20th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether there is any other method by which he can assess the volume of unemployment in this country other than by the statistics that he has released from time to time and expounded in this House? Is it not a fact that, at present, there are 6,000 unemployed in the textile industry, 4,000 unemployed building workers and 2,000 unemployed in miscellaneous callings? Instead of making statements about the mythical 50,000 jobs that are awaiting workers to fill them, will the Minister supply reliable statistics to the House with respect to the labour situation in this country?
– I take this opportunity to correct a misstatement that has been attributed to me in some newspapers this morning. In those journals, I am reported as having told the House yesterday that unemployment at this time is lower than at any other time in Australia’s history. What I said, as I believe honorable members will recall, was that unemployment at this time is lower than that in any other industrial country in the free world; and that is, undoubtedly a fact.
The honorable member has asked whether I can provide more accurate information on this subject than has already been released. I do not know how it would be practicable to do so. The information that is made available from my department is, I believe, much more accurate than that which was provided in - relation to this, subject in earlier years, particularly in the ‘thirties when a Labour administration was in office. At that time, the only indication that could be obtained with respect to the volume of unemployment in Australia was based upon registrations with the trade unions, and, if I remember rightly, unemployment was then recorded as having reached the peak of more than 30 per cent. Certainly, nothing like that proportion of unemployment exists in Australia to-day. I doubt whether unemployment registrations in trade unions at present would represent 1 per cent, of their total membership.
– And that would have been so during the regime of the Chifley Government.
– Why does not the Minister also make that fact clear?
– I have been asked whether we can supply more accurate figures with respect to unemployment, and I merely say that the figures that are now supplied are based upon applications for unemployment benefit. “We also give the number of vacancies that are registered with the department. If it were a significant figure, which it is not at this moment, we should also supply the number of unemployed persons registered with trade unions. 1 can only repeat that the Government is watching the unemployment situation closely, and can be relied upon to take appropriate measures if the need develops.
– I ask the Minister for the “Interior whether the Government has given any consideration to the preparation of a policy of basic training in civil air defence. Also, has the Government given any consideration to informing the people of the true facts of atomic warfare? Does the Minister ti gree that there is grave public ignorance about those facts, and that such ignorance could breed a feeling of helplessness that could be of greater national danger than the actual threat of atomic warfare?
– For the past two years the Government has given a great deal of consideration to the problem, that the honorable member has mentioned. Various consultations have taken place, and the Defence Council has obtained a number of appreciations of the position. I personally have been in close touch with the Minister for Defence in relation to the matter. A number of Australian representatives were sent fo. and have now returned from, a special training school in England. The question of what other action should be taken and how much expenditure would be justified are at present under consideration by the Minister for Defence and me. We are also considering the latest appreciations that we have received from the defence chiefs. I can assure the honorable member that there has been no delay of any kind in connexion with this matter. One of our difficulties is, of course, in relation to the question, which the Opposition seemed to answer last night, concerning whether Australia is as peace or at war. If the Opposition maintains the outlook on that matter that it evinced during the debate on passports last night, the Government will not have much difficulty in answering the question.
– Is the Postmaster-General aware that four male employees of the mail branch of the Brisbane General Post Office, three of whom are ex-servicemen, have received notice of dismissal to take effect next Saturday? Is he also aware that it is likely that a further twelve employees, most of whom are ex-servicemen, will receive dismissal notices within the next two or three months ? As the men affected are all well advanced in years, most of them being about 60 years of age, will the Minister take immediate steps to rescind the dismissal notices of the four mail branch employees whose services are to terminate next Saturday, and also prevent further dismissals?
– The Postal Department is a business organization and, like any other business organization, it is supposed to pay its way. If it did not pay its way further increases of charges or of taxes would be necessary. For that reason, the management of the internal affairs of the department is entrusted to skilled officers, directors, engineers and so on, who have the responsibility of making recommendations regarding the number of employees requisite to the amount of business to be handled. No dismissals of permanent postal employees have occurred, because permanent employees come under the provisions of the Public Service Act. Any dismissals that have occurred are of temporary employees, who enter the service of the department with the knowledge that they are not taking up a lifelong position. However, if the honorable member will supply me with particulars of individual cases I shall have them examined.
– In view of the urgent need to increase supplies of galvanized iron and piping, particularly for use in rural areas,- and of the fact that the shortage of zinc is reported to be responsible, to a large degree, for the present lack of those commodities, will the Minister for commerce and Agriculture state the steps that are being taken to obtain increased supplies of zinc? Will he also say whether there is any truth iti the assertion, made in some quartrs, that zinc producers are withholding supplies of zinc in expectation of an increase of the Australian price for that commodity?
– There is no shortage in the production of zinc in Australia for our own essential requirements, and, in fact, there is quite a substantial surplus of that metal for export, but a problem of availability has arisen. The fixed price of zinc for local use is about one-third of the export price, and zinc producers are reluctant to supply zinc to the Australian market in quantities which they may regard as extravagant at one-third of the price for which zinc can be sold overseas. In those circumstances, it has been suggested that an embargo or limitation be placed upon exports of zinc. I have pointed out that the imposition of an embargo or a limit on the exports of zinc and lead, which is in the same category, will not, in itself, make those metals more readily available to the Australian market. Out of that position, an arrangement developed, which I negotiated with the authority of Cabinet, between the metal companies and the State Ministers in charge of prices control. That agreement provided that 50,000 tons of lead and 54,000 tons of zinc would be supplied annually to the Australian market for an agreed period on the understanding that certain prices would prevail. Those prices are in force at the present time. The agreement ran for eighteen months, and expired on the 30th December last. Some lead and zinc companies feel aggrieved that certain Australian companies alone bear the cost of supplying those metals to the Australian market at the substantially lower local price, while other companies, in which the majority, interest is held overseas, have had the benefit of exporting the whole of their production of lead and zinc concentrates at the higher overseas price. That position is the subject of controversy between the State Ministers in charge of prices control, the metal companies and myself, as the representative of the Commonwealth, and I am trying to reach an understanding with the other parties on the matter. However, the agreed quantities of 50,000 tons of lead and 54,000 tons of zinc, which, I am advised, are adequate for our essential purposes annually, are not being withheld from the Australian market during those discussions.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Labour and National Service in the absence of the Treasurer. Is the honorable gentleman aware that excessive profits are being made by overseas shipping companies engaged in the Australian trade? Has he seen the report that the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company made an operating profit of £18,850,336 last year in its vast activities? If he is satisfied that inordinate profits are being made by shipping companies, will he inform the House whether he proposes to take any steps to protect the . Australian economy? In view of the threatened sale of Commonwealth-owned steamers, does he intend to take any action to safeguard the interests of our primary producers by providing adequate shipping at fair charges?
– The report to which the honorable member for Macquarie has referred has not been brought to my notice. I can only assume that such profits, if they have been earned, are the result of trade in the ports of the world by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company in active competition with other overseas shipping lines. The action taken by this Government in order to protect the commerce around the coast, and the general procedure in relation to the Commonwealth operated ships, are matters of policy. However, I shall bring the question to the notice of those of my colleagues who are directly involved.
– Is the Minister for External Affairs in a position to say whether the Foreign Affairs Committee has met? If so, is that committee functioning in a way that will serve the best interests of the Parliament and of the people of this country?
– Yes, the Foreign Affairs Committee has been in existence for a couple of months. It has met on a considerable number of occasions, and I believe that all the eleven members who compose its personnel will agree that it has started extremely well and is proving a very useful instrumentality. Information available in my department is being made most freely available to the committee, and I have attended practically all the meetings that have been held and have spoken to the members for a total of about three or four hours. I shall continue to attend the meetings of the mittee whenever I am invited to do so. I regret very much that honorable members of the Opposition are not co-operating-
-Order! The Minister is proceeding to deal with a matter that is not contained in the question.
– The committee is entirely non-political. I believe that it is achieving, or is in the course of achieving, its objective. That objective is the education of the Parliament, in particular private members who do not normally have access to departmental records and information, on one of the most important aspects of Australian affairs, that is our relationship with the outside world.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Army. A complaint has reached me from a member of the permanent military forces to the effect that members of those forces who are domiciled in particular places and are stationed away from their places of residence are now asked to pay their own fares to such places of residence at the time of their normal annual leave. I do not know whether that procedure is being adopted or not, but during the period when I was Minister for the Army warrants were issued to servicemen for free travel to their homes when they were on leave. I ask the Minister whether such a state of affairs as I have described exists, and, if so, is it necessary for these servicemen to pay their own fares from their stations to their places of domicile when proceeding on annual leave? If the practice has been to require them to pay their fares, will the Department of the Army reconsider the matter because of the relatively great expense that would have to be borne by servicemen?
– I am pleased to be able to inform the honorable member that his fears are not founded on fact. Every member of the permanent military forces who is granted annual leave from his station to the place of his domicile, which is where his wife lives if he is married or where his parents live if he is single, provided he has declared his parents’ place as his domicile, is given a warrant to cover his fare to that place of domicile. If any soldier has complained that he has had to pay his own fare I should say that he had been absent without leave because it is the practice of the department to pay the fares of soldiers when they are proceeding on annual leave.
– Under the import licensing regulations irrevocable letters of credit are recognized only insofar as they relate to specific goods on firm order before the 8th March. An irrevocable letter of credit is not recognized in respect of goods which were not on firm order on the 8th March last. All goods are subject to import licensing whether or not they are covered by irrevocable letters of credit.
– In view of the serious inadequacy of meat production in Australia, will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture take action to promote the production of pig meat, as was done during “World War II., in order to remedy the acute shortage that exists?
– The steps that may be taken to promote the production of pig meat in Australia were discussed by me with the representatives of the States at the recent meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council. The principal limiting factor in relation to pig meat production, of course, is the supply of grains. In Australia, as the honorable member knows, wheat is the principal grain used for pig feed, and there are valid reasons why wheat that is urgently needed throughout the world for human consumption should be made available only in restricted quantities for use as pig feed in Australia. I think that the final solution of the problems lies in the stimulation of the production of other coarse grains, such as grain sorghum, and the Government is conducting discussions with that end in view.
– I lay on the table the following paper : -
Meat Agreement between Australia and the United Kingdom.
The paper contains the terms of the fifteen-year agreement between Australia and the United Kingdom. I had hoped that discussion of the interpretative notes on this agreement, to which I have previously referred in the House, would have been completed before the document was tabled. As they have not been completed, and as the general public has a deep interest in the matter, I have decided to table the paper without further delay.
– Are copies of it available ?
– I address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service as the senior Minister in the House for the time being. It applies to a number of departments administered by other Ministers. I have been informed that government departments which purchase goods or services from private business undertakings sometimes take more than the normal period of thirty days to make payments for such goode and services. This, I believe, is causing considerable financial embarrassment to certain companies, particularly under thipresent conditions of credit restriction. Will the Minister investigate this matter, and, if possible, have the situation rectified quickly?
– As most transactions of that character presumably come under Treasury scrutiny at some stage, I think that the most satisfactory procedure would be for me to refer the honorable member’s representations to the Treasurer and ask him to make inquiries.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. For the purpose of enabling Australia’s tobacco production target to be realized, will the Minister investigate the water conservation and irrigation plan for the Dimbulah-Mareeba area that has been recommended by Sir John Kemp, the Co-ordinator-General of Public Works in Queensland. The proposed undertaking would be of the first importance in any programme for the expansion of tobacco production. Will the Minister endeavour to persuade the Treasurer to advance to the Queensland Government sufficient loan money for the carrying out of the project?
– I have studied, both in documentary form and on the spot, the proposals for the expansion of the tobacco industry in the very favorable tobaccogrowing area of Dimbulah-Mareeba, and I am familiar with the Walsh River project, the plan for the diversion of the Barron River and so forth. These matters have been discussed with representatives of the Queensland Government, at meetings of the Australian Agricultural Council, but, unhappily, the Queensland Government has not reacted favorably to the proposal by this Government that special priorities be accorded, from the resources available to the State Government, to those industries which would promote the production of additional export foodstuffs or dollar saving commodities. If the Queensland Government would indicate its good faith in the matter by diverting to the very desirable objective that the honorable member has mentioned some of the money that it proposes to expend upon the electrification of railways in Brisbane, I am sure it would receive the enthusiastic support of this Government and myself.
-Will the Minister for
Commerce and Agriculture say whether he or the Government gave any instructions to the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board prior to his departure from this country to attend the meeting of the International Wheat Council at which a renewal of the International Wheat Agreement was discussed? Was the chairman of the board accompanied by a representative of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation? When is the chairman of the board expected to return to this country? If the Government has received interim reports from him on the proceedings of the council, will the Minister indicate to the House the nature of the reports? Will a full report of the deliberations and decisions of the council be made available eventually to honorable members ?
– No instructions were given to Sir John Teasdale, the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, before he went abroad to act as consultant to the principal Australian delegate at the recent conference of the International Wheat Council. The principal Australian delegate to the conference was Mr. McCarthy, the Deputy High Commissioner for Australia in London, a vice-chairman of the International Wheat Council and a former secretary of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. Sir John Teasdale acted as advisor and consultant to Mr. McCarthy, as also did Mr. Pearce, who, upon my invitation,was nominated to me by the Australian Wheat Growers Federation. For the first time in Australia’s history, arrangements were made for a direct representative of the wheatgrowers to attend an international conference of this kind. Mr. Pearce, Sir John Teasdale and Mr. McCarthy were familiar with the discussions that I had had on the subject with the Australian Wheat Growers Federation . Sir J ohn Teasdale and Mr. McCarthy were also acquainted with the Government’s view on the matter. In due course, I shall make available to honorable members a report on the deliberations of the council. I understand that Sir John Teasdale is due back in Australia to-day.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service, who is at present in charge of the House. Is the honorable gentleman aware that, although artificial limbs are successfully manufactured in Australia, major parts of artificial hands and feet must be imported from outside the Commonwealth? Is he aware also that the scope of the present import restrictions covers parts of artificial hands and feet ? As the unwarranted deprivation of these articles is causing some hardship to unfortunate amputees, will he take steps to ensure that the entry of these articles into Australia will be improved immediately ?
– I have some knowledge of this matter, although it does not come within my province, because I made some representations to the Minister for Trade and Customs about a case that was brought to my notice recently. As a result of information that was supplied tome then, I can assure the honorable gentleman that cases of the kind that he. has mentioned are examined sympathetically, and that arrangements an; being made for parts of artificial limbs to be brought into this country.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation indicate whether a decision has been reached upon the proposal to establish a civil airport at
Hexham, New South Wales, to serve Newcastle and the Hunter River area? Will he indicate whether work upon the airport is likely to commence at an early date?
– There is no prospect of an early commencement of work on the Newcastle aerodrome. The project is one of considerable magnitude. In view of other commitments, it cannot possibly be undertaken at this juncture.
– I wish to address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service concerning the present apparently illegal and disruptive ban on overtime on the waterfront. Is the Minister satisfied that the present state of the law relating to employment on the waterfront gives adequate power to the Stevedoring Industry Board or any other authority to maintain law and order in the industry? If not, does he contemplate introducing an amendment of the law? In particular, will he consider making provision for employees in the industry who disapprove of present tactics to form a new union, if the existing union’s defiance of the law should lead to its de-registration?
– The legal position as it affects the stevedoring industry is somewhat obscure at present because it is the subject of proceedings before the High Court and the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. Until those proceedings are determined, the Government will not have a clear knowledge of the authority available to it under the legislation. However, the Government has had under consideration for a considerable time certain suggestions for the amendment of the existing legislation which would strengthen its capacity to deal with the type of situation to which the honorable member has referred. I can assure him and the House that the Government is very conscious of the loss and inconvenience that is caused to the Australian community generally by the unsatisfactory position which has been evident on the waterfront recently. The Government is doing what it can, in a variety of ways, to cure the trouble. The final suggestion that was made by the honorable member will certainly receive consideration.
– On previous occasions I have drawn the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service to the disastrous position that exists on the waterfront at Hobart where the loading of thousands of cases of apples is being held up as the result of an industrial dispute. Has he any fresh information upon that subject to give to the House?
– Through my department and other departments, the Government has been active in trying to improve the situation that exists at Hobart, particularly as it relates to the loading of this season’s apple crop. Unfortunately, that port has ‘ become affected, in common with other major ports throughout Australia, as the result of the ban on overtime that has been imposed by the Waterside Workers Federation. Perhaps that ban affects Hobart most seriously because of the shortage of shipping that is required to handle the apple crop. We have had discussions with the Premier of Tasmania, senior members of the Australian Council for Trades Unions and other persons who, we believed, could effectively co-operate with us in -finding a solution of this problem. Unfortunately, owing to the attitude of the federation, our efforts have not been successful. However, we shall persist in our endeavours to find a solution of the problem.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether he relieved the honorable member for Franklin of his position as Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Department of Commerce and Agriculture because of that honorable member’s disagreement with Government policy in respect of various matters?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is in the negative. The position is that the honorable member for Franklin, for reasons which he, no doubt, will explain, and which relate directly to his electoral and domestic arrangements, asked to be relieved of the heavy duties that attach to the position of Parliamentary UnderSecretary to my department. The change was made only because he, himself, requested that it be made.
Mi. DAVIES. - My question, which ia directed to the Minister for Health, relates to the position of men in receipt; of miners’ pensions who are sick but are not entitled to receive free medicine or free medical treatment in the same way as other pensioners. Is the Minister aware that many men in receipt of miners’ pensions are suffering from industrial diseases and that, when they have paid for medicine and medical treatment, they are much worse off than ordinary pensioners, who are themselves in a bad way ? Will the Minister investigate this matter with a view to making arrangements for recipients of miners’ pensions to receive free medicine and free medical treatment ?
– I have replied to questions on this subject several times and have pointed out that because the Department of Social Services controls the payment of age pensions, the pensioners who are eligible for free medicine and medical services can be identified without difficulty. Insofar as other persons are concerned, it is impossible to do so, and as the service is a concessional one, departmental officers would need to be able to identify them as it does age pensioners. We are trying, to arrange for a simple system of insurance to cover the people to whom the honorable member has referred.
– Does the Minister for Health still intend to introduce his comprehensive health scheme, as he announced some time ago he would do? If so, when does he propose to introduce it?
– I hope to introduce the legislation this year.
– I wish to address a question to the Minister for Health regarding the recipients in Australia of British age and invalid pensions. They receive only 26s. a week plus 6s. 6d. exchange, which makes their total income from that source £1 12s. 6d. a week. Is the Minister aware that’ those people are in urgent need of some help ? Will he assist them by extending the free medicine and medical benefits to them? The matter of identifying them surely should not difficult. Eventually it will be possible to identify them by their haggard appearance. I ask him to extend the benefits to those unfortunate people who are in an even worse position than the persons who were mentioned by the honorable member for Cunningham.
– -It is 30 years since I took up first with the United Kingdom Government the question of reciprocity in the payment of pensions. During part of that time Labour governments have been in office in Australia. Neither Labour Ministers nor I have, so far, been able to negotiate a reciprocatory agreement on the matter. As soon as reciprocity can be obtained - and the Minister for .Social Services is endeavouring to obtain it - the Government will be able to deal with the matter as it has done in the case of other pensioners.
– I refer to a reply that the Minister for Social Services gave to a question that I asked recently in which he stated that persons who possessed government bonds to the value of £1,000 are debarred from obtaining a pension. Is it a new or an old established practice ? Are such persons treated differently from persons who possess cash to the amount of £1,000? Has there been any alteration with respect to the value of government bonds that a person may possess without forfeiting the right to receive a pension?
– In reply to a question that the honorable member for Eden Monaro asked last week, I pointed out that under the means test an applicant for a pension is permitted to hold property to the value of £1,000 whether it be in the form of government bonds or in any other form. No change whatever has been made in respect of that principle except that this Government has increased the relevant property limit to £1,000 from £750.
– Has the Minister for Defence been advised of a conference that will be held at Hay, New South Wales, next Saturday, the 24th MaY, Does lie know that this conference has been called to discuss the building of n rail link between Hay, New South Wales, and Ouyen, Victoria? Such a link would greatly shorten the railway journey between Sydney and Adelaide. The conference will also discuss a link between Patchewollock and Ouyen which would connect the port of Portland with this line. As the building of these railway links would be of great defence value, will the Minister endeavour to be represented at this important conference?
– We have been advised of the conference that the honorable member has mentioned. I doubt whether it will be possible for us to be represented at it. However, I shall be pleased to obtain a report of proceedings which will receive the sympathetic consideration of my department.
– I understand that the exportation of Australian pedigreed merino sheep has been prohibited for the past twenty years. Has the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture any knowledge of an application having been made for the removal of the ban? If so, will every consideration be given to the possibility that harm may be done to Australia’s wool industry if exportation of our merino strains is permitted ?
– Representations were made to the Government about a year ago to the effect that we should lift the ban which has been in operation for a considerable time upon the exportation of merino sheep to countries other than New Zealand. The Government considered the matter and decided to take no action with respect to it. In the meantime, a further deputation waited upon me and submitted that it would be in the interests of Australia’s merino stud industry if wider markets were made avail.able to that industry. The deputation contended that if the prohibition were lifted, the numbers that would be permitted to be exported, could be strictly limited. Representations were also made to me to the effect that, in view of the fact that world production of wool was rapidly decreasing, it would be in the interests of the Australian wool industry itself if breeders were permitted to export merino stud sheep to other countries. I told the members of the deputation that they should first convince the Australian woolgrowers of the validity of that request, and that if, as a result of their action, representations were made to the Government on behalf of the great bulk of Australian wool-growers that the ban should be lifted the Government would consider the matter further.
– The Minister for the Army in reply to a question that I asked last week said that his department proposed to resume control of the drill hall at Kurri Kurri for military training purposes. As such action will involve the displacement of 70 girls, who are daughters of miners and are employed at that hall in the manufacture of clothing, will he consider using the drill hall at Abermain for the purpose that the department has in mind? The latter hall, like the camp at Greta, is now vacant. As the decision to take over the hall at Kurri Kurri will involve the dismantling of machinery now installed there, will he assist David Jones Limited, who are the manufacturers concerned, by offering to that company the use of the drill hall at Abermain; or, alternatively. make arrangements for the trainees who are called up under the national service scheme to undergo training at the Abermain hall?
– It is very interesting to hear the honorable member’s persistent pleas on behalf of David Jones Limited. 1 am happy to be able to say that, that company has agreed to vacate the drill hall at Kurri Kurri, which is urgently required to meet the greatly increased requirements of the Australian Army, particularly in respect of field exercise? by national service trainees.. I shall examine the alternative proposal that the honorable member has made,, not as an alternative to the department’s intention, but as a means of meeting the increasing requirements of the Army for drill hall acommodation
– I address a question co you, Mr. Speaker. Are you aware of a rumour that has emanated from Darwin,, and which impugns your honour and integrity? It is that starting price betting is taking place within the precincts of this House. Have you any profitable information to impart to honorable members? Are we to take this alleged development - I do not regard it as being a cause for levity - as a reflection upon your vigilance in the past, or will it be a spur to your activities in the future?
– So far as I, personally, am concerned, I believe that the laws with respect to gambling in the Australian Capital Territory should be strictly observed in the precincts of this House. tn other words, the law makers should not be law breakers. Nor should honorable members connive at breaches of the law which come to their knowledge. When. I became Speaker, my attention was directed to certain things and,, so far as I know, no breach of those laws is being committed in the precincts of this House. If any honorable member has information that discloses breaches of the betting laws, it is his duty, as a sworn member of the House, to pass that knowledge on to the President of the Senate or to me. In those circumstances it will be dealt with. The idea that some honorable members seem to have, that so long as they are in. certain rooms in this House they are entitled to break the law to their hearts’” content, is one which may have rather awkward consequences before very long if certain practices are found to be in evidence.
– by leave- On the 1.4th May the honorable member for Ryan (Mr. Drury) asked me a question about the defence of New Guinea. The importance of New Guinea to the defence of Australia is fully appreciated, and plans have been prepared for the allocation of adequate forces to the island as circumstances warrant. The facts regarding such activities reveal that, action is being taken to develop the defences of New Guinea and to employ natives in defence work, Foremost in the defence of this territory is the navaand air base at Manus Island in the Admiralty group, the establishment of which has been accorded a measure of priority in the defence programme.
In order to enable the inhabitants of our island territories to contribute to their own defence, the following measures have been taken: -
Islands Plight, Royal Australian Air Force, is designed to provide a useful source of manpower, some of which would he semi-skilled, and to ensure the establishment within the Royal Australian Air Force of training techniques and the development of experience which would enable the maximum use to be made of available native manpower in war.
– Could the total overall figures be given?
– I shall obtain that information and convey it to the right honorable gentleman.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - I present the report of the Standing Orders Committee, dated the 21st May, on Standing Order 48.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - I have received from the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) 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 failure of the Government to maintain adequate financial provision for hospitals and the consequent re-imposition of the means test and of fees in public wards.
.- I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Is the motion supported ?
Eight honorable members having risen in support of the motion,
– In December, 1945, the Victorian Parliament passed an act to authorize and approve an agreement between the Commonwealth and Victoria in relation to hospital benefits. The schedule of that act sets out as follows : -
The agreement shall be in force for a minimum period of five years and thereafter shall be subject to determination after [hereby specify a period of notice by either party of not less than one year].
The facts in relation to this agreement were that an amount of 6s. a bed a day was to be paid in relation to every bed occupied in every public hospital in Victoria or, and this is particularly important, such other amount as should be from time to time determined. The agreement provided, furthermore, that - the State shall ensure that no means testis imposed on, and that no fees are charged to or in respect of, qualified persons occupying beds in public wards in public hospitals.
The period of that agreement has not yet expired. No notice of termination of it has been given by the Commonwealth or the State.
– That is untrue.
– Order! I shall hear one case at a time.
– Yet, charges are now to be made for beds in public hospitals in Victoria. Yesterday the Prince Alfred Hospital in Melbourne decided to charge public ward patients a minimum of 18s. a day. The Royal Melbourne Hospital has decided to charge 25s. a day and other hospitals, such as the Eye and Ear Hospital, the Children’s Hospital and the Women’s Hospital, have decided to charge patients fees of at least 18s. a day. The Victorian Government sought information on whether it is legal, while this agreement exists, for those hospitals to make charges and to impose a means test. Although all the legal authorities apparently agree that none of the hospitals have power to charge fees, the hospitals still intend to charge them. The law is to be flouted, and the agreement is to be treated merely as a scrap of paper. I know that, when the occasion and the circumstances suit them, honorable members opposite lecture the Opposition, and sections of the community, upon the sanctity of agreements and the recognition that should be given to legalisms and the law. Yet, on this occasion they are parties to the breaking of an agreement. They are ignoring the law.
Had the Government made adequate provision for the hospitals in Victoria, and increased the allowance of 6s. a bed a day in proportion to the rising costs of hospitalization, the imposition of a means test would have been unnecessary. I realize that some Government supporters say, in effect, “We have adopted this policy only because we consider that wealthy persons should pay for their hospitalization”. That point does not arise. The issue regarding the retention or the abolition of the means test was settled long ago in this country. When the hospital benefits legislation was before the Victorian Parliament, no members of the Liberal party attacked it on the ground that they were opposed to the imposition of a means test. They objected to it because the scope of its provisions was not sufficiently wide, and the allowance of 6s. a bed a day was payable only to public hospitals and not to mental hospitals and other institutions.
The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) announces periodically that the means test, as applicable to age and invalid pensioners, will be abolished as soon as possible. I remind the House that a means test is not imposed in respect of child endowment, pharmaceutical and other social benefits. The majority of Government supporters appear to favour the ‘ abolition of the means test generally. If some of them consider that the means test should be retained, they should advocate its application to the distribution of Aspros, which are taken to cure headaches, as well as to wards in public hospitals.
But the rights or wrongs of the means test are not the issue at the presen time. Members of the Liberal party in the Victorian Parliament have acquiesced in the principle of the abolition of the means test. The whole problem now is the lack of funds. The costs of hospitalization have risen rapidly in Victoria in the last few years, as evidenced by the fact that the cost of administration this year exceeds last year’s figure by £1,720,000. The Government’s contribution is about £1,000,000 a year. When the hospital benefits scheme was introduced in 1946-47, the basic wage was approximately £5 3s. a week, but to-day it exceeds £10 a week. On the ground of the higher basic wage alone, the payment by the Commonwealth should be increased to 12s. 4d. a bed a day. But even that amount would not cover the increased cost of hospital administration, which has risen out of all proportion to the increase in the basic wage. In 1945, nurses received about £4 a week, and to-day they are paid between £10 and £13 a week. Those figures illustrate my contention that the cost of hospital administration has risen out of all proportion to the increase in the basic wage. Therefore, the Commonwealth grant should be considerably more than 12s. 4d. a bed a day.
I know that Government supporters share with me a deep regret that the number of hospitals in Australia is insufficient to accommodate- all the sick persons in the community. Thousands of people are turned away from the doors of hospitals in every State because those institutions cannot provide beds for them. Yet, the payment of 6s. was more than adequate in 1945 to meet the daily administration charges in respect of each bed.
– Nonsense! The honorable gentleman does not know what he is talking about.
– If the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) and some other Government supporters will refrain from mumbling, I shall be in a better position to describe the exact position of hospitals.
-Order! I ask honorable members to hear the honorable member for Burke in silence.
– The report of the debate in the Victorian Parliament on the bill to ratify the hospital benefits scheme shows that in 1946-47, the upkeep of a bed in a public hospital absorbed 3s. 3d. of the allowance of 6s. a day. That was due to the fact that substantial donations were made by private citizens towards the maintenance of beds. The balance of 2s. 9d. was paid into a trust fund for the purpose of meeting the building costs and capital expenditure charges. But that position no longer obtains. A payment of 12s. 4d. a day, even in conjunction with donations from private citizens, would not defray the costa of hospitals in Victoria or elsewhere. Beds in registered hospitals in Victoria number 6,300, of which approximately 1,100 are in the intermediate section. Therefore, only 5,200 beds are available to the vast majority of the people in that State who, in the main, cannot pay the charges for hospitalization in addition to the fees charged <by the medical fraternity. Patients in the public hospitals are subjected to a means test. Large numbers of people, who are admitted to intermediate wards, pay the hospital fees less the” Commonwealth’s contribution of 8s. a day.
However, a new situation has arisen in Victoria. The suggestion has been made that the number of beds available in public hospitals free of charge to any member of the community, be reduced from 5,200 to 3,800, and beds in intermediate wards be increased to approximately 2,250. It will follow from the reduction of the number of beds that are regarded as public beds in public hospitals from 5,200 to 3,800 that if 4,000 or 5,000 people who can pay nothing at all seek admission to public hospitals, a large number of them will not be able to gain admission. [Extension of time granted.] Even after having been satisfactorily examined by the almoner or other authority, they will not be able to obtain accommodation.
I favour the free medicine scheme, but I believe that it is. more important that a person who needs a life-saving operation should be able to obtain accommodation in a hospital than it is that people should be able to get free aspros or other pain-relieving medicines. Important as the free medicine scheme is, and I regard it as very important, adequate hospital accommodation is much more important. If no means test is to be imposed in connexion with the provision of free medicine, the Government should utilize the vast resources that it has built up to prevent inflation - and the sum of £100,000,000 has been mentioned in that regard - to provide free accommodation in hospitals for the public. That money would be well spent if its expenditure prevented sickness and death among the public. I suggest that it is more important to save the lives of our citizens than it is to prevent the increasing of costs which is having such a profound effect upon our economy. Inflation is not as dangerous a national disease as are many of the diseases from which human beings suffer.
I appeal to the Government to be logical and not to force Victoria into imposing a means test on those who need attention in public hospitals. This Government holds the purse strings. It pays the piper and therefore it calls the tune. If a means test is to be imposed in Victoria it will be because of the actions of the Australian Government and not the Government of Victoria. I consider that public health is of the first importance, and that everything should be done to make it as easy as possible for all the people to secure the best of medical attention under the most modern conditions. The Government should ensure that the moneys it provides for all the States of the Commonwealth shall be in such proportion as to make unnecessary the imposition of a means test upon those who wish to use the facilities available at public hospitals.
– I can immediately comfort the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters), who moved this motion, because I can tell him that the proposals of the Government provide the only way by which the means test on patients in public hospitals can be completely abolished. In England, where no means test is imposed, the fees of patients are paid by the national health insurance scheme. That scheme provides for the abolition of the means test in regard to health services and superannuation. Under the British scheme, every British man and woman directly pays lOd. a week into the national health fund as part of the amount they pay under the general insurance scheme. The honorable member will also be glad to know that this Government’s proposal is that the amount which the various hospitals in Australia will receive under the Government scheme will be three times the original daily amount payable in respect of each bed. The original payment was 6s. and the proposed payment will be 18s. During the six or seven years since the hospital benefits scheme came into operation, the expenses of public hospitals have doubled, but this proposal will triple the benefit that they will receive under the scheme.
– Taxation has doubled, also.
– That is so, but the public gets the benefit of that. This year the States will receive £166,000,000 to pay for the capital cost of works that should be paid for out of loans. This is an extraordinarily good opportunity for me to put the true facts of the matter before the people of Australia. I think that it is affrontery on the part of the Labour party, which is practically responsible for the muddle in -which the hospital system is at the present time, to try to highlight that muddle in this Parliament. Honorable members opposite are very unwise from a party political point of view to raise the matter at this time, but very wise from a national point of view. I am astonished that an honorable member from Victoria should have introduced this discussion, because in Victoria no less than 76 organizations have rushed in to help to implement the Government’s scheme. Those organizations are representative of all sections of the people in Victoria. For instance, there is the Hospital Benefits Association of Victoria, the. Protestant Alliance Friendly Society, the Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows Benefit Society, the Hibernian Australian Catholic Benefit Society, and many others. Practically every friendly society, as well as every bush nursing hospital in Victoria, has indicated a willingness to help in the ‘Scheme. For about six months all those organizations have been enjoying the .benefits of the scheme brought in by the Government which provides an additional 12s. to the original 6s. daily, which -was previously provided for each bed occupied.
– If insured.
– I am glad that the honorable member has reminded me of that, because the honorable member for Burke did not mention that the method whereby the means test could, be abolished in Australia has already been provided by this Government under its free medicine scheme which will cost about £7,000,000 this year. There are approximately 8,000,000 people in Australia. Thus, an average of 17s. 6d. a head is made available to provide free life-saving drugs for every man, woman and child in the country, from the oldest granddad to the youngest babe in arms. At present, a married man can insure hiE wife and family for a premium of 6d. a week. That amounts to 26s. a year, but he receives in return a benefit of 35s. that was not available to him when the Labour party was in power. Thus, he receives 9s. a year more than the total cost of his insurance. It is absurd to say that this scheme cannot work, because the money has been provided. It must he made to work, because the whole hospital system of Australia, which I have studied closely, is “ in the red “.
One of the reasons for that moribund condition is that . health is essentially a matter for the State governments, not for the Australian Government. When certain referendum proposals were under discussion in this House on a former occasion, I tried to induce the Parliament to ask the people to replace the existing ambiguous reference to health in the Constitution with a clear delegation of power.
– But not one of the right honorable gentleman’s supporters would agree to the proposal.
– Nevertheless, ii was a good proposal, and I did my best to have it adopted. Now I have provided a scheme that makes thi1 best of the present poor, paltry provision in the Constitution, -which does not really cover such a situation as exists in Australia to-day. What is the situation of our hospitals? As a result of the introduction of Labour’? hospital scheme, and of another action by the Chifley Government, hospital costs have increased enormously and, at the same time, there has been a tremendous diminution of ‘public support, a? distinct from governmental support, for hospitals. In 1930, only 31 per cent, of the total cost of hospitals had to be found by governments. By 194-5, that proportion has increased in New South Wales to 40 per cent. To-day, in the same State, the figure is 84 per cent. The result of thi« has been the complete destruction of the voluntary system upon which the hospitals previously relied. Formerly, donations to public hospitals in New South Wales amounted to £300.000 or £400,000 a year, but to-day receipts from subscriptions amount to only £114,000 a year. In Queensland, such contributions have decreased from a total of £88,000 to £5,000 a year. The spirit of benevolence of the Australian people is being crushed by this system.
This Government has come forward with an offer to State hospitals throughout Australia that will increase their revenue by 10s. a bed daily. There are 365 days in a year. Therefore, that contribution will increase their income by £182 a year for each bed. There are approximately 60,000 beds in public hospitals throughout Australia. The total in Victoria, to which the honorable member for Burke referred, is 10,000. Therefore, the income of public hospitals in that State alone will be increased by £1,800,000 annually. The honorable member has said that those hospitals are “ in the red “ to the tune of £1,700,000. Here is a way to make up the whole of that leeway. The hospital authorities themselves are insistent that this scheme be implemented because they contend that the sole alternative is to close down beds by the hundreds, even though shortage of beds has already reached grave proportions. When I visited a public hospital in Brisbane recently, I found 66 patients in a 40-bed ward. The situation is the same throughout Australia. There is overcrowding everywhere because there is not enough money in the hospitals system to provide for ordinary costs of maintenance. Because of this financial stringency, plans for the building of new hospitals in all parts of the country have had to be deferred. Australia’s total of 60,000 beds in public hospitals ought to be increased by 15,000 so that prompt and adequate treatment may be provided for the sick. But we cannot provide those extra beds because of the effects of the Chifley Government’s scheme and because of the introduction of the 40-hour week, another measure that the Labour Government supported. The shorter working week has done tremendous damage to the nursing and hospital systems of this country.
Under this Government’s scheme, which will provide an amount of 18s. a day for each public hospital bed by means of the government contribution and the insurance premium of 6d. a week for a married man, and less for a single man, a basic income of about £20,000,000 a year will be provided for the hospitals before even one penny is contributed by State governments.
– But what about the amount of 25s. a day for each bed that the right honorable gentleman mentioned earlier ?
– It is easy to insure for more than 18s. a day. Furthermore, the contributor already has in kitty the 9s. that he saves under the free medicine scheme. I know of dozens of members of this Parliament who, without any government aid, have insured themselves and their families for hospital benefits. In fact, not long ago, I spoke to the Labour Minister for Health in New South Wales, who told me that he had insured himself with three companies. He was not going to get only £2 2s. a week. He intended to obtain £8 8s. or £10 10s. a week from various organizations in the event of sickness in his family. Hundreds of contributors to the New South Wales Railway, Tramway, Motor Omnibus and Road Transport Hospital Fund, one of the biggest workers’ organizations of that character in Australia, have insured themselves and their families for benefits of as much as £8 8s. a week. I asked one of them why he had done so, and he told me that he wanted to be sure that, should an evil day come when his wife, the mainstay of the family, became ill, he would be able to find hospital accommodation for her even if all public wards were full.
The richest countries in the world to-day are the United States of America and Canada. The United States of America, which is able to find 8,000,000,000,000 dollars a year to help other countries, has found it absolutely necessary, even though most of its hospital costs are covered by patients’ fees, to establish a vast system of pre-paid voluntary insurance. More than half of the total of hospital fees is provided by such insurance, and 83 per cent, of the costs of hospital maintenance are provided by the fees of patients. Canada, the second richest country in the world, has introduced a similar system. I ask honorable members to consider the psychological and physical effects of the Chifley Government’s scheme, which was introduced in 1945. That scheme was called a hospital benefits scheme, but that was a misleading description. The Labour Government said to the State governments, in effect, “ If you will stop collecting money in your public hospitals, we will provide you with money “. Hospital costs-were then estimated at 6s. a day for each bed, and the States agreed to the scheme on that basis. Later they asked that the rate be increased to 8s., and that was conceded. But what did the Premiers think of that scheme? The present Governor-General, Sir William McKell, who was then the Premier of New South Wales, made this comment -
Should this proposed scheme come into operation, many persons who now contribute to hospital benefit funds would discontinue their payments, so that the Commonwealth Government’s payment of (is. a day would merely be substituted for the Gs. a day now received from other sources. The view of New South Wales is that the proposed scheme would substantially interfere with voluntary contributions towards hospitals. If the sum represented by a payment of (is. a clay in respect of each hospital patient were paid to the State in order to enable it to bring its hospital system up to date by providing additional beds, that would be of more benefit to New South Wales than the proposed scheme would be.
Is it advisable for us to sacrifice, the huge amount contributed voluntarily when we are so fur behind in capital expenditure on hospital facilities?
I have received very strong protests, from an association which represents HO hospitals m New South Wales, against the adoption of the scheme. They express the view that it will affect the honorary medical services.
He estimated that New South Wales would lose about £1,200,000 a year in voluntary contributions and asked whether it was desirable to sacrifice such an amount when the hospital position was so difficult. The late Sir Albert Dunstan, who at that time was the Premier of Victoria, and whose government remained in power only with the support of the Labour party, spoke in similar terms. So did Mr. Willcock, who was then the Labour Premier of Western Australia. Mr. Hanlon, the Premier of Queensland, said -
I maintain that the Commonwealth scheme is fundamentally unsound. It provides for the payment of so much by the Commonwealth for each patient, but no Commonwealth contribution is to be made towards the cost of those services which .prevent people from having to go to hospital. Under the proposed scheme there will be an influx into the public wards of people who would otherwise be treated at home. [Extension of time granted.]
The first thing the Hospital Benefits Act did was to substitute for the money that the hospitals had been receiving from patients in public wards an equivalent cash payment by the Commonwealth, first, of 6s. a day and, later, of 8s. a day. In return, the States abolished the means test in the public wards of their hospitals. Consequently, well-to-do people could secure beds in those wards, but, owing to the shortage of hospital beds, that meant that poor men and women were squeezed out of the public wards. Under the present state of affairs, a poor man who requires a hernia operation, or some other operation that need not be done immediately, may have to wait for eight or nine months before he can obtain admission to a hospital, while the bed that he needs is occupied by a well-to-do man, who, under the old conditions, would have paid for a bed in another place. I know of many sick people with very small means who, because they could not secure admission to a public ward of a hospital, paid for admission to an intermediate or private ward. They did so because they needed treatment urgently.
Another effect of the ill-conceived legislate . i of the Chifley Government was to damage the private hospital system and to cause many private hospitals to close. I think 3,000 or 4,000 beds in private hospitals were lost as a result of that legislation. Pressure upon the public hospitals was increased, because many people who were willing to pay for treatment in private hospitals were forced to seek treatment in public hospitals. In addition, a feeling was created in the minds of the people that the Government alone was responsible for the payment of all hospital costs. In Queensland, that is the position. The position in Victoria is not quite as bad as in New South Wales, because the Victorian Government is finding only 68 per cent, or 70 per cent, of the costs, while the New South Wales Government is finding S4 per cent. The effect of that feeling was to disperse, to a great degree, the voluntary organizations which, over scores of years, had done much to help hospital managements and to cheer patients. In New South Wales and Queensland, donations to voluntary organizations dropped considerably. The system introduced by the Chifley Government discriminated against patients who were very sick, and because they could not obtain a free bed in a hospital, they could be given only out-patient treatment, for which they were charged. Out-patient treatment is on a means test basis, but no means test is applied to in-patients.
The Chifley Government made provision for an escape clause, in that a screen can be put round a bed in a public ward and the patient charged for treatment. Workmen injured as a result of accidents suffered during the course of their employment are also made to pay when they are in hospital. Practically twothirds of the women of Australia who enter hospitals to have babies pay for treatment and attention. The hospital system in Queensland is supposed to be a free system, but I know that two out of every three women in that State who go into hospital to have babies pay while they are in the hospital. They do so because they wish to have privacy. In one -women’s hospital in Queensland, there were three public wards and one private and intermediate ward, but now the hospital has three private and intermediate wards and one public ward, because the women prefer to pay something to secure privacy. It is worth while to bear in mind that, while all that is happening, the poor old pensioner, about whom everybody is now talking, is still required to pay £2 2s. a week from his pension while he is in a rest home or a similar institution. He is told that he has to pay something for his board and lodging. Something must be done to unable the cost of maintaining hospital patients to be met. In Canberra, public servants are charged £5 or £6 a week for their board and lodging in hostels. This problem is being faced in England. The British Government realizes that, if nursing services are to be provided free, something will have to be done to provide for the actual maintenance, or the board and lodging, of hospital patients, because otherwise the British scheme will not work at all.
Another- imposition was placed upon the States by the Chifley Government becausethe Pharmaceutical Benefits Act provided that the State governments should pay for all free drugs used by patients in public wards, although everybody else in Australia was entitled to obtain drugs free of charge. I am trying to negotiate an agreement with the States under which the cost of the provision of drugs to patients in public wards will no longer be borne by the States.
I turn now to the effects of the 40-hour week on hospital finance. A hospital has to deal with the physiological condition of a patient. Any nurse will explain that a 40-hour week system, in which the day is broken up into a number of shifts so that patients are attended by a number of nurses, is very difficult to work satisfactorily. In Brisbane, hospital employee? are working a 4.4-hour week regularly, and are paid for the extra four hours a week at overtime rates. That is being done also in the repatriation hospitals, because it is physiologically impossible to work satisfactorily at nursing on the basis of a 40-hour week. The effect of the 40- hour week has been to increase the working costs of hospitals considerably. If hospital staffs worked only for 40 hours each week, larger staffs would be required, and accommodation would be needed for the extra persons employed. But we have neither the money and materials nor the man-power to provide such extra accommodation. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) know« how I have struggled during the last two or three years to secure extra accommodation at the Canberra Community Hospital, which is in the heart of the capital city. If I cannot secure extra accommodation in the Australian Capital Territory, what chance have people who are. say, 2,000 miles away from here? We must do something to off-set the effect of the 40-hour week upon hospitals. Otherwise, we shall get into a worse mess.
Let me say a few words about our own scheme. It is based upon the principle that an extra payment shall be made ? > those who are prepared to help themselves. Some municipal councils have indicated that they are willing to give a quarter of their revenue from rates to hospitals in their areas. I have said that if that sum is equivalent .to a payment of 6s. a day in respect of each bed in the public hospitals in those areas, we shall regard it in the same way as insurance. All that [ am asking the States to do is to conclude an agreement that will be acceptable to this Government, under which they will receive a bigger hospital revenue.
.- The Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) is a political Shylock-
– Order! That is not an acceptable term.
– The Minister for Health is a political Scrooge- .
– I object to that term.
-Order! The honorable gentleman must withdraw the term.
– I withdraw the terms. The Minister for Health is a unique character in that he is withholding from the hospitals of the States money to which they are entitled and which they need to provide services for the sick people of the community, except upon the most onerous conditions. He is directly responsible for the reestablishment in Victoria of the system of payment in public wards of private hospitals. He is directly responsible for the re-establishment of the means test in those hospitals. He is extending that system to every State of the Commonwealth. The Minister, in what, I think, must, be regarded as one of the most extraordinary statements ever made in this House, has said that he is abolishing the means test in respect of the public hospitals in Australia. That statement is well worth a moment’s examination.
In 1945, the Chifley Government established the present hospital agreement, under which it provided 6s. a day for each occupied hed, on condition, first, that payment in public wards should be no longer required ; and, secondly, that no means test should thereafter be applied to any one who was seeking admission to a public ward. In 1945, under the hospitals agreement of the Chifley Government, the means test, which had applied until then, was abolished. That position was maintained until the Minister introduced his new system which is forcing every hospital in Australia to seek and appoint officers for the sole purpose, as required by the Minister’s scheme, of examining the means of patients to determine whether or not they shall be required to pay hospital fees. The Canberra Community Hospital Board, which operates under the sole direction of the Minister himself has notified that from the 1st July, under the Minister’s directions, it will not be able to provide free treatment, in the public wards for an uninsured person, unless that person is first subjected to a means test and his poverty is established. The Minister will agree that that is a correct statement.
– Patients are not subject to any test.
– The Minister is not doing anything in Canberra that he is not requiring to be done also in every State of Australia. That point has already been made conclusively by the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) who initiated this debate. But the facts that I have given also cancel the extraordinary contention of the Minister that he is abolishing a means test when, in fact, for the first time in seven years, he is re-establishing the means test in every public hospital in Australia. The Minister sighs for a return of the days when public hospitals were chiefly financed by voluntary contributions. But no enlightened community now supports the point of view that the sick of the country should be dependent upon bazaars and button days, charity dances and balls.
– And on gambling.
– And on gambling also. For seven years, the principle that has operated in this country, with the support of all honorable members, is that the public revenues of the community should meet the cost .of treatment for patients in public wards of hospitals. I remind the Minister that the Chifley Government’s scheme, which he has seen fit to criticize, was introduced into this Parliament following the unanimous recommendation of a general committee of members of both Houses of the Parliament. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) and the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Ryan) were members of that committee.
The Minister made an extraordinary statement when he suggested that under the previous scheme, the well-to-do people were squeezing the poor people out of beds. He has said that he proposes to remedy that position by abolishing the means test so that there will be no longer any examination of the relative financial positions of patients. One argument destroys the other. If, according to his statement, the Minister intends to alter the position so that well-to-do patients will not squeeze poor patients out of beds, obviously he will examine the means of the patients to establish their right to go into a public ward. The fact is that no well-to-do patient has squeezed a poor person out of a hospital bed. A wealthy person can occupy only one bed, and if his medical condition requires it, he is entitled to a hospital bed whether his income is £10,000 or £500 a year. He requires only the medical and nursing services that are required by a poor patient in a public ward. A wealthy person will not make additional demands upon the hospital, medical and nursing services of the community unless, under the Minister’s scheme, he occupies a private ward and asks for special services in return for the payments that he makes.
The Minister made one other statement which ranks amongst the most extraordinary that have been made in the Parliament when he said that the Government had no money for additional hospital services. The fact is that the Government will collect in the present financial year, and pay into the National Welfare Fund, £180,000,000. In the same period it will spend from the National Welfare Fund £140,000,000. The Minister, therefore, will have a surplus of collections over expenditure in the National Welfare Fund this financial year of £40,000,000, a record figure. But he has stated that he cannot do any more for the poor of this community because the Government has no money.
– What about next year?
-The Minister has spoken of next year and has suggested by implication that the money must be collected this year because he will be short of funds next year. May I assure him that, as he knows very well, by the 30th June this year, a credit balance of almost £200,000,000 will have accumulated in the National Welfare Fund.
– The honorable member is deceiving himself.
– The budget papers have shown that the amount to the credit of the National Welfare Fund at. the 30th June will be just on £200,000,000, yet the Minister has said that no money is available to him. He has stated that people must insure in one of the numerous hospital benefit societies if they want free treatment. The Minister forgets that those societies exclude from their benefits all chronic cases.
– That is not so. They are altering the provisions.
– They have not altered them yet. If the Minister examines any of those schemes to-day, he will find that people who have enrolled in those hospital benefit schemes in response to his appeals, have done so on the condition that they will not receive payment in respect of chronic diseases. The conditions are set out and they also exclude persons over the age of 65 years. The Minister cannot produce in the House the benefit lists of any society which provide benefits to-day to chronic cases or persons over 65 years of age. If he can achieve the inclusion of such cases by an alteration of the conditions, that will be all to the good, but up to the present that alteration has not been made.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I think that it would be as well to direct the intention of the House to the wording of the matter to which this adjournment motion refers. The purpose of the mover is to attack the Government for its alleged failure to maintain an adequate financial system to provide for hospitals. Let me point out to the House that the present scheme of finance for hospitals is totally inadequate and that it was introduced by the Chifley Labour Government. The truth is that the Chifley Government’s scheme, which honorable members are asked by the Opposition to maintain, replaced one which at that time was working more or less reasonably well and which, at any rate, provided for the number of patients relatively far more beds than are available at present. The Chifley Government replaced that scheme with one- which could not and did not provide sufficient hospital finance and is now breaking down. It is the breaking down of the Chifley Labour Government’s scheme that is involving the hospitals of Australia in their present difficulties and financial embarrassment, and not the scheme that the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) has proposed, but the Chifley Government’s scheme which is now in operation. Under this motion, the Opposition urges the Government to maintain the latter scheme although’ it has failed and, consequently, has caused the breakdown of the public hospitals system throughout Australia.
The motion also refers to a means test. The breakdown of the Labour Government’s scheme has obliged public hospitals throughout Australia, because of . insufficient finance, to ask patients who can afford to do so to pay a proportion of the cost of their treatment. But that is not a means test. A means test excludes persons from participation in benefits unless they satisfy certain conditions of the test. Nobody contends that persons with limited means will now be denied admission to hospitals. A man who has been injured in an accident, or has developed acute appendicitis will not be turned away at the hospital door because his financial means are inadequate to meet his hospital expenses. The reference in the motion to a means test is merely propaganda on the part of the Opposition which desires to discredit this Government’s scheme. The only reason why public hospitals are now imposing a charge upon persons who occupy beds is that the Chifley scheme has broken down. In support of that statement, I shall cite illustrative figures in respect of the operation of the present scheme in New South Wales. In 1945, State aid to hospitals amounted to £1,700,000. donations and subscriptions amounted to £241,000 and revenue from systematic contributory schemes, such as are now being revived under this Government’s proposal, amounted to £630,000. These are all round figures. Of the total income of hospitals in that State, 48 per cent, was provided in the form of State aid and 52 per cent, represented collections from other sources. This was the year in which the Chifley Government’s scheme was introduced. By 1950, the form was that State aid had increased to £8,600,000, whilst donations and subscriptions had decreased to £111,000, and no revenue at all was received from contributory schemes. In the latter year, 84 per cent, of hospital income in New South Wales was made available in the form of State aid and only 18 per cent, represented income from other sources. If the Government maintained the Chifley scheme, as the Opposition now contends it should, it could only do so by increased taxation. It would have to make the sky the limit. It would have to increase substantially existing taxes in order to provide free hospital treatment for every one, regardless of the fact that many persons can afford to pay for hospital treatment.
A serious decline has taken place in hospital finance under the existing scheme. In 1944-45, total hospital expenditure in Australia amounted to £10,400,000, of which sum 52.9 per cent, was obtained from non-governmental sources; but by 1949-50 that expenditure had increased to £21,000,000, of which only 20 per cent, was obtained from nongovernmental sources. That means that as a result of the introduction of the existing scheme, the Australian hospitals system lost approximately 30 per cent., or £6,000,000 a year, of the revenue that it had previously obtained from nongovernmental sources. Therefore, the Opposition’s contention that the present scheme should be maintained is extremely remarkable. I shall now cite some figures with respect to another method of hospital finance of which honorable members opposite approve. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Eraser) raised a cry about gambling. The Queensland Government conducts a lottery, which is known as the “ Golden Casket “, ostensibly for the purpose of financing the construction and equipment of public hospitals. In 1950-51, revenue from the sale of tickets in that lottery totalled £4,265,000, but, after allowing for administrative expenses and prizes, which amounted to approximately £3,000,000, and the payment of the sum of £213,000 into Consolidated Revenue, a balance of only £1,076,000 was available for the purpose for which the lottery was established. Does the Opposition say that this Government should adopt a system of that kind for the purpose of financing the operation of public hospitals throughout Australia? The figures in respect of all lotteries that are conducted throughout Australia reveal an even worse result. In 1950-51, total revenue amounted to £17,600,000, and after provision had been made for administrative expenditure and prizes amounting to £12,000,000, and the sum of £4,000,000 had. been paid into the Consolidated Revenue funds of the States concerned, the magnificent sum of £1,380,000 remained for the purpose of maintaining public hospitals. In view of those figures, it is idle for members of the Opposition to contend that this Government has, by ignoring them, failed to meet its responsibility in respect of public hospital finance.
What is this Government doing in this matter? What the Government proposes is no that hospital accommodation shall be denied to anybody, but that persons who can afford to pay, or who have made provision to do so by joining a hospital benefits fund, shall be asked to meet a proportion of the cost of treatment. The Minister has indicated that when the present agreement with the States expires, he proposes to negotiate a new agreement, on the basis of the present level of hospital bed subsidies, in respect of all persons who are not so insured. In respect of persons who are insured, he will propose that the occupied bed benefit be raised from 8s. to 12s. a day. It is estimated that under the Government’s proposed scheme, the sum of £20,000,000 will be injected annually into the public hospitals system. Such a scheme has much more to recommend it than has the ramshackle financial method that was introduced by
Dr. Donald Cameron. the Labour Government. In addition, this Government has taken other measures. The Minister has instituted a pensioners’ medical service.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- 1 emphasize that the Chifley Government’s hospital benefits scheme has not failed in any respect whatever. When that Government inaugurated social services benefits of all kinds, it established the National Welfare Fund for the purpose of financing them. That fund was described as Chifley’s nest-egg. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), when he introduced his first budget, said that the National Welfare Fund had been invested in securities; but the amount to the credit of the fund has not been disclosed. He made that announcement at a time when this Government was actively engaged in abolishing the social services contribution as such. Why cannot the Government utilize that fund in order to assist hospitals that are in financial difficulties? Many hospitals in Victoria are in financial death throes.
Notwithstanding what the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) has said, the fact remains that this community, like any other civilized community, is committed to the principle of providing free hospitalization for all who need hospital care. That was the basis of the scheme that the Chifley Government introduced. As health is the first plank of any scheme of public education, hospitalization must be regarded as being analagous to literacy. The Australian community accepts the principle of free education. Therefore, hospital and medical treatment also should be made available free, because the standard of health of the community is analagous in principle to that of education. For that reason, the cost of caring for the sick has for many years been properly accepted as a charge upon the community.
– The sick poor.
– No, the care of the sick. I point out to the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) that even this Government accepts the principle of financing certain phases of hospitalization directly from Consolidated Revenue. I refer particularly to the treatment of infectious diseases, including tuberculosis. Therefore, the Government is not consistent when it obliges practically every person requiring hospital treatment to pay for it. No complaint is made about the fact that the treatment of persons suffering from infectious diseases and tuberculosis is financed directly and wholly by the community.
What is taking place in Victoria at present is the result of this Government’s policy, which is deliberately designed to serve the interests of the British Medical Association. The new scheme will make it convenient for individual doctors - I have no doubt that they will soon take advantage of the opportunity - to group their patients in a hospital. As doctors can secure the admission of patients, there will be a tendency to extend intermediate wards at the expense of public wards. Consequently, many persons who are now joining hospital benefits funds will soon find that no beds will be available for them when they require hospital treatment. That position has actually arisen in Victoria, where no less than 2,000 persons are now awaiting admission to public hospitals. Regardless of what the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) has said, a number of public hospitals in the metropolitan area of Melbourne are applying a means test. The seriousness of this position should be estimated in the light of the facts that were given to the House by the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters). In Victoria, 6,300 beds are available in the general public hospitals. That number includes 1,100 paying beds, leaving 5,200 non-paying public ward beds. Propaganda in relation to the imposition of the means test on hospital patients has been most subtle. The Royal Melbourne Hospital has decided to charge patients in public wards a minimum of 25s. a day. Even people who have contributed for hospital benefits through friendly societies will find that they will have to pay at the rate of 7s. a day, whilst uninsured persons will be called upon to pay 17s. a day. The remarks of Sir Victor Hurley in relation to these charges are very much to the point, and I ask the Minister for Health to take particular note of them, because the
Minister’s statement about the proportion of the amount of 25s. that is to be available for medicine differs from Sir Victor’s statement on the same matter. Sir Victor said that the 25s. a day fee would not include medical or nursing expenses which, he said, would be free. The fee would bc a charge for board and lodging; lodging in a dormitory, because, in effect, that is all a public hospital ward is! The secretary-manager of the hospital has stated that he hoped to ask patients to pay 17s. a day in advance because private hospitals asked for payments in advance. The charges made by the Royal Melbourne Hospital came intooperation on the 12th May. Lady Brookes, the president of the Queen Victoria Hospital, which is a women’s hospital, has stated that the hospital would seek a payment of 18s. a day, which would net it £1,000 a week. Her succeeding statement bears out my contention that the natural result of this development will be an expansion, of the number of intermediate wards and a decrease of the number of public, nonpaying beds. Lady Brookes said that it was hoped to save another £1,000 a week by the opening of a new intermediate ward. Nobody can logically say that that could be done except by a reduction of the number of non-paying beds. Queen Victoria Hospital patients were to be asked to pay 10s. a day in advance. When we recall that that hospital is largely a maternity hospital we can appreciate more fully the seriousness of the position. The Minister had something to say about the psychological effect on patients of making payments for their treatment. I should like to know what the psychological effect on patients of these charges, which the hospital authorities wish to be paid in advance, will be.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It would be just as well to re-read to the House the text of the motion, because the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Andrews) seems to have strayed entirely from the issue. The motion refers to -
I understood from the statements of the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) that he had moved the adjournment of the House for the purpose of directing attention to hospital finances, particularly in Victoria. Knowing that the debate was initiated by Victorians, and particularly by the honorable member for Burke, E am inclined to regard the motion as motivated more by propaganda than, by a desire to direct attention to the condition of hospital finances in Victoria. At present a sharp debate is in progress in Victoria about the best method of financing hospitals. The Victorian branch of the Labour party has introduced a suggestion that a State lottery would be the best means of financing hospitals. That suggestion has caused an upsurge of public indignation in Victoria. Et seems to me to be a bankrupt method of approaching the problem. We should examine closely the statements of honorable members opposite in relation to the occurrences of the last four or five years. Everybody will agree that Australian hospitals to-day are staggering on the verge of bankruptcy. That position is a reproach to governments and citizens alike, but the blame for it cannot be laid entirely at the door of this Government. When aid this bankruptcy in the financial position of our hospitals actually begin? The tangle of hospital finances in Vic- toria dates from 1945, the very year in which the Chifley Government abolished the means test and introduced the hospital subsidy of 6s. a day. Statistics show that before 1945, when the subsidy was not in operation, the means test was imposed by hospitals because they then obtained almost half their financial requirements from payments by patients and from donations. In other words, contributions by governments to hospital finances were almost entirely balanced by private gifts and payments by patients in a satisfactory way. As a result of the introduction of the subsidy, and the propaganda that accompanied it, people who had previously been benefactors to hospitals decided that there was no longer any need for them to make donations. The public was told that intending hospital patients, whether rich or poor, no longer had any i need to worry about obtaining hospital accommodation. The people were led to believe that they no longer had any responsibility in relation to charitable hospitals. That feeling grew, as the statistics regarding donations to hospitals show. As a result of the Chifley legislation, a greater responsibility has been thrown on hospital authorities at a time when the progress of science has led to a considerable increase of the cost of the maintenance of hospitals. The legislation has done incalculable harm to the whole of our hospital system. Another of its deleterious effects on the system was, as the Minister has stated, that it led to the closing down of a large number of private hospitals that had performed a useful service ancillary to that rendered by the major hospitals. The closing of those small hospitals resulted directly from the reluctance of patients to enter them when treatment was available at the charitable hospitals at no cost.
I consider that the Government has displayed a constructive attitude in relation to the parlous condition of hospital finances. It introduced the Hospital Benefits Bill, which has improved the position. I know that the agencies which deal with applications for hospital insurance are dealing with many people who wish to become insured. The Government’s scheme has assured hospitals of an income of at least 19s. a day for enrolled patients. It is true that hospital authorities in Victoria have recommended that the means test should be reimposed, but it is untrue to say, as the honorable member for Burke has said, that people who cannot afford to pay for hospital accommodation will be turned away. Such statements have been denied by the secretaries and managers of charitable hospitals. I am sure that, as the Minister has said, no charitable hospital in this country will fail to keep its doors open for people who cannot afford to pay for accommodation.
The hospital benefits scheme is now well established in Victoria. Participation in friendly and other approved societies is available to all members of the public, and there has been the greatest cooperation between those organizations and doctors and chemists in order to give assistance and advice to people who wish to become insured.
-Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I believe that the health and well-being of the people areproperly the responsibility of the nation as a whole. I also believe that it would be completely wrong to return to the system of haphazard charity and to the old cap-touching and “ God bless the Squire “ days of 40 years ago, for which the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) yearns so nostalgically. The Government’s decision to introduce this scheme in the Australian Capital Territory has caused great indignation among the residents. The Hospital Board of the Canberra Community Hospital has made representations to the Minister on the matter, and questions relating to the decision have been raised in the press and at meetings of public organizations. But the people have received very little satisfaction from the Minister or the senior officers of his department. The Minister a few moments ago used these words -
Health is not a federal matter. It is a State matter.
Let me remind the right honorable gentleman that in the Australian Capital Territory the Australian Government has complete and unfettered authority and responsibility in all matters pertaining to its policy on health. Indeed the AustralianGovernment has no need, in the Australian Capital Territory, to seek an agreement with a State government. It is not hampered by any State administration, and no difficulty is placed in its way by any municipal administration. The Australian Government has complete authority and responsibility in the Australian Capital Territory; and I believe that it is avoiding its responsibility to the residents here.
For many years, the citizens of the Australian Capital Territory paid a hospital tax in return for which they received free treatment in the public wards of the Canberra Community Hospital. Under the instructions of the Minister, a means test has been introduced for the first time. No matter what words the right honorable gentleman or any other Government supporter may use in an endeavour to brush that aside, the fact remains that this scheme introduces a means test into the hospital system in the Australian Capital Territory. When the system of uniform income tax began to operate in 1942-43, residents of the Australian Capital Territory commenced to pay income tax at the same levels as were applied to every other person in Australia. The local hospital tax, which they had paid in order to secure and maintain their free benefits in the public wards of the Canberra Community Hospital, was absorbed in the uniform income tax. At that time an undertaking was given to the residents of the Australian Capital Territory that they would continue to receive the hospital benefits to which they had been accustomed. What is the position now? They continue to pay income tax at the same levels as are applied to everybody else throughout the Commonwealth, yet they are denied the benefit that they enjoyed for years. Indeed, they do not benefit to the same degree as citizens in the States benefit. The people, of the Australian Capital Territory, where the Commonwealth has complete responsibility, are reeling under successive blows from the Minister for Health and the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes). Charges of every kind are being increased almost daily. Rents for leaseholds have been increased, and rural lessees are called upon to pay more-
– Order ! Leaseholds are completely outside the scope of the subject of this motion.
– The Minister for Health has added to the blows that have been struck at residents of the Australian Capital Territory by calling upon them to pay for a service, the cost of which has been met for ten years from their income tax payments. I emphasize that when the system of uniform income tax was introduced the people of the Australian Capital Territory were assured that they would continue to receive free hospital benefits. Citizens of Canberra do not receive the benefits from collections of income tax that are enjoyed by citizens in the States. People in Canberra have no social services benefits at what is normally regarded as the State or municipal level. They receive no payments comparable with those received by the- citizens of the various States from the reimbursements of income tax, although they pay income tax at the same levels as are applied to every other member of the community.
The Commonwealth had the opportunity to establish in the Australian Capital Territory a hospital system that would be a model for the rest of Australia. The hospital service that was provided here was a good one. It has been well administered by a local board, the members of which are elected by the residents of the Australian Capital Territory. Canberra people are proud of their hospital, and have worked hard to assist it. Members of the board have devoted considerable time to the affairs of the hospital. “Women have given great assistance on the women’s auxiliary. The community was proud of the fact that, in the Territory for the Seat of Government, they had a completely free hospital service.
-Who paid for it?
-What a fatuous question! For the benefit of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), who apparently has just awakened, I recall the fact that residents of the Australian Capital Territory pay income tax at exactly the same level as is applied to the citizens of the various States, yet they receive less in return than is received by the citizens of the States. If the honorable gentleman has any interest in a State, he may receive some benefit from the taxes that are paid by other residents of the Australian Capital Territory.
The Minister for Health, in his discourse to the House, said that the States were receiving £166,000,000 from Commonwealth revenues, an amount which could not be made up by loan allocations. A percentage of that money is provided by the taxpayers in the Australian Capital Territory, who receive no social services or other benefits at the State or municipal level. The Minister, when he referred to the hospital benefits scheme introduced by the Chifley Government, said, “ The poor out-patient had to pay “. I remind the right honorable member that out-patients received treatment free of charge at the Canberra
Community Hospital until the introduction of this nefarious scheme. The Minister has fixed a scale of charges, ranging from a minimum of 5s., for each visit to the out-patients section of the hospital. That eminent student, Professor L. F. Crisp, who has analysed the Minister’s statement on the operation of hospital and medical schemes in continental America, has made the following comment on the position of residents of the Australian Capital Territory on the introduction of the new scheme: -
The people of the Australian Capital Territory will then be paying out, in respect of health -
The old hospital tax, now absorbed in uniform taxation.
The social service contribution to the National Welfare Fund - still being paid, though it has lost its identity in the general income tax.
Hospital benefits contribution.
Out-patients, X-ray, physiotherapy and other charges now being imposed by the Minister and not covered by hospital benefits. (Or, in lieu,a means test.)
Hospital in-patients’ fees if they are in hospital longer than the benefits pay for i.e., 70 days in any one year. (Or, in lieu, a means test.)
Medical benefits contribution.
Charges for medical attention beyond or over and above what will be covered under medical benefits.
Dental charges. (Or, in lieu, a means test. )
Chemists’ charges other than those for a partial list of life-saving drugs.
Their share of the public and private administration costs involved.
I believe that the scheme generally is bad, and is particularly bad in its application to residents of the Australian Capital Territory, where the Commonwealth has complete authority, yet has completely avoided its responsibility.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- From the remarks of the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser), it appears that citizens of Canberra have hitherto enjoyed exceptional hospitalization. Indeed, the generosity of that treatment is without parallel in any State. I consider that the residents of the Australian Capital Territory, if they pay no more, should enjoy no more privileges than are enjoyed by citizens of the various States. I have no knowledge of the arrangements that were made for free hospital treatment at the Canberra Community Hospital, but 1 am familiar with the hospitals set-up in the States. The hospital benefits scheme introduced by the Chifley Labour Government, in 1945, was the biggest bit of political deception that was ever “ put across “ the Australian people. At that time, I was a member of the Parliament of Western’ Australia, and i recall that the Commonwealth’s proposals were severely criticized. For many years I had been a member of a hospital board, and I considered that the scheme would detrimentally affect the finances of hospitals. My fears have been realized. Since 1945 hospital accommodation has become increasingly difficult to obtain, whilst the standard of hospital facilities have steadily declined. The hospital benefits scheme has not contributed one additional bed. It imposed a means test, and implied the most wicked of all things - class distinction. In 1930, the Government of Western Australia introduced a straight-out hospital tax, which was imposed on incomes at the rate of 1-Jd. in the £1. Every taxpayer was entitled to free treatment in a public ward of a hospital. Certain sections of the community, including pensioners and persons in receipt of small incomes, were exempt from the tax. Eventually, the Government of Western Australia found that, although it had the right to increase the hospital tax, the provision of a completely free hospital scheme was, financially, impossible. Therefore, the Government was compelled to limit the benefits to which taxpayers were entitled. That scheme operated until the introduction of the Chifley Government’s scheme.
As honorable members are aware, the Commonwealth scheme made provision for a reimbursement to the States on -the basis of the average collections received by them from patients. The scheme had no relation, to the outstanding fact, namely, -the cost of running a hospital. In Western Australia at that time, the average collection was 5s. lOd. a patient daily. The State Minister for Health at that time grabbed the Commonwealth’s offer of 6s. a bed a day, because it was 2d. a bed a day more than the average receipt from patients. Yet hospital costs in that State were approximately 22s. a day. For instance, a hospital must be maintained in a timber milling district whether or not there are any patients, because accidents are liable to occur at any time. The cost of maintaining a hospital in a timber milling district was as much as 45s. a bed daily. The Commonwealth’s hospital benefits scheme imposed on the States the obligation to provide free treatment for a patient in a public ward in return for the payment of 6s. a day. No provision was made for the maintenance of the hospital in which all the beds were empty for a period. In addition, the Commonwealth scheme imposed the worst kind of means test. I criticized the scheme because I considered that it placed a person in the invidious position of having to demand what he considered to be his right. I note, on reference to the debate on the scheme, as reported in Hansard of the Parliament of Western Australia, that the Labour Minister for Health made the following interjection when I was speaking: -
A man can demand a public bed.
I pointed out that the scheme provided for a means test, and that indignities would be imposed upon persons seeking hospitalization and the Minister stated -
There are people with dignity.
Suppose a husband took hi3 wife to hospital when she was sick almost unto death. The couple would be met at the door by a member of the staff who, obviously, was acting on instructions from the State government, because additional money had to be obtained for the hospitals. The husband would be greated with the words : “ Of course, you would not like your wife to be a patient in a public ward ? “ What answer would a person who valued his self-respect give to such a question? Would he quibble, and insist that his wife, who was at death’s door, be given a bed in a public ward? Of course, he could have demanded a bed for her in a public ward, but, in doing so, he would have suffered loss of dignity and self-respect. Let me quote again the Labour Minister for Health in Western Australia. He said -
If anybody desires tn go into hospital and to have an intermediate or private bed, that is his voluntary choice. If he has some pride and does not want to be classed as a pauper
That is supposed to refer to a scheme for the abolition of the means test. In reality it amounted to the substitution of a scheme that was based upon class distinction. In other words, some people were encouraged to set themselves up as being better than others. At that time I said, in the Western Australian Parliament, that the scheme would contribute nothing towards providing additional beds in our hospitals because it was based upon wrong premises. I said that it was based on the collections that were made when there was a lot of free treatment and when people were not paying hospital bills; also, that it had no relation to costs. The Western Australian Minister for Health also said -
If the hospital scheme becomes operative it has been promised by the Prime Minister that, should buildings really be necessary to accommodate our patients, he will see that chey are accommodated.
He said further -
I realize that, and the Prime Minister has promised that if we are very short- of accommodation, through this scheme, he will see that we receive the finance in order to be able to give the people facilities necessary to carry it into effect, and to give a bed to every one who wants a bed.
Prom 1945 onwards hospitalization throughout the whole of Australia stagnated, and indeed deteriorated, until we reached the position that confronted us when this Government assumed office. At that time it was almost impossible to provide the hospital accommodation needed. That came about because of the political deception that made the people believe that they were getting something” for nothing. There were two main weaknesses in the Chifley hospital benefits scheme. First, it embodied a system of class distinction and, secondly, no provision was made for the beds required. Of what use is free hospital treatment if people cannot get a bed in a hospital in order to take advantage of the treatment ? This Government’s scheme provides that there shall be no class distinction and no means test, and it removes some of the “ gimme “ attitude from the people and encourages them to be provident and selfreliant. By all means let us get rid of the “ gimme “ philosophy. Let us realize that we cannot get something for nothing, although many people to-day continue to ask for something for nothing.
Moreover, this Government intends to find the funds necessary to provide, the requisite hospital accommodation for our people.
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I completely disagree with the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) in respect of many of the statements that he has made about the Chifley scheme of 1945. He has quoted extensively from debates which apparently took place in the Western Australian legislature, but I remind him that it was my duty as the leader of the Labour party in the Victorian Legislative Council to introduce the agreement that was made between the Australian Government and the Victorian Government in respect of hospital benefits. The experience of Victoria was totally different from the experience in Western Australia as detailed by the honorable member for Moore. I remind the honorable member that the scheme introduced in 1945 had a great deal of earnest and serious thought given to it by an all-party committee of this Parliament on social security. The report of that committee is available for all those who desire to read it, and it indicates that members of all parties, both in this House and in another place, participated in investigations that were made concerning the establishment of a scheme, and then made a unanimous recommendation that a scheme of the description of the scheme that was introduced was necessary in order not only to carry out the health policy of the then government, but also to meet the earnest desire of the people as a whole.
On page 5 of the report of that committee there is a statement of the income received by the hospitals in each of the States during the years 1941 and 1942. The average worked out at 4s. lid. a day a bed, although in New South Wales it was 5s. 9d., in Western Australia 5s. 8d. and in South Australia 4s. 6d. The proposal was, not as has been suggested by the honorable member for Moore, only to maintain the patients in public hospitals and provide additional beds for them, but also to endeavour to place on a sound financial foundation all our Australian hospitals. It had no relation to capital expansion to provide beds for all who might desire them in the future. I believe that the Government has gone astray in that it has failed to realize the significance of Australia’s expansion and the increase of its population. The tendency to-day is for people to spread further throughout the country, and the Government has failed to provide the additional hospital accommodation now required.
One of the most unfortunate aspects of this matter is that during the last seven or eight years sufficient capital expansion has not taken place to meet our urgent hospital needs. The maintenance of health is one of the most important obligations of any community. In Australia we have prided ourselves upon our longevity, our low infant mortality rate and our desire to have the best and most reliable medical treatment and equipment for our people.
The neglect of the hospitals has caused a chaotic condition in Victoria. The following facts will indicate to the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), and honorable members generally, the extremely difficult financial condition facing the hospitals in Victoria. The overdrafts of the eight Melbourne hospitals total about £1,000,000. The Prince Henry Hospital contains beds for 260 patients, but last year its overdraft increased by £20,000. Certain hospitals in Melbourne were recently advised by their banks that from then onwards the only cheques that the banks would honour would be cheques in respect of wages. The expenses of the Women’s Hospital in Melbourne increased from £159,000 in 1947 to £475,000 last year. Last year, wage adjustments alone cost the Children’s Hospital £82,000 more in wages than was paid in the previous year, whilst the cost of maintaining a bed in the Children’s Hospital, which was £8 a week in 1947, is to-day £23 a week. ‘ The Royal Melbourne Hospital has notified the Government that unless more financial accommodation is made available for its running expenses at least two wards will have to close down. It is proposed to charge patients in the public hospitals in Victoria from 10s. to 25s. a day, according to the decisions made by the hospital authorities.
The Minister for Health stated that health is a matter for the States. He was speaking from the constitutional standpoint. There is no question that from the standpoint of ability to legislate, health is a responsibility of the States. However, there is also no doubt that the financing of hospitals is a matter for the Commonwealth, because of the system of uniform taxation. Only through the Australian Government can finance be made available for the States to carry on their hospital and other social services. Therefore, the responsibility of maintaining the hospitals, as far as financial maintenance is concerned, lies on the Australian Government. The 1945 agreement between the .States and the Commonwealth was a clear recognition by the Australian Government of that responsibility. If 6s. a day a bed was deemed to be sufficient in 1945 to enable the hospitals to remain on a sound financial footing, a much larger sum would be necessary to-day.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I was astonished when the Opposition raised this matter in order to make a puerile attack on the Government for the sole purpose of trying to gain party political advantage out of sick people. No benefit can accrue to the people from such a motion, and instead of having brought it forward the Opposition, in common decency and fairness, should be congratulating the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) upon the grand job that he is doing for Australia in the field of public health. I say that, not because I am a supporter of the Government, but because no other Minister for Health has ever got so much done in such a short time as has the present Minister. The Minister for Health in the last Chifley Government made headlines in the newspapers all over Australia because of the arguments that he had with the medical fraternity and the chemists. Although he made much clamour he got nothing at all done.
The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) referred to what he called the failure of this Government to make additional hospitals available to cater for our increased population. It is well known that the construction of new hospitals is entirely a matter for the States. The subject of money has been brought into the discussion by honorable members opposite. I remind them that every State government has exercised rigid controls in recent years for the purpose of making the best use of available building labour and materials. There has been no lack of finance for the construction of hospitals in any of the States. They should have used their money wisely. Unfortunately, in New South Wales, the State with which I am best acquainted, the Government has been pre-occupied with socializing the community to the exclusion . of such important tasks as the building of hospitals. It has acquired power stations at great cost and has resumed areas of expensive building property in order to provide 50,000 blocks for its housing commission. It has purchased land in select areas, at a cost of £100 a foot, for the benefit of supposedly indigent persons who are unable to provide houses for themselves. That is the sort of extravagance in which the Government of New South Wales has indulged instead of building new hospitals.
Much has been said about the abolition of the means test in relation to hospital benefits. That expression is popular at present, but the application of the means test to hospitalization has not the same significance as has the application of the means test to other forms of social services. As the Minister for Health properly pointed out, the Chifley Government’s scheme for the payment of 6s. a day for each bed in a public hospital did not involve the abolition of the means test in the true sense. The truth is that not one hospital in Australia was satisfied to receive that payment in place of what it had received previously. The scheme was a great disappointment to the hospital authorities. They did not accept it voluntarily. It was arbitrarily imposed upon them as a result of an agreement that was reached between the Chifley Government and the various State governments. Hospital managements had no alternative but to accept it. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Eraser) spoke of onerous conditions under the present scheme. The fact is that every man and woman in Australia can obtain hospitalization to-day in return for a payment of about1s. 6d. a week. For 6d. a week, a single person can obtain from the fund to which he subscribes and from contributions by the Government, benefits amounting to £6 6s. a week. A family man can obtain the same benefits for every member of his family by paying at the rate of1s. a week. For a contribution of 2s. a week, adequate provision can be made for the hospitalization of any member of any family in Australia. There is nothing onerous about those conditions.
This Government has a magnificent record in the field of health. We all know what it has done to encourage preventive treatment, and now it has framed a plan that will make hospital benefits available to every citizen. All Australians should contribute under the insurance scheme because it will restore to them some of the civic responsibilities that were taken away by the socialists. This Government has provided also for the distribution of life-saving drugs free of charge. As the Minister has said, this service costs the country about £8,000,000 per annum. It has provided tuberculosis allowances at a cost of approximately £3,500,000 per annum, and free medical services for pensioners at a cost of about £1,250,000. Anybody who dares to point to the record of this Government in the field of health and declare that it is not being fair to the people, is not telling the truth.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 92.
Motion (by Mr. Beale) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Atomic Energy (Control of Materials) Act 1946.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Mr. BEALE (Parramatta - Minister for
Supply) [5.21]. - by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a bill to amend the Atomic Energy (Control of Materials) Act 1946. Its chief purpose is to empower the Minister for Supply, on .behalf of the Commonwealth, to authorize persons to enter upon and to carry on mining operations on lands in the territories of the Commonwealth. It has been made necessary, as I arn sure honorable members will have guessed, by the increasing importance of uranium in the modern world. The principal act provides as the preamble shows for the control of materials which are or may be used in producing atomic energy. Et authorizes acquisition and other actions in connexion with what are described as “ prescribed substances a term which, substantially, means uranium and its various compounds. I quote from section 6, because its terms are not well enough known and certainly are not well enough understood - (1.) All prescribed substances existing in their natural condition, or in a deposit of waste material obtained from any underground or surface working, on or below the surface of any land in any Territory of the Commonwealth, whether alienated from the Crown or not and, if alienated, whether alienated before or after the commencement of this Act, is hereby declared to be the property of the Commonwealth.
One amendment for which the hill provides is a correction of the grammar by the substitution of the word “ are “ for “ is I do not suppose that there wilbe any great controversy about that.
The effect of section 6 was to vest in the Commonwealth all uranium in any territory of the Commonwealth as from the. date of the passing of the act, which was the 14th August, 1946. We have read newspaper reports and have heard statements in this House to the effect that the Government intends to acquire uranium in the Northern Territory, for instance. I repeat for the benefit of the House that the Commonwealth acquired all uranium in its territories on the 14th August, 1946. Nothing that this Government has done or will do can change that fact. Section 14 of the act provides for compensation. It provides that, when any uranium is acquired by the Commonwealth, or when any person suffers any loss as a result of acquisition or what otherwise would be trespass by the Commonwealth, the Government shall be liable to pay such compensation as is agreed upon between it and the person so injured, or, in default of agreement, is determined by action against the Commonwealth in any court of competent, jurisdiction. Newspapers have reported that the Commonwealth is trying, apparently, to evade some obligation in respect of compensation, and one correspondent has even declared that the Government was surprised and caught short by the discovery of uranium in the Northern Territory. That is not true. Provision for acquisition and compensation has existed since 1946.
Section 9 provides that the Minister has power to prohibit, by order published in the Gazette, the working of minerals specified in the order and the acquisition, production, treatment, possession, use, disposal, export or import of uranium or any of its compounds. Thus, the Australian Government has wide power to control such minerals. Licences may be granted by the Minister and may be revoked at any time. Most of these powers are related to defence, and the Government wants to broaden them somewhat because we must also look to the future and prepare for the use of uranium for industrial purposes. Therefore, the bill provides for the amplification of the powers contained in section 9 and other sections to which I shall refer later. Section 10 gives to the Minister power to authorize persons to enter on land where it is thought that uranium may be found, to make observations and tests in relation to uranium and to extract and remove samples. A sub-section prohibits the obstruction of the entry of authorized persons. The bill will omit that sub-section and transfer its provision to section 15, which deal? in a general way with offences and penalties.
Section 11 provides that the Minister may, where he considers it to be desirable in the interests of defence to do so. require persons who have any uranium in their possession to deliver it to the Commonwealth, and take possession of any uranium so delivered as the property of the Commonwealth. Section 12 provides that the Minister, where he considers itnecessary in the interests of the defence of the Commonwealth to do so, may, by notice in writing served on any person appearing to be in possession of any land, declare that all prescribed substances, which, for convenience, I shall call uranium, shall become the .property of the Commonwealth. Section 13 provides for the acquisition of certain rights. It states that, where it appears to the Minister that any minerals from which, in his opinion, any uranium can be obtained are present on or under any land, either in a natural state or in a deposit of waste material, he may, by order served on the person who appears to be in possession of that land, provide for compulsorily vesting in the Commonwealth the exclusive right to- work those minerals. Speaking generally, those are the powers that the Commonwealth possesses to enter upon land and acquire materials. The only other sections of the Act that have any relevance in this connexion are section 15, which makes provision for offences and penalties, and section 16, which provides that .the GovernorGeneral may make regulations under the act.
The most important of the proposed amendments of the principal act is the insertion of a new section 13a. In the view of the Government, it has now become necessary to take active steps to win the uranium that we now know is to be found in various places in Australia, particularly in certain of the territories of .the Commonwealth. It is considered that sections 10, 11, 12 and 13 of the principal act, which confer upon the Minister various .powers in relation to the acquisition of uranium and entry upon land, are not sufficiently clear-cut and specific for the purposes that the Government has in mind. As honorable members are aware, the Government, since it came into power, has done a great deal to ascertain the uranium resources of this country and to prepare the way for their exploitation. It is known to most honorable members that, quite recently, we invited representatives of the Atomic Energy Commission to come to this country to consider our uranium resources on the spot. As a result of that visit, an agreement has been made under which Australia will sell uranium to the Atomic Energy Commission and will receive certain assistance to develop Australian uranium resources. It would not be proper to discuss the agreement further than to say that, in the view of the Government, the arrangement that has been made will be highly beneficial to this country.
Some honorable members have expressed doubt about whether anything has been done that will prejudice the development of atomic power for industrial purposes. That is the line that the Communists are now peddling in this country. They are saying that Australia should not, under any circumstances, export any uranium to our allies or to any one else, because we need all the uranium that we have for our own industrial purposes. The specific answer to that Communist propaganda trick is that all possible steps have been taken to ensure that nothing will be done which would denude this country of uranium.
– Yes. Uranium will not be sold in quantities that will imperil or prejudice efforts to obtain industrial power from atomic energy.
– Has the Government the right to refuse to sell any uranium, if it does not want to sell it?
– I do not propose to tell any honorable member the terms of the agreement that has been entered into on a governmental level. Every possible step has been taken to safeguard the interests of Australia not only from the viewpoint of defence but also from that of the development of atomic power for industrial purposes. The Government has pressed forward with this matter, in the interests of the nation. We have now reached the stage when steps will have to be taken to win uranium.. Because the tem!po of our activities is increasing, we have found it necessary to introduce this bill.
– The existing law is sufficient for the Government’s purposes.
– If the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) believes that to be so, he need have no anxiety about voting for this measure. The view of our legal advisers is that the matter should be clarified, and that additional powers, minute though the Leader of the Opposition believes them to be, should be embodied in a new section 13a. The proposed new section provides that, where it appears to the Minister that any prescribed substances, or any minerals from which, in the opinion of the Minister, any prescribed substance can be obtained, are present on or under the whole or a part of an area of land in a territory of the Commonwealth, either in a natural state or in a deposit of waste material, the Minister may, by writing under his hand, authorize a person to carry on, on behalf of the Commonwealth, operations on that land. It provides further that, subject to any conditions or restrictions specified in the authority, the person so authorized in relation to any land may enter upon that land, with such workmen and other persons as he thinks fit; bring to the land such machinery as he thinks fit; take possession of the whole or a part of the land; carry on, upon or under the land, operations for discovering, mining, recovering, treating and processing uranium; for the purposes of those operations, erect or install buildings, structures or machinery on the land; cut and construct water races, drains, dams, tramways and roads; bore or sink for water and pump, raise or use water on the land; do other work on the land; demolish or remove buildings; pass over, or authorize persons and things to pass or be carried over, land giving access to that land; and do all such other things as are necessary or convenient for the effectual exercise of the powers specified previously in the section.
The purpose of the bill is to extend the powers conferred upon the Commonwealth by the Atomic Energy (Control of Materials) Act 1946, to make it more convenient for persons authorized by the Government to go upon land and mine uranium on behalf of the Commonwealth. I commend the measure to the House as being necessary and desirable to enable the development of the uranium resources of this country to proceed more quickly.
Misleading statements have been made repeatedly in the press and in this chamber about the extent of the uranium resources of this country, and the monetary rewards that are likely to accrue to persons who own land on which uranium has been found. I am bound to tell the
House that it would be wrong to exaggerate the extent and value of our uranium resources. Very careful surveys have been made. We know that we have substantial resources of uranium in Australia, and we believe that there are large resources that have not yet been discovered, but I deprecate talk of unlimited resources. Nobody knows how much uranium there is in this country. We know that adequate and satisfactory resources are opening up before us, but it is wrong to talk about them in wild and extravagant terms, as many persons have done.
– What percentage has got to go to America?
– Oh, shut up! The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) goes on like Wordsworth’s idiot boy.
– The Minister, being a lawyer, should be. more dignified.
-Order ! The honorable member for Watson must cease to interject.
– By law, the Government is compelled to pay compensation in respect of uranium, but I do not believe that, as has been alleged, fortunes will be made by any persons on whose land uranium has been found or that huge claims for compensation will be made successfully against the Government. The words “ fortunes “ and “ huge claims “ have been used in this connexion, but I think it is wrong to raise the hopes of the people in that way.
– Will the Government pay compensation on just terms?
– Compensation will be paid on just terms. I do not know whether it will be paid under the provisions of the Constitution or under the provisions of section 14 of the Atomic Energy (Control of Materials) Act, but it will be paid on just terms.
– The Government cannot avoid that.
– We do not want to avoid it. The payment of compensation on just terms does not mean necessarily that fabulous fortunes will be made by any persons. Fair compensation will be awarded by the proper tribunals. It is undesirable that people’s hopes should be raised by talk of extravagant rewards. I hope that this speech will have the effect of damping down the enthusiasm of some people.
The Government proposes only that a minor amendment shall be made of the principal act, but the amendment is designed to enable us to go ahead a little faster and more efficiently with the business of winning uranium and making it available to ourselves and our allies, not only in the interests of defence but also in the interests of Australia’s future industrial development.
– I propose to say one or two words about this measure, and then to ask for leave to continue my remarks. I agree with the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) that it is right to try to prevent people from hoping for too much, but I do not think it is any part of the business of the Government to decry the value of this material. That is a matter that will have to be determined subsequently.
– I rise to order. Will the Leader of the Opposition, having started his speech in this strain, be in order if, subsequently, he asks for leave to continue his remarks? I do not think I have made any remarks that entitle him to embark upon this discussion, but if he pursues the subject, I suggest that he must continue his speech in the ordinary way.
– If the right honorable gentleman wishes to commence his speech now, and later to ask for leave to continue his remarks, that is his affair. He is entitled to do so.
– I shall do so. The Minister has asked the people of this country to take note of what he has said this afternoon. With respect to him, I do not think that he should have ventured to embark upon an unknown sea, as it were, and to say anything about the value of this material. It belongs to the Commonwealth. Compensation, in default of agreement, must be determined by a court. I do not want to say that the material has a very high value, because I do not know what its value is.
During the last week, a number of Ministers have said that they do not want extravagant claims for compensation to be made, and that attitude is understandable, but I think nothing should be said about that matter until the value of the materials has been assessed. In my view, we should not stress the matter either way. I invite honorable members to see what will happen. The rest of the bill seems to me to achieve no more than the present legislation. That is why I wish to continue my remarks later. I have no doubt that in due course the Opposition will accept the bill even though it seems likely to achieve very little. I ask for leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 20th May (vide page 469), on motion by Sir Arthurfadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Treasurer (Sir ArthurFadden), when introducing this bill and cognate measures, delivered only a sketchy speech in respect of each of them. He did not attempt to give to the House a general statement that would indicate the Government’s present financial position or what result it might anticipate at the end of the current financial year. He did not attempt in any way to anticipate what the next financial year might bring. Some time ago, he made a lengthy and rambling speech to the House in which he dealt with a wide range of subjects, but on that occasion he did not throw any light at all upon the critical situation that now exists in this country. Before Supply is granted to a Government, the Parliament is entitled to expect it to redress existing grievances. That means that the Government should attend to the major problems that confront it. If that test is applied to the measures that we are about to discuss, it is obvious that the House should refuse to grant Supply at this stage.
Not only State governments, but also semi-governmental bodies and representative community organizations throughout Australia are now suffering grievances of one kind or another as a result of the Government’s policy. The Government assumed office at a time when Australia enjoyed unprecedented budgetary equilibrium. Our financial position was such that the newspapers at that time declared that the incoming Government had at its disposal sufficient resources to provide adequately for every eventuality that it could reasonably anticipate. However, in less than three years, it has caused complete chaos in this country. It failed to take any action whatever to deal with the desperate economic and financial position that arose as a result of its policy. Consequently, it caused confusion in the community generally and destroyed incentive. It has antogonized all the State governments. Such a position would be tragic in any circumstances, but it is particularly disastrous at a time when we require to do everything possible to ensure that the federal system shall work effectively. That objective can be achieved only by maintaining a close working relationship with the State governments. However, this Government is completely at loggerheads with those governments and with all organizations of any’ importance throughout Australia. Its hostility towards non-Labour State governments is even more marked than it is in respect of Labour State governments. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) aud all his Ministers have not only been unwilling to co-operate with the State governments to help them to carry out the great responsibilities that are entrusted to them, but also gone out of their way to attack the State Premiers. That state of affairs must be remedied as soon as possible because, unless good relationships are established between the Commonwealth and the State governments, we shall have no chance what ever of solving our present difficulties.
The Government has antagonized the primary producers as a whole. It has imposed upon them additional burdens of all kinds and, at the same time, has taken from them benefits that they have enjoyed for many years because of difficulties peculiar to their industries. It has, belatedly, recognized the importance of the agricultural industry and is now endeavouring to restore some of those benefits to that section of primary producers. This hostility has culminated in the refusal of wheat-growers to sow their land to wheat to its full capacity and, consequently, the wheat crop this season will be considerably less than it was in previous years. Such a position is disastrous at a time when many countries are crying out for foodstuffs. Australia is recognized to be an important exporter nf primary products, but, as a result of the Government’s policy, we are now unable to meet the requirements of other countries to the degree that we have been able to satisfy their needs in the past. Subversive movements must inevitably prosper in countries in which the mass of the people is unable to obtain adequate supplies of food.
The Government has also fallen down on its responsibility to the young family man who is endeavouring to purchase or to arrange for the construction of a house. It has antagonized that vital section of the community by permitting building costs to rise to such a degree that the average family man now finds it impossible to acquire a house of his own. The provision of adequate housing is one of the first essentials for a contented society, but the Government, by its financial policy, has made money scarce and dear and has caused building costs to rise to an all-time high. The result is that persons who desire to acquire houses cannot afford to undertake the financial obligations that would be involved in the purchase, or construction, of dwellings. As the Sydney Daily Telegraph reports in its edition to-day, a serious lag in the construction of houses during the current quarter has already become apparent. The Government has also placed unnecessary burdens upon those in the community whose incomes are fixed. I refer to persons receiving superannuation benefits which, owing to rising prices, have bo.pome insufficient to enable them to provide adequately for themselves. Pensioners of all classes are suffering grevious hardships. Recently, the secretary nf the Age Pensioners Association in “Western
Australia stated that the death rate among pensioners in that State was higher during last winter than in any previous period of the history of that organization. Little hope can be held out for that section of the community during the current winter.
The Government has imposed unnecessary hardships upon ex-servicemen who are endeavouring to acquire war service homes. Acting upon the advice of the War Service Homes Division, numbers of ex-servicemen proceeded with arrangements for the construction of a house on the understanding that when the structure was completed, provided it conformed to a reasonable standard and valuation, the division would take over the individual’s liability and arrange for the repayment of the loan on easy terms. Those persons now find themselves in a hopeless position as a result of the Government’s recent decision to restict advances for the construction of war service homes and have been thrown upon their own resources which are entirely inadequate to enable them to extricate themselves from their difficulty.
The effect of all these grievances has become apparent throughout the Australian economy as a whole. The business community is completely and utterly confused. The Government will not be able to obtain a full productive effort unless it wins the co-operation of the business community. However, after allowing imports to flood this country, it suddenly placed an almost total prohibition upon them and thus caused confusion among manufacturers and importers. It could have taken effective steps to curtail imports earlier, but it acted in such a manner as to cause hardship not only to Australian manufacturers and importers but also to manufacturers in Great Britain whom it had encouraged to develop a market in this country.
On every count the Government stands indicted before the bar of public opinion. To those who are familiar with the records of non-Labour governments, this is not astonishing. However, although non-Labour governments in the past have acted in much the same manner, no other government has done so much damage to Australia’s economy in so short a period of time. When it assumed office,
Australia had a balanced economy and could look forward to the future with confidence; but in less than three years this Government has brought . about economic chaos. The business community does not know where it is going, and primary producers are unable to anticipate what their position will be if they make a maximum productive effort. The Government is scrounging round the money markets of the world in a desperate effort to retrieve its position. It is repeating the performance of the Bruce-Page Government, of unhappy memory, which, during the last year of its tenure of office, endeavoured to raise a loan of £18,000,000 in London and, failing to do so, sought a loan of only £5,000,000 and had the greatest difficulty in obtaining even that limited sum. This Government, its counterpart in modern times, added the despairing note which was contained in the Treasurer’s recent financial statement, and was repeated by the Prime Minister, that Australia cannot borrow money anywhere in the world. It cannot borrow money in Great Britain, a country with which we have our major trade contacts. It cannot borrow it in America, a country with which we have the closest ties as a result of our associations with it during the war and since. But the Treasurer has said that there is a hope that we might be able to borrow money in Switzerland. The fact is that Australia’s name has been hawked, and Australia’s credit bargained, throughout the world, not only in the major countries, but also in every other country. The Treasurer, in his trips round the world, has tried to borrow money and of course has met blank refusals. He has tried to pawn Australia. In return for what? For the imports that we have seen enter this country in recent years, and even in recent months, luxury imports that have flooded Australia with high-priced manufactures that could have been better and more cheaply made in this country ! The Government is seeking to sell Australia’s future. It is seeking to burden posterity, the children of Australia, and children yet unborn, in order that it may ease its temporary difficulties with money from overseas. That is in line with the Government’s policy and practices since it came into office. It is in line, in fact, with the Menzies-Fadden coalitions that we have known. We have had three of them. The first fell shamefully in wartime without even a vote of the House having been taken to defeat it. Its leader retired and took his seat as a private member. The second Menzies-Fadden coalition took office in 1949, at a time when Australia’s financial situation was the envy of the entire world. It inherited a budget system that was sound and secure, and a financial position that provided for all the necessities of the future as far as they could be gauged. But it had gained office on the most lengthy list of rosy promises that had ever gulled the Australian people. For fifteen months its members and supporters did nothing but play their miserable political game. They let the Australian economy run down while they angled, in every possible way, to gain some political advantage. They produced the political situation they wanted. They got the victory they desired. And now, in the short space of time since April, 1951, when they were re-elected to office, the Australian economy has been utterly destroyed.
The Government’s record is in every way a dismal and tragic one, but in no respect has it been more tragic than in the field of finance. During the war years and in the post-war period the Chifley Government budgeted for the needs of Australia. It provided for the financing of capital works from revenue because at that time that was sound policy ; and it is still sound policy. Although Mr. Chifley was criticized by members of the present Government who were then in Opposition, he stuck unswervingly to his task. He could have made the position worse for the incoming government, but he stuck to that unpopular task because he realized that the way in which he planned in the post-war years would shape the nature of the nation’s future financial situation if the foundations he had laid were built on intelligently. This Government, however, has not only ruined our finances, but also completely, and without reason, wrecked the loan market in this country. I have directed attention on three occasions to the statements of the Treasurer at meetings with the Pre miers, to his statements to the press and to official statements that have been issued on behalf of the Government by that anonymous person, a government spokesman, but we have never had a reply from the Treasurer or any government spokesman, and, I assume, we shall not receive any reply now regarding the reason for the raising of interest rates. In recent years there have been larger amounts of money lying in banks to the credit of Australian citizens than there were at any previous time in our history. These amounts have been earning little or no interest, and have been readily available to their owners for subscriptions to public loans. The ownership of those bank deposits has been more widely spread through the community than was the case ever before in our history. In that situation the Treasurer determined to force an increase of interest rates. That intention was freely canvassed from the time that the Government was elected to office. Official publications of the great financial corporations made it clear that an increase of interest rates was essential. They used the outworn theory that it would prevent an increase of the volume of borrowing, would curb inflation, and would have general beneficial results. That story has been told a thousand times during the course of human history, and on every occasion it has been proved to be completely wrong. But the Government, not because it believed the theory, which had been to a thoroughly discredited already for even it to accept, but because it relied upon the support of the great financial institutions, was determined to force, and succeeded in forcing, a rise in interest rates. With what results ? An increase of costs inevitably followed the increase of interest rates. Another inevitable consequence was a heavy loss of capital to people who had trusted the Government. That loss, which ranged up to £11 per cent, in some loan issues, was the direct responsibility of the Government.
– The honorable member knows that that is not true.
– I know that it is perfectly true.
– The Loan Council raised the interest rates.
– Until this Government sot out to raise the interest rates every public loan had been heavily over-subscribed. Not only were loans over-subscribed, but ako in many instances the quotas were filled. In most instances a successful loan-raising was in sight before a loan was floated. In the face of that situation there is not the slightest justification for the Government’s action in forcing an increase of interest rates. The Treasurer says that the increase of interest rates was insisted upon by the Loan Council. The Australian Government is the dominant member of the council.
– The honorable member knows that that statement is not true. The States have six votes on the, council, which gives to them a majority of the voting strength.
– I know that they have, but I know also from newspaper reports that the Premiers resisted the proposal to increase interest rates that was forced upon them.
– That is an absolute lie.
– I asked the Treasurer during question time recently whether he would make available for our inspection the minutes of the relevant Loan Council meeting, which would show whether or not we are right when we charge the Government with the responsibility for that increase of interest rates. His answer was a complete refusal. I understand, although I am subject to correction, that the late Mr. Chifley, when he was Treasurer, made available to the then Leader of the Opposition, who is now the Prime Minister, the reports of Loan Council meetings immediately they were available. I may be wrong in that belief.
– The honorable member is wrong in it.
– I am informed that Mr. Chifley did so.
– If he did so, he had no right to do it.
– I am not concerned with the rights and wrongs of the matter at this stage. The Government not only forced <m increase of interest rates; in addition, only a short time before it did so the Treasurer appealed to the holders of 3f per cent. Commonwealth securities to convert their holdings to a lower rate of interest, in the interests of Australia. Holdings worth several million pounds owned by thousands of bond-holders were converted to a lower interest rate. When that operation was over the Treasurer proceeded to force an increase of interest rates, and the people whom he had gulled into accepting his plea were among those who lost considerable amounts through the subsequent depreciation of the value of their investments.
We say that the Government has done nothing worthwhile to carry on the administration of the country. There are grievances in Australia that bear more heavily on the community with each day that passes. When each new budget is brought down members of the Government tell us that pensions are costing more than they ever did before. But with each successive increase of pension the ratio of the pension to the basic wage declines, because immediately the increase is given the cost of living soars. The result is that after each increase the pensioners are in reality receiving less than they were receiving before the increase was granted.
Every and any government has certain responsibilities. Immediately this Government took office it should have grappled with the problems that then existed. We pleaded with the Government to control prices. We said that no matter what the Government did or what benefits it conferred, unless it held the cost of living steady it would make the situation worse day by day, would cause greater hardship to both individuals and organizations, and would render more certain an inflationary boom that would finally end in depression, ruin and misery. The Government rejected our plea for the imposition of some form of prices control and. tried instead to establish what it claimed to be anti-inflationary measures to hold back the rising cost of living. But instead of improving, the situation gets worse from quarter to quarter.’ The Treasurer said in his last financial statement that there was evidence that the situation might improve, but that there were also forces in the community that could make for still greater inflation. The last part of that statement is, of course, completely true. The Treasurer also claimed that the imposition of prices control would be the equivalent of dropping a cork into volcano. That is not a very happy simile, but it probably explains what the right honorable gentleman meant. But what is the Government doing in the absence of such a remedy as prices control? It is paying to the State governments about £1,000,000 a year. I assume that this year the payment will be more than £1,000,000 as a result of the increase of the cost of living and of wages and administrative costs generally. That is what the Government is doing in order to maintain a farcical pretence of prices control.
The Treasurer recently went to London, in a blaze of publicity, to attend a conference of the finance Ministers of the British Commonwealth. He told the conference that he did not want any short-term palliative. No, he did not believe in prices control or anything that would hold down prices. He merely wanted restoration of the free convertibility of sterling. His statement burst like a bombshell upon the hard-tested people of Britain and the harried Ministers of the British Government. What the Treasurer apparently did not know was that it was an earlier attempt to restore the free convertibility of sterling that had caused Britain’s present difficulties. Apparently he was also unaware that it was the high cost of manufacture in Britain that was making it difficult, and almost impossible, to restore, in the foreseeable future, the desired free convertibility of sterling. Unless British prices can be brought to a level at which British manufactures can be sold on a competitive basis on the world’s markets, there is no possibility of Britain returning at an early date to the former free convertibility of sterling. That statement by the Treasurer proves conclusively to those who knew, and demonstrated to those who did not already realize the fact, that the right honorable gentleman has no conception of our economic problems, and is incapable of grappling with them. The Go vernment, even at this late stage, must take real steps to control rising price levels. Admittedly, the latest increase of the basic wage was one of the lowest that has occurred for some time, but I forecast that subsequent quarterly adjustments will be greater. That is inevitable, in view of the prices of all commodities. It is certain that the basie wage, which is not a natural wage, will rise far more steeply in the future, From that situation a recession may develop and unemployment increase, and confusion, loss and ruin in business, such as have been experienced under non-Labour governments in the past, will occur. Then, no doubt, the Labour party will be called into the breach, to rescue the community from the financial muddle that has been caused by this Government.
– The honorable member is an optimist.
– I am an optimist at the present time because every contact that I make in the community, whether with businessmen or pensioners, increases my optimism.
– Do the people want socialism?
– I expected that the Treasurer, or some of his supporters, would trot out the socialist bogy in another attempt to make the Australian people, the vast majority of whom earn their living by working for it, withdraw their support from the party that really represents them. The record of socialism has been played to death. At the general election in 1949, many people were frightened by the socialist bogy. They were told that the Chifley Government, if it remained in office, would advance the cause of socialism. But, at the same time, they were told many other things that figure in their memories to-day much more prominently than does the socialist bogy. At the general election in 1949, the Liberal party and the Australian Country party promised the people that, if they were returned to office, they would reduce the cost of living and put value back into the £1. ‘ Those extravagant promises, which were displayed on hoardings, published in advertisements in newspapers, and spoken from political platforms, convinced many people that they could almost hear shillings jingling hack into the £1. Speakers also promised the people that a non-Labour government could be trusted to safeguard the interests and welfare of pensioners. What is the situation to-day?’ Pensioners are suffering greater hardships than have been experienced at any other time since the introduction of pensions.
– The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) does not understand the situation. He is not in touch with the people, and is incapable of understanding their problems. I remind the honorable gentleman that the Liberal party and the Australian Country party promised the people during the general election campaign in 1949 that a non-Labour government would introduce a national health and medical service that would cater adequately for all their needs, and that such a service would be infinitely preferable to the socialist scheme of the Chifley Government. This afternoon the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) assured us that such a happy situation had been achieved. That statement indicated how far Government supporters are out of touch with realities. As he was speaking, I recalled a paragraph that I had read in The Sunday Times, a Perth newspaper, a few days ago. The writer stated that the Government was, in fact, solving the problem of the shortage of hospital beds. He explained that more hospital beds are becoming available to patients because the Australian community, by and large, cannot afford the cost of hospitalization, and that people who are forced by serious illness to enter those institutions leave them in the shortest possible time.
The Treasurer has introduced additional estimates of expenditure for the current financial year, and has sought Supply for the first four months of the next financial year. So many grievances and complaints may be made, with justification, against this Government that it does not deserve to be granted Supply. But there is another reason why the Parliament should be highly critical of the Government before lightly granting it Supply. The Government professes to believe in the rule of Parliament, and wishes the people to have the greatest respect for the parliamentary institution. Yet the Government has treated the Parliament with the utmost contempt. The last sessional period was of fairly long duration, but much of it could have been occupied to greater advantage than it was> had the Government had worthwhile business to bring forward. The Government closed the Parliament, and within a day or two days, announced the most far-reaching import restrictions known in peace-time. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) has asked us tb believe that the Liberal party is, in essence, a parliamentary party. Had the Government any respect for the parliamentary institution, it would have announced the import restrictions to the Australian people, not through the press, but through the Parliament transacting the nation’s business in Canberra.
This Government stands condemned on all counts. In its administration of the finances of Australia, it has pursued a spendthrift course. It has received increasing revenues from year to year because of the rise of the cost of living, which, as was aptly stated by the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) one one occasion, brings more and more people into the income tax field. The Government has enjoyed record revenues from every source. But it was not satisfied with swollen revenues. It has taken revenues, which would normally have been collected in the following financial year, for use in the current financial year. I cite, as an example, the well-known wool sales deduction, the 10 per cent, increase of company charges, and the abolition of the averaging system which applied to primary producers’ incomes in excess of £4,000 a year. Those policies have caused the Government to have headaches in the following financial year. It should know, as every intelligent person here knows, that with rising costs, Government expenditure and commitments do not decline. The Government had to expect a rising rate of expenditure. Yet, the Treasurer budgeted for a surplus of £114,500,000 in the current financial year. In order to extricate himself from temporary difficulties, he made provision to collect in this financial year a sum of £114,500,000 that he should have collected in the next financial year. The result is a mounting financial burden, and an economic crisis. If remedial measures are not taken, this Government will be swept from the treasury-bench.
The Treasurer has informed honorable members that he cannot estimate receipts and expenditure for this financial year. He has assured us that the surplus of £114,500,000, for which he budgeted, will not be achieved, and may be substantially less than that sum. He believes the net expenditure will be at least £5,000,000 in excess of the budget estimate. The Treasurer, instead of making those scant observations, owes it to the Parliament to indicate whether a surplus will be achieved at the end of this financial year. His speech leaves that matter completely open, but the clear inference can be drawn that the financial year will close, not with a surplus, but with a deficit.
– Does the honorable member expect a surplus of £114,000,000 when the Commonwealth has made available to the States the sum of £155,000,000 ?
– I repeat that this financial year may close with a deficit. The Treasurer should attempt, at this stage, to make a reasonably accurate estimate of the receipts and expenditure for the whole year. We contend that the Government has failed tragically to grapple with” the problems of to-day. The sound financial position, which this Government inherited from the preceding Labour Government, no longer exists. In the remarkably short time of less than three years, our financial position has become almost chaotic. The policy of this Government has caused frustration to the community and bad feeling between the Commonwealth and the States, and has inflicted acute hardship on many people. The Government has proved that it is incapable of controlling Australia’s destiny in a time of crisis. But that experience is not novel. It is the history of non-Labour governments.
– Tell us something cheerful.
Mr. TOM BURKE. It is difficult for me to be cheerful in view of the gloomy forecasts of the Treasurer. At the next general election, the Liberal party and the Australian Country party will need to rely upon something more than scares and bogies if they wish to have any representatives in this Parliament. Prompt and effective action should be taken to curb the inflationary situation, and to remedy the strained relations that exist between the Commonwealth and the States. Substantial relief should be granted immediately to pensioners, who are suffering most grievously from the Government’s financial policy. The Opposition considers the Government has earned the displeasure of the Parliament, and the condemnation of the people of Australia. If the Government wishes to put its fortunes to the test, the Opposition will willingly meet it on the political field at any time.
.- What a dismal three-quarters of an hour! Clearly, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) is most unhappy.
– He is so young, too.
– Obviously, the honorable gentleman has missed that little daily dose that makes for happiness. It is said that he aspires to be the next Labour Treasurer. After haying listened to his diatribe for three-quarters of an hour, I can only render thanks that, in the interests of Australia and of posterity, to which the honorable gentleman referred so freely, the right honorable member for Mcpherson (Sir Arthur Fadden) is the Treasurer.
– After the next general election, the honorable member for Mitchell will be in the strangers’ gallery in this chamber.
– And the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) will be in the rogues’ gallery.
– Order! I ask the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Berry) to withdraw that statement.
– Has the honorable member for Hindmarsh asked for a withdrawal of the statement?
-Order! If the honorable member made that statement, he must withdraw it.
– I withdraw the statement, if it is offensive to the honorable member for Hindmarsh.
– The reference to the Strangers’ Gallery reminds me that the speech of the honorable member for Perth had a strange relation to this bill. He seemed to touch on it very lightly on a few occasions. It is tragic that the honorable member for Perth, who comes from sunny Western Australia should he so despondent. The only reason that I can oner for his gloom is that the depressing doctrine of socialism has seeped into his soul. Or perhaps it is the continually depressing fact that he is here only by virtue of the Communist preference votes that were awarded to him at the last general election. I suggest that such a thing is quite enough to depress the average Australian. The honorable member for Perth spent threequarters of an hour deploring the state of affairs existing in Australia, but ho failed to offer one solution. Perhaps the reason is that he has no solution to offer. He paid scant attention to the facts of our present position. For instance he played with the matter of war service homes. It may be trite. to repeat to the honorable member that this Government has made available a larger amount of money than has any other Australian government foi’ the provision of war service homes. I think it would be worthwhile to cite some figures to illustrate the value of this Government’s efforts in the field of housing for exservicemen. During 1945-46, 428 war service homes were provided ; during 1946-47, 2,262 war service homes were provided; during 1947-48, 3,677 war service homes were provided ; and during 1948-49, 6,084 war service homes were provided; during 1949-50, 10,303 war service homes were provided; during J 950-51, 1.5,165 war service homes were provided. That table illustrates in striking fashion how this Government, from the time of its assumption of office fit the end of 1949, has increased the output of war service homes. In fact, the total number of war service homes provided by the Australian Government since the inception of the act in 1919 to the 30th June. 1951. is 75,515. Twenty per cent, of that number was provided during the year 1950-51 and 33 per cent, of the total has been provided by the present Government in the last two years. This Government has nothing to be ashamed of about its activities in the field of providing houses for exservicemen.
The honorable member, with true regard for his aspiration to the treasureship of the country, played also with the economic situation. The economic conditions at present affecting Australia are not peculiar to this country, as the honorable member well knows; they are world wide. He made extravagant statements about the Government being prepared to sell posterity, but it is strange that the people of Australia in 1949 were prepared to commit the future of this country to a Liberal government, and repeated their action in 1951. The honorable member also complained that this Government did nothing during the first fifteen months of its life. The Labour movement must accept full responsibility for what then occurred, because honorable members opposite know very well that we were frustrated in another place. The honorable member spoke about the Australian Loan Council. He knows that the floating of loans and the general conditions and rates to be attached to them are solely within the province of the Australian Loan Council on which the States have six votes and the Commonwealth has three. I cannot understand why the honorable member tried to place so much responsibility for the failure of the loan market upon the Australian Government, when each of the States has a vote at the Australian Loan Council’s deliberations. The honorable member’s speech was so full of inaccuracies that it would take up the whole of my allotted time adequately to reply to it. Even so, it would be a worthless procedure because T doubt very much whether his speech made much impression on the House other than to depress it.
I realize that in a debate on Supply one may search the universe for subjects ; hut it would be profitable to pay some attention to the financial structure of the country during this difficult period through which we are going. As ‘a ‘fH’1”! we must get back to some degree of financial security. If we are to achieve that we must pay some attention to the higher realms of finance, particularly hanking. The honorable member for Perth said something about the financial position of the country, but I say to him that we inherited this financial structure after eight years of socialism under a Labour Government, and it is very difficult to rectify the mistakes made by that Administration in a mere two and a half years. It will be a slow process. We have had several years of socialist banking since the banking legislation was introduced in 1945 by the Labour Government. This socialized banking system has failed us on all counts and has left us in a hopeless muddle. The Chifley Government, by its 1945 banking legislation, established a financial dictatorship, the dictator being the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. The Commonwealth Bank has had more or less direct control over the functions of Australian finance since then. It has controlled our credit, our overseas funds and the bond market. lt would be well worth while to consider the actual situation since the Commonwealth Bank has taken an interest in these three main financial functions in this country. As far as our credit is concerned, we are threatened with serious inflation. Our overseas funds, over which the Commonwealth Bank has some control, are in a state of chaos which has necessitated drastic import cuts. The bond market has lost the confidence of the public. All these matters are a sad commentary on the handling of the higher realms of finance by the Commonwealth Bank. It is amusing to hear criticism from honorable members opposite in which it is assumed that the Government has been directing the policy of the Commonwealth Bank. As a matter of fact the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, by the 1945 legislation, has been placed in such a position that he is more or less a law unto himself, and goes his own way. There has been no significant change in government banking policy in the Commonwealth Bank structure since 1945. The honorable member for Perth referred to credit restrictions, but they were introduced several years ago before this Government came to power, and from time to time they have been made more severe. The restrictions have become progressively more severe as the socialist method of finance has failed, and the controllers have taken a tighter and tighter grip to cover up their mistakes and to attempt to retrieve a disastrous situation. That, of course, is the familiar broad socialist road down into the valley of depression. In New South Wales the same sort of thing is happening in connexion with our electricity supplies. As the electricity restrictions go .from bad to worse we are assured by the socialist government of New South Wales that there are better times ahead. The same melancholy mistakes have been made in New South Wales in connexion with public transport.
I do not wish to see the nation’s finances follow the same pattern of decay as can be plainly seen in other sections of our socialist economy, such as power and transport. Therefore, I hope that the present Government will do something as soon as possible to remove the straightjacket that Labour placed on the banking system and will enable it once again to function freely in the interests of Australia. The promise that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) recently made to the effect that he would restore fair competition in the banking sphere was the best news that we have heard for a long time, and I hope that no more time will ‘ be lost in putting it into effect. Obviously, the first thing that should be done would be to set up a proper central bank. The 1945 legislation transformed the Commonwealth Bank into a financial nightmare. It made of it a machine that would work against itself. On the one hand it became a central bank which had to restrict the issue of credit in an attempt to halt inflation, but on the other hand, a trading bank with a duty to expand its business. The net result was what we might have expected - it has expanded its own business to the detriment of the trading banks and has endeavoured to prevent inflation on the one hand, while working hard at the inflation pump on the other hand.
I shall now refer to some remarks that were made in this Parliament about twenty years ago by a gentleman who is referred to with great respect by honorable members opposite as one of the greatest financial experts that their movement has ever produced. That gentleman is not the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), it is the late Honorable E. G. Theodore. According to Hansard, about twenty years ago the late Honorable E. G. Theodore said -
The principle obstacle in the way of such a development (a separate central bank) is the attitude towards a central bank of the private trading banks. They have declined to deposit any considerable proportion of their reserves with it because they realize that such reserves might be used to further its active competition with them. One cannot blame the managers and controllers of private banking institutions for that attitude. They realize that the Commonwealth Bank has become a competitor of tremendous power, and it was unreasonable to expect them to strengthen that competitor by handing over to it a large proportion of their reserves. A great many commentators have pointed out that under the Australian hanking system the Commonwealth Bank cannot function properly as a central reserve bank while it is in active competition with the private banks. The present Government, recognizing this, has brought down the measure we are now discussing.
Mr. Theodore was speaking on the second reading of the bill he had introduced to establish a separate central reserve bank. Fair competition should prevail in other directions, too. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has an eternal task in searching for new sources of revenue. Here is one that will yield a very substantial sum, and its use will not affect the ordinary citizen, f suggest that the Commonwealth Bank’s profits should be subject to taxation, in the same way as are the profits of private banks. That taxation would include company tax on the profits equal to the tax on dividends paid by shareholders in private banks. Such a thing would not be new; in fact, the principle has been well established. The Australian Government held the controlling interest in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, but that company paid taxes. Similarly, the Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited, in which the Commonwealth holds a large interest, pays taxes just as any other public company does. Moreover, the Commonwealth Bank could help the general revenue by paying full rates and taxes on all its properties to the appropriate local authorities, not as an act of grace, but as a matter of obligation. The recent controversy in the press concerning the. activities of the Commonwealth Bank’ and its contribution to the present inflationary situation indicates that many Australians now realize that our banking legislation is in need of reform. I have endeavoured consistently during the last two and a half years to point out this fact. It has been suggested that a bill will be introduced soon for the purpose of removing some banking anomalies and ensuring that fair competition shall be established between the Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks.
One point of great interest in relation to any such bill is the method by which it will be drafted. Press statements from Canberra have indicated that the matter will be referred to the Commonwealth Bank Board. Such reports are not official, but, as every honorable member knows, they often prove to be at least partly true. Referring the matter to the bank board, I am afraid, will mean referring it to Dr. Coombs, and if he drafts the bill I fear that it will be a very innocuous measure. I sincerely hope that all members of the Government parties and representatives of the private banks and any commercial institutions that may be interested in such legislation will be carefully consulted and will have an opportunity to make their views known before the terms of the bill are finally decided. I have said that the bank board too frequently means Dr. Coombs. Anybody who considers the constitution of the board must realize that that is the only possible conclusion to be drawn. The board, apart from the Government and Commonwealth Bank nominees, consists of a number of men of high repute who have been chosen from the community at large, but none of whom has had any practical experience of banking. Under such conditions, what chance have they of controlling the economic situation? They are called upon to deal with complex matters which demand the attention of experts if they are to he handled correctly. Therefore, it is inevitable that, for some time to come, Dr. Coombs will be able to dominate the lay members of the board. It is already apparent that a big mistake was made when the Government failed to appoint at least one experienced practical banker to the board. Such a member would have been able to counter-balance the theories of Dr. Coombs, who has planned us into our present situation. When I advocated the appointment of a practical banker in this House in July of last year, the proposal evoked only hostile criticism from honorable members opposite. But it must be obvious to them by now that such an appointment would have provided the board with an important asset.
I have no tender regard for the trading banks in this matter. I pointed out a long time ago in this House that we should have no hope of effectively checking the inflationary tendency and reviving productive energy in Australia while the existing ridiculous banking system remained unchanged. My warning has been justified, and many Australians now agree that the system should be modified. The truth is that banking is the key to all free enterprise. When private, enterprise is mentioned in this House, honorable members opposite immediately think in terms of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, Australian Consolidated Industries Limited, and other large organizations which, notwithstanding what may be said against them, have assisted in no small measure to develop this country. But, although these large companies represent one section of private enterprise, there are also many small companies that have an important place in our economic scheme. Then there, are the small business men, the oneman traders, such as the man in the corner grocery, the professional men, and the small farmers, of whom there are hundreds in the electorate of Mitchell alone. All of these companies and individuals represent free enterprise, and their chief desire is to go about their ordinary business with as little governmental interference as possible. Unfortunately, during the war, our economy was regulated by governments. Since the end of the war, companies and entire industries have vied with each other to supply a huge pent-up demand caused by a dearth of goods and a surplus of purchasing power. Up to the present, at any rate, the demand for most goods has exceeded the capacity of industry to produce them. Therefore, competition has not been keen. It has been a sellers’ market and the only concern of the manufacturers has been to produce regardless of cost. They have had no need to worry because there has been plently of money in the hands of the customers.
The forgotten test of free enterprise will be applied again with a return to competition, and the sooner that return occurs the better will it be for Australia. Accordingly, I believe that attention should be directed to the possibility of promoting competition by removing obstacles to the development of small businesses. The burden of taxation falls heavily on the small company, and therefore I hope that, when consideration is given to the tax structure of the next budget, efforts will be made to modify the incidence of taxation on small companies and the interests of larger companies also will be considered. .Small undertakings should be encouraged as a form of insurance against socialism because the stronger the small business becomes, the harder is it for the socialist to implement his policy. In support of my contention, I remind honorable members that plans for nationalization, both in Australia and abroad, are consistently directed against those companies that are few in number and large in size rather than against those that are numerous and small. The socialist concept, of course, is that large firms may be nationalized by the simple process of acquiring a majority of the voting stock or by legislative act. The socialist reasoning is that, if the big shows are nationalized, the small ones will automatically follow. Therefore, this Government, as a free enterprise government, should give encouragement to small companies by granting tax reductions and ensuring that, from the standpoint of supplies, research and industrial’ management, they shall not be dependent on the large organizations. Many small firms are competing with the industrial giants to-day, and I hope that this situation will continue.
Private enterprise, if it is to survive, must have active competition and free markets. Failure to foster competition and to keep markets free will cause the public to suffer in the end. We have witnessed a tragic example of public suffering as a result of such neglect in New South Wales, where a most successful instrument of socialism has been developed in the form of the State Housing Commission, That instrumentality has a stranglehold on materials and labour, and it has forced the small free enterprise contractor out of existence. The individual builder has wearied of the battle for materials, most of which have been secured by the commission. He can no longer compete on a job with the high wages that the State pays to carpenters, bricklayers, plumbers, electricians and other tradesmen. Consequently the private builder is forced to pay excessive prices or go houseless. The unfortunate result of this situation is that many private citizens who have built houses on their own account have been forced to borrow so heavily that, should a recession occur, they will be unable to pay off the cost they have incurred. There must be a free market and there must be competition. Enterprise can be free only when it is competitive. Experience has proved, both in Australia and abroad, that private enterprise cannot function unless it is free from bureaucratic control and domination. Any attempt to return to the conditions of free enterprise will be doomed to failure unless we have associated with it a free banking system. The prosperous future of our entire secondary and primary economies, from the largest public company to the oneman trader and from the grazier to the small farmer, is inextricably linked with a free banking system. I have said that private enterprise can function only if it is removed from bureaucratic control, ft would be worth while, therefore, in the interests of Australia, to examine our banking structure in order to determine whether or not the evils of bureaucratic control are being exercised to-day over the trading banks by the Commonwealth Bank. The Government must put an end to such a state of affairs, if it exists, immediately and for all time.
– I am astonished that the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) should have chosen banking as the central theme of his speech when’, obviously, he knows nothing about the subject. The truth is that the legislation enacted at the direction of the Chifley Labour Government in 1945 represented the most important advance in banking in Australia’s economic history. The present Government has not repealed that legislation. The only alteration that it has made has been to authorize the re-establishment of the Commonwealth Bank Board, which the honorable member for Mitchell, to my astonishment, disparaged. One wonders what motives lie behind that criticism, but I am sure that they will become apparent to honorable members upon reflection. The honorable member made one completely incorrect statement that I wish to contradict. The Commonwealth Bank is now in the hands of the Commonwealth Bank Board, which reports on policy to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) from time to time. The Treasurer reviews the board’s policy and, if he approves of it, it becomes his policy because he is then responsible for it. If he does not like the board’s policy, he can say so and he has the power to alter it. Therefore, the honorable member for Mitchell was completely wrong when he said that the Commonwealth Bank, under its board, controlled the entire banking structure in Australia. The truth is that all responsibility rests with the Treasurer, who is the mouthpiece of Cabinet.
This Supply Bill contains provision for the expenditure on defence of the enormous sum of £62,024,000, out of a total of £150,000,000. The defence policy of the Labour party envisages that provision for the . war-time requirements of our fighting forces shall be made during peace-time by building into our industrial organization and State developmental projects the machinery that will enable us to satisfy those requirements. I believe all honorable members will agree that the great development of Australian secondary industry that occurred during the last war was necessary. It would have been attempted by any government that was in power then, but it is to the credit of the Labour Government which was in office during the war that it achieved se much in that field and brought the war to a successful conclusion. When the war ended, the Labour party, with a proper regard for possible future defence requirements, turned over the great munitions plants of this country to private organizations for the manufacture of peace-time requirements. It provided those organizations with the equipment and buildings that they required, but it realized that the plants that were converted in that way could revert to war production if that became necessary.
The policy of making munitions plants available to private enterprise could have led to the establishment in this country of some industries which manufactured goods that could be made more cheaply and efficiently overseas. But the Chifley Government, with commendable foresight, retained control of capital issues and, by a judicious use of that control, was able to ensure that the organization of our secondary industry should be based upon sound principles. A huge gun-cotton factory in my electorate was made available to private organizations. At the present time, it is being used by a manufacturer of ammonium sulphate, which is an essential fertilizer; by a food merchant, who is using the refrigeration plant, which, if necessary, could be used again for the purposes for which it was originally installed; by a paper mill; by a boot manufacturer; by a company which manufactures house fittings; and by another company that produces aircraft instruments. The use to which that factory is now being put is an example of the sound development of secondary industry. That example of the conversion of plant from war to peace purposes is only one of many.
The Labour party, when in office, not only restrained private enterprise from strangling itself, but also, wherever possible wisely encouraged private interests which could produce our requirements for both peace and war. Businessmen will admit, although honorable gentlemen opposite will not, that the Labour party has never treated any private enterprise unfairly. Probably the best example of the encouragement of private enterprise by the Labour party was the establishment of the Holden motor-car factory. That enterprise, which was encouraged by the Chifley Government, has now reached huge proportions, and consequently our war-production potential has increased. In addition, the expenditure of millions of dollars has been avoided.
The Labour party also developed our internal resources, for the purposes of both peace and war. The best example of such development is the Joint Coal Board, a socialist enterprise that was established to encourage the production of coal. It set about its work methodically, diligently and with a proper regard for our present and future requirements. It encouraged private coal-mining companies, made capital and equipment available to them, .and gave them technical advice. It improved the conditions of theminers. When private enterprise was unwilling to undertake developmental work which was necessary to achieve an increase of the output of coal, the board bought the mines concerned. Now, a number of mines owned by the board are working, as it were, side by side with privately-owned mines and, in many instances, are achieving better results than their privately-owned competitors. This socialist organization, which has embraced private enterprise successfully, has bestowed enormous advantages upon the community, although that fact does not appear to be recognized by this Government.
The honorable member for Mitchell cited figures which show that during the term of office of the present Government there has been an increase of the number of houses built. That increase is due very largely to the fact that the production of coal and steel has increased as a result of the work of the very soundly organized Joint Coal Board, a socialized organization established by the Chifley Government. The whole of our industrial development and progress to-day can be attributed to an increase of the production of coal and steel, due to a sound piece of work by a Labour government. The Joint Coal Board, which the Chifley Government established for the benefit of the nation, is probably one of the best examples of the way in. which we can develop our national resources for’ the purposes of both peace and war.
The Labour party, during its term of office after the last war, established other socialist enterprises, including TransAustralia Airlines, which provides internal air services that are essential for defence purposes, and Qantas Empire Airways Limited, which provides air services outside Australia as well as many developmental services. The whaling industry, which was established by the Labour party, is of enormous benefit to the nation. That is another socialized industry. Surely no one will say that the aluminium industry in this country is a private enterprise. It is another socialist enterprise. Many of the services which the Goverment provides are socialized services. The great cooperative movement, which is so successful in Australia, is a socialized movement. All those socialist enterprises established by Labour governments have been continued in existence by the present Government. When I hear honorable members opposite, particularly the mem-, bers of the Australian Country party, jeer at us for being socialists, I reflect that I am proud to belong to the socialistLabour party. All the enterprises to which I have referred are now being carried on by the socialist-perish the thought !- Liberal party.
Labour governments also helped the States to implement their developmental programmes, and provided money for essential public works. They evolved the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme, under which more electric power will be made available for industry and more water for primary producers. They assisted the States with work upon roads, bousing, and a thousand other State activities which are regarded as being essential for defence purposes, as they are for the purposes of peace. In war-time, the States have great responsibilities iD relation to transport. It is a part of the responsibility of the Commonwealth to ensure that the States shall be assisted to maintain proper transport systems, just as much as to provide troops and war equipment.
I have reviewed very briefly the efforts of Labour governments to build into our peace-time industrial organizations the machinery with which we can produce our defence requirements. Now let me examine the present position. This Government, with a completely misplaced trust in the objectives of private enterprise, at first relaxed and then completely abolished capital issues control, which was maintained in existence after the war by the Labour party. In the White Paper on Full Employment which was published in 1945, it was pointed out that control had to be retained for a considerable period after the war. The effect of the abolition of capital issues control provides a most complete answer to those who insist that controls are unnecessary. After capital issues control was terminated, it soon became evident that the Australian economy was becoming what Sir Douglas Copland called a “ milk-bar “ economy, and that our industrial and agricultural development was getting seriously out of balance. Then the Government found that it was necessary to reinstitute capital issues control. It must accept responsibility for what happened during the period when the control was not in operation, and for the present position. There has been an increase of the number of industries that manufacture non-essential goods which are produced cheaply and efficiently overseas and which we ought properly to buy from overseas countries. Due to the relaxation and the subsequent abandonment of capital issues control, a number of organizations which manufacture such goods has been established in Australia. Their operations began during the postwar boom, and are now in full swing. They are using all kinds of essential raw materials which are required for other and more essential purposes.
It may be contended that the present position is due to the war in Korea. Therefore, it is well to examine the efforts of the Government to make provision for possible future defence requirements. The sum of £181,200,000 is to be appropriated for defence purposes during the next financial year. We must, to a large degree, accept that figure without question although, as the honorable member for St. George (Mr. Graham) observed some time ago, we should examine some of the major items of expenditure to see whether the best use is being made of our resources. However, I have no comments to offer on the defence estimate. I accept it as having been made by men who are genuinely interested in the defence of Australia. The Opposition will support the Government in any necessary expenditure for defence purposes. “We recognize that our main repsonsibility is to ensure that sufficient money shall be made available for defence, that that money shall be used properly, and that the defence of Australia shall be safeguarded.
I am obliged to the Minister for Air (Mr. McMahon), the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) and the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) for having given to honorable members on both sides of the House, including myself, an opportunity to see some of the work that is being carried out by the departments for which they are responsible. What I have seen has inspired in me great confidence in our defence forces. I have no adverse comments to make upon those activities. I have seen the national service trainees in each of the three services, and I think they are a valuable addition to our defence forces. However, the overall plan for defence gives us cause for alarm, because there is every reason to believe that the Government is throwing the defence system completely out of balance, just as it is throwing our economic system out of balance. When the Government went to the people about twelve months ago, the war in Korea was in a serious state, as it is to-day. At that time, the Government, being faced with tremendous responsibilities, instead of repeating some of its former foolish promises to abolish controls, should have acted honestly and
Stated that, in view of the gravity of the situation, it might be necessary to reestablish many controls in order to ensure the proper conduct of our war effort. It has embarked upon a two-faced programme which has caused a curtailment of the developmental projects of the States, many of which are vital to our defence preparations. That is clear to the Opposition, and it ought to be clear to the Government. It is clear to all the State Premiers, regardless of the political party to which they belong. That is only right, because defence should be above party politics. The fact is that if a full-scale war develops - and we have to face that possibility - Australia will have to suffer again from an inadequate transport system. It will have to struggle again to obtain enough electric power, and many other needs which the States supply in war-time. That prospect is completely ignored by the Government. It has not only refused to supply sufficient money for the security and independence of Australia, but also taken deliberate steps to ensure that the States shall not get the money that they need. If funds are not allotted from Commonwealth revenue, the States’ needs must be financed from loans, yet this Government has deliberately sabotaged the loan market. There has been some doubt about whether its actions have been due to foolishness or have been deliberate, but some wise commentators outside the Parliament have stated that close observation indicates that it deliberately sabotaged the loan market.
The Government has tinkered with the interest rate deliberately. It did so during the flotation of the State Electricity Commission loan last year when it announced a rise in the interest rate. That shook to the foundations the confidence of men who had supported the Government for years, including stockbrokers, insurance companies, trustee companies, and big and small private investors. It also played a cruel trick on thrifty people. Without any assurance that the interest rate would not be raised, but with numerous hints that the rate probably would be increased, the Government ignored the suggestion of the Opposition that a firm policy on interest rates would be of great advantage, and it allowed the bond market to become depressed. That was not an accident. It was done deliberately. It was calculated to ensure that the State3 would be denied money for further investment. Obviously, the Government hopes to reduce wages and prices by slowing down investment activity, regardless of the importance of the States in defence and oblivious to the living standards of the people. If the Government is open to constructive criticism, it should heed the Opposition’s comment that the development programmes of the States are just as important and as pressing for the defence of the country as is the provision of fighting troops. A restoration of the loan market is absolutely essential for this purpose. The Government could have used central bank credit, but has refused to do so.- That is also a part of its policy of stopping the circulation of any further money. Obviously the Government programme is designed to reduce the volume of investment and so reduce incomes and employment.
Another phase of its plans was made clear by the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler). That is a series of actions and manoeuvres to increase interest rates generally. The Government has imposed its advance control policy severely on all forms of private enterprise with the object of slowing down investment and must accept responsibility for its actions. It cannot shield behind the Australian Loan Council, the Commonwealth Bank or anybody else. The restriction of credit for private enterprise is a substitute for a rise in the interest rate, but it will not prevent an increase. The banks have started to restrict advances of their own accord without any direction from the Commonwealth Bank. They have realized that a restriction of investment will lead to a business recession and unemployment. They have added to the effects of the restriction of finance by calling in advances. All these actions are forcing up the interest rate and already a great market is developing in investment funds. Some people are offering holders of bonds considerable premiums to induce them to sell their bonds at any price. The premium will cover their losses and they can invest in mortgages on properties. This black market in investment funds is weakening the bond market still further and is engendering conditions in which the fixed interest rate of the banks will soon appear to be quite out of touch with reality. Then the interest rate will be raised by the newly appointed Commonwealth Bank Board. That is what the Government seems to want. The interest rate, the traditional regulator of investment in a capitalist economy, is to he resurrected and used to discourage investment. The usual method is to fix the interest rate. Those who want to invest funds borrow from the banks until the banks have sufficient money out in the community. Then they raise the interest rate in order to discourage investment. Once investment stops, incomes decline and a recession develops with reduced prices and unemployment.
Behind the Government’s manoeuvres, is its desire to place under private enterprise the control of the interest rate. That has been confirmed by the honorable member for Mitchell to-night. The Government is aware of the trend of this procedure and of the ultimate objective. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) recently said that he considered a rise in interest rates was desirable. He devoted a whole speech to it, although he is asleep tonight. This is just a part of the softening up that has been going on for some time. The fact is that traditionalmethods are quite unsuitable in times of national stress. I suggest that the Government should be honest and agree to a re-introduction of many of the wartime controls of the Labour Government, including the essential measure of prices control. Instead, the Government, in the words of the Treasurer in his budget speech, has “ resolutely turned its back upon it “. The most constructive criticism that the Opposition can offer is that the Treasurer should resolutely turn about and face prices control squarely. I oppose the granting of this huge sum of Supply as a protest against the measures that the Government is instituting.
.- The bill that is before the House provides Supply for four months until the Government brings down the budget. It is necessary that the Parliament shall pass this measure so that finance will be available. I have been interested in the remarks of the two speakers who have expressed the Opposition viewpoint tonight.
– I hope that the honorable member took notice of them.
– They advanced nothing constructive to which particular attention might be paid, and if their statements had contained more truth, they would have carried more weight. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr.
Joshua) waxed enthusiastic over one point in particular. He styled himself a socialist and a supporter of socialism and referred to war-time plants which had been left by the Labour Government for peace-time activity. I have tried to recall to my mind plants that were left from war-time for peace-time, and I can think only of the Glen Davis project, which was a hopeless one, and the Warracknabeal power alcohol factory, which was established in war-time but did not turn a wheel. It has been pulled down and so presents another loss to the people. I am reminded also of the Coalcliff colliery. The honorable member for Ballarat said that production of coal under the Labour Government was better than it was under private enterprise, but after a year or two of socialist control by the Government, Mr. Chifley was glad to hand the Coalcliff colliery back to private enterprise. Under Labour government control, the mine lost money heavily, but under private enterprise, it produced more coal with fewer men. Honorable members on the Opposition side have also said that socialism is co-operative. The only cooperation that I can see in socialism is that the State takes all there is to take, and leaves the debts for the taxpayers to liquidate as their share of co-operation.
The honorable member made another mis-statement, which he knew to be untrue, when he said that the Australian Government had failed to provide advances for transport which was essential for defence. The honorable member knows that the transport departments come under the control and administration of the States. The money which this Government has granted to the States within recent years has been increased considerably each year. Advances from Federal Aid Roads funds were increased from £9,000,000 to more than £16,000,000 in two years. Every local authority in Australia secured or should have secured substantial sums to help them to meet the cost of building better roads. Re-imbursements to the States last year were increased by nearly £33,000,000, and in loan money they have received £60,000,000 more.” I invite honorable members to examine the transport position. I refer to them the actions of the
Queensland and New South Wales governments. Are they concerned with transport from the defence point of view? Certainly not. The Queensland Government has committed itself to an expenditure of £10,000,000 for the purpose of electrifying the suburban railway system in Brisbane. But since 1932 it has constructed in the country only two miles of railway in one district and an alternative route, six miles in length, to Mount Morgan in order to eliminate a steep grade. That is the total contribution that that Government has made in providing transport for any purpose whatever, let alone defence. The Labour Government in New South Wales is following a similar policy. It has undertaken, at great expense, the building of an overhead railway in the city of Sydney. While those Governments are squandering millions of pounds on such schemes they are not providing adequate facilities for the transport of primary products to markets.
Members of the Opposition should face up to those facts. If investors lack confidence in Commonwealth loans it is because of the way in which the State governments are spending their money. At the same time, this Government i3 endeavouring to meet the present economic crisis by living within its revenue. Both the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) and the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) persisted in deliberately misrepresenting the position concerning the increase of the rate of interest. I do not know why they should charge this Government with being responsible for increasing interest rates, when they must be aware that the States dominate the Australian Loan Council, which has the responsibility of determining rates of interest in respect of Commonwealth loans. The States’ representatives can out-vote the Commonwealth representatives, as they did when they determined the amount, of loan money that is to be raised during the next financial year. It is significant, however, that whilst the State governments complain about the attitude of the Commonwealth in respect of loan raisings, they do not hesitate to increase interest rates when, they apply for financial accommodation. Almost invariably, the State governments offer an interest rate of 4-J per cent, or 4J per cent. Honorable members opposite should be fair in this matter. I should be justified in making a charge against them in the terms of chapter 9, verse 3, of Jeremiah, because the usual term would not be allowed under the Standing Orders. T advise honorable members to read that chapter of Jeremiah. They may find that the cap fits them.
The honorable member for Perth said that the Commonwealth was scrounging for money on the money markets of the world. If the Commonwealth is seeking financial accommodation overseas, it is doing so solely on behalf of the States. It does not require accommodation for itself. That fact, of which honorable members opposite are aware, is further evidence of the endeavours that the Commonwealth is making in order to assist the States. This Government has faced up to the issue, and has acted sympathetically towards the States. Yet, the honorable member for Perth, quite unjustifiably, claimed that at the last meeting of the Australian Loan Council, the Commonwealth displayed bitter hostility towards the States. So far as I was able to ascertain from newspaper reports of the proceedings at that meeting, the Premier of Queensland made a bitter attack upon the Commonwealth. Of course, that gentleman is not capable of adopting a positive approach to any issue. His chief concern is to safeguard the party political interests of his Government in Queensland, which, as honorable members know, retains office although it represents a minority of the electors of that State. This Government has a record of which it can be proud. It is courageous; and any unpopularity that may attach to it has resulted from the efforts that it has made in order to help the States. It has lived within its revenue and it could have reduced taxes, even after increasing payments by way of tax reimbursements to the States, if it had not been obliged to underwrite increased loans on behalf of the States.
I am concerned particularly about primary production to which practically every district in my electorate is devoted. The welfare of rural industry directly affects every one of my constituents. This
Government has made a commendable approach to the problems that confront the major primary producing industries,, including dairying, meat, wheat, wool, and sugar. It has adopted the practice of co-opting the services of representatives of each industry in the negotiation of contracts for the sale of primary products overseas. Representatives of the dairying industry have twice visited London when .the contract with the United Kingdom was being negotiated for the sale of dairy products; and representatives of the wheat-growers are on the spot in London to assist in the negotiation of the new contract for the sale of wheat. Similarly, when the fifteen-year contract for the sale of meat was being negotiated, representatives of the meat industry were on the spot to advise the Minister. ThisGovernment arranged for the representative of the Queensland Government to represent both governments in the negotions for a renewal of the sugar agreement with the United Kingdom Government. Incidentally, this Government has already agreed to two increases of the retail price of sugar.
The Government fully recognizes the needs of the dairying industry, and is now engaged in making provision to meet difficulties that are bound to arise in the near future. In order to stabilize the industry and enable it to expand, the Government has provided a guaranteed price for dairy products. On the other hand, the Chifley Government intended to terminate at the end of 1949 the fiveyear arrangement that is due to expire this year. Fortunately, however, that Government was defeated, and this Government, upon assuming office, took steps immediately to implement the promises that it had made to the dairy farmers. It has liberalized the assessment of costs of production by taking into account allowances in respect of managerial expenditure and capital invested in the industry. In addition, although it had not promised to take such action, it has made provision for an interim payment to dairy-farmers to meet excessive costs which they were obliged to shoulder last year. Now, it has become necessary to make another arrangement in the interests of the industry and negotiations with representatives of it have already taken place. However, implementation of the new arrangement will depend upon the cooperation of the State governments. Unfortunately, such co-operation has not always been readily forthcoming in the past. The Government has also assisted the community by providing a consumer subsidy amounting in the aggregate to £16,800,000 in respect of last year in order to keep down the retail price of butter. I understand that in the discussions that have taken place in respect of the new arrangements for the dairying industry a formula has been evolved for the fixation of the price of butter at the factory door. I trust that that formula will be sufficiently flexible to meet the changing circumstances. I understand that the Minister is sympathetic towards that view. When the cost of production is being calculated due allowance should be made in respect of capital that has been invested in the industry. The dairying industry has been hard hit by drought in New South Wales and Queensland. Although good rains have fallen in some districts, the community should realize that they came too late to enable producers to derive full benefit from them. For instance, in New South Wales and Queensland, calvings have been out of season. This fact will cause a substantial loss of production not only this season but also next season, even if good rains continue to fall.
I hope that the States will recognize their responsibilities towards the dairying industry. We remember that, twelve months ago, the governments of New South Wales and Queensland refused to fix a retail price for butter that would enable the dairy-farmer to obtain a fair return. This Government has requested the States to empower it to fix the exfactory price of butter. I understand that Tasmania has agreed .to transfer such power to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and that Victoria is prepared to transfer it conditionally, whilst replies are being awaited from the other States. The Minister intends to meet representatives of the States within the next few days with a view to completing those negotiations in which the Commonwealth is seeking that power for a term of years as from the 1st July next.
The Government has signed a fifteenyears agreement with the United Kingdom Government with respect to the price to be paid by the Government for Australian meat. The Minister used the right approach in his conduct of those negotiations. He recognizes that no government can win the co-operation of the cattle producers unless it takes them into its confidence. He had a conference with the representatives of the meat industry before he left for London and also took two of them with him to the conference. When the agreement with Great Britain was concluded he asked the two representatives who were with him to refer its terms back to their principals in Australia in order to make sure that the meat industry still wanted the agreement signed, before he committed them to such a long-term arrangement. T know that some graziers are not satisfied with the agreement, but they do not blame the Government in respect of it. Their dissatisfaction with the agreement arises out of differing viewpoints on long-term contracts generally and is more likely to be directed at the meat industry’s representatives who accompanied the Minister to London.
– The honorable member has only to wait until the next general election to discover whether they are pleased with the agreement or not.
– I have met graziers and have not found a sign of dissatisfaction with the Government’s attitude. I attended a meeting at St. George of 300 graziers who had come from far and near, and there was no protest about the Government’s approach to this agreement.
– They did not then know the price that had been agreed on.
– They recognize that the Government has been fair to them, and if there is any dissatisfaction it is with the advice given by the representatives of the industry who assisted the Minister during the negotiations. The graziers are accepting the agreement with good grace. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) might well have a look at the agreement, which was laid on the table of the House to-day. A study of it will show him that it will give stability to the meat industry and will enable it to produce more meat, not only for the Australian market but also for our export markets. That is a far more satisfactory result than was the unfinal report that was made by the previous Government, which talked and talked and came to no conclusion. The fact is, that is always Labour’s approach to primary production. Honorable members opposite, when in office, were never sympathetic towards primary industry, but were always trying to get cheap food for the cities. As a consequence, they achieved only decreased production. In fact, decreased production of food is one of the legacies that was left to us by the Labour Administration. AVe have attempted to restore, and are succeeding in restoring, the confidence, of primary producers, as a result of which primary production is increasing.
The wheat-growers are now more content than they were previously, because they are receiving such a satisfactory price for their product. I hope that the discussions which are now in progress overseas will end as satisfactorily for the wheat industry as the discussions on meat ended. The only complaint of the wheat industry at present is in relation to the poor transport that is available in the States to take their product to the coast. In New South Wales, for instance, it costs about 2s. 7d. a bushel to bring wheat from the country to Sydney, because of the socialistic State Government’s high charges for inadequate transport. The New South Wales Government now proposes to tax the alternative system of transport, that is, road transport, more heavily than before by insisting on levying a tax of 3d. a ton a mile on every item of goods carried to and from the country.
The sugar industry has certainly been’ sympathetically treated by the Government, since the sugar producers have had the benefit of two increases of price during the Government’s short period of office. An inquiry into the industry is now being conducted with a view to ascertaining what increase of price should finally be granted. I am certain that the report of the inquiry, when it is received, will be treated sympathetically by the Government.
The Government has protected the wool-growers in every possible way. It protected their markets and their right to secure, world prices, against .the wishes of America and the Allied nations, which sought to buy on a quota basis. It also protected them by means of the Wool Sales Deduction Act, under which the wool-grower was credited in full for the amounts that were deducted from his income in respect of sales, and by allowing them to treat those amounts as deductable items for the purpose of the assessment of tax liabilities. As a consequence, they paid a lower rate of income cax in the succeeding year when such amounts were included. When the Government discovered that the incomes of wool-growers had fallen considerably this year it gave to them the right to deduct 4.0 per cent, and more from their provisional tax if they could prove that their incomes had fallen by more than 40 per cent. The Government has sympathetically treated primary producers generally in respect of depreciation allowances, because it wishes to encourage them to produce more. Although the Government met some criticism because it withdrew the 40 per cent, depreciation allowance that was available to all taxpayers, it provided primary producers with a substitute which is of far more benefit to them than the 40 per cent, initial depreciation system was, because they may now write off 100 per cent, of depreciation at the rate of 20 per cent, each year for a period of five years, not only in respect of machinery but also in repect of accommodation for workers. As a result they will find themselves better off under that system than they were under the method that has been withdrawn.
The Government has a commendable record on the industrial side because it has sought to protect industry generally. It gave to trade unionists legislation that enabled them to control their own organizations. The Opposition opposed that legislation in this House, and said that the trade unionists would not accept it. But the proof of the pudding is in the
Bating of it. The trade unionists accepted it willingly, and when they started to use its provisions they had the moral support of the Government. That legislation enabled moderate unionists to remove Communists from the control of the then notorious Federated Ironworkers Association of Australia. But how muesli sympathy did the trade unionists receive from .members of .the Opposition? Honorable members opposite left the moderate trade unionists to fight on their own against the .Communists in their midst. They did not have ‘the courage to support them. The Government honoured an election promise by introducing that legislation, the passing of which enabled the unionists to take control of their own affairs from Communist officials who had been elected illegally. As a result, the Government has secured the co-operation of both trade unionists and employers.
The Government set out to obtain dollar loans which enabled it to purchase machinery that was required to increase production. There is no need to apologize for the Government’s approach to the various problems of the country. In every instance it has had the courage to face our problems courageously. It did not attempt to misrepresent the position as the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) has tried to do by his untrue statement concerning the role of the Government in the Australian Loan Council’s recent decision to increase interest rates.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) said that in the course of a speech that I delivered earlier to-night I had made untrue statements about the Australian Loan Council. The statement that I made was that the Government, through the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) had forced an increase of interest rates. I said that the statement could be either refuted, or proved to be correct, if the Treasurer were willing to produce for inspection the minutes of the relevant Australian Loan Council meeting. I demand a withdrawal of the statement by the honorable member for Fisher until such time as those minutes have been made available for inspection. If the document is produced by the Treasurer, and disproves my statement, I shall make n public apology in writing for having made that statement.
– I rise to order. 1 am prepared to withdraw any statement that is ruled to be unparliamentary, bm the honorable member’s demand for a withdrawal concerns merely -a difference of opinion. I contend that there is no necessity for a withdrawal of my statement.
– I demand a withdrawal of the allegation of the honorable member for Fisher that my earlier statement was untrue. In addition, I say that if the Government is prepared to produce the relevant documents and thereby proves me to have been wrong, I shall be prepared to apologize publicly for having made the statement. In the meantime, I demand a withdrawal of the statement of the honorable member for Fisher.
– ‘The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) objects to the statement of the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) which described as untrue a statement of the honorable member for Perth. I do not think that such an allegation is pleasant for the person at whom it is directed, and I ask the honorable member for Fisher to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it, and say instead that the honorable member’s statement was incorrect.
– Even that is a matter of opinion.
– Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker-
– Does the honorable member wish to raise a point of order?
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann), by referring to a passage in the Bible, has described me and every other member of the Opposition as a liar.
– Order ! Did the honorable member for Fisher make a direct reference to the honorable member for Hindmarsh?
– Yes, sir, he said that members of the Opposition could be likened to the people who are described in chapter 9, verse 3, of the Book of Jeremiah. For your benefit, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, I read the passage to which he referred, as follows: -
And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies: but they are not valiant for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they, know not me, saith the Lord.
His statement was a deliberate untruth, and was most unparliamentary. It is quite improper for a member of this Parliament to describe members of this House in that fashion by referring to passages in the Bible or any other document. I am aggrieved and I ask that the honorable member withdraw that imputation against me.
– Order ! The statement had not a direct reference to the honorable gentleman.
.- It seems obvious that the honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann) has been emulating Rip Van Winkle. Apparently he went to sleep during the term of office of the Chifley Government and has only now awakened. Apparently he thought that he was talking about government as it was at the time he went to sleep, because surely nobody in his right senses could possibly, by any stretch of imagination, describe the two and a half years of this Government’s term of office as other than most disastrous and fraught with the gravest consequences to every aspect of our economic and social life. The best thing to do in respect of all such matters is to let the facts speak for themselves.
Before I deal with that matter, I shall reply to the claim by the honorable member for Fisher that somehow or other, in some way, the Government and its supporters have been responsible for dealing with Communists in the trade unions. Frankly, I am completely amazed when I hear, time after time, members of the Liberal party and of the Australian Country party take credit for the successes of branches of the Australian Labour party in defeating Communists in the election of officers of trade unions. Communist officials have been thrown out of office in the Federated Ironworkers Association and other unions as the result of the vigorous work of sections of the Australian Labour party supported by the executive organization of that body, and members of the Parliamentary Labour party. I am gratified with the tribute that has been paid to the effectiveness of their work by Government supporters, and hope that the electors will take note of the fact that honorable members opposite are prepared to concede the great work that the Australian Labour party has done in ridding the unions of Communist officials. But when Government supporters attempt to take some of the credit that properly belongs to people whom they continually accuse of being sympathetic towards the Communists, it is obvious to any one who cares to examine the facts that their claim is completely fictitious.
The next matter to which I wish to refer is the “visit of the Prime Minister1 (Mr. Menzies) to the United States of America and the United Kingdom. The Australian people are becoming a little weary of having their Prime Ministers summoned to the other side of the world to be told what the sterling bloc or the dollar bloc wants, or what some other group of interests or nations requires. The next time a summons is received by the Australian Prime Minister to proceed to London, the Australian Government - particularly the present Government at the present stage of the development of the British Commonwealth of Nations - should invite the British Prime Minister to come to Australia for the deliberations. I am afraid that the colonial mentality, which still lingers in the minds of honorable gentlemen opposite, is predominant at Westminster, the seat of Government in the United Kingdom, and I do not believe that it is doing the United Kingdom Government or the Australian Government any good. It is correct to say that a British Prime Minister has never visited this country. Australian Prime Ministers should not be summoned to Westminster as if they were governors of some colonial outposts. The authorities in Great Britain should realize that Australia is a free and equal partner in the British Commonwealth of Nations, and that whilst we are quite prepared to march side by side with the other members and to meet our obligations to the British Commonwealth of Nations and particularly to the Mother Country of Great Britain, we expect to be treated, no longer as a child tied to our mother’s apron strings, but as a fully grown son who is prepared to take his place in the family’s affairs. The latest instance of an Australian Prime Minister being summoned to London for financial discussions serves only to emphasize the unfortunate fact that Australia has never had a visit from a Prime Minister of Great Britain, while he has been in office.
These conferences, which take decisions that are so fraught with consequences for good or ill for the Australian nation, are always held thousands of miles from these shores, and the most influential people who attend them have very little knowledge of Australia other than what they may have gained from books, or reports submitted to them by their officials in this country. I hope that the Government will bear that matter in mind, and will take the opportunity when another conference is proposed, to invite the Prime Minister of Great Britain to visit Australia, and have a look at this country for himself, so that when our problems are presented to meetings of Finance Ministers in London, he will be able to speak with a practical on-the-spot knowledge of our particular problems.
Unfortunately, decisions that are made at conferences of representatives of the British Commonwealth of Nations rarely, if ever, are submitted to this Parliament for ratification or otherwise. Rarely, if ever, is this Parliament given the opportunity even to discuss them. I suppose that the most important decisions that can be taken with respect to the financial structure of Australia are those made from time to time at the meetings of representatives of the sterling Hoc. Yet, unless the Prime Minister or the Treasurer - whoever attends those meetings - takes the trouble to present a report on the proceedings to this Parliament, no opportunity is given to it to approve, or disagree with, the decisions that have been taken. On most occasions, the representative of Australia does not bother to submit to this Parliament a report on those proceedings. The Parliament, as the deliberative legislative body of the Australian nation, has not had an opportunity to say “ yea “ or “ nay “ to the decisions taken at the conference of Finance Ministers in London earlier this year. The Treasurer represented Australia on that occasion, and apparently the damage that he did then has to be repaired by the Prime Minister.
– Do not tell lies. Tell the truth by accident.
– The Treasurer did so much damage that it cannot be rectified.
– That is true. I understand that an authentic message was received from London that read, “ Send us somebody who knows something about the subject, although the decisions that have already been taken cannot be altered “. I have no doubt - and I do not think that the Treasurer will deny this - that when the Prime Minister returns to Australia in due course, there will be substantial differences of policy, and the decisions that were made while the Treasurer was in London will be greatly altered. I emphasize the necessity for decisions that are reached at conference; of representatives of the sterling bloc to be submitted to this Parliament for ratification or otherwise. On many occasions, Australia has been sold “ down the drain “ or “ up the river “ whatever tb* classical place may be.
– Sold down the Yarra.
– Australia has been sold “ down the river “ on many occasions, yet this Parliament has not had the opportunity to say “ yea “ or “ nay “ to the decisions taken at those conferences. The Parliament has always been confronted with a fait accompli. If far-reaching decisions in relation to the sterling bloc are to be taken at conferences of Finance Ministers, we are entitled to invite the representatives of other members of the sterling bloc to attend a conference ju Australia. We have sent our representatives to London on many occasions and I hope that we shall not continue to do 30. If the representatives of other members of the sterling bloc wish to speak to the Australian representatives, they should be informed that any decisions must be submitted to this Parliament for ratification or otherwise. No matter what we may wish to do in respect of our many economic problems, we are up against a brick wall, because the decisions of conferences of Finance Ministers in London, or of members of the sterling bloc, prohibit us from doing the things that should be done in the interests of the Australian nation. This Government was elected to protect the interests of Australia. If the Government considers that we should make concessions to Great Britain, let it say so. Are Ministers frightened to ask the Parliament to approve of those concessions? If the Government believes that, in order to protect Great Britain’s balance of payments, we must restrict our imports-
– We are concerned with our own balance of payments.
– If the Government is really concerned about the British balance of payments, any form of assistance that may be granted by Australia to the United Kingdom should be discussed by this Parliament. Does not the Government trust its supporters? Is it frightened of the possibility of repetition of the revolt that occurred last night, when fourteen members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party voted against it? Are Liberal party members too scared of their friends in the Australian Country party? Is the Government frightened of the attitude of members of the Australian Country party towards controversial contracts and decisions on currency? Apparently, that is so. The Government dare not allow those matters to be discussed in the Parliament,’ because it has not sufficient confidence in the loyalty of some of its supporters. If we are to make concessions to Great Britain, I have sufficient confidence in the sentiment of the Australian people towards Great Britain to believe that they will willingly accept their obligations, but the whole position should be frankly disclosed to them. When the Labour administration assumes office very shortly, as undoubtedly it will do, many things will be drastically changed. The new Labour Government will place the interests of the Australian nation first, and when sacrifices are required from our economy in the interests of the sterling bloc or of the people of Great Britain, it will not hesitate to submit the proposals to the Parliament for approval. I hope that, under the next Labour administration, no more of these hole-in-the-corner conferences of Finance Ministers will be held in London. At the last conference the Australian Treasurer was treated as the wild colonial boy, and told what the British Government required Australia to do.
A typical example of what happens may be found in the food contracts. No doubt for good and sufficient reasons, in order to achieve stability and so on in the past, a system of food contracts was introduced, in accordance with which we sell a great deal of our primary products, particularly meat and butter, to Great Britain at prices far below those that can be obtained for them in the open market. Those contracts, at the time, were, undoubtedly, justified by the position of the primary industries concerned, and the conditions in the markets of the world; but I question whether they can be justified at the present time. What has been the effect of those contracts? The producers have increased the output of the commodities that can be sold at world parity, and reduced the output of commodities that are sold under contract at prices lower than world parity. For that reason, our meat exports have practically ceased. Great Britain is -in dire need of food, yet Australia is unable to supply it. We need overseas credits with which to pay for our imports, but we cannot establish them, simply because of the decline of primary production.
The honorable member for Fisher has described what this Government has done for primary producers. I wonder whether he has read the report of the proceedings of the last meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council, which was held in Canberra recently. According to that report, no action had been taken to increase the production of any primary product, and State Ministers for Agriculture urged that steps be taken to remedy that situation. This Government has been in office for two and a half years, and three years is the normal period between two general elections, yet the Australian Agricultural Council, the members of which are the Commonwealth Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and the State Ministers for Agriculture, has formulated a five-year plan to increase primary production.
An article in to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald emphasizes the acute shortage of superphosphate. Within about a month of becoming a member of this Parliament, I asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen a question about the supply of sulphur, which is essential in the manufacture of superphosphate. The Minister merely waved my question aside, and implied that it was impertinent for the representative of an industrial constituency to ask a question about superphosphate. He implied that he had the Australian Country party on his side, that he was a member of the Australian Country party, and that all was right with the world. It is now nearly two years since my question was asked, and the Government is still formulating a plan to increase the supply of superphosphate, without which all of its schemes to increase primary production must fail. The Government says, “ If we can get such-and-such a plant in operation another two years hence, we shall be able to increase the production of superphosphate by 20,000 tons a year Next year, farmers will be lucky if they are able to purchase 70 per cent, of their requirements of superphosphate. The shortage is not a recent development.
Mr. Falkinder interjecting,
– I do not expect the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder), who was recently sacked from his po3t of Parliamentary Under-secretary for Commerce and Agriculture, to know a great deal about the problem. Perhaps that is the reason why he has been sacked. Had he known anything about the shortage of superphosphate, he would have been bound to force the Government to take remedial action. The Government hopes that next year or the following year, the Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited will be able to increase the output of sulphur, which is an essential ingredient in the manufacture of superphosphate. That is the position in relation to all this Government’s schemes. After two and a half years of power it has done nothing. I say that it is time that it did something.
The Ministers of Agriculture at the meeting of the Australian Loan Council pointed out that the Government had restricted credit for the advancement of primary production, and they urged that credit relief should be given to primary producers. They also drew attention to the failure of this Government to provide agricultural machinery. The Government is prepared to advance millions of pounds and to allocate millions of dollars for the importation of additional newsprint in order that bulky newspapers may be sold on Sundays in Sydney and other places throughout Australia, but it does not realize the necessity to use dollars to import agricultural machinery and vital farm equipment. The Government dare not do anything to offend the press barons, because its only chance to remain in office is to keep the press barons on its side. If it does not do that it has no chance of surviving for even the next financial year, let alone until the general election in 1954. If the newspaper barons want newsprint they will get it. Whatever they want they will get. The whole story of this Government’s actions makes very sorry reading.
I invite the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) to tell honorable members of his plans to raise loan money. Despite the remark of the honorable member for Fisher about the allegations of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke), that honorable gentleman’s contention that this Government has destroyed the confidence of the people in the loan market, is correct. That is not only my opinion, as may be seen by a perusal of the financial pages of our newspapers. The Government made a special effort to reduce the loan programme of the States, but when it failed to do so it refused to accept its responsibility under its agreement with the States. The Treasurer knows that under that agreement the Commonwealth is bound to carry out the decisions of the Loan Council, and that those decisions are binding on all parties. When that agreement was made, the Commonwealth still believed that the States had some rights and were not mere vassals of the Commonwealth, and it undertook to underwrite whatever money the council decided to raise.
– It never did.
– I suggest that the Minister should read the Financial Agreement. The Loan Council has agreed to raise ?347,500,000. The Treasurer has been sitting in the House ever since that time doing nothing about his responsibilities towards the States. There are vital irrigation works that need to be carried out, and even the honorable member for Franklin will admit that irrigation has something to do with agriculture. There are vital electricity works being held up, the completion of which’ would enable more sulphur to be produced, and such production would ultimately increase the output of superphosphate. Yet the Treasurer does nothing. I invite the right honorable gentleman to tell the people whether he has any plans to raise the money that the States require. Is his silence- and inactivity part of a subtle plan to raise money? If it is not and he has no plans, he should inform the House accordingly. If he intends to follow the guesswork policy of this Government he should also inform the House.
Our present financial muddle speaks for itself, and I do not intend to traverse that matter. I would have preferred to refer to my next subject when you were here earlier, Mr. Speaker, but you left the House shortly after I rose to speak. I believe that the honorable members of this House are getting a little impatient in their treatment as bad boys in an orphanage. I am afraid that since I first came to Canberra two and a half years ago, the hand of wowserism has been stretched over the whole of the activities of the honorable members of this Parliament. I do not think that most of the honorable members subscribe to that reign of wowserism, in fact I think that most of them object to it. We have been lectured and hectored, when most honorable members have asked only for reasonable accommodation and amenities during their sojourn in Canberra. Apparently they are not to be allowed to have them. I do not know whether the morals or otherwise of honorable members are properly under your guardianship, but I suggest with all due respect that they are not, and that if honorable members desire to follow the traditional Australian practice of having a shilling each way on their fancy that is a matter for honorable members themselves.
– (Hon. Archie Cameron). Order! If the honorable member proposes to challenge my rulings we can soon settle that.
– I say to you, Mr. Speaker-
– Order! The honorable member cannot, under any circumstances, canvass in this debate the actions of the Speaker.
– I shall address myself purely to the matter of general principle. That general principle is that the people who come to this Parliament, and I include the press, to help to carry out the functions of the legislature, are entitled to have reasonable provision in the way of accommodation, meals and other amenities.
-Order ! The honorable member is speaking about the administration.
– I am speaking on the bill, which will provide finance for the Parliament as well as for the departments of State, and I thought that I would be in order in canvassing this matter. I am speaking as a matter of general principle without particular application to any Parliament or individual.
– Order ! If the honorable member’s remarks do not apply to this Parliament I fail to see what they have to do with the Supply Bill.
– I think that matters of principle are very important. It is unfortunate that you do not desire the matter to be discussed, because, in a matter such as this, we should frankly and without acrimony express our opinions. Then everybody would know exactly what the other party thinks should be done about the provision of services for honorable members, the staff, and the press. My opinion is that honorable members are being hectored and lectured and chased around, and that the only responsibility of the administration of the Parliament is to provide reasonable facilities in the way of meals and amenities. I shall let the matter rest there since I can see that you are about to rule against me.
– Order ! I simply say that if the honorable member wishes to discuss that matter he must move a substantive motion.
– As, obviously, I cannot do so at present, I shall have to let the matter rest. I shall now return to the sins of the Government, leaving aside the sins of other people. I ask the members of the Australian Country party-
– I did not think that the honorable member would leave us alone.
– I was sent to this place to do my best for the country, and I must draw attention to the attitude of the Australian Country party. That party has done nothing about the continual decline of all forms of primary production. Of course the members of the Australian Country party always try to escape that charge by comparing the past overall position in the country with the present without referring to the increase of our population. The only fair way to judge whether primary production has increased or not is to compare production per capita of the population. If honorable members of the Australian Country arty like to make a calculation on that asis they will see that every major item of primary production has decreased.
– The 40-hour week influenced that.
– Perhaps the Treasurer could inform the House whether he intends to intervene in the case that is likely to come before the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration before very long, in which it will be argued that a 44-hour week should soon be re-introduced. The 40-hour week does not apply to nine-tenths of our primary industry.
– What does the honorable member think about the 40-hour week?
– J think that it has been admirably successful.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pearce) adjourned.
ACTH - Cortisone - Cancer - The Parliament.1 - Olympic Games - Mr. Chester Wilmot - Civil Aviation - Amateur Sport.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to bring to the notice of the House a matter concerning the use of the drug ACTH. I propose to criticize the Yaralla hospital, and I shall ask for some information about the Government’s policy towards making this drug available for use in public hospitals. A few months ago I had occasion to try to induce Yaralla hospital to use the drug ACTH on an ex-serviceman who was dying from cancer. His case went before a panel of doctors at Yaralla, which decided that due to his condition and treatment this drug would do him no good. We then approached Mr. Hallstrom, of Sydney, who made about £400 worth of the drug available. The man then lived for about a month longer than he would have done if the drug had not been used. My attitude is that medical science has established that ACTH will not cure cancer, but I think that as a result of the experiments that have been conducted with the drug it has been established that it will extend the life of a patient and, more important, it will reduce the considerable pain to which a cancer patient is subjected. Those who have any idea of the condition of persons who are dying of cancer, and of the pain that they are subjected to, believe that the use of this drug is more than justified. However, at that time the doctors at Yaralla refused to provide this drug, and it was only as a result of the philanthropy of Mr. Hallstrom that we were able to obtain supplies of it. I supported a request from the Leichhardt Municipal Council that the drug be made freely available to hospitals for the treatment of. cancer patients, and was informed by the Minister for Defence (Mr. McBride), on behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), that-
Whilst neither of the drugs (ACTH and Cortisone) is yet available as a pharmaceutical benefit, both may be administered without charge in a public ward of a public hospital.
This week I received a further letter from the Leichhardt Municipal Council, ft included this passage -
I have been instructed by Council to request you to make further inquiries regarding the supply of this drug. It has been brought to Council’s notice that in one case at least, a citizen of this municipality, whilst an inmate of thu Balmain District Hospital, was compelled to lodge an .amount of £50 for the’ supply of this drug before the drug would be administered to him.
On the one hand, a Minister has informed me thai; the drug is available without charge in public wards of public hospitals. On the other hand, experience in my electorate has proved conclusively that that is not so. The incident mentioned in the letter from the council occurred a few months ago, but the situation has not changed since then. Only this week I received confirmation of the fact from a director of the Balmain District Hospital, Alderman M. D. Cashman. Those who are able to pay for supplies of ACTH can obtain the drug, but other less fortunate citizens are forced to go on to the end suffering the agony that only cancer can cause. The situation is horrifying. I believe that medical experiments have proved conclusively that the use of ACTH provides relief for cancer victims and lengthens their lives. Any honorable member who has witnessed the ravages of cancer in its final stages must agree with me that this sorry state of affairs must not be allowed to continue. Patients must not be allowed to suffer agonizing deaths ‘ when the means of obtaining relief is close at hand. I sincerely hope that the Government will remove this anomaly promptly and en- sure that the drug shall be made freely available to cancer victims without discrimination.
.- I wish to make a few remarks in the nature of a personal explanation in relation to an incident which occurred in this House during the adjournment debate last night. A Sydney newspaper reported to-day that you, Mr. Speaker, had made some remarks about disorder in the House and had threatened to leave the chair, that I had interjected “ Whacko “, that you had then requested the person who had made the interjection to leave the House, and that thereupon I left. That is a gross fabrication. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) was speaking at the time, and he made a statement to the effect that the Chifley Government had been responsible for the appointment of Dr. Burton as the head of the Department of External Affairs. I interjected, “ Who recommended his appointment ? “, and, in the’ particular circumstances, you, Mr. Speaker, immediately ordered me to leave the chamber. Regardless of the nature of that interjection, I do not think that you or any other honorable member would, suggest that, since I have been a member of this House, I have been guilty at any time of insolence or disrespect of the Chair as was suggested by that newspaper report. At best, the report discloses an attitude of gross carelessness and irresponsibility on the part of the reporter concerned. At worst, the report is a deliberate distortion and a complete fabrication. I consider that the press has a responsibility and a duty to make some amends for that statement.
.- My remarks are addressed to you, Mr. Speaker, and they will be somewhat along the lines of those of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Freeth), except that I shall discuss certain incidents connected with the Standing Orders and will seek your advice upon certain matters. While you were temporarily absent from the House earlier to-night, a highly diverting incident occurred during which the Standing Orders were challenged by the highest authority and refuted by none other than the prophet Jeremiah himself. I do not intend to refer to such an august authority. I shall be content with May’s Parliamentary Practice and the Standing Orders of this House.
– What does the honorable member mean?
– The honorable member will soon learn. May’s Parliamentary Practice, of course, is the bible of parliamentary procedure. The point that I wish to make arises from an incident last night when I was removed precipitately from the chamber. Let me say immediately that I bear no grudge and that I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker. The coincidence of supper time and my removal in your ruling was very happy. I sympathize with the difficulties that you experienced last night, Mr. Speaker, but you rose unconquerable above them. The question that I raise is whether the use of Standing Order 303 does not smack of taking a hatchet to a very small midget. On investigation, I have found that Standing Order 303 has been used by you on various occasions in order to remove a recalcitrant member from the chamber as quickly as possible and without resort to the somewhat unwieldy practice of naming him and then calling upon the senior Minister present to move that he be suspended from the service of the House. A vote upon such a motion is usually taken in funeral calm and the offending member walks slowly, and with, dignity, I hope to the door. However, when Standing Order 303 is invoked, the guilty member is asked to remove himself as quickly as possible, and he does so in proper order. My contention is that this is very much like using an elephant gun loaded with .303 to shoot a sitting bird. That standing order is far too ponderous an instrument of correction for what appear to be only slight misdemeanors. T support my argument by referring to May’s Parliamentary Practice, which we use for guidance when Ave have no authorities of this House to consult. On page 449 of the fifteenth edition of that publication, in a chapter headed “ Powers of Chair to Enforce Order “, there are references to “grossly disorderly conduct “. Three classic examples of grossly disorderly conduct, which is the father of Standing Order 303 of this House, if I may be permitted to use such an expression, are sited. One case is that of a member of Hi-i House of Commons, that seat of dignity, who walked towards the Prime Minister, leaned over his shoulder and said something that is not to be found in Fowler’s excellent book on English usage. For that misdemeanor, the gentleman was dealt with for disorderly conduct. The second case is that of a’ member of the House of Commons, who, as the Speaker was about to leave the chair preparatory to the House resolving itself into committee, came to the bar of the House and appeared to deliver himself of what is commonly known as a “ raspberry “. He, too, was dealt with for disorderly conduct. The final case, which is dealt with at great length in this excellent publication, is that of an honorable member who stole the mace from the House of Commons.
The disorderly conduct of which we believed the honorable member for Forrest to be guilty, until he made his explanation, was that he interjected, rather neatly, “ Whacko “. I understand now that he said nothing of the sort, but merely made an inquiry and was dealt with by you, Mr. Speaker, because the House was becoming disorderly at the time. All that I did - and I have no complaint to make about my treatment subsequently - when some reference was made to the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) as a protege of Sir Keith Murdoch and a former employee of the Melbourne Sun NewsPictorial, was to say, “ Yes, he did the dog form “. The reference was to a greyhound racing sheet. Thereupon I was obliged to leave the chamber. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to contrast the offences of the man who breathed down the dignified neck of his Prime Minister, the man who made a. rude noise, and the man who stole the mace from the House of Commons, with the peccadilloes of the honorable member for Forrest and myself last night. I consider that the method of using Standing Order 303 indicates a very grave misinterpretation of the provisions of the Standing Orders generally in relation to the conduct of members.
In the course of time, Australian historians will be looking for traces of the judgments of great Speakers of the past. I can imagine a volume on the subject being enshrined in the Parliamentary Library. Upon looking through the records they will say, “What a lot of honorable members of all parties were guilty of grossly disorderly conduct”. What will my illustrious descendants think if they discover that the honorable member for Parkes was thrown out of the House for disorderly conduct on several occasions ? If they believe that he was something of a blade, and they pursue the subject further they will find only that he was guilty of a meek interjection that even his friends did not hear. Standing Order 303 is far too heavy artillery for what appear to me to be minor offences. If you must force a member to retire from the chamber so that order may be preserved - and I admit that you had properly warned the House last night that further action would be taken - that standing order seems to be far too ponderous an instrument to be used to achieve such a purpose. I appreciate, of course, the difficulties involved in naming an honorable member in similar circumstances. I submit that our Standing Orders and May’s Parliamentary Practice are intended to provide guidance and were never meant to bo used as swords to enforce decisions. It would be much better to name offending members, even though a slower and more tortuous procedure had to be used, than to shoot them out with a smooth bore blunderbuss into which 303 has been rammed, so that the offender is here one minute but gone the next, a fate which appears to befall many people other than politicians.
- (Hon. Archie Cameron). I am very grateful to the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) for having raised this issue. I have studied May’s Parliamentary Practice, and I inform him that the three instances cited on page 449, with which I am familiar, were selected from a wide range and variety of transgressions against the Standing Orders of the House of Commons. Standing Order 303 of this
House is relatively new. It was introduced when the Standing Orders were revised for the simple reason that some honorable members, including myself, were of opinion that the slow, cumbersome method of naming an honorable member who has offended should be circumvented. With very few exceptions - and I think that one of those exceptions related to an incident in which I was involved - an honorable member who has been named is not expelled from the chamber until a vote has been taken, and such votes are usually conducted on party lines. I make that statement without regard to which party is in power. If we wish to conform to the procedure and practice laid down by May, and to the spirit of the House of Commons, transgressions of the Standing Orders will be decided, not on party lines but on their merits. That is the first observation that I wish to make.
The present Standing Orders were agreed to unanimously by this House. Standing Order 54 states -
When a Member is speaking no Member shall converse aloud or make any noise or disturbance to interrupt him.
I think that even the honorable member for Parkes admitted quite freely that there was a good deal of disturbance in this chamber last night. I apprehended from the tone of his remarks that he was of opinion that I was justified in bringing the House to something like order. Perhaps I may say that during the later part of the debate even I was satisfied with the conduct of the House. I say so without regard to authorities such as Jeremiah and others mentioned by the honorable gentleman. I have always looked upon action under Standing Order 303 as a minor penalty. May, on page 449, makes it clear that it imposes a minor penalty. Let me read that passage for the benefit of any honorable member who has not read it. The heading is -
That was not the adjective used by the honorable member for Parkes. The passage reads -
To prevent any Member being taken unawares it is usual for the Speaker or the Chairman repeatedly to warn any Member who may be transgressing the rules of debate or otherwise conducting himself in a disorderly manner, before ordering him to withdraw from the House or naming him. When, however, a Member conducts himself in a grossly disorderly manner the Speaker is enjoined bv S.O. No. 21-
That is Standing Order No. 21 of the House of Commons - instead of calling the offender to order, forthwith to order him to withdraw from the House or, if he thinks the authority and dignity of the House would not be sufficiently vindicated by excluding the offender from the House for the remainder of the sitting, to name him.
Doubtless honorable members will agree that that passage shows clearly and conclusively that, in the view of the House of Commons, a penalty imposed under Standing Order No. 21 of that House is a minor penalty. The corresponding provision of this House is Standing Order 303, which is, I will admit, a very ‘happy number. As far as I am concerned, it will never be a blank.
If the practice of this chamber were to approach all questions of procedure on their merits, as t.he House of Commons does, instead of on party lines, we could adopt a different attitude, perhaps, even to this issue. When I visited the House of Commons recently, at the wish of this House, I witnessed an incident that impressed me. The Speaker of the House of Commons threatened to, and in fact did, suspend the proceedings of the House until a member who was unknown to him rose and confessed that he had made a remark that should not have been made, and which I would not tolerate here. The Speaker simply said that he would suspend proceedings of the House until the incident had been cleared up satisfactorily. I put it to honorable gentlemen that the question whether we are to have order in this House, and to have it freely and willingly, is one that they can settle for themselves. If I may be forgiven for quoting the Scriptures twice in one sitting, I direct attention to the excellent verse in Proverbs, which reads -
Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue, keepeth his soul from troubles.
That may be a good principle by which to abide. I assure the honorable member for Parkes that the three instances given in May, although they might be used in an adjournment debate of this kind - which, up to the present moment, is very doubtfully in order - for matters of wit and so forth, are three selected from a very long list. I assure him also that, from my reading and my discussions with men in Australia who have been members of the House of Commons, I have come to the conclusion that if incidents occurred in the House of Commons such as occur here, Standing Order No. 21 of that House would be put into force without hesitation or without any compunction. It is stated in May that even the House of Commons gets out of hand. I have given my considered judgment on this matter. 1 assure the House that while I occupy this position I shall act in the way that I have indicated.
.- In June, 1951, I asked the Government to make a grant of money to the Australian Olympic Games team. In support of my request, I stressed the favorable publicity that this country would receive if it participated with success in these great international sporting contests that are held every four years. I asked the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) to make a considerable sum of money available for that purpose, and in due course a grant of £8,000 was made. The grant was made on the basis that it would be expended in such a way as to achieve the best results from the viewpoint of publicity for the sporting prowess of this country. As I pointed out when I made the request, success in sporting events is one of the best means of publicizing a country and arousing the interest of other people in it. So far, a sum of £72,000 has been raised for the purpose of sending an Australian team to the Olympic Games that will be held at Helsinki. This Parliament has thus contributed one-ninth of that sum. The money, which is in the custody of the administrators of our Olympic Games team, should be expended by them in such a way as to achieve the best possible result for Australia. The best result that could be achieved would be for our athletes to be successful in the events in which they compete. I believe that I am expressing the bewilderment of the man in the street who takes an interest in sport when I say that I am amazed that a worldfamous Australian athlete has been excluded from the Australian team. I refer to that outstanding cyclist, Russell
Mockridge. Originally, lie was selected to compete at the Olympic Games because of his great ability as a cyclist. He was an Empire Games champion and lie proved his prowess beyond doubt by running second in the world’s amateur track championship when he was abroad last year. Now, he has been excluded from the Australian team because an artificial barrier has been erected. Every amateur sportsman who is selected as a member of the Australian Olympic Games team must sign an undertaking that he will not become a professional until almost two years after the games have been held.
– Why should not he do so If
– It has been explained that such an undertaking is required because Australia has an investment of from £750 to £800 in any athlete that it sends to Helsinki. There is no doubt that that is a weighty consideration. But Mockridge has already paid his expenses for the trip. If he were selected as a member of the Australian team, we should, at the cost only of a guernsey, have an outstanding athlete a a member of the team. By way of contrast let me point out for the benefit of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) that members of the Australian team are not required to undertake to do anything in the realm of sport during a period of two years after the Olympic Games in which they have competed. They are not under any obligation to compete in any sporting events or to do any administrative work during that period.
The exclusion of Mockridge from the Australian team is not in conformity with the spirit of the games. Let me contrast what has happened here with what has happened in other countries. Sacchi, the Italian cycling champion, has really forfeited what would normally be regarded as his amateur status because he has competed against professional cyclists in South America, but his country is doing everything possible to whitewash him in order that he may represent Italy at the next Olympic Games. In Mockridge, Australia has a fine type of athlete, who is a credit both to his country and to his sport. If he travelled to
Helsinki as a member of the Australian team, he would do so at no expense to the Australian Olympic Games authorities. He has been debarred from competing at the games, not by an Olympic’ Games- regulation, but by an Australian rule. If his exclusion were due to an Olympio Games regulation that was applicable to every country, it would be understandable, but the barrier against his inclusion in the team has been erected only by Australia.
This Government has taken an interest in the Olympic Games, and rightly so. It has made money available to assist in sending an Australian team to the games, but that money is not being expended in the way that was envisaged when the grant was made. I do not suggest that we should break any of the rules that govern the amateur status of sportsmen, but I think I am entitled to point out that, when the Olympic Games are held in Helsinki, our amateurs will be competing against Russian professionals. It is clearly understood that the members of the Russian team are professionals, because they are sponsored by their government and earn their living from their sport. Therefore, if technicalities are to be raised, it is well to bear in mind that our amateurs will compete against professionals.
In case I should be reproached for raising this matter in the House, let me say that recently the House of Commons discussed cricket test matches and the effect that an increase of the entertainment tax would have upon them, and that it dealt with the matter sympathetically. Australia is to stage the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne. Therefore, this Government by contributing toward their cost, is to some degree, concerned with all Olympic Games. The case of Russell Mockridge shows that our thinking upon 4.In matters needs to be readjusted. I believe that any advice that the Government can give upon the matter that I have raised will be to the benefit of Australia when the 1956 Olympic Games are held in Melbourne. I do not regret that [ have directed the attention of the House to the exclusion of Russell Mockridge from the Australian team,
.- 1 do not know whether the Olympic Games matter mentioned by the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman) can be handled by the Government, but 1 have a similar case of which the honorable member may be aware that [ shall bring before the notice of honorable members, lt concerns another cyclist, Jeffrey Baker, a Western Australian who has been selected for the Olympic team. I cannot understand the set-up of the Olympic Games organization in Australia. Baiter, who is about 2.1 years old and shows great promise, was selected as third or fourth choice in. the Olympic team. He booked his passage overseas and I believe he has already left Australia after raising £500 towards his expenses. Because he did not raise £750, he will not be allowed to participate in the games. While Mockridge is out of the team for one reason, Baker is out for another. He failed to raise another £250. Apparently he is one of the best cycling sprinters in Australia, but although he is prepared to represent Australia at the Olympic Games, he will be debarred from doing so because he has not raised more than £500 towards the cost of his own participation in the events. Another cyclist who is lower on the list than Baker has raised his quota, but because Baker did not raise the quota for himself he cannot be included in the team., and the third man cannot be included either. This is a funny state of affairs. I had not intended raising it in this House and I do not know whether the Government can do myth ing-
– Surely the Government is not to blame for that, too?
– If the Government can do anything to have Mockridge and Baker included in the team, the result may be a happy one politically as well as from a sporting point of view.
.- I wish to refer to statements that were made last night by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), who suggested to the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) that he should study points that were made by Chester Wilmot in his book, The Struggle for Europe. He added that the honorable member for Mackellar would understand from that book that Churchill and not Roosevelt was mainly responsible for the entry of the Russians into Poland. I seek the indulgence of the House to read one or two small extracts from the book. One is from chapter 23, at page 446, and it reads -
The impending collapse of the Allied coalition now became one of Goebbel’s favourite themes. On 4th September his spokesman told a press conference in Berlin, “The reports of Soviet victories in the Balkans will surely not be pleasant to the English . . . With the apparent approach of victory for the Allies, it is certain that the political conflicts will increase and will one day cause the edifice of our enemies to break irreparably. This expectation was not altogether illogical. Since the sixteenth century, the abidin;* purpose of British foreign policy had been to maintain the balance of power in Europe. To prevent the domination of the Continent by one power or another, the British had fought half a dozen major Avars, and in the last hundred yen rs they had been almost equally determined to ensure that Russia did not pain control of the Black Sca Straits and the Bosphorus.
Both these dangers had arisen again, and acutely, with the Red Army’s advance into Poland and Rumania, and it was becoming clearer every day that the annihilation of Germany would leave the Soviet Union in command of Central and South-Eastern Europe. Thus it was not unreasonable for Hitler and Goebbels to believe that this prospect would create friction between Russia
Hnd Britain, especially in the Balkans, and would weaken the British resolve to enforce the demand for Germany’s unconditional surrender. The Germans were right in suspectin?! that Churchill was disturbed by the recent developments in Eastern Europe, but they did not realize the extent to which the strategy and diplomacy of the Western Allies were governed by Roosevelt’s determination to keep out of the Balkans.
On page 455, a statement by General Mark Clark, Commander of the Fifth United States of America Army, is quoted as follows : -
There was no question that the Balkans were strongly in the British minds, but . . . the American top-level planners were not interested. … I later came to understand, in Austria, the tremendous advantages that we had lost by our failure to press on into the Balkans. . . . Had we been there before the “Red Army, not only would the collapse of Germany have come sooner, but the influence of Soviet Russia would have been drastically reduced.
I have chosen sections from different places in the book to show that American influence, guided mainly by President Roosevelt, was responsible for these events. I now take a quotation from page 628 which reads as follows: -
It was not altogether fortuitous that the Yalta conference coincided with the Red Army’s spectacular victory in Poland, for the timing was determined by Stalin.
Opposition members interjecting,
– If honorable members on the Opposition side will agree to an extension of time, I shall be happy to read the whole book to them. The passage from page 628 continues -
The original initiative had come from Roosevelt, who had been eager to arrange a meeting of the Big Three at the first opportunity after his re-election as President. On his behalf, therefore, Hopkins had broached the subject with the Soviet Ambassador in Washington, Andrei G’romyko, early in November. When Gromyko had replied that Stalin could not leave the Soviet Union, since he was personally directing the military campaign, Hopkins had suggested that the conference might bo held in the Crimea. Gromyko had passed” this suggestion on, but no positive response had been forthcoming from Moscow.
I am not attempting to criticize the actions of President Roosevelt in any way. I believe it is obvious that President Roosevelt, in the closing stages of his life, went forward in supreme faith in himself and in the sincere belief that, by a friendly approach to Stalin, he would be able to resolve the problems and the difficulties that existed between the East and the West. Mr. Churchill, who has ever been a realist, has allowed political expediency full rein on occasions, and surely such an attitude was never more justified than it was when the nation of which he was Prime
Minister and, indeed, the whole British* Commonwealth of Nations, faced a struggle to the death.
I suggest to the honorable member for Fremantle that before he quotes from a book, he should assess the message of the book accurately. Competent opinion in the United States of America agrees that in his book, Wilmot placed the blame upon President Roosevelt for the mistakes that were made at the time, and from which many of the difficulties of thu present world situation have arisen. It is apparent that President Roosevelt genuinely believed that friendliness and frankness on his part would be met by an equally sympathetic response from Stalin. But Mr. Churchill, the realist, showed that he recognized that Stalin’s first thought was for the progress of Soviet Russia. The latest speeches of Mr. Churchill confirm that he still holds that opinion. Everything that Stalin has done has been directed towards the advancement of Soviet Russia and honorable members should remember the words of Trotsky -
A Communist state can only exist in the world if the whole world becomes Communist.
I believe that Stalin has adopted the same theme. The interpretation that was placed on Wilmot’s book by the honorable member for Fremantle was directly in contrast to the author’s central theme and ca.n only be damaging. I suggest that his approach to the subject called for more care.
– I am sorry that I was not present to hear the whole speech of the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) but I have heard sufficient to indicate to me that he misunderstood completely the remarks I made last night. I do not know whether it is the function of the Parliament to argue about a book. I made a passing reference which was provoked by the new habit of blaming President Roosevelt for everything that went wrong during the war, and for everything that has happened subsequently. The honorable member has now raised the question of Chester Wilmot’s accuracy.
– In any event, I accused Chester Wilmot of an inaccuracy, and the honorable member has referred to that. The specific instance which I quoted, and in which “Wilmot was incorrect, was in connexion with Poland. The general tenor of his argument was that President Roosevelt had been deceived about Russian aims in Poland. In another instance, that related to Russia’s attitude towards Yugoslavia, Wilmot was incorrect in that he suggested that Mr. Churchill was strenuously opposed to the recognition of Marshal Tito while President Roosevelt pressed for Marshal Tito’s recognition. That is a veritable howler, because the United States of America recognized Mihailovich for nine months during which period the British Government recognized Marshal Tito. It is becoming a dangerous sport in the United States of America to go back over President Roosevelt’s record and to represent him as having been an incompetent blunderer. There is a mistaken idea about who benefits from such propaganda. Some Republicans in the United States think that they benefit from it ; but, so far as I can see, it is of benefit only to isolationist elements. A recrudescence of such propaganda would be altogether dangerous.
.- I wish to refer to the reductions that have been made in the supply of aviation fuel in this country as the result of trouble in the oil industry in the United States of America. In Queensland, as was pointed out yesterday at question time, people outside the metropolitan area, because of lack of brains on the part of members of the State government, are obliged to rely to a great degree on air transport. The reduction of air services to and in that State is causing considerable inconvenience to many persons who travel by air in the course of their normal business activities. I suggest that, in order to. enable essential services to be maintained, particularly to outback areas, air services generally should be rationalized by reducing, or eliminating, for the time being, tourist traffic between capital cities. Now that Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited equally enjoy the blessing of the Government, it should not be difficult to do so.
I point out that ‘ in the ‘thirties the Courier-Mail newspaper company pioneered air transport of newspapers. After the recent war that company entered into a contract with Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited for the transport of newspapers to the principal coastal towns in Queensland. It was a unique service in that it enabled newspapers’ to be delivered before breakfast to readers in towns situated over 1,000 miles distant from Brisbane. As the result of this service, the circulation of the Courier-Mail has increased considerably. The service has been interrupted by the elimination of the aircraft that usually left Brisbane at 1.15 a.m. Although the service will be fully restored when adequate supplies of aviation fuel again become available, its curtailment has inconvenienced the company concerned, and also more than 80,000 readers of its newspaper. Honorable members will agree that news is more perishable than butter. Nothing is staler than stale news. If a newspaper is to be of any value to readers, it must be delivered as soon as possible after it comes off the press. This service is to be completely discontinued for 28 days. Even if it is restored when adequate supplies of aviation fuel again become available, the interruption will be fatal from the newspaper company’s point of view. I again ask the Government to confer with representatives of Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited with a view to rationalizing air services between the capital cities, particularly those that cater solely, or mainly, for tourist traffic, in order to make more fuel available for the maintenance of essential services. I view this matter very seriously, and I believe that my view is shared by a very great proportion of Queenslanders.
.- I refer to matters concerning the Olympic Games that were raised by the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman) and the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke). I find it difficult to understand why the honorable member for Corio should bring up this subject on the floor of the House. The Government has already contributed the sum of £8,000 towards the cost of sending Australia’s representatives to the Olympic Games, which is one-ninth of the total amount required. It would appear that the honorable member for Corio is disappointed about the way in which that money has been expended. He should now commence a campaign in order to ensure that on the next occasion on which a team of athletes is to be sent abroad to represent this country at the Olympic Games, the Government will make a more generous contribution for that purpose. Recently, Australians witnessed the unedifying spectacle of representatives of sporting bodies begging in public, cap in hand, for subscriptions towards the cost of sending overseas athletic representatives who, we hope, will bring honour and fame to this country. The representations made by the two honorable members whom I have mentioned could more profitably have been made through amateur sporting bodies in their respective States. Those bodies elect representatives to the Australian Olympic Council which formulates the conditions under which Australian Olympic representative teams shall be sent abroad. It is unfortunate that such a great cyclist as Russell Mockridge, who could possibly gain an Olympic first for Australia, is not to be included in the team on this occasion. However, the council has determined the rules and conditions that shall govern the selection of representatives of this country. Two Australian swimmers who are now in the United States of America, Garrick Agnew and John Marshall, have consented to comply with those conditions. They do not seek different treatment from other representatives because it will cost less to send them to the games. Many people are not happy about the conditions laid down by the council. I do not agree wholeheartedly with the present arrangement. I suggest that the honorable member for Corio and the honorable member for Perth should get busy in the amateur organizations in their own States, which select the representatives, and lay down the conditions of amateur sport. We should all do what we can to see that the Government is prepared to expend a much greater amount to ensure that the Olympic Games in Melbourne shall be a success and that, in future, we shall not witness the spectacle of persons begging and borrowing money from the citizens of this country so that Australia may be properly represented in sporting events overseas.
.- I support the request made by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) that the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Anthony) use all his powers of persuasion to ensure that country areas are not unduly harassed by enforced cuts in civil air services. I have used the term “ country areas deliberately, because our remarks apply to country areas generally, notwithstanding that we are particularly interested in our own electorates. It is realized that the cuts that have been imposed during the last two or three .days have been forced upon the Government and the airline companies by factors which are completely beyond their control. The Americans have said that the airline companies must reduce their services by 35 per cent., and that if they do not do so, they will get no fuel. This Government has no power to direct the companies in the matter of the services which they provide, but the Minister, in consultation with the companies, can ensure that the cuts do not apply to services to those centres which are dependent on air services for transport. It is in respect of those areas that we m.ike this plea. In particular, I appeal to the Minister to do everything he can for the area mentioned by the honorable member for Capricornia, which has practically no shipping services and enjoys but a poor rail transport service. It is almost wholly dependent upon air services. I am not satisfied, from what I have seen of the schedule issued in the last two or three days, that proper consideration has been given to the needs of those areas. The companies have to impose a cut of 35 per cent, in air services, but that does not means that schedules in all areas must be reduced by a flat rate of 35 per cent. Such a decision would unduly penalize areas in which no other form of transport is available, to the benefit of centres more adjacent to the cities that enjoy the benefits of alternative methods of transport. I ask the Minister to have a further discussion with the two major airline companies with a view to ensuring that the difficulties now being experienced in certain country centres are lessened.
’. - I rise briefly to condemn the pernicious idea that was propagated by the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman) that this Government, by virtue of COn.tributions made to a sporting body, should attempt to interfere with the internal affairs of that body, and should decide the terms and condition.? on which the Olympic team is chosen. I regard such an idea as pernicious, and I hope that the Government will have nothing to do with it. If the Government cannot manage its own affairs properly, at least it should allow sporting bodies to manage their affairs without interference. It was suggested by the honorable member for Corio that Australia’s prestige is involved and that the Australian representatives would meet professionals, since the Russian athletes who were competing, and also others would not be fulfilling the terms of amateur sport as we understand them. If the athletes of other nations do not fulfil -the terms of amateur sport as we understand them, at least let Australia adhere to them. I firmly believe that those who indulge in sport should do so for the sake of sport. On many occasions, sport becomes a business, and before long, that business becomes a dirty business, and descends so low that sometimes sporting activities become a complete racket. The spectacle of a highly trained team of highly paid individuals performing before a screaming group of spectators is not my idea of sport. To what degree the Olympic Games conform at present to Olympic ideals is a matter upon which I should not like to express -an opinion. At least, let Australians conform to the rules of amateur sport. We should not try to apply the idea expressed by the honorable member for Corio which is that, irrespective of the terms and conditions under which athletes are selected, :and irrespective also of the fact that the Olympic Games are supposed to be a festival of amateur sport, we should follow other people who are not prepared to comply with true amateur conditions. The idea is abhorrent to me, and I trust that it will be rejected by the Government.
– I have no doubt that the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), having come into the House rather late, was at a loss to know what had happened. Accordingly, it may be worthwhile for me to point out that the honorable member did not address himself to the matters that were dealt with by the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock). The honorable member for Fremantle has also forgotten the remarks he made in this House last night. If he compares his remarks to-night with those which he made last night, he will find that they are contradictory.
– I direct the attention of the Government to the unfair method by which cortisone is being distributed throughout Australia. Many people, who should receive cortisone treatment, are unable to obtain it because they cannot afford to meet the enormous cost involved. I quote the case of a married woman in her early thirties in my electorate who became afflicted with arthritis some time ago. For a period that unfortunate soul was able to obtain cortisone treatment, because she had put aside a little money and could pay for it; but on account of the high cost of the drug, she has been unable to continue the treatment and her condition is now as bad as it was before the treatment was commenced. She obtained considerable relief from pain by using cortisone and was able to move about in an almost normal way. On the 8th March, 1951, the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) who, unfortunately, is not at present in’ the House, issued a statement regarding the supply of cortisone which, in my opinion, showed where the fault in the distribution of that drug lay. The right honorable gentleman said among other things that cortisone, which is in short supply, is manufactured by only one concern in North America, which had evolved a process of manufacture which requires the use of large quantities of ox bile. He then went on to say that the drug had had some dramatic effects in the treatment of certain diseases, hut that it had also had some harmful side reactions. The case to which she referred is one in which the drug has had beneficial effects, and is not one of those cases in which drugs have been wasted because they have been used on cases for which they were not suitable. This is one of the few cases in which the use of cortisone will provide relief from pain and give a poor, unfortunate sufferer some chance of living a normal life again. The Minister pointed out in his statement that all the cortisone that is imported into Australia comes to seven importers. It is in respect of that matter, I believe, that the chief fault lies. The Government should itself import all the cortisone that is available to Australia. It should also use the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories in Melbourne, and establish laboratories elsewhere, to manufacture cortisone. It should be the only body responsible for the distribution of the drug, which should be made available to the public absolutely without charge. It should also ensure that the people who really need the drug because they are suffering from complaints that can be relieved by it, and also people whose age, responsibilities and other circumstances combined give them the highest claim to treatment, are able to obtain it. At the moment, however, Drug Houses of Australia Limited and other big wealthy drug-importing firms have a monopoly of the importation of cortisone. If any manufacture of cortisone is to be carried out in Australia, I dare say those drug houses will engage in it. They represent private enterprise and are not concerned one iota with doing the. greatest good for the greatest number. - Their only concern is the profit motive, and they wish only to get the greatest financial return possible from their distribution of this valuable drug. The result is that people who can afford to pay for the drug get it, and people who cannot afford to pay for it have to live in misery.
I spoke to the Minister about the case that I have just mentioned and he wiped it aside, and said that nothing could be done about it because the drug was not on the free medicine list. He said that it could be obtained in public hospitals and he recommended that I go back to the public hospitals and get one of them to deal with it. Public hospital authorities have told me that they cannot obtain cortisone in sufficient quantities to treat such cases; it is of no use for the Minister to try to pass the buck to them. The inability of the public hospitals to obtain the necessary supplies of cortisone is due to the fact that people who can afford to pay for treatment in private hospitals and by private medical practitioners are getting treatment with the drug whether they need it or not. In many instances, the use of cortisone for the treatment of wealthy people who have been able to afford it has had a detrimental effect, because it has been used to treat complaints that cannot be cured, or even relieved to any degree, by it. Treatment with cortisone is in some instances causing people to go mad and to suffer from very high blood pressure. Those are the two main side reactions in the use of cortisone. On the other hand, young people who should be in the prime of their life are living in misery and have to take to invalid chairs years before they should, simply because they cannot afford to meet the exorbitant prices that the drug houses demand for cortisone.
I ask the Government to treat this as a human problem and to show some humane interest in people who genuinely need treatment with cortisone; to take immediate steps to import all the cortisone that can be purchased abroad; to manufacture in Australia as much cortisone as can be manufactured from the available raw materials; and, lastly, to accept responsibility for the distribution of the available cortisone, and distribute it free on the basis of giving the greatest good to the greatest number.
– Two subjects with which I wish to deal are newspaper deliveries to the country areas of Queensland by air, and athletics. People living in the remote areas of Queensland are entitled to receive Brisbane newspapers, such as the CourierMail and the Telegraph, as early as possible. Farmers and businessmen require early delivery of metropolitan newspapers to provide them with information that is essential to the conduct of their businesses, whilst many people require racing information and other features that are contained in metropolitan newspapers. For that . reason it is necessary that air services to remote areas of Queensland should be maintained on the best possible level.
I turn now to the barring of the Australian cyclist, Russell Mockridge, from inclusion in the Australian Olympic team on the ground that he has refused to sign an agreement to remain an amateur for two years after the end of the games. I heard about two athletes in the United States of America who were prepared to sign such an agreement, but I understand that they are the sons of wealthy men, and, therefore, can afford to be amateur sportsmen. Russell Mockridge has to earn a living. There are no amateur athletes to-day, with the exception of wealthy men or their families. The great Australian tennis player, Frank Sedgman, is the athlete of whom we are most proud. “Would anybody tell me seriously that Frank Sedgman is a lily-white amateur? Of course, we know that his bride received a wedding present from the public through the medium of certain newspapers. Usually athletes cannot possibly afford to remain amateurs. Would anybody contend that our international cricketers and footballers are purely amateurs? Can anybody say that any athlete is really an amateur?
– Croquet players!
– The honorable member may have hit the target. Russell Mockridge is the greatest cyclist in Australia, yet, because of a technicality, he will not be allowed to represent us at the Olympic Games. We should be realistic about such matters. What is the use of trying to bluff ourselves that there is any such thing as an amateur athlete?
– What about the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) ? He is an amateur fisherman.
– He is an amateur fisherman, but a professional politician. Generally speaking, Australians are great sportsmen. Many of them travel 100 or 150 miles in order to play a game of football, for which they do not receive payment. In northern Queensland football is usually played on Sunday. Both before and after the match there is plenty of beer to drink, so that the players receive some reward. I believe that Australian athletes are the best in the world. The initiative which they acquire by participating in various sports helps them in the serious tasks of life, such as that of defending their country. As far as possible, we should encourage amateur sportsmen, but we must be realistic. If we send amateur athletes overseas, we should support them. I am of the opinion that a much greater sum of money should be provided in order to send overseas the best Olympic team that is available.
– Five honorable members have spoken to-night of the problems associated with the selection of athletes to represent Australia at the forthcoming Olympic Games at Helsinki, The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman) and the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) have advanced claims in support of a certain contention. The honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) and the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) have put forward views which are entirely opposed to those of the other two honorable members. The honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) apparently has not made up his mind what he really wants. Nevertheless, he gave us a delightful dissertation on how drink plays a part in football games on Sunday afternoons in northern Queensland. I do not hold out any hope that the Government will enter into this Olympic contest, but as a matter of courtesy, I shall bring to the notice of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) the matters that have been raised in the debate.
The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) and the honorable member for Dawson (Mr. Davidson) have drawn attention to the difficulty that is being experienced in Queensland in connexion with the distribution of the Courier-Mail newspaper by air. The problem has arisen because of a world-wide necessity to reduce, by 35 per cent., consumption of high octane spirit which is used in aero.planes. That matter is outside the control of this Government. It has developed because of industrial troubles in the United States of America. I appreciate that for more than twenty years the Vowier-Ma.il has been made available to residents of the outback areas of Queensland by means of air transport. This Government has undertaken to give all the assistance that it can in order to overcome the problem. When answering a question which was asked in the House yesterday, the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Anthony) undertook to bring to the notice of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited the complaints that have been made in. this Parliament. To that undertaking, I add the assurance that the attention of the Minister will be drawn to the matters which have been brought forward to-night in support of the contention that assistance should be given by Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited in order to make the newspaper available in northern and central Queensland. If he can assist in any way, T am sure that he will do so. f shall refer to the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) the matter referred to by the honorable member for Martin (Mr. O’Connor) and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were prest nt,m : -
Audit Act - Finance - Treasurer’s Statement of Receipts and Expenditure for year lf)50:!il, accompanied by the Report of Hi” Auditor-General.
Ordered to be printed.
Meat Agreement between Australia and the United Kingdom, dated 11th October, 1951.
House adjourned at 12.1 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What was the amount subscribed in loans during the terms of office of the Chifley and Curtin Governments?
Sir ARTHUR FADDEN - The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Excluding amounts converted, subscriptions to public loans totalled £1,360,640,000.
RS asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
COMPULSORY Acquisition of PROPERTY
y asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
What is the basis for payment of compensation for land or properties resumed for post office purposes?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
Where land is compulsorily acquired for any public purpose of the Commonwealth - which would include post office purposes - compensation is assessed according to the value nf the land on the first day of January last preceding the date of acquisition. Where land is acquired by agreement with the owner for a similar purpose, the price paid is arrived a: by negotiation.
e. - On Tuesday, the 13th May. the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) asked a question concerning the cost of transporting the goods of Public Service officers and other government goods. I now inform the honorable member as follows: -
Now that this work is being done by private contractors, the costs in question are considerably higher but not to the extent suggested by the honorable member. The reason is that these contractors have to meet certain charges, such as vehicle registration, road tax, &c, which the Commonwealth transport organization was not required to pay. In addition, they are entitled to earn a reasonable profit on their capital investment. In Sydneya contract with a private firm for the transport of goods of Public Service officers, is in existence and does not expire until the 30th June. 1952. Elsewhere, however, a large number of firms respond when tenders are invited for work of this nature. The disparity in the quotations received in these latter cases indicates that there is keen competition among removalists, and this results in competitive prices.
y asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
New South Wales.
New South Wales Railway, Tramway, Motor Omnibus and Road Transport Employees’ Hospital Fund, Railway Station, Terminus street, Petersham.
The Hospital Contribution Fund of New South Wales, 7 Hamilton-street, Sydney.
Grand United Order of Oddfellows, 149 Castlereagh-street, Sydney.
Commonwealth Bank Health Society, c/o Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Pitt-street, Sydney.
Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows Friendly Society in New South Wales. 100 Castlereagh-street, Sydney.
Australasian Holy Catholic Guild of St. Mary and St. Joseph, 197 Castlereagh-street, Sydney.
The Sydney Morning Herald Hospital Fund. 38 Hunter-steet, Sydney.
Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Limited. 7 Hamilton-street, Sydney.
The Hospital Benefits Association of Victoria, 48 Queen-street, Melbourne.
Protestant Alliance Friendly Society of Australasia Grand Council of Victoria, 138-140 Fl i n d ers-street, Melbour ne.
R.S. and S. Mills Employees Hospital Fund. c/o R. S. and S. Woollen and Worsted Mills. Chilwell. Geelong.
Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows Friendly Society in Victoria., Manchester Unity Building, 105 Swansten-street, Melbourne.
Hibernian Australasian Catholic Benefit Society, Victoria District No. 1, 118 Queenstreet. Melbourne.
The South Western District Hospital Benefits Fund, T. & G. Building,Warrnambool.
Grand United Order of Oddfellows, 30-34 Latrobe-street, Melbourne.
Brighton Community Hospital, 243 Newstreet, Middle Brighton.
Australian Natives Association, 28-32 Elizabethstreet, Melbourne.
Seymour and District Hospital Contributory Scheme,Seymour.
Mild ura and District Hospital Fund, c/o Base Hospital. Mil dura.
Latrobe Valley Hospital and Health Services Association, McDonald-street, Morwell.
United Ancient Order of Druids, Grand Lodge of Australia, Druids House, 407-409 Swanstonstreet, Melbourne.
Independent Order of Rechabites, Victoria District No. 82, 518 Elizabeth-street, Melbourne.
Upper Yarra District Hospital Benefits Association, P.O. Box 1, Warburton.
Diamond Valley Community Hospital, Grimshaw-street, Greensborough.
Altona Community Hospital, Altona.
The Independent Order of Oddfellows of Victoria, 380-384 Russell-street, Melbourne.
Geelong and District Contributory Association for Public and Private Hospitals, Little Malop-street, G eelong.
Benalla Bush Nursing Hospitals.
Birchip Bush Nursing Hospital.
Boort Bush Nursing Hospital.
Charlton Bush Nursing Hospital, Edithvale.
City of Chelsea Bush Nursing Hospital.
Euroa Bush Nursing Hospital.
Hastings Bush Nursing Hospital.
Korumburra and District Bush Nursing Hospital.
Kyabram and District Bush Nursing Hospital.
Lismore Bush Nursing Hospital, Lismore.
Mirboo North and District Bush Nursing Hospital.
Shire of Morwell Hospital.
Pyramid Hill Bush Nursing Hospital.
Skipton and District Bush Nursing Hospital.
Yackandandah Centre, Victorian Bush Nursing Association.
West Gippsland Hospital Benefits Fund, Warragul.
Order of Sons of Temperance Friendly Society, Bourke House, 157 Russell-street, Melbourne.
Kiewa Works Medical Society, Mount Beauty.
Swan Hill and District Contributory Fund, Box 328, Swan Hill.
Mornington King George V. Memorial Bush Nursing Hospital, Main-street, Mornington.
Nyah District Bush Nursing Hospital, Nyah West.
Cheetham Hospital Benefits Fund, c/o Cheetham Salt Pty. Ltd., 71 Little Malopstreet, Geelong.
Avoca Bush Nursing Hospital.
Berwick and District Bush Nursing Hospital.
Bright District Bush Nursing Hospital.
Broadford Bush Nursing Hospital.
Heyfield Bush Nursing Hospital.
Heywood Bush Nursing Hospital.
Hopetown Bush Nursing Hospital.
Korong Bush Nursing Hospital.
Nagambie Bush Nursing Hospital.
Murchison Bush Nursing Hospital.
Natimuk Bush Nursing Hospital.
Neerim District Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital.
Pakenham Bush Nursing Hospital.
Rupanyup and District Bush Nursing Hospital.
Rushworth Bush Nursing Hospital.
Sea Lake Bush Nursing Hospital.
Tongala Bush Nursing Hospital.
Toora Bush Nursing Hospital.
Trentham Bush Nursing Hospital.
Violet Town Bush Nursing Hospital.
Walwa Bush Nursing Hospital. “ Warley “ Bush Nursing Hospital, Cowes, Phillip Island.
Mutual Benefit Society of the Employees’ of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board, Capital House, Swanston-street, Melbourne.
Bendigoand District Hospitals Contributory Fund, c/o Bendigo and Northern District Base Hospital, Lucan-street, Bendigo.
Ararat and District Hospital’s Contributory Fund, Ararat.
Hospital Benefits Fund, Red Cliffs.
Valley Worsted Mills Hospital and Sick Benefit Fund, Swanston-street, Geelong.
Castlemaine District Community Hospital
Contributory Fund, Post Office Box 5, Castlemaine.
Dandenong and District Hospital Benefit Fund, Cleeland-street, Dandenong.
Rutherglen District Hospital, Rutherglen.
Sunshine and District Community Hospital, 9 King Edward-avenue, Sunshine.
Kerang and District Hospital Contributory Fund, 125 Victoria-street, Kerang.
Ancient Order of Foresters in Victoria Friendly Society, Foresters’ Hall, 168-170 Latrobe-street, Melbourne, C.I.
Murrayville Bush Nursing Hospital.
Hibernian Australasian Catholic Benefit Society - Southern Queensland District No. 5 Hibernian Buildings, Adelaide-street, Brisbane.
Goomeri and District Hospital Friendly Society, Goomeri.
The Pittsworth and District Hospital Friendly Society, Post Office Box 49, Pittsworth.
Loyal Mutual Aid Lodge, No. 3, Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows, Wide Bay District, Bourbong-street (Box 61), Bundaberg.
Manchester Unity Independent Order of. Oddfellows, Queensland Branch, 236 Elizabethstreet, Brisbane.
The Mutual Hospital Association Limited, 74 King William-street, Adelaide.
Australian Natives Association, South Australian Board of Directors, 45 Flinders-street, Adelaide.
The Independent Order of Oddfellows - Manchester Unity Friendly Society in South Australia, 14 Franklin-street, Adelaide.
Millicent District Hospital Benefits Scheme Incorporated, Box 78, Millicent.
Cosmopolitan Friendly Benefit Society, 65 Flinders-street, Adelaide.
Hibernian Australasian Catholic Benefit Society, Adelaide District No. 7, Pirie-street, Adelaide (General Post Office Box 104b).
South Australian Railways Employees’ Hospital Fund, c/o Comptroller’s Office, South Australian Railways, North-terrace, Adelaide.
South Australian United Ancient Order of Druids Friendly Society, Savings Bank, 97 King William-street, Adelaide.
Independent Order of Rechabites, Salford Unity, The Albert District No. 83, Victoriasquare, Adelaide.
The Independent Order of Oddfellows Grand Lodge of South Australia, 11-13 Flindersstreet, Adelaide.
South Australian Ancient Order of Foresters, Friendly Society - Adelaide District, Epworth Building, 33 Pirie-street, Adelaide.
Independent’ Order of Rechabites Friendly Society, South Australian District No. 81, Rechabite Hall, Grote-street, Adelaide.
South Australian Citizens’ Hospital Bed Fund Incorporated, 159 Main-street, Peterborough.
The Whyalla Hospital Incorporated, 20 Wood-terrace, Whyalla.
South Australian Police. Department Employees Hospital Fund, Police Head-quarters, cnr. King William and Angas streets, Adelaide.
South Australian Public Service Association Hospital Fund, Rechabite Chambers, 195 Victoriasquare, Adelaide.
Kimba Mutual Benefit Association Incorporated, High-street, Kimba.
The Hospital Benefits Fund of Western Australia Incorporated, Sheffield House, 713 Hay street, Perth. ‘
West Australian Government Railway and Tramway Hospital Fund, Box K.828, G.P.O., Perth.
Boulder United Friendly Societies’ Cooperative Hospital Fund, 9Burt-street, Boulder.
United Friendly Societies Voluntary Hospital Fund, Box J660, G.P.O., Perth.
Friendly Societies Health and Services, 19 Howard-street, Perth.
United Ancient Order of Druids, Hawthorn Lodge No. 318, McDonald Buildings, 146 Murray-street, Perth.
United Ancient Order of Druids, Kalgoorlie Lodge No. 331, Friendly Societies Hall, Porterstreet, Kalgoorlie.
Yarloop District Hospital and Medical Fund.
Australian Capital Territory.
d asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Prime Minister’s statement to Parliament on the 13th May.
n asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
How many vises have been issued during the past ten years for the admittance to Australia of officials and employees of each of the embassies in Australia?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Persons duly accredited to the Government of the Commonwealth by the Government of the United Kingdom or any other government or sent by any government on a special mission are not subject to the provisions of the Immigragration Act and my Department of Immigration has not kept any statistics in regard to such persons. The Department of External Affairs has advised, however, that a total of 682 officials and employees have entered the Commonwealth for engagement with foreign embassies and legations during the past ten years. The following table shows the embassy or legation to which such persons have been attached and the year of establishment of such embassy or legation: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 May 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1952/19520521_reps_20_217/>.