20th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Eon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p:m., and read prayers.
– My question to the Treasurer concerns a matter about which I have received many representations. On the coins recently struck by this Government there has been an omission, for the first time in the history of Australia, of a vital portion of Her Majesty’s title, that is, “ Defender of the Faith “. When the Prime Minister was asked a question about this matter some time ago by a Government supporter, the right honorable gentleman stated that there was no physical room on the coins for this title. Will the Treasurer say whether it is not a fact that for ‘ the first time in our history the words “ By the Grace of God “ have been engraved in full on our coins for the very purpose of preventing the words “ Defender of the Faith “ from being inserted in the usual way? If that is not so, will the Government, in accordance with a recent request by a meeting of bishops of the Church of England, ensure that that title, which is part of the Royal style and titles authorized by this Parliament, shall be restored?
– The observations made by the right honorable gentleman will be considered, and a reply will be furnished to him.
– Will the Minister . for Social Services consider extending the benefits available under the War Service Homes Act to ex-servicemen from British Commonwealth countries who have immigrated to Australia and who are now permanent residents of the country, provided that such men give an undertaking that they will remain in Australia for some specified time.
– The matter raised bv the honorable member is not new. From time to time there have been proposals that the War Service Homes Act should be applied to imperial exservicemen. The position is that we have so many of our own ex-servicemen still waiting for homes that we consider our first responsibility is to them rather than- to men. from other countries. Moreover, I understand that the United Kingdom has not made any attempt to extend reciprocity. I shall be pleased to examine the honorable member’s proposal having regard to its suggestion in relation to permanence of residence.
– Can the Treasurer inform the House whether the Government has made any special or other financial provision for the Western Australian Government in relation to the vast amount of work that is being done in a limited period of time for the development of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company’s refinery at Kwinana, Western Australia? . If such provision has been made, can the Minister indicate the amount involved ? If the Government has not provided financial assistance, will it consider the requirements of this huge developmental scheme in the ordinary annual allocation of money to Western Australia or will the Government refer the matter to the Commonwealth Grants Commission for investigation ?
– If the honorable gentleman will place that question on the notice-paper, I shall give him an answer as expeditiously as possible. I understand that representations were made to my colleague, the Minister for
Labour and National Service, during his recent visit to Western Australia and that he intends to confer with me in relation to those representations.
– I desire 10 ask the Minister for the Interior a question about a report that the Queensland Government has appropriated this year from its loan funds a sum in excess of £800,000 for land settlement of ex-servicemen. That report is in conflict with statements that have been made by the Minister for Public Lands and by the Deputy Premier of Queensland that land settlement of exservicemen in that State would be discontinued. It is also in conflict with a report that the Queensland Department of Public Lands was of the opinion that land settlement of ex-servicemen was merely a passing phase and that it would be discontinued. Can the Minister inform the House whether land settlement of ex-servicemen will be continued in Queensland? If it is to be discontinued, can the Minister indicate the manner in which the Queensland Government will expend that sum of approximately £800,000 plus the unexpended surplus from last year?
– I cannot tell the honorable member the position in Queensland. As I stated last week, the last .official communication that the Australian Government received from the Premier of Queensland was to the effect , that £855,000 had been allocated this year i from loan funds for land settlement of , ex-servicemen. As recently as last Friday night, the Australian Broadcasting Com- , mission’s 7 p.m. news bulletin in Brisbane ; contained a statement which purported; to have been made by the Queensland Minister for Public Lands, Mr. Foley, %o the effect that the Wandoan-Taroom area was to be thrown open early next year for settlement under the Lands Act. In other words, the broadcast indicated that civilians would be able to apply for .the; Wandoan lands. That area has always been regarded as an area in which exservicemen would be settled. Thirty-six ex-servicemen have been settled in that area. I understand that the whole area has been developed with money that was obtained from the Australian Loan Council for the purpose of land settlement of ex-servicemen. The statement attributed to Mr. Foley seems to be in conflict with the facts that were contained in . a letter that was written hy the Queensland Premier under date the 30th October. The Queensland Premier said that settlement of ex-servicemen in Queensland would he continued and that £S55,000 had been allocated for that purpose. Mr. Foley did say that exservicemen would be given preference in the allocation of those blocks in the Wandoan-Taroom area provided they had the finance and other qualifications. It is not necessary under the Commonwealth scheme for an ex-serviceman to have finance. As I said last week, the statements seems to mean that the lands are to be thrown open for persons other than those who are eligible under the scheme for the land settlement of ex-servicemen. Having regard to the Premier’s letter, the statements by the Minister for Lands to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the previous decision of the Cabinet on the 27th July, find the statement to the press by the Minister for Lands early in September that war service land settlement is to be discontinued, I do not know the true situation in Queensland.
– Did the Treasurer recently meet a deputation of representatives of the Australian Council of Local Government Associations? If the right honorable gentleman was present on the occasion of the visit of the deputation, will he tell the House the nature of the requests made and indicate the nature of the reply given? Was he able to offer any hope to the representatives of local governing bodies of a new deal in the distribution of the petrol tax and of Commonwealth revenues, to enable the construction and maintenance of roads in outback areas which are necessary for development and defence? If the right honorable gentleman was not present, will he take an early opportunity to assure the Australian Council of Local Government Associations, which is to meet within a few days, that the Government will deal sympathetically with local governing authorities and review the relations between them and the Commonwealth?
– I was present when a deputation, representative of the Australian Council of Local Government Associations, met the Prime Minister. The representatives of that body were told, as they have always been told, that their authorities are State instrumentalities and, accordingly, that their representations should first have been made to the State governments which would then discuss them with the Australian Government on a State to Commonwealth basis. They were told, in no uncertain way, that the allocation of petrol tax collections for road purposes is a matter for the States themselves because the States receive their allocations as the result of an agreement entered into between the State governments and the Australian Government.
– Will the Minister for Social Services state whether there has been a leakage from his department of confidential instructions on the subject of war service homes policy? Can the Minister explain why it was necessary to interrogate a Western Australian civil servant on this matter?
– There was what might be termed a leakage of information from the War Service Homes Division. It had nothing whatever to do with secrecy in regard to the division but it involved a flagrant breach of Public Service departmental procedure. In the course of a debate in this House an honorable member read a letter which had passed between the Director of War Service Homes and the Deputy Directors in the States. That, of course, is traditionally not done.
– It was very damaging to the Government.
– The question of whether or not it was damaging does not arise. It involved a flagrant breach of Public Service procedure and was regarded as a dishonest act by the public servant concerned who made available confidential correspondence belonging to the division to a person who was unauthorized to receive it and by the member who used the letter in this House. As the War Service Homes Division handles approximately £30,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money every year, we have to be particularly careful in matters that touch the honesty of its staff. Therefore, the investigation officers were asked to institute inquiries. In the process of normal routine procedure the person to whom the honorable member for Forrest has referred was questioned.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The Minister said that it was a dishonest act on the part of the public servant who obtained this letter and also on the part of the honorable member who used it. Well, I used it. When the letter came into my possession, I had no idea of the means or the manner by which the individual who gave it to me had obtained it. For all I knew, the letter might have been handed to him quite honestly and directly by the director himself, or by a deputy director, or by any other authorized officer. I strongly object to the application of the term “ dishonest act “ to my use of the letter in this House. I used it, in a damaging way to the Government.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Order ! Does the Minister claim that he has been misrepresented ?
– I have been misrepresented in this way: The honorable member for Lalor admitted that he used the letter. When I made my statement, his name was not in my mind.
– I, too, wish to make a . personal explanation. The Minister for Social Services said that it was regarded as a dishonest act, on the part of an honorable member, to read the letter to which he referred. He made it plain that he was not referring to the honorable member for Lalor. As the honorable member for Lalor was the first person in this House to refer to the letter, and to reveal its damaging contents, and as I was the honorable member who read the letter, I find the statement of the Minister offensive, and ask that it be withdrawn.
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) said that the Minister had aspersed his character by accusing him of a dishonest act, and asked that the statement be withdrawn. I contend that the honorable member for Werriwa is entitled, under the Standing Orders, to ask for a withdrawal of the statement.
– Under the Standing Orders, and in conformity with the procedure of this House, I shall not order a withdrawal of the statement. I consider that the Chair must always take the stand that honorable members must accept responsibility for material which they use in this House. If, subsequently, they find that they have used something that came to them by unorthodox means, that is a matter for them to explain.
– I rise to order. The Minister said, before any honorable member was named, that the use of a certain letter by an honorable member was a dishonest action. The Chair has authenticated the correctness of my words. Now, the honorable member for Lalor says that the letter was used by him perfectly innocently. I submit that you are bound to direct the Minister to withdraw the statement to which the honorable member for Werriwa has objected.
Government members interjecting.
-Order ! The Leader of the Opposition has the right to be heard in silence.
– I submit, Mr. Speaker, that it is your duty to direct the Minister to withdraw an observation which reflects on an honorable member who has subsequently been identified by the voluntary statement of my colleague.
– I, too, rise to order. I submit that the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition can have no validity when the two honorable gentlemen concerned, by their own statements, have identified themselves. Nobody else in this House identified them. They themselves wrote the ticket right across their chests. In those circumstances, I suggest that they must take the consequences.
-Order ! I have considered this matter, which has arisen from time to time, and I am emphatic that I shall not order the withdrawal of the words to which objection has been taken. If an honorable member uses in this House matter the origin of which he is not sure, the responsibility for doing 30 rests upon him, and he must take any consequences that arise from his action.
– I wish to press this matter a little further.
– Order ! To do so the Leader of the Opposition will need to move a motion of dissent from my ruling.
– No one disputes the correctness of your statement, Mr. Speaker, as far as it goes. The word “ dishonest “ was used in reference to an honor able member, and that is disorderly. I submit that as the word has been used, it should be withdrawn. I ask you to rule that the remark made by the Minister in reference to an honorable member is disorderly, and to ask that it bc withdrawn. I am dealing now, not with the use of the document, but with the characterization of an honorable 111 ember as dishonest. On the statement before the House, the honorable member acted with perfect propriety and in all innocence, and that characterization of him is completely unjustified and out of order.
– I ask you, Mr. Speaker, on the same point of order, whether it is true that the Standing Orders provide that reflections upon the conduct of honorable members are disorderly and, therefore, must be withdrawn. If so, I ask you to do as the Leader of the Opposition has requested and order the Minister to withdraw his statement.
– I direct your attention, Mr. Speaker, to Standing Order 7 S, which states -
All imputations of improper motives and nil personal reflections on Members shall bc considered highly disorderly.
Standing Order 79, which is also relevant, states -
When any offensive or disorderly words aTe used whether by a Member who is addressing thu Chair or by” a Member who is present, the Speaker shall intervene.
In view of the terms of those standing orders, I consider that you have no alternative but to order the Minister to withdraw his statement.
– I refer to the point of order also. I understand that the
Minister’s statement did not refer personally to any honorable member. If any honorable member thinks the cap fits and puts it on, that is a matter for his own conscience.
-Order ! I have considered the matter carefully. In this case, the use of the letter in question was either honest or dishonest. I gather from remarks that I have heard that, if honorable members had known of the circumstances by which the letter came into their hands, they might not, or would not, have used it. That is the only interpretation that I can put on the remarks that I have heard.
– That shows that the honorable member was honest-
– I shall not order a withdrawal.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. I had no knowledge of the origin of the information. In fact, a day or two after I had received this directive, I approached the Minister for Social Services and talked to him about the information that the Director’s letter had conveyed to the deputy directors. Is it to be considered that, if I thought that I had obtained the letter dishonestly, I would have gone to the Minister and revealed its contents and that later I would have quoted it in this House? In these circumstances, I ask that the imputation be withdrawn. Never before, in this Parliament or in any other parliament, have I been accused of having done anything dishonest.
– I have still heard nothing to alter my view.
– You have said that one of two conclusions must be right, but you have come to a definite conclusion.
-I have not done so.
– At any rate, you have allowed an imputation to be made against my colleague. That imputation is unjustified, according to the statement before the House. and I submit that you should now direct the Minister for Social Services to withdraw it. I should like you to say whether you propose to do that or not.
– I do not propose to do so.
– Then I move -
That the ruling be dissented from.
– I second the motion.
Dr. Evatt having submitted in writing his objection to the ruling,
Question put. The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. ArchieCameron.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Mr.CHAMBERS. - My question is addressed to the Minister for Supply. In answer to a question asked yesterday, the Minister informed the House that only articles of little value were recently taken from the long-range weapons establishment. Does he know that the stolen articles included Geiger counters, special valves and other radio parts, valued at several thousands of pounds? If that is so, is the Minister satisfied with the efficiency of the security service?
– I know that a certain section of the press has stated that Geiger counters and things of that sort were taken from the long-range weapons establishment, . but I did not say that the articles taken were of little value. I said that they were not of security value. They were unclassified material, and therefore no question of security arose. That is what I said yesterday, or that is what I sought to convey, and if the honorable member will look at the Hansard report I believe that he will find that my recollection is correct. The question of the efficiency of the security organization does not arise in that connexion. As I said yesterday, some sort of informal permission was alleged to have been given to troops at Emu Field to the effect that they might take certain equipment no longer required by the British authorities. Pursuant to that permission articles were sent out. The security people, having had their attention drawn to the number of parcels coming out-
– Drawn by the employees of the Postmaster-General’s Department ?
– Yes, that is so; the security people made inquiries as a result of which a great deal of this material was recovered. I do not know what the honorable member’s complaint is, but perhaps it is that we discovered the articles at all.
Honorable members interjecting ,
– Order! If honorable members are not prepared to listen I shall ask the Treasurer to call on the business of the day.
– I have stated the facts in general terms. I do not propose to pronounce judgment on whether this was a theft or a piece of what might be called traditional souveniring. That is a matter which is at present .being inquired into by the authorities.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation been informed that the new bitumen runway at Wagga is showing signs of bad wear after only six months in operation ? Has final payment been made to the contractors who laid the runway, and was there any clause in the contract which required them to maintain it for a certain time after they had completed the work ? Will the Minister make inquiries in his department to ascertain whether the officer who passed the work for payment made sure that sufficient bitumen had been put on the runway?
– I have not the information at hand to answer the honorable member now, hut I shall secure the information for him.
– My question to the Minister for Social Services is supplementary to one asked by the honorable member for Kingston yesterday, in which he stated that the Campbelltown Council intended to declare certain houses on the Hectorville war service homes estate unfit for habitation. Can the Minister inform the House whether the plan for the houses on that estate were submitted for approval to the Campbelltown Council in accordance with the local government legislation?
– The plans for the houses were submitted to the Campbelltown Council in 1948. They were approved, and if the council now has any fault to find with them its criticisms should be levelled at its own officers.
Mr. Daly having ashed a disallowed question,
– I rise to order. On what grounds did you, Mr. Speaker, rule out of order the question that I asked earlier, seeing questions of a similar nature were directed by supporters of the Government to the Leader of the Opposition in times past, and were allowed? The matter that I introduced comes within the scope of arbitration, which is under the control of the Minister.
– I was not aware that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court was under the control of any Minister.
– I ask the Leader of the Opposition whether he will give a lead to the members of his party who are opposed to graft and corruption-
– Order ! The honorable member’s question is outside the range of departmental activity.
– My question is directed to you, Mr. Speaker. If I were to say to the Minister for Social Services that he is a dishonest person, in spite of the fact that you have no means of ascertaining immediately whether he is dishonest, would you, if he objected, require me to withdraw that statement?
– I deal with each case as it arises.
– Then, I now call him a dishonest person.
– The honorable member is out of order. I ask him to be reasonable and to withdraw that imputation.
– I rise to a point of order. The same accusation was made against me without any proof whether it was accurate or not. You, Mr. Speaker, did not know whether it was correct.
-Order! I simply point out to the honorable gentleman that he did not have any proof either when he used the document, and apparently he did not seek it. He must withdraw the accusation.
– You, Mr. Speaker, did not seek it either.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman will withdraw that imputation.
– Under duress, I withdraw it.
MrEWERT.- Is the Minister for the Navy a ware that naval gunnery exercises we’re conducted recently in Port Phillip Bay? Does he know of the distress and worry caused to residents in bay-side suburbs, and of the terrifying effect of the gunfire on young children and on people who are ill, including those in hospitals? Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the damage that resulted from the exercises, not only the shaking and rattling of walls and windows, but also the cracking of plaster and the shifting of tiles? Will he investigate whether claims for damage to houses arising from the exercises can be legally met by the Department of the Navy, and will he take steps to ensure that future exercises shall take place outside the bay ?
Mr.McMAHON. - One day last week the Royal Australian Navy carried out a full-calibre exercise in Port Phillip Bay, with unfortunate consequences. The Navy agrees that many people were disturbed by the gunfire. It claims that that was due to a most unfortunate combination of circumstances. Immediately the naval authorities ascertained the facts, they took action to suspend further training exercises in Port Phillip Bay. As the result of a direction issued yesterday, a new range will be used for full-calibre exercises. No further fullcalibre exercises will be conducted in Port Phillip Bay, but sub-calibre exercises will be conducted in that area.
Mr.CRAMER. - My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. In view of the need to provide other accommodation for public servants in Sydney who occupy commercial buildings which are urgently required for the accommodation of commercial interests, will the Minister investigate the possibility of adding several stories to the General Post Office in Sydney an order to raise its height to that of the Commonwealth Bank, which is opposite, and adjoining premises ?
– The department at present has not any plans for adding stories to the General Post Office in Sydney. In order to relieve the con gestion in the General Post Office, the department desires to use the funds that are available for the erection of a new mail branch near the Central Railway Station at Redfern. When that building is completed it will be possible to make available for other purposes the space that is at present occupied by the mail branch.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) proposed -
That government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
.- I ask the right honorable gentleman for an assurance that the passage of this motion will not prevent the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) from proceeding to-morrow with the motion of which he gave notice this afternoon.
. - in reply - The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) may rest assured that there is no ulterior motive in my mind in relation to this motion. I have no intention of taking any action that would prevent the honorable member for Bendigo from moving his motion. Indeed, the Government will welcome it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That,notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders -
This motion is almost identical with a motion that was moved in this House over a year ago though it contains certain modifications to which I shall draw the attention of honorable members. The first is the inclusion in paragraph 4 (d) of the words “unless the Minister at the request of the committee otherwise directs “. That paragraph provides that the committee and its sub committees shall sit in camera and that their proceedings shall be secret unless the Minister, at the request of the committee, otherwise directs. It is foreshadowed that there may be occasions on which the Foreign Affairs Committee will sit in public. The last three lines of paragraph 4 (f) are new. The provision contained in those lines is that, if the Opposition is represented on the committee, the copies of the committee’s reports to the Minister for External Affairs shall be forwarded to the Leader of the Opposition for his confidential information. Paragraph 4 (g) has been modified. That paragraph provides that the committee shall have power to send for persons, papers and records and that all evidence submitted to the committee shall be regarded as confidential to the committee. That provision, of course, is qualified by paragraph 4 (d) when the committee sits in public.
I think honorable members are well aware of the reason for the establishment of the Foreign Affairs Committee and of its history over the last eighteen months. On the 20th November I tabled the second report of the committee. Perhaps honorable members have had an opportunity of looking at that report. The committee has worked well over the last eighteen months. The officers or the Department of External Affairs and I have endeavoured to give the committee every assistance, and we have made available for its perusal many hundreds of documents in relation to current external affairs. No fewer than a dozen prominent people from outside the Parliament have attended meetings of the committee and have reported to it on various aspects of foreign affairs with which they were particularly familiar. I think that this experiment, which was commenced eighteen months ago - and I do not say this in a party political spirit - has ‘been a great success. The Government regrets that the Opposition has not seen fit to collaborate with the committee. I hope that the Opposition will reconsider its attitude because, broadly speaking, international policy in any country should be above party politics. I hope that in the future the committee will enable honorable members to inform themselves on foreign affairs toa degree to which that has not been possible in the past. I think members of the committee would be willing to tell their respective Houses that no restraint had been placed upon them by myself or by officers of the Department of External Affairs. The committee has been freely given all the information for which it has asked. I repeat the appeals that have been made to the Opposition several times, both in this House and in another place, to reconsider its attitude of non-co-operation with the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 24th November (vide page 468).
Clauses 46 to 57 - by leave - considered together.
3.21”. - I refer to clause 55, which reads as follows: -
Clause 55 - (1.) Where a person contributes to the funds of n,registered hospital benefits organization and under the rules of that organization an amount of not less than Six shillings per day is payable by the organization, in respect of the contributor, for each day on which the contributor is a qualified patient, a benefit of Pour shillings per day for each day on which the contributor is a qualified patient is, subject to this Division, payable by the Commonwealth in respect of the contributor.
I move -
That, in sub-clause ( 1.) , the words. - “ Where a person contributes to the funds of a registered hospital benefits organization and under the rules of that organization an amount of not less than Six shillings per day is payable by the organization, in respect of the contributor,” be left out.
The amendment is very simple indeed. It is one which I hope the Minister will see fit to accept because it will vastly improve the Government’s scheme. It will restore the system of free treatment of all citizens in public wards of public hospitals without the necessity of membership of a friendly society or a private fund. We can see no reason why the Minister should not be prepared to accept the amendment. When the Chifley Govern ment left office it was paying 8s. a day in respect of each occupied bed in public wards of public hospitals and in the public wards of approved private hospitals and, in return, all the State governments of Australia were undertaking to provide free treatment in public wards. Every person, irrespective of his means, whose health condition required that he should occupy a bed in a public ward, was able to occupy it without the humiliation of a means test and without extensive inquiry by officials into the state of his finances. Upon leaving the hospital after having been given the necessary treatment he received no bill of any kind for the services rendered. In other words, each citizen contributed to the cost of hospitalization by taxation according to his ability to pay. The money paid into the National Welfare Fund by every citizen in accordance with his means was used to provide hospital treatment for all Australian citizens. The system enjoyed the support of the great majority of the Australian people. All those who participated in its benefits had every cause to be thankful for it. It was a system which allowed a man to maintain his self respect, because he knew that he paid according to his ability to pay and received services according to his needs.
Up to this point the Minister has been obdurate in his unwillingness to return to the system established by the Chifley Labour Government which represented such a great advance in hospitalization in Australia. As you are aware, Mr. Chairman -
While the light holds out to burn
The vilest sinner may return.
We propose by this amendment to give to the Minister another and a final opportunity to see the error of his ways and to restore the system established by the Chifley Labour Government. From the financial point of view, there is no reason whatever for the Minister’s refusal to continue that system. As I have pointed out, in 1949 the Chifley Labour Government was paying Ss. a day for each occupied bed when the basic wage was slightly in excess of £6 a week. To-day, the Treasurer is receiving from taxpayers double the revenue received by the Chifley Government, because wages are in accordance with living costs, which have more than doubled during the last four years. This Government is therefore in. a position to pay at least 16s. a day for each occupied bed without imposing any greater strain upon the financial resources of the Commonwealth than the Chifley Government was able to bear without difficulty.
– That is completely wrong.
– Under this system the Government is paying only 3s. a day, or the equivalent of less than 4s. a day, having regard to the value of money in the days of the Chifley Government. In fact, the value of the benefit provided by this Government has been cut in half during its term of office. Only if a man or a woman will agree to undertake the additional obligation of private insurance will the Government agree to increase the benefit. In that event it will increase the benefit by the small amount of 4s., making a total benefit of 12s. a day. Even when a citizen has accepted the additional obligation of private insurance, this Government- still pays far less in respect of each occupied hospital bed, in terms of real money, than the Chifley Government found it possible to pay four years ago. In those circumstances, it is utterly wrong for the Minister to pretend to this committee that he has done something to improve the financial position of hospitals. As the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer), by interjection a few moments ago, showed that he also has been deceived about this matter I should like to correct his thinking in regard to it. The difficulties experienced by public hospitals in Australia to-day were not created by the Chifley Government. On the contrary, that Government completely relieved the financial difficulties of public hospitals throughout the whole of Australia.
– Rot !
– As is apparently known to every honorable member, with the possible exception of the honorable member for Bennelong, whom I shall soon bring to a state of understanding in regard to this matter, before the Chifley Government’s scheme was adopted the State governments were receiving from patients and from other sources less than 6s. a. day in respect of each occupied bed. The Chifley Government, in return for an undertaking on the part of the State governments to give free services, provided, in respect of each occupied hospital bed, 6s. a day, or a larger amount than the hospitals normally received from fees and from other sources. In that respect the Chifley Government improved the position of every public hospital in Australia. That fact was acknowledged by the State governments which so willingly accepted the Chifley Government’s scheme.
– The honorable member does not really believe that.
– In 194S the Chifley Government went further and increased the payment to Ss. a day. A payment of at least 188. a day would be required now to equal the purchasing power of the Ss. a clay provided by the Chifley Government in 1949. If honorable members opposite contend that the Chifley Government contributed to the financial difficulties of public hospitals in 1949, what must they say about the present Government, which is continuing a contribution of the same nominal value - that is, 8s. a day - but the value of which, in terms of purchasing power, is less than one-half of the value of the contribution made by the Chifley Government?
– ‘Why is the financial position of all public hospitals infinitely better now than it was a few years ago ?
– Before the Minister introduced his present scheme, the hospitals were starved financially by this Government, which had made no addition to payments to hospitals in order to cope with the ever-increasing costs produced by its own reckless inflationary policy.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I am almost inclined to believe that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) has genuinely deceived himself on this matter. He has now moved four or five amendments with the object of destroying the bill. The whole principle of this legislation is that voluntary insurance! plus government aid produces an extraordinary increase in hospital revenues. His story will not stand investigation for two’ seconds. The Chifley Labour Government introduced its hospital scheme in 1945, and the position in New South Wales at that time was that the total yield from public effort was £2,195,000 a.nd the total amount of State aid was £1,700,000. After the Chifley ,ment’s scheme had been in operation foi* two years, the yield from public effort had declined to £1,300,000. and State aid had to be increased to £4j000,000. Every hospital was in desperate financial straits-.
About a month after the Menzies Government assumed office, a conference (.if Commonwealth and State Ministers lor Health was held to discus^ the finances df hospitals. Docs the honorable member foi1 Eden-Monaro contend that the financial position of those institutions had changed so radically in 30 days? The State Ministers said emphatically that ti 1 61 r hospitals could not manage without a payment of between 16s. and 18s. a I Mid a day. I remind honorable members nhat the Chifley Labour Government had not increased the payment to hospitals for several years. The original payment in ]945 was 6s. a bed a day, and. it was increased about a year later to Ss. si bed a day. The position had become desperate, hut only for the hospitals but als6 for the sick people. The hospitals had not sufficient revenues, and they ‘expected to forced to withdraw some of their beds from use.
The results of the present Scheme completely ‘disprove the statements df the honorable member for Eden-Monaro The board of the Royal Prince Alfred’ Hospital, iii Sydney, lias “asked ( iiic to attend its annual meeting next Monday, because it is so pleased with its improved financial position since ‘the operation of the present scheme. The Balmain Hospital, at th’e instigation pf the honorable member for Martin (Mr. O’Connor),;, lias “asked me to attend ite annual meeting in order to accept its thanks, because foithe first time for almost, a generation;, it is able to see daylight in respect of its financial position. It is silly for thehonorable member for Eden-Monaro tocontinue to deceive himself, as he is doing. The answer to his statements is provided by mathematics. Public hospitals throughout Australia have approximately 40,000 beds ‘ in public wards. Let us- suppose, for the purposes of this argument, that 10,000 of those beds are occupied by patients who cannot afford to pay fees. The increased revenue for each other bed is approximately £180 a year, The honorable member for Eden-‘Monaro, if hu works a simple multiplication sum, will see that hospital revenues are benefiting by an additional fio.000,000 or £6,000,000 a year. In ‘the last hine months, the financial position of public hospitals has improved by £3j500,000 to £4,000,000. Those figures are revealed by actual banking transactions. Dr. Schlink, of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, visited Canberra recently with the loans of the faculties of medicine in Australian universities, and he told mc. in the course of our conversation, th’at foi- the first time for many years, the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital was able to carry oil with its own resources, and
*d not have to depend on feh’6 goodwill of the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker. In the past, tradesmen and th’e suppliers of equipment, had to “tarry nhat hospital for months-, and even years. The honorable member foi” Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) will testify to the truth of that statement.
Eighteen months ago the directors of the Kempsey Hospital, iri the electorate of Lyne, had to sign a guarantee to accept responsibility, jointly and severally, for £6,000 or £7,000, which was required to pay the wages of the staff. A few weeks ago-, the financial statement of that hospital showed a surplus. Since the commencement of the new scheme, tiro institution is no (longer in financial “difficulties. The Grafton Hospital) for the first time in seventeen years, has a surplus of £3,000-, ‘‘and the New South Wales Hospitals Commission has stated that the institution has done so Well that its surplus may be used to finance improvements to equipment. In other circum stance’s, the money “would have ‘been taken ‘into ‘general revenue. However, the subsidy payable to the hospital may be reviewed next year. Those instances reveal the improvement ‘in hospital finances. The ftonseh.se mouthed by ‘the honorable member foi” EdenMonaro on this subject neatly makes one ill. The president’ 6f the hoard of the
Bairnsdale District Hospital has made the following statement:-
Had it not been for the additional source of revenue derived from the Commonwealth Hospital Benefits Scheme, the hospital would have shown a substantial deficit on the year’s transactions.
That statement is true of the position of hospitals throughout Australia^ yet th’e honorable member for Eden-Monaro urges Us to abolish the present scheme and to retreat into the slough of despond, and stick in the mi-re. I assure him that the present scheme may be likened to a tractor or a bulldozer that has pulled hospitals out of the financial mire into which they had settled. For the first time, they have a radiant hope for the future* They are able to contemplate necessary improvements. I cite the position of the Bonalbo Hospital in my own electorate. The matron and head sister slept in a room 10 feet by 8 feet. There was no place where the ‘night sister Could sleep undisturbed. The hospital authorities had tried foi1 twelve years to obtain sufficient money to ‘finance ‘the construction of a tew additional rooms. Now they say that they will erect the necessary buildings next year. This -scheme has been in operation generally for a year, and in relation to private hospitals for nearly two years. Sir William McKell said, when he was Premier of New South Wales, that 80 private hospitals had closed in that State in two years as a. result of the operation of the Labour Government’s scheme. This Government is encouraging -them to ‘open their doors again. Hospitals ‘are providing more beds for the people and a-re improving their service to patients. Nurses are returning to hospitals which not -long ago could not obtain staff and were forced to close down wards, in -some instance.1! depriving the “public of the use of “20 or 30 beds.
Ail sorts of disabilities ate being overcome ;by (his Government Bill the Opposition wants us to change bur plan-. According to the honorable “member for Eden-Monaro, the right way to “go forward ‘is to go backward. He wants Us “to sink back into the mud. We have just “climbed ‘out of the mire bli to dry land. There is solid rock beneath ‘Out feet and a “sound bitumen road “ahead of us. But the honorable gentleman urges us to turn back into the mud where the Labour Government bogged us down five or six years ago. Labour did not help the people with its health plan. It merely forced the States to. adopt a policy that ‘ it refused to finance adequately. I should have had no objection to Labour’s plan if it had agreed to pay 50, 60 or 70 per cent, of the total maintenance costs of hospitals. But it refused to do so. It provided only a miserable 20 or 25 per cent, of hospital costs and then sat back and said proudly, “ Look what we have done. We have given the people a free health service “. The truth is that it forced its scheme upon the States regardless of their wishes. What did the then Premier of Queensland, Mr. Hanlon, say of Labour’s scheme?
– In 1949. He said that the Labour Government’s medical benefit plan would lead to a lowering of the standard of care that the State could provide for hospital patients.
– The Queensland Government has not accepted the Commonwealth scheme. *
– What silly nonsense ! Hundreds of thousands of pounds of insurance moneys are being paid for hospital attention in Queensland at the present time. Notwithstanding the statements made by honorable members opposite last night, the Queensland Government undertook immediately to make a substantial number of beds available in country districts, and an equal number available in city areas, for patients insured under the Commonwealth plan. Part of its contract with the Commonwealth is that beds must always be available for insured persons when they fall ill. The State Government has promised that, as soon as the Brisbane General Hospital nurses’ home becomes vacant in the near future, the building will be made available for use as private wards. Three-quarters of the new hospital in South Brisbane, which has almost reached the point of completion, will be used to provide pay wards ‘under the Commonwealth scheme. The contract between the State Government and this Government provides that the State must increase its hospital revenues in such ways as that, and, unless it carries out the contract, the Auditor-General W].1.1 nor permit the Commonwealth to make the general payments under the scheme.
All the talk that Ave have heard, from honorable members opposite about different agreements in different States is sheer nonsense. Every State still has the power to provide beds free of charge if it wishes to do so, and every State, in fact, provides free beds for indigent persons. The Commonwealth has eased the situation in relation to pensioners by providing 12s. a day for such patients. The governments of New South Wales and certain other States have said that they Will accept this amount as the total payment for pensioner patients. The net result of the present scheme is that hospital revenue from all sources now amounts to £12,500,000 a year, compared with approximately £6,000,000 a year at the time that this Government took office. In other words, hospital revenue has practically doubled since 1949.
– But the money will not buy as much as the £6,000,000 did then.
– All this talk about not being able to buy so much makes me rather sick. Whenever we try to establish a standard, the Labour party objects and says, “ But we are not on the gold standard now. We are on the brummagem standard, the lead standard, the tin standard, or the bread standard.” Honorable members opposite complain that a. 12£ per cent, tax reduction benefits the wage-earner by only Id. a. week. Such criticism is misleading. According to them 100 years ago, a 12£ per cent, tax reduction would not have been of any advantage to the average wage-earner. Let us deal with realities and talk like commonsense men. What is the attitude of the Victorian Government to the Commonwealth medical benefits plan? The day that the Victorian Labour Government took office, it called the State Parliament together to pass a law that enabled that Government to sign the agreement with the Commonwealth and take advantage of the scheme immediately. The Labour party in Victoria prevented Mr. McDonald from doing so for months, when he was Premier, but it took advantage of the earliest opportunity to ratify the agreement when it came to power. “What’ happened in New South Wales? The old agreement had seven or eight months to run, but the State Government approached this Government and asked for permission to set the new agreement in operation at once. This Government agreed to the request and the State Government changed over to the new agreement. The Western Australian Government did likewise. One would think, to listen to honorable members opposite, that Their colleagues in the States were clowns and fools.
Whenever I walk through the streets of Sydney, Melbourne and country towns in various parts of Australia and ask people whether they are insured under the Commonwealth scheme, they tell me that they are insured because they regard health insurance on this Government’s plan as the best investment that they know. They say that, for the same rate of premium as they paid under the Labour Government’s plan, they are entitled now to twice the benefits in some instances. People throughout Australia, including members of the Opposition no doubt, have taken advantage of the opportunity to make this valua’ble investment. My own opinion is that those who have not taken advantage of it are in need of treatment, not at a general hospital, but in a mental home.
Mr. THOMPSON (Port Adelaide) I 3.4-7”! . - We should view this matter in a different light from that in which the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) views it. There is a community hospital very close to my home which makes a charge of £2 2s. a day for each patient. Under the Chifley Government’s legislation, the hospital reduced each account by 8s.. a day so that the patient had to pay only £1 14s. a day. Under the present scheme, the Minister tells the patient that lie must insure himself for a benefit of 6s. a day. That benefit makes no difference to the hospital, because it charges £2 2s. m day to each person whether he is insured or not. When the account is made i ‘lit. the hospital writes off 8s. a day, as it did under the Chifley legislation, and the patient is required to pay the balance of £1 14s. If he is insured for 6s. a day, he can obtain an additional benefit of 4s. a day from the Government. That is all the help that he obtains from the Commonwealth. He is required to pay a premium for the amount of 6s. a day that he receives from the approved insurance organization. The investment represented by the continued payment of the premium may return a good dividend to him if he has the misfortune to become ill, but he may pay the premium for many years without having to go to hospital. Let us consider the position of a wealthy man with thousands of pounds in the bank. The Government says to that man, in effect, “ We pay 8s. a day towards your hospital account if you are in an approved hospital. If you have insured yourself, we shall pay an additional 4s. a day. If you have not insured yourself, you must pay the balance of your account, after we have paid 8s. a day, out of your own pocket.” This amendment would give the hospitals an assurance that they would be paid 12s. a day by the Government in respect of each patient, and would receive at least 6s. a day from patients who had insured with appropriate organizations. It would not mean that the hospitals would get any more money than previously. The Minister’s remarks referred almost entirely to’ public hospitals. They had no relevance to the thousands of people who are treated in private hospitals. Let me tell the right honorable gentleman that these provisions will not ensure that the private hospitals will get any more money. The legislation of the Chifley Government provided that a person who was treated in a public ward of a public hospital would not be required to make any contribution to his hospital expenses. Under this scheme, such a person must insure with a hospital benefits organization for the payment of 6s. a day towards his hospital expenses. The hospital must make a certain charge to obtain the government payment. I am not certain of the figure but, speaking from memory, I think a hospital must charge a patient at least 18s. a day before it becomes entitled to the payment of 12s. a day from the Government. That is provided for in agreements in respect to public hospitals made between the Commonwealth and the States. The bill states what is to be done in the case of private hospitals, but the procedure in respect of public hospitals is specified in agreements made between the Commonwealth and the States.- Unless a State makes a certain charge to patients in public hospitals, itdoes not become entitled to a payment from the Government. The Minister has said that provision has been made for free beds to he available in public hospitals, but I do not know of any clause of the bill which provides that a public hospital will he entitled to receive the full Commonwealth payment in respect of a patient who occupies a free bed.
– I refer the honorable member to the 1951 agreement.
– This bill is not an agreement. If the Minister can make an agreement with a hospital that provides for one thing, he can make another agreement that provides for a different thing. The bill gives the Minister power to make agreements with hospitals, subject to a proviso that, in order to become entitled to a payment from the Commonwealth, a hospital must make a certain charge in respect of each patient. I contend that a public hospital is a hospital for the public. The legislation of the Chifley Government made provision for payments to be made in respect of patients who occupied free beds in public hospitals.
The Minister has referred caustically to the statement of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Eraser) that the public hospitals benefited from the Chifley Government’s hospital benefits scheme. Before the scheme was introduced, charges made by the Royal Adelaide Hospital were based on ability to pay. A charge of 10s. a day was made to people who could afford to pay it. Other people were charged less than that, or not charged at all. At that time, the average payment received in respect of each bed occupied in that hospital was less than 6s. a day. When the Chifley Government paid 6s. a day in respect of every bed occupied, the hospital received more money than it had received pre viously. That proves the accuracy of the statement by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro that the hospital benefit scheme of the Chifley Government gave an additional benefit to public hospitals. I do not deny that when costs increased, the hospitals went through a difficult period, but I say that under the Chifley Government’s scheme the hospitals received more revenue from beds than they had received previously. Later, the Chifley Government increased the payment from 6s. to 8s. a day. I say quite openly that honorable members on this side of the chamber want to put that system into operation again. We say also that in respect of any patient in a private hospital, whether he be a wealthy person or a wage-earner, the Government should make a payment of 12s. a day.
It is all very well to say that if a person insures with a hospital benefits organization, the Commonwealth will pay 12s. a day towards his hospital expenses, but if honorable members opposite had a closer association with the ordinary men in the street they would know that many people cannot afford to insure themselves in that way. Doubtless the Minister will say that an indigent person can be admitted to a public ward of a public hospital. In South Australia, there are many people in small country towns who cannot enter public hospitals for treatment, because the hospitals are too far from their homes. They have to go to the hospitals that are nearby. Unless such people have insured themselves with a hospital benefits organization, the Commonwealth will make no payment in respect of their hospital treatment, because most hospitals of that kind do not have public wards or public beds. Some of them have one or two public beds. The Murray Bridge Hospital has two or four public beds - I forget the number. Recently a man wrote to me and told rae that he had been unable to secure a public bed in that hospital, because they were all occupied. He had to go into a’ private ward and pay the appropriate charge for treatment there. Many people who cannot afford to insure with hospital benefits organizations are deprived of the benefit of a payment by the Commonwealth when they enter a hospital.
This scheme will make practically no difference to the average person with a decent income who goes into a private hospital. He will have to contribute to a hospital benefits organization, which will pay him 6s. a day towards his hospital expenses, and he will have to pay the balance of his hospital bill. The only additional payment he will receive from the Government as a result of being insured is 4s. a day. If the Government were to agree to pay 12s. a day in respect of all patients, that would clear the matter up. I appeal to the Minister to give further consideration to that proposal.
– Order ! The honorable member has exhausted his time.
– As the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) has pointed out, the effect of this amendment, if accepted, would be completely to change the basis on which payments are made to public hospitals. There would be, in fact, a reversion to the old system. The real contention of honorable members opposite is that every one in the community should be treated in public hospitals free of charge. I have done my best to explain to the House on several occasions that there is no such thing as treating every one free of charge in public hospitals. There is no validity in the argument that, because a hospital system exists, nobody should pay anything for hospital treatment or that, having paid taxes for what are vaguely and generally known as social services, everybody should be able to enjoy everything that the hospital system provides without making a further payment. That argument could be extended to include almost everything. It could be said that travel on trams and trains should be free. The Minister adopted the principle that, as the hospital system was not receiving sufficient funds under the old system by which per capita payments were made to hospitals, a system of voluntary insurance should be introduced. There is no compulsion in this scheme, and honorable members opposite are merely endeavouring to draw a red herring across the trail when they say that this part of the scheme is compulsory and that a man must insure himself in order to enjoy hospital benefits.
It is not a compulsory scheme. It is a voluntary scheme.
The public hospitals of all States arc managed by the governments of the States in which they are established, and each State government has made an almost, identical agreement with the Australian Government. Under that agreement it is the prerogative of the .State government concerned to decide whether or not it will make a charge for its public hospital beds, and in the case of the States that have decided to make a charge there is still nothing to prevent those persons who are unable to insure, and those who are in indigent circumstances, from receiving, free of charge, all the benefits that a public hospital can provide. But there is an arrangement that those who can insure, and can pay for hospital accommodation, shall be requested to do so. If a State decides to make a charge, it has to ascertain the circumstances of each patient. If he is insured for hospital benefits or if the authorities believe that he can afford to pay a charge, then they request him to do so. It is an extraordinary thing to say that such a scheme would have any effect on a man’s self respect. Surely, it cannot detract from a man’s .self respect if he undertakes responsibilities on his own account, but it may affect his self respect if he allows the State to do everything for him.
The idea that the hospitals should be free to every one because every one has paid some form of taxation, is analogous to the other claims that the Opposition has made about social services, in which it has argued that because everybody makes some social services contribution, everybody should have all social services benefits, including the age pension, without having any means test applied to them. Indeed, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) himself stated that that was the Opposition’s view. “When he was asked whether he had made any calculations about the cost of the scheme that he advocated, he admitted that he had made none, and that he had no idea of what the consequent increase of taxation would be if his theories were put into practice. The amendment that has been moved on behalf of the Opposition, is founded on exactly that irresponsible basis. No honorable member opposite has calculated the cost that would accrue to the country if die amendments were adopted, but the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) has shown that in the nine months that his scheme has been in operation, it has already benefited the hospitals by a sum of between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000.
The issue before us is simple. Are we to accept a scheme based on responsible and sensible premises, or are we to accept a scheme that is wholly irresponsible and that will benefit neither the patients nor the hospitals? If a man insures himself for hospital benefits - and he is not compelled to do so - is he to be asked to devote the proceeds of that insurance towards paying his hospital fees? The answer of any sensible person to that question must be “yes”. If a man is perfectly capable of paying for” his hospital benefits, why should he not be asked to do so? The honorable member for Port Adelaide said that people were crowded out of public beds of small country hospitals, and were put into private beds for which they were asked to pay a charge. All I can say about that is that if that has happened it is the result of extremely bad hospital administration. If a man who cannot pay for a private bed should go along to a public hospital and find that the public beds are all full, surely any reasonable hospital would provide a. private bed, but regard it as a public bed, and make no charge.
When honorable members talk about a means test, let us be clear on what this means. Strictly speaking, it is a test which excludes from a benefit those who do not satisfy certain conditions. Therefore, if there really was a means test for hospital benefits certain persons who did not satisfy the test would be completely excluded from those benefits. It is misleading to talk about a means test as applied to hospitals, because no one who is unable to pay. is excluded from the hospitals. It is quite unreal to say that simply by making per capita payments, and calling the benefits free, they really become free. The choice is whether we shall finance all our medical services, hospitals and other social services out of taxation, or whether we shall have a contributory scheme on a basis of really apportioning the cost to those who can actually pay. In other words, are we to have a national insurance scheme’ on a real basis? As far as hospitals and health services are concerned, the Government’s scheme is certainly on that real basis. It may be possible to point to some minor anomalies in the scheme, but it is not possible to point to any major anomalies.
.- Under clause 55 of this bill a person is required to contribute to a registered hospital benefits organization to qualify to receive the additional 4s. a day payment made by the Commonwealth. The Opposition has put forward an amendment designed to eliminate the necessity for a person to be a contributor to an organization, because we believe that a patient should be on the same footing as a patient under the Chifley scheme, and receive the benefits of the government contribution without being forced to pay anything to any outside body. I was very interested in the second-reading speech of the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) because he appeared to be primarily concerned with the benefits that hospitals would obtain under the scheme, and not the benefits that the patients would obtain. I was apparently labouring under the misapprehension that the intention of the bill was to assist patients, but the Minister has made it clear that its main purpose is to assist the hospitals. We maintain that hospitals should be financed by the Government in order that they may help those who are ill. Moreover, we believe that a scheme such as that contemplated by this measure is unconstitutional because it is compulsory. People will be required to pay money, not to the Government, but to private profit-making organizations before they become eligible for a government benefit.
The Minister laid emphasis on the fact that more hospital beds were available at the present time than have been available for some time past. I suggest that they are available only because people cannot pay the extortionate charges imposed by hospitals, and that the scheme is appropriately named the hospital benefits scheme, because it is a scheme -to benefit the hospitals and not patients. The Chifley Government made 8s. a bed a day available in respect of patients in hospitals, and I emphasize that all patients, received that amount whether they had made any contribution or not. Labour believed that because everybody paid the first ls. 6d. in the £1 of his income tax into a social services contribution fund, he should have the benefit of that taxation. But the people are continuing to pay that social services contribution, and therefore they should continue to have the benefit of it. I suggest that because of the increased cost of commodities caused by the maladministration of the present Government, the 8s. a bed a day paid by the Chifley Government would be worth at least 18s. a day at present. Therefore, this Government should pay 1 Ss. a bed a day in respect of all patients in all hospitals. “We believe that hospitalization should be free, and the object of the Opposition’s amendment is to make it free. This Government has claimed that it is sympathetic towards the proposal to abolish the means test, and, indeed, it has put forth much propaganda to that effect. But under this measure, the Government is introducing a means test on patients in hospitals. The principle of the Chifley social services administration was that a means test should not bc applied in respect of any new social services legislation, and where a means test did exist it should be progressively eliminated. “We laid emphasis on our belief that all persons in the community should ultimately be freed from the means test. But this Government has introduced another means test.
Several cases have been brought to my notice of families the fathers of which have been contributing to a hospital scheme. Those individuals had no need to take advantage of the services of a hospital, but wives chronically ill have not been able to obtain the benefit of membership of the scheme. Therefore, I suggest that any hospital benefits scheme should cover a man’s wife and family as well as himself. “We strongly object to the provision that sick persons should be compelled to pay to some outside organization before they are entitled to receive benefits that are provided from the general taxation. I therefore strongly oppose the provision that the Commonwealth should force State governments to incorporate that principle into their schemes.’ Some Stategovernment’s have endeavoured to resist this Government’s pressure, but they have been informed that the Commonwealth would not supply them with further money for their hospitals unless they entered the Commonwealth scheme, lt stands to the credit of the Queensland Government that it had the courage to defy this Government and refuse to obey its orders. After about two months, this Government surrendered to the Queensland Government, and so Queensland remains the only State of the Commonwealth that still continues a free hospitalization scheme. The Opposition is of the opinion that, if people have to contribute to a hospital benefits scheme, the contribution should be based on ability to pay, and not on a flat rate. The contribution under the Labour Government’s social service benefits scheme started at 3d. in the £1, and rose to ls. 6d. in the £1. That is a far more just and equitable basis on which to finance a scheme than to welch the sick and the poor in the community, as this Government is doing, for the benefit of the hospitals. Honorable members opposite come into this chamber and blatantly tell the people that to-day the hospitals have large credit balances, which they did not have in the past. Is that the way in which a hospital benefits scheme should be judged? Should it not be judged by the benefit that is given to sick people? The Minister for Health has fallen down hopelessly on his job. The stand -over tactics that the Government is adopting are a disgrace to this country. It has been properly called a hospital benefits scheme, because it has given the benefits to the hospitals, and not to the people who are in necessitous circumstances.
– I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) state the reason for the title of the Hospitals Benefits Act. which was passed during the period of office of the Chifley Government, because his statement endorsed the opinion that I formed when that legislation was introduced by that Government. The Hospital
Benefits Act was not named by the present Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page).’ It was SO named by the Chifley Government. It was neither a hospital benefits act, although it was intended to be, nor was it a hospital patients act. The proper purpose of such legislation should be to ensure that there are hospital facilities available for those who need them. Lt is of no Use to the people for the Government to say, “ You are entitled to f Vee hospital treatment “, when there are no decently equipped hospitals that they can enter. The free benefits to which a person is entitled would not be worth anything in those circumstances. The legislation should ensure that the people are iii a financial position to take advantage ‘of the facilities that are provided by the Government.
I have been associated with the management of community hospitals for more than 30 ye’ars. I think that every person wh’6 ‘desires to enter the National Parliament Should serve a probationary period in local government administration, Or sonic similar activity, in order that he may ‘obtain a knowledge of Current events. Let mb ‘direct the attention of honorable members to the circumstances that exist in Western Australia. Prior to 1931, hospital’s in Western Australia lived on a catch-as-catch-can basis. Every hospital Witts -financially embarrassed and badly equippe’d. In 1932, the State LiberalCountry party Government introduced a hospital tax of 6d. in ‘the £1. Th’at entitled “certain classes of people to free hospital treatment, which was based upon t’h’eir earnings and their family responsibilities. People who earned th/e basic A.n gIa received free treatment. The fees charged -to people who received more than the -basic “wage were graded according to Thoi r family responsibilities. If a in Mi earned ‘more than the basic wage. and if lie had large family responsibilities, he paid a proportion pf the fees that the hospital charged. From 1’9’32 onwards, the hospitals in Western Australia, were iii ii vastly -different .position from that which .obtained .prior to T93:i. Western Australia then had ‘a Scheme which enabled the hospitals t’o o’bta’in sufficient money to provide accommodation, amenities arid facilities ‘for’ treatment, and which enabled them at the same time to ensure that those who could not afford to pay were able to receive treatment.
When the Chifley Government’s hospital benefits scheme came into operation in 1945-46, the Western Australian hospital scheme went by the board. I have told the committee before that the-. Chifley Government’s scheme was accepted by the State Labour Government in Western Australia because the Western) Australian Government said that theCommonwealth had pointed a gun at itshead, and that there was no alternativeThe Chifley Government’s scheme entitled, every person upon demand - and that word “ demand “ was used in the agreement - to a free public bed in a publicward in a public hospital. Up to that, stage there were no intermediate wardsOr private wards in any of the countryhospitals in Western Australia. Withintwelve months, a direction was issued tohospital committees and hospital managements that it was impossible to continue to provide a service under the federal hospital benefits scheme unless the hospitals converted some of their publicbeds into intermediate and private beds,, and took action to collect fees from thepatients. This was how the new system worked out in practice: A man might bring his wife to the hospital. Thepa’tient *wo’uld be ‘admitted, and then thehospital -management would say to theman, “You would not like your wife togo into a bed iii a public ward? Because he was tom between that suggestion and anxiety for the health and wellbeing ‘of a member of his family, the man would say “ Of course not “. He would’ not consider his financial -circumstances,, hut would ‘bo ‘concerned only with the humanitarian aspect. He would say, u Never mind about a public ‘bed. Admit her, ‘and let her receive treatment “. T’h’at ‘Vitas accepted tb mean that thepe’rson did not demand a public bed.. The result was that public beds disappeared from ‘the hospitals in WesternAustralia, and the ‘Chifley ‘Government’s^ so-called ‘frere hospital treatment disappeared -with them. Because of that subterfuge, “the patient was “required topay. ^Western. Australia “had ‘ali association of fourteen country hospitals, ‘which protested vigorously against “this filthysubterfuge that was resorted to ‘in order to circumvent a scheme that was intended to be a free hospital scheme.
The only way in which the difficulty could be overcome was to introduce a scheme under which people voluntarily insured themselves against the day when “they would incur hospital charges. If a person paid 9d. or1s. or1s. 6d. a week, he was entitled to certain hospital benefits. The scheme was similar to that which has been introduced by the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page). It was introduced, first, to ensure that hospitals received sufficient revenue, and, secondly, that people were able to pay their hospital bills.
If, the amendment that was moved by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) were accepted, Western Australia would return to the state of affairs that existed prior to the introduction of the voluntary insurance scheme. Under that system, those who did not insure themselves voluntarily knew that, when they entered a so-called public bed in a public ward in a public hospital, they were receiving treatment from the hospital as a result of the generosity and charity of people who were making voluntary donations to those hospitals. Almost every country hospital in Western Australia was constantly on the verge of closing down, and had to go cap in hand to the public and ask for money in order to provide treatment for people who, in many cases, were not in a position to pay reasonable hospital charges. Western Australia does not want a return to that state of affairs. The need for hospitals to rely upon charitable contributions for their maintenance has almost disappeared.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The Australian Government, in dealing with health matters, must be guided by a strong sense of responsibility, because it is quite clear that the States must accept any scheme that is put before them. The States are dependent upon the Commonwealth for funds. Therefore, the Australian Government should bring forward a sound scheme. It is not a question of who is going to pay for hospital treatment, because the public always pays.
The question is, “How are the payments to be made?” The Australian Labour party has stated that the public should pay for its hospitals in accordance with social justice through a proper and regulated system of taxation. The’ Liberal party and the Australian Country party say that the Government cannot provide those benefits out of taxation, but when a Labour government assumes office they are provided from taxation. Thepeople have received free hospital treatment in the past, but they do not receive it now.
There is a big difference between a plan and a scheme. The hospital benefits scheme is inconsistent with the remaining provisions of the bill. Forexample-, the bill does not require any form of insurance for free life-saving drugs. Why is it required only for hospital benefits and pharmaceutical benefits? Under the present scheme the people will pay and they will pay twiceas much as they used to. The people who pay taxes havea right to receive out of taxation the benefits for which they pay. Underthe Chifley Government’s hospital benefits plan, the people received those benefits, and no questions were asked. Everybody received benefits on the same basis. Under the scheme that is outlined in the bill, the Government denies to a large section of the community the benefits for which they have paid in taxation. The money is paid into the National Welfare Fund. On other occasions I have referred to the manner in which the Government hap covered up the sums that it has paid into the fund for social services.
– Order ! The time allotted for the consideration of clauses 46 to 57 has expired.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Mr. Allan Fraser’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . .8
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses 46 to 57 agreed to.
Clauses 58 to 76 - by leave - considered together.
.- I refer to clause 74. which reads as follows : - (.1.) A registered organization shall, within fourteen days after the receipt by it of the notification of its registration, appoint a (5.) Where a registered organization contravenes, or fails to comply with, any of the provisions of this Act applicable to the registered organization, the contravention of, or failure to comply with those provisions shall, without limiting in any way the liability of the organization, be deemed to be a contravention or failure by the public officer, and the public officer is punishable by a fine not exceeding One hundred pounds or imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months.
I move -
That, insub-clause (5.), after the word officer” (first occurring), the following words be inserted : - “ unless he proves the contravention or failure took place without his knowledge or approval or that he opposed it and on becoming aware of such contravention or failure notified the Director-General “.
I also foreshadow an amendment which relates to clause 76. The clause reads - (.1.) A registered organization shall, within three months after the expiration of the registered organization’s accounting year, or within such further time as the DirectorGeneral, on the application of the registered organization, allows, furnish to the DirectorGeneral -
The Opposition will propose that subclause (1.) be amended by inserting, after the word “ shall “, the following words : - “ make in writing an annual report to its members and shall “. The wording of these clauses throws a very interesting light on the procedure laid down in this scheme. It is in line with the general pattern of Government policy that the British Medical Association, which controls these registered organizations, must, not be touched in any way. The Government, in framing these clauses is, if I may use a colloquialism, virtually seeking to pass the buck to those who are unfortunate enough to be appointed to the position of public officer in one of these organizations. Clause 74, as drafted, makes the public officer entirely responsible for everything done in the name of the organization and excludes from responsibility the directors and other persons charged with the conduct of the organization. No provision has been made in clause 76 for organizations to submit annual reports, which are required of all public bodies that represent a considerable body of citizens, such as public companies, friendly societies and trade unions. That procedure has not been followed in relation to registered organizations that come within the ambit of this legislation because it is the policy of the Government to make the British Medical Association sacrosanct. Penalties may be imposed upon the public officers of registered organizations. Certain clauses of this bill and certain amendments which were inserted in the existing legislation in March last absolve from penalties members of the medical profession. As these organizations deal with the rights and privileges of the people their directors should be made responsible for all the acts performed in the name of the organizations as is the case with the directors of other public bodies. Surely it is reasonable to ask that if certain duties are imposed upon the public officer of a registered organization, and he carries them out under protest or against his will, he should be given the right to defend his actions. This clause is too arbitrary.
Some time ago the Minister brought to Australia certain experts from the United States of America to examine and report on the Government’s national health scheme. The experts dealt with no-profit organizations, the boards of directorates of which, they said, should be of a truly representative nature. In paragraph 1 of their report, they said -
We believe that non-profit insurance schemes will prosper most if they have a representative board of directors. While the boards of directors of most plans visited appear to be made up of representative citizens of the community, we recommend that one of the criteria used by the Commonwealth in approving insurance organizations for participation in the Commonwealth scheme should be that the insurance society have a representative hoard of directors. At the moment there would appear to be no great problem if the board of directors of a hospital plan for instance be made up solely of hospital representatives. It may be anticipated, however, that even if such boards of directors do good jobs locally, the organizations will be under needless criticism because of such limitation. This could easily be altered by providing for representation of various aspects of community on the boards of directors of all registered schemes.
The Medical Benefits Fund of Australia, which is the largest registered organization participating in this scheme, is completely owned by the British Medical Association. The only directors of the fund who have any say in its operation are members of the medical profession. Two groups of persons are involved in its operation, the members of the medical profession, and the contributors who have no say in the making of its rules. Contributors are not permitted to attend annual meetings of directors. They are not even entitled to receive notice of the holding of an annual meeting. The rules of the fund provide that seventeen of its 22 directors must be members of the medical profession. Only the medical directors are charged with the control and management of the fund. The rules provide that the five representatives of the contributors must be invited by the medical directors to be present at meetings. They cannot act in a representative capacity on behalf of the contributors. Some of the persons who have already been appointed as socalled contributors’ representatives will obviously be yes-men for the council. Eighteen members out of 22 are medical men, and thirteen of them are members of Federal or State Councils of the British Medical Association. The set-up of this organization is the most extraordinary and undemocratic that I have ever seen in a public body. The inner core consists of medical men, who are really the “ topnotchers “ of the British Medical Association. A medical ring or curtain is drawn round them, and contributors will find it as impenetrable a5 the Iron Curtain itself. The contributors have no voice whatever in the conduct of the organization. They are not even entitled to receive notice of an annual meeting. I have no time to discuss the individual members, but I point out that they are leading physicians and surgeons who control the British Medical Association. I have had some researches made into this matter, and I shall reveal to honorable members the questions I asked, and the answers I received. The first question was as follows : -
There seems to be three or four different controlling groups, namely, directors, members of governing council, executive committee, and contributors. Is that so?
The answer was -
The council controls everything. Groups are elected to office at council meetings.
The next question was -
Do they need to have shares in the company in each case?
The answer was “ No “. They are not obliged to hold any shares, and the total
Liability of each is 5s. The next question was -
To whom are they answerable? Are thu medical directors and councillors answerable to the medical members only, or to the contributors as well ?
The answer was -
They are answerable only to the council.
Oan honorable members imagine anything more undemocratic than such an organization? I recall that the clerks’ union was captured by certain persons in circumstances that closely resemble the present set-up. The next question was -
Do the rules specifically provide that there must be seventeen elected medical members?
The answer was “ Yes “. The next question was -
How are they elected ?
The answer was -
They are elected on an area basis.
The next question was -
To what extent are contributors’ members of the company, and to what extent can they elect directors, or councillors, or executive committee members ?
The answer was -
They are only members to the extent of being contributors and receiving medical benefits.
They are on the paying end. The next question was -
Who elected the office-bearers, namely, managing director, secretary, treasurer, auditor, &c?
The answer was -
The next question was -
What are the respective rights and duties of each controlling group, namely, directors, councillors, executive committee?
The answer was -
These are determined by the council.
That is to say, the council determines the policy and everything else. It is an oligarchy - a law unto itself. Obviously, the British Medical Association is behind the whole scheme. The association prepared the scheme and submitted it to the Minister. The British Medical Association is dominating the whole set-up.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- My purpose in participating in this debate is to support the remarks of thehonorable member for Reid (Mr, Morgan), but more particularly, todirect attention to clause 72 (2.) (Z>) (v),. which reads- as follows : -
In making a recommendation in pursuance’ of the last preceding sub-section the Committee shall take into account -
In the case of an application for registration as a registered hospital benefits organization -
The ratio which the amount paid as management and administrative expensesbears to the amount of payments made by contributors to the hospitalbenefits fund of the organization.
I propose to devote some attention to oneof the organizations that have been registered under the hospital benefits regulations, namely, the Hospital Insurance Society Limited. This company is registered at Canberra, and 13 also registered under the hospital benefits regulations, on the understanding that adequatereserves shall be maintained and administrative costs kept to a low level. Thesignatories to the memorandum of association are the following persons: - G. “W. Ward, H. R. Walker, J. R. Kinsman, S. Smith, J.’ J. Woodward, Allen David Milne, and Stanley JohnSmith. I direct special attention to the last two names. Although the Hospital Insurance Society Limited has been registered, practically all the signatoriesto the memorandum of association are also members of the Blue Cross Health and Insurance Society Limited, which is incorporated in Victoria. Its agent isAllan Stanley and Company Proprietary Limited. I point out that “Allen Stanley “, in that category, are the Christian names of Allen David Milne andi Stanley John Smith, the signatories tothe memorandum of association for the approved society, the Hospital InsuranceSociety Limited.
I wish to refer to the odorous history of the Blue Cross Health and InsuranceSociety Limited and also to the registered organization. I state specifically that the undertaking under which the Hospital Insurance Society Limited Wasapproved has not been carried out, andi I direct the attention of the Minister for
Health (Sir Earle Page) to the matter in order that prompt action may be taken to safeguard the funds of contributors.
– The Minister knows about it, but he does nothing.
– I shall come to that matter, but first, I wish to deal with the history of the Blue Cross Health and Insurance Society Limited, the Bankers Health Society and, finally, the approved society, the Hospital Insurance Society Limited. The Blue Cross Health and Insurance Society Limited had its genesis in an organization known at the Bankers Health Society. I shall deal with the history of the Bankers Health Society, which is taken from the seventy-first annual report on friendly societies, issued by the Victorian Government Statist.
– For what year?
– The report is for the year ended the 30th June, 1948, and reads as follows: -
The Banker’s Health Society is registered under the Friendly Societies Acts on the 3rd October, 1039.
The objects of the society are then set out, and the report proceeds -
The Society restricted membership to officers of banks although other members might have been admitted. For about C years there was a gradual increase in membership and accumulations of small reserves
The report proceeds -
Since June, J 948, many new members have been enrolled, particularly in South Australia and Western Australia. The membership reached 21,000 before the end of October, 1948.
The specific reference to which I direct attention in this report i3 the rate per cent, of expenses to contributions. I point out that the rate was 20.8 per cent, in 1944-45, 34.1 per cent, in 1945-46, 39.3 per cent, in 1946-47 and 43.8 per cent, in 1947-48. The increases were so significant that the Statist made the following comment : -
When commission, advertising and probationary income ave added, the figures become £32,872 and £57,030. The gross expense rate on this basis was 57.03 per cent.
That report was made in 1949. The Statist said, in his next report for the year ended the 30th June, 1949 -
The ratio of claims paid to contributions fell from 50 per cent, in 1947-48 to 48 per cent, in 1948-49. . . . However, no reserve appears for unpaid claims in respect of illnesses arising before the date of closing accounts. . . . Although the cash statements show a distinct improvement, the financial position is still very weak.
The Statist’s report for the year ended the 30th June, 1950, reads as follows: -
This Society, to which special reference was made in the two previous reports, shows a further increase in membership which totalled 30,508 on the 30th June, 1950.
The report shows that contributions amounted to £152,758, and that manage- B ment expenses amounted to £51,100, or 34 per cent. I remind honorable members that the Bankers Health Society was the parent of the Blue Cross Health and Insurance Society Limited and the approved organization, the Hospital Insurance Society Limited. Later, the Bankers Health Society changed its name to the Blue Cross Health and Insurance Society Limited and, as such, and by virtue of its ancillary, the Hospital Insurance Society Limited, it secured registration as an approved society under the hospital benefits regulations. I asked the Minister for Health some time ago to supply me with a statement about certain societies, some of which had been approved and others which had not been approved. Among those societies I listed the Hospital Insurance Society Limited. I now ask the Minister to investigate the affairs of that society, because I think that it is engaged in a wicked racket, issuing misleading advertisements, with the object of deluding contributors into the belief that they are getting something under the Government’s scheme and something under other schemes*
– Is the society an approved organization for medical benefits as well as for hospital benefits?
– No. The other organization, the Australian Medical Benefits Society, was not approved. The signatories to the memorandum of association of the Australian Medical Benefits Society are also the signatories to the memorandum of association of the Hospital Insurance Society Limited, which has been approved. The Minister kindly supplied me with the following statement : -
The other subsidiary of the Blue Cross Health and Insurance Society Ltd., namely, the Hospital Insurance Society Ltd., was registered, under the Hospital Benefits Regulations by the Commonwealth early last year on the understanding that adequate reserves would be maintained and that administrative expenses would be kept at a low level. At Ii ist sight it would appear that the subsidiary has complied with the requirements to limit its expenses to 25 per cent, of contributions but, in fact, further heavy management expenses were incurred on this business by the collecting company, Allen Stanley and Co. Pty. Ltd. When all the operations of the Blue (/ross Health and Insurance Society Ltd., and its subsidiaries are taken into account, it is found that over 47 per cent, of the gross contributions were absorbed by management expenses during the half year to 30th June, 1952, and that very little income was available to build up reserves.
This society should not be allowed to continue.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- An examination of the position of these societies is extremely interesting. The whole matter requires constant attention. For many years, I have been a member of the board of management of one of the bigger country hospitals in Victoria. We conducted our own hospital benefits association. The organization had a membership of between 1,500 and 1,700 persons, who resided, in West Gippsland. The society was approved by the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page). The introduction of medical benefits made the work of the association more complicated, and recently, we transferred our activities to the Hospital Benefits Association of Victoria. I point out to the honorable member for Hoddle (Mr. Cremean) that the rules governing the registration of such organizations are perfectly simple, and are adequate to safeguard the interests of contributors in every possible way. The registration committee will examine the books, accounts and membership records of all organizations that apply for registration. The Hospital Benefits Association of Victoria, which has an honorary board of directors, is gradually extending its membership and, with a few exceptions, it covers most of the State. There is a hospital benefits association that operates through the West Gippsland Hospital and a big organization in the Latrobe Valley. These are nonprofitmaking organizations conducted by the residents of those districts, and they are doing excellent work. We do not fear any trouble of the kind mentioned by the honorable member for Hoddle in the Hospital Benefits Association of Victoria, to which the organization in which I was formerly interested has transferred its fund. One of the leading doctors of Victoria, Sir Victor Hurley, holds, I believe, the honorary post of chairman of the board of directors of the association. The representatives on the board are selected by the association of hospital managers and similar bodies. All the directors are unpaid and they really understand the work of hospitals and of hospital benefit organizations. There may be some teething troubles, of course, for a year or two with some of the organizations. I know that the one that the honorable member for Hoddle mentioned took on more than it could deal with and found itself in trouble. However, I strongly support the whole theory of hospital insurance and I pay a whole-hearted tribute to the honest and genuine efforts that have been made by first-class people with a deep and accurate knowledge of the health problems of the country who have undertaken the work of directing the activities of hospital benefit organizations.-
I shall not discuss all the argument; that; have been advanced in favour of insurance or the provision of free medical benefits without insurance. A country that is prepared to spend as much as Australia, spends on tobacco, gambling, beer, and so forth, cannot raise a very convincing argument against the principle of people denying themselves a few slight pleasures in order to be responsible for their own welfare. Under the old Chifley plan, the hospital in which I was directly interested had private wards, intermediate wards and public ward?. For many years, about 30 per cent, of the hospital’s patients were accommodated in public wards. However, under the Chifley scheme, more and more people applied for entry to the public wards, and the proportion rose to an average of about 40 per cent. On one famous occasion, a. woman arrived at the hospital in a new Bentley motor car and put her father in the public ward. We had him in that ward for some months before we could get rid of him. Since this Government’s scheme has been in operation, that hospital has re-established itself in a sound financial position, and there is no resentment anywhere in the district at the charge of 18s. a day that it makes for accommodation in the public wards. Its financial position is no longer desperate. Had the Chifley scheme continued in operation, we should probably be without hospitals. That hospital certainly would have had to close down. It had an enormous overdraft and had no chance of wiping off the deficit under Labour’s plan. To-day, people are again interested in its management and are working for it and helping it. Hospital benefit associations are usually formed by people who have devoted a great deal of study to the heal th needs of the people, and the Minister is to be congratulated upon the fact that people of the highest public spirit, with an intimate knowledge of hospital problems, have come forward, under his plan, to form such bodies. Although the honorable member for Hoddle may know of one or two doubtful organizations, the plan will soon sort itself out. These organizations will become a valuable part of the life of A ustralia.
.- I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan), because L consider that the practice of blaming public officers for all the sins of omission and commission of registered organizations is most unfair. The honorable gentleman cited one example, of which there are many, of the loose thinking that lies behind the provisions of the bill. Certain important safeguards, which I consider to be essential to the effective operation of the Government’s scheme, have been overlooked. I direct attention to clauses 72 to 76 inclusive, which deal with registered medical associations. They declare certain conditions of registration, provide for the appointment of officials to be known as public officers, specify their duties, and lay down penalties that may be imposed for failure to carry out those duties. Provision is made for the examination of the books and accounts of medical associations by officers of the Department of Health. The honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Brown) has said that all these provisions were included for the protection of members of medical associations. That is all very well. The clauses may provide for the protection of members in a collective sense, but, as far as I can ascertain from a close study of the entire bill, there is a notable absence of safeguards to protect the personal interests of individual members. For example, there is no provision for the protection of members when they make claims upon associations. What will happen if a member calculates that he should receive a certain amount from his association, submits his account, but receives a much smaller amount? How can a member obtain justice if he considers that he has been unfairly treated? Apart from the provision for examination of the balancesheets of medical associations, there is no provision for continual surveillance in order to ensure that individual contributors shall receive the services for which they pay and which they have been promised in the expensive advertisements that the associations have published.
There is no provision to enforce an association to increase its staff as its membership increases. The Hospital Benefits Association of Victoria, which has been mentioned in these discussions, takes a long time to pay accounts submitted by its members. It claims that there are two reasons for these delays. The first is that doctors do not submit accounts in the proper form. The second is tl at the sheer volume of claims causes delay. Surely, if its membership has increased so much as to result in such a heavy volume of claims, it should be obliged to increase its office staff in order to cope with the extra work. What right of appeal will a contributor have against an arbitary and unfair decision to debar him from benefit on a technicality with which he is not familiar? The bill provides for no right of appeal. Apparently, every decision made by a medical association will be final and irrevocable. A board of appeal should be established in every State so that individual members may lodge protests against unfavorable decisions. Government supporters may say that a. contributor who has a grievance may refer it to his member of Parliament. What result can be achieved in that way?
The member of Parliament would have to refer the complaint to the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page). I realize that the right honorable gentleman is always willing to assist honorable members to the limit of his ability, but the most that he could do in this circumstance would be to request the association concerned to consider the contributor’s complaint. Nothing more could be done if the association, refused to alter it3 decision. This will result in a perpetual state of discontent amongst the membei-3 of associations. The Minister has erred considerably by failing to provide foi- a right of appeal against decisions made by medical associations.
The situation would not be so bad if members had the right to vote upon the rules of medical associations. I am a member of an association, . but I am not aware of any right that I may have to express my views in relation to its rules. I have a complaint against this association because I have had to wait for seven weeks already for payment of benefit to which I am entitled. However, there is no authority to which I can appeal for help. The odds are tremendously in favour of the organization in the event of any dispute between it and an individual member. The member must accept the association’s decision even though he may consider it to be unjust. That will not popularize the bill. I urge the Minister to amend it so as to provide for the protection of member’s rights.
– The honorable member will find that there is provision for safeguards in clause 24.
– Unfortunately, the committee has already dealt with that clause. I have examined the bill carefully and I have not been able to find anywhere in it provision for the constitution of boards of appeal to deal with the complaints of aggrieved contributors.
– I have only a few comments to make on the amendment moved by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan), who objected to the placing of responsibility on the public officers of medical associations. The proposed amendment refers to sub-clause (5.) of clause 74. Of course, the entire clause has been designed for the purpose of providing for the appointment of public officers. These officials will be appointed specifically to carry out certain acts on behalf of the registered organizations, and it would be strange if they were not to be held responsible for their acts. This is not a novel principle.- There are many instances ‘of a specific officer of a company being held responsible for the actions of the company. The amendment would free the officer in this case from all penalties.
Mi1. Mokoan. - Only in certain circumstances. He would not be liable to a penalty if he proved that a contravention of, or failure to obey, the provisions of a measure had occurred without his knowledge, or that he opposed what was done.
– If we made provision for an officer of a company to be appointed to perform specific functions and said that he should be held to be blameless if those functions were not performed, we should nullify the purpose of appointing such an officer. I want to deal with the remarks made, by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) about protecting the rights of contributors. I do not think any appeal boards or appeal tribunals have been established to protect the rights of people who take out policies with insurance companies. If an insurance company does not treat a person properly, that person has recourse to the ordinary processes of law. As the Minister has pointed out, contributors to hospital and medical benefits organizations are protected, not only by the ordinary processes of law, but also by clause 24 of the bill. I cannot see that anything would be gained if we accepted either the amendment moved by the honorable member for Reid or the suggestion of the honorable member for Batman.
– -I have been interested in the statement made about the expenses of some of these organizations, which have to do a lot of work for the Government. I do not know whether special provision has been made to recompense them for the clerical work they are doing on behalf of the Government. The honorable member, for Batman referred to delays in making payments due to shortages of staff in approved organizations. The Department of Health should look into that matter and ensure that members of these bodies get a proper deal. I do not agree with the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) that if a contributor does not receive what he is entitled to, he should use the ordinary processes of law to enforce payment. These organizations are approved by th Government. If the Government insists that a person shall insure with an organization if he wishes to become entitled to. the benefits provided under this measure, it is the duty of the Government to see that that person receives the benefits to which he is entitled. I do not think he should have to go to law to get them. This matter, to a great extent, is bound up with the rules of the organizations. In clause 14, dealing with payments under the First Schedule, reference is made to payments in accordance with the rules of registered organizations. I think it is incumbent on the Government to see that people get what they are entitled to. I do not like the idea of contributors having to go to law to enforce payment by the organizations.
Let us assume that a man makes a claim on a hospital benefits association, that the association disputes the claim on the ground that the disease for which he was treated in the hospital was in evidence before he applied for membership or that he is a chronic sufferer from the disease, and that the man disputes the contention of the association and claims he is entitled to payment. If the association does not pay its contribution of 6s. a clay, the man will not receive the Government benefit, because that is paid by the association and refunded by the Government. I should like to be sure that, when a dispute of that kind occurs, the person concerned can go to an office of the Department of Health and ask the officers there to look into the matter for him and ensure that he receives at least the appropriate payment from the Government. Even in the case of services and operations referred to in the Second Schedule, in respect of which payment is made only by the Government unless the rules of the< association concerned permit it to make a payment also, the contributor is paid by the association, which is reimbursed by the Government. I hope the Minister will resolve the doubts that have arisen and assure the people that their interests will be protected.
– In drafting clause 74, the Attorney-General and his staff were anxious to do two things, if possible. They wanted to place the responsibility in this connexion on certain officers and to make certain that those officers would do their jobs properly. They wanted also to ensure, if such an officer infringed the provisions of the measure owing to ignorance or circumstances partly beyond his control, that the offender could be dealt with leniently. The Government is not entirely satisfied with the clause as drafted, but it does not believe the amendment, moved by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) would cover the position. We shall consider the clause again, and, if it is possible to do so, we shall move an amendment, in the Senate to overcome the difficulty that has arisen.
– Will the Minister consider the amendment to clause 76 that I have foreshadowed? It proposes that registered organizations shall make annual reports in writing to their members.
– The Government will also consider that matter. The honorable member for Hoddle (Mr. Cremean) and other honorable members referred to certain organizations. The Bankers Health Society was in existence for a long time before the present hospital and medical ‘benefits scheme was put into operation. When I examined the affairs of the society, I came to the conclusion that, in the form in which it then existed, it could not possibly discharge its obligations to insured people. However, 80,000 or 90,000 people were insured with the society at that time. The problem with which we were eonfronted was to protect the rights of those people and the equity that they had established over a number of years. I discussed the matter very fully with officials of the society. I explained that it was quite impossible for the Government to accept it as a registered organization in its existing form, but I said that if they formed a completely new organization that conformed to the requirements of the Government’s scheme, we should be prepared to approve that organization for the purposes of the scheme. A nonprofit making organizationwas formed to deal with hospital insurance. When the question of the sister organization to deal with medical benefits arose, we said we could not accept that organization. The position is not very satisfactory. We have not been able to do anything with regard to the organization. We have suggested that its members should join other societies. Honorable members may have read that the big friendly societies and the medical benefits society have offered to accept the members of the other society for medical benefits purposes on the same basis as if those members had been continuously insured with them. The members have lost no rights and have suffered no loss.
Let me explain what we have done to safeguard the public and prevent the position from arising in which an organization will not or cannot pay the benefits to which its members are entitled. Continuous supervision over all registered hospital and medical benefits organizations is exercised by expert officers of the Department of Health and by the special registration committee, consisting of the Commonwealth Actuary or his delegate and two officers of the Department of Health. This supervision is primarily directed towards ensuring the financial stability of the organizations and safeguarding the funds of contributors. Clause 67 provides, in effect, that a medical benefits organization shall not be eligible to apply for registration unless its rules authorize it to use contributions to its medical benefits fund only for the purpose of paying medical benefits and meeting administrative expenses incurred in connexion with the receipt of contributions and the payment of benefits. Clause 68 contains comparable provisions with respect to hospital benefits.
Each organization seeking registration is required to furnish certified copies of it’s constitution, rules, accounts and balance-sheet, as well as particulars of membership. It is impracticable to insist on membership lists being kept completely up to date, because the staffs of the organizations are working very hard on the enrolment of new members and the payment of claims. The organizations have said that if we insist on membership lists being brought up to date each week, they cannot, with their present staff, pay accounts quickly, as they are eager to do. So we have said that can be done each month instead of each week.
The accounts, rules, rates of contribution, benefits provided and all other particulars, are examined and analysed by trained officers of the Department of Health, and a report on them is referred to the registration committee. Honorable members will remember that clause 23 provides for two methods of payment. The first method is that the contributor shall pay his bill and get a refund from the organization, and the second is that the organization shall pay the benefit and the contributor shall pay the difference between that and the total charge. We have been astonished to learn that the second method has been used by only a small number of people. About one in every 1,000 contributors has taken advantage of that method. The great majority of them prefer to pay their bills and seek a refund from their organization. If contributors had asked the organizations to make payments for them if there was any hardship, they would not have had the worry to which reference has been made.
– Order ! The time allotted for the consideration of clauses 58 to 76 has expired.
Amendment to clause 74 (Mr. Morgan’s) (vide page 490) negatived.
Clauses 58 to 76 agreed to.
Clauses 77 to 139 - by leave - considered together.
– The Opposition desires to submit several amendments in this group of clauses. The first applies toclause 95. That clause reads -
That, in sub-clause (1.), the words “may, if he thinks fit,” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ shall “.
As honorable members will perceive, if the amendment is accepted the clause will provide that where the authority of a medical practitioner or a chemist has been suspended or revoked, the Minister shall cause notice of that action to be published in the Gazette. I hope that the Minister will see fit to adopt this amendment, because nothing; contained in it will in any way injure the effective working of the scheme ; it will merely assist in its operation. Under the present provisions of the measure, a chemist is prohibited from filling a prescription which has been written by a doctor whose authority has been suspended or revoked. Clause 133 specifically provides that a chemist, a medical practitioner or a hospital authority shall not supply for the purposes of. that part of the measure a pharmaceutical benefit on a prescription written by a medical practitioner whose authority has been suspended or revoked. But the bill will afford no protection to the chemist concerned in such a transaction, and the chemist will have no way of knowing for certain whether a prescription brought to him has been written by an authorized doctor. How would it be possible for a chemist to know whether a doctor’s prescription brought to his shop to be filled, has been written by a medical practitioner who has been authorized to write it, unless the Minister is required to publish notice of suspension or revocation of authorities in the Gazette?
If the operation of the “ guillotine “ permits, the Opposition will also submit an amendment to sub-clause (4.) of clause 96. Clause 96 deals with appeals against thesuspension or revocation of an approval or an authority, and it lays down that upon appeal a supreme court shall have regard to the evidence before a committee of inquiry, and the report of the committee. But, a committee of inquiry isinno way limited by the rules of evidence. In its hearing it can take into account hearsay evidence or any kind of testimony that it thinks fit. The committee can then decide to suspend or revoke an authority, and the person affected has the right of appeal to., a supreme court. But the court has no power to demand further evidence or to arrange for the examination and crossexamination of witnesses. The Opposition believes that the considerations of ordinary justice require that that provision should be amended. The relevant part of the clause at present reads-
The Opposition will move an amendment on that part of clause 96 in the following terms : -
That sub-clause (4.) be left out with a view to insert in lieu the following sub-clause: - “ (4.) Upon an appeal under this section the Court may -
A further amendment that we desire to submit relates to clause 122. The clause reads - 122. The proceedings of a Committee shall be held in private.
The Opposition proposes to move -
That after the word “ private the following words be inserted: - “Unless the Committee otherwise directs “.
I believe that the meaning of the proposed amendment is quite evident, and I hope that the committee will later accept it
A further clause to which we direct attention is clause 133, which reads - 133. - (1.) When the authority conferred upon a medical practitioner by section eightyseven of this Act is suspended or revoked, that medical practitioner shall not, during the period of suspension or after the revocation takes effect, write a prescription for the purposes of Part VII. of this Act.
The Opposition proposes to move at a later stage as follows: -
That, in sub-clause (1.), after the word revoked”, the following worths be inserted: - “ Notice thereof shall be published in the Gazette and,”.
Clause 133 deals with the effect of a suspension or cancellation of an approval or authority. The Opposition’s proposed amendment is an attempt to ensure that all those who are required to know of the revocation or suspension of an authority shall have a means of obtaining that knowledge. There are various other matters that the Opposition desires to bring before the committee during the consideration of these clauses, but for the moment I confine myself to moving the amendment to clause 95.
– I am not sure of the legal interpretation of the words “may” and “shall” as used in the clause and amendment, because whenever I have asked lawyers about them I have never been able to obtain a satisfactory answer. In fact, it seems to he a case of tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee. Surely it is in the interest of the Government to ensure that all chemists shall be notified when a person’s authorityhas been withdrawn. The fact that the Government has inserted clause 95 in the bill indicates its desire, and the changing of one word from “may” to “ shall “ seems to be quite superfluous. I now draw attention to clause 98, which is designed to enable payment to he made for the supply of medical benefits by a chemist and by hospital authorities. That c lause reads, inter alia - (1.) The Minister may determine the rates at which, and the conditions subject to which, pay ments shall be made in respect of the supply of pharmaceutical benefits . . .
It is obvious that the Minister must confer with somebody in relation to pharmaceutical, medical and hospital benefits. Clause 33 indicates that the conferring body in regard to medical benefits is the British Medical Association in Australia. Clause 98 does not mention with whom the Minister is to confer in regard to pharmaceutical benefits, hut it seems to be obvious that he will confer with the representative of chemists throughout Australia, that is thebody known as the Federated Pharmaceutical Services Guild of Australia. The Minister has referred to this body from time to time, and has expressed his appreciation for the assistance that it has rendered to him in solving the problems of this complex bill. Therefore, I suggest to the Minis- ter that he should consider inserting in the clause words such as these, “ after consultation with the Federated Pharmaceutical Services Guild of Australia “, to put it beyond all doubt that that is the body that he will consult. Then the clause would read -
The Minister may, after consultation with the Federated Pharmaceutical Services Guild of Australia, determine the rates . . .
I suggest that such an alteration would improve the bill anl put it beyond doubt that the conferring body will be the body that controls and organizes all the pharmaceutical chemists throughout Australia.
– -.Mr. Chairman-
– I rise to order, Mr. Chairman. You called the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) immediately after a supporter of the Government had spoken. The usual practice is to call a member from each side of the House alternately. I ask why you should depart from the usual procedure in this case ?
– Order ! No point of order is involved. The Minister has been called.
– Then I shall move dissent from your ruling.
– Order! The Minister for Health proposes to reply to certain matters raised by honorable members.
– Then I shall move dissent from your ruling. I nave the motion here in writing.
– Order! The honorable member cannot move dissent from my ruling on a call.
– I have done it on many occasions.
– Despite what the honorable member has done in the past, he cannot do it now.
– I rise to a further point of order.
– Order! The honorable member may not move dissent from my ruling.
– I rise to a further point of order. A perusal ofHansard would reveal that on two or three occasions in recent months I have divided the committee on a similar ruling by you, Mr. Chairman.
– Order! The House has laid down in the Standing Orders that the Chair has the privilege of making the call. If honorable members have a grievance in relation to the ruling, the Standing Orders lay down the procedure for dealing with it. It is not by moving a motion of dissent. If the honorable member is not aware of the procedure, he should acquaint himself with the Standing Orders. I call the right honorable the Minister for Health.
– I speak to the point of order that has been raised by the honorable member for Grayndler. The honorable member’s point of order concerns only this matter.
– Order ! I have ruled on the point of order. I call the right honorable the Minister for Health.
– I rise to a point of order.
– Order! I have ruled on that point of order.
– I want to ask a question.
– Order! I have ruled on the point of order.
– I rise to a further point of order. Do you, Mr. Chairman, rule that it is in order to call in succession two members on one side of the chamber ?
– He has been doing it all afternoon.
– I call the right honorable the Minister for Health.
Motion (by Mr. Data’) proposed -
Thatthe Minister for Health be not further heard.
Mr. Bowden interjecting,
– Order! The Standing Orders provide distinctly that, if the Chairman of Committees gives the call to an honorable member and another honorable member rises, an honorable member may move that the second member be heard. The honorable member for Grayndler did not take advantage of the opportunity at the time. Now the right honorable the Minister for Health has the call.
– I rise to a further point of order. The honorable member for Grayndler has moved, as he was entitled to move, that the Minister for Health be not further heard. I think the motion must be put to the committee.
– I rise to a point of order. I suggest, with due respect, that because the Minister for Health had been merely called but had not spoken, a motion that hebe not further heard is not in order.
.- Mr. Chairman, I move -
That the Minister for Health be not further heard.
I am supported by other honorable members on this side of the chamber. I contend that you, Mr. Chairman, must put the motion to the committee.
– I have already pointed out to the honorable member for Grayndler that the procedure which he should follow is to move that another honorable member be heard.
– I had not any desire to obstruct the honorable member. I only desired to give him a little piece of information that it would not have taken one minute to give.
Motion (by Mr. Daly) proposed -
That the honorable member for Ballarat be now heard.
Question put. The committee divided. (The Chatbman - Mr.c.F. Adermann.)
Majority . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
.- In order to understand the measures proposed in the clauses under consideration it is necessary, first, to understand the machinery that has been developed for the provision of pharmaceutical benefits. A list of drugs is compiled by an advisory committee which consists of four specialist highly qualified physicians and a pharmacologist. Provision has been made in this bill to add to the committee a. pharmaceutical chemist .because it is believed that the practical knowledge possessed by such a person would be of great assistance to it. The secretary of the committee is also a chemist and an officer of the Department of Health. It is the function of the committee to determine which life-saving drugs should be placed on the list. A great many drugs, especially those of the antibiotic variety, ar,e being manufactured and produced. Some of them have very definite side effects, which makes their use dangerous. Some are extraordinarily scarce and it is difficult to provide supplies of them all over the Commonwealth. The principle underlying the pharmaceutical benefits scheme envisaged in this bill is exactly the same as that in the original act. Life-saving drugs are to be made available free to all residents of Australia.
Obviously, if a drug is in short supply, it cannot be placed on the free list because, if that were done, supplies would quickly run out and the drug would not be available for the treatment of the specific diseases for the treatment of which it was prepared. The committee decides which drugs should be placed on the list, and provision has been made in the bill that, its decisions shall be binding. The Minister is obliged to accept its recommendations. The bill also provides that no drug shall be placed on the free list unless its inclusion on the list has been recommended by the committee.
– Does not that mean that drugs are effectively rationed by their price, and consequently they are available only to those who can afford to pay for them?
– No. The committee bases its decisions mostly on the side effect of the drug. Let us consider, for instance, the effects of the use of cortisone. Although cortisone is valuable for the treatment of certain conditions, its therapeutic value in certain instances tends to diminish very rapidly. In some instances, within a period of two or three weeks a patient who has been administered cortisone suffers a relapse, and his condition becomes worse than it was before the treatment began. In other instances the use of cortisone creates a condition of euphoria, an extraordinary sense of well-being, which may disguise a ruptured gastric ulcer or gall bladder. In some instances, after a patient has died the post-mortem discloses that his real condition was completely disguised by the condition of euphoria brought about by the use of cortisone. In order to derive the greatest advantage from certain kinds of drugs we must use them only for the treatment of specific diseases. It is one of the functions of the advisory committee to determine the diseases for the treatment of which certain drugs are to be used. The committee is assisted by a research organization, of which Dr. Thompson is the head, which is associated with the National Health and Medical Research Council. The members of the organization, from their comprehensive knowledge gained from contacts all over the world, are able to give advice of great value to the committee. In that way the supply of life-saving drugs is preserved and steps are taken to see they are properly used. If life-saving drugs are used for the treatment of diseases which may be cured by other means the patient’s blood may become so affected that they are no longer of value to him. Again, the patient may develop an allergy which prevents their continued use.
No hard and fast rules have been laid down for the compilation of the list. Provision has been made in the bill and by regulation that additional diseases may be included in the list in instances where or her forms of treatment have failed to effect a cure. Diseases may be added to the limited list of diseases on the recommendation of the Deputy DirectorGeneral of Health who acts upon the advice of the Royal Australian College of Physicians.
Arrangements have been made with the Federated Pharmaceutical Services Guild of Australia to ensure that these life-saving drugs shall be properly dispensed. When the bill is before the Senate an amendment will be proposed to clause 98 for the purpose of enabling the Minister to determine the basic rates at which these drugs -.hall be sold to the Government. To insert the amendment in the bill at this stage would delay its despatch to the Senate for consideration. I mention that matter because the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) has made representations on that subject. I inform the honorable member and the committee generally that the omission of the words proposed to be added in the amendment which will be moved when the bill is before the Senate was merely an oversight on the part of the Government when the bill was being drafted. The drugs will be distributed free on a doctor’s prescription. Unfortunately, in respect of anything that is free there is always a possibility of abuse. Abuses could occur by doctors overprescribing the drugs, or by the waste of drugs, either, in the homes of patients or in other ways. There may be collusion between a dishonest doctor and a dishonest chemist. A dishonest chemist may write ficticious prescriptions for the drugs. In order to guard against such abuses the professions have established disciplinary committees. The British Medical Association first offered the services of these disciplinary committees to the Government in 1950. They are staffed by men of the highest standing in the professions. Committees have been established in each State, each consisting of four men chosen by the Government from a panel of eminent men especially associated with this class of work. Certain provisions in the bill relate to the manner in which the disciplinary committees shall take evidence and carry out their task. The motion proposed by the Opposition which relates to this matter will be dealt with by the lawyers on this side of , the chamber because of the legal technicalities involved. They will explain the objects of the relevant clauses in the bill.
When life-saving drugs were first made available free of charge some members of the medical profession, especially young doctors, tended to prescribe them overgenerously. As the result of the guidance of senior members of the profession and the activities of the disciplinary committees we have been able substantially to reduce the use of these drugs and their cost to the community. Last year the pharmaceutical benefits scheme cost approximately £800,000 less than in the preceding year, notwithstanding the fact that the population had increased by approximately 200,000 persons. That was largely duc to the fact that abuses were less prevalent and the volume of drugs wasted in the homes of patients had been greatly reduced. We have made pharmaceutical benefits available free in all public hospitals of the States from the date of the signing of the hospital agreement where we are satisfied with the method of control. We have told the States that we would pay for them, retrospectively to the date of their signing of the agreement. . That has involved the Commonwealth in an expenditure of £1,300,000 in a period of two years. We have told the States to use these drugs because we are satisfied that they will shorten the duration of illnesses, in some instances, by many days, and thus materially help the turnover of beds in hospitals. If we are able to shorten the duration of stay of a patient in a hospital from fourteen to twelve days we are in the position of having the equivalent of 14 per cent, or 15 per cent, additional beds at our disposal. These drugs are very potent and are quickacting. In many cases of pneumonia, which in earlier years took three or four weeks to cure, we are able to abort the attack and to get the patient fairly well in two or three days. We have made a test of the effect of the use of these drugs in Canberra, which is well suited to tests of that kind. We found that we were able to save 15 per cent, of patients from having to go into hospital who otherwise would have had to do so. The drugs are administered in the home of the patient and thus the use of a hospital bed is avoided. The cost of curing the patient is very materially reduced.
I mentioned earlier the work of the disciplinary committees of the professions associated with this scheme because of the terms of the motion proposed by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) in relation to clause 95. If the honorable member will examine the bill he will observe that penalties may be imposed by the Minister, on the recommendation of the disciplinary committees, on persons who commit offences against the provisions of the legislation. Some of these offences are due to carelessness. Others are committed in an attempt to defraud the Government. Still others are due to ignorance. One of the best ways in which to deal with delinquency is through publicity. The publication in the Gazette of the information that a person is guilty of certain misdemeanours brings the fact to the notice of all his professional contacts, and does him some measure of harm. However, we consider that if the penalty for minor misdemeanours is too stiff, the punishment will not exactly fit the crime. An idea of the difficulty in this matter may be gained from tie experience of dealing with ramps when price-fixing was in operation. When too severe penalties were provided by the law, the prosecution found it almost impossible to obtain convictions. What is the reason for this provision in the bill ? A professional man may be suspended for- a week or a fortnight while the inquiry is proceeding, and then it is found that he has committed only a minor misdemeanour through ignorance or carelessness ra ther than through actual deceit or fraud. In those circumstances, the committee may consider that the period of suspension is sufficient punishment without publication in the Gazette. I remind the honorable member for EdenMonaro that professional committees have always been most insistent that the maximum penalty should be imposed. The departmental representative might be inclined to be lenient, but the professional members would probably insist upon a severe penalty. Therefore, it is advisable that the Minister should have discretionary power. The damage done to thu practice of a professional man by an inquiry and the resultant publicity may be regarded as sufficient punishment. In that event, it would not be wise to publish the matter in the Gazette. If tie law ‘ provided that every adverse finding must be published in the Gazette, that fact, might cause a committee to exonerate a person who should not go scot-free. Therefore, the Government considers that this discretionary power should be allowed.
The next point that arises is how information about the imposition of a penalty shall be conveyed to the people who really matter. They, of course, arc the doctors, chemists and hospitals. Our idea is that they should be notified that the man concerned has been suspended. The suspension might take effect immediately, because fraud is suspected. The man may be suspended at the beginning of the inquiry, and, in that event, if he was a doctor, the chemists and hospitals should be notified.
– -The chemists and hospitals in the town in which the man lives ?
– Perhaps in the town in which he lives, or perhaps in the whole State.
– I rise to order. I point out that the Minister has now spoken for nearly twenty minutes. I warned you of that danger, Mr. Chairman, when you called two speakers in succession from the Government side of the chamber. 3 should like to know whether the Minister can be prevailed upon to conclude his remarks shortly in order that the criticism which the bill deserves may bc levelled at it by Opposition members.
– Order ! No point, of order is involved.
– I believe that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, who is the spokesman for the Opposition on t his bill, is interested in my remarks.
– I should be happier if the Minister made them at a later stage.
– I arn discussing one of the clauses that are under consideration. For the reasons which I have given, the Government considers that this matter should be dealt with in the way provided in the bill; that is to say, the Minister should be given certain discretionary power.
.- Although we may criticize the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) for the maimer in which he has handled the bill in certain respects, we are indebted to [lim for his technical knowledge of the subject under discussion. His remarks about antibiotics have been most interesting to honorable members. I wish to refer to that subject on behalf of members of the dental profession, who. as the Minister is aware, are not included in this bill. Clause S7 (1.) provides -
Subject to this suction, every medical practitioner is authorized to write a prescription for the supply of a pharmaceutical benefit for the purposes of this Part.
No provision is made for u dentist to write a prescription for the supply of a pharmaceutical benefit for the purposes of this Part. I point out that members of the dental profession are highly qualified and responsible persons, and that they may be entrusted with that authority. They contend that under the provisions of the bill they will not be authorized to prescribe certain drugs for their patients. A prescription has to be issued by a medical practitioner. In other words, a dentist must send a patient to a doctor for a prescription. The patient will be put to additional expense, and will he subjected to worry and delay. Thu waiting rooms of medical practitioners will be cluttered up with patients of dentists. Sometimes, delay in such matters is prejudicial to the health of a patient.
The indiscriminate use of drugs is not sought by the dental profession. Actually, dentists are interested in only twelve drugs and some vitamins. Members of the dental profession are well aware of the need for discrimination in the use of antibiotics. They are highly qualified men who underwent a long university course, and any notification of the need for special precautions could be issued to them through the Australian Dental Association. Representatives of the dental profession have made a list of the drugs with which they are concerned. Some of them are very simple. The first is distilled water. I did not know that it was regarded as a drug, but nevertheless, it is included in the list. The other drugs are as follows:penicillin, penicillin oily, procaine penicillin crystalline, procaine penicillin oily, sulphadiazine, sulphamerazine, sulphathiazole, sulphanilamide, sulphonamides mixed A, sulphonamides mixed B, sulphonamides mixed C, vitamin K aqueous, vitamin K oily, vitamin K oral,
The dentists ask for authority to prescribe those drugs instead of being obliged to send their patients to medical practitioners for the necessary prescriptions. I consider that the dentists have a sound case, which should be carefully considered by the Minister. They would like to know why the law gives a dental practitioner the right to administer those drugs, but deprives him of the right to write prescriptions for the supply of drugs which are pharmaceutical benefits. “Why should a dental practitioner and his patients be placed at a disadvantage when the administration of therapeutic drugs is required immediately, while no such restriction is placed on a medical practitioner and his patient? The dentists should be included in the bill to the limited degree that I have stated. The cost to the community would not be great, because few dental patients would be involved.
I submit this ease on behalf of members of the dental profession, and urge the Minister to give careful attention to this most important matter in the interests of dentists who are trying to do their best to treat their patients expeditiously and effectively, and also in the interests of patients who are put to additional expense, because only medical practitioners are authorized to write prescriptions for the supply of pharmaceutical benefits.
.- The point raised by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) about the supply of antibiotics is most interesting, and has some substance, but we cannot expect that in’ this voluminous bill, the preparation of which has involved an enormous amount of work, the whole medical and dental needs of the community can be covered at once. However, I hope that the matter raised by the honorable mem- ber will be examined at a later date.
But that is not the subject with which the committee is principally concerned at the moment. We are now considering amendments proposed by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) to clauses 95, 96, 122 and 123. All those clauses are machinery provisions, which follow the power given to the Minister under clause 94 to cancel the authority of a medical practitioner to pre- scribe and a chemist to supply pharmaceutical benefits. Clause 94 enables the Department of Health, through the Minister, to police the prescription and supply of pharmaceutical benefits under this legislation. It is obvious that the Minister must have power to police the supply of drugs, and control the medical profession and the pharmaceutical profession in -order to ensure that the terms of the act shall not be evaded. The amendments are directed at machinery provisions which follow those clauses.
The first amendment which has been moved is to clause 95 and seeks, to compel the Minister to give notice in the Gazette of the cancellation of the authority of a doctor or chemist. That is not a matter of great importance, hut I should have imagined that a doctor or- a, chemist would consider it preferable that the Minister should not be obliged to give notification of a cancellation of authority when he did not deem it to be necessary. Obviously, it would not be in the interests of the doctor or chemist, whose authority was cancelled, that the whole world should be advised -,of that fact. The Minister has the power, !>if he wishes to use it in the public interest, to publish in the Gazette notification of ihe cancellation of authority. The bill is correct in its present form. I consider that the Minister should possess a discretionary power to advertise or not.
The next amendment which has been foreshadowed is to : -.clause 96, which gives a doctor or chemist affected by the cancellation of his authority the right of appeal. The authority is cancelled in the first instance by a committee established under thi3 legislation. The committee, whether it be a medical committee or a pharmaceutical committee, consists of the Director-General and four members of the profession of the person concerned, that is, four doctors or four practising chemists. In accordance with the bill those members sit in private, and that is perfectly correct, for reasons that I shall explain later. The committee is authorized to recommend the cancellation of the authority of a doctor or a chemist. The Minister has power to act on that recommendation, and cancel the authority. The doctor or chemist concerned then has the right. of appeal to the Supreme Court of a State. The amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro seeks to give the court authority to re-hear the whole of the proceedings that have taken place before the committee. I do not consider that to be desirable. Under the bill in its present form, the court has a definite, defined duty to perform, and that is to determine whether the Minister has acted, reasonably on the evidence presented to him by the committee. If the court is to be given power to re-hear a case, an administrative discretion would, in effect, be given to it upon it. The Minister, in cancelling an authority, exercises an administrative discretion conferred upon him under the bill. A person who objects to the cancellation may then appeal to the court, and the court determines whether the Minister has acted reasonably on the evidence submitted to the committee. If we impose on the ‘ court the duty of re-hearing the wholes-matter, we shall transfer the administrative authority under this legislation from the Minister to the court. I assure any member of : the Opposition who considers that to be the. correct and; -proper, course to follow that there is ample authority to the contrary in decisions of the High Court. This is not a criminal matter. The situation would be different if the proceedings before the medical committee involved a criminal penalty. Then, perhaps, it would be correct to suggest that the court should re-hear the matter. However, that is not the situation. We are considering an administrative inquiry to determine whether or not a chemist or doctor is fit to have authority to prescribe or administer benefits under this legislation. The Minister’s discretion will be an administrative discretion. That fact is inescapable. To give the Supreme Court power to re-hear the whole matter would be to confer that administrative discretion upon it, which would be highly undesirable. I shall he happy to inform honorable members opposite, if they are interested, of the legal authorities contained in decisions of the High Court to which I have referred. They are too numerous for me to mention now.
The next foreshadowed amendment refers to clause 133 which deals with the consequences that will follow upon the withdrawal of the authority of a chemist or doctor. The Opposition seeks to oblige the Minister to give notice in the Gazette of the withdrawal of authority. My earlier remarks apply also to this proposal. It is highly desirable, in the interests of the doctors or chemists concerned, that the Minister should not be obliged to advertise their misfortune if he does not think such action to be necessary. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro made much of the suggestion that a chemist could be penalized for having supplied pharmaceutical benefits on the prescription of a doctor who had lost his authority under the legislation. There is little substance in that objection. Nobody will suggest that the Department of Health would launch a prosecution against a chemist if he could satisfy it that he had been unaware that the doctor’s authority had been withdrawn. The department instead would seek to punish the doctor, and severe penalties are provided for a doctor who issues prescriptions after his authority has been withdrawn.
The final amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro refers to clause 122, which provides that the proceedings of committees shall be held in private. The Opposition proposes that committees shall have discretion to’ order inquiries to be held in public if they think fit. This proposal, too, is undesirable in the interests of doctors and chemists because, as I have said, these inquiries will be administrative, not judicial or criminal investigations. The rules of evidence will not apply, and it would not be common justice for such inquiries to be conducted in public. In view of the facts that I have stated, the committee will be well advised to reject all four of the amendments moved by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro.
.- I refer to the amendment of clause 95 proposed by the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), which has been summarily dismissed by the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne). The Opposition considers that the Minister for Health (Sir. Earle Page) should be required to publish in the Gazette notice of the suspension or revocation of the authority conferred upon a doctor or chemist under the terms of this legislation. There should be no doubt about the matter. Clause 94 indicates that authority or approval cannot be suspended or revoked unless the offence committed by the doctor or chemist has been of a serious, nature. Therefore, publication of the name of the” off fender in the Gazette is warranted. The proposal to give the Minister discretion in this matter has a dangerous significance. Unless the clause is amended, the Minister will have power over trie ‘ livelihood of certain doctors and chemists. Why should he have the right to decide whether all or any of the names of chemists and doctors who have committed offences should be published? Any doctor or chemist whose name is published will be known throughout Australia as an offender, whereas those whose names are not published will be let off lightly. Such discretionary power tends to lead to favoritism, and the enactment of the clause- in its present form would establish a dangerous precedent. The Minister could ruin the reputation of a chemist or a. doctor by deciding to publish his name whilst keeping secret the names of others who had’ contravened the legislation. Either it should be mandatory upon the Minister to publish the name of every such offender, or the publication of names in such circumstances should be forbidden. The Opposition considers that the wisest course to follow is to make it obligatory for the Minister to publish the names of all offenders in the Gazette.
Why, should doctors or chemists receive special treatment that is not afforded to other people who break the law ? Lawyers who contravene their articles, and politicians who step off the straight and narrow path, have their names’ blazoned in headlines in the newspapers. Nobody worries about the smashing of the charac ter Qf a’ politician, a lawyer or a union Officer. Doctors and chemists should not be treated as a special class in the community. Clause 95 provides for a kind of discrimination that is absolutely distasteful to me, and, I ‘believe, to all of my colleagues. Clause after clause in the bill provides that doctors and chemists, for whom generally I have a very high regard, shall be placed in a special category as untouchables. This sort of discrimination in favour of a small group of citizens is opposed to the traditions of British fair play. The amendment proposed by the honorable member for EdenMonaro is perfectly just and reasonable. All offenders under the provisions of the bill should be treated alike. Either every name should ‘be published, ot none should be published. I wholeheartedly oppose the idea of giving the Minister power to ruin the reputation of one chemist or doctor whilst allowing others to go virtually free.
Mir. McMAHON (Lowe - Minister for the Navy and Minister for Air) [8.42]. - I shall discuss only the amendment to clause 96 foreshadowed by the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Eraser). . Under clause 94, the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) will have power, after investigation and report by a committee of inquiry, to suspend or revoke the authority or approval conferred .upon :a medical practitioner or a chemist under this legislation. The important fact is that the Minister will not be able to exercise that power unless the appropriate committee has first made a recommendation to him. This is, in fact, an administrative power, and the Minister alone is the proper person to exercise such power. Acceptance of the foreshadowed amendment would confer upon the persons concerned the right of appeal to a court on what the Opposition claims to be a judicial matter. I propose to show, first, that the amendment is ultra vires the law ; secondly, that it is unnecessary -. and, thirdly, that in any case it is nonsensical. I remind honorable members of a recent pharmaceutical benefits case before the High Court in which a legal provision in terms almost identical with the amendment proposed by the Opposition was in dispute. The High Court, held that the Supreme Court could, not, validly he required to exercise an undefined discretion concerning the suspension or withdrawal of the approval of an appellant; in other words, that the court could not be asked to exercise an .administrative, rather than a judicial function. In another recent case, the High Court held unanimously that section 77 of the Constitution does not authorize the nesting in a State court of functions that are essentially administrative and not judicial. The bill provides for an administrative function to he exercised by the Minister, but honorable members opposite suggest that that function should be exercised by a court, although they should know that it Gould not validly %e exercised by a court. If this amendment were accepted, probably it would be- held to be ultra vires and of no effect.
As I understand the arguments presented by the ‘Opposition during this debate and prior to the hill coming before the Parliament, there are two questions with which they are chiefly concerned. The first is: would it he possible, under this measure, to exclude evidence that should be heard by a committee? The simple answer to that question is *’ No Clause 124 (4.) .states -
Subject to the .next succeeding sub-section, the Committee shall afford a medical practitioner or chemist to whom notice has beer given in pursuance -of sub-section (l.j) nf this section an opportunity of examining witnesses,, giving evidence “ and calling witnesses on his, behalf and of addressing the Committee.
A doctor or chemist would have authority to present to a committee the evidence he wanted to present to it, and the committee would have no right to prevent him from doing so. The second question asked by the Opposition is: would it be possible to permit new or further evidence to be. placed before the committee ? Clause 110 states -
A State. Committee, of Inquiry established under the last preceding sub-section shall inquire into and report to the Minister or the Director-General on any matter referred to the Committee by the Minister or the DirectorGeneral in respect of or arising out of the services or conduct of medical practitioners
If further evidence were discovered and the medical practitioner or chemist concerned thought that evidence should be considered and the whole case re-opened, he could ff° to the Minister, and the Minister could direct the committee to reconsider the case. We have been asked : could further evidence be obtained and placed before a committee? The answer to that question is “ Yes “, We have been asked also : could evidence be excluded from the hearing before a committee? The answer to that question, quite clearly, is “ No. “. If the amendment were- accepted, it would have no effect in law. In any event, it is unnecessary, because ample protection is given to individuals by clauses 110 and 124 (4.).
Let me deal with the question whether the amendments make sense. I say quite emphatically that they do not. It is proposed that clause 96 should be amended by the insertion of a new su’b-clause, paragraph (a) of which provides that, upon an appeal under this provision, the court may have regard to the evidence before the committee of inquiry and report to the committee. What on earth does that mean? Surely honorable members opposite do not want the court to report back to the committee. Tim amendment would make sense only if lt stated that the court should have regard to the evidence before the committee and the report of the committee. The proposed amendment is quite absurd, and would have to be inter preted b.y, some, court of la.w. The. suggestion that the clause be amended to provide that the court shall e empowered to demand, instead of admit, further: evidence is extraordinary. Frankly, I do not think it is. intended to, be taken seriously. All that the amendment could be designed to do is to make unwilling witnesses come before the court by means of a subpoena. Provision i,s already made for ‘ that in the Judiciary Act and other acts. That amendment, could, have been foreshadowed OnlY foi: political purposes,, because it could have no real effect in law.
The third paragraph of the proposed amendment to clause 96 is quite unnecessary, in view of section 79 of the Judiciary Act, which provides that the laws of’ each State, including the laws relating to procedure, evidence and the competency of witnesses shall, except as otherwise provided by the Constitution or the laws of the Commonwealth, be binding on all courts exercising federal jurisdiction in that State in all cases to which they are applicable. The proposal that the Mil should be amended to provide that, upon an appeal, a court should permit the examination and crossexamination of witnesses is, in the light of section 79 of the Judiciary Act, nonsensical. I do not think it was put forward seriously by the Opposition. If the amendments were accepted, they would have no effect in law. I do not think they ftr-9 necessary. Upon analysis, it is obvious that no great care was exercised in. drafting the amendments, because they are unnecessary and, in one instance, nonsensical,
– The statements made by the Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon) about the amendments moved by the Opposition are probably the most remarkable statements made in this chamber during the life of this Parliament.
– The honorable member always says that.
-On this occasion, j am stating a f act. The new sub-clause proposed by the Opposition, which the Minister b&s referred to as nonsensical and unconstitutional, is worded in the same way as was a subclause of the bill presented to the Parliament last March. No good reason has yet been given for its deletion from this bill. If honorable members on this side of the committee had referred to that subclause in the way in which the Minister referred to our amendment, honorable members opposite would have regarded our conduct as laughable. As the new sub-clause that we propose should be inserted was contained in the previous bill, may it not be that the provision in this bill is completely wrong and that the provision in the other bill was right?
– We do not think so.
– The honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) says now that he does not think our amendment is the correct approach to the matter, but a short time ago he was positive that it was not. The Minister referred to clause 124 (4.) which states -
Subject to the next preceding sub-section, the Committee shall afford a medical practitioner or chemist to whom notice has been riven in pursuance of sub-section (1.) of this section an opportunity of examining witnesses, riving evidence and calling witnesses on his behalf and of addressing the Committee.
That is the only protection to which a medical practitioner or chemist would be entitled in a case in which he was fighting for his livelihood. The Minister will decide the case on the report made to him by the committee, but the committee may have admitted evidence improperly. If a doctor or a chemist is deprived of his mean’s of livelihood as the result of an inquiry of this kind, he may appeal to a court, but the Minister has said that such a court could not legally do more than consider the report of the committee, because a re-hearing of the case would be an .administrative act. The honorable gentleman, either deliberately or by mistake, did not refer to clause 124 (5.), which states -
Where a medical practitioner or chemist to whom notice has been given in pursuance of sub-section (1.) of this section fails to attend at the time and place specified in the notice, the committee may, unless it is satisfied that the medical practitioner or chemist is prevented by illness or other unavoidable cause from so attending, proceed to hold the inquiry in his absence.
That is a tremendous power to give to any committee. Under this bill, a committee before proceeding to deal with a case, may have to decide whether the excuse given by a doctor or chemist for failing to attend the hearing is valid. If the committee decides against, the doctor or chemist, its report will be the only thing that can he examined by either the Minister for Health or the appeal court. I do not know of any other body of unionists in this country that would accept a provision of that kind. If this great body of unionists, the members of the British Medical Association, has accepted and tolerated a provision of that kind-
– It has.
– May it not be that the thousands of doctors and chemists in this country are not aware of the provisions of this clause? If a committee decided that the excuse given by a doctor or chemist for failing to appear before it was invalid and proceeded to determine the case in the absence of the man concerned, I hesitate to think what a properly constituted court would say if it were required to adjudicate on an appeal from the decision of the committee but was denied the right to hear evidence given by the appellant and his witnesses. These committees, which will determine whether professional men shall retain their means of livelihood in some instances, will have powers not possessed by other similar bodies. The Minister may believe that the provisions of clause 124 (4.) are satisfactory, hut let him consider clause 324 (5.) and then state whether he still holds the same opinion. I suggest that the amendment moved by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro cannot do any harm to the Minister or to the committees of inquiry, and that it may well do some good. Any Minister for Health may be biased in favour of a report by a committee that he has set up. Occasionally, doctors in a certain area become hostile towards one of their colleagues, and it is not unknown for them to refuse to administer anaesthetics for him, or render him any other assistance. If this provision becomes law, and that doctor is brought before a. committee evidence will be given against him by the other doctors in iris area who have shown their hostility towards him. I hesitate to think of the terms of a committee’s report about such a doctor. All reports of these committees are to be sent to the Minister for Health, and I have no doubt that the Minister, ‘ whether he be the present Minister’ or any future Minister, will be biased iri favour of those reports. But the reports, as I have shown, might be based on evidence that could not be described as impartial or unbiased. If the Opposition’s amendment is accepted, justice will be done to all doctors including those who are unpopular with their colleagues. A doctor whom a committee has reported against should have the right to ordinary justice and should be allowed to call fresh evidence before the appeal court in order to obtain the justice that might have been denied to him by the committee.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) in relation to clause 95. The amendment is reasonable because the discriminatory power which will be vested in the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) by clause 95 should not be so vested. It would be idle for honorable members to deny that certain undesirable practices have come into being under previous legislation of this type. Some months ago I directed a question to the Minister for Health in which I asked him whether it was not a fact that a practice known as channelling was growing in relation to this very matter that we are discussing. The Minister very indignantly repudiated my charges, but I believe it is well known that the practice known as channelling is continuing. Indeed, I have in my possession a letter from, a chemist which substantiates the charges about channelling that I have made. This gentleman has a chemist’s shop in a country town in New South Wales, and he says that for the first three months of this year he has received,’ about £40 -from the .Department of Health when he should have received :,bout £180. The letter reads-
Tt could not lie argued that mine is a small out of’ the way business. I would roughly estimate thai. 1 would have half the ordinary business in town. There is only one other pharmacy. Since coining here I have : increased my turnover about (if) per cent. Again it could not be argued that my customers are the healthy type not requiring injections to save their lives. However, repeatedly my customers arc presenting’ prescriptions for mixtures and remark that they have been administered a penicillin injection or some such other covered by the P.T.A. You may wonder why I have not taken steps before to remedy my position. .1 have, considered it for a. long time trying to figure out what I would really gain or lose from it. Finally, the annoyance of the constant injustice and the realization I am being deprived of what are my legal rights because others, ure breaking the law moved me . . .
I have considered approaching the director of the pharmaceutical benefits section of the department. However, a friend of mine in Sydney had tried this way only to be told by the authorities that they realized what wmgoing on in sonic places but they could du very little about it.
That is an allegation of a practical pharmaceutical chemist. He said that other members of his profession had suffered a similar experience, but upon approaching the Director of the Department of Health in Sydney were told that nothing could be done. Notwithstanding the evasions of the Minister about these allegations and charges, it is admitted by chemists that this practice of channelling is becoming more widespread.
– How can we stop it ?
– It is not for me to stop it, but more vigorous action than has been taken by the Minister so far is required. Surely the Government is not adopting a defeatist attitude and admitting that channelling is going on but that it cannot do anything about it. The attitude of the Government is apparently demonstrated by the honorable member for Isaacs, who interjected, “ How can we stop it “. Channelling is depriving some chemists of legitimate business, because it is being indulged in by some members of the medical profession, in alliance with chemists, completely against the spirit of the law. The Government should take a firm stand on this matter, and try to do something for those members of the pharmaceutical profession who have some conscience and scruples, and who are trying to observe the law. Such men should be protected, and the Government should not be balked by the attitude of some honorable members .who say, “ How can we stop it “. It is obvious that honorable members on the Government side know that channelling is going on, and I hope that the Minister will take a firm stand on this matter and instruct his departmental .officers that they must enforce the provisions of the law and not allow a defeatist attitude to cloud their approach to the matter. The Department of Health should uphold those who are trying to observe the law rather than encourage those who arc breaking it.
Mr. MORGAN (Reid) J&.32J.- I support the amendment of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Ma-. Ail lau Fraser), together with, his submissions and the submissions of other honorable mem1,em of the Opposition. When a person’s reputation or livelihood h sit stake it is fundamental that no stone should be left unturned in order that he may secure full justice. That was illustrated recently in Sydney when a citizen and a police sergeant were involved in a court case. Their careers and characters were involved, but as the result of appeals to higher courts the characters of the individuals were cleared. This measure should ensure that full justice shall be done to all those who take part in the scheme. With regard to .pharmaceutical benefits, the Minister still pins his faith to what are known as life-saving drugs, in the face of the vast quantity of worthless junk that has been dumped into this country and the fact that 95 per cent, of these drugs have been completely wasted because of overdosing. The Minister would do well not to rely so much on these wonder .drugs, and to investigate more closely the procedure adopted under the Chifley scheme of allowing the medical profession to proscribe simpler, cheaper and more effective drugs. A renowned medical man now visiting Australia on a lecture tour is Dr. Douglas Guthrie. He is a lecturer in medical history at the University of Edinburgh, and the author of books on medical! history. In a recent interview he saw! that there existed a power of healing that was different from anything in traditional medical science. He said, “It is something that cannot be explained in tenni”’ of medical science”. It might be that this is something mystical, or some scientific factor that has been overlooked. As John Stuart Mill has said -
It often happens that the universal belief of one age, a belief from which no one was free nor could be free without an extraordinary effort of genius or courage, becomes to a subsequent age so palpable an absurdity that th,only difficulty is to imagine how such an idea could ever have appeared credible.
Orthodox therapeutic procedure during the last 75 years has relied mainly on drugs and surgery, and this devolves from the germ theory and doctrines of Pasteur. It could he, however, that this has been a tragic fallacy for mankind, and that the whole course of history has been changed, and much needless suffering and loss of life caused, through failure to comprehend the teachings of a contemporary of Pasteur’s, Professor Antoine Bechamp. He was a noted French medical scientist, biologist and researcher, who is regarded by some as $ie greatest biologist of all time, and who is credited with feeing the real discoverer of germs to which, however, he attributed an entirely different function from that postulated by Pasteur. Beechamp called them mycrozymas. In the positive .state, according to him, they are life’s primal architects, or body builders. In the negative state, when the body is in a state of lowered resistance, they evolve into bacteria and become destructive in their nature, but .they are inherent in the .system. They are friends or foes, according to the condition of the body. It is interesting to note that even in medical .circles there now seems to be a different approach to this subject.
I wish to quote from a press report dated the 12th November, -which is entitled “Doctor’s View: Germs not so Deadly “. The report states -
Medicine may have gone too far in blaming sickness on .germs, says Dr. Bern J.. Dubos of the Rockefeller Institute. “ There is strong evidence”, lie told National Institute of Health Scientists, “that bacteria and viruses become dangerous only when the set-up is right lor them. Otherwise, even the most virulent. o.f them a.r,e harmless. Every person carries in the body throughout life a host of supposedly deadly microbes. These live in the blood and tissues as ‘harmless guests .until something happens to start them on a ra.inipji.jru,.’-‘
Dr. Hu tins say<3 .that although the presence of the right micro-organisms is necessary for the particular disease, thu rual cause is a matter nf who’ll the. -present, day physician i> usually quite ignorant. l,)r. Dubos then refers to certain experiments that took place at the Rockefeller Institute. The report continues -
Efforts to transmit the common cold, to which everybody seems susceptible, to volun teers have been equally unsuccessful, says I >r. Dubos.
That report indicates that the medical profession is ‘adopting an entirely different approach. It may be that the medical profession is returning to the. theories that were propounded many years ago by Professor Bechamp. Pasteur, on the other hand, postulated the theory that germs were air-borne and that they were contracted from without. Ho was a chemist and he looked for a cure from without. Hence there was the develop-‘ ment of drugs, surgery and inoculation io drive out or exorcize the offending creatures. If Pasteur were wrong, it has been a tragic fallacy for medical science - 1 1 ti mankind generally and the whole structure of modern medicine and surgerymust fall to the ground.
The dilemma in which the medical profesion now finds itself calls for some re-appraisal of its teachings and practices, /’bc need for greater research is very pertinent to this measure. The predicament of the medical profession in relation to these wonder drugs provides further confirmation of the Bechamp doctrine. The fact that these drugs become lass and less efficacious when they ure taken in greater quantities and that iiic bacteria become stronger and resistant to attack should indicate that there is sonic factor that is being overlooked. That factor might be the unknown factor r.h;it was referred to by Dr. Guthrie. It might prove to be the missing link between iiic orthodox and unorthodox teachings mid it might help ultimately to unite all tin: great healing arts. The federal president of the British Medical Association, Dr. Collins, may have spoken prophetically when he indicated recently that medicine would undergo a. big change within the next 50 years and that doctors would concentrate on prevention instead of cure. Let us hope and pray that that will be so and that the .medical profession will concentrate on the buildingup of bodily resistance.
I suggest that the bill, instead of m: king provision for those wonder drugs or blunder drugs that are costing the taxpayers such a huge sum, should provide for the prescription of the simple vitamins that could be obtained cheaply in a chemist’s or greengrocer’s shop. Those vitamins probably would be much more effective than the lifesaving drugs, and many of the abuses to which honorable members have referred would he eliminated. The right honorable gentleman indicated the correct approach before he became Minister for Health. His line of attack on the -Chifley Government’s pharmaceutical benefits scheme was that it was not necessary to prescribe all these drugs. He said that one could not get good health out of a bottle of medicine, and I do not think that one can obtain it out of a bottle of antibiotic pills.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I do not wish to waste the time of the committee, but I cannot allow to pass unchallenged the extraordinary statement that was made by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) when he referred to all the new antibiotics as blunder drugs and when he suggested that it would be a good idea to give them all away and return to the use of the ordinary drugs and chemicals that are set out in the British Pharmacopoeia. If one looks at the mortality figures since the antibiotics were introduced, he realizes how effective they have been. The number of deaths from lobar pneumonia fell from 2,099 in 1920 to 678 in 1952, in spite of the fact that the population of Australia has risen from 5,000,000 to nearly 9,000,000 people. The number of deaths from tuberculosis fell from. 3,607 to 1,289, the number of deaths from meningitis fell from 596 to 145 and the number of deaths from puerperal septicaemia, fell from 250 to 5. I am more inclined to agree with the statement that was made by the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) when he impressed on the committee the necessity to provide safeguards in relation to the standards of the drugs and chemicals that were supplied - drugs whose therapeutic effect has been demonstrated.
The human race is very gullible in relation to medicines. I am sure that the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) will understand that statement. For some reason the human race is easily influenced and because of its gullibility and credulity there is always an obliging crowd of charlatans and quacks who will cater for its wants. That is not a new thing. I do not know whether the honorable member for Oxley remembers the case of the famous Joanna Stephens in the clays of Queen Anne. Joanna Stephens had a famous remedy for a stone in a certain part of the anatomy to which I need not refer. Of course, gout was the prevailing disease in those days. People with all sorts of conditions turned their back on the college of physicians and went to Joanna Stephens. She said that as a public benefactress she would sell her remedy to the people, and a public fund was opened. The church and many other people supported her. She wanted £5,000 for the prescription, hut, in spite of a great public effort, the £5,000 was not forthcoming. The Government then, under public pressure, set up a committee which comprised three of the most eminent doctors in the land. The unanimous decision of the doctors was as follows : -
We have examined the said, medicines and her method of preparing the same, and are convinced by experiment, of the utility, efficacy, and dissolving power thereof.
The clamour was so great that the British Parliament then passed a special act which provided for the giving of a reward to Joanna Stephens. After she received the £5,000, she published her prescription. The medicine was a decoction containing boiled herbs and soap, with swine’s cresses burnt to blackness. That was only for the purpose of disguising it, she said. There were also pills consisting of wild carrot and burdock seeds, hips and hawes reduced to ashes with alicant soap and honey and a powder which was composed of roasted egg-shells crushed with garden snails in the month of May. This barn-yard rubbish was supplied by Joanna Stephens. The British -Government paid her £5,000 for. it ! ..
– -Did the medical profession endorse it?
– The Prime Minister then was Sir Robert Walpole. He took some of the stuffy but unfortunately he died. It was discovered at an autopsy performed by the leading surgeon who had advocated government support for Joanna .Stephens that Walpole had died because he had a stone in the unmentionable part of his anatomy!
– Did this committee that endorsed her prescription include doctors?
– Yes. I refer also to the occasion when Benjamin Franklin was deceived. He had a god-son whose name was Graham. Graham was a super- quack. He practised at a place which was situated between Blackfriars and Westminster Bridge, in London. In the vestibule of that place there was an enormous heap of crutches and walking sticks which he proudly pointed out to people who consulted him. His great artifice was his temple of health which contained an apartment which he called the “ Great Appollo Apartment “. He described it in the following terms: - fu this tremendous edifice are combined or singly dispensed the irresistible and salubrious influences of electricity, or the elementary fire, air, and magnetism, three of the greatest of those agents or universal principles, which, pervading all created being and substances that we are acquainted with, connect, animate, and keep together all nature.
His principal apparatus was a thing that he called his Celestial bed. It was a magnificent edifice which stood on 4$ pillars of glass. He called it his “ Medicomagneticomusicoelectrical bed “ and the fee for sleeping in it for one night was £100. Anybody who slept in it had the right to engrave a crest on his tombstone. The young people who slept in the bed retained their good looks. The old people experienced its effects and they were rejuvenated. If married couples slept in it, he said that their progeny would be healthy and virtuous. The interesting aspect of it was that the lady whom we will call the senior hostess was a’ ‘girl named Emma Lyon, who afterwards became famous as Lady Hamilton. This Graham was extra good. He had as a sideline a remedy that he called ‘his “ Elixir of life “. If anybody paid £1.000. he got a written guarantee that he would ; live to be 150 years- of -age. That was! the minimum. If that person continued to take the remedy and continued to pay sums of £1,000, there was no limit to the age to which he might live. Apparently Graham was not so good at mathematics, because he himself died at the age of 50 years.
I mention those things to show that this quackery and charlatanism has existed over the years and that gullible people will always be deceived. To-day, we have the antibiotics, radio-active isotopes, and other marvellous drugs. We have the knowledge that enables us to standardize those drugs and to study with the strictest accuracy their effect on the various complaints to which people succumb. But that does not mean that unscrupulous people will not try to market the most worthless of drugs in a very inhuman way. A. drug called para amino salicylic; acid, otherwise known as P.A.S., is used in the treatment of certain forms of tuberculosis. Recently it was discovered that of twelve samples of this drug that were tested biologically no fewer than eight were more or less worthless. As the honorable member for Re id has suggested, we should not look to the past with all its old-fashioned remedies, but we should concentrate on the development of drugs that have a definite medicinal value. “We should make sure that, when they are given to the public, they arc of the strength and quality that are required.
– I refer to the amendment to clause 95 that has been moved by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Eraser). I think the honorable member said that the purpose of his amendment was to make it mandatory that notice of action taken under the last preceding section shall be published in the Gazette. This particular provision in the bill does not cover ordinary hospital benefits. It deals entirely with pharmaceutical benefits. Clause 94 prescribes the punitive action which may be taken by the Minister in relation to persons who improperly write prescriptions for the supply of pharmaceutical benefits. The clause reads as follows : - (1.) The Minister may, after investigation and report by the appropriate Committee of
Inquiry, by notice in writing, suspend or revoke -
That provision covers the whole of the operations of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. I recall that a few years ago, in Adelaide, collusion occurred between a doctor and a chemist in connexion with the supply of free medicine. As a result of those improper practices, certain persons obtained from the Government a great deal of medicine to which they were not entitled. A gentleman who had a knowledge of the matter said to me, “ We have a clear case against these men. We know what they have been doing. But because the chemist acted in conjunction with a doctor, the profession is doing everything possible to prevent the story from being told to the public “. Members of the medical profession did not want the people to learn what had been happening. The purpose of the amendment proposed by the honorable member for EdenMonaro is to ensure that when the Minister acts upon the authority conferred upon him by the provisions of clause 94 (1.) the revocation or suspension of the authority conferred upon a medical practitioner or a pharmaceutical chemist shall be notified in the Gazette. It should not be left to the Minister to decide whether or not he shall publish a notice of the suspension or revocation of such an authority.
Clause 94 (2.) provides that the Minister may, for good cause shown, by notice in writing, suspend or revoke the approval of a hospital authority to provide pharmaceutical benefits. In the event of such a suspension or revocation, notice should be published in the Gazette. Pharmaceutical benefits are provided at the expense of the taxpayers, and for that reason, stringent conditions should be applied in respect pi those who .administer .or take part in the .scheme. ..Only in that way can the -revenue ‘be protected against exploiters. W.e appeal to the Minister to agree to publish in the Gazette notifications of .all such .suspensions ;and revocations. A person who is convicted in the courts for haying committed a misdemeanour is more often concerned about the publication pf the facts -of his .conviction than about the fast that he has broken the law. Only in rare instances does a court order the press not to publish the details pf the case. Authorities on this subject tell us that the publication of court proceedings for misdemeanours is the greatest deterrent to crime and wrongdoing. If it is right that such cases should hg reported in the press, it is also right that the suspension or revocation of an authority conferred upon a medical practitioner, pharmaceutical chemist .or a hospital authority for contravention pf the provisions of this legislation should be published in the Gazette. Publication of such suspension or revocation is, in itself, a heavy penalty.
– In offences against the criminal law, the accused has available to li-jm all the paraphernalia of .the law at his trial. Tha* does not apply to committees of inquiry established under this legislation..
– The committees may recommend the suspension or revocation of the authority conferred upon a medical practitioner or a pharmaceutical chemist under the provisions of this legislation. If the contention of the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) is right, the Minister should have power to publish a notice of the suspension or revocation of authority in the Gazette. Clause 95 (1.) provides that the Minister -may, if he thinks” fit, cause notice of action to suspend or revoke an authority to be published in the Gazette. We contend that such publication should b.e mandatory. As the clause stands, $ke Minister may decide to publish in the Gazette a notice of the suspension or revocation of the authority granted to one person who has been of breaking the provisions of like legisla tion, and he may refuse to do so in relation to another person who has been equally guilty of having committed a breach. The “committee of inquiry itself should decide whether publication of the notice of suspension or revocation should be made in the Gazette. Such discrimination could not be exercised if publication of the notice of suspension or revocation were made .mandatory.
.^ was very nice of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley) to tell us stories of quackeries practised by various women 150 or 200 years ago. I could cite many instances of .quackery practised in more recent times that wore unearthed .by a royal .commission which inquired into proprietary medicines and preparations. No doubt many of them are still being offered for sale. I was a member of a committee which was established during the war to inquire into some .of these preparations. The committee found that, in many instances, 86 per cent, of their cost -was represented by advertising charges. There is ample .evidence in the medical profession of the adverse effects of the use of many of the new antibiotics. The Minister for Social Services to-night referred to the rapid curative effect of certain drugs in the treatment of pneumonia. I do not know whether the honorable gentleman had in mind the use of antibiotics. He referred to a period when the population of Australia was about 5,0.00,000 persons. That would be about 4.0 or 50 years ago-
Ma-. Townley.: - I cited figures for 1.920 and 1939.
– Antibiotics were then unknown. The first of them, penicillin, was not discovered until thirteen or fourteen years ago.
– I made a comparison between 19,39 and 1952.
– The Minister knows very well that many antibiotics, including aureomycin, were not discovered until five or ten years ago. Earlier, whan I dealt with preventive measures, I contended that some pf the measures advocated by the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) when he was in opposition raigh* w-e.ll have been given effect after lie assumed office. J refer the right honorable gentleman to a speech which he made on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Bill on the 31st March, 1944. He said, in part,-
Much of the fun.de that would he spent on medicine would’ bo saved if an equivalent amount was expended in inaugurating a national health plan along the lines that medical experience has indicated to be necessary. Such a plan would ensure the nutrition of pregnant and nursing mothers and children by reducing the cost of essential protective foods such as milk, oranges, &c.
He then stated the comparative vitamin content of orange .juice, papaw juice, tomato juice, pineapple juice, turnip juice, blackcurrant juice, and rose hip syrup. It is a remarkable fact that since he has been in office, he has made no attempt to put his theories to a practical test. I agree with the suggestions that he then made. I regard them as constituting a proper approach to this problem. Instead of spending millions of pounds on imported drugs, the therapeutic value of which has been questioned by the medical profession, he would have done much better had he provided free fruit juices for the people. Had he done so, he would have assisted local industry, and provided employment for our own people. I do not pose as an expert in these matters, but I am able to make my own observations in regard to them. Honorable members opposite have to accept this bill, which has been forced upon the Government by the medical profession and, consequently, they try to laugh it off.
Clause 107 relates to the medical services Federal Committee of Inquiry, and reads as follows.;- <l) The Minister may establish a committee, called The Medical Services Federal Committee of Inquiry, which shall .consist of the Director-General and four medical practitioners .appointed by the Minister from among six medical practitioners nominated by the Federal Council of the British Medical Association in Australia.
The Minister did not .adopt a similar procedure in .connection with the appointment of the other committees of inquiry. He does np.t confer on the pharmaceutical guild the power to appoint persons to the Pharmaceutical Services Federal Committee of Inquiry. Why is this dis.crimination -shown1? “Why is the British Medical Association gwen preferential treatment
-~The Pharmaceutical Guild nominates a panel. I wish that the honorable member would read the bill.
– The Minister misunderstands me. He refers to a committee which will deal with the formulary. I am discussing a disciplinary committee.
– Both committees are to be nominated in the same way.
– The Minister may establish a pharmaceutical services committee of inquiry which shall consist of the Director-General and four pharmaceutical chemists appointed by the right honorable gentleman. Why has npt the Minister followed a similar procedure for the appointment of members of the medical services committee pf inquiryand made provision for that body to consist of the Director-General and f Disqualified medical practitioners? The Minister would then possess complete power. I think that he should exercise his authority. He should not abdicate in favour of an outside organization such as the Federal Council of the British Medical Association. Has it any statutory authority? Is it just a common law collection of individuals? Suppose a breakaway organization of medical. practitioners was established? Would it bc given any rights in this matter? I recall that the Australian Medical Association was established years ago as a breakaway group from the British Medical Association. A similar breakaway may occur again as the result of a (sharp difference of opinion among medical practitioners. It would be sufficient to mak* provision in the bill for the committee to consist .of six legally qualified medical practitioners. At present, the Minister has to appoint six medical practitioners who have been nominated by -the British Medical Association. All sorts pf .difficulties might arise. If a Labour government were in office, the British Medical Association might refuse to co-operate, and the Minister for Health would ‘be ham-strung. If the Federal Council declined to nominate six medical practitioners, he could not appoint a committee to police ,the scheme.
Mr.EDMONDs. - individual doctors are not consultedby the Federal Council. They have no say in the making of decisions.
– That is so. Under this bill, four medical practitioners may be called upon to consider matters in which intricate points of law arise. This possibility is recognized by the Federal Council of the British Medical Association, as shown in its report on the 18th April last. It reads as follows: -
The Federal Council had before it a legal opinion which bad been obtained by the Victorian Branch. ‘ In this opinion it was pointed out inter alia that the Committee of Inquiry had generally to act in a quasi-legal capacity. It lacked the power to impose penalties upon medical practitioners, and had only the power to report. At the same time, the administration of the regulations envisaged a certain legal knowledge and experience by the committee. Some knowledge of the law of evidence would be needed by the committee.
– Order I The honorable member’s time has expired.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Mr. Allan Fraser’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I refer to clause 96, which reads - (1.) Where, in pursuance of section ninetyfour of this Act, the Minister suspends, further suspends or revokes the approval or (4.) Upon an appeal under this section, the Court shall have regard to the evidence before the Committee of Inquiry and the report of the Committee.
I move -
That sub-clause (4.) be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following ‘subclause : - “ (4.) Upon an appeal under this section the Court may -
have regard to the evidence before the Committee of Inquiry and report to the Committee;
demand further evidence either orally or upon affidavit or otherwise;
permit the examination and cross examination of witnesses”.
I have already given to the committee the reasons for the amendment, and I do not propose to repeat them. The discussion on the amendment to-night has been notable for the performance of the Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon), who succeeded in opening his mouth wide and putting his foot completely in it.
– That is more than the honorable member can do.
– I acknowledge that it was a remarkable gymnastic performance, for which the Minister is specially suited. Those members of the committee who were present will recall that he condemned this amendment up hill and down dale. He said that it was utter nonsense, that it was completely fantastic, and that the merest tyro would know that it was completely unconstitutional. The only thing that the Minister did not know when he made those remarks was that this provision was incorporated by the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) in the National Health Bill which he introduced last March. I do not know why this provision has been omitted from the bill now under consideration, but the Minister for the Navy will find difficulty in explaining his present contention that the clause, which he was so ready to support last March, and which was approved by the Parliamentary Draftsman and the legal advisers of the Government, should, now of a sudden, because it is moved by the Opposition, be complete nonsense, utterly fantastic, and so completely unconstitutional that the merest tyro should have been aware of that fact. If the Minister can get any satisfaction out of the extraordinary position in which he finds himself to-night, he is very easily satisfied indeed.
The committee has also been remarkably entertained by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley), who dipped into medical history. He referred to one, Joanna Stephens, and her remarkable remedy for stones in unmentioned places, which brought a reward of £10,000 from the British Government. The remedy was subsequently made public, and was found to be an utterly odious mixture. ‘ ‘’ The important point that honorable members should bear in mind is that the committee of the British Medical Association of that day gave its imprimatur to that nefarious and shocking woman’s remedy.
– The British Medical Association was not in existence then.
– Well, the committee of medical men of the day gave- their endorsement to Joanna Stephens’s remedy. Therefore, I consider that we should not accept, with complete equanimity, . the . Minister’s proposal to . vest, such tremendous powers in the hands of the medical profession of the present day. The honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) will correct me if I am wrong, but I understand that members of the medical profession consider that there never has been a time in history when the doctors of the day did not realize that their colleagues of 50 years previously were doing their patients far more harm than good.
The Minister for Social Services also referred to the drug P.A.S. for the relief of tuberculosis. He made what I thought was a most remarkable disclosure to the committee when he said that an investigation had proved that eight of twelve different preparations of this drug on sale in Australia were completely worthless. Presumably the manufacturers were actuated by a ruthless desire to make money regardless of the suffering they caused. That, I suppose, would be justified by Government supporters as an example of the healthy working of private enterprise. I say that the ‘ disclosure made by the Minister was a damning indictment of the practices of commercial interests in this country which would deliberately prepare an utterly worthless form of a drug in order to gain profits for themselves while wrecking the health of people who need that drug in order to combat the ravages of a dreadful disease.
I refer now to other matters that the Opposition wishes to bring to the notice of the committee in the’ limited time that is left to us. I mention first clause 100, which the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) has already mentioned. This clause, which provides for the establishment of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, indicates the willingness of the Minister for Health to allow the British Medical Association to exercise complete domination over his legislation. Of a committee of six members, four are to be medical practitioners appointed by the Minister from six nominated by the British Medical Association. The contrast between this clause and clause 112. which provides for the establishment of the Pharmaceutical Services Federal Committee of Inquiry, is remarkable indeed. The Minister is prepared to accept by complete domination the British. Medical Association in the first instance, but he is not prepared even to give the Federated Pharmaceutical Guild the right to nominate representatives in the second instance.
– The guild is not in the inner circle.
– Exactly ! lt lias not the privilege of being represented by a Minister in this chamber. t direct the attention of the Minister to a small matter- which might well be remedied before the bill is sent to the Senate. Clause 76 provides that registered benefit societies must annually supply certain particulars to the DirectorGeneral of Health. One requirement of the clause is that each society must provide a balance-sheet and revenue account nf the medical benefits fund or hospital benefits fund, as the case requires, for each year. As the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) will readily agree, it is completely impossible for an organization to provide a balance-sheet for a. year. It can be provided at a point in time, but it cannot be provided for a year. I suggest, therefore, that clause 76 be reexamined before the bill goes to the Senate. Finally, I direct attention to clause 124, which provides certain rights for medical practitioners and chemists who are brought before a committee of inquiry. They will have the right to examine witnesses, to give evidence, to nail witnesses on their behalf, and to address the committee. I point out that some members of the medical profession and some chemists, although they might hu vp an excellent case to submit to a com.mittee, might not be skilled in putting their case. Therefore, it would be proper to amend the clause so as to allow doctors mill chemists in such cases to have the right of legal representation.
– It is advisable for the committee to be clear on the statements that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) has made. Therefore, I shall compare the provision in relation to appeals which whs contained in the bill that I presented to the Parliament last March with the honorable member’s amendment.
– They are in the same words. ^ Sir EARLE PAGE.- That is not so. The original .bill provided that, upon the bearing of an appeal, the Supreme Court “ may admit further evidence “ either orally or upon affidavit or otherwise. The amendment proposes that thecourt “ shall demand further evidence “ either orally or upon affidavit or otherwise. There is a vast difference between the meaning of the words “ admit “ and “ demand “. The honorable member apparently argues that they have an identical meaning.
– I have used exactly the same words.
– They are not the same. Had the honorable gentleman been, listening attentively earlier to-night, he would have heard two lawyers point out that, since the original bill was drafted, the position has completely changed as a result of a judgment given by the High Court, which ruled that it would be impossible for a Supreme Court to deal with administrative matters of this sort. Appeals must be dealt with on the evidence that has been given previously. That was made clear to-night both by the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne), and by the Minister for the Navy (Mr. McMahon). That is why the provision embodied in the first bill was left out of the hill now before the committee. If we adopted the honorable member’s suggestion now, the clause would be futile because it would be ultra vires the law. That is the opinion of theAttorneyGeneral (Senator Spooner) and of the legal advisers of the Crown. As T have said, the original bill, provided that further evidence might he admitted in the event of an appeal. That fact proves that the Government is not opposed to thesuggestion. However, the inclusion of such a provision in the present bill would be a travesty because it would not have legal force. Like other proposals made by the honorable member for Eden Monaro, this one is useless. The Government has acted on the best legal advice obtainable and has dealt with the matter in the only way possible. It is ridiculous to say that the word “ demand “ is the same as the word “ admit “. I shall not delay the committee further.
Mr. DALY (Grayndler) 1 10.7 J. -The more one studies the provisions of this bill, the more clearly one realizes that the time allowed for its consideration in committee is altogether too brief. Almost every clause could be improved if the Opposition had time to deal with the measure in detail. I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), who stated an effective case clearly and concisely. The statement by the Minis ter for Health (Sir Earle Page) that he has acted on the best legal advice is not good enough to satisfy the Opposition. If the advice came from certain members of the Government, the Minister should discard it at once, because every constitutional proposition that has emanated from the lawyers in the Cabinet has been rejected by the High Court of Australia or some other authority. Who are the competent legal authorities of whom the Minister has spoken? Are they like the mysterious individuals mentioned in the agreements to which this bill refers and which the Minister has kept secret? I should like to know the identity of these famous legal brains. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan), who is an outstanding product of the law schools of New South Wales, is at variance with the Minister and his supporters on this issue. Other members of the Opposition, such as the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam)., also disagree entirely with the Minister’s interpretation of the clause that the committee is considering. The right honorable gentleman’s statement that he has the benefit of the advice of the best legal brains of the Government weakens his case at the outset. To say that the amendment moved by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro is impossible and useless is no argument against it. I should like to know why the various amendments that have been proposed by the honorable member for EdenMonaro, which I have not had time to discuss extensively, should not be adopted.
I wish the Minister would reply effectively and properly to our questions instead of becoming hot-headed and refusing to support his attitude with sensible reasons.
I know now much more clearly than .1 did yesterday why the Minister did not want the bill to be discussed in detail. He cannot answer our questions, and he is unwilling to let us examine the clauses separately because he knows that wc should find weaknesses in almost every line. The right honorable gentleman’s whole scheme of medical benefits is suspect. Senator McKenna, as the Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services in the former Labour Government, gave to the Australian people a simplified pharmaceutical benefits scheme that was three times cheaper to administer than is this Government’s scheme. Labour’s scheme was sabotaged by the present Minister for Health, aided and abetted by his bosses in the British Medical Association. The Labour scheme provided the people with a comprehensive coverage of 99 per cent, of the ailments from which they suffer at an average cost of 6s. (ki. for each prescription. Under this Government’s scheme, the average cost of prescriptions in 1951-52 was £1 Os. 7d. The figure has SinCe fallen to 18s. Id. because, at long last, the Minister has realized that it is necessary to take precautions, as members of the Opposition advised him, to make sure that drugs are not prescribed indiscriminately. The purpose of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro is to put an end to the wasteful prescription of valuable drugs. The Minister knows that, on one occasion, aureomycin was fed to fowls hy a poultry farmer at the expense of the medical benefits scheme. The right honorable gentleman has done little about such scandalous waste, but he has sought to gain notoriety for himself by talking about his proposals in double Dutch at a world health conference. He knows that such extravagances as the use of aureomycin to feed fowls has boosted the average cost of prescriptions under the scheme to its present high level. Medicine to-day costs the public purse three times as much as it cost under the Chifley Government’s scheme, but the present plan provides only about onefourth of the coverage. Every- citizen knows that he must have one foot in the grave and an undertaker before the Minister will approve of the use of the so-called wonder drugs. Even if the patient is dying, he is often expected to cling to life for three months longer while the Minister imports some vital drug from the dollar area or elsewhere because adequate stocks are not maintained in Australia. I notice that the right honorable gentleman smiles. “Well he may do so, because no greater confidence trickster in the health sphere has been known in our time in this Parliament or any other parliament in Australia.
– I rise to order, Mr. Temporary Chairman. As a supporter of the Government, I take exception to the honorable member’s talk of confidences tricksters and ask that he be made to withdraw the statement. We have heard too much of this sort of talk from the irresponsible honorable member. His speeches usually consist of attacks, such as we have just heard, upon honorable members, on this side of the chamber. He should withdraw and apologize.
– The expression was used in a general sense and was not directly applicable to any honorable member present.
– Thank you, Mr. Temporary Chairman. I always appreciate the impartial rulings that you give.
– I again rise to order. Had you been listening, Mr. Temporary Chairman, you would have noticed that the honorable member used the term :< confidence trickster “ with reference to the Minister for Health. Every other honorable member present is aware of that fact. That is why I objected to the use of the expression.
– Does not the honorable member think he is a confidence trickster*
– The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) has added insult to injury.
– The Minister for Health, took no objection to the remark.
– I do not pay any attention to what the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) says. He is too irresponsible.
– The fact that the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) has raised a point of order of that kind shows that the Australian Country party is determined at all costs to protect an incompetent Minister for Health. I can understand why the honorable member intervened.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Order! I ask the honorable gentleman to deal with the clauses before the committee.
– I intended only to make a passing reference, to the fact that the honorable member for Mallee was upset by the charge I made about fowls. The national health scheme introduced by the Chifley Government was better, cheaper and more extensive than this scheme. It provided adequate cover for the Australian people. The present scheme is over-complicated, overregulated, bureaucratic, not understandable and penal in character. It should be condemned because it does not give to the Australian people what the Labour party believes they should be given. Because the Minister realizes that his scheme cannot stand the light of day, he is not prepared to accept the amendments that we have moved. He knows they would show up the scheme in all its badness, if I may use that expression. I support the amendments moved by the Opposition. The Minister wants to gag and “guillotine” the bill through the committee because he knows it cannot stand investigation. Ultimately he will pay the penalty for having foisted upon the Australian people this complicated scheme in place of the more extensive, simpler, and more beneficial scheme given to the country by a Labour Government.
– I rise only to reply to a statement made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Eraser) which distorted in, I would almost say, a most vicious manner a statement made by the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page). The honorable member referred ,to a reference made by the Minister to certain drugs, the use of which might hare serious consequences in some cases. He assumed that the Minister had stated that certain doctors-
– I rise to order. I referred to a statement made by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Townley).
– I heard the Minister for Health make a statement similar to that criticized by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. The honorable member has said that he referred to a statement made by the Minister for Socal Services, but his remarks were applicable also to the statement made by the Minister for Health. Those remarks, whether they were made in reply to the Minister for Social Services or the Minister for Health, were most unfortunate. They reflected on a very honorable profession and misrepresented the effect of what was said originally. Honorable members know that certain drugs, including the one known as cortisone, give remarkable relief to some sufferers from arthritis and other diseases. Honorable members know also that if those drugs are used in the treatment of other diseases, they produce abnormalities. Therefore, they are suspect to some degree. They are prescribed only to save patients from greater dangers. Doctors have to consider whether, in order to relieve their patients, they should take the risk of using the drugs. The drugs have not been placed on the free list because there is, so to speak, a question mark against them.
There is no need for me to reply to thu diatribe of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly). There is an old saying that a good wine needs no bush. The Minister for Health does not require to be defended against the kind of attack made on him by the honorable member.
-I wish to make a personal explanation. I claim that I have been misrepresented by the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond). I think the honorable member made an honest mistake, but he completely misrepresented what I said. T did not refer to any remarks made by the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page). 1 referred to a statement made by the Minister for Social Services (Mr.
Townley), which the honorable member for New England apparently did not hear. The Minister for Social Services said that the drug P.A.S., which was extremely valuable in the treatment of tuberculosis, was made by a number of manufacturers. He said also that an analysis of twelve samples of the drug made by different manufacturers revealed that eight of the samples were completely valueless, and apparently had been offered for sale in a deliberate attempt to defraud the people in order to make profit. That was the statement on which I commented.
– I want to correct tinhonorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). The point made by the Minister for Social Services was that eight of the twelve samples of the drug were of inferior quality.
– The Minister said they were completely worthless.
– The drug that the Minister mentioned deteriorates very rapidly. It is entirely wrong to suggest that in eight cases it was of an inferior quality when produced.
– The Minister said it was an example of ruthless commercial exploitation for profit.
– He said the samples that were examined had deteriorated.
– He did not.
– I heard him say that
The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN.- Order ! We do not want an argument across the table.
.- The Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) has given an extraordinary explanation of the deletion from the March bill, if I may so describe it, of some of the provisions with regard to appeals. It seem? that when honorable members opposite speak, whether they be legal men or medical men, we are expected to accept their statements as authoritative utterances. I have already referred to an appeal involving a citizen and a police sergeant in New South Wales that was given some prominence in the press. The citizen concerned appealed to a district court judge against a decision of a magistrate on a matter that vitally affected his character. On appeal, the case was re-opened. The powers of courts are derived from parliaments. If this ParKa* ment were to invest a court with power do hear fresh evidence on an appeal, the court would be entitled to receive such evidence. Certainly a district court in u State could be given such power.
The courts that will deal with appeals from these committees should be empowered to receive fresh evidence. The members of the committees will not be men with legal training. Even in the ranks of the Federal Council of the British Medical Association there is some concern about matters that come before it which call for some legal knowledge and training. It would be a good idea to provide that either the chairman or one of the members of these committees should he a man with legal knowledge. The medical boards in the States that deal with misdemeanours alleged against medical practitioners are presided over by u judge. That would be an appropriate procedure in this connexion. Under the present provisions, a committee that heard a charge against a medical practitioner might reject evidence wrongly, due to lack of legal knowledge, but the court that heard an appeal from the decision of the committee would be bound by the evidence presented to the committee. Facts that should have been considered by the committee, if it had acted properly, could not be considered by the court. It seems to mv that the whole procedure is wrong. The Minister should give serious consideration to the amendment moved by the Opposition. It follows the wording of a sub-clause that was contained in the previous bill, with the exception that th-s word “ demand “ has been used instead of “ admit “. I am certain the honorable member for Eden Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) would agree to the amendment being altered to make it conform exactly with the wording of the sub-clause contained in the previous bill, which was drafted by legal officers of the Commonwealth. The sub-clause that we propose should be inserted is in line with similar provisions in other legislation. It would permit further evidence to be admitted by the appeal court, either orally or upon affidavit. It would also permit the examination and cross-examination of witnesses before the court. If the committees were presided over by men with legal training, probably justice would be done in the first instance in many cases,, but if a wrong decision were made, or an injustice perpetrated, appeals could be heard by a court that had authority to admit further evidence. Why should not fresh evidence be received by an appeal tribunal? Apparently the Government believes the British Medical Association to be sacrosanct. Members of the British Medical Association will sit on these committees, which will be virtually star chambers. Doctors who come before the committee will not have the right to be legally represented so that their cases can be presented fully and properly. The committees will be dealing in secrecy with matters that affect the livelihood of doctors, but the doctors concerned will not have the right to be legally represented - a right possessed by every citizen who is tried in the ordinary courts of the land. When a case comes before a court on appeal, a full and proper enquiry should be permitted to ensure that justice will be done.
The scheme was conceived by the British Medical Association, and members of the British Medical Association will implement it. They control some of the insurance organizations. They render the medical services and get substantial financial benefits. In addition, they want to police the scheme, and to do so in such a way that a higher authority will not be permitted to sift evidence and ensure that justice is done.
Question put -
That the sub-clause proposed to be left out (Mr. Allan Phaser’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The committee divided. (Tj-fe Chairman - Mb. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I refer to clause 133, which reads, in part, as follows: - (1.) When the authority conferred upon a medical practitioner by section eighty-seven of this Act is suspended or revoked, that medical practitioner shall not, during the period of. suspension or after the revocation takes effect, write a prescription for the purposes of Part VII. of this Act and an approved pharmaceutical chemist,
I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), after the word “ revoked,” the following word’s be inserted: - “ notice thereof shall be published in the Gazette and “.
The argument for my amendment follows the general line of the Opposition’s contention that when the authority of a medical practitioner is revoked a notice of the revocation should be published in the Gazette so that people may know that the authority has been revoked. We contend that in all matters such as this, publicity should be given to the decision of a committee. If a person’s motor driver’s licence is suspended, publicity is given to the matter through the daily press, and everybody is able to inform himself about the suspension of thelicence and the reason for its suspension. If a doctor has been found guilty of doing something definitely wrong and the Minister is of the opinion that his authority to prescribe drugs has been abused, and revokes the authority the world at large should know that that has been done. No doubt the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) will contend that the doctor, whose authority is revoked, has not committed a crime, and that, therefore, the revocation should not receive publicity in the Gazette. However, if the Minister has power to revoke the authority and does revoke it, he takes a serious action. That action may have grave consequences both for the doctor and his patients, and should receivepublicity.
.- The Government rejects the amendment of the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) because, the Opposition’s previous amendment having been rejected, the revocation of an authority would not receive publicity even if this amendment were passed. Another objection to it is that it is proposed to be inserted in the wrong place. If it were acceptable it would be inserted in clause 132 and not clause 133.
– Order! The time allotted for the consideration of clauses 77 to 139 has expired.
Clauses 77 to 139 agreed to.
Remainder of bill - by leave - taken as a whole.
.- I protest against the ridiculously small amount of time that has been allotted for the discussion of 28 pages of schedules
Honorable members interjecting,
– I rise to order ! The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) is now discussing the time allowed for the discussion of the schedules. That matter has been decided by a vote of the House, and cannot now be referred to.
– Order ! I could not hear what the honorable member for Ballarat was saying because of the noise in the chamber.
– Why do you not keep order ?
– Order ! The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) is the worst offender, and I ask him to remain silent. The question now is that the remainder of the bill be agreed to.
– I desire to say something on behalf of optometrists, who have been left out of this bill. I refer honorable members to item 1 of Part 1 of the First Schedule, which reads -
I move -
That, in sub-paragraph (2) (a) of Item 1., after the word “ practitioner “ the following words be inserted: - “ or in the case of an opthalmologist by an optometrist “.
This is a very important matter. Item 1 of Part 1 of the First Schedule particularly excludes optometrists from the benefits of the bill, and indicates an extraordinary anomaly in the schedules. An opthalmologist or eye specialist charges about three guineas for a visit, whereas a general practitioner charges 15s. Suppose a patient ‘ consults an optometrist who tests eyes and makes spectacles and who is highly trained and qualified. The optometrist decides that the patient should visit an opthalmologist or eye specialist. If the patient goes direct to the opthalmologist he will be charged three guineas. Under this schedule, because he is recommended to see the specialist by a man who is not a, medical practitioner, the Government will pay 6s. and the insurance fund will pay another 6s. towards his fee, and he will have to pay the balance of £2 l1s. out of his own pocket. But if the patient is smart, and reads the schedule, he will go to a medical practitioner first and be referred by him to the opthalmologist. For his visit to the medical practitioner the Government will pay 6s., the insurance fund will pay 6s., and the patient will have to pay only 3s. In respect of his visit to the eye specialist the specialist will be paid £1 by the Government and£l by the insurance fund, and the patient will have to pay only £1 3s. from his own pocket. Therefore, in respect of the whole transaction the patient will pay £1 6s. out of his pocket, but if he acts directly on the advice of his optometrist he will pay £211s. This procedure will result in the overcrowding of the waiting rooms of medical practitioners. I suppose it will mean more money for members of the medical profession, but I do not think that they expect that sort of thing. If that is the idea behind this clause, it is a very low trick. In any case, it is an anomaly. 1 think that the optometrist should be given the privilege of recommending that his patients should go direct to a specialist and that under this schedule the people should be recouped to the full extent of the £2 which the medical benefits fund and the Government provide. The optometrists are worthy of consideration. They have completed a four-year course of training at a university. During that time they have acquired a knowledge of the structure of the eye and they can recognize diseases of the eye. By their study of physiology and bio-chemistry they have acquired a knowledge of normal bodily functions and a knowledge of mental processes
Through the eye. They understand the human anatomy. Their course of training includes also a study of general pathology, bacteriology, biology and chemistry.
Item No. 1 of the First Schedule also contains a provision in relation to a specialist in the practice of his specialty. There is no definition of a specialist and 1 challenge the Minister for Health to give honorable members a definition. Who will decide the qualifications of a specialist? Will the decision be left to a departmental official? I refer also to Item No. 92 in Division 7. That item reads -
Assisting at operation - In respect of not more than one medical practitioner (not being the anaesthetist) who assists at any operation or series or combination of operations performed on the same patient on the same occasion -
1 ) Operation not exceeding one hour in duration 15s.
Operation exceeding one hour in duration -
First hour 15s.
Each additional half-hour or part thereof 3s 9d.
Who will record the time that is taken for these operations? Will the time be recorded by any assistant in the theatre? Honorable members know that the people who assist in an operating theatre must not touch anything. How can they record the time? The schedules should contain provision for these matters. I think that more time should be devoted to a consideration of these schedules so that honorable members may satisfy themselves that everything is in order. 1 hope that the Minister will accept the amendment.
. -Most of the operations that are covered by item No. 92 would be performed in a general hospital. If the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) knows anything about the workings of a hospital, he should know that the hospitals keep a very accurate record of the time a patient is in the operating theatre. The question of making provision for members of professions other than the medical profession to recommend patients to specialists is one that has been given much thought. The matter has been discussed very fully, not only with the optometrists, but also with members of the dental profession and other professions.
– Order ! The time allotted for the consideration of the remainder of the bill has expired.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be inserted (Mr. Joshua’s amendment) be so inserted.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mb. C. F. Adermann.)
Question go resolved’ in” the negative.
Remainder of bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted..
Motion (by Sir Earle Page) proposed -
That the bill bc now read. a. third time.
.- I wish to voice an emphatic protest at the cavalier manner in which this bill has been rushed through its various stages. I venture to suggest that it is the most ill-conceived and outrageous measure that has ever been introduced in this House. Over the last three or four years there has been correspondence between the Government and various organizations, but honorable members were not told- anything about the Government’s, plans until the’ Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) introduced ‘ the measure and rushed it through with the aid of the “guillotine “.;
– Order ! The honorable member may not refer to the “ guillotine “. He must deal with the bill.
– The title to the bill is a misnomer., It is- not a national health bill. It is a bill for the promotion of sickness and disease. The Minister himself, said that it would be far reachingin its effects,.
– Order ! There is far too much conversation in the House.
– There has not been an opportunity for full discussion of. the measure.. The Opposition has moved amendment after amendment.
-Order ! The honorable gentleman may not refer to proceedings in committee.
– I suggest that the bill should be withdrawn, redrafted, and then re-submitted. It is the most extraordinary measure that I have ever seen. I do not think it has been prepared by the Commonwealth legal authorities. It is obvious that tie bill has. been prepared elsewhere. There are ninety-four unspecified items in the schedules. . That ‘indicates that somebody else has been responsible for the preparation of this measure. The bill should be redrafted and re-submitted in order to provide an -opportunity for full and proper discussion. There are many items which the Opposition would like to discuss. Only the Minister for Health, who is a medical man, another honorable member who is a medical man, an honorable member who is a pharmacist, and one or two others spoke on behalf of the Government in support of the bill. That indicates that supporters of the Government do not know the contents of the bill.
-Order!’ The time allotted for the consideration of the remaining stages of the bill has expired. The question, is, “ That the bill be now read a third, time “.
Question resolved . in the affirmative
Bill, read a third time.
Bill received from, the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Holt) read a first time.
Bill returned: from the Senate without; amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
Motion (by Mr. ERIC J. Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- This Parliament is an instrument of democracy. It is elected by the people of the six .States of Australia, including the State of New South Wales, and its existence can be justified only by its defence of democracy. I use these words because, to-day, the Cahill Government introduced a bill into the New South Wales Parliament entitled the Sydney City Council (Disclosure of Allegations) Bill, which provides that any newspaper, corporation or person who publishes allegations of offences under the Secret Commissions Act or under section 101 of the Local Government Act must reveal the sources of its or his information. Heavy fines are provided for breaches of its provisions. In the case of corporations a fine of £1,000 may be imposed, and in the case of individuals a gaol sentence may be imposed. In my opinion the bill is a shocking travesty of the freedom of the press and of the individual. It is a blatant attempt to muzzle the press and to shut the mouths of those who are willing to give information. It is a challenge, not only to the people of New South Wales, but also to the people of Australia to rise in their wrath and fight for the preservation of their freedom against a power-drunk and crazy State Labour Government which is prepared to go to any lengths to protect the adherents of the Labour party from, disclosure of their widespread corruption. If the people of Australia accept legislation of that kind-
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member in order in reading his speech ?
– If the House wishes me to apply the standing order on that point now, I shall apply it at all times.
– If the people accept legislation of that kind they have allowed themselves to be degraded to the position of people in a slave State. What has given rise to this extraordinary attempt to stifle free expression which can only be described as the last refuge of a group of cowards? As” every one knows, for months past there have been rumblings in Sydney over certain actions taken by the Sydney City Council. No one needs more information on the subject than is possessed by the ordinary man in the street to know that all sorts of suspicious actions have been taken by the council in relation to hotel leases, barrow licences, resumptions, tenders, permits, inter-city planning and staff employment. The attention of the city has been directed to them by the opposition aldermen in the Sydney City Council and by the Opposition in the State Parliament.
– I rise to order. It has been ruled from time to time, Mr. Speaker, that an honorable member may not act as a proxy for a person who is outside this chamber. It is obvious that the speech which the honorable member for Bennelong is reading was written for him by some person who is not a member of this Parliament.
– I am unable to uphold the point of order.
– It is strange that ever since Labour has been in control of the Sydney City Council-
– I rise to order. As you Mr. Speaker, have ruled that the honorable member for Bennelong may continue to read his speech, is he not obliged to inform the House of the name of the person who wrote it for him ?
– Order ! The honorable member for Bennelong has opened up a serious subject. I intend it to be treated seriously by honorable members on .both sides of the House.
– For my guidance, Mr. Speaker, would you inform me whether it is in order for this House to discuss a measure which is at present before the Parliament of New South Wales and with which this Parliament has no concern ?
– I took that point of view and ruled accordingly last session, but the members of the party to which the honorable member for Wills belongs crossed the floor and voted in favour of a motion of dissent from my ruling. Until the House reverses its decision on that matter the honorable member for Bennelong is in order.
– Before my speech, was interrupted I was directing the attention of the House to the record of Labour since it has been in control of the Sydney City Council. These suspicious actions date back to the time when the Bunnerong power house was being erected. At that time a certain officer of the Sydney City Council was convicted for an offence and committed to gaol for six months. An alderman, who was charged with a similar offence, is now Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney and deputy chairman, of the Sydney County Council. The recent trouble came particularly to the notice of the public when the boundaries of wards in the council area were gerrymandered and altered in such a way as to make it. impossible for any political party, other than the Labour party, to gain control of the council. A bitter fight subsequently took place over certain perks of office, particularly in relation to the lord mayorality, over certain trips abroad and over certain functions to be held during the forthcoming visit of Her Majesty the Queen. Factions were formed, and then the beans were spilt. There is a saying that when thieves fall out anything may happen. Charges and counter charges were made. Little groups of people in the city made charges and formed public opinion in relation to them, until every person in the street was talking about corruption in the affairs of the council. The executive of the Labour party in New South Wales itself recognized this fact and set about cleaning up the mess. It brought the people concerned before it and investigated their private affairs and bank balances and tried to discover the culprits.
Is it any wonder, in circumstances such as that, that the press should take the matter up and that a public demand should be made for a royal commission to investigate these charges? Nothing else could satisfy the public demand in rela tion to this matter. Under the measure that has been proposed by the New South Wales Government, information on this matter could only be obtained in isolated instances from people who were prepared to leave themselves open to all sorts of difficulties. Consequently, only a royal commission could satisfy the people. Sufficient individual cases have been mentioned. There is no need for me to waste the time of the House in repeating them. But people will not give particulars of their cases without the protection that is provided by a royal commission. Before a royal commission the matter can be opened wide and it is a great wonder to me that the Premier of New South Wales is not prepared to appoint a royal commission in order to discover the details of these matters. If the press were forced to reveal its sources of information it would have to break faith with the people who inform it of what it publishes. Such a step would also subject those who have information to the fear of reprisals - even the fear of physical injury to themselves. This is the kind of legislation which leads to the formation of a. police state. After the passing of such a bill every one would be too scared to supply any information in relation to these matters. There is no need to introduce legislation of this kind. The law as it stands, protects individuals against libel or slander. I wonder what Mr. Cahill is afraid of? We have had the recent instance of the Doyle case and the public. has heard the disclosures that have been made in relation to the council of the Municipality of Leichhardt.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. CALWELL (Melbourne) [“.11-‘13’. - The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) has spoken as a frightened man. He has created a furore here because he and his party have something to hide in connexion with happenings in New South Wales. What has the Government of New South Wales done? It has introduced legislation to require newspapers to provide the names of informants who have made charges of bribery and corruption against other people. _ The legislation provides that application for the information has to be made by a superintendent or inspector of police. Why has the Government included that provision in the bill? Because the Cahill Government is a decent government -which is led by a decent man against whom there is no charge of corruption and it has attempted to find the source of allegations of bribery and corruption. That Government has stated that if it is given the necessary evidence it will launch prosecutions. Yet, when senior officers of the New South Wales Police .Department approached newspaper editors the editors said that they would not give them any evidence. Consequently, the New South Wales Government has decided to probe this matter to its depths, in its own way. It has decided to prosecute everybody against whom it can obtain evidence. It has decided not to be intimated by a pack of press hounds and others into appointing a royal commission for the purpose of embarking on a smear campaign.
Do honorable members opposite suggest that police officers should not be told by newspaper editors where alleged bribery and corruption can be uncovered? Do honorable members opposite contend that the newspaper proprietors are entitled to compound felonies? That appears to be the attitude of Government supporters. They have accused members of the Sydney City Council of bribery and corruption. Action was taken against the Sydney City Council for bribery and corruption for the first time in 1854 by the then Chief Secretary, Mr. Martin, who was afterwards Chief Justice of New South Wales. That happened 36 years before the formation of the Labour party. The Liberal party and the wealthy interests in New South Wales have lived on bribery and corruption throughout their careers. During the days of the rum currency how did the wealthy families of New South Wales get their laud and assets, except by the refined form of bribery and corruption of the period? Why did the Liberal party in New South Wales withdraw its nomination of a former New South Wales senator who is a. member of the Sydney City Council? Did it not have some suspicion that there was something wrong with his association with the Sydney City Council? Remember the Darlinghurst scandal which occurred under the regime of the last anti-Labour controlled Sydney City Council. Apparently something has been wrong in the Sydney City Council, because the New South Wales executive of the Labour party examined the position. But any graft that has occurred has been chicken - feed compared with the graft that has taken place when the opponents of Labour have been in power.
In a Uriah Heepish manner, the honorable member for Bennelong said that there was nothing wrong with the Sydney City Council except when the Labour party was in power. There was a lot wrong with the Sydney City Council before 1927, when action had to be taken against it a second time. It would also be found that there was something wrong with the Sydney County Council if the position of that body were properly investigated. It has been contended that there is no need for legislation of the type that has been introduced by the New South Wales Government. The law officers advising that Government have said that the New South Wales police are at a dead end. They cannot get any further information because of the obstruction of the press barons and they need to have this bill passed in order that they may prosecute. Honorable members opposite have called for the appointment of a royal commission. I should have thought that they would have had enough of royal commissions. A royal commission was held i” order to inquire into a secret fund and the findings of that royal commission werenot to the advantage of honorable members opposite. I refer to the fund which the Treasurer administered and amounts from which were paid into a series of accounts. The former honorable member for Bradfield helped to administer that fund. During the course of the royal commission the judge told the Treasurer and the former honorable mem’ber for Bradfield to go outside and see if they could reconcile their evidence. The Opposition is not afraid of a royal commission. But those who make charges should be obliged to prove them, and if newspaper proprietors want to make charges in order to conduct a smear campaign against the Labour party they should take the con sequences. Consequently the New South
Wales Government has decided that persons who make allegations will have to prove them or go to gaol for twelve months or be fined £500. I am amazed at the moderation and generosity of the New South Wale3 Government in providing such a light penalty.
.- What I have to say about this matter will have little in common with the statements of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), either in fact or in spirit. I do not regard this as a comic matter. Neither do 1 think that any useful purpose is served by semihysterical and almost lunatic attempts to turn the debate to other subjects. I propose to confine my remarks to the legislation introduced into the New South Wales Parliament to-day. The truth of the matter is that the passing of that legislation strikes a blow at the liberties of the people of this country, such as we have never seen before in the history of any British country. It is on that level that I propose to discuss the subject.
I take, first, the title of the bill - the Sydney City Council (Disclosure of Allegations) Bill. The very title, surely, is sinister enough. I have never known a bill with that sort of title to be introduced in any other British parliament. I do not think that we have heard of legislation of that kind in any British country since Cromwell’s day. Such legislation has been introduced in Japan, Nazi Germany, arid, of course, Communist Russia, but it has been left to the Australian Labour party to produce legislation of that kind in this country.
The bill contains certain important provisions, and I shall deal with them briefly. A judge may order, on the evidence or allegations of a policeman, any corporate body to produce documents or disclose information. I pause at this stage only to say that recent events in connexion with traffic charges show perfectly well that the unfortunate police of New South Wales must take their orders from the government of the day, in the same way as every one else must do. There is no defence for the people in the integrity of the police, because the integrity of the police in that State has been undermined by the govern ment of the day. A judge may order that the source of information of a newspaper be made public. If that order is not complied with, the body corporate may be fined £1,000, and every person who is a director or officer of any newspaper involved is deemed to have committed an offence, unless he can prove that he opposed the noncompliance with the order to the maximum, of his abilities, and he may be fined £500 and sent to gaol for twelve months. By whom is this justice to be administered? I ask the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), with all his pretensions to fairness and insistence on the rule of law, to consider this matter.
– Does the honorable member say that such penalties may be inflicted after those persons have refused to obey an order?
– I do not wish to waste my time. Such a person will not be tried, in accordance with the law of the land as a general rule, by a judge and jury. The legislation specifically provides that he will be summarily disposed of in a court of petty sessions, with a stipendiary magistrate sitting alone. If that is the sort of justice to which we are accustomed in this country, it is news to me.
Broadly speaking, the bill will have two effects. First, it will close up all sources of information of corruption and bribery laid against the Sydney City Council. In the time available to me, I do not propose to discuss whether or not those charges of bribery and corruption are ill founded. I do not know enough about them. But I do know that never before has the administration of the greatest city in this land been in such a disgraceful, venal and dishonest state as is the case at the present time. Surely to goodness the citizens of that State have a right to bring these matters to the notice of newspapers which are, indeed, their only defence against that . sort of thing, with the sole exception of members of parliament. Therefore, I say that the first effect of the bill will be that no persons henceforth will dare to come forward, make charges, and give information against those people involved in the Sydney City Council.
I come now to the second result of the bill. It is well known that a considerable number of members of the Australian Labour party are disgusted with the civic administration. I do not put this matter on a party basis for one moment. I admit that many honorable members opposite hate, detest and fear this sort of thing, just as much as does any honorable member on this side of the chamber. But the second effect of this bill will be that such persons will no longer dare to go to the press, as they have done in the past, times without number, and point out things that have gone on in their own party. Even if they did come forward, the press would not dare to publish the information. It is all very well to speak of informers as people who are necessarily dishonorable men. We know that many of them are, but the informer, one way or the other, is one of the few safeguards which the citizen has against corruption, maladministration and incompetence. There comes a time when the only hope that scandals of this kind will be made public is that in the political party or the civil service, there is a person of sufficient courage and principle to say, “ I will not stand this any more. I will not keep my mouth shut on this matter. I will go to the press, or to the parliament, and make public what I know “. That has always been one of the surest safeguards against corruption and maladministration in this country, and that avenue is being quite securely sealed by this bill.
Let no one doubt that those things will happen. The people in charge of the New South Wales Government are able and competent men, whatever else they may not be, and they have taken most effective steps to ensure that charges of corruption may not henceforth be brought against them. That is the effect of this bill.
– The protector of the character assassins.
– .Order! I ask the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan) to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– Legislation of this kind is to be expected from governments of a certain kind. It is the first step taken by totalitarian governments of any description. Hitler took that step in Germany. It is the first action taken by Communist governments when they gain control in satellite countries. But it is extraordinary to me that the Australian Labour party, which was once the champion of the under-privileged and which fought for the right of the people to assemble and express themselves, should find itself taking such a stand on this issue.
– The Australian Labour party had different leadership in the past.
– That is true. One might expect action of this kind in some quarters, but why the Australian Labour party has taken it is beyond my comprehension. Where do honorable members opposite stand on this matter? Are they in favour of the stifling of criticism by such means, or are they opposed to it? Will they sit mumchance in the cowardly hope that a rather lazy and tolerant people will forget this legislation, and pass over it by the next election, as, indeed, they have forgotten and passed over many other evils which have been committed by those in power in New South Wales at the present time.
My time has almost expired, and 1 shall close with the utmost sincerity on the note that the origins of this country were such that our first residents knew little enough of liberty. They were constrained in the most elementary exercise of liberty. By efforts, those conditions were changed. The Labour party itself played a great part in the emancipation of those people. It is astounding and terrible to see the same political party forging those very chains to put on the people again. It is the duty of this Parliament to protest against such action by every means in its power.
– The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) certainly dealt with this matter in a different tone from that used by the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer), but he nevertheless showed appalling ignorance of the nature of the bill which has been distributed by members of the press. As a matter of fact, he made a statement concerning the bill which I believe is totally inaccurate. In endeavouring to change the tenor of the debate he avoided referring to the contents of the bill. I am informed by a leading pressman in the House that it contains a provision to the effect that where a statement or report relating to a member of the council, or a servant thereof, is made or published and the statement suggests or implies that an offence has been committed under the act, a judge of the Supreme Court of New South W ales may take certain action. On the affidavit of a superintendent or inspector of police which shows reasonable grounds for believing that the person who made the statement or report has documents or information within his knowledge, the judge may order those documents to he produced and the information to be given for the purpose of launching criminal proceedings’ against a person who is alleged to have committed the offence of corruption. That is all. The legislation obviously proceeds upon the basis of a published statement to the effect that an offence of corruption has been committed in the Sydney City Council. I am sure that honorable members would have gained the impression, from the speeches of the two honorable members opposite to whom I have referred, that something arbitrary or totalitarian is proposed.
I have not seen the bill, but to the best of my knowledge and belief its substance is as I have stated it. It provides clearly for a special procedure which is designed to enable the police authorities to obtain information or reports in respect of criminal offences which are alleged to have been committed, but only after the prior authorization of the Supreme Court of New South Wales which may, or may not, make an order. The court has power, under the Defamation Act of New South Wales, to order that the name of an informant of a newspaper which publishes a libellous statement shall be disclosed. Sometimes the court may order such a disclosure, and at other itmes, having regard to all the circumstances, it may refuse to do so. The bill with which the House is concerned seeks to provide a somewhat analogous procedure by assisting the administration of the criminal law when there is reason to believe that an offence has been com- mitted so as to facilitate the prosecution of cases of corruption in the council.
If there were no such law, what would be the duty of a citizen to whom information of that kind came ? Would it not be to assist the police to detect and prosecute the criminal? The Supreme Court of New South Wales has able and learned judges of great integrity to administer this law. What is there to fear? The judges will refuse to make an order unless they believe that it is necessary in the interests of justice. To speak of democracy and the freedom of the press in this connexion is altogether beside the point. The freedom of the press does not come into the matter. Apparently, the. legislation will simply provide for procedure to assist the criminal law to deal with a corrupt person by getting information upon which a statement is based that there has been corruption, so that such information cannot be concealed by a person who publishes it.
The provision for the imposition of a fine or a term of imprisonment is merely to cover the position which would arise should there be a refusal to obey an order of the Supreme Court. This Government, in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, has provided for the imposition of precisely the same penalties in the case of a refusal by a trade union to obey the industrial laws. Trade unions have not the right to go before a jury. They must go before a police magistrate, because in New South Wales a police magistrate has jurisdiction to imprison for twelve months in respect of such matters. The alternative would be that if a person did not obey an order of the Supreme Court he would be adjudged guilty of contempt and might be kept in prison until he has purged his contempt and complied with the order. I suggest that that explanation indicates that the penalty is by no means as severe as it might seem.
In order to gain a little political capital which the Government so badly needs, honorable members opposite have dragged up this matter and spoken about democracy. Let them be careful. Do they or do they not believe in the effective prosecution of crimes of corruption, which they denounce, in city affairs ? Do they believe in prosecutions according to the ordinary criminal law? Do they believe that the law should provide a procedure which will make it’ absolutely certain that all relevant evidence and information in the possession of newspapers or private individuals will be made available to the court or the police? Do they consider that persons should have power to retain such information in their possession indefinitely and so prevent prosecution? That is the issue. Apart altogether from this law, the retention of evidence of this kind is a dangerous expedient and might well come close to being part of a criminal conspiracy to prevent the course of justice. If there is evidence in the hands of certain persons who allege that a criminal offence has been committed, it is their duty to give that information voluntarily to the police. All that the proposed legislation aims to do is to give the Supreme Court of New South Wales power to make the appropriate order that that information shall be handed over. Censorship of the press is not involved. The rumours which have been circulated concerning the bill are perfectly absurd a nd monstrous.
I have endeavoured to describe the nature of the bill, which the honorable member for Bennelong and the honorable member for Henty failed to do. So far from it making the way of a bona fide informer more difficult, the bill will ensure that relevant information is made available. The Supreme Court will be master of the whole situation. It is ridiculous that, because the New South Wales Government is trying to sheet home by way of criminal prosecutions proof of offences of corruption, an attempt should be made in the National Parliament to attack the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, which is to be the final arbiter of this procedure. Surely we can have confidence in the judiciary. Surely we can bo assured that the power which is to be given to the judiciary will be used properly and will not be abused. The purpose of the bill is not to avoid prosecution but to assist prosecution for corruption. I think that the Cahill Government is entitled to credit for trying to stamp out such corruption by prosecuting offender? according to law.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– The. speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) was remarkable because it is only a few short years since the right honorable gentleman, as a world figure in the United Nations, espoused all the principles of liberty, including the four freedoms, two of which are freedom of speech and freedom from fear.
– What does the Government fear?
– We fear intimidation and utilization of the power of the State to overpower the individual. What happened to the unfortunate individual who did disclose some information and say that he was prepared to go to the police and to testify ? His character was besmirched under privilege in the Parliament of New South Wales, his records for 30 years back were searched and a basher gang was set upon him as an example to anybody else who might dare to open his mouth. The Leader of the Opposition has engaged in a long legal argument in an effort to explain why a citizen should be compelled to disclose information. Freedom of the press is one of our fundamental democratic freedoms. Another one is the freedom of members of parliament to express themselves openly, without intimidation. If intimidation is to ‘be permitted, and if a citizen who goes to a newspaper with information is to be dragged before a court and forced to disclose the sources of his information and give to the people who are corrupt the evidence that he has in his possession, so that they may intimidate him, the next step may be an attack upon the privileges of this Parliament. At present, a citizen may come freely to any member of this Parliament and give information to him in privacy. Is the next step to be an invasion of our liberties? If the editor of a newspaper is to be forced to disclose information, members of this Parliament may lose their privileges, too. The freedom of the press represents the freedom of every citizen. The Cahill Government has adopted the method for which its bill provides, because, it claims, it wants to ascertain the truth in relation to the allegations of corruption in the Sydney City Council and does not want the council to be besmirched by people who make charges against it. It has a very simple remedy at hand if it wants to expose this newspaper campaign as having no foundation in fact and as being a vicious attack upon the Labour party itself. The remedy is to appoint a royal commission that will ascertain the truth and prove that the newspapers are without evidence of corruption. The New South Wales Labour Government learned a lesson from the Doyle royal commission. It knows that, before that royal commission was appointed on the eve of the last State general election, the Premier travelled about the State repudiating the charges that had been made against Doyle, and saying that they were merely political propaganda. He was forced to appoint the royal commission only because a State election waa two or three days off.
– Who won the election?
– And what was disclosed to the royal commission? Those charges, which were supposed to be without foundation, caused a New South Wales Cabinet Minister to resign from his position rather than be expelled from the House.
– And from the Labour party.
– And from the Labour party as well. This bill of which the Leader of the Opposition has spoken goes further than any democracy has dared to go previously. The New South Wales Government proposes to force the State Parliament to make a law to require that, before any victim of political corruption may complain publicly -in the newspapers, he must be named to the people who have victimized him by their corruption, presumably so that they can add intimidation to their corruption. That is the purpose of the bill. Nobody will be game to stand up and open his mouth in New South Wales on any subject connected with the Sydney City Council. Yet the Leader of the Opposition, who, when he was president of the General Assembly of the United Nations, defended the four freedoms, the Declara tion of Human Rights, and all those other wonderful ideals that he espoused only a few years ago, to-night advocated the opposite view. In fact, from the great knowledge of the bill that he has displayed, it appears to be quite possible that he is the author of it, or suggested its provisions to the New South Wales Government.
– That is an invention.
– It is quite possible. The right honorable gentleman disclosed such an intimate knowledge of the bill that I suspect that he is the parent of it.
– That is a complete invention.
-Order! I shall not permit continual interruptions. There is a full attendance of honorable members, who, apparently, are interested in the debate. Unless they restrain themselves voluntarily, I shall use another method to preserve order.
– I want to draw an analogy. In Argentina, a. great newspaper, La Prensa, in the city of Buenos Aires, challenged the government of the day. It stood for liberty. It was the greatest newspaper in that country and had a circulation of 400,000 copies daily. Peron tried to convert it to his own point of view. .However, it was an independent newspaper and it printed what its editors thought should be printed. Peron tried to suppress it, but it continued to be critical of his Government. Finally the government did suppress it by preventing the employees from entering the publishing works.. Eventually, it chased the editor out of the country.
– What did the union say ?
– I am glad that the honorable member has asked that question. This great Argentine newspaper, which stood for democracy and liberty, was suppressed and is now a union journal. Five months after it was closed down by the Peron Government, the newspaper reappeared, still under the title La Prensa, but as the organ of the governmentcontrolled General Conferedation of Labour and under the editorship of Senor Paso, the former editor of the Peronista newspaper Democracy. So, the government of Argentina has gone the whole hog and stifled democracy. To-day anybody who dares to open his mouth in Argentina to express his opinions is liable to find himself in a concentration camp before very long.
– What are honorable members opposite frightened of?
– We are frightened of what every man in this country ought to be frightened of - the loss of his personal liberty and of the right to express his opinions. That would be the most serious loss that could occur to any one in tins country, because if the right of freedom of speech, which embraces the freedom’ of the press, is destroyed, democracy will be on its way out in this country.
.- The Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) spoke glibly of the freedoms that he said the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) had defended in the United Nations, hut, in reality, the Postmaster-General defended the right of newspapers in Australia to smear indiscriminately the characters of individuals without producing evidence to support their attacks. The honorable gentleman said in effect that, if the right of the newspapers to ‘ indulge in character assassination was taken away from them, that right would no longer exist in this House. I object to the existence of that right in this House as well as amongst the newspapers of Australia. I realize that the people are appalled by the stories of bribery and corruption amongst public figures that are being circulated throughout the country. When a person guilty of bribery or corruption is brought before h court, and it is proven to the satisfaction of the court that he is guilty, those who seek to destroy the democratic institutions of this country and the faith of the people in their representatives say. “ Well, of course the law is a net which catches some of the small fish but through which the big fish smash their way”. They use that propaganda to destroy the confidence of the people in democracy. Throughout Australia to-day, an attempt is being made to destroy confidence in public representatives. I believe that by and large the public representatives of this country are as honorable as are any other section of the community. T do not believe they are more honorable, but I think the community requires safeguards to protect its interests against the unscrupulous public representative who, because of his position, is enabled to accept bribes and indulge in corrupt practices to promote his own interests, but to the disadvantage of the community.
Because I believe that and believed it before I was elected to the Parliament, T asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) about two years ago whether he would, introduce legislation into this Parliament similar to that which operates in parts of the United States of America. Under that .legislation, the income of public representatives is made subject to audit and report by the Auditor-General. Of course, the right honorable gentleman treated that suggestion with contempt. Later I suggested to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) that the law that operates in Norway in that connexion might be applied here. That legislation provides that information upon the sources and amount of income of every individual in the country shall be made available to every person in the community. That is democracy,
I do not believe that every member ot the Australian Labour party is above reproach. No one does. But I certainly do not believe that those who have become much wealthier, and have acquired their wealth more rapidly than any member of the Australian Labour party, who occupy positions as Liberal members of Parliament in Australia and as Liberal members of municipal councils throughout the length and breadth of the country are above reproach either. The VicePresident of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) sits sneeringly at the table-
– I did not say n word.
– The right honorable gentleman can sneer in silence, because of his peculiar cast of features. I say advisedly that the members of the Government dare not introduce the legislation that I have suggested. Even if they verb the lily white persons that they pretend to be, the public is entitled to protection and so also are the representatives of the people. They should not be open to be smeared because some are guilty of malpractices. They should not be the subject of rumours whispered about the corridors of the Parliament to the effect that they are using their positions for their own benefit and not for the benefit of the community.
The suggestions that I have put forward refer to laws that operate in other countries. Will the Government put them into operation in Australia? I suggest that it will not do so. If it did, it would provide a means by which the public could be protected and by which public representatives could be deterred from using their positions to enrich themselves at the expense of the community. By that method, the Government could protect the reputations of those in public positions who are not guilty. In protecting the reputations of those people, the- Government would defend the institutions of democracy. It would defend this Parliament and the institutions that are being insidiously attached throughout Australia and in other countries. The proposition of the New South Wales Government is at least a step in the right direction. It does not go as far as I would go, but at least its legislation is intended to provide that persons shall not be entitled to use the tar brush as they like and escape all responsibility for the result of their actions. Such persons will have to stand by their accusations. What is wrong with that? I challenge the Government to put into operation legislation that will make it difficult for public representatives to violate their trust. If the Government will not do that, it should forever hold its peace.
.- Unlike the honorable member for Burke (Mr. Peters) I am not interested at the moment in freedom in the United States of America, South America or Norway. T am interested in freedom in New South Wales. I am appalled, as all free New South Welshmen will be, at an attack upon our democratic institutions. I am appalled at the deliberate attack that is being made upon the liberty of the pres3. The bill that is under discussion is such an attack. It is an attack upon our freedom. It seeks to prevent free discussion in the press of charges of corruption against the Sydney City Council. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) made a. joke of the proposal. He did not appear to be joking, but he must have been, because he was formerly a justice of the High Court of Australia. He could not be so naive as to believe in the suggestion that he put forward. He tried to convince honorable members that the New South Wales measure is intended only to provide safeguards, to enable evidence of corruption to be obtained and prosecutions to be launched. The right, honorable gentleman read part of a press report referring to the bill and I shall read a section of the same report which states -
The general purport of this measure is that a superintendent or inspector of police can apply to a Supreme Court Judge for an order on any corporation or person who has made a statement relating to allegations of graft in the City Council demanding that they produce any documents or reveal any information that they have.
What is the purpose of the measure? Who will speak to the press in future when he knows that if the press reports the information that he has given to it, an inspector of police, upon the order of the New South Wales Government can he sent to that newspaper office to demand the name of the person who revealed the facts to the police. Who will speak to the press in those circumstances ? This is an attempt to muzzle the press. I believe that I can prove that statement beyond all doubt. If the bill were merely intended to enable the police to get evidence, why could not the New South Wales Government take the action that everybody has asked it to take and appoint, a royal commission to inquire into the charges? The royal commissioner would have full power to direct inquiries. I shall read to the House the provisions of section IS of the Royal Commissions Acts of New South Wales, 1923-1934. The section reads -
For the purposes of the inquiry, the commissioner shall have all such powers, rights and privileges as are vested in the Supreme Court or in any judge thereof in or in relation to any action or trial in respect of the following matters: -
compelling the attendance of witnesses ;
compelling witnesses to answer questions which the commissioner deems to be relevant to the inquiry ;
compelling the production of books documents and writings ;
punishing persons guilty of contempt or of disobedience of any order or summons made or issued by the commissioner.
What other powers are needed to find evidence on which to launch prosecutions? Is this an attempt to enable the police to collect evidence? Or’ is it an attempt to suppress evidence? The New South “Wales Government has power to establish a royal commission to inquire into these allegations. The royal commissioner would be clothed with all the powers to which I have referred. Who can suggest that any further power is needed to collect evidence?
I challenge the Loader of the Opposition to say again that this bill is intended to enable the police to collect evidence. When the Royal Commissions Act gives the New South Wales Government the powers to which I have referred, and when the whole of the State is clamouring for the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into these allegations, it is obvious that there is another purpose behind the bill. That purpose is the one that I have suggested - to muzzle the press. The Leader of the Opposition made a joke of this matter, but he took the joke to absurd lengths when he said we on this side of the House were attacking the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. The bill contains a provision thatan inspector may get an order from a Supreme Court judge. Because we object to the provision and, indeed, to the whole of the bill, the Leader of the Opposition has said that we are attacking the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. We are begging the New South Wales Government to invoke the jurisdiction of the court and to appoint a judge of the court as a royal commissioner to inquire into these allegations, hut it is afraid to do so.
The Government that has prepared a bill to muzzle the press of New South Wales is contemptuous of democracy, and obviously is fearful for its own skin. An ingenious excuse for its action has been offered by the Leader of the Opposition. I hope I have disposed of that excuse, but others will be made. It will be said that a spate of charges of corruption is being made by the press, and doubtless the New South Wales Government will try to mislead the people and make them believe that thebill is a defence of the Sydney City Council against those charges. That will be a lame excuse. The citizens of New South Wales have known for years that the whole of the Labour movement in that State is corrupt. The Labour-dominated Sydney City Council and the Labour Government of New South Wales itself are only instruments of the organized Labour movement in the State, the centre of which is in the Sydney Trades Hall. The Trades Hall is the master from which the City Council and the New South Wales Government take their orders. The people of Sydney knew for years that the Leichhardt Council was corrupt. They have known for years that the Sydney City Council is corrupt, and they have suspected corruption in the Labour Government of New South Wales. What was the reaction of the Cahill Government and of the McGirr Government before it to allegations of corruption? It was, first, to stifle criticism of the Leichhardt Council and delay an investigation for as long as possible. The allegations against members of the Leichhardt Council were known to the present Premier of New South Wales as long ago as 1949, but it was only this month that charges against the former Mayor of Leichhardt were heard. The New South Wales Government smothered criticism of the Sydney City Council. When allegations of corruption reached its own level and affected a member of the Government, it laughed at them, denied them and tried to cover them up. Eventually, as a result of the accidental association of aconfederate of Mr. Arthur, the former New South Wales Minister for Mines, with the work of a petty forger, further investigations were made that rendered it impossible for the New South Wales Government to cover up Mr. Arthur’s activities any longer. Then a royal commission, restricted by the most carefully drawn terms of reference, found that Mr. Arthur had been guilty of improper practices. He was thrown to the wolves. He went out. What has happened since then ? He still frequents Parliament House in Sydney. Is it unfair to suspect that, as he still frequents Parliament House and hobnobs with his former cronies in the New .South Wales Government, he is still connected with them and, in the past, had connexions with some of them that cannot be shrugged off?
The result of all this is that the attention of the people has been turned directly to corruption in the places about which 1 have spoken. They are regaining their courage. They are going to the press with _ stories of stand-over tactics, especially in the Sydney City Council. There has been a flood of charges, and “there are continuous, valid and reasonable demands for a royal commission to be appointed to inquire into the City Council. Those demands have been rejected. Now that the charges have become so numerous that the Cahill Government is physically incapable of dealing with them, that Government, instead of appointing a royal commission and clothing a judge of the Supreme Court with the powers to which I have referred, has done something that will prevent information from being given to the press, under the pretext of trying to provide evidence for prosecutions.
What is the truth about how charges of this kind come out ? When people who hold public office have been charged with corruption by responsible persons, or when the charges have become so numerous that they have a wide currency, it has been the invariable practice to appoint a royal commission to inquire into the charges. That should be done now.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Thursday, 26 November, 195S.
.The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) came into the House tonight and asked us, as democrats, to listen to what he thought was a democratic speech. He asked us to believe that democracy was threatened. As far as I understood his speech, he wanted to act as a traitor to his own State and to tell the people of Australia, through the medium of the press, that the people in charge of that State were people of the worst character. He left no stone unturned in his efforts to deride the place from which he came, as has been his habit during the time he has been in this Parliament. When he reached the stage of making some kind of charges, the charges that he made were hysterical, far-fetched, and based on no evidence. He spoke from a written brief that had been thrust, hurriedly into his hands. He talked about the freedom of the press. Why does not he think sometimes of the freedom of the men serving in parliaments ? Why does he not cease to be the tool and the thing of some one outside the Parliament who persuades him to run into this House and mumble, like the sawdust Fuehrui that he is, about things of which he does not know anything? He does not know the clauses of the bill. It is enough for him if some one jams a brief into his silly claws and he comes here-
– Order! The honorable member must withdraw the term. “ silly claws “.
– Perhaps it is inappropriate. I withdraw it. When a member of this House is made the tool of outside interests and mealy-mouthed people cry about democracy, it is not . surprising that one loses one’s sense of balance and temper. The honorable member has made no contribution to the struggle ahead of us to get high levels of decency in civil affairs, which, for the time being, have apparently been lost. The honorable member has been for many years a well-known and highly respected member of a municipal body,, but the only contribution he has made to this debate is the statement that everything is rotten. He has been associated with that rot, year after year, in the inefficient control of a very big enterprise, with his eyes shut to what has been going on, but when it is useful for him to come into this House and defame his State, its. Government and its people, he plays the traitor.
-Order ! The honorable gentleman must not use the word “ traitor “ when referring to another honorable member.
– I withdraw the word. I leave the honorable member to judge what he is. The matter was made crystal clear. I do not refer to the cub trying to write an editorial who spoke in the name of the electorate of Henty. He did not know anything about the matter. The Leader of the Opposition explained the purposes of the bill. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Anthony) mumbled something about liberty being threatened. Ministers of this Government run to this table to scream about liberty and the freedom of the press. What is the freedom of the press? Can anybody define it ? The Postmaster-General made a hash of his attempt to do so. Let me get back to the factual statement that was made by the Leader of the Opposition. He said that the bill drafted by the New South Wales Government is an attempt. to get to the bottom of crime that is being committed. Who has been hurt by the measure? It is designed to do the very thing that the newspapers have been trying to do. If we can believe what is published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, that newspaper has become its own investigator and established its own gestapo. It uses 400,000 copies of the newspaper each day to say, in effect, “ If you know anything dirty about anybody, come and tell us “. Then, when the New South Wales Government says that those persons must tell their stories, not to the press but to the people, the newspapers say, in effect, “ Protect us. We have been assailed “. So much for the freedom of the press! I have been a journalist since I was a boy, and I know that no reasonable journalist wants to do jobs of this sort which make him crawl in the gutter. He does not want to be like a beetle worm when he can do a good job for the newspaper that employs him.
Where is this freedom of the press ? The Government asks those who make these charges to tell their stories to the people. The newspapers say, “ Help shed light on council malpractices. After all, it’s your city and you want to see it run honestly “. The newspapers say to certain individuals, in effect, “ If you know any one guilty of any corruption call at our inquiry counter. If you know a little bit of sin, get in our lift or come up our stairs and bring it to us. In the security of our office tell us all you know. Then we can increase our circulation above the demand for Joe PalOoka. The people will have something to frighten them “. Is it not fair, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, for the New South Wales Government to ask these persons to disclose the facts? Is it not fair that the Government should clean up this matter, because there is nothing in half the allegations that are made. The newspapers are not trying to protect anybody; they simply wish to protect themselves from the facts. Half of the statements that they make are untrue. I recall that during the general election campaign in 1951 one newspaper conducted a gallup poll, as the result of which it made the asseveration that a prominent member of the Australian Labour party would be beaten by over 5,000 votes. That right honorable gentlemen was not defeated and inquiries that were made following the election disclosed that the gallup poll was concocted in the mind of one man on that newspaper. That newspaper now asks all and sundry to shed light on council malpractices.
If the Sydney Daily Telegraph and its satellites which pour out these asseverations will not have them substantiated by a court or investigated by a government, why do they engage in such tactics ? They do so in order to increase their circulation because some other things have run thin. All that the New South Wales Government has said, in effect, is, “Let us segregate this thing. Let us cut it out of the body politic “. The journalists who report these charges know that they are groundless. They know that “Freedom of the press” is a false cry. A newspaper should be treated as is any other product that is sold. It should, perhaps, be registered under a kind of pure foods act. This is a footling matter. Does it not stink of insincerity? The people are asked, “ If you know of anything tell the Daily Telegraph. Call in and see us “. What a great time the press is having with these snoopers, these people who, imagine that they have been offered bribes. They are all rolling up the stairs. This particular newspaper has gone on a collection of garbage. It says to the snoopers, “You make the asseveration and we will publish it “. Yet, when the State Government acts as the custodian of public morals, the newspapers object.
The claim made by the PostmasterGeneral that the informants of the press gave their information in confidence and that they should he protected in order to uphold the freedom of the press is irrelevant. If the Government held a referendum and asked the people whether they would like to have this cesspit of allegations every morning, or whether the Government should make those who make the allegations stand up to them, I have no doubt about what the people’s answer would be. The honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) made much of the point that a. royal commission should be appointed to investigate these charges. What do royal commissions prove? The honorable member, as a lawyer, knows that in the long run royal commissions regardless of the breadth of terms of reference do not prove anything. In this instance a declaration has been made about a wrong that has been committed and the New South Wales Government is merely seeking to have the matter investigated by a Supreme Court judge mid to provide that a senior member of the police force should be engaged in the inquiry. There is nothing wrong with that proposal. Australians have fought a war for the preservation of democracy of which the honorable member for Bennelong makes a mockery. During that conflict we had to do certain things in order to crush insidious corruption that was eating into the body politic.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– It is a matter for congratulation that the House has deemed it fit and proper to discuss a measure that lias been introduced as an emergency bill by the New South Wales Government. I listened with the greatest of interest to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), but I have never listened to a more specious or more plausible argument than that which the right honorable gentleman advanced to-night. He did not do either himself or the House justice in taking the line that he took. I should not measure swords with him on a question of law. He is a great lawyer. But one of the fundamental things that I have learned about the law is that it is the business of Parliament to enact laws. When those laws have been enacted it is for the judiciary to interpret them, and the duty devolves upon the Government to execute them. When the Leader of the Opposition claims that if we criticize the proposal that is the subject of this debate we automatically criticize the Supreme Court of New South Wales, which will have no alternative but to give effect to the law when application is made to it to interpret it, he does not do justice either to himself or to this House. Furthermore, he forgets something that was common knowledge in New South Wales a few years ago.
It would appear that every now and again a rash of intolerance and totalitarianism breaks out in the Australian Labour party. At the time to which I refer, a gentleman named Lang introduced into the New South Wales Parliament a bill, a copy of which I have in my possession, that provided that if a person criticized a Minister’s policy he rendered himself liable to precisely the same penalty as is provided under the bill that was introduced into the New South Wales Parliament to-day, that is, a fine of £500 or imprisonment for twelve months, or both. Lang actually introduced his bill into the New South Wales Parliament, and it had passed through certain stages before his Government was suddenly stopped in its career. What would have been the position if that law had actually been passed ? The offence for which the penalty to which I have referred was prescribed was to he criticism not of a Minister himself but of his policy. In such circumstances, criticism, including parliamentary discussion, would have been stifled. In addition, if the State Government decided to launch a prosecution, what could the Supreme Court have done in such circumstances? It would have been obliged to interpret that law just as it will be obliged to interpret the law which the New South Wales Government now seeks to pass. The Leader of the Opposition has said that. Government supporters who criticize that dangerous, meddlesome and pernicious measure, which is an echo of the legislation that caused the people of New South Wales to throw out the Lang Government, are reflecting upon the Supreme
Court of that State. That is sophistry of the worst kind and should not be put forward as an argument in a case like the one now before the House.
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond), like the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer), reading from a script?
– Order! The honorable member has raised no point of order.
– The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) said that the honorable member for Bennelong was a frightened man because he had brought this matter forward. I hope and pray that, for the good of the country, we shall all be frightened men and women when legislation that is directly aimed at intimidation is brought forward. Every honorable member of this House, including those of the Opposition, understands perfectly well the purpose of this legislation. The Labour Government in New South Wales intends, by means of its legislation, to intimidate everybody who is willing to come forward and give evidence about public corruption. If a man comes forward under protection of a royal commission, he knows that if he tells the truth he has nothing to fear, but that if he tells lies he may be charged with perjury. For the honorable member for Melbourne to say that this legislation is designed to protect the purity of life in this community, is a travesty of the truth and the use of words is a. mockery and a farce. The honorable member for Melbourne used the phrase “ a smear campaign “. I also heard that phrase used before the last New South Wales general election. I .heard the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) vilified, and called every name that a decent man should not be called, merely because he had the courage and determination to press to its conclusion the investigation of a scandal which resulted in the resignation of a Minister from the New South Wales Parliament and his expulsion from the Labour party. Every man and woman in New South Wales should be grateful to the honorable member for Mackellar for the courage that he displayed in that matter, despite the efforts made by the New South Wales Government to defame and deride him and bring him into ill repute. This matter, about which the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) spoke so glibly, strikes at the fundamentals of liberty in this country, and I venture to predict that, together with the proposal to force compulsion on every man and woman in a system of industrial conscription in New South Wales, it will bring about the expulsion of the New South Wales Government from office. That Government has lost the respect of the community by allowing bribery and corruption to flourish until, as in the case of the Leichhardt Municipal Council, it was forced to take some action. Now, when it sees the abyss opening beneath its feet, it has taken a step which is a disgrace to any democratic country, which reflects no credit on the New South Wales Government and which must make every decent man and. woman in New South Wales feel sick to think that that Government controls the destiny of the main State of Australia and one-third of the people of the Commonwealth.
It might be appropriate to remark that the dogs may bark, but the caravan of Labour will still roll on. In the very near future a most gracious lady, Her Majesty the Queen-
-Order ! The honorable member may not introduce the Queen’s name into this debate.
– Will visit our shores-
– Order ! The honorable member will abide by my ruling.
– And society is all agog. Society is maddened at the thought that there will be a. Labour administration in both the City of Sydney and the State of New South Wales. That is a maddening thought to our social climbers, and at all costs they will use any methods at their disposal, through the yellow press of our city which includes the Sydney Morning Herald, the Daily Telegraph, the Sun and the Mirror, to destroy the Labour Administration. Such people as the Packers - the poisoners of adult and child minds - and such people as the Nortons, the Butters, and the Fairfaxes, write filthy articles and dis.seminate their filthy propaganda through such persons as the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) and other honorable members on the Government side. Even the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) disseminates tory filth about graft and corruption.
– Order ! The honorable member will not proceed in that vein. He will not refer to speeches made in this House by the term “ filth and he will withdraw that term at once.
– I shall withdraw the term “ filth “ and will say “ rotten “.
– Rotten insinuations and innuendoes have been thrown around this House, but every member of the great Australian Labour party, the cleanest party in the history of politics, knows that they are not true. The honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne) has attempted to bring down the wrath of the people on members of the Labour party and on men like Doyle and Arthur, but we have not heard him. tell us the sordid story of a Minister of a nonLabour government in New South Wales who was condemned to dea.th in London. That man bought, with money that he gathered from graft and corruption, a. certificate of insanity which saved him from the gallows.
– What was his name?
– His name was Ley. Ite was a member of a New South Wales government of not many years ago. The story of honorable members opposite about the freedom of the press is a plea for freedom of the yellow press that disregards all forms of decency. Day after day they look for somebody and then take him into a secluded corner and say lo him, “I must whisper to you in this corner for fear I will get bashed up “. We hear the story that two reporters take a man to a building in a secluded part of the city, get him to tell his story and then give him a few shillings supplied by people who are prepared to buy any sort of filth and fill their filthy newspaper columns with it. I make no. apology for saying that in all my life I have never known such filthy propaganda as that which has been disseminated in the press of Sydney in the last month, in an attempt to destroy the New South Wales Labour Government. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has said, “Our Government will go to the next election on our record “. His Government has no record, unless it is the record of graft and corruption in connexion with the proposed merger of Trans- Australia .Airlines with Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, which would have represented a gift of £3,000,000 to the latter concern. I have heard a story of a gentleman walking about the corridors of this building with a pocket full of filthy lucre to buy votes on. the particular night when the matter of Trans-Australia Airlines-
– Order! I remind the honorable member now that he is trespassing on very, very delicate ground. Ho is using the terms of bribery and corruption in connexion with events in this building, and the House may call upon him to prove his allegations.
– I said it was brought to your notice, Mr. Speaker, that there was a man in the corridors of this House who had plenty of money to spend, and you had something to say about that matter. You said, something about, logrolling in the corridors when a certain gentleman, whose pockets were full of money, was taking certain honorable members into the bar and other places on the fateful night when the vote was taken.’ and the agreement was approved. Next morning that gentleman had ‘ flown.. Where had he gone? Honorable membersopposite may laugh. They are alwayswilling to throw mud. when they think there is a chance that some of it will stick, but when, the position, is reversed they do not like it. We have heard of the sale of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, Amalgamated Wireless Australia Limited, the Glen Davis shale project, and the Hotel Ainslie. Quite early in this Government’s life, t heHotel Ainslie was sold. To whom was it sold? It was sold, to some b.i»: estate agency iti Sydney, with which n. certain member of this House in very closely connected. I do not want to mention any names, but a certain member of the Liberal party was very closely connected with the sale of the Hotel Ainslie. Honorable members opposite talk about graft. They just make me sick. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) said that it sickened him to listen to such talk. It sickens me, too, as it should sicken every good Australian, ro hear protestations of honorable members opposite. . The Cahill Government is the greatest State government that Australia has over had. It is prepared to legislate in the interests of the people that it represents - the working people. Apparently the compulsory unionism proposal has put the anti-Labour forces on their toes and they are out to destroy the Cahill Government somehow. But they cannot destroy it on its record. They know its record is clean, but their filthy minds are constantly distorting the truth. The barons of the yellow press constantly distort statements. They have had a licence to do it until now, when the State Government has brought down a preventive measure. Now they arc howling. The dogs may bark, but the Australian labour party will still roll on despite the yellow press and its distortions. I know it is sickening for the boys in the press gallery to know that they arc the employees of such disseminators of distortions. However, I think this debate should be stopped in the interests of fair play. This Government should set an example to the Treatts of the Statu Parliament and all the other disseminators of filth in the daily press, by closing this (It-bate and forgetting all about the matter.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. WHEELER (Mitchell) [12.34 a’.in.j. - The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) referred to fair play, but I must say that the Cahill Government in New South Wales ha? adopted Rafferty’s rules rather than fair play. The honorable member, in the course of his grand flight of eloquence, referred to the caravan of Labour rolling on. I can only say I am reminded of the old ballad, “ Where my caravan has rested “. Listening to the honorable membur for Watson, I thought his voice was more attuned to the selling of papers than to the condemning of them. I must say in fairness to the honorable member that he does not draw the colour line, because he frequently referred to the yellow press. However, he did not mention the red press. He showed a liking for superlatives but he frequently got them mixed. I think it is obvious to all members of this chamber that the New South Wales Government has for some time past been entirely contemptuous of the rights of the people, but nobody thought it would be foolhardy enough to try to restrict the freedom of the press, which basically is the freedom of speech. Surely this is a clear demonstration of the length to which a government will go when it has ceased to have regard for the welfare of the people. It is an example of what a government can and will do when it has ceased to be its own master and bows its knee to outside influences. The position that we are debating has arisen from allegations made by the press that bribery and corruption exist in the Sydney City Council. I do not know whether or not that charge is true. All I can say is that if such an allegation were made against any of the councils or local-governing bodies in the electorate of Mitchell, tho councillors and aldermen concerned would rise as one man to demand an inquiry to clear their names.
Every dictatorship has started off by trying to muzzle the press. In our time we have seen what Hitler and Goebels tried to do, and what Russia is doing to-day. The action that the New South Wales press will take to resist this oppressive legislation remains to be seen, but surely the New South Wales Government ha3 no control of broadcasting. It may control the press, but it cannot control wireless. I believe therefore that the press will be at liberty to use broadcasting. If so, will the State Government put notices on wireless stations forbidding broadcasts to the people of Australia ? It is interesting to consider also whether the New South Wales Government would have any control over a newspaper that was printed in another State. Possibly the remedy for the situation may be to print a newspaper in Queensland or Victoria for distribution in New South Wales. If we want an example of press dictatorship nearer home we have only to remind ourselves of the action taken by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) at the height of his power as Minister for Information. I have no doubt that he had some provocation, but emboldened by his power, and showing his disregard for the democratic way of life, he sought to control the press of New South Wales. When the Daily Telegraph obtained a court decision to force the honorable member to go into the witnessbox to be examined on oath in defence of an action, he refused to do so.
– I rise to order. I submit that the honorable member for Mitchell is reading his speech in contravention of the Standing Orders.
-If Standing Order 6.1 is to be enforced it will be enforced at all times, and against all speakers.
– As I have said, the honorable member for Melbourne, as Minister for Information, refused to go into the witness-box and testify on a matter which the Daily Telegraph had brought before the court. He walked away from the court. Following a High Court decision, censorship powers were modified in the manner sought by the newspapers. The honorable member for Melbourne did not hesitate to attack the court. He said -
Mr. Justice Starke and Mr. Justice Rich threw away their wigs when they took sides on the Bench, and openly barracked for the press.
So much for the freedom of the press and a would-be dictator. But look at what dictators can do. In April, 1944, on the orders of the honorable member for Melbourne, a delivery truck was held up at the point of a gun in the transport dock of the Sunday Telegraph. The Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Telegraph had criticized the honorable member for misusing war-time powers for political censorship. The honorable member has his own ideas about the means by which he will even his score with those newspapers, but if the New South Wales Government continues on its present course it will be long before the honorable member for Melbourne is in a position to even his score with the press. This measure can be regarded only as the thin end of the wedge. I believe that the sanctity of confidence has always been a cardinal virtue of the legal profession. A client may express his views to his advocate or defender under the cloak of secrecy and be assured that, if his legal adviser is ethical, that confidence will be respected. That right may be taken away. Even the right honorable member for Barton .(Dr. Evatt), under an extension of the application of the proposed legislation could, be forced to” reveal the intimate negotiations that took place between himself and the Communist-dominated unions when he accepted a brief to appear in court on behalf of those unions. The whole essence of democracy is that free people should have the untrammelled right to express their innermost thoughts. The science of psychology has maintained that the unburdening of a person’s soul and the freeing of it from oppressing thought is good for the soul. I commend that statement to the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). I cannot refrain from saying that the political ghost of Mr. J. T. Lang is now haunting the corridors of the New South Wales Parliament House. His oppressive actions led the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labour party to ruin and perdition. Under similar circumstances, the devil seems to have entered the soul of Mr. Cahill and lie and his followers, like the Gadarene swine, are racing over the precipice of sanity and reason.
.– I have been very impressed by the unwonted eloquence of the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler). It is with some distress that I return to the subject that is ostensibly being discussed on this motion. The bill that was introduced in the New South Wales Parliament yesterday provides that, if a newspaper publishes an allegation of corruption, a commissioned officer of the New South Wales police force may approach a justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales and ask for an order that that newspaper shall reveal the source of its information. If the justice makes that order and if it is not obeyed by the officers of that newspaper company, they may be sentenced to specific terms of imprisonment or fined certain specified amounts.
– Or both.
– Or both. It is well for honorable members to realize that the New South Wales Parliament has the duty of administering justice within the borders of that State. The legislation was introduced because the Sydney press bad sought to usurp the administration of justice in that State. It had conspired to demand a particular forum before which these allegations might be ventilated. If any persons have been guilty of corruption or of securing advantages for themselves in breach of the Secret Commissions Prohibition Act of NewSouth Wales or of the Local Government Act of New South Wales, those persons should be prosecuted with the utmost rigour of the law. The Sydney press barons have adopted the attitude that they will withhold the information that they have unless and until a royal commission is a ppointed.
I am not unaware of the procedures that are followed by royal commissions. I, as counsel, assisted the longest, bestpublicized and to date the least conclusive royal commission that this country has had. A royal commission is the appropriate way of ascertaining facts in order to assist and guide a government in the framing of legislation. It is not a proper or a fair way of securing information for a prosecution. The press so publicizes and pre-judges a man that thereafter it is impossible to secure for him an unbiased trial. It was found repeatedly during sittings of the royal commission which inquired into the liquor laws and allied subjects in New .South Wales that the first that a man- knew that his reputation would be attacked or that his acts would be called in question was when he read the evidence in the press. A man is condemned by a royal commission but is not tried. He suffers, but he is never sentenced. There have been procedures in the sovereign State of New South Wales for many years under which persons who have committed crimes could be tried. The criminal law of New South Wales has never been found wanting. If anybody knows of any wrongdoing in that State, that person has a moral duty and a legal obligation to take the information to the police in order that the offender may be brought to justice. That person who has that in formation does not serve the ends of justice by taking it to the press. He does serve the ends of justice by going to the police. What could induce a man to take information about a crime to the press instead of to the police?
Mr. Wight interjecting,
– The honorable member - and I use the word “honorable ‘’ as a pure formality - who made that interjection would not have the courage to say it about any member of the police force outside this House. His statement is consistent with the cowardly attitude of the supporters of the Government.
-Order! The honorable gentleman may not use that term. He must withdraw it.
– I withdraw that statement. It is typical of the courage of supporters of the Government. It is typical of the courage of the people who, under various aliases, propagate their points of view. Honorable members know that, if such allegations are made under parliamentary privilege, there are plenty of newspapers that are prepared to publicize their authors. Such people never make those allegations outside places like this House, which might be referred to as cowards’ castles. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) said that a man who appears before a royal commission can tell the truth and that he has nothing to fear. He may tell the truth before a stipendiary magistrate and have nothing to fear.
– I rise to a point of order. Should the honorable member for Werriwa be permitted to read his speech ?
– Order J This matter has been raised several times to-night. During this session I have seen several honorable members read their speeches. Moreover, I also see the back of the paper on which the speeches are written and the colour of it. If the House wishes me to apply Standing Order 61, I shall apply it.
– Is it not a fact that the honorable member is using copious notes ?
Mr. Osborne interjecting,
– It may be an illfavoured thing, sir, but my own. If I may comment on the interjection that was made .by the honorable member for Evans, let me say that he would do well to remember that he is not now strutting the quarterdeck, but that he is well and truly travelling steerage. The measure that is under discussion was introduced for the purpose of facilitating the administration of justice. The act which was passed by the New South Wales Parliament yesterday was to facilitate the administration of justice. Is democracy served by concealing evidence of a crime? Does the press justify its freedom by hindering the administration of justice? Where does one’s obligation lie - to the Queen, as the fountain of justice, or to a newspaper editor, as the fountain of publicity ?
If the Sydney press is an institution of democracy, then democracy in the City of Sydney is a shabby edifice. Liberty of the press, what crimes are committed in thy name in Sydney!
He was a hold man who, in this Parliament, raised the question of corruption among men in public life. The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) has already referred to one convict among the Liberal ranks in the New South Wales Parliament. He was also a Liberal member of this House. In recent years two other convicts in the New South Wales Parliament were members of the Liberal party. They Were Major Jarvie, M.L.A., and Mr. Ronald Bruce Walker, M.L.A. If I were to follow the example of the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer), I should cite the example of a man who was tried and acquitted. I refer to Brigadier-General Lloyd, M.L.A., as he was at that time. Honorable members opposite, and members of the real estate trade, which includes the honorable member who raised this subject, can be thankful that in this case the New South Wales Parliament has confined its attentions to the operations of the Sydney City Council.
– I should hesitate to enter into this discussion, were it not for two things. The first is the fact that the recent legislation in New South Wales is a definite blow at democracy, freedom of expression of thought, and freedom of opinion. The other is possibly best summed up in an article that was published in the Brisbane Telegraph yesterday. There is a remarkable parallel in that article to the matter we are discussing. Alderman Roberts, the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, recently resigned from the Labour party because he did not agree with the idea that the executive of the Labour party should override members of the council. The article reads -
The Lord Mayor (Aid. Roberts) has adopted the logical procedure on allegations of graft within the City Council over petrol service stations; he has passed the letter on to the Criminal Investigation Branch. The public is feeling most uneasy about charges of graft and corruption and fears that it may be shown “ where there is smoke, there is lire “. The C.I.B. inquiry is a necessary initial move to uncover definite evidence to sustain a charge against a person or persons. If such concrete evidence is unobtainable, but investigations reveal that irregularities have occurred, then an open inquiry should begin immediately.
– I rise to order. Is not the honorable member for Bowman reading his speech?
– I am reading an extract from a newspaper. Now I come to the really exciting part. The article continues -
The Vice-Mayor (Aid. Bennett), leader of the Municipal Labour party, takes a stand unbecoming a person holding such office. He says until there is something concrete, in writing and signed, he would not be a party to the “ frivolity “ of asking the State Government to appoint a tribunal to investigate something that is “ hypothetical “.
We have an exact parallel here: Do not let us seek evidence, in case we find it! The article goes on -
Such naïvetïé will not alleviate public misgiving, but will certainly make people wonder why there is not a desire to disprove allegations of dishonesty.
One of the functions of the press of Australia is to try to reveal to the public of this country things that they believe are not being done in the interests of our community. I should like to quote to the House the words of Thomas Jefferson; I think that some honorable members on the other side will agree with them. He said -
Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.
– Why have they limited liability companies?
– The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) is using exactly the same tactics that I witnessed in Germany in 1937 and 1938. He is trying to make a joke of something that is deadly serious - the freedom of the people. I should like to remind the honorable member that I saw at first hand the results of the loss of freedom of the press.
– What about the fat Fuhrer on the other side?
– Order ! I must tell the honorable member for Parkes that I have reluctantly got to the end of my tether as far as his misconduct is concerned. If he interjects again during the remainder of the debate I shall have no alternative but to name him.
– The honorable gentleman said that he could not understand why we should complain about the things that have been placed in the City of Sydney (Disclosure of Allegations) Bill. We complained about them because we believe that the New South Wales Government is trying to intimidate the people of New South Wales. In other words, the New South Wales Government is trying to deprive the people of that State of freedoms and rights that have been bought at a great cost of human life and much human suffering. We should continually bear these things in mind. I do not think that honorable members on the other side should treat this matter with any levity whatever. I should have thought that if the newspapers were making completely incorrect allegations, the laws of libel in New South Wales - if they are adequate - would cover the case. I can see no reason why we should countenance these tactics of intimidation, which are so foreign to a freedom-loving people. I hope that the publishers and editors of some newspapers in New South Wales will have the courage to carry this thing to its logical conclusion, and that, if necessary, they will be prepared to go to gaol to fight for their freedom.
Many people have gone to gaol to fight for their freedom. I should like to remind the honorable gentlemen on the other side of the House of the words that they will see inscribed in almost all returned servicemen’s halls - if they are qualified to go into them - and that is -
The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.
It is the objective of this Parliament to be vigilant in guarding the things that thousands of our men have died for.
Motion (by Mr. Eric J. Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Defence Transition (Residual Provisions) Act - National Security (Industrial Property ) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (3).
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization purposes - Deniliquin, New South Wales.
Department of Civil Aviation purposes - Broken Hill, New South Wales.
Postal purposes - Castlecrag, New South Wales. Iluka, New South Wales.
Seat of. Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act-
Regulations - 1953 - No. 14 (Motor Traffic Ordinance).
Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Notice of variation of plan of lay-out of City of Canberra and its environs, dated 19th November, 1953.
House adjourned at 1.7 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
z asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following information : -
h asked the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
What was the net profit or loss made by the Flax Production Committee in each of the years ended 30th June, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952 and 1953?
– The Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following information : - ,
After providing for interest on capital, depreciation and insurance, the accounts of the Flax Production Committee as certified by the Auditor-General show the following net profits or losses were incurred for the years in question: -
Year ended 30th June, 1949 - profit, £32,032.
Year ended 30th June, 1950 - loss,£ 1,386.
Year ended 30th June, 1951 - loss, £3,874.
Year ended 30th June, 1952 - profit, £46,254.
Year ended 30th June, 1953 - loss, £146,829.
The total provision for interest, depreciation and insurance during the above year amounted to £188,023. The major portion of the loss incurred for the year ended the 30th June, 1953, was caused by the writing down of closing stocks to conform with the fall in world prices of flax fibre.
e asked the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The Minister acting for the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following information : -
r asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
It would be impracticable to define how many attempts had been made by the Departments of Navy and Air to salvage theRoyal Australian Air Force Dakota which crashed into the sea near Cronulla about a year ago. However, it can be stated that the search, which commenced some 30 minutes from the time the aircraft was overdue, has over the past year occupied some three months of fulltime use of a trawler in association with Royal Australian Air Force aircraft, where this nas been deemed desirable. Every possible means nf locating the aircraft has been exploited. Trawling operations, which were the most likely avenue of success were hampered by the great depth of water, some 80 or 70 fathoms, and the nature of the sea bed, which is thick with rocky outcrops and heavy marine growth at the site of the crash.
s asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Maximum adult - £6 per week; 35s. per week for wholly dependent wife; 15s. per week for each dependent child under sixteen.
Maximum minor - 90s. per week. As members of the permanent forces are entitled to sick leave on full pay, weekly payments become applicable only on retirement or discharge. In case of a permanent disability on account of sickness or injury, lump-sum payments may be made in specific cases as prescribed in the act. Citizen Force members and National Service trainees (undergoing initial 98 days) are carried on full pay of rank up to the termination of the period of training or 28 days from the date which the illness or injury occurred. 2. (a) Members who are injured in camp when off duty at night are eligible for benefits under the act if the Commissioner for Employees’ Compensation or his delegate decides that the injury arose out of or in the course of employment, i.e., that the action performed by the member at the time of sustaining injury waa an incident of hia Army service, (ft) Members who are off duty and allowed leave to proceed to a place other than their homes are covered by the act, if they sustain injury while proceeding to or from their employment. The same provision applies in respect of members granted leave to proceed 10 their homes. In all cases, the member must prove to the satisfaction if the Commissioner or his delegate that no substantial interruption occurred during the course of the journey, aor any substantial deviation from the shortest convenient route took place, (c) Members injured when on stand-down leave, or at any other time (except when they visit their homes) may be eligible for compensation if they fulfil the conditions set out in either sub-paragraph (a) or (6) above. Should a member become ill either in camp, at home or on local leave, he may receive compensation if the illness was due to the nature qf employment by the Commonwealth, that is, due to the nature of military service.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 November 1953, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1953/19531125_reps_20_hor2/>.