take nothing away from, but will actually confer a great deal more benefit upon, the public. I do not propose to argue that point with the honorable gentleman; I merely refer him to the report of the speech of the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), when he moved the second reading of this bill. The right honorable gentleman then stated that the objective of this measure was apparently to bring the national health scheme in Australia into line with that of the United States of America. In the United States of America, 84 per cent, of the cost of hospital treatment is borne by the patients and only 14 per cent, by the governments, whereas in Australia, 80 per cent, of the cost is borne by governments. The purpose of this legislation is, on the Minister’s own admission, to make conditions in Australia approximate more closely to those in the. United States of America, so that more of the money in the Social “Welfare Fund may be used for purposes other than that of hospital maintenance. I have no objection to proposals for improving social services, but why not admit that the purpose of the bill is to relieve the Government of expenditure on hospital maintenance?
The honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Eggins) said that the difficulties being experienced by hospital boards at the present time arose out of the scheme introduced by the Chifley Government. I do not propose to debate that statement, because it has been adequately answered by other honorable members. Those of us who serve on hospital boards know that even if money is available it is often difficult or impossible to get labour and materials with which to provide’ additional hospital space and equipment. Another point that is conveniently overlooked is that, whereas only a few years ago the population of Australia was about 8,000,000, it is now over 8,000,000, a fact which, perhaps more than any other, is responsible for the strain on hospital accommodation. However, the honorable member for Lyne could not resist having a shot at the Labour Government. This subject should be above party politics, because on the health of the community depends .the future welfare of Australia. More members of the Opposition have had experience on hospital boards and in friendly societies than have honorable members on the Government side. The reason is that those who support the Government belong to a class the members of which are generally able to look after themselves, whereas those on this side represent the people on low incomes, who, out of necessity, have had to provide in advance against sickness. Therefore, most honorable members on this side of the chamber have been associated with friendly societies and hospital work in an honorary capacity.
The honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) said that our opposition to the bill arose out of our desire to nationalize medicine. This bill is concerned not with medicine, but with providing hospital treatment, and the remark of the honorable member serves only to show how hard put to it he is to discover grounds upon which to criticize the Opposition. I realize that the bill will be passed, and I regret that it does not state the conditions under which payments will be made. In some respects the wording of the bill is vague. For instance, it is not clear whether the money will be paid to the insured person, to a government or to some hospital organization to be set up under the regulations.
Certain voluntary organizations have been doing excellent work for their members over a number of years. I have myself been a member for many years of one of the oldest of such organizations in New South Wales, the Railways and Tramways Hospital Fund, which was inaugurated in 1885 and now has over 60,000 contributors. Last year it paid out £82,575 to more than 16,000 patients in respect of 152,000 days in hospital. The. fund is governed by the subscribers, through officers whom they themselves elect. Management costs amount to only 9.2 per cent, of the annual revenue of approximately £103,000. This fund will be detrimentally affected by the legislation that we are now considering. The rules provide for payments at various rates, which entitle members to corresponding benefits. About 14 per cent, of the members contribute 6d. a week for a weekly benefit of £2 10s., and 28 per cent, contribute 2s. a week, which entitles them to a benefit of about £8 a week. However, over 40 per cent, of the members contribute ls. a week, which entitles them to a benefit of £4 10s. a week. The members of this fund fear that under the Government’s scheme those who contribute to the fund at the higher rate will receive no corresponding benefit, and that all will drop down to the minimum scale. The fund will go to the wall because it will not be possible to provide benefits as at present. Therefore, I ask the Government, when framing regulations for the operation of the scheme, to give due consideration to mutual organizations which, for so many years, have done a remarkable job for a large number of people. I have mentioned only one fund, a large one admittedly, but there are scores of other such funds in Australia.
I was glad to hear the Minister say that he was considering the possibility of assisting home nursing services. We all know that many patients are unable to gain admission to hospitals. It is all very well to say that a poor man may go into a public hospital, but it is not always the fact. The shortage of beds if so acute that, unless the patient i.= being: treated by a doctor who has considerable “ pull “ with various hospitals, he has no chance of obtaining accommodation in the metropolitan area of New South Wales, at any rate. I understand that the situation is just as severe elsewhere in Australia. Fortunately, there are various bush nursing, district nursing and similar organizations in New South Wales. A very fine body that works in the electorate that I represent consists of about twenty ladies who are known as the Brown Nursing Sisters. They have worked from their headquarters at Coogee for many years without payment or government financial aid of any sort in order to attend sick persons in their homes, especially in poor suburbs. I hope that the Government will try to encourage this sort of work. Apart from the direct benefit to patients, it has other advantages that should appeal to the Government.First, there is no capital cost, as there would be in the construction of a hospital. Secondly, there is no maintenance cost. The organiza tion of the Brown Nursing Sisters is entirely maintained at present by public subscription. For 30 years, to my knowledge, these ladies have worked in Woolloomooloo, Surry Hills and various industrial areas in homes that many honorable members would not be “ game “ to enter because of the unfortunate conditions under which many sick elderly people are obliged to exist. The encouragement of such work would help to relieve the strain on hospital accommodation.
There has been a certain amount of conflict over various hospitals that are not outright public hospitals and I trust that, under this legislation, they will be treated reasonably. Under other schemes, the managements of such institutions have to answer all sorts of questionnaires before they can obtain any assistance from public funds. Young fellows from the State public service sometimes deal in arbitrary fashion with persons who. for many years, have been conducting some of the most outstanding hospitals in Mew South Wales. They quote rules and regulations to men and women who have given almost life-long service for the benefit of the health of the community. Many hospitals have had to go without government assistance to which they are justly entitled, and I sincerely hope that non-public hospitals of that character throughout Australia will be treated fairly under the terms of any future agreements. One instance of the foolish treatment that is meted out at times to such hospitals is that of an institution at which hundreds of nurses are employed. A very small proportion of its total expenditure is provided from public funds; it is maintained largely by voluntary subscription. A new refrigerator was installed at the hospital, but one of the bright lads of the Public Service refused to authorize this action because approval had not been given by some government authority. I sincerely trust that such stupid pinpricks, which cause nothing but unnecessary friction, will not be permitted in the operation of the Government’s proposed scheme.
As I said at the outset, this bill, of itself, is not sufficient. The information that has been given to us by the Minister is not comprehensive enough to enable us to discuss its probable effect intelligently. It is an enabling measure. Apart from the Opposition’s objection to contributory schemes of all sorts and the proposed repeal of the existing legislation, I make on earnest plea to the Government to give very serious consideration to its plans in order that the health of the community shall be safeguarded regardless of party policy.
Motion (by Mr. Davidson) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
I n division :
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided.
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Repeal and saving).
.- This clause deals with the proposed repeal of the Hospitals Benefits Act 1945, the Hospital Benefits Act 1947 and the Hospital Benefits Act 1948. It is proposed to repeal those act? in view of a resolution that was carried unanimously by the State Ministers for Health at a conference on the 16th January, 1951, which was -
Those provisions dealt with the mean? test and other controls that the Government was exercising over the States. The resolution continued -
The new Agreement will permit the efficient and economic handling of the life-saving drugs provided under the Second Schedule to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act to hospitals in which life-saving drugs will be made available free by the Commonwealth to all in-patients in private, intermediate and public wards and all out-patients and make provisionat the discretion of the respective governments for the inauguration of voluntary hospital insurance schemes which will attract twelve shillings per day hospital subsidy
The purpose of that resolution was to ensure that the existing legislation should be repealed. This hill repeals that legislation. It has been introduced for the specific purpose of covering an interim period and of permitting negotiations to be concluded, so that agreements may be made between the Commonwealth and State Governments, hospitals and’ hospital benefit organizations. It is the declared policy of the Government to introduce, as soon as the various sections of the national health scheme are in working order, a national health bill that will incorporate the whole range of medical, hospital and pharmaceutical benefits and services. Existing legislation that deals with those matters will be repealed. As a result of the experience that is now being gained in the working of various parts of the scheme, that measure will be drawn in much more definite and substantial terms. The necessary machinery will be set out to the greatest possible degree in the measure itself so that minimum use will be made of the regulationmaking power.
– I rise to order. [ submit that the Minister for Health is now dealing with legislation that he proposes to introduce and which has nothing to do with the clause now before the committee.
– I point out that clause 3 deals not merely with the repeal of three acts but also with the agreements that may be made pending the conclusion of negotiations. Sub-clause (3.) provides -
The Commonwealth may enter into an agreement with a State providing that the agreement with that State authorized by or under the Acts repealed by sub-section (1.) of this section shall cease to be in force.
– I rise to order. The usual practice is for a Minister to move an amendment or to speak in reply to objections that are raised to a clause. On this occasion, no amendment has been moved, and no other honorable member has had an opportunity to speak. The Minister, who was apparently unwilling to reply to the second-reading debate, is now taking advantage of the committee stage to do so.
That has nothing to do with the point of order. I am concerned only with whether or not the Minister’s remarks are in order. So far as I can see, they have been in order so far. If honorable members will remain silent I shall listen to what the Minister has to say.
– The progress that is being made by the Government, in its negotiations indicates clearly thai the comprehensive measure to which ] have referred will be brought down within a year.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order ! If honorable members do not cease interjecting I shall deal with them. The Minister must be heard in silence.
– During the temporary and fluid transitional period-
– I rise to order. I submit that the Minister is forecasting future legislation. He is referring to a measure that is to be brought down later in the year. That has nothing to do with this clause. The Minister is endeavouring to get round your ruling, Mr. Chairman, and I suggest that, in so doing, he is out of order and is being discourteous to the committee.
– The Minister i, quite in order because clause 3 refers to an agreement that is to be made between the Commonwealth and the States.
– During the temporary and fluid transitional period, it has been necessary to take power to operate in regard to certain matters under regulations made under this enactment. Those matters, under the new scheme, will be dealt with by statute.
– I am amazed at the arguments advanced by the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) in support of the repeal of the existing legislation. The Opposition objects strongly to that course. In the schedule to the original act provision is made for the payment by the Commonwealth to the States of 8s. a day in respect of occupied beds in public hospitals.
– That could be altered by regulation.
– Yes, to a degree. There is no such provision in this legislation. It is true that such payments may be prescribed by regulation, but I submit that that is an undesirable method. This bill merely provides a framework for regulations. Unfortunately the practice of governing by regulation has grown considerably in this Parliament, not only under the present Administration, but also under other governments. The original legislation provided that the Government could by regulation make payments to private hospitals. It is true that under clause 3 a regulation providing for payments to private hospitals could be introduced. I cannot, of course, refer to what the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) said in his second-reading speech about the beneficial effect of this legislation on private hospitals, but my opinion is that such hospitals will not be assisted in the slightest. Under the existing legislation, the Government can make what it considers to be appropriate grants to private hospitals. The Minister may argue, that, under this legislation, he can provide, by regulation, that if a person subscribes to the hospital insurance scheme, the Commonwealth may pay 4s. in addition to the 8s. a day, but the fact remains that the bill itself does not state the sum that shall be paid. That matter is to be determined solely by regulation. I accept the Minister’s statement of his intention, but I remind him that it would have been just as easy to make such payments by regulation under the original legislation as it will be under this measure. The repealing of the original legislation will not help private hospitals at all. This bill will merely give to public hospitals an opportunity to re-introduce the means test in relation to occupants of beds in public wards. I defy the Minister or any honorable member opposite to show me, in this bill, or in statements by the Minister, any evidence to prove that the measure will benefit private hospitals in any way, apart altogether from the fact that the bill may encourage people to contribute for a hospital benefit so that they may receive another 4s. a day. The schedule in the act which the Government wishes to have repealed does not relate to private hospitals. It only relates to public hospitals.
The act provides that the Government, by regulation, may make any payment, that it wishes to make to private hospitals. If the Minister wishes to strengthen the finances of private hospitals, he can do it under the present act. Amending legislation is not necessary for that purpose I do not know of any private hospital in which one can be accommodated for lessthan £12 12s. a week. At the present time the Government pays 8s. a day towards a patient’s hospital expenses and the patient has to pay the balance. Under the Government’s proposal, if the patient has insured himself for a payment of £2 2s. a week, the Government will subsidize the insurance by an amount of £4 4s. a week. Any amount over £6 6s. a week will have to be paid by the patient himself. How that will create better hospital conditions I do not know. When. I was a member of the South Australian. Parliament the Royal Adelaide Hospital, which was a wholly public hospital,. had a maximum charge of 10s. a day. Elderly mothers who were receiving a pension would come to me and inform me that their sonswould be charged 10s. a day for the mother’s hospital accommodation and that rather than be a charge on their children who could not afford to pay the money, they would not go into hospital.. That state of affairs was brought about, by the operation of a means test. If a means test is applied in connexion with, the Government’s present proposal similar circumstances will obtain. The honorable member for Martin (Mr. O’Connor) stated that the cost of maintaining a bed had risen to £12 12s. a week in publichospitals in New South Wales. But theGovernment must accept the responsibility for providing hospital accommodation for the people.
I ask the Minister to reconsider thesubject of the charges to be made in thepublic wards. I admit that a wealthy person might gain admission to a publicward but it would be very difficult for him to do so. Any one who wishes to be admitted to the public ward of the Royal Adelaide Hospital has a very poor chance of being admitted if he has any appreciable amount of money. Although there is no means test, steps are taken to insure that very urgent cases which cannot afford private hospital accommodation are given preference. If the Government proceeds with its present proposals it will demonstrate that the talk of honorable members opposite about lifting the means test is just froth and bubble. The Labour Government was able to lift the means test some time ago.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I arn glad to support the Minister’s objective. I associate myself fully with the remarks of the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron). With its extravagant and impracticable schemes the last Government, rightly or wrongly, earned the distrust and antagonism of the medical profession of Australia. The Minister id to be congratulated on devising a scheme which will help the public hospitals by means of subsidy and insurance payments and, at the same time, preserve the independence of the medical profession.
Admirable though the intentions of the Minister are, however, the form of this bill is very much to bc regretted. I am strongly opposed to the practice of legislating by regulation, except in cases of absolute necessity. I think it is unfortunate that the Minister’s excellent scheme should be launched by an ill-drafted measure which really does nothing more than provide that the Minister may make such regulations, within the limits of the subject, matter, and do such things as he thinks fit. It is quite clear that the Minister must retain a wide freedom to negotiate agreements with the States. But I think it would be very much better to conduct such negotiations under the powers contained in the existing legislation rather than submit a measure such as this to the Parliament. I wholeheartedly support the Minister’s efforts to introduce his scheme and my criticism is directed only at the form of the bill. I should find difficulty in supporting the measure if it were not for the Minister’s assurance that a bill will be introduced within a year to give legislative sanction to the details of his scheme.
.- This is the vital clause of his bill. It is unfortunate that in a committee of 323 members not more than four or five will be able to voice their opinion on this part of the bill. I do not think that any honorable member, during the course of his public life, has not been vitally interested in hospital systems. It appears that the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), an aged Minister, who was formerly known as “the tragicTreasurer “, and who is a member of the medical profession, imagines that he is living in the Victorian era. Apparently he wishes to abolish the existing system which functioned without a means test and which would have provided n nucleus for a future successful hospitalization scheme which would have treated every citizen in the same way as the army organization treats its soldiers. Just as the only purpose of the army medical authorities is to restore the wounded or sick to the field of battle, so the Government would have been able to develop a scheme the only object of which would be to restore civilians to the field of human endeavour in industry. This clause will not provide a single brick for additional hospital accommodation. It will not provide one extra nurse or one extra bed. The provision of additional beds and accommodation is a serious problem. The difficulty does not lie entirely in the availability of financial resources with which to pay staff and maintenance costs. If finance were not available, surely the Government with its prospective bloated budget surplus of £114,000,000 could provide the wherewithal to pay staff and maintenance costs and the minimum needs of hospital organizations.
Apparently the Minister considers tinabolition of the means test to be a bad objective. I consider that the abolition of the means test was an excellent action which removed from the hospitalization system one of the most reprehensible principles in the world. The Opposition is opposed to the introduction of a contributory scheme under which, instead of the Commissioner of Taxation collecting revenue, a portion of which would become available to the hospitals, hundreds of different organizations will collect contributions. These organizations will probably consist of trade unions, dying friendly societies, insurance organizations, Banking associations and a multitude of other associations which will be empowered to collect moneys in respect of insurance schemes under this plan.
– Order ! I point out that provision for the payment of benefits is contained in clause 9. Provision for payments towards the maintenance of public hospitals in the Territories is contained in clause 10. As the Opposition has objected to the bill being taken as a whole, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) must keep to the clause now before the committee.
– The clause provides for the continuance of financial assistance to the States for as long as the present agreements are operative. The end effect is that the power taken by the Minister under the clause will empower him to cancel, at the end of the existing agreement, the provision whereby the States are paid 8s. a day for each occupied hospital bed.
– That is not so.
– It is of no use the Minister to deny the fact, because that is the effect of sub-clause (4.) of the clause, which will enable the Minister, in the absence of the continuation of the existing agreement, to coerce the States, because he holds the purse strings. He will be able to say to the States, in effect, “ If you do not enter into the scheme that I am bringing forward by regulation, no further money will be provided for the upkeep of your hospitals “. Already the hospitals are experiencing financial difficulty. I realize that the Minister has to counter opposition in respect of his proposal to abolish the means test. In view of the acute shortage of hospital accommodation the important consideration is not whether a patient can or cannot afford to pay for his hospitalization. Under pressure, the unfortunate doctor, by virtue of the respect in which he is held by the secretary and management of a hospital, has to determine whether a patient should or should not be admitted to a public ward. Very frequently he has no alternative but to endeavour to get certain people into hospital.
Motion (by Mr. Gullett) put -
That the questionbe now put.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the clause be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 3
TheCH AIRMAN.- They are quite in order.
Noises being audible,
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses 4 to 12 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– As I mentioned in the House earlier to-day-
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! I must ask the House to come to order. If there is to be a debate on the adjournment it must be an orderly one. If an attempt is being made to cause a disorderly debate it will not succeed.
– I mentioned in the House earlier to-day that I intended to speak, on the adjournment, about the bush fires which occurred in my electorate last week. A meeting was called to discuss these bush fires, and as a result of that meeting certain constructive proposals were formulated. I realize that the fighting of bush fires is a State rather than a Commonwealth responsibility, but in a matter of the importance of this one we should consider it as a whole irrespective of whether the Constitution lays the responsibility for dealing with it upon one authority or another. If constructive assistance can be given by the Commonwealth it should be given. My remarks have particular reference to my own electorate, which borders on Sydney and contains a lot of bush land, but they can also be applied with equal force to the five other electorates which border on Sydney, and probably also to electorates round about Newcastle and round capital cities in States other than New South “Wales.
I do not intend to deal with the major matter of country bush fires. I want to speak only about bush fires that occur in areas close to large centres of population. As a result of what was said at the meeting to which [ have referred, I came to the conclusion that there were certain things which could conveniently be done but which are not being done. An attempt should be made to improve telephone communications between fire fighters, and army wireless sets might be more profitably employed to assist and control men who are actually fighting fires at the fire front where confusion naturally occurs. I realize that it will he difficult to arrange for these sets to be located in some areas. During last week there were none in the bush fire area in my electorate, but I suggest that it should be possible to work out a system whereby small, easily handled wireless sets could be given to local councils for use in emergencies. In an emergency and when the bush fire danger is great, a spotting aircraft could circle over the affected area, but it would be important to ensure that the observer in the aircraft was familiar with the terrain in order to avoid the possibility of wrong locations being given. A distribution of army maps of the area would also help to coordinate fire-fighting activities. Firefighters are sometimes endangered by falling timber, and it might be possible to make available from defence stores a number of steel helmets for their protection.
In areas such as French’s Forest, there is no water supply. Owing to the negligence of the State Government, water mains have not been extended into
French’s Forest. Therefore, we require to have water points established at convenient places and water tanks erected. In my electorate, tanks at half a dozen locations would be sufficient. Perhaps an army tender could be made available to carry water to keep the water tanks filled, and also to replenish domestic water tanks that have b-een used for fire-fighting purposes. The provision of adequate supplies of water is of great importance.
During the last week, members of the fighting forces have helped very much. They have co-operated with the civil authorities, and have done a very good job. I believe that it is proposed to hold a conference in the near future to discuss means of co-ordinating the work. That proposal is to be commended, and 1 hope the conference will be held. This Government is to be congratulated upon what it has done to remedy some of the deficiencies in the State plans. I believe that, irrespective of what we think about the State and its deficiencies, we should do all we can to assist in making good those deficiencies. It is necessary to import some fire-fighting equipment. I refer particularly to high-pressure pumps.which, I believe, can be obtained at a cost of approximately £450 each. Probably two or three of them would he sufficient to meet the needs of my electorate, because they could be mounted upon vehicles and made mobile.
Fire-fighting is likely to be a most important part of our defence effort, because an atomic bomb could ignite objects at a distance of 10 miles from the point of impact and might cause the most serious fires in our history. The Commonwealth should include firefighting in its defence plans. I am glad that at any rate a skeleton of an organization is in existence. I believe that a nucleus has already been formed in the Department of the Interior. I ask for the prosecution, of these plans. I urge the House to realize that, in the event of war, protection from fire in Australia and elsewhere might be one of the main requirements of defence. The defence of Australia is the responsibility of this Government, which should press on as fast as possible with plans for civilian defence and fire-fighting.
Mr. DUTHIE (Wilmot) [11.55J. - I wish to pass from bush fires to broadcasting, and to refer to a matter that is causing some concern to persons who listen to the broadcasts of the proceedings of this House. Those of us who listen to those broadcasts from time to time realize that listeners hear a lot of background disharmony, which some people rudely call noise. I have been wondering whether such background disturbances can be reduced in some way. “We all realize the great benefits that accrue to the people of Australia from the broadcasts of our proceedings. As we travel through our electorates, we find that there is among the people a tremendous interest in what takes place in this Parliament. Although listeners to parliamentary broadcasts criticize the background noise, yet, when they visit Canberra they inquire what is likely to be under discussion in the House and ask whether there will be any “ fun “. When we reply that we do not know, but that “ fun “ can occur at any time, they say, that if there is to be no fun they will not bother to come. Although our constituents, when they are at home, criticize us for interjections and perhaps a little rowdiness, they like some liveliness when they visit Parliament House.
Approximately 65 per cent, of the people in my electorate listen at some time during the day to the broadcasts of our proceedings. Therefore, we must do everything possible to ensure that reception shall be good. I pay a tribute to the technicians in the control room, who have a very difficult job. They cut out all microphones except the one nearest to the honorable member who is speaking. In my opinion, the microphones are too sensitive. We realize that. they are the channels through which pass the wisdom, the warfare and the whisperings of honorable members, but a great deal of background noise is heard by listeners.
Honorable members interjecting,
-Order! If at all times all honorable members except the one addressing the Chair remained silent, there would be no need for this speech.
– On some occasions, listeners could be pardoned for assuming that all the microphones in the chamber were open. As only one is open at a time, I have wondered why there is so much background noise. If honorable members who are sitting close to the microphone that is open whisper to each other, their whispers are magnified and, to the listeners, their voices are almost as loud as is that of the honorable gentleman who is addressing the chair. There are 26 microphones in this chamber. It appears that the worst trouble occurs through those at the table, because often we receive letters from constituents in which complaints are made about interjections by honorable members sitting at the table. We do not expect this House to he as quiet as a Sunday school class, but if the technicians reduced the sensitivity of the microphones, the background noise might be reduced. I believe that if interjections were eliminated entirely our proceedings would become so dull that very few persons would listen to broadcasts. The complaint that I am voicing might he remedied first, by the installation of additional microphones which would help to limit considerably the pick-up area around the speaker; and, secondly, by the reduction of the sensitivity of microphones. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to direct the attention of the Parliamentary Broadcasting Committee to this matter with a view to seeing whether anything can be done to reduce background whispering.
– At question time to-day I endeavoured to direct attention to the activities of two Australian “ HawHaws “ who, in my view, are traitors to our people and to the policies that we should uphold. I refer to Wilfred Burchett, who is correspondent in Korea for the Melbourne Guardian and ostensibly correspondent for the Paris newspaper Le Soir. He exceeds the bounds of liberty in his radio propaganda in which he directs his shafts persistently and tenaciously, but I hope ineffectively, against our Australian boys and our American allies who are fighting in Korea. The second man to whom I refer is the famous, or infamous, Frank J. Hardy, who is now stationed in Moscow. He is a salacious slanderer and smear merchant who is now in an environment that befits him. He is the Moscow correspondent of the New Times. I shall give some typical examples of the propaganda that is disseminated by these gentlemen. Burchett has written in a despatch from Korea -
If the people of the world strongly enough demand it, U.S. war-mongerscan be forced to agree to an armistice . . . The warmongers’ dream of an easy victory in Korea have been finally shattered.
Hardy contributed the following passage to the New Times: -
Before the beginning of this century, our people were fighting the dead hand of British Imperialism. Just when victory seemed to be within their grasp along came decadent, bloodthirsty American imperialism.
I ask my colleagues in the Labour party to note the following passage: -
In 1942, our land was threatened with occupation by savage Japanese fascist troops. Our brave sons, the cream of our youth- but not the Eureka youth - had gone to meet the invader in the wild junglesof New Guinea. Our Labour Government, forced by the will of the people to resist fascism, appealed to England for help-
Forced! Shades of John Curtin! The passage continues -
No help came so the Government appealed to the U.S.A. In the battlefields our men found the American soldiers brutal in victory, cowardly in defeat; our civilian population found most of the Americans arrogant, like an army of occupation ; they found that their attitude towards women was immoral in the extreme. One of our soldiers wrote a popular gong, “ When they send the last Yank home, how happy the Aussies will be!
Then this bird of rare plumage broke into the song as follows: -
Truman looked from the White House,
Truman looked at the world. “ Whatcan we buy with dollars,
What is the price of the world?”
Truman counted his army,
Bogged in Korean mud. “ What is the price of soldiers?
What is the price of blood ? “ “ Our blood has flowed like water,
It has been as cheap as the sea,
But now the cost of every drop
Is the death of tyranny.”
That is a nice poetic effusion. What is the impact of such propaganda upon the Australian community? Brave Hardy, whose most notable contribution to our war effort was a slanderous, slimy attack upon a good wife and mother! And brave Burchett, a toady of the Kremlin, a man who has prostituted journalism to serve the cause to which he owes allegiance! He is a traitor to this country who, Judas-like, is endeavouring to condition the Australian community for the slaughter. What a triumvirate - Hardy in Moscow, Burchett in Korea, and Thornton in Peiping!
I am amazed at the colossal unawareness of the Government and its almost complete indifference to the propaganda which, while it is not always as obvious as is that which is disseminated by these buccaneers, is, nevertheless, tenacious and designed subtly to condition the Australian community to a breaking of its morale in order to pave the way for the entry of these self-styled commissars. It is time that the Government did something about such propaganda. There is a tone abroad in this community that is derogatory to our ally, the United States of America. It emanates from the likes of these leeches upon the body politic who were most anxious that American boys should defend Australia. Now, the smear campaign is called for. In their eyes, every beauty lies in Russian imperialism and the United States of America is the home of warmongers. By implication, Australians, too, are warmongers. To-day, these gentlemen are pro-Russian, pro-Egyptian, pro-Persian and pro-everything but pro-Australian. It is the duty of an enlightened government to do something about this matter. We have our own destiny to forge. I declare emphatically that I stand for the God of my fathers and the destiny of my children. Come rack or ruin, I shall never bend my head to any storm of this nature.I invite the Government to say unequivocally whether it intends to keep these traitors out of Australia; and, if not, whether it intends to deal with them effectively when they return to this country. No specious plea of liberty on the part of the Government will satisfy me in this matter. It is the bounden duty of the Australian community to defend itself if not in our own interests, at least in the interests of generations to come. I do not hesitate to make this plea as a good Labour man.
.- I direct the attention of the Government to a matter of great urgency tha.t concerns several departments. 1 refer to the serious deterioration of the woollen textiles industry. I refer to the manufacture, not of cotton goods, but of woollen and worsted materials. On Saturday last a deputation representative of the industry waited upon me and stressed the seriousness of the situation that has developed in the industry generally. I was informed that at one mill in my electorate 84 employees have been dismissed whilst at another SO employees have been dismissed within a short period. At the lastmentioned mill it is also intended to institute a four-day shift. Of the 164 persons to whom I have referred, the Commonwealth Employment Office estimated that it could place 100 in other employment. I was also informed that the management of another mill could guarantee employment to its present employees only until next Christmas. One hundred employees have been put off from a mill in Melbourne. Officials of the unions concerned estimate that approximately 500 persons have lost their employment in the industry during recent months. I understand that a similar position exists in the industry in Sydney. Employees who have been put off at one mill at Geelong have been found employment nt other mills.
One manufacturer informed rue that mills were experiencing difficulties in placing orders for woollen goods, particularly men’s hose and pullovers. I! was also advised t’hat stores at woollen mills are practically filled with partly manufactured goods. Recent dismissals of employees at mills have been due mainly to the fact that twelve months ago, when a tremendous demand existed . for al! woollen manufactures, importers placed large orders overseas. However, because of the shortage of shipping, deliveries were few and far between until some months ago when the shipments were speeded up. Recently, 22 vessels unloaded cargoes that consisted mainly of woollen textiles. Consequently, stores have become overstocked and have ceased buying from Australian mills. That manufacturer also stated that another reason for the present difficulty is the restriction of finance. He said that his store is full of manufactured goods, but because of government restrictions on finance he is not able to obtain the money to buy materials with which to keep his mills working. It appears that enormous quantities of goods have suddenly come into the country and I consider that the Government should inquire why ships which were taken off the Australian run because of the alleged slow turn-round of shipping can suddenly be made available to load large quantities of English goods for the Australian markets. The Government should also inquire into the activities of importing concerns which are responsible for recklessly ordering enormous quantities of woollen goods, without the provision of a. saving clause in their contracts to prevent them from receiving goods which embarrass Australian industries.
There is no doubt that warehouses and manufacturing companies are in possession of information which leads them to believe that within a few months certain lines of goods will come on to the market and that local goods will not be able to compete with them. I consider that the Government should take immediate action to ensure that our mills are kept in operation and are protected from unfair competition. It may be contended that such action would reduce the price of woollen goods. I suggest that that would be a most unfair attitude to adopt. The Australian woollen goods industry has always been organized and controlled. It has been obliged to buy its raw material from a source which is notable for the fact that no control of prices exists. If the Government takes immediate action, it will be possible to save the woollen goods industry from the serious depression which appears to be approaching at a rapid rate. There are several measures which the Government could implement in order to restore immediate confidence and to stave off such a depression. For instance, if it imposed a suitable tariff on imported woollen goods, similar to that imposed on imported textile furnishings, confidence would be restored in the woollen goods trade. That objective could also be achieved by the subsidizing of raw wool which is used by the Australian industry. I think that the time is overdue for the fixing of a price for wool used in this country, based on costs of production. My friends of the Australian Country party should be interested when I say that in the 1930’s the wool producers of this country were saved from bankruptcy by an increase of the exchange rate. They have enjoyed the benefit of that increase ever since. I have no quarrel with the price that wool producers receive on the world markets. If they grow wool for the world markets, they are entitled to the world market price, but I consider that the Australian price which they receive for their product is both immoral and unjust. If the Government attends without delay to the matters that I have mentioned it will do much to prevent the depression which I consider is about to occur.
– The subject with which I wish to deal to-night is complementary to that dealt with by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). Australia hopes to be ready for active defence by 1953, but it seems to me that our present defence preparations are lopsided. The three arms of the services are fairly well established, but I suggest we also need to develop our fire-fighting services as our fourth arm. The present fi re- fighters operate dangerously with a high proportion of out-of-date, defective, and unstandardized equipment. They are trying to fight a 1951 war with 1915 equipment. The peacetime emergencies with which we are faced at the moment pale into insignificance when compared’ with the holocausts which might break out in the event of war. The clangers of which I speak are being brought home very forcibly to the people of Nw South Wales and Queensland because of the serious fires which have recently occurred in those States. The matter is- dealt with very well by a film which was shown here last Wednesday night under the title Five’s the Enemy. That film showed the great danger of atomic warfare to this country and also the dangers which fire can bring. It should be obvious to all of us that the most effective way in which our external and internal enemies might destroy our war effort is by the use of fire. In the event of war, the use by the enemy of fires to disrupt primary production and undermine, civilian morale will be highly probable. Four-fifths of the destruction that was caused by bombing in the last war was attributed to fire. British and United States survey teams concluded that incendiary bombs were five times more effective than were high explosive bombs. It is worth remembering that the small incendiary bomb, which was one of the most effective fire-raisers in the last war, has been vastly improved since 1945, and that the Australian countryside is highly inflammable for four months of the year. I urge the Government, and the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride),.to give serious consideration immediately to the provision of modern equipment to the fourth arm of our defence.
Last week, bush fires ravaged a large part of New South Wales. They were possibly the most disastrous that that State has ever known, and, while I appreciate the remarks of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Lawrence), who made suggestions regarding the prevention of bush fires, I point out that, unfortunately, the danger from them is now practically over for this year, and that the damage has already been done. Earlier this evening, Opposition members saw cause for great mirth in references to bush fires. Apparently, they are still amused by that subject. They, who claim to be the protectors of those who are not able to protect themselves’, find fun in loss of life and the destruction to property.
– We were amused by the honorable member for Mackellar -(Mr. Wentworth).
– If that is correct, 1 regret that I have drawn the wrong conclusion. I was under the impression that Opposition members saw cause for great mirth in bush fires. Last week, between Gilgandra and Collie, in New South Wales, some 300 square miles of country was completely destroyed. Not, a blade of grass escaped the flames, and 20,000 sheep were destroyed, horses were burned, and homesteads were left in smoking ruin. That- area is only one part of the State in which big bush fires have raged. It is almost impossible to obtain a proper estimate of the damage that has been caused by them. Only about 50 miles away from the Gilgandra-Collie district, 500 square miles of country has been destroyed in the Coonamble district. The latest reports that I have received state-
– We have read about that destruction in the newspapers.
– I am astonished to hear that statement, because some of this information has not been published in the press. Possibly 25,000 sheep and 1,500 miles of fencing material have been destroyed. All fences that are burned in a fire are of no value afterwards. Some 20 or 25 miles of telephone lines have also been destroyed. Homesteads, woolsheds and other buildings in the path of that fire are a complete loss. As I have stated, it is almost impossible to gauge the full extent of the damage that has been wrought. According to some estimates, about 40,000 sheep have been lost, but I believe that the figure of 150,000 would be more accurate. The sheep that have survived the fires have no feed on which to live.
It is satisfactory to know that the Commonwealth has readily responded to the appeal from the Government of New South Wales to grant an amount of £10,000, on a £l-for-£l basis, but such assistance, of course, is quite inadequate to do any more than give some measure of relief to the homeless victims of the fire, and to others who have lost all their possessions. It is not intended in any way to be compensation for the losses that those persons have sustained. I understand that the arrangements for the distribution of that money will be made on the same basis as for flood relief. I urge the representative of th«i Commonwealth on the Flood Relief Committee, which has now become tha Fire Relief Committee, to do everything in his power to provide the urgent requirements of the victims of the bush fires. Those requirements include supplies of fencing wire, steel fence posts and materials for rebuilding their homes. I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), who is in charge of the House, to impress upon the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) the necessity to do everything that is possible to ameliorate the losses those persons have suffered. I have no doubt that the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) will be willing to throw all the resources that he has at his command into rebuilding the telephone lines which have been destroyed, so that communications may be re-established without delay.
.- 1 do not claim to be as good as, or a better Labourite than, the honorable member for Footscray.
– Order ! There is no member for such an electorate in this House.
– I meant the honorable member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mullens). I take this opportunity to dissociate myself from what appears to have been a request to the Government and to this Parliament-
– The honorable member is defending the “ Corns “.
– I am not.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member for Lalor to address me.
– They are two “ Corns “, and the honorable member defends them.
– Obviously the honorable member for Gellibrand is just as competent at making false accusations
– Against a member of this Parliament, in the House, as he is to take advantage of parliamentary privilege to attack men who are outside it.
– Oh, get out ! They are a couple of “ Corns “, and the honorable member is defending them.
– I am defending the right of free speech.
– Free speech for Hardy !
– Order! I ask the honorable member for Gellibrand to refrain from interjecting.
– I am defending what the great Churchill and the great Roosevelt were prepared to advocate.
They stood for the Four Freedoms, and the Allies fought for those Four Freedoms, which were : Freedom from fear, freedom from want, freedom of speech, and freedom of worship. I do not want to do the honorable member for Gellibrand an, injustice, but it appears to me that he asked the Government to take some action to prevent two men, who are now in foreign lands, from continuing to write and express their opinions about the international situation.
– That is plain rubbish, and the honorable member knows it.
– Order !
– The honorable member for Gellibrand wants to keep out of the country two Australians, and because I say that they should be allowed to reenter this country and tell the people about what they saw, and what they think-
– Order ! Will the honorable member face the chair, and address me?
– The honorable member for Gellibrand and I, if he is so disposed, could meet those two men in public debate, and deal with their arguments. After all the British Empire was built up on the struggle for the right of men to express their opinions, however unpalatable those opinions were. For the honorable member for Gellibrand to say that I am defending Communists, as such, is a perversion of the truth, and an unfair attack upon me, and I brand him for what he is - a narrow-minded skunk.
– Order !
Mr. Mullens leaving his seat, and advancing towards the table,
– He is a man who is prepared to do violence.
– Order ! The honora’ble member for Gellibrand will resume his seat.
– Is not the honorable member for Lalor required to withdraw his remark that I am a narrow-minded skunk ?
– That remark was entirely unparliamentary, and I ask the honorable member for Lalor to withdraw it.
– I withdraw the words to which objection has been taken, but I expect the honorable member for Gellibrand to withdraw the statement that I have defended the Communists.
– I think that those words also should be withdrawn. Any quarrels may be settled outside the chamber.
– The honorable member for Gellibrand has not withdrawn the words to which I have objected.
-Order! I ask the honorable member to withdraw the statement to which exception has been taken.
– 1 have withdrawn the words that I addressed to the honorable member for Gellibrand.
– Yes, and I request the honorable member for Gellibrand to do likewise.
– What is the statement that I am asked to withdraw?
– The statement that the honorable member for Lalor was a defender of the Communists.
– I accept his statement that he is not a defender of the Communists, and I withdraw the words to which objection has been taken.
– Very well. The incident is closed inside the chamber.
- Mr. Speaker, I have not yet completed my speech. I propose to refer to a statement that was published about a fortnight ago, in the Sydney Sunday . Telegraph, or in another newspaper in that city.- In contrast to the honorable member for Gellibrand, British Conservative leaders such as Churchill have always advocated the right, of free speech. In one of the Sydney newspapers, the memoirs of Mr. Churchill are being published, and there it may be read that Mr. Churchill wrote a letter to Mr. Morrison urging him to release Oswald Mosley, the fascist, while the war was actually in progress, not because Mr. Churchill believed in the doctrine advocated by Mosley, but because he believed that, even in war-time, men should have the right to express their opinions, however unpalatable they might be to others. I do not believe in the doctrines advocated by Oswald Mosley nor do I believe in communism, but in a democracy like ours we, who have all been to school, and have been taught to reason, should be prepared to admit the right of any man to express his opinions, even though we disagree with them, and we should not seek to deny entry to Australia of persons whose only offence is that they have written something with which we do not agree. As for Hardy,I agree that he wrote some things which were in my opinion without justification, and were particularly objectionable, but I still maintain that it is the right of every man to express his opinion, just as we have a right to accept or reject his opinion. After all, there would be no Christian religion now if the early Christians had not fought against the tyranny of the pagans. In spite of that tyranny the Christians prevailed, and we to-day enjoy the benefits of Christianity. I have no wish to make a personal attack on the honorable member for Gellibrand, but I object to being branded as a defender of Communists. I merely seek to defend the right of every one, and particularly of every Australian, to express his opinions, however unpalatable they may be to others.
– in reply - The matters raised by honorable members during the discussion on the motion for the adjournment of the House will be referred to the responsible Ministers.
– In view of what has just occurred, I direct the attention of honorable members to Standing Order 80. which reads as follows : -
The House will interfere to prevent the prosecution of any quarrel between Members arising out of debates or proceedings of the House or of any Committee thereof.
If any attempt is made to prosecute quarrels within the four walls of this building, I shall ask the House to enforce the standing order.What honorable members do outside the building is their own affair.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Social Services Consolidation Act - Report by the Director-General of Social Services for year 1950-51.
Ordered to be printed.
Commonwealth Committee on Taxation - Reports -
Coal Mining Industry - Concessional allowances.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land,&c., acquired for-
Department of National. Development purposes - Bulimba, Queensland.
Postal purposes -
Bishopsbourne, Tasmania .
Papua and New Guinea Act - Ordinances - 1951-
No. 33 - Bodies Corporate (Joint Tenancy ) .
No. 34 - Compensation to Relatives.
No. 35- Cotton.
No. 36 - Fire Prevention.
No. 37 - Marking of Weight on Heavy Packages.
No. 38 - Seamen (Unemployment Indemnity).
No. 39 - Shipping.
No. 40 - Suppression of Leprosy.
Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of Supply - B. Wigley.
Public Service Arbitration Act - Determinations - 1951 -
No. 96 - Australian Third Division Telegraphists and Postal Clerks’ Union.
No. 97 - Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association of Australia.
No. 98 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 99 - Professional Officers’ Association. Commonwealth Public Service.
No. 100 - Commonwealth Foremen’s Association.
No. 101 - Federated Ironworkers’ Association of Australia.
No. 102 - Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association.
No. 103 - Commonwealth Puhlic Service Artisans’ Association.
No. 104 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 105 - Postal Overseers’ Union of Australia.
No. 106 - Australian Workers’ Union.
No. 107 - Association of Railway Professional Officers of Australia.
No. 108 - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
No. 109 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association; and Customs Officers’ Association of Australia (Fourth Division).
No. 110 - Vehicle Builders Employees’ Federation of Australia.
QantasEmpire Airways Limited - Seventeenth Annual Report and Financial Accounts for 1950.
River Murray Waters Act - River Murray Commission - Annual Report for year 1950-51.
Sent of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Regulations - 1951 - No. 6 (Public Health Ordinance).
House adjourned at 12.34 a.m. (Wednesday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister forRepatriation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Repatriation, has supplied the following answers to the honorable member’s questions : -
e asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
In view of the fact that theright to vote is sometimes lost by electors, will he consider the question of giving the Chief Electoral Officer f or the Commonwealth instructions to provide facilities for voting at the hospital to patients woo are admitted to hospital after the time for lodging postal votes closes T
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Under the existing provisions of the law it is not practicable to provide additional special facilities for voting at a hospital by patients admitted on or immediately before polling day. Already, in the case of major hospitals, an ordinary polling place is open on the hospital premises on polling day wherever such is considered necessary and the hospital authorities permit; while any elector who, because of illness, will be unable to attend a polling place may vote by post. At Commonwealth elections an application for a postal vote may be lodged up to the hour of the close of the poll, provided, however, ‘ a postal vote certificate and postal ballot-paper will be posted to an applicant only if the application is received prior to 6 p.m. on the afternoon of the day preceding polling day.
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What amount of dollars for the purchase of newsprint has been provided in each year since 1946 to date?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has furnished the following reply to the honorable member’s question: -
The following figures have been obtained from the records held by the Department of Trade and Customs relating to the value of licences issued for newsprint for each of the licensing years 1945-46 to 1950-51: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 November 1951, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1951/19511120_reps_20_215/>.