20th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10 a.m. and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether it is correct that the problems of our neighbour, Indonesia, are causing some concern to the free world, and that they will be discussed at the forthcoming conference of the . Big Three at Bermuda. In view of the special interest that Australia has in the security of this part of the world, will the Minister consider the possibility of having that matter discussed also at the forthcoming conference in Australia f Commonwealth Ministers?
– I have no knowledge of the agenda for the Bermuda conference, so I cannot say whether the matter to which the honorable member has referred will be discussed there. I think I can say it is common knowledge that the security situation in Indonesia is causing the Government of that country considerable concern. The honorable member will understand that it is not easy for me to make public comment on the domestic affairs of a country with which we have friendly relations. Therefore I cannot give him any indication that those affairs will be discussed at any conference of Commonwealth countries that may be held in Australia.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether it is a fact that law and order have virtually collapsed in parts of Indonesia and that terrorists and rebel forces have wrested control of a number of areas from the recognized government. In view nf the fact that Indonesia is our next door neighbour in the near north and that the people of Australia are vitally concerned with developments there, does the Minister propose- to advise Parliament fully on the present position in that area?
– It is true that in the west of Java and the north west of Sumatra the situation in relation to public security is causing the government of Indonesia a great deal of anxiety. These are not the only areas where public security is not as good as it might be. However, it is extremely difficult for me, as a member of the government, to comment on the domestic affairs of a country with whom we have friendly relations.
– As from time to time arrangements are made for mem’bers of the Parliament to undertake tours of the Northern Territory and the external territories of the Commonwealth, will the Minister for the Interior endeavour to arrange similar tours of the Australian Capital Territory at week-ends or other suitable times so that members may see something of the farming and grazing areas and scenic attractions of the terri tory which, so far as many members are concerned, may be described as the territory that no’body knows. I point out that the Australian Capital Territory covers 900 square miles and that tours of this kind would be of considerable value to members.
– I shall take note of the honora’ble member’s question and investigate the possibilities. So far as I know members who have asked for facilities to travel round the Australian Capital Territory have been provided with them up to date.
– Can the Minister for the Interior tell the House what is the position of war service land settlement in Queensland, particularly in the Wandoan area? Has the Queensland Government advised the Commonwealth Government that it now intends to throw the remaining 70 blocks reserved for soldier settlement in the Wandoan area open to public ballot?
– The question really divides itself into two parts. The Government has received official notice from the Premier of Queensland to the effect that the Queensland Government has definitely allocated £855,000 for war service land settlement this year. Notice was given to this Government, according to my recollection, in a letter from the Premier dated the 30th October. This amount is nearly £200,000 more than was allocated by the Queensland Government for the same purpose- last year. Less than 60 per cent, of last year’s allocation of £676,000 was expended. Before the Premier notified this Government of the allocation of £855,000 for . the current year, the State Government had announced distinctly, through a statement by the Acting Premier that was reported in the press on the 27th July, not that it intended to abandon war service land settlement, but that it would hold up the scheme. With reference to the Wandoan ai-ea, the Queensland press published on the 7th September a statement by the Minister for Lands that the 70 blocks in that district which had been developed as a war service land settlement project would be thrown open to the public by ballot and that ex-servicemen would have to take their chance in the ballot with other applicants. On the 9 th September, according to press reports, the president of the Queensland Branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, Sir Raymond Huish, saw the Minister for Lands, who sent him to the Acting Premier. The Acting Premier told him that the State Government would hold over the Wandoan question until the Premier returned from abroad. I have had no further information from the Minister for Lands, and no further official information has been supplied to this Government in relation to the State Government’s plans for the Wandoan blocks. However, as recently as last week the Queensland Land Administration Board issued a report which contained extraordinary statements on the subject of war service land settlement. I have sent for a copy of the report in order to ascertain whether or not it was issued with the official approval of the Minister for Lands. I have been informed unofficially that the Queensland Government decided early this month that the Wandoan area should be thrown open for ordinary settlement but that then, apparently because it was frightened by the publicity, it decided to throw open the area for settlement by ex-servicemen other than those who are eligible under the war service land settlement scheme. That merely means, if it is true, that the Queensland Government has determined that, whatever arrangements may be made for war service land settlement next year, the scheme will not proceed in the Wandoan area. I emphasize the fact that I have had no official confirmation of this report. However, although the report -is unofficial, it has come from an excellent source. I hope that it will be denied by the Minister for Lands.
– In view of the fact that the recent security loan was oversubscribed hy £15,000,000, will the_ Treasurer immediately consider increasing the war service homes allocation to the States and also the quota allotted to the States under the Commonwealth and State
Housing Agreement in order to alleviate the acute housing shortage?
– There is no such thing as a loan allocation for war service homes. Finance for that purpose is provided by this Government out of revenue, to enable the States to have a greater share of the loan monies available. This Government has undertaken to supplement loan raisings to enable the States to carry out their loan programmes this year and this includes money for the Commonwealth and States Housing Agreement.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs inform the House whether it was the Attlee Labour Government in the United Kingdom that officially recognized Communist China. Is it a fact that Mr. Attlee, as one of the leaders of the present Labour Opposition in the United Kingdom Parliament, made a recent broadcast appeal over the British Broadcasting Corporation’s network for the admission of Communist China to the United Nations? Has the Minister received a similar petition from the Australian Labour party?
– Yes, it was the Attlee Labour Government of Great Britain that recognized Communist China - the Peking Government. .It is true also that a few months ago Mr. Attlee, the Leader of the Labour Opposition ‘ in Great Britain, made a public broadcast, I think over the network of the British Broadcasting Corporation, in which he recommended the admission of Communist China to the United Nations. As far as I am aware, the Australian Government has not received any similar proposal or recommendation from the Labour Opposition in this Parliament.
– Does the Minister for External Affairs consider that it is in consonance with the importance and dignity of his office, when, answering a pre-arranged question, to attack the British Government? The question had nothing to do with the business of this House.
– I made no attack. I merely answered a simple question which admitted of a factual reply.
– The question that 1 shall address to the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific anil Industrial Research Organization concerns chiefly the spread of skeleton weed into the Victorian and South Australian wheat lands. Is the Minister aware that thu skeleton weed plant that I exhibited to the House yesterday was obtained only half a mile from this House, where the weed is thick and spreading? Will the Minister direct the attention of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to the urgent need for concerted action in order to eradicate this menace?
– I realize very well the honorable member’s pre-occupation with this very difficult problem. When the honorable member has referred to it in this House I think that he has used moderate language. It is a great curse, it is probably centred in Wagga Wagga, and to the north of Wagga Wagga, but it has spread recently into the Mallee in Victoria, and into South Australia.
– Ha, ha !
– It is a very great curse and not a matter for levity on the part of anybody. There has been a great deal of levity on the part of the Labour Opposition in relation to skeleton weed. If that were to be relayed into the wheat areas of the Mallee and elsewhere it would not be appreciated very much.
– Order ! If honorable members are not prepared to behave themselves, I shall ask the Prime Minister to proceed with the business of the day.
– Skeleton weed-
– Order ! The honorable member for East Sydney must either control himself or leave the chamber.
– If the laughter of the Opposition were relayed into the wheat areas it would not be very greatly appreciated, because skeleton weed makes cereal cropping almost impossible. It is a very difficult problem with which to cope. Skeleton weed does not yield to treatment by hormones, although it is rather discouraged by them. It is a very deeprooted weed, and the roots remain in the earth although the plant may be temporarily destroyed. I cannot give the honorable member any great hope of eradicating it, although it may be brought under control by means devised by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, of which I shall be very pleased to advise him. I shall be very glad, also, to ask a research officer of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to go into this matter with the honorable member. A conference will take place soon between the Lands and Survey Department of Victoria and the Division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization that is handling this problem. The weed has reached Canberra and the surrounding tablelands and highlands. It constitutes a great problem, but a solution is not yet in sight. There are methods of coping with the weed, which entail patient and rather laborious work, but they are by no means a complete cure. The honorable gentleman has rendered a public service by raising this matter.
– Is the function of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization simply one of research and investigation, and the publication of the results of those activities, or does it extend to the practical application of the results of its research ?
– Broadly speaking, the function of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is that of research, both pure research and research into practical problems such as the method of eradication of a pest like skeleton weed. If the organization achieves successful results, those results are made available to the State government departments concerned, and are also published in the form of pamphlets and the like. It is not the function of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to follow up the results of this research and to undertake the wholesale destruction of the particular pest that may have been under investigation. There is close collaboration between the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and relevant State government departments, and if it is anyone’s function to effect the actual destruction of a pest it is more a matter for the State instrumentality than for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.
– Will the Treasurer say whether the name “ Commonwealth Bank of Australia “ has been altered to “ Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia “ 011 all appropriate buildings, documents and stationery? How much has this unfortunate obliteration cost the taxpayers of Australia? When will the bank commence to operate in its new form?
– Before I «an reply to the questions asked by the honorable member, I shall have to obtain up to date information on this matter. If he will place the questions on the noticepaper, I shall see what I can do to answer them.
– Last year, when I directed a question to the Minister for Air about flying saucers, the honorable gentleman gave a facetious reply. Is he aware of the attention now being devoted by airforce authorities in Canada and England to the nature and origin of these mysterious objects? Are similar investigations contemplated by the Royal Australian Air Force, or does the Minister still rega rd flying saucers as a problem for psychologists rather than defence authorities ?
– On the last occasion when a question on this subject was addressed to me by the honorable member for Angas, I- gave a fecetious reply. I still think the problem is one more for psychologists than for defence authorities. The Royal Australian Air Force has received many reports about flying saucers, as have the Royal Air Force and the Royal Canadian Air Force, but the phenomena have not yet been identified. It is peculiar that, shortly before these phenomena are observed, a meteorite flashes across the sky. It is felt that some optical illusion may follow in its wake. After the honorable gentleman asked me n question on this matter last year, T paused enquiries to be made. Tha Royal Australian Air Force has informed me that, so far, the aerodynamic problems relating to the production of flying saucers have not been solved, lt is possible to produce a flying saucer air.craft and to fly it in a circular manner by means of ram jet engines. Aircraft of that type may be developed in the future, but I do not think there is any immediate need for them.
– Recently, I wrote to the Minister for the Navy about a report I had received that civilians were being taken for cruises on naval vessels. In reply, the Minister stated that that was in accordance with a long standing custom. He said that the commanding officer of an Australian naval vessel could, from time to time, invite a gentleman on board the vessel as his personal guest, and, at his own expense, take the guest for a short cruise of a non-operational nature. He stated further that no record was kept of such personal arrangements and that no expense to the Crown was involved. For how long has that been a custom? What are the circumstances associated with the establishment of the custom ? What is the reasons for its continuance? How is the cost to be met by a commanding officer calculated? To whom is payment of the appropriate sum made? If payment to defray the expenditure incurred is made, how does the Minister explain his statement that there is no record of these personal arrangements? Is any check made to ascertain whether any civilian invited to spend a few pleasant hours at sea with the navy is a security risk?
– On many occasions the honorable member for East Sydney has put questions to me concerning matters which I regard as personal to the Navy. He attempts to poke his nose -
– Order ! That is not a very happy term.
– I am not prepared to make many investigations relating to this type of matter. T do not think that such -an event happens very frequently. Possibly, on one or two occasions, civilians have been taken on non-operational cruises, but if that happened very frequently I certainly would know of it and I know of only one such trip that has been made in recent years.
– How does the Minister calculate the cost?
– It would be at the rate of about 9s. a day, so that if the trip lasted two days the total cost would be 18s. I have given the honorable member the answer that he sought in writing and I have no intention to go further into this matter unless he can inform me of a particular case.
– In view of the Minister’s reply to the honorable member for East Sydney, we should like to know whether we may consider his reply as establishing a precedent, and whether we have to bring our own fishing gear?
– Order ! The honorable member can ask questions only on his own behalf and not on behalf of other honorable members.
– The practice that I outlined is not new by any means, although it does not occur frequently. To the best of my knowledge it has happened on one occasion only during the last 18 months. As far as fishing gear is concerned, I do not know what muck the honorable member wants to rake up, but if he will let me know I shall tell him the kind of fishing gear that he needs to get for that purpose.
– I understand that it has been decided that the Film Division of the News and Information Bureau will act as advance agent for a colour film of the Royal Visit to Australia. I therefore ask the Minister for the Interior whether the Film Division has sufficient equipment to undertake this task. If it has not sufficient equipment will he arrange for the necessary equipment to be provided? I ask this question because, from time to time during the last two years, I have visited the Film Division and have formed the opinion that some of its equipment needs replacing and that additional equipment is also required.
– I understand that all arrangemenst have been made for the making of the film to which the honorable member has referred and that any equipment, required for the work which the Film Division did not have has now been obtained. I can assure the honorable member that satisfactory arrangements both for securing the equipment for making the film and also with regard to the distribution of the film. I have no doubt, that the film will be a good one. All honorable members who have seen the work of the Film Division and those who make pictures in Australia will realize that there will be no difficulty in making the picture. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has informed me that two distributors have already made offers for th, distribution of the film which will be given a very wide circulation throughout Australia and, I expect, overseas. One ‘ copy of the film is to be presented to Her Majesty.
– Can the Minister for CiVil Aviation say whether the ownership or’ control of British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines Limited and Tasman Empire Airlines Limited, which was the subject of discussion and consideration by the representatives of Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom at a conference held in New Zealand at which the Minister was the Australian representative, has yet been decided? Does he believe that it is the desire of the United Kingdom to relinquish its present ownership of a 20 per cent, share in British Commonwealth Pacific Airlines Limited and Tasman Empire Airways Limited ? If so, is it the intention of Australia to take over the United Kingdom share? As the matter is one of considerable concern to those interested in Australian aviation, can the Minister make a statement to the House on the matter, so that the future of what is the flag line from Australia to North America can be discussed by the House during this session ?
– Negotiations and discussions between the Australian, New Zealand and United Kingdom Government representatives have been going on for approximately fifteen months concerning the re-organization of British. Commonwealth Pacific Airlines and Tasman Empire Airways Limited. So far, wc have made slow progress. At a discussion held in Christchurch a couple of months ago, which I attended, we reached final agreement, subject to the endorsement of the respective Governments. So far, we have not received a final reply from the New Zealand Government, and the agreement still has to be approved by the Australian Government. I am unable to make a statement until I receive some information on the matter from the New Zealand Government, which is expected very shortly. We appreciate that, whilst these discussions are taking place, there is considerable unrest among the staffs of the various airlines. Naturally, the employees wish to know what their fate is to be. Therefore, as far as we are concerned at this end, we are most eager to bring the matter to a conclusion.
Mr. Jeff Bate having ashed a disallowed question -
– Has the Prime Minister seen reports to the effect that a young Australian of pan aboriginal blood has secured a contract to play football for four years with an English club? Is the right honorable gentleman aware that this young man was brought to Mulgoa, in my electorate, as a war orphan from Groote Eylandt, that the Church of England, assisted by the Australian Government, was responsible for his training, and that his conduct, and that of his fellow orphans, was of such a high standard that the people of the community were proud to have him? In view of the great credit which he has brought upon the people of his blood, will the Government take an interest in his welfare in England, as it has done in Australia, so that he will always appreciate that he is flying the flag for his own people?
– I am delighted to have this information, and I shall consider it.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that the Fitzroy post office in Victoria is in urgent need of renovations and structural alterations? Is he also aware that the present conditions at that post office are causing great inconvenience to the public and the staff? Does- he know that such renovations and alterations have been included in a list of approved works for a number of years and that an appropriation for this purpose has been in the departmental estimates for a similar period? If inquiry by him discloses that these statements are correct, will he arrange for the necessary work to be expedited?
– I have no doubt that the Fitzroy post office is on the list of approved works to be carried out when funds are available. However, I inform the honorable member that approved postal works involve a total expenditure of approximately £100,000,000. There is very little prospect of all such works being carried out other than over a considerable period of time. I shall inquire concerning the Fitzroy post office in order to ascertain whether it is possible to expedite the work.
– Has the attention of the Postmaster-General been directed to the very difficult features associated with radio reception in the town of Tenterfield and the surrounding district? I think that the name of that town is not unknown to the Minister. If his attention has been brought to this grave disadvantage suffered by the people of the district, will he, when the regional station is being erected at Glen Innes, consider the extension of a low powered station to Tenterfield, so that the people of the district may hear the news of the world, Parliamentary broadcasts, and other programmes?
– I am, of course, well acquainted with the town of Tenterfield. It is a little town near the northern border of New South Wales where Sir Henry Parkes made his famous speech which began the movement for federation and where a few weeks ago there was a ceremony to dedicate the local school of arts where that speech was made. I also remind the honorable member that I represented Tenterfield before he did.
– Order! Will the honorable gentleman come to the question?
– I shall be very pleased to consider the honorable member’s request.
– I should like to ask you, Mr. Speaker, a question for my future guidance. I draw attention to the fact that during question time this morning the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz) asked a question in which he mentioned the name of Mr. Attlee on at least three occasions. Later the honorable member for MacArthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) mentioned the name of one Wally MacArthur, but he was ruled out of order. However, the use of the name of Mr. Attlee was permitted. Which names are honorable members allowed to use and which names are they not allowed to use at question time?
– I heard the honorable member for Darling Downs refer to the Attlee Labour Government. If he used the name Attlee later, I did not notice it. If I overlooked it, I regret the fact.
– Yesterday, I made a statement about ministerial arrangements during the absence through illness of two of my colleagues. On reflection, I have come to the conclusion that it is unreasonable to expect one Minister to deal with both the Department of Trade and Customs and the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. I havenow arranged that, in the absence of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan), the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) shall administer that department.
– I present the report of the Foreign Affairs Committee on the following subject : -
The Committee’s activities and functions.
Report of Public Accounts Committee.
– As Chairman, I present the report of the, Public Accounts Committee on the following subject: -
Eighth Report - Parliamentary procedure in the House of Representatives on the Supply and Appropriation Bills.
Ordered to be printed.
Bill presented by Mr. Menzies, and read a first time.
Mr. MENZIES (Kooyong - Prime
Minister) [10.39]. - by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second, time.
The bill is very largely a formal measure which puts into legislative form what has become almost the established practice in Australia. At the inauguration of the Commonwealth of Australia, the attention of the Australian Government was directed to the necessity to adopt an Australian flag. As a result, an advertisement was published in the Government Gazette which invited the submission of competitive designs for two Australian flags, one for naval and official purposes and the other for the mercantile marine. It is interesting to record that 30,000 entries were received on that occasion, and the judges recommended that the” prize for the winning design should be divided among five persons. They were Mrs. Annie Dorrington, of Perth, Mr. William Stevens, of Auckland, Mr. Leslie J. Hawkins, of Melbourne, Mr. Ivor Evans, of Melbourne, and Mr. E. J. Nuttall, of Melbourne. The design adopted was submitted to His Majesty King EdwardVII. and he was pleased to approve of it as the Australian flag in 1902. However, no legislative action has ever been taken to determine the precise form of the flag or the circumstances of its use, and this bill has been brought down to produce that result.
If honorable members study the schedule to the bill, they will notice that it contains a representation in colour of the Australian National Flag and what is here described and is well known as the Australian Red Ensign. As every honorable member knows,- the flag bears three particular symbols. In the first plane, the Union Jack is included for obvious reasons. Under the Union Jack there is a seven-pointed star. It was a six-pointed star until 1908, when the seventh Doint was added to represent the Australian territories. That star plainly represents the federation. The Southern Cross, which is situated in what is called the fly oil the flag, indicates something that has a broad reference to the sentiment and setting of Australia.
The bill will set out legislatively something that represents common practice and a common view in our country. It declares the Australian Blue Ensign to be the Australian National Flag. It redesignates the Australian Red Ensign to be the Australian marine flag. It gives the Governor-General power over certain matters of detail. For example, the Australian flag from time to time will have upon it some added design for an official purpose. The flag that is used by the Prime Minister of Australia on certain formal occasions has the coat of arms added to it. I have been informed that whenever something is added to the flag, it is defaced. Therefore, there are references in the bill to defacing the flag or permitting defacing of the flag by making some change or addition. Finally the bill preserves the right of any person, if that is necessary, to fly the Union Jack, ft is common practice in Australia, and one that will continue, to have the Union Tack and the Australian National Flag, which includes the Union Jack, both exhibited on notable public occasions. In brief, the bill makes no change but puts into legislative form, in a fashion that I am sure will be acceptable to all members and the nation, provision for the national flag, an indication as to its use, and authority to take steps which are consequential upon the establishment for the first time of the flag, its form, and the right to use it.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of Governor- General’s message):
Motion (by Mr. Menzies) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to make provision for the grant of financial’ assistance to the States in connexion with universities.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Menzies and Sir Arthur Fadden do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Menzies, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is not the first measure to deal with, grants to the States for universities. It seeks to repeal the States Grants (Universities) Act 1951, and, in addition, to provide for benefits over and above those included in that act. Indeed, I might summarize the whole matter, though I shall not finish there, by saying that the prime purpose of the bill is not only to simplify the law on this point but also to double what has been called the second level grant to the universities and to make it apply to 1953 and 1954, so that the measure is to a degree retrospective, the universities finances being operated on the calendar year and not on the financial year.
As honorable members will recall, the Commonwealth, though it has no direct responsibility in these matters, entered the universities field initially in two ways. First, it made grants, to assist .research. They were grants of limited size, but they were of use to the universities. Secondly, it operated the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme arising out of the war, which involved substantial payments of money to the universities. In 1950, the total amount paid to universities under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme was £450,000. By 1951 the total was down to £300,000 as the scheme tapered off. This Government, shortly after it came into office, appointed a committee of inquiry in order to try to discover the true financial position of the universities before it determined what its policy should be. Followins upon the presentation of the report of the committee of inquiry, we formulated propositions and sent them to the State Premiers. They were discussed, and finally there emerged the scheme which is described in the legislation now before the House. The form of the grant is, of course, a grant to the States under section 96 of the Constitution but there are provisions which attach to the grant the condition that it is to be used for these university purposes. The bill and the moneys to be provided under it are a reconciliation of two things. The first of them is our recognition that the universities are not conducted by us; and we do not seek, nor does any Australian Government, to control the way in which the universities in the various States will do their work. At the same time, we know that we have no direct responsibility; but I believe that all honorable members will agree that if the universities are to continue to attract the necessary students and to give to them the necessary high standard of training some relief must be given to them on the financial side. The result of that reasoning was that we began under the original act to make a substantial payment of the order of £1,000,000 which has now risen to approximately £1,500,000 annually.
I can explain the whole matter most simply by inviting honorable members to look at the schedule. “What occurs under the bill is this: First of all are shown the names of the universities to be assisted and these, as it will be seen, include the New South Wales University of Technology and the New England University. The first figure appearing against each of those names, that is the figure in the second column of the schedule, sets out what is described as the qualifying amount, which is described in clause 5 of the bill. The qualifying amount was the total needed to balance the budgets of the universities when this scheme was worked out in 1950. That was taken as a starting point in order to enable certain calculations to be made. The qualifying amount has no direct impact on what provision is made; it is the starting point. The third column sets out what has been called the basie grant, that is the initial grant made to the universities. As honorable members will see, that deals with the universities one by one and comes to a total of £808,5121 That is the basic grant. Then there is a provision which is related to it by the fourth column which is the second level grant, and that grant arises under clause 5 in this way: If the sum of the fees and .State grants received by a university during either of the years 1953 or 1954 exceeds the amount specified in the second column of the schedule, that is the qualifying, amount, then there is payable in respect of that year to the State in which the university is situated an amount equal to one-third of the amount of that excess and, the clause goes on to say, “ an amount equal to the amount specified in the third column of the schedule “. Interpreted in. normal terms, that means that in those circumstances the university through the State will get the basic grant plus a second level grant equal to onethird of the excess over the basic amount in the revenue of the university.
– That is the estimated figure in each case?
– In the fourth column, we set out the second level grant in maximum terms; that is to say, it is not to exceed those sums. The grant may, in fact, be a smaller sum, depending entirely on the extent to which the fees and State grants to the university in the State concerned have raised the amount beyond the basic amount. In the fifth column of the schedule, reference is made to provision for residential colleges, which were included in our scheme in 1951. The amounts set out therein ‘are not additional to any prior amounts, hut are included in the basic grant in the third column. I want to make that matter quite clear. These are not variable sums; they are included in the basic grant in the third column. The variable sum is the second level grant, which is intended to match, by the method described here, what is happening in the development of the revenues from State sources and from the student sources of the university concerned.
That is, in brief substance, the purpose of the bill. Opportunity has been taken to make it a good deal less complicated than the legislation of 1951. Honorable members will see, if they care to compare the bill with the principal act, that the measure now before the House is in fairly simple terms, and that it does enable some developing assistance to the universities of the States to go forward, particularly as we have, as an extra way of helping them, gone beyond the originally intended second level grant, and doubled it in respect of 1953 and 1954. I am the first to admit that this provision does not solve the problem of the universities. Far from it. They still li:ive very great problems. But this provision does represent an earnest endeavour to make some effective contribution to the solution of their financial problems. I am sure that the bill will have the warm support of all honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 19th November (vide page 359), on motion by Sir Earle Page -
That the bill be now rend a second time.
Upon which Mr. Allan Fraser hadmoved, by-way of amendment -
That all words after “That” be left out ( vide page 230 ) .
– I am sure that this bill is of great interest, not only to honorable members, but also to the people of Australia generally. The Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), in his second-reading speech, described the contents of the bill, and discussed various health matters. In my opinion, this bill rather belies some of the statements made by Government supporters about socialist health schemes. Honorable gentlemen opposite have described the Chifley Labour Government’s health scheme as -a socialist scheme, and refer to the present scheme as a non-socialistic scheme. Frequent references have also been made to the welfare state. I must confess that I am completely ignorant of the objectives of socialism if this bill, which makes provision for the health of the people, is not ‘ a socialist measure. This legislation bears out statements that I have made from time to time that members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, although they strongly oppose socialist measures, ultimately adopt them and use them for vote-catching purposesat elections. The prominence given tothis bill, and the adulation expressed by Government supporters of the Minister for Health, are in strange contrast to their objections to socialist measuresor the welfare state.
Like the parson’s egg, this bill is good in parts. Opposition members are in< agreement with some parts of it, and wish them to be given effect. Whilst we agree with what the Government is trying to do in other parts of the bill, we do not agree with the methods that it has adopted. We are particularly concerned with paragraph 3 of the amendment of the Opposition which stipulates that payments of Commonwealth hospital benefits or medical benefits shall not be conditional upon a patient being a contributor to a hospitals fund or a medical benefit fund. We contend that every person in the Commonwealth, particularly if he is a taxpayer, has a right to receive these benefits. I am not a constitutional lawyer, and I have not made a study of constitutional aspects of this matter, but I question very much whether any government has a right to make disbursements from revenue conditional upon the payment of contributions to some outside organization. That opinion, I am sure, is shared by a large proportion of the people. We object also to the flat-rate contribution system. We contend that contributions to any social services fund should be made according to ability to pay. The Government itself admits the justice of that principal in a part of this very bill. The Minister- for Health has spoken in glowing terms of the scheme under which pensioners are entitled to free medical and hospital treatment. That concession, I remind the House, is available to all people who receive any pension payment whatever. In other words the scheme applies equally to the person whose only source of income is his pension, and to the person who draws a pension of only 5s. a week and earns as much as £10 15s. a week.
I shall not repeat what the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) has said so well. My object is to deal with certain phases of this measure as they will affect the individual. First, let us consider the assertion that the bill does something that Labour’s legislation did not do. Under Labour’s National Health Service Bill introduced in 1948 by the then Minister for Health, Senator McKenna, the Government was to pay 50 per cent, of medical expenses and the patient was to pay 50 per cent. However, such payment by the Government was to be conditional upon the adherence by doctors to a schedule of charges. That legislation was bitterly opposed by the then Opposition. Honorable members opposite on that occasion asked why the Government should seek to tell doctors how much they could charge. This bill does not specify the fees that shall be charged by doctors, but there is a schedule which prescribes payments by the Government ranging from 6s. up to £11 5s. Surely that indicates a recognition by the Government and by the British Medical Association of a probable scale of charges. [ understand that the combined government and insurance fund payments in respect of medical expenses will approximate 90 per cent, of such expense. The Minister for Health nods his head in agreement. Therefore the position is that, whereas under Labour’s legislation the Government was to provide 50 per cent, of medical expenses, under this bill the Government will provide 45 per cent, of such expenses, and a further 45 per cent, will be paid from the insurance fund. In other words, in the eyes of honorable members opposite whereas a 50 per cent, government contribution is socialistic, a 45 per cent, government contribution is not.
– The patient will get 90 per cent.
– That is so, but I am speaking of the Government’s contribution. The 45 per cent, that will come from the insurance fund will merely be the repayment of contributions. It is rather remarkable that the Government is satisfied with flat-rate contributions to insurance funds. The contribution is the same whether the contributor requires a lot of attention or whether he requires very little.
– There are varying rates of premiums.
– The different societies have varying rates, but the variation is not great because the Minister has to be satisfied that the promised benefits can be provided for the charge that is made. For instance, if one society were to offer to undertake for a contribution of 6d. a week the provision of benefits for which other societies found it necessary to charge ls. a week, the Minister would have to satisfy himself that the contribution of 6d. a week would in fact be sufficient to ensure the payment of the benefits. If he were not so satisfied, he would not approve of the society.
– My point is that each society has varying rates for different benefits.
– I am speaking of medical benefits and hospital benefits at the moment. The various societies have practically the same rates for those benefits. I cannot understand just how officials of registered organizations who will be charged with the administration of this scheme will work. The bill has two schedules and many people do not know just what those two schedules mean. Clause 14 states -
Where a contributor incurs medical expense? in respect of a professional service specified in the First Schedule to this Act and under the rules of the registered medical benefits organization to the medical benefits fund of which the contributor pays contributions the contributor is untitled to a fund benefit equal to or greater than the amount specified in that schedule in relation to that service, Commonwealth benefit of the amount so specified i.payable subject to and in accordance with thi’ provisions of this Part.
I can understand that. If I belong to an approved society I can obtain 6s. from the society and 6s. from the Government in respect of each visit that I make to a doctor. Similarly, if I had an operation. I can obtain from the Government and from the society the amount prescribed in the first schedule. But clause 15 contains the following provision : - (1.) Where a contributor incurs medical expenses in respect of a professional service specified in the Second Schedule to this Act, Commonwealth benefit of the amount specified in that Schedule in relation to that professional service is, subject to this Part, payable, whether or not the rules of the registered medical benefits organization to the median benefits fund of which the contributor pays contributions provide that the contributor is entitled to payment of a fund benefit in respect of /medical expenses in respect of that professional service.
All this boils down to the fact that, unless the rules of the society provide that the contributor may receive a fund benefit under that schedule, he will receive only the Commonwealth benefit. Many people do not realize that. I have been connected with schemes of this kind throughout my life. My father was elected secretary of a friendly society organization in 1S89, and since that time he, my brother, myself and my son in turn have held< that post continuously. Therefore, [ can rightly claim to have had a lifelong experience of medical and pharmaceutical benefit schemes. I understand the subject from A to Z, and therefore I am acquainted with the difficulties that will arise under the Government’s scheme.
The Minister has told us that doctors are co-operating in the scheme. Generally speaking, no doubt, that is true, but there are many instances in which doctors neglect their obligations to their patients. When a patient consults a doctor on a number of occasions, all that the doctor is required to do, for the purposes of the scheme, is to supply the patient with a certificate along these lines: “William Jones had four consultations with ‘me from the 1st December to the 15th December “. That information could be supplied on the account which, in this case, would amount to £3. When the receipted account is submitted to .the registered organization, its officers examine it, see that there have been four consultations and that’ £3 has been paid, and decide to pay £2 8s. to the patient, which represents 12s. for each consultation. Unfortunately, many doctors fail to supply the detailed information that is required. Only a fortnight ago my daughter came to me and said, “Dad, what do we do about this bill ? It should show how many visits I paid to the doctor, but it merely states “ To professional attendance, £3 15s”. It does not say whether the charge is for one visit or for five visits”. The registered society cannot pay the full amount of benefit due unless the number of visits is specified on the account. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) has referred to the long delays that occur in the payment of benefits. I believe that these delays are due largely to the failure of doctors to present their accounts in the proper form.
It should be impressed upon the British Medical Association that its members must supply details in their accounts in accordance ‘with the Government’s wishes. If the society accepted the assurance of my daughter that she had paid five visits to the doctor, and paid her the benefit of £3 to which she is entitled, the Commonwealth would refuse to pay the full amount of its share because of the absence of the necessary particulars.
The grand secretary of a big friendly society recently told me that his organization experienced even worse difficulties than that in connexion with surgical operations. He said that many of the accounts submitted to the society by contributors did not state the classification of the surgical operation that had been performed and that, if it sought to obtain the particulars from the doctor concerned, the doctor invariably replied that the matter had nothing to do with him and should be referred to the patient. There would be no difficulty if every doctor specified on each account the nature of the operation that had been performed. Doctors know that patients cannot obtain benefits unless they have that information. I have difficulty in understanding the purpose of the two schedules. For example, I refer honorable members to item 54 in the First Schedule. This schedule appears under the following heading: - .
Commonwealth benefits for professional services in respect of which fund benefits are also payable by registered medical benefits organizations.
Item 54 is, “ Amputation of breast - simple “. The amount of Commonwealth benefit specified in the schedule for such an operation is £5 12s. 6d. An equal amount is payable by the registered organization, which makes a total benefit of £11 5s. I refer honorable members now to an item in the Second Schedule. This schedule lists -
Commonwealth benefits for additional professional services.
There is no reference to any fund benefit. Item 532 in this schedule is, “Amputation of breast (radical) “. The amount of Commonwealth benefit specified, is £11 5s. For the operation specified in item 54 in the First Schedule, the patient is entitled to equal payments by the registered society and by the Commonwealth totalling £11 5s. For the operation specified in item 532 in the Second Schedule, the patient can obtain a benefit from the Government only, unless the registered society, under its rules, provide for it to pay an additional benefit.
– The fund benefit is payable if the patient is insured for the optional section.
– That is what I have said. Everybody in my family, including even my grandchildren, is insured under this scheme, and I know just how it operates. I do not pay any optional contribution, and I understand that the society will pay the benefit under both schedules, but unless its rules provide for payments of the amounts in the Second Schedule it is only liable under the bill for the First Schedule payments.
– This arrangement was adopted at the suggestion of the friendly societies themselves in order to provide for people in the lowest income groups.
– The doctor should specify the type of operation by referring to the number of the item in the schedules. If he merely sends the patient a bill for the amputation of a breast, how does the patient know whether it was a simple operation or a radical operation?
– The doctor will provide that information.
– The co-operation of doctors is essential. Unless each doctor includes in his accounts particulars of the services that he has rendered, patients will not be able to obtain benefits in accordance with the schedules. Something should be done to prevent such difficulties from arising.
Misleading statements have been made in the course of this debate by various honorable members on the Government side of the House. We should take great care to ensure that the people shall not be wrongly informed of the details of this scheme. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) misrepresented the facts in relation to chronic ailments. No doubt the honorable gentleman spoke in good faith, but it is clear that he was ignorant of the facts.
He told the House that he had been informed by a friendly society that people who had been contributing to the society for medical benefits prior to the introduction of the Government’s scheme would be eligible for benefit in respect of chronic illnesses. That is true. The society of which I am a member announced, when it joined the Government’s scheme, that members who had been contributing to its medical fund previously would be entitled to transfer to the new scheme regardless of ‘their age and the nature of their complaints. However, other people who suffer from chronic ailments are not eligible for benefit from the registered society under the scheme in respect of those ailments. There are . people throughout Australia who never were eligible to join a friendly society because, even from their earliest youth, they were unable to pass the medical examination for entry to such societies. The societies will pay 6s. a visit to the doctor only in respect of complaints that are not of a chronic nature. When the Department of Repatriation sends a card to a local medical officer in relation to the treatment of an ex-member of the forces it points out specifically that the exmember is entitled to treatment for certain war-caused disabilities but that he is not entitled to treatment for a chronic condition not attributable to his war service. I emphasize that persons with chronic complaints who join societies are not eligible to receive refunds of 6s. .a visit from the society in connexion with those complaints. Furthermore, they cannot receive the 6s. government subsidy unless they pay full subscription rates to an approved society. This is where the Opposition comes to grips with the Government. The payment of the government subsidy should not be conditional on membership of an approved society or a registered body. I hope that the Government will reconsider this provision. The bill before the > House is designed to confirm by statute what ha3 been done already. We believe that, in the case of sufferers from chronic complaints, approved societies should be authorized to refund to the patient 12s. in respect of each visit, and that the Government should reimburse the societies on that basis. That would overcome the present position. The societies cannot, unless the rates of contributions payable by persons in normal health are increased, accept liability in respect of chronic cases. However, the Minister has stated that one society is prepared to do so. I have had considerable actuarial experience in these matters. If the Government is sincere in its expressed desire to help sufferers from chronic complaints - and no members of the community are more in need of assistance than they - it should adopt the suggestion that I have made.
I have said that this bill is like the curate’s egg. In my opinion, a good part of its relates to the provision of medical benefits to pensioners. That is something that I believe is very good indeed. However, this provision did not take its rise from a plank in the platforms of the Government parties. It has been a part of Labour’s policy for many years, and I am glad that effect has been given to it. Some supporters of the Government have compared the expenditure during the last financial year on the provision of pharmaceutical .benefits with the expenditure under that heading during the last year of the Chifley Government’s term of office. I remind the House that not even £100,000 would have been expended by the former Labour Government for this purpose had not some members of the British Medical Association defied that organization. It will be recalled that the British Medical Association directed its members to return, unopened to the Department of Health packages containing the official forms. Fortunately, some members of the organization - at least two or three in my electorate - rebelled and signed the forms in order to enable the pensioners to receive free medicine. Although the Minister derived some pleasure from the fact that the Government had been able to reach agreement with the British Medical Association, the Minister knows as well as I do that that association is still opposed as strongly as ever 1 it was to accepting money from the Government other than in relation to special cases, such as pensioners and a few others. The doctors consider that other members of the community should become eligible for benefits only through mem- bership of an approved society. When the previous Labour Government asked the British Medical Association to agree to a schedule of charges it was told that that could not be done. I had hoped that the Government would withdraw this bill, because it rescinds certain regulations. That will result in a lessening of the power of the Government to do certain things, because legislative provisions can be altered only by subsequent legislation. I consider that the power to do certain things by regulation should be retained.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to speak to the amendment, but before doing so I should like to compliment the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) on his practical and constructive speech. It was a pleasure to listen to the honorable member. I cannot say the same of other speeches from the Opposition side of the House. I believe that the amendment has been moved as a result of the bursting of a long pentup abscess of envy, caused by the success of this Government’s health scheme. I shall deal seriatim with the proposals contained in the amendment. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Eraser) made a very bitter personal attack on me. Although there is no need for me to defend my public record, I direct the attention of the honorable member to a statement that Mr. Curtin made about me after I had resigned the leadership of the Australian Country party. It was one of the most gracious and appreciative tributes that had ever been paid to me. The people of this country know about my constructive efforts pf the past, some of which are enshrined in the Constitution as well as in the statutes of this country. It has been my experience that such unwarranted personal attacks usually recoil on the heads of those who have made them. The amendment has been moved by the Opposition in an attempt to destroy all the progress that has been made in relation to health matters during the last four years, and to bring about a reversion to the chaotic condition in relation to health and medical services that existed in 1949. It would appear that the suggestions contained in the amendment have emanated from a person possessed of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality. He is a mixture of Saint Simeon Stylites, who manufactured his theories while contemplating his navel when sitting on a pillar in the desert, and Kip Van Winkle, who slept for twenty years and did not know what went on during that time. The attack on the bill by the Opposition has not been directed at the principles of the measure. It has been directed mainly at machinery provisions, many of which were requested by the friendly societies to enable them to carry the national health scheme into the ranks of the lowest paid people in this country. The Government decided to adopt a contributory system in order to achieve that objective. Our national health, scheme has earned the commendation of the other countries. No other nation has been able to evolve a health scheme on a contributory basis that gives so great a cover as this scheme.
Let me deal with the suggestions made in the amendment moved by the Opposition. It is suggested, first, that we should establish and maintain diagnostic and health centres. That suggestion proves the truth of my assertion that in this matter the Opposition is like Rip Van Winkle. Diagnostic centres have been established in Australia for the last 34 years. This continent is studded with them. There are diagnostic centres in Townsville, Albury, Bendigo, Lismore, Tamworth and many other places. The centres are, and have been, of great value to the people of this country. Let me direct the attention of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro to clause 9 of the bill, which states that the GovernorGeneral may provide, or arrange for the provision of, diagnostic and therapeutic services for medical practitioners and hospitals. The part of the amendment that urges the establishment of diagnostic centres is typical of the Hip Van Winkle approach to this matter made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. He does not know that diagnostic centres are in existence and that further provision is made for them in the bill.
The amendment refers to the establishment of health centres. We heard a lot about health centres five or tcn years ago. When I was in England, recently, I discussed the British health scheme with the British Minister for Health and officials. It had been said that it was considered that about 20,000 health centres were required in Great Britain, and that they were regarded as indispensable. I asked how many had been established there, and the reply was that one would be finished this year, and that two might be in operation next year. The British Government is spending £515,000,000 a year on health services. If, with such an expenditure, Great Britain has not yet been able to establish more than one health centre, Heaven knows how long it would be before Ave established a sufficent number of health centres in this country to be of much value to us.
Dr. Evatt interjecting,
– While the Labour party was in power in Great Britain, not a single health centre was established there, and by the end of this year the government now in power will have established only one. Therefore, I say the reference in the amendment to the establishment of health centres is only a pious expression of hope. The question has arisen in Great Britain and New Zealand whether health centres are really wanted by the people. As the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) has pointed out, what people really want is not a place where they can see six or ten doctors, but a family doctor in whom they have confidence. I say that there are no better doctors in the world than the family doctors of Australia.
The second paragraph of the amendment refers to the dental care of children under sixteen years of age. Honorable members who were formerly members of State parliaments have pointed out that a system for the dental care of children has been in operation in the1 States for many years. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro said during his speech that certain documents relating to a plan for free dental treatment for children were on the files of the Department of Health. I am not a muck-raker, and I do not look through the files of a department to see if there is anything in them that can be used to attack a previous Minister..
But when the honorable member made that statement, I thought I had better look through the files of my department to see whether the documents to which he referred were on them. I have examined the flies, and what I have found on them destroys the argument that the honorable member has advanced. They show that a Labour Minister for Health said it would be impossible for many years to implement a scheme for the provision of free dental treatment for children, -because it would require the services of 1,700 more dentists than were in Australia at that time. He said it would be hopeless to attempt to give effect to such a scheme then. I have discussed this problem with the president of the Australasian Dental Association and the president of the American Dental Society. They are quite satisfied with what we are doing in connexion with the dental care of children with the number of dentists in Australia. In one school in Canberra, 400 children are being treated with applications of fluorine and another 400 are being treated by ordinary dental methods. The object of the experiment is to discover the best way of protecting children’s teeth. Wc want to know whether it would be best to put stuff into their teeth or put it into their blood stream so that it will act through their system. “We are studying this problem and acting in conformity with the advice of the finest dental authorities in the world.
The amendment urges the provision of medical training and research facilities and a system of regional hospitals. During the 1930’s, I established the National Health and Medical Research Council. The Commonwealth grant to that body in 1951-52 was more than double the grant for 1948-49.
– What are the figures?
– Under the Chifley Government, the grant was about £55,000 a year, and at the present time it, is, I think, £144,000. By establishing the National Health and Medical Research Council in the 1930’s. I took action to co-ordinate the activities of all medical research organizations in Australia. The council is a body that can give valuable advice on health matters. Some of it3 reports are world famous. Dr.
Clements’s report on nutrition in Australia has been acclaimed as an epochmaking achievement in that field of activity. The Opposition has suggested, in effect, that we should establish an organization that has been in’ existence for about twenty years.
Let me deal with medical training. It is true there is a need for an improvement of medical training facilities. This week, as I said in my second-reading speech on the bill, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and I met in Canberra the deans of the faculties of medicine of the two largest universities in Australia and the heads of the big teaching hospitals. We discussed with ‘them the best methods of solving the problem of providing adequate medical training facilities. One of the difficulties with which we are confronted in this connexion is that the number of medical students has increased enormously. Many of the medical students undergoing training at the present time are financed under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme. That is a good thing, but as the Federal Government asked the universities to accept 300 or 400 more medical students, surely it should have done something to assist them to increase their training facilities. But the previous Labour Government did nothing in that connexion. To-day, the Prime Minister introduced a bill that is, so to speak, the second instalment of this Government’s programme to increase the training and teaching facilities of universities throughout Australia. We have done these things, ,but the Rip Van Winkle attitude of the Opposition is revealed by the fact that the amendment urges us to do them.
– You admit that some of them have not been done.
– They are on the way.
– What is wrong with proposing them?
– -What is wrong with telling the Government that it has done a good job and that the Opposition will help the Government to make its scheme successful? We need a stable health policy which will remain in operation, not one which will have to be altered from time to time.
The amendment proposed by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has provided for substantially increased rates of hospital benefits, the payment of mileage charges for doctors and the cure or relief of mental illness. I venture to say that the arrangement that was made between the last Labour Government and the States for the payment of hospital benefits was one of the poorest arrangements made in the history of any country. The Labour Government told the State governments that, as the hospitals were already receiving about 6s. a day in patients’ fees, the Australian Government would pay that amount and no more. But the Government would only grant that amount if the State governments would change their policy in relation to the means test. There would have been some justification Cor the Australian Government imposing that condition if it had offered to pay 12s. a day or 18s. a day, an amount that would have borne a closer relationship to the actual cost of caring for patients, which was then about £1 4s. 3d. a day. But the Labour Government gave the States only 25 per cent, of that amount. Later, when the cost of caring for patients rose to £1 17s. a day, the Labour Government gave the States 8s. a day, which represented about 20 per cent, of the total cost. This Government is paying a minimum of 8s. a day to the State governments in respect of all hospital patients, whether insured or not. If the States are prepared to demonstrate to our satisfaction that they really intend to increase their hospital revenue, this Government will pay them 12s. a day. The result of State policy is that the Victorian hospitals are receiving 18s. a day and the New South “Wales hospitals are receiving 24s. a day in respect of each patient. Mr. Cahill, the Premier of New South “Wales, ;md Mr. O’Sullivan, the Minister for Health in that State, acted very wisely in accepting the scheme of this Government. Mr. O’Sullivan said recently that hos>pital revenue in New South Wales had already increased by £2,500,000 as a result of the implementation of this scheme. It will be found that the financial position of all hospitals will improve during this year. I think that, under this scheme, the hospitals in Western Australia are receiving at least 21s. a day for each patient.
As a result of this Government’s health policy every hospital in Australia is getting out of debt. The Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney, the biggest hospital in Australia, threatened to close 300 beds eighteen months ago because it could not obtain any more accommodation from its bank. Dr. Schlink told me a week or two ago that the hospital’s accounts showed a surplus for the first time in its history, and 88 per cent, of the patients were insured. Yet, the Opposition advocates that these benefits should be wiped out because they conflict with the ideology of honorable members opposite. Who cares for their ideology when people cannot find hospital beds, when proper equipment cannot be provided for sick people, and when hospitals cannot be built? People want to have their lives saved and the Government is attempting to save them. It seems to me that every action of the Chifley Government in connexion with its health scheme was a niggardly one.
Let us consider the case of mental homes. The late Mr. Chifley called together the representatives of the seven governments of Australia, with total revenues approaching £2,000,000,000 a year, and asked them how much they were collecting in fees in respect of patients in mental homes. Victoria was collecting ls. 2d., New South Wales ls. and other States 8d. and lOd. a patient a day. Mr. Chifley told the States that he would give them those amounts if they did not collect a fee from any one. When the present Government came to office I asked the State Premiers what they thought of this arrangement. They said that it was the worst arrangement in the world. I told them that I would free them from it as soon as they wished. Mr. Hanlon, who was then Premier of Queensland and who had also been Minister for Health in the Queensland Government, agreed that the problem of the mentally sick could not be tackled by the Australian Government’s paying about 4 per cent, of the total cost of the upkeep of mental homes. He said that it was necessary to prepare a long-range scheme for the construction of decent buildings where mental patients would not be huddled together and where doctors could perform now operations such as leucotomy.
I found that in Western Australia the friends of the poor unfortunate inmates of mental institutions stopped visiting them as soon as they no longer had to contribute to the cost of their maintenance. Many people in such places are mentally deranged only for two or three months in the year and the friends of many of them do not come to see them once the personal responsibility has been removed. Callan Park was an old place when I was a boy. The mental institutions at Gladesville and Hobart and in Western Australia also are very old. It has been to the shame of Australia that its governments have not proceeded to provide decently for the mentally ill. The present Government has decided to deal with the problem under a joint arrangement in an endeavour to bring an element of decency into the system for the care of the insane. The Government has dealt with this problem in a way that any one with a medical background who desired to ameliorate the conditions of these people would deal with it. Under the health scheme of the Labour Government half of the fee charged by a doctor for visiting a patient’s home was paid by the Government. At that time one such fee was 10s. 6d. so that the Government would have contributed 5s. 3d. of that amount. But, under the scheme of this Government, the insured person receives 12s. or 13s. fid. in respect of a visit to his home by a medical practitioner. People can become eligible to receive that amount by paying only a very small contribution to a fund. In the health regulations of 1948 the mileage rate chargeable by a doctor in visiting a patient was set down as ls. 8d. a mile. The Government was prepared to give half of that amount, which was lOd. That lOd. a mile that was payable by the Government was the only mileage that the doctor could be sure of receiving. Yet one cannot obtain a taxi for lOd. a mile in a country district. Honorable members opposite have said that the Government’s scheme has not made provision for pensioners. The fact is that the bill provides for the payment of mileage at the rate of 4s. a mile in respect of a visit by a doctor to a pensioner.
The amendment moved by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro indicates that the whole of the Commonwealth health scheme should be financed out of taxation. I have carefully investigated the schemes of other countries that are paid for from taxation, and I have discovered that those schemes are expensive out of all proportion to the benefits that they confer, and, moreover, are tending towards inefficiency. In the” United Kingdom, for instance, it was estimated that the national health scheme would cost abour, £200,000,000 a year. At present it is costing at the rate of £515,000,000 a year. The New Zealand scheme was estimated to cost about £2,000,000, but the cost increased to £11,000,000 within a few years. The population of the United Kingdom has certainly not increased by more than about 1,000,000 in the last five years, but the cost of the health scheme in that country has increased out of all proportion to the number of new participants. Surely that indicates that a system paid for out of taxation is inefficient and hopelessly expensive. Only last year the British Government decided that it should give a further £40,000,000 to British doctors in respect of retrospective or additional payments for their part in the national health scheme. Nevertheless, the people of Britain are not now able to get proper medical treatment because, under the rules and payments of the health scheme, the doctors are not able to devote sufficient time to each patient.
My attention has been drawn to the fact that in Britain many person? with abdominal complaints have been examined while standing up fully dressed. How can the people get proper attention under such circumstances? Also, panel doctors in Great Britain are dealing with many more persons than they can properly handle efficiently, and persons with serious diseases cannot get the quick and proper diagnosis and treatment that they need. The only way that a national health scheme can be put into effect to the advantage of the people and. the nation, is the way in which this Government has introduced its system of benefits. Under our scheme we estimate that we shall pay to the doctors amounts that arc within only 10 or 15 per cent, of the fees that are at present paid by patients. Honorable members opposite have stated repeatedly that aged persons are not covered by the Government’s scheme. I point out to them that every benefit organization in Australia has removed the ago limit from those who participate, in it, and, therefore, aged persons are covered. Moreover, persons suffering from chronic diseases arc gradually being covered by the Commonwealth benefits through our approved organizations. Of course, it will take some time for the organizations to cover all chronic sufferers, but the Government will not register an organization unless it guarantees that any participating member who develops a chronic disease sifter he has been insured with the organization will be regarded as having developed an acute sickness, and will receive the full Commonwealth and medical hospital benefits.
– They must accept it, because no organization will bc registered unless it does so. I recently received a statement from the Manchester Unity Oddfellows, which is one of the biggest organizations in the country and has been operating as a benefit society for the people for more than 100 years. That association has stated that as a result of its experience, and because of the enormous number of people that it covers, it has found that it does not need to exclude from benefits people with pre-existing illnesses. Surely that statement gives the lie to attacks made by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey). The fund has also informed me that full benefits are extended to persons who are accepted as groups, and I remind honorable members that a group can consist of as few as twenty members. The Government has had to work out its scheme step by step, and it lias to continue working it out. Previously the friendly and medical benefit societies of Australia covered, for medical benefits, perhaps 1,000,000 people, but now they cover between 2,000,000 and 3,000,000 as well as their dependants.’ Indeed, they are finding it difficult to train sufficient clerks to deal with the great volume of new business that is passing through their organizations.
Instead of attacking the Government’s health scheme, the Opposition should praise us for having successfully negotiated a number of serious hurdles, and for having finally evolved a practical benefits scheme in the interests of the people’. Doctors and societies are not making pots of money as has been suggested, because the insurance system has been worked out on an actuarial basis, and they can be paid only what the Commonwealth Actuary considers is reasonable. All our approved organizations must build up their funds, and as they do so they will be able to correct anomalies and extend their benefits or relax their rules. They will be able to do that because the Government has informed them that as long as they extend to the people the benefits that are insisted upon by the Government, they may provide any other benefits that they find they are able to offer.
I pay a tribute to the friendly societies, and a special tribute to Mr. Eade whohas been managing the medical benefits section of the Manchester Unity Oddfellows. Unfortunately, that gentleman has been ill for the last few weeks, otherwise he would have been here to listen to the debate. He has done magnificent work in his own organization, and has been trying to weld the views of other organisations into a common policy to enable theCommonwealth to ensure that the people will get a service which will be efficient and relatively cheap, and which will also enable the high standard of medical practice in Australia to be maintained alongthe lines mentioned by the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) and the high standard of pharmaceutical practice along the lines mentioned by the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth). If the Opposition wants advice it goes to experts in their particular field, such as union secretaries, lawyers and so on. When this Government wanted adviceor. medical matters it approached the experts in medical matters, who are the doctors. I suggest that was the only logical and reasonable thing to do. We went to those who were carrying out medical practice, and discussed the health scheme with them; but that by no means indicates that we took all the advice that they gave to us. The Go vern ment attempted to do the best that it possibly could in the interests of the people and the taxpayers, aud especially in the interests of sick persons.
– The Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) has made a most extraordinary speech. He has spoken for a second time in this debate, and under the guise of dealing with the Opposition’s amendments he has made observations on general matters mentioned in this bill. He commenced his speech with a personal attack on the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Eraser). Indeed, the Minister thinks he is a chartered libertine in this House. He hardly ever answers a question on health matters without offensiveness-
Government supporters interjecting,
– I shall deal with the members of the Australian Country party who are interjecting, as I proceed with my speech.
Government supporters interjecting,
– Order ! I must ask honorable members to maintain order. If they do not do so I shall have to take certain action which I shall be very reluctant to take.
– Honorable members of the Australian Country party who are so audible to-day, but who are so seldom here when important matters are discussed, consider themselves to be the defenders of social services. However, it should be remembered that they are members of a party that tried to prevent the National Parliament from obtaining power over social services. The opponents to that particular referendum also included the Minister for Health.
– I suggested that the then Labour Government could ask for power over health matters, hut that Government refused to accede to my request.
– The Minister now claims that he was in favour of this Parliament having power over social services, but both he and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) stated in their referendum campaign speeches of 1946 that the then Labour Government’s proposal that this Parliament should be given power over social services should be rejected. The Treasurer said -
The Country party is strongly opposed to granting to this Government thu power that it now seeks. Consequently, we advise the people to vote “ No “ to the three questions.
The three questions were, first, that power should bo given, to the Commonwealth Parliament over social services, secondly, that power should be given to institute an organized marketing system for primary products, and, thirdly, that power should be given to legislate on industrial employment. The supporters of the Australian Country party said, “ Vote against the organized marketing proposal “. Our primary industries, particularly the wheat industry, are in a most dangerous position to-day hecause of the absence of that power. Yet, the men. who said “ Vote against it “ are now parading as the leaders of Australia. They said “Vote ‘No’” to all those proposals.
Mr. Eric J. Harrison interjecting,
– I do not think that the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) told the people to vote “ No “ on the social services question, but it is certain that some members of the Liberal party told the people to vote “ No “ to that question, also. This bill illustrates the sham, humbug and hypocrisy of the Minister for Health. He commenced his speech to-day with a reference of a pathological kind to the speech of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro.He has held the health portfolio for the greater part of a generation, but what has he done to produce a national health scheme? I suggest that he has done nothing. The people of the country should understand the attitude of the Australian Country party in this matter. That party told the people not to give to the Commonwealth Parliament power to deal with social services.
The Minister for Health has claimed that the Chifley Government did nothing in connexion with this great problem of national health. Although he complained of criticism of himself, he slurred the British scheme, despite the fact that a majority of medical practitioners in England have accepted that scheme and consider that it is working smoothly. Why does the right honorable gentleman slander every one else and object to criticism of himself? He went to The Hague and made a speech of a political character in which he attacked the Australian Labour party. Never before was there such a speech as that made by the Minister in moving the second reading of this bill. It contains not a single reference to the detailed application of the national health scheme. It is merely a series of extravagant assertions about the success of the scheme. The Minister has refused to face up to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro although that amendment contains proposals of a positive nature.
I wish to sum up the action which the Chifley Government took to place national health in this country upon a proper foundation. First, it established at the Sydney University a chair of child health for the training of specialists in children’s diseases and for the promotion of research. Secondly, it established a unit of industrial hygiene to train medical practitioners as industrial hygienists Thirdly, it established the great principle of public hospital benefits. Nothing can detract from that achievement. Although the Chifley Government received little co-operation from those from whom cooperation might have been expected, it achieved something in the field of national health. Fourthly, it established private hospital benefits. Fifthly, it established mental hospital benefits, whereby patients and their relatives were relieved of the obligation to pay for treatment in mental institutions. Sixthly, it provided unemployment and sickness benefits for the first time in the history of this country. Those were positive achievements which the Minister for Health completely disregarded in his secondreading speech. He apparently believes that nothing of that kind had been accom plished until he became Minister for Health. I do not know the medical term to describe such a lack of knowledge. The Minister has been most insulting in his references to honorable members on this side of the House, such as his comment about Rip Van Winkle. He has been guilty of failing to give credit to his predecessors. He has never given credit to Senator McKenna, who was Minister for Health in the Chifley Government. Indeed, there is a degree of malevolence in his attitude towards his predecessors, despite the fact that they endeavoured to establish schemes which would have ‘been even more satisfactory than those introduced by himself.
The seventh positive scheme introduced by the Chifley Government was the promotion, at Commonwealth expense, of a plan to eradicate tuberculosis in Australia. That plan included the provision of allowances to sufferers from the disease. Not only has the Minister failed to give credit to his political opponents in his references to this subject, but, as the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has proved, he has actually claimed that it was he who initiated this plan.
The Chifley Government’s national health scheme included a wide range of pharmaceutical benefits, but that scheme broke down because medical practitioners would not sign prescriptions so that the patients whom they were treating could obtain medicines which would be paid for by the Commonwealth. The medical profession said that the scheme amounted to industrial or civil conscription. However, the present Chief Justice of Australia, Sir Owen Dixon, whose judgment should be studied by honorable members opposite, derided that point of view. Even if it were legally sound to take that attitude, the doctors were not being asked to prescribe the use of medicines and drugs which they would not have prescribed otherwise. They were asked to prescribe in accordance with a wide, varied and modern formulary. They were required merely to write prescriptions on a certain form and thus enable patients to obtain the medicines and drugs for nothing. But the medical practitioners would not do that. They said, in effect, that if they did so they would be recognizing the wisdom of the Government.
No one has a higher opinion of this great profession than I have, but.it is controlled by a few individuals in the central council of the British Medical Association, and the medical practitioners obey that council. That is what the honorable member for Eden-Monaro meant when he referred to the need to democratize the profession so that the rank-and-file members might exercise control. Dozens and dozens of medical men have told me that they really did not want’ to obey the dicta given by their centra! organization in connexion with the Chifley Government legislation. Looking back, it is almost incredible to think that because the law required doctors to write on a simple form prescriptions for their patients so that the patients might obtain certain benefits thereby, the introduction of the scheme was so long delayed. In my opinion that was a very bad thing from the point of view of the medical profession and also of the people. I do not think that the refusal to co-operate, represented the true attitude of the majority of medical practitioners.
A scheme of medical benefits was promulgated by the Chifley Government immediately prior to the general elections in 1949. Of course, the present Minister for Health has not operated that scheme fully, but the present scheme is based on that which was introduced by the previous Government. The final achievement to which I wish to refer was the free provision of immunizing agents against diphtheria and whooping cough, and the establishment of rehabilitation centres for disabled civilians. Nobody has claimed that those schemes covered the whole ground of national health or that they were perfect, but they meant that, for the first time, a move had been made towards treating health as a national problem. In order to do so, and to obtain the requisite power, it was first of all necessary for the Chifley Government to secure an amendment of the Constitution. The Constitution is now in a satisfactory condition in that respect. The Australian Government now has power to legislate in respect of the’ provision of pharmaceutical, sickness and hospital benefits, and medical and dental services, but not so as to authorize any form of civil conscription. That is a wide power.
As I stated in my opening remarks, the Australian Country party and many supporters of the Liberal party opposed the granting of that power. If their views had prevailed in 1946, nothing could have been done to provide a. national health scheme. Even those portions of the Menzies Government scheme which have been successful and which we all welcome, despite the abuses which they allow, could not have been operated without such power. Why does not the Minister give credit to the pioneer work of members of the previous Government? The amendment of the honorable member for EdenMonaro, which, contains positive proposals, has not been dealt with effectively by the Minister. Is it not essential that a national health scheme should provide for the establishment of many more hospitals, both centralized and de-centralized, that the bush nursing and flying doctor services should be extended, and that in remote areas there should be better medical services? Those matters were referred to in the joint policy speech of the present Government parties during the last general election campaign. At that time the Government parties believed that there should be many more doctors and a great extension of medical training centres. Everybody agrees that those things are necessary. It is also generally agreed that more research should be undertaken, because if a true medical service is to be given to the people, it is not only necessary for medical practitioners to be skilled; they must also have time in which to assimilate new developments. In addition, there should be a nation-wide drive for immunization against disease. We need to reduce the high cost of diagnosis in a specialized age by establishing diagnostic clinics at hospitals. That is covered by one of the proposals in the amendment. They are proposals which the Minister should consider. He should have welcomed these positive proposals instead of making an absurd, fantastic and exaggerated attack upon the Opposition for presenting them.
Our first proposal is for the establishment and maintenance of diagnostic and health centres. That provides’ for a decision on the nature of the patient’s illness at an early stage instead of waiting until a claim is made, in the majority of cases, through either an insurance company or some society, and then rushing the patient into hospital and out again. That is the proper approach to the national health problem. 1. remind the Minister for Health that he will have to co-operate in order to achieve these things. Our next proposal provides for the dental care of children under sixteen years of age. It is of no use to say that the States take care of this matter. 1 1 is not taken care of in the States. The dental care of children forms the basis of the health of. the adult. The Labour Government’s plan expressly covered not only medical services, but also dental service. The Minister has administered his portfolio for nearly four years, but so far there has been nothing to report in this respect. He may attack the work of his predecessor, but in this respect the right honorable gentleman himself has done nothing. The amendment provides also for medical training and research facilities and a system of regional hospitals. Is that not a positive and practical proposal to bring forward? That is the first matter on which emphasis should be placed in a national health scheme. I have referred to the advances made by the Chifley Government when it led the attack on this great problem. Honorable members will recollect that in the period prior to 1949 the shadow of post-war difficulties rested over Australia. The achievement of the Chifley Government between 1945, when fighting ended after the greatest war in history, and 1949 is something of which any party might be proud. I am reminded by one of my colleagues about the establishment of the Curtin School of Medical Research at the Australian National University.
Another proposal in the amendment provides for the cure and relief of mental illness. If the reports that one reads are correct, the conditions associated with the treatment of mental disease in some of the States are scandalous. This question is not merely a State problem ; it is a national problem. The Australian Labour party is of the opinion that it is urgently necessary that something more should be done and that the Government should not rest on what has been done already. The amendment provides also for substantially increased rates of hospital benefit having regard to the rise of hospital costs. The Minister for Health passionately attacks the Opposition and says that the Chifley Government was niggardly. I remind the right honorable gentleman that 8s. in the days of the Chifley Government is equivalent to approximately 18s. on the depreciated value of the £1 to-day. The Opposition wants the hospitals to get assistance, but not necessarily in the particular manner that is favoured by the Minister. “What is the good of saying that this is a question of ideology? The honorable member for Oxley expressed the same opinion as the Minister.
Government supporters interjecting.
– The amendment represents a practical approach to a great national problem. There cannot be a socialistic nationalization of the medical profession. If honorable members had listened to my speech, they would have known that I said the Constitution forbids it. When the Constitution alteration proposal was amended in this House before it went to the people, it was unanimously agreed that there should not be civil conscrpition in order to force doctors into the scheme against their will. The supporters of the Government mouth the word “ socialism “, but they do not know what it means. Fancy the Australian Country party talking about socialism ! When a question of distribution arises, it is the most socialistic party in the House. There is complete control of distribution from the farm to the point of sale. The use of the word “ socialism “ reveals a narrow and ill-informed mind. If the word “ socialism “ is used in the sense of intervention by the .State, it can be applied to the present scheme. It is true that sometimes the benefits are collected indirectly and not directly from the Government. Under the pensions scheme, the medical profession deals directly with the Government. In. other cases the approach must be indirect and there must be established, as it were, a series of bureaucracies from one end of Australia to the other with all their attendant difficulties.
The next proposal submitted by the Opposition provides for the negotiation of fresh agreements between the Commonwealth and the States to ensure that throughout Australia there should be no charge and no means test for qualified patients occupying beds in public wards of public hospitals. Illnesses that require hospital treatment often occur suddenly. The Government’s scheme should provide for a sick person to be taken immediately to the public hospital for treatment and that there should be no question of a means test. That would be a sound provision and it would not affect the operation of the national health scheme in other respects. But the Minister for Health has not included such a provision. The Government talks about the abolition of the means test when it suits it, hut it rejected a system under which there was no means test.
The amendment also provides that the payment of Commonwealth hospital benefits or medical benefits shall not be conditional upon a patient being a contributor to a hospital fund or a medical benefits fund. Perhaps that is the most important proposal, because it deals not only with a national health problem but also with an interpretation of the Constitution. To-day Australia has a scheme that is not a national scheme. The Minister said that 5,000,000 people were covered by it. I do not think that is the correct figure and the right honorable gentleman cannot inform me of the name of any person who says that it is the correct figure. It is just a wild guess. Let us assume that the Minister is 1,000,000 or 2,000,000 out, which would be only a small percentage of error if we were to judge by the exaggerated nature of his speech. Let us assume that 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 people are covered by the scheme. That would leave a social problem of great dimensions and of great urgency. He says, in effect, “ I have a national health scheme in Australia and I tell everybody who is listening to me, whether they are at The Hague or elsewhere, that half of the people of Australia are not covered by it”. But it is not a national health scheme ; it is only a partial scheme. On the Minister’s own admission, any one person chosen at random from the community may be covered by the scheme but the next person may not be covered. That is why the Australian Labour party has proposed this amendment in relation to the payment of Commonwealth hospital benefits or medical benefits. No hospital benefit can be paid from the country’s revenue to a citizen who has paid taxes unless that citizen has insured himself with one of the benefit funds. There is a great gap in the scheme and the Australian Labour party claims that that is wrong. The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) questioned whether the Government’s proposals were within the constitutional power. The constitutional power in this connexion is phrased in these words -
The provision of maternity allowance*, widows’ pensions, child endowment, unemployment, pharmaceutical, sickness and hospital benefits medical and dental services (but not so as to authorise any form of civil conscription) benefits to students and family allowances.
There is no reference there to the use of the power to force some system of insurance upon the people. Can the two things be combined? I am not going into the question of the scheme’s legality, but I say that it is a doubtful proposition at the best. I invite honorable members to consider its broad political aspect. The people never intended that the benefits to be paid under a national health scheme should be provided only to a selected number in the community in accordance with the plan of a Minister that they must insure. Against what contingency must they insure? They must insure against the very thing that is supposed to be covered already in another direction. The proposition is monstrous. I repeat that millions of persons in Australia are not covered under the Minister’s scheme and he is doing nothing to cover them except to state that they will get nothing until they insure themselves. Money is being taken from them for social services in the form of taxation, but unless they join two schemes they will get no medical benefits and a very meagre hospital benefit. The Minister must face the situation. He has been misled about the sentiment of the people by the numbers of persons who have yielded to pressure a 11 (i insured themselves. How could the head of a household fail to insure when disaster may fall upon his family unless he protects its members by insurance? That is the only reason why many persons in Australia have insured hut there is deep resentment against the failure to use the National Welfare Fund, that has :been built up by taxation, and the compulsion upon the people, not directly but indirectly by pressure, to join various approved organizations.
– There is deeper resent. went against socialism.
– The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) has referred to socialism by way- of interjection. That is a good old whipping post. The honorable member was the head of one of the greatest socialistic enterprises in Australia - the Sydney County Council.
– I was elected to that body.
– I say nothing about the honorable member’s quality as an administrator, but he is a socialist, and a practising socialist at that. The gaping hole in this scheme is the fact that the people will not get any benefit in connexion with the medical section and only fi tiny benefit in the case of hospitalization unless they are insured, and millions are not insured. It is not a national health scheme because it does not cover the nation, and everybody in the country should be covered.
Our next proposition is that the registered organizations shall be subsidized to ensure that their benefits will be extended to chronic sufferers and those suffering disabilities at the commencement of their membership of a registered organization. That is a sound proposition because expenditure upon allowances for chronic cases is general in other countries.
I cannot deal with all the other details of the amendment now but I make the point that the Minister has been most ungenerous. He should be the last to upbraid the previous governments. I have made some reference to the achievements of the Chifley Go vernment in pioneering a health scheme. When the Australian Labour party is returned to office it will present to the people a health scheme truly national in character. Under its scheme, the head of every family will know that if catastrophe strikes his home in the form of illness, he will not have to rush around looking for some organization with which to insure. He will get benefits as a right. I repeat that I doubt whether the movement to force the people to insure by indirect pressure is within th<i constitutional power. Even if it is within the power, it is contrary to the spirit of the Constitution. Of all people, the members of the Australian Country party should he the last to say one word upon this subject. They were against any social services power being given to the Australian Government and I hope that the people who live in the country districts will remember that. The Australian Country party was opposed to the Australian Government having any power to provide a national health service, or indeed, to provide any social services whatever, although such services may be soundly based upon the Constitution and be designed for the benefit of the people.
I congratulate my colleagues and particularly the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) upon putting forward the constructive proposals that are contained in the amendment. They have not been answered by the Minister who merely engaged in a tirade of abuse against the Chifley Government. The Chifley Government’s record in this matter as in others, will not be forgotten by the people of Australia. It pioneered a great national health scheme. The proposals of this Government must be improved and expanded. They should cover all the people of Australia and so become in truth a national health scheme.
.- It is an absolute travesty for the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) to speak of constructive suggestions coming from the Opposition. In fact, the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) has presented a concrete, sensible and sound health scheme for legislative sanction. In reply to it, the Opposition has offered nothing but destructive criticism. Honorable members know from past experience that the Opposition has no constructive ideas on the subject to put forward. We know that very well because the Leader of the Opposition is the leader of the party that was in office for eight years, during which time it talked a great deal about national medicine, but achieved only two results. One was a system of hospital subsidies and free beds which loft the hospitals ruined and the other was a medical plan which completely antagonized the medical profession and the then Government. Those were the only two achievements of the Chifley Government in the field of national medicine - ruined hospitals and antagonized doctors.
I listened with care to the Leader of f lie Opposition but found some difficulty in following his arguments and putting them in order. His objections to the bill appear to be threefold. First, in the opinion of the right honorable gentleman, it does not centralize everything. It does not put a dog collar around the neck of every individual so that he will he forced to go in prescribed fashion to a hospital or to receive medical assistance from a prescribed doctor. Frequently the right honorable gentle-, man said that the scheme was not a national scheme because, in his view, it did not bring everybody under its provisions. Presumably the right honorable gentleman objects to the fact that the scheme requires some effort and responsibility on the part of the individual. If that is his criticism of the scheme, it is an odd fact that that is one of the foremost points of my argument in favour of the scheme. I defend that aspect of the scheme readily.
The next criticism of the Leader of the Opposition appeared to be that the Government had not done everything at once. There has been a great deal of talk from the Opposition side to the effect that the- constitutional power includes a power to deal with dentistry. It may well be that in the future some system will be devised for assisting the community with its dental difficulties, but surely it is an odd criticism that this vast scheme for which legislative sanction is being sought has not done all the work of the century in one bite.
Finally, the Leader of the Opposition has objected that credit has not been given in this debate to the pioneering achievements of the Chifley Government in the field of national health. I have already referred to those achievements. They were ruined hospitals and antagonized doctors. The Leader of the Opposition said that this is not a matter of ideology. I am not surprised that he should have said so because he is engaged, not only as his own party knows, but also as the country is rapidly learning, in the interesting pastime of sitting on a political fence. Is he right wing, or is he left wing? At the moment it suits him to attempt to deny his socialistic beliefs and activities of the past and to pose as a moderate. This is a matter of ideology. The question of ideology goes to the very root of this bill. Shall the individual have a choice in the selection of his doctor or the hospital to which he shall go for treatment? Shall he bear some responsibility for the cost of his cure? Or is the responsibility to bo thrust on the community without regard for who is to meet the bill? These are questions of ideology. For this problem, as for all great national problems, the Opposition has only one answer - nationalization. If the right honorable, gentleman suggests that nationalization is not his panacea for all ills, not only physical but financial as well, I remind him that one of his supporters re-stated the Labour party’s attitude to the nationalization of banking when he promised the people in the name of his party that the banks would be nationalized in due course. 1 refer to the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron).
– What about dealing with the bill?
– I am not surprised that this bill should excite great interest and give rise to some heat in the House. It is of great importance because it goes to the very core of one of the great political problems of our age. Are we to solve all our problems by making the State assume responsibility for them, and ignore the fact that the State is merely the sum of the individuals in it? In short, are we to have individualism or socialism, freedom or regimentation? It is the absence of regimentation in the bill that the Opposition has such difficulty in swallowing. The second reason why the Opposition objects to the bill is that the medical system to which if seeks to give legislative sanction, which was introduced, piece by piece, over the last four years, is a sound and practical volution of one of the greatest problems t lint faces the Government. The Opposition will never forgive us for having found such a solution of the problem and for ha ving given effect to it. We are well content that the people should judge this scheme while it is in operation. We aru in no sense dismayed by the fact that the Opposition will suggest a substitute scheme during the general election campaign.
Labour had eight years of office and all it achieved in its attempts to solve the medical needs of the country was ruined hospitals and hostile doctors. The background against which this scheme was introduced is commonly known, to honorable members on both sides of the House. It is widely accepted that. the. expense of medical attention in these days is so great that the individual and the family need some community help to meet it. Modern methods of treatment have become so complex and so technical, and the diagnosis of ordinary illnesses and their cure have become so expensive that the individual needs community assistance to meet his bills. Small communities arc unable to finance their hospitals and clinics, as they were in the past, without some help. This is not a new problem. It is not a problem of this decade or of the last decade, or oven of this century. It was widely recognized in the last century. Attempts were made in England to solve it early in this century. The Lloyd George scheme was the first notable approach to it.
The Opposition has condemned the scheme propounded by the Government. What alternatives are there to it? First,
I shall ask the House to consider the possible alternatives to that part of the scheme under which individuals are assisted to pay their doctors’ bills, either for attendance at a doctor’s surgery or in their own home. As far as I can ascertain, there are only three or four alternatives to that part of the scheme. The first is a capitation fee service, known as the panel practice in England. It was known in this country as the “ lodge practice “ of the sort organized and conducted very effectively for many years ‘by friendly societies. To superimpose on that system some form of government assistance would mean that the doctor would receive a government subsidy for all persons registered in his practice. Under such a system the patient pays no more when he becomes ill than when he was well. Under that system there is a tendency for patients to call the doctor unnecessarily. The doctor receives no additional payment for the sick patient and, naturally, he is inclined to pack him off to hospital. These difficulties were overcome in the past, but the system was breaking down because of the complexity of modern medicine and medical treatment.
The next system -devised to meet this problem is the fee for service scheme, such as is known in New Zealand. Under that scheme the individual pays nothing. When a patient consults a doctor thu Government pays the doctor’s fee. It is. in other words, a form of government hand-out for medical attendance. What are the objections to that system? In the first place, there is a tendency on the part of patients to visit a doctor’s surgery unnecessarily. If a person feels ill he thinks that he may as well give himself the benefit of the doubt and consult a doctor. As a result doctors become gravely overworked. They are unable to deal with the enormous number of necessary as well as unnecessary consultations which follow. There is a tendency for doctors to push patients into hospital as quickly as possible. The doctor became virtually a clerk who writes prescriptions for free drugs. There is the same fundamental objection to that system as there is to the capitation fee service. There is also the grave social objection to it that an individual is done positive social harm when he is encouraged to believe that he has no personal responsibility for his health and well-being, or that of his family.
The third system is a composite of the capitation fee service and the salaried service, such as the Bevan scheme in England. The same objections apply to that scheme as to the fee for service scheme. The patient is free to consult the doctor at will, whether it be necessary for him to do so or otherwise. Doctors are deluged with a large number of unnecessary calls and are so overburdened with work that they are unable to treat the really sick as well as the halfsick or the imagined sick. Such a scheme inevitably leads to a lowering of the standards and status of the medical profession. In addition, it involves enormous cost. I understand that in England tha cost of such a scheme is between £300,000,000 and £400,000,000 annually.
The final alternative - the salaried medical service - is the worst of all. It is widely believed by the medical profession in Australia that it is the ultimate purpose of the Labour party to institute such a system here. There are sound reasons for believing that such a system was the ultimate objective of the Chifley Government. Under that system the doctor becomes no more than a civil servant, an official, who passes on a patient to somebody else or issues to patients tickets that entitle them to receive free drugs. Under such a system, the doctorpatient relationship and, indeed, the whole philosophical and psychological basis of medical services which has been developed so laboriously over the centuries in the Western world would be completely destroyed.
Let us, by way of contrast, examine the existing scheme in the development of which the Minister for Health has played such a large part. The individual is encouraged to insure himself against the day when he will require medical and hospital treatment. The Government subsidizes that insurance in a way that encourages the individual to help himself.
Under this scheme, the individual caw insure himself against up to 90 per Gent, of the cost of his medical and hospital bills ; but it is of the essence of the scheme that he shall remain responsible for th-j payment of a small proportion of thom. The scheme has two outstanding characteristics. The first of them is that the individual has a personal responsibility to provide for his own welfare by insuring himself and the members of his family if he has a family. He has a wide choice of organizations with which he can insure, and also a wide choice of hospital: to which he may go for treatment. He has the personal responsibility of looking after himself to the degree that he must take the positive step- of effecting that insurance which is made available to him on payment of a small weekly contribution. The Leader of the Opposition directed his main criticism of the bill to that aspect of the scheme. Hi’ claimed that the scheme was not “ national “ in character. He said that it did not embrace everybody because some persons would not take the necessary steps to effect insurance. The sooner we can encourage Australians as a whole to accept at least that small degree of responsibility in order to safeguard the welfare of themselves and their families the better it will be for this country. The second outstanding characteristic of the existing scheme is that the individual remains free to choose his own doctor or hospital. ‘ That condition continues a freedom which is an essential feature of the medical profession that has been developed in the Western world over the centuries. Those are the two main characteristics of the present scheme - the personal responsibility of the individual to look after the interests of himself and family, and freedom of choice of doctor and hospital.
Some years ago I received an extract from a medical journal. No letter came with it but only the card of a medical practitioner in Sydney with whom many years previously I happened to be a student. I wondered why he sent it to me. I put it aside, but later, when I read it, I understood. It contained n statement made by the World Medical Association on social security in relation to medicine. As I re-read it I realized why my friend had sent it to me. It expressed a great deal of the philosophy of the ordinary practitioner and, in addition, offered pertinent and sound criticism of social security systems in general. When this measure was introduced, 1 again studied that article and was surprised and glad to see to what a great extent this Government’s national health scheme fitted completely the concept of governmental assistance in medical affairs that was laid down in that article. A great deal has been said in the course of this debate about the activities of the British Medical Association. I point out that the World Medical Association is not the British Medical Association, cither in England or in any other country. The World Medical Association is composed of 53 national associations of doctors and covers the medical profession of the whole free world.
Sitting suspended from 12.U5 to 2.15 p.m.
– I have been showing that the paramount needs of any government-sponsored medical scheme re, first, that it shall preserve the responsibility of the individual for the welfare of his family and himself, and shall not degrade him into a slavish dependence on the State; and, secondly, that it shall preserve freedom of choice between patient and doctor, and doctor and patient, on which alone depends the confidence of the patient and the doctor, and the status of the medical profession in the community. I have referred to a statement published by the Word Medical Association which was sent to me some years ago by an old friend who is a practising doctor. The statement began by examining what is health, and it quoted a well-known definition that health i3 “ complete mental, physical aud social well-being”. The article proceeded to point out that health is not obtained simply by the addition .of the material, physical and social factors. Well-being is an emotional state, depending on a personal appreciation of the enjoyment of those three factors. The element of social well-being is of great importance. In social well-being, complex mental factors are involved.
The statement of the association comes to the conclusion that social security is of value when it is earned, and tends to lose value as it becomes a gift. Here is the danger of free medicine, of a salaried medical service, of free hospitals and free drugs. I shall read an extract from the statement dealing with systems for free medical treatment -
The average man cannot appraise the relationship between services rendered and equivalent returns, or judge whether he is getting a. fair deal. He will tend to disregard the cost and always suspect that he does not get n return for his money if, through taxation, lie pays a lump sum for a number of benefits, each one of which seems to him to be small. If these taxes are high he will be further encouraged to demand more in return, and this, often for political reasons, generally leads to increased returns and to new benefits - at increased costs, increased taxes, and increased or renewed displeasure, all of which endanger mental well-being.
Another point might be made here. Most people are still brought up on old-established principles of ethics and behaviour. One of these is that a man should primarily be responsible for himself and his activities. He finds, however, that his activities are hedged round with restrictions and that many of his former responsibilities are being taken away from him. With them go much of his old freedom, and even more of his earnings - and he find’s himself burdened with new tasks, this timenot for himself but for some remote conception such as the State or the community. Consciously or unconsciously he reacts with displeasure - and again his mental well-being suffers.’
The statement proceeds to point out that every system for the promotion, by the State, of public health or the social security of its members, must be psychologically sound and well-founded,, it it is to do good. If it is not psychologically well-founded, it will do harm. The burden of the message is that we must never allow ourselves to believe that the Government can take over our responsibilities for our own welfare and well-being. What is of greater importance, we must never encourage parents to think that they can shuffle off the responsibility for the health and welfareof their children. That is the fundamental reason why salaried doctors and freehospitals will do harm. Indeed, they were doing harm. The free hospital bed system introduced by the preceding Labour Government was doing harm inthis community. Doctors, almoners,. voluntary workers and others who have had any association with hospitals, know of the harm that the Labour Government’s scheme was doing generally in our public hospitals through the system of free hospital bed3, without any sort of responsibility on the patient to provide for himself.
– The honorable member is opposed to free hospital beds?
– I am in favour of the national health scheme for which provision is made in this bill. Had the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) had the advantage of being in the chamber before the suspension of. the sitting, he would have heard in detail the reasons why I was opposed to the Labour Government’s scheme.
The statement of the World Medical Association dealt with government schemes for the provision of medical care without personal liability - schemes which give n benefit without exacting si contribution, or responsibility - in the following terms: -
The World Medical Association considers this to be incompatible with .principles which it believes to be fundamental. If the tics between benefit right and contribution payment are loosened, the individual will ignore the cost of the services given. If insurance principles are abandoned for public service schemes, he will tend to lose his sense of responsibility. If social security costs burden the individual with heavy taxes, he will end by asking for compensation in the shape of move benefits and he will tend to place his security more or less completely in the hands nf society, forgetting that this society after ;ill is nothing but himself and hie neighbours.
– I do not wish to <lo the honorable member an injustice, 1n.it I do not think that he hoard my interjection a few minutes ago. T asked him whether he was opposed to free hospital beds.
– I am certainly not opposed to free hospital beds for persons who cannot afford to pay for them, but I am opposed to free hospital beds for persons who can afford to pay.
So much for the first characteristic of our scheme - the responsibility of the individual. The scheme supports and encourages the individual, on his own responsibility, to serve his own needs.
The second criterion of governmentassisted medical schemes is the degree of freedom of choice between patient and doctor. I remind the House of the proposition I put, which is that any scheme of public health requires to bc psychologically well-founded, otherwise it will do no good but harm. One of the first essentials is confidence between doctor and patient. Medicine is not a science. It is a body of empirical knowledge. The doctor, particularly the general practitioner, is not a technician. He is a personal adviser on the complex mental, physical and social problems to which I have referred. Health is not a matter of remedy alone. The doctor’s business is not a matter of merely prescribing a remedy. Hi? business is also to encourage a sense, of well-being in the patient, without which the patient cannot be, and cannot become, well.
The best illustration of the importance of having confidence in the doctor comes from the home. I invite the -House to consider for a moment what happens in any family in Australia when a child becomes ill. Anxious consultation takes place between the parents as to whether or not the illness is serious. Fear always lurks in the minds of the parents these clays that the child may have contracted poliomyelitis. The parents’ anxiously discuss whether they should call a doctor. Often the doctor is telephoned, and give? his advice over the telephone. He knows the child and the parents, and gives his advice on the basis of that knowledge, and the relationship that exists between them. The freedom of choice of doctor by the patient is essential to the establishment and maintenance of that confidence. In defending this right of choice, and in asserting that it must bc maintained if our medical services are to remain sound, I point out that it is not. a matter of great concern to the wealthy and the privileged. They are generally able to look after themselves better than are the less fortunate sections of the community. But it is of greater importance than ever to the poor - those without privileges - that they have their own doctor; they need confidence in their doctor far more than do the wealthy and the privileged. If our medical schemes are to succeed, and if we are to retain the devoted services of the doctors which our community has always had in the past, it is essential that the status of the doctor in the community shall be preserved. From the time of Hippocrates, or even earlier for all I know, the doctor has been a responsible, respected and, at times, even an exalted member of society. On that aspect, the following statement of the World Medical Society is pertinent: -
The cultural and ethical standards of a civilized society depend for their maintenance ami promotion principally upon the integrity ami example of the learned professions, of which medicine is one - and one whose influence on- society is now greater than at any other time in history. There is a grave danger that social security schemes, however ideal istically conceived, will progressively diminish the cohesive moral and cultural force emanating from tin? corporate life of the learned professions.
That is the danger of schemes such as that which the Labour Government would have foisted upon this country had it been able to do so.
The final question I ask about this bill k “Will the scheme work?” The answer is that it will and does work. C remind the House that the measure gives legislative sanction to a health scheme which was introduced by regulation and is already working. In the homes, countless people know how greatly they were assisted by the insurance scheme, and how much more they are now assisted by the addition of the government benefit. As to the public hospitals, they have been saved by the scheme as it applies to them. I have before rue the financial statement of the Royal .Prince Alfred Hospital for the year ended the 30th June, 1953. The report points out that although a deficit of £91,S36 had been forecast on the year’s activities, the actual result was a surplus of £1,497. When an examination was made to ascertain the cause of the improvement, the sum of £96,875 was ascribed to “ Ee-introduction of pay public beds with pre-paid insurance cover “. That is a striking illustration of how our hospital system has been saved by the introduction of this Government’s national health scheme. Not only has the scheme benefited the finances of hospitals, but also it has re-established the value of voluntary work. Obviously one cannot expect such work to continue when the result is merely to pour more money into the bottomless pit of hospital public debt - a debt which could be met only by increasing States grants.
Mr. GEORGE LAWSON (Brisbane) 2.27 . - I intend to deal mainly with hospital benefits. In common with other honorable members on this side of the chamber I agree with the principles of this measure; but it docs not go far enough. My main objection is to the methods that the Government has adopted, and to the fact that the measure will not provide complete coverage for all those who are entitled to hospital and medical benefits. As lias been pointed out by the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) and the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), this bill is only a “ follow-on “ of earlier legislation passed by the Labour Government.’ The main difference, of course, is the Chifley Government’s proposals weifar more in accordance with Labour principles than this measure is. It is true that this bill contains many good features. In my opinion the best of those are the provisions relating to pensioners. Pensioners in Queensland are, of course, in a much more favorable position than are pensioners in the other States. Throughout the Commonwealth, under this scheme, pensioners are entitled to free medical benefits and free medicine, but in Queensland they are also entitled to free hospital treatment as are all other residents of Queensland. When the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) introduced this Government’s national health scheme some eighteen months ago, he endeavoured to compel the Queensland Government to abandon it3 free hospital treatment system which had existed since 191S and to make a charge to all patients who entered hospitals. Fortunately the Queensland Government resisted that demand. For three months Queensland was refused the i:s. a day Commonwealth subsidy for every occupied hospital bed, but I am pleased to say that the Minister for Health eventually capitulated, and .that hospitalization in Queensland is still free.
The Minister lias said that one condition of the continuance of the Commonwealth’s subsidy of Ss. a day was that more hospital beds and better Treatment had to be provided in Queenshind hospitals. But the right honorable gentleman knows quite well that Queensland hospitals are the best in Australia. I refer particularly to the Brisbane General Hospital.
– That is not so.
– It is true, and it ill becomes the- honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) to make such a statement. Undoubtedly Queensland has the most up-to-date and best-equipped hospitals in the Southern Hemisphere. I believe, too, that it ill becomes a young member such as the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) to make statements in this chamber that he knows to be untrue, as he did yesterday. If he thinks that untrue statements will do him any good in his electorate, he has another think coming. His objective was to damn and discredit the Queensland Government, which has provided valuable social services, including particularly free hospitalization, for the Queensland people for many years. No other State provides free hospital treatment. The honorable member for Capricornia said that the public wards of the Brisbane General Hospital were an absolute disgrace and a horror. I challenge the honorable gentleman to repeat that statement in brisbane so that it can be refuted. I am convinced that he has never seen the inside of the Brisbane General Hospital. I. visit it frequently and I know what it is like. It is undoubtedly the most uptodate hospital in Australia. The equipment is modern, the whole hospital is spotlessly clean, and the service provided by the nursing staff and the doctors is perfect. The honorable gentleman obviously knows nothing about that hospital. He went on to say that, the accommodation provided for tuberculosis patients also was disgraceful, and told the House that the beds were so close together that people had to walk sideways in order to pass between them. That is altogether untrue.
The honorable gentleman was so prejudiced that he forgot to inform the
House that the Queensland Government is having an up-to-date sanatorium erected in the Brisbane area. I hope that the building will be opened very soon. The health services provided by the Queensland Government are unequalled in any other State. It is true that Tasmania had a free hospital service for a number of years but I understand that the Government of that State has now fallen into line with the scheme embodied in this bill. Fortunately for the people of Queensland their Government refused to bow to the demands of the Minister for Health. The Minister has said in a number of public statements that the accommodation at the Brisbane General Hospital is inadequate. That is absolutely untrue. For a number of years past, at any rate, no patient has been refused admittance to the hospital. -Beds are always kept vacant for emergency cases. The Queensland Government expended a total of £4,147,000 on hospitals in the period from 1946-47 to 1951-52 inclusive. Its programme included the construction of a new general hospital at Townsville and the completion of other hospitals at Mossman, Atherton, Mareeba, Cairns, Babinda. Innisfail, Ayre, Charters Towers, Gladstone, Maryborough, Gympie, Biggenden, Monto, Biloela, Kingaroy, Murgon, Kilcoy, Ipswich, Chinchilla, Miles, Taroom, Milmerran, Southport, Goondiwindi and Inglewood. These hospitals are of modern design and are provided with up-to-date equipment.
– Where is the hospital that the Queensland Government undertook to build in Brisbane?
– The Brisbane General Hospital is a monument to a Labour government. The honorable member knows as well as I do that, until a Labour government took office in Queensland in 1918, anti-Labour governments, under various aliases, were in power continuously for 40 or 50 years but did nothing to provide the people with proper hospital accommodation. Patients had to be accommodated in old shacks and hovels that were not fit to house sick people. The Labour Government demolished all those old buildings and established the present Brisbane General Hospital which, as 1 have said, is one of the most up-to-date hospitals in Australia.
– It is too big.
– The Minister for Health complained that it was too small. The Queensland Government has financed the construction of a new hospital in South Brisbane.
– It should have done so twenty years ago.
– I remind the honorable member that the antiLabour governments, which were in power before the Labour Government took office in Queensland, did nothing to provide for the needs of the sick and the injured. The new hospital in South Brisbane will accommodate 720 patients. Yet the Minister for Health has said that there is not sufficient accommodation in Queensland public hospitals! That is entirely untrue
– The Queensland Government promised to accommodate patients under my insurance scheme in the new hospital at South Brisbane.
– No such promise was given.
– It was put in writing.
– I have in my possession copies of letters exchanged between the Minister for Health and the Premier of Queensland and between the Prime Minister and the Premier which prove that the Queensland Government did not make such a promise.
– It promised to provide the extra beds for patients insured under the Commonwealth scheme.
– It undertook to provide the accommodation for patients under its own free hospitalization plan, which has operated for the last 20 or 30 years.
The Queensland Government recognizes the importance of dental health. The need for a free dental service has been stressed by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers), who is a dentist of high standing, and by the
Leader of the Opposition. In my opinion, an effective dental service is an essential part of any national health scheme. Dental decay, particularly in youngsters, is a scourge. As every competent medical practitioner will admit, bad teeth can cause many kinds of illness. The Government has made no provision in the bill in relation to dental treatment. Under the Queensland health scheme, however, dental treatment has been provided for many years. Any person may obtain dental treatment at the dental clinic in Brisbane or at the clinics that are established in many big towns in Queensland. In the majority of instances the treatment is provided free.
– A means test is applied.
– That is so, but in the majority of instances only a nominal charge of about 5s. is imposed. About 75 per cent, of persons who apply to the Queensland dental clinics are treated free of cost; about 25 per cent, pay in accordance with their means. I recall an instance of a person who was advised by his doctor several weeks ago to have his teeth extracted. They were subsequently extracted at the dental clinic in Brisbane and he was supplied with a full set of dentures at a cost of 7 guineas. I venture to say that he would have had to pay at least 27 guineas to a private dentist for comparable service. I do not know whether dental schemes are in operation in the other States, but if they are I do not think that they would be so liberal as the Queensland scheme. In addition to the static dental clinics to which I have referred, mobile dental clinics regularly visit the outback towns of Queensland to attend to the teeth of school children. No fewer than 181,359 persons were treated by the dental clinic in Brisbane during 1950-1951 and a further 95,435 were treated by dental clinics in country areas. At least 75 per cent of the total number of 276,799 persons who were treated in that year paid only nominal amounts.
Some supporters of the Government have stated that honorable members on this side of the House have decried the members of the British Medical Association. I believe that the association is doing a very fine job, and the greatest credit is due to the majority of its members for the way in which they look after the interests of their patients. I do not suppose that any other member of the Parliament has had a wider experience in this connexion than I have had. I have the greatest respect for every member of the British Medical Association.
– The honorable member is about the only member of the Opposition who does respect the doctors.
– That is not true. The majority of the mem’bers of the Opposition have the highest regard for the members of the British Medical Association. However, I must say that that association did not play the game when the Chifley Government endeavoured to introduce its health scheme, which was a far superior scheme to the one that we are now considering. I blame the Federal Council of the British Medical Association, not the members. I have many good friends who are doctors. As the honorable member for Petrie knows, I was treated by a number of doctors during my long illness. I am sure that the majority of the doctors favoured the Chifley Government’s health scheme. They said quite plainly at the time that they had been instructed by their association that, in no circumstances, were they to co-operate in the implementation of the Labour Government’s health scheme. The doctors are now filling in forms, as we asked them to do, without complaint. I direct the attention of the Minister to a startling article that appeared in the Brisbane Courier-Mail yesterday about his department’s delay in the payment of claims, as a result of the doctors not having filled in the forms in the prescribed manner. The staff reporter of the Courier-Mail stated that when he visited the Department of Health he was informed that delays of six weeks and longer in the approval and payment of claims were attributable to the fact that some doctors had refused absolutely to fill in the forms correctly. As the Minister knows, the forms must he filled in in the prescribed manner before claims can be approved by his department. I should like the Minister to look into this aspect of the matter. It is wrong in principle that insured persons should have to wait for five or six weeks for recoupment in accordance with their entitlement.
The Minister has stated that this health scheme has been accepted favorably by the general public. The staff reporter of the Courier-Mail stated in his article that there are 125,000 members of approved societies in Queensland. However, there are’ 500,000 people residing within the greater Brisbane area alone.
– Dependants, also, must be taken into consideration.
– I repeat that there are only about 125,000 members of approved societies in Queensland.
– That does not include their families.
– I realize that. The Minister has tried to make us believe that the people accept this scheme holus-bolus without complaint, but it is obvious that a lot of complaints are being made about it. The people have accepted the scheme only on the basis that half a loaf is better than no bread. This Government will not be in office for very much longer. After the next general election, a Labour government will be in power. Then, and only then, will the people of this country have a comprehensive and satisfactory health scheme.
.- In this bill, the Menzies Government has produced a contributory system of national insurance against sickness that is the admiration and envy of almost every other country. The Government has had the valuable guidance and assistance of a man who has spent the whole of his life in association with the sick. The Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) has been able to examine the health scheme in operation in other countries and, in producing this scheme, which gives the greatest possible protection against sickness, to avoid the difficulties and pitfalls into which other schemes have fallen. Let us compare the achievements of this Government with the actions of the Labour Government that was in office for eight years prior to 1950. During those eight years, that Labour Government produced a grandiose plan to deprive the people of a free choice of a doctor, to establish a huge health bureaucracy, to nationalize, regiment and commercialize the medical profession, and to destroy the doctor-patient relationship. “Was it any wonder that that Government fell foul of the doctors, fought with the chemists and the friendly societies, and fell out with the hospital authorities? During those eight years of Labour rule, even the pensioners had to pay for medical treatment and medicine. The community had to pay for life-saving drugs, and parents had to pay for their children’s milk. Let us examine the policy-speech delivered in 1949 by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). The right honorable gentleman said. -
Australia still needs a contributory scheme of national insurance against sickness. It is only under such a system that we can make all benefits a matter of right and so completely get rid of the means test.
Under this plan, a contributory system of national insurance against sickness ha3 been established, all benefits are a matter of right, and the Government has got rid of the means test. Free milk is available to school children throughout Australia, without a means test. It is being made available by the co-operation of the schools, the co-operation of the medical profession and the co-operation - very reluctantly given in some instances - of all the State governments. Free lifesaving drugs are available to the whole community without a means test. Hospital benefits are available to the whole community, and further benefits are available to those who show their willingness to help themselves by insurance. Medical benefits are available to the whole community without a means test, provided that people who are able to help themselves do help themselves.
While Labour was in power, none of those benefits was available, and the government of the day was fighting with every section of the community associated with health. In 1949, under Labour rule, age pensioners and service pensioners received the miserable sum of £2 2s. 6d. a week, from which they were expected to pay for any medical treatment and medicine they required. Now, a single age pensioner receives £3 10s. a week and a married couple £7 a week. In addition, they have the benefit of free medical attention and free medicine. The health plan of the Menzies Government, produced by the Minister for Health, has received the almost unanimous support of the great trade unions of Australia, many of which have established health associations. The plan has the support of the people of Australia. That is shown by the result of a recent gallup poll, when practically 90 per cent, of the Australian people indicated that they approved of the plan. It has the support of the parents of Australia, who welcome free milk for their children and have freely joined associations in order to become entitled to the medical, pharmaceutical and hospital benefits provided by the Government.
The bill proves that the Menzies Government is a government that honours its promises. In 1949, in the policy speech to which I have referred, the Prime Minister promised that, if the present Government parties were returned to power, they would provide free milk for school children. That promise has been honoured. The right honorable gentleman promised also that free lifesaving drugs would be provided. They are being provided. He said that a contributory system of national insurance against sickness would be instituted. This bill is designed to give legislative effect to a magnificant plan for such a system. The Prime Minister promised that free medical attention and free medicine would be made available to those who were unable to contribute to a contributory fund - that is, the age pensioners, the invalid pensioners and the service pensioners. Those people now have the benefit of free medical attention and free medicine. The Government, stage by stage, is implementing the magnificent policy announced by the Prime Minister in 1949. This bill is the culmination of that policy insofar as it relates to health matters.
The Minister for Health must be a very proud man to-day. Since 1949, step by step, he has done things that the previous government failed miserably to do. He has evolved a health scheme which works, in which the medical profession, the chemists and the friendly societies are co-operating, and which is acceptable to the whole community. Labour men should hide their heads in shame when they reflect that after eight years they could not achieve any of these results. All that they could do was to talk about nationalization and regimenting people, and produce plans on paper that nobody would accept.
The amendment before the House virtually provides that the Government’s plan should be scrapped. It proposes that the bill should be withdrawn and redrafted and implies that the Minister should start the long and tedious process of co-operating with the various States. Imagine the Minister, for example, starting to co-operate with Mr. Cahill, the Premier of New South Wales, who is at present engaging the whole of his time in compelling the citizens of Australia to join unions against their will ! Imagine how successful co-operation would be with Mr. Cain, the Premier of Victoria, who is spending his time in having a bill passed for a lottery which he has stolen from another State in order to provide hospital finances for Victoria! Imagine how successful cooperation would be between the Minister and the Premier of Queensland, who refused to co-operate for month after month in the scheme to give the children of his State the benefit of free milk when other States already had the free milk scheme in operation.
The amendment also provides that medical benefits should be paid out of general revenue. In other words, Labour’s plan is to make the financing of this scheme depend solely upon the budget. The pension scheme that was in operation in 1929 was financed in this manner, and when Labour came to power in 1930 and a depression occurred the Labour Government reduced aged pensions because revenue was insufficient to pay them at their existing level. If we were to make the health scheme solely dependent on government revenue and this country were to experience difficult times again whilst another Labour government was in office, that government would again reduce benefits because of lack of revenue. But the contributory plan of national insurance against sickness which the Minister for Health has produced is a plan which is not solely dependent on the budget. It is a sound plan under which those . who are able to contribute will contribute. It also provides for the payment of benefits to those who, through sickness or age or other cause, are not able to contribute. If the amendment were accepted it would completely destroy the plan that has been produced by the Minister for Health. The scheme for free medical attention and free medicine for pensioners is at present solely dependent for its legality on a regulation. This bill will give those benefits parliamentary sanction. If the amendment were carried and this bill were deferred, the pension scheme, the free milk for children, and free life-saving drugs would all cease to be available. Labour wishes to destroy this plan because it is determined to introduce its coercive plan of nationalization of the medical profession. Labour will never be satisfied until it has nationalized the banks, nationalized General Motors-Holden’s Limited, nationalized the insurance companies, and nationalized the medical profession.
– The honorable member need not worry. He will not be here next year.
– I hope that I will not he here if the country is to be nationalized.
– The honorable member is out now.
– Order ! Somebody else will be out in a moment.
– The free people of Australia who have fought two wars for freedom are not going to stand nationalization by a Labour government or any other government. When any government attempts to interfere with their freedom or liberty they eject that government and elect one that protects human rights. The Labour Government of New South Wales will be thrown out of office because of its attempt to deprive the people of their human rights by forcing compulsory unionism upon them. I think that every one in Australia is willing to pay a contribution in order to guard against the contingencies of life. In a recent gallup poll the overwhelming majority of the people interviewed made it clear that during their younger and working years they were prepared to pay contributions to provide them with security in their old age or during sickness or widowhood. The Government’s health plan is a true Liberal plan. This plan helps people to help themselves. Every person who buys a house or a motor car recognizes the necessity to insure that house or motor car, not .because they expect a fire or an accident, but because they are subject to those contingencies and want to be covered against the risk. Consequently, immediately after buying a home, a person goes to an insurance company, pays his premium and obtains cover against damage by loss due to fire. People do not complain because they have to pay insurance premiums. And they do not complain because they do not have a fire. In this modern world every young man and woman knows that he is subject to the contingency of sickness and of old age. So they are quite prepared to pay a contribution in order to insure themselves against that contingency.
The young people of Australia are now able to work and earn income. They are subject to the contingency that they may become sick and unable to earn. They have the opportunity to insure against that contingency and if they insure against it the Government, under this bill, will subsidize their contribution on a f l-for-£l basis. Under this scheme, for every ls. that a man pays he receives an average benefit of 2s. That is why the great majority of the Australian people, being wise, have already insured themselves; and before many months have passed, SO per cent, or 90 per cent, of the people will have been insured under this magnificent scheme.
The support of the people to insurance generally - life insurance, industrial insurance and now this medical insurance - proves conclusively their readiness and willingness to pay for security against the contingencies of life. This scheme not only recognizes the obligation of every one to insure himself, and gives him a prize for so doing, by subsidizing his contributions, but it also recognizes the principle that because of sickness or age or for some other reason there are some people who are unable to pay their contributions. Accordingly the Government has provided that invalid and age pensioners shall receive the medical benefits without having to pay any contribution at all. But the Labour party’s proposal is that even a man with an income of £10,000 a year and £100,000 worth of property should not be asked to make a contribution, but should get this free benefit.
We do not believe in Labour’s means test. When Labour introduced the sickness benefit in 1943 or. 1944 it imposed a means test, and at that time in the Senate I moved’ that that means test be abolished. But every member of the Labour party in the Senate supported the retention of that means test. We do not believe in a means test, but we say that those who are able to contribute should do so. We say that we intend to give every encouragement to persons who contribute, and if they do so we will subsidize their contributions on a £l-for-£l basis. That is the difference between the way the Liberals do things and the way that Labour does things.
Labour always runs down the man who tries to help himself. In the eyes of Labour the man who is successful is a kind of villain. We say, “ Give every encouragement to the men who try to help themselves, and those who try to make a success in this life because any success that any one has adds to the pool of production of the country from which all social services are paid “. I believe that this bill is a pattern for social services legislation, not only for this country, but also for other countries of the world. It is a system under which we can leave to the people their freedom. We do not even compel people to insure themselves, but if they do so we give them an additional benefit. This scheme is so compelling that we merely give people opportunities to do the right thing. But Labour’s schemes, like the means test, have been designed to penalize men who are thrifty and men who want to work. We say that thrifty and energetic men should be encouraged, and that those who are prepared to insure themselves against the contingencies of life should also be encouraged. That is why we encourage such persons in the measure now before the House. I believe that we in Australia have finally got onto the right road to success in social service legislation. Eventually everybody in Australia from the time he starts work and receives his first income will make some contribution towards insuring himself against the contingencies of life such as old age, sickness, unemployment and so on. Then, when those contingencies eventuate, those people will receive as a right, and not because they are destitute, the benefits for which they have paid and to which they are fully entitled.
This bill falls exactly into the pattern that I have just outlined, a pattern that will revolutionalize the social services of this country. Under the various types of social service legislation at present on the statute-book, governments have penalized the thrifty and the men who work. In other -words, they have attempted to kill the goose that lays the golden egg - the people who are the producers of the country and who provide the capital for the future. Let us get away from that theory, that old theory that crept into our political thinking in 1909 when the first age pension was introduced, and let us establish a comprehensive system of national insurance somewhat along the lines of this bill. Perhaps that could be done in one measure with a wide scope, or under separate bills, so that Australians may be guarded against every known contingency of life. That would be possible if people made a small contribution, as providedby this bill, to cover a portion of the cost, the rest of the cost being met out of the general revenue. Perhaps the whole cost could be provided out of general revenue, but if that were done the scheme would not be secure, because it would be solely dependent upon the budgetary position of the country each year. A scheme like the one before the House, or a national insurance scheme based on contributions, has security and permanency and continues whether the Treasury is full or empty.
Therefore, I urge the people of Australia and the honorable members of this House to give whole-hearted support to this magnificent bill now before us. I warn the people of Labour’s promise that it will repeal this bill if it ever assumes office. In other words, Labour has said that it will take away from the people all the benefits conferred by this bill. Labour will take away free medical attention and free medicines for - pensioners, it will destroy the measures which give the people hospital insurance and medical insurance, and it will take the free life saving drugs away from the people. I urge honorable members opposite, and also the people of Australia, to give their whole-hearted support to the magnificent bill now before the House.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harbison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Mr. Allan Phaser’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to mention two matters in relation to the Department of the Army. I have communicated with the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) in relation to these matters, but I am sorry to say that I am not satisfied with his reply. The first matter is in relation to a national service trainee named Melvin Ray Anderson. This lad suffered a broken thigh on the 22nd July, but the Department of the Army will not accept responsiblity for the payment of compensation. The. reason given by the Minister in his correspondence is that the lad was not injured in the course of training, but was injured when he was participating in organized sport, namely, football.. I am sorry that the Minister is not in the House. I do not blame him in this case, but I do think that he should have investigated the matter further and that he should not have accepted the report which he received from the officer in charge of the Wacol camp.
The facts are as I shall relate them. This lad was undergoing strenuous army training and was injured whilst jumping a fence. The Minister has been informed that that information is based, not only on the word of the soldier himself, but also on a report that was written by representatives of the press who were present during this training.
– Did the lad sustain his injury close to the military area?
– The injury was sustained at a place which was adjacent to the area in which this lad was stationed. On this occasion a representative of the Courier-Mail witnessed this particular form of training. The parents received their first intimation that their lad had sustained an injury when they read an article in the CourierMail. The Courier-Mail article pointed out that, despite anything that anybody might say in relation to the easy way in which national service trainees are treated, this was one occasion when the training was not easy. Naturally, the parents were anxious when they read that report and they communicated with the Army authorities in Townsville. The authorities there said that they knew nothing about the incident and they SUKgested that the mother should send a telegram to the officer in charge of the Wacol camp in order to ascertain whether the report was true. A prepaid telegram which she sent to the officer in charge ‘at Wacol cost 10s. That officer replied that investigations were being made. Later the mother was informed that her son had met with an accident and that he had suffered an injury to his thigh. It was later ascertained that the injury was a broken thigh. This lad is still in the repatriation hospital at Greenslopes. I assert that the information that was given to the Minister is completely untrue, that this lad was not injured in the course of organized sport, but that he was injured in the course of the training for which he was stationed at Wacol. I should like somebody to convey to the Minister my assertion that, because this young man was injured in the course of his training, the department should be prepared to accept responsibility for the payment of compensation.
The other matter is also in relation to the Department of the Army. I refer to the case of Private Stafford, who was undergoing training at Sellheim, which is a training centre near Charters Towers. If my information is correct, this lad was travelling in a car driven by another soldier, and they were on their way to Charters Towers to attend a church service. During the journey, the car was hil by a motor lorry. The driver of the car was killed instantly and the other soldier, who lives in my electorate, suffered a broken neck. He was taken to hospital and is still on the seriously ill list. For a. long time it was doubtful whether he would live. Several days after he was injured, his equipment was collected at the camp and handed to the Department of the Army. Everything was correct except one blanket which was missing. As a result, the Army deducted £2 5s., the value of the blanket, from the soldier’s pay. The soldier had no chance of collecting his equipment himself and in the circumstances I believe that it was most unjust to deduct from his pay the value of the blanket. I referred the matter to the Minister for the Army and I thought that such a simple matter would be easily settled. It could have been handled with ease by anybody with an ounce of common sense, whether it were the Minister himself or the soldier’s commanding officer, or both. The Minister informed me, in reply to my representations, that the Army had acted according to regulations and nothing could be done about it. If the regulations are to be stretched so far, something should be done about them. L heard an honorable member on the Government side moaning . like a horse.
– Order ! The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) is completely out of order.
– The honorable member who made the noise is out of order.
Motion (by Mr. Eric j. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act– Land acquired for - Defence purposes - Bullsbrook, Western Australia.
Postal purposes -
Barmera, South Australia.
Mylor, South Australia.
Public Accounts Committee Act - Regulations - Statutory Kales 1953, No. 01.
Public Service Act - AppointmentsPostmaster -General’s Department - F. Bussman, B. R. Gum.
Public Works Committee Act - Regulations -StatutoryRules 1953, No. 90.
Services Trust Funds - Royal Australian Navy Relief Trust Fund - Annual Report for year 1952-53.
House adjourned at 3.55 p.m.
The following answer to a question was circulated.:-
a asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Would the wife of a blinded war pensioner who is in receipt of a guide’s allowance be entitled to receive a war widow’s pension in the event of the pensioner’s death?
– The ‘ Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following information : -
Yes. The widow’s entitlement to pension is governed bysection 46 of the Repatriation Act, which reads -
Where a member of the Forces has died or dies, after the date of his discharge, from causes other than the result of an occurrence that happened during his war service and the member, immediately prior to his death, was in receipt of -
a pension under the Second Schedule to this- Act; or
an amount in respect of a disability described in any of the first eight items in Column 1 of the table in paragraph one of the Fifth Schedule to this Act, the dependants of that member shall, subject to this Act, be entitled to receive, as from the’ death of the member, such pensions as would have been payable to them if the member’s death had resulted from an occurrence that happened during his war service.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 November 1953, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1953/19531120_reps_20_hor2/>.