21st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. LESLIE (Moore) [12.1 a.m.].- I make no apology to the House for taking up some of its time in supporting the plea of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) for immediate assistance to the dried fruits growers. I do so, because almost all of the dried fruits industry in Western Australia is situated in the electorate thai I represent, and I have -a very intimate knowledge of the unfortunate circumstances under which the persons who are engaged in. that industry arc operating at the present time, and under which they have been operating for some time. I feel that honorable members opposite will be sympathetic towards those persons when 1 tell them that. the growers, because of the cavalier treatment that has been accorded to them, not by any government but as a result of the policy of the nation as a whole, are as near to the breadline as it is possible to get. When circumstances were all in their favour, when they thought that they might obtain a good reward for their labour, and when prices were good, they met the demands of the people, by providing them with a very necessary commodity at a price that has come to be accepted as the home consumption price. Most of the growers in
Western Australia operate on a very small scale. That is a disadvantage, I agree, but, nevertheless, it is the basis upon which they operate. Many of them have been forced to go to financial institutions to obtain assistance to live and, in addition, to prepare their land and their vines for the crop that they are about to harvest. Some of them will find it impossible to obtain financial assistance to cover the cost of harvesting.
Mr. Ward - What is the Government doing about it?
Mr. LESLIE. - I am quite prepared to leave that matter in the hands of a very capable and very sympathetic Government, which I should not be willing to do if the Australian Labour party were still in office. These people have made an unusual request. They have suggested that the Government, with confidence in the knowledge that their fruit will be disposed of at a reasonable price, and in good time, should give them temporary ‘ advances against their crops. It is not - a ‘question of asking for a subsidy, or of asking for something for nothing.
Opposition, members interjecting,
Mr. SPEAKER - Order ! Certain honorable members have had a hearing themselves, and they should give a hearing to another honorable member who remained quiet while they were speaking.
Mr. LESLIE. - I repeat that it is not a request for a subsidy, or a request for something for nothing. One honorable member asked, “ Will the banks not do it ? “ I, too, ask, “ Will the banks not do it! “ Perhaps the honorable member who asked that question was listening to his colleagues, rather than to me, when I was explaining that many of those persons who are engaged in the industry are already so deeply committed financially that they have no further equity, except the crop, on which to secure financial assistance to enable them to harvest the crop. Costs have an important bearing upon their subsequent operations.
Mr. McLeod - The honorable member does not believe in socialism.
Mr. LESLIE. - I ask the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod) to respect one who is making a plea on behalf of those people. They are in need of assistance to enable them, not only to carry on until the crop is taken off, but alsoto continue operations thereafter. They have been obliged to meet tremendously increased costs. It is estimated that costs have risen by approximately 800 per cent. since before World War II., although the return for the products has risen by only 160 per cent. or 170 per cent. The growers have been carrying additional costs over the years, in the expectation that the losses that they suffered by selling their products to Australian consumers at the Australian consumers price would be more than offset by the prices that they obtained on the overseas market. They are not receiving the prices that they expected to receive on the overseas market, and they will not receive them in thefuture. They have no control over the additional costs that have been incurred, althoughI assure honorable members that the cost of their own living has been cut to the lowest possible level.
There are two forms of assistance that may be extended to the people who are engaged in the industry. One would be the giving ofimmediate assistance, but not as a gift or as a subsidy, to enable them to harvest their crop and to continue their normal operations. The second form of assistance that could be rendered would be a survey of the costs that the industry has to boar. If these people are to provide the Australian market with fruit at a price that has been demanded of them as the result of an established policy, and as the result of interference by governments in essential home requirements, it is only reasonable to expect that their costs of production should be met. It would beneccsary to make a survey before their costs could be ascertained. The honorable member for Mallee has already stated that a survey was made in 1949-50, but costs have changed since then. To ensure that the growers would not be required to face another year during which they would literally subsidize the Australian consumer to a substantial degree, such a survey of costs should be put in hand immediately. In spite of anything that honorable members may think about those they call the wool barons, the wheat barons, or any other kind of. barons, the persons who are engaged in this industry cannot afford to subsidize the consumers. They have not really been able to afford the privilege, if one likes to call it that, of subsidizing the consumer over the past few years, and they certainly cannot afford to continue to do so. I tender my full support to the requests that have been made by the honorable member for Malleeon behalf of that section of Australian primary producers that is suffering the lowest possible standard of living as the result of a policy that has been dictated by the nation.
Mr. Whitlam and Mr. Francis having risen in their places,
Mr. SPEAKER. - I call the honorable member for Werriwa.
Mr. Francis. - I did not move the adjournment of the debate. If I speak now, I shall not close the debate.
Mr. SPEAKER.- I fully realize that, but at some time or other, the debate has to be closed. I still have on the list three honorable members who wish to speak.
Mr. Francis. - I wish to speak now.
Mr. SPEAKER. - I have called the honorable member for Werriwa.
Mr. WHITLAM (Werriwa) [12.11 a.m.]. - I join with the honorable members from the. primary producing electorates of Mallee and Moore in pleading for aid for primary industries to which this Parliament has not accorded a benefit during the sessional period which will close later to-day. It is. significant that, during the course of the last three months, the Parliament has passed three bills to subsidize the wine industry, the Distillation Bill, the Wine Overseas MarketingBill, and the Wine Grapes Charges Bill. It also has passed two bills to help the wheat industry: the Wheat Industry Stabilization Bill and the Wheat Export Charge Bill. It has also passed legislation to help the meat industry, in the Meat Export Charge Bill, and the sugar industry, in the Sugar Agreement Bill. It has passed the Flax Fibre Bounty Bill, the Sulphuric Acid Bounty Bill, the Gold-mining Industry Assistance Bill, and the Rayon Yarn Bounty Bill. All of those bills have been passed, without dissent in this chamber and in another place, to assist the great primary industries of this country. It is to the shame of this Government that, during a session in which it has received very patient consideration from honorable members on both sides of the House, it has not given assistance to two small but vital primary industries of this country. I refer to the dried fruits industry and the poultry industry.
The dried fruits industry does not receive any assistance from the Government because it is confined to electorates where the party representation would not be changed however scurvily the electorates were treated. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) is impregnable in his electorate, however badly this Government treats the fruit-growers who reside in it. Even the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) is, I believe, impregnable in his electorate. The dried fruits industry is an important one in this country. It has grown from an industry which brought the country £239,000 from exports in the last year before the war, to an industry which returned £617,000 in the last fiscal year. It is, therefore, an industry of some importance. Moreover, it is an industry in which, particularly after World War I., returning members of the forces were encouraged to engage in order to assist our export markets and help feed Australians. Many of them settled in the Murray Valley, in respect of which this House passed legislation last night.
The other primary industry for which I wish to make a plea is the poultry industry. It is. significant that, seven months ago, before the general elections, in the dying, stages of the previous Parliament, the Government hurried through a subsidy of £250,000 for the poultry industry. There were two electorates in New South Wales in which the poultry farmers were very important, and their feelings had to be placated. As a result, two honorable members opposite were returned to this House with a majority of less than 100 votes, in one case the majority being due to the distribution of the preferences of the Communist party candidate. That subsidy was made for the very good reason that, as a result of this Government having, speculated on the United Kingdom market, there was a loss of £500,000 to the poultry-farmers of this country.
So far this financial year, the results of the egg export season which has now been under way for approximately two months, appear likely to be more disastrous than they were last year. Although this Parliament will rise later to-day, no assistance has been given to the’ poultry industry, which will mean that no assistance can be given to it until at least next March, when the Parliament will reassemble. That is, no assistance can be given before the export season concludes. In the meantime, the poultry-farmers will bear all the losses on the export market. Although their losses are likely to be twice as great as they were last year, there is no indication that they will receive any assistance at all. It need not be thought that the industry is not an important one. It produces a basic food. In order to obtain sufficient of that basic food during the low production season in autumn, it is necessary for a great surplus to be produced in the spring and early summer. The only other way in which we can have sufficient eggs for the Australian population in autumn and winter is to put in cold storage the sur- plus eggs which are produced in the spring and early summer. That is, the poultry farmers must either indulge in restrictive practices and cut down the number of their present flocks, or they must have an overseas market..
This Government professes to believe, as governments of a Labour or socialist complexion have always believed, that the country cannot rely solely on exports of wool. We might be able to subsist if we did not export at all, but we could not live very well. We cannot have any butter on our bread unless we export, and our future will not be certain unless we export more than wool. At the moment, exports of wool account for half the value of our total exports. Every additional commodity that we can export, therefore, will increase the prosperity and stability of the country. Poultry farming is practised extensively in my electorate, and on behalf of those poultry farmers I make the final . plea to the Government that, on this last day of the sessional period, it should at least make some contribution, as it did last year when the need was only half as great, to an industry which benefits the prosperity of the country and promotes the health of its citizens.
Mr. FRANCIS (Moreton - Minister for the Navy and Minister for the Army) [12.19 a.m.] - I wish, at this stage, to reply to some of the speeches that have been made.
Mr. Bruce. - Is the Minister closing the debate?
Air. SPEAKER- No.
Mr. FRANCIS. - Already, fifteen speeches have been made, and like other honorable members, I am allowed only ten minutes to speak. I wish to say to most honorable gentleman who have spoken to-night, that I shall direct the attention of the respective Ministers to the matters raised by them.. I want to reply, first, to the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) and then to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). The honorable member for Bass has directed attention to the fact that a cadet camp held recently at Brighton, in Tasmania, was abandoned. I acknowledge the fine and unqualified tribute that the honorable member paid to the efficiency of the cadet units and to the cadet training staff in Tasmania. I share his view that the Australian Army Cadet Corps, which is now more than 35,000 strong, is an efficient organization. I have always taken a very active interest in the well-being of the corps, because service in the cadets is the basis on which to develop in Australia’s youths a respect for service in defence of their country. It enables them early to take an interest in service training. Most of the senior staff officers of the Australian Army are men who themselves served in cadet units. I am sure that their inspired work in the interests of Australia’s defence and their rise to high rank in the Army are in no small measure attributable to the service foundation laid by their training in the cadet corps. In relation to the Brighton camp, I should like to point out to the honorable member that when this Government tools office many camps were in a deplorable condition.
Mr. Curtin. - That was five years ago.
Mr. FRANCIS.- Yes. An amount of £350,000 has been spent on the Brighton camp.
Mr. BARNARD - I stated that it was in excellent condition.
Mr. FRANCIS. - I am glad to have the honorable member’s acknowledgment that the camp is in excellent condition.
Mr. Barnard. - I stated that another cadet camp-
Mr. SPEAKER. - Order ! The honorable member is out of order.
Mr. FRANCIS. - The Government has already spent £350,000 on the Brighton camp and, with the co-operation of the Minister for Works (Mr. Kent Hughes), another £30,000 will be spent on it in the current financial year. I am glad to know that the honorable member does not complain about the condition of the camp. Apparently, he complains about the curtailment of a cadet camp as a result of rain. The honorable member acknowledges that the Brighton camp is in good condition. It is used by national service trainees and Citizen Military Force units and, consequently, some of the 800 cadets who attended the camp had to go into tents. It is my experience that cadets prefer tents if the weather is suitable. I have given specific instructions that no risk is to be taken with the health of cadets, and that if continuous rain is likely to prove detrimental to the health of the cadets a camp is to be abandoned. My instructions were observed on this occasion in the interests of the cadets. The 800 cadets in the camp came from a number of schools. It is now four months since the camp was held, but the complaint made by the honorable member for Bass is the first that I have heard. None of the parents complained to the schools, the officers who conducted the camp, or myself. I have made inquiries and have ascertained that no complaint was received at Army Headquarters in Tasmania or in Melbourne. I assume that the honorable member suggests that another camp should be established near Launceston.
Mr. Barnard. - At Evandale.
Mr. FRANCIS. - It is not practicable suddenly to abandon a camp on which £350,000 has been expended and on which a further £30,000 is to be spent. I am happy to say that requests for the establishment of cadet units have been received from schools all over Australia, and if it is possible to enlarge the cadet forces I shall give consideration to the suggestion that a camp be established at Evandale.
I shall now answer the honorable member for East Sydney who, in his usual careless fashion, made all sorts of rash and wild statements and innuendoes. He stated that he has reliable evidence that a breach of the law has been committed by a former member of the Russian embassy staff, Mr. Petrov, whom he alleges imported large quantities of whisky into Australia for re-sale on the black market. I challenge the honorable member who, as a member of this House, has a duty to uphold the law, if he knows that the law has been broken to present his evidence to the Minister who is acting for the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan). E give the honorable member an assurance that the Minister will have the matter thoroughly investigated.
Mr. Ward - I challenge the Government to make an investigation.
Mr. FRANCIS.- The honorable member said that he has no doubt about the reliability of his information, and it is his duty now to give that information to the Minister. It is of no use for him to make wild and rash statements. I invite him on behalf of the Government to give his information to the Minister, who will prosecute if a prosecution is justified.
Mr. BRUCE (Leichhardt) [12.27 a.m.]. - I wholeheartedly support the representations that have been made by two other honorable members on behalf of the grape industry, the product of which Omar Khayyam loved so much. My interest this evening is in tobacco. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) gave an undertaking that all the tobacco produced in Queensland would be sold at world prices and that the entire crop would be sold. At the sales held in May the highest prices in the world were received for ‘Queensland tobacco and all the leaf on offer was sold. However, at the last sales, prices were 20 per cent, lower than they had been in May, and only one-third of the tobacco on offer was sold. I might mention that the sales in May coincided with the general election campaign. However, since the election, the manufacturers have declined to buy Queensland tobacco and the price offered has fallen by 20 per cent. The tobacco-growers, like the grapegrowers, are working on a very narrow margin of profit. They have heavy financial commitments and obligations. Previous speakers have mentioned many industries that the Government has assisted, and I assume that its policy is to assist primary producers wherever they require assistance. The Government’s failure to give assistance to the growers of grapes and tobacco, and to poultry farmers, may be only an oversight.
The debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House this evening has served a very good purpose in enabling honorable members to bring these matters to the notice of the Ministers concerned. In relation to the tobacco industry, it is important to remember that the more tobacco we grow the fewer dollars we shall have to pay to the United States of America for tobacco from that country. At the present time dollars are an important factor in our economy. I do not want to make a very long speech about the matter. I merely want to impress on the Government the need to honour the Prime Minister’s undertaking and to ensure that the manufacturers purchase all the tobacco offered and pay prices comparable with those paid for imported tobacco. Although ‘a successful tobacco-grower must pay continuous attention to his crop, I point out that, from a five acre farm, he can make a decent living provided he can sell all his produce at reasonable prices. It should be possible to settle many ex-servicemen and other persons on the land to grow tobacco. The Queensland Government is at present constructing the Tinaroo dam, which will irrigate tens of thousands of acres of land which is suitable for tobacco-growing. However, the Australian tobacco industry will not prosper while the manufacturers continue to ignore the Government’s plea to them to buy all of the Australian-grown tobacco and prefer to import tobacco from countries which employ black labour in the industry. I urge the Government to do everything possible to persuade the manufacturers to buy all of the Australiangrown leaf, in order to assist the development of our tobacco industry and reduce dollar expenditure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Broadcasting Act - Australian Broadcasting Control Board - Sixth Annual Report, for year 1953-54.
Commonwealth Railways Act - Annual Report for 1953-54.
Distillation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1954, No. 10S.
Excise Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1954, No. 109.
Judiciary Act - Rule of Court dated 18th October, 1954.
Meat Export Charge Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1954, No. 111.
Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Regulations - 1953 - No. 9 (Supply of Services Ordinance ) .
No. 11 (Motor Vehicles Ordinance)
No. 12 (Prisons Ordinance)
No. 13 (Supply of Services Ordinance) .
House adjourned at 12.32 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
Services Canteens TRust Fund.
I ask the Prime Minister, as Acting Treasurer, whether he will take whatever action is necessary in the administration of the Services Canteens Trust Fund to ensure that accumulated profits shall be applied, and benefits extended, to ex-servicemen, and the dependants of ex-servicemen, of the Korean war and related theatres of operations.
The policy expressed in the legislation of 1947 establishing the Services Canteens Trust Fund was that the benefits from the funds that had been accumulated should be available for those who had served in the armed services between the 3rd September, 1939, and the 30th June, 1947, and for their dependants. It was those who had contributed towards the surpluses of the canteen services. No reasons have been put forward to support the distribution of those funds to servicemen, other than those who contributed towards them, and an amendment to the legislation is not, therefore, proposed. The honorable member will, however, be aware that those who have served in Korea and related theatres and who also served during the period prescribed in the legislation are entitled to the benefits of the Services Canteens TrustFund. Other servicemen and their dependants who are not eligible for the benefits of the Services Canteens TrustFund are eligible for payments from the Navy Relief Trust Fund, the Army Relief Trust Fund or the Royal Australian Air Force Welfare Trust Fund.
Regulations, nor are they eligible under the National Health (Medical Benefits to Pensioners) Regulations. However, they would be eligible for the Commonwealth grant of 8s. a clay under Part V. of the National Health Act 1953. Should they contribute to a society oi organization, approved under the national health scheme, they would be entitled to further substantial benefits.
The Australian National Airlines Commission expects to have a certain number of DC3 aircraft available for sale next year when deliveries of its new Viscount will have been completed and the aircraft placed in service on Trans-Australia Airlines routes in Australia. The disposal of the aircraft is a matter for the Airlines Commission. I suggest that if Queensland Airlines Proprietary Limited is interested in purchasing one of these aircraft the company approach the commission direct.
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair’ at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister for External Affairs any comment to make on the recent public reference in Indonesia to the alleged fact that the Australian attitude on the question of Dutch New Guinea is influenced largely, or solely, by racial considerations?
– The only thing I can say is that it is fantastic to conceive that Australia is influenced by racial considerations in this or any other matter. The reasons for Australia’s attitude on the issue of Dutch New Guinea have been made public on many occasions by the Prime Minister, by myself and by other Ministers, and they will be made known again at discussions of the First Committee of the United Nations within the next week or two. On the racial side, if one must discuss that: I point to the fact that there must he at this moment between 50 and 100 Indonesian students in Australia under the Colombo plan and otherwise. I do not knowN the precise number. Over the last three years I suppose there must have been nearly 200 such students in Australia all told, and I do not believe that any one of them found any evidence of racial feeling in this country.
– Is the Minister for External Affairs now in a position to give to the House any information regarding the alleged raid by Indonesians in Dutch New Guinea?
– All I can say at the moment is that the Dutch Government has made a formal protest to the Government of Indonesia in which it protested, first, against this infiltration. It also requested that the individuals responsible for the happening should be punished, that the Dutch policeman who was abducted should be returned and that steps should be taken to ensure that there shall not be a recurrence of such an unfortunate incident.
– Will the Prime Minister give urgent consideration to the prohibition of the use of military titles, except by regular soldiers or by civilian soldiers when engaged on military duties ? In particular, will he prevent all persons employed under the Public Service Act, or by tribunals or commissions, from using military titles in the course of their everyday duties and in their daily contacts with the general public?
– I thought I heard this question put yesterday.
– I ruled it out of order.
– Then it was not put yesterday, sir. As it has been put to-day, I shall have a look at it.
– Is the Minister for Social Services aware that applications for loans from the War Service Homes Division for the purpose of purchasing existing homes cannot be considered for six months? This information has come to me particularly from Western Australia, and also from the electorate of Bennelong. Will the Minister consider giving instructions that all such eligible applications be processed to the point of approval so that, when the six months have expired, the applicants will be in a position to complete purchase or to discharge any temporary mortgage obtained for that purpose ?
– Of the 12,000 loans to be provided this year by the War Service Homes Division, 6,000 will be for existing properties or homes built outside the act, so that the waiting period is but a method of allocation of the approved number of homes. At the present time, the department does not know of any better method of allocation, but we are considering proposals put up by various members of the House. I think it is incorrect to say that the applications are not processed until the six months have elapsed. It is the rule that the applications are treated to the proper degree-
– That is not my information.
– They should be so treated. I shall make inquiries so as to find out whether or not the rules are being observed. Some difficulty has been experienced in Western Australia because the division has not a section in that State. If the honorable member can give me any specific case, I shall be grateful because we are always looking for cases of this kind with a view to checking them and rectifying any defect that may exist. It is not intended to alter the present waiting period of six months, but we are looking at the present method and, if it is decided to make any change, the House will be informed accordingly.
– Early in this sessional period, I asked the Postmaster-General a question regarding the delay in the installation of new telephones in the metropolitan area of Melbourne. On that occasion, I was informed that over 15,000 applicants were waiting for telephones and that on the basis of the present rate of installation an additional nineteen names would be added to the waiting list each week, which would mean that about 1,,000 additional names would appear on the waiting list each year. Can the Minister acting for the Postmaster-General inform me whether anything has been done in the meantime to speed up the rate of installation? If nothing has been done, when can it be expected that action will be taken to speed up the rate so that this lag will be overtaken?
– The postal authorities are making every effort to connect new subscribers at the earliest possible moment, but the honorable member and honorable members generally are aware that there is a serious shortage of trained personnel and that that shortage is being- felt not only in the Postal Department but also in practically every activity requiring trained personnel. I cannot hold out hope that the present rate of installation will be greatly accelerated until the present pressure in employment decreases, and it shows no signs of doing so, I am pleased to say.
– Can the Minister for Supply say whether the world market is at present absorbing the total output of tin? Has there been any recent fluctuation in the price? Is it anticipated that there will be a surplus of this metal next year? What arrangements have been made under the International Tin Agreement for floor and ceiling prices.
– I think the honorable gentleman addressed a question to me on this matter a little while ago. I believe that I sent a full answer to him yesterday, but if the answer has not yet reached him I shall ensure that he gets it.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House whether the Government intends to take any action in connexion with the very serious charges that were made in this House last night by the honorable member for East Sydney about the black marketing of liquor- brought into Aus.tralia under diplomatic privilege?
– I had no idea that the matter mentioned by the honorable member had been referred to. In fact, I did not know about it until I read of it in a newspaper this morning. I am bound to say that I am- at a loss to understand how there can be a debate in this House in which an. attack can be made on two witnesses before the Royal Commission on Espionage while the witnesses are still within the jurisdiction of that body and will be reported upon by it. I want to make it abundantly clear that it is my great ambition that the royal commission will make the’ fullest examination of all persons concerned-, and will report what it believes to be the . truth. I can treat only with, contempt, as part of the Communist campaign to- discredit the royal commission, attempts that may be made in this House under parliamentary privilege to smear witnesses before the royal commission.
– They are. international crooks.
Mi-. MENZIES. - Yes, and what I have said goes for the honorable member also - prawns and all.
– In this question to the Prime Minister, I wish to refer to a previous question about the drawing of loan moneys by New South Wales which the right honorable gentleman was good enough to answer for me on the 21st October. The Prime Minister will recall that out of total loan raisings of £64,000,000 for 195i-52, New South Wales drew more than. £45,000,000 in the final month of the financial year. Again in 1952-58, out of the total loan raisings of £51,000,000, £37,000,000 was drawn in the last month of the financial year.
– Order ! The honorable member should put his question.
– I ask the right honorable gentleman first, if New South Wales had needed and requested earlier cash drawings up to the limit of the programme in these financial years at an earlier date, would such accommodation have been, available to that State. Secondly, do the facts indicate that throughout the whole period New South Wales has had ample cash resources beyond the loan moneys referred to? Thirdly, did New South Wales finish each financial year in question with large cash reserves which were available to the State Treasury? Fourthly, was the Premier of New South Wales honest in his various claims, throughout the period, that shortage of cash due to Commonwealth action was preventing him from constructing schools, hospitals and other vital works and compelling him to dismiss staff?
– I do not carry in my mind the figures that have been put to me by the honorable member, but I can say first, that cash drawings to the total amount of the programme are available to all States, including New South Wales, during the currency of the financial year. We have followed that practice without any restriction. Secondly, undoubtedly, New South Wales must have had substantial cash reserves. We know that, without being able to put a figure to them. I took the opportunity at the last meeting of the Australian loan Council to suggest that that might be so, and it was agreed that there were substantial reserves accumulated in one way or another before the end of the financial year. Thirdly, I can say quite definitely that no action on the part of the Australian Government has resulted in a shortage of cash, for the purposes mentioned by the honorable member, to the Government of New South Wales. On the contrary, the practice that we have followed for the last two or three years has assured that Government of the whole of the cash provided under the loan programme, quarter by quarter, throughout the year.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior: Will the result of the referendum to be taken in New South Wales on Saturday have any direct bearing on decisions yet to be taken on proposals for amending the liquor laws in the Australian Capital Territory?
– I very much doubt it.
– My question to the Minister for the Interior deals with war service land settlement at Clare, in Queensland. Is it a fact that some time ago, as the result of a report submitted by a committee appointed for the purpose, the Commonwealth authorities announced that they would be prepared to pay half the cost of writing down the capital value of farms at Clare? If that is a fact, is the Commonwealth still prepared to do so? I point out, by way of explanation of the second part of my question, that the men on those farms who grew tobacco, used an arsenical spray on the advice of the Department of Agriculture and Stock and, by so doing, completely ruined their whole crop for the year. Will the Minister inform me whether the Commonwealth was concerned with that matter in any way? Is there any way in which the Commonwealth can assist those men who have lost the whole year’s crop ?
– It is some considerable time, if I remember rightly, since the committee to which the honorable member for Bowman refers, sat. It was an officers’ committee, which made certain recommendations, and I think the honorable member is right when he says that the Commonwealth authorities stated that they were prepared to pay half of the write down of valuations made by that committee. However, the Queensland Government refused the offer at that time, on the ground that it was not necessary to write down the valuations of those blocks. Since then, I think, no further action has been taken on the matter. I am not able to give the honorable member any information about the use of the arsenical spray. I have a faint recollection of that matter, but Queensland has been operating in the war service land settlement sphere as a principal State, and therefore, matters of that kind come under the immediate direction and administration of the Queensland Government. The Commonwealth would become involved only if a writing off was asked for. The committee recommended it, but the Queensland Government did not ask for it to be completed.
– I desire to know whether it is true, as reported in the press, that the Prime Minister intends to visit the United Kingdom in order to attend a meeting of Commonwealth Ministers during the coming parliamentary recess. If the right honorable gentleman proposes to proceed to the United Kingdom for that purpose, can he give the House an indication of the matters that are likely to be discussed?
– In common with the Prime Ministers of other British Commonwealth countries, I have been invited to attend a conference in London at the end of January next. The invitation was issued by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. As the honorable member for Sturt knows, it i3 not usual to have any agenda for such meetings, which deal with affairs of current interest; but it has been not uncommon to receive, some time in advance, an indication at any rate of some of the subjects that might be discussed. At the moment, I have not had any such indication. I have merely said that I shall be willing to attend and I think that the honorable member will agree that such is proper. The other Prime Ministers have indicated their willingness to attend, and the meeting will occur. Beyond that, I cannot say anything at this stage.
– Will the Minister for Health inform the House of the latest position with regard to making provision for mentally sick people?
– I assume that the honorable gentleman refers to Commonwealth participation in dealing with the mental diseases problem. The position is that in January last, the Prime Minister wrote to the Premiers of the States, and suggested that a complete investigation should be made of the whole matter by a specialist. We desired the Victorian Government to second to ns a psychiatrist highly specialized in this matter, who had been in the employ of the Repatriation Department, and who was at that time in the service of the Victorian Government. The State Government agreed to the request, but four months passed before we could get all the States to agree to the investigation. The specialist has been carrying out his researches, and some two or three months ago, the Victorian Minister for Health, Mr. Barry, who, I notice, made certain statements in the Victorian Parliament last night, requested that the gentleman be further seconded, so that he might attend a conference of psychiatrists at Washington. That will be a very valuable thing, but it will necessitate his absence from the country for two or three months. As a result, the investigation has been delayed. When the Victorian Minister for Health complains about the matter, surely he doesnot remember what has taken place at his own instigation, or he does not consult his own files. As soon as the information i3 obtained, a conference of representatives of various governments - because it is a matter which must be dealt with by the Prime Minister, the Premiers of the States and the various Treasurers rather than by the Ministers for Health - will be convened to examine the question so we shall not have a stupid, retrograde hospital benefits agreement which will result in the treatment of mentally sick people being put back for nearly 20 years, as happened when the Chifley Government was in office.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. With the object of maintaining and developing friendly relations with our Asian neighbour, India, which is a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, will the right honorable gentleman give favorable consideration to the erection of a suitable monument or edifice to honour the work of the late Mahatma Gandhi in the fields of peace and British Commonwealth unity ?
– I shall give some thought to the honorable member’s suggestion.
– My question is directed to the Minister acting for the Postmaster-General. Is there any possibility that the Government will soon give effect to the recommendation contained in the report of the Broadcasting Control Board, which was tabled yesterday, that frequency modulation broadcasting should be commenced, and that a third national line should be introduced? In this connexion, will the Minister bear in mind several observations of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to the effect that it is impossible for the commission to present balanced programmes while one line is so frequently occupied, in the broadcasting of the proceedings of the Parliament, and that a third line is urgently needed so that the many persons who are not interested in listening to parliamentary broadcasts may receive h complete and balanced service while the Parliament is in session?
– Very careful consideration has been given to the recommendations of the Broadcasting Control Board and the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and it is hoped that proposals will be brought forward for the introduction of frequency modulation broadcasting so that pressure on the existing broadcasting stations may be substantially eased.
– In view of the recent increase in the prices of basic commodities, particularly tea, will the Minister for Social Services approach the Treasurer with a view to subsidizing those items when they are purchased by pensioners? Pensioners have not received an increase of pension rates for the past fifteen months. That is a shame, and a disgrace to the Government.
Government supporters interjecting,
– It is all right for honorable members opposite, but not for the pensioners.
– On frequent occasions, it has been made known to the honorable member for West Sydney, and to other honorable members, that questions relating to policy, particularly those relating to financial policy, should not be asked in the House. No matter how sympathetic we may be to the pensioners, it is not practicable to answer questions on these problems at this stage of the business of the House.
– I desire to ask the Minister for the Interior a question. It concerns the fact that Canberra, as the National Capital and a growing city, is very badly served for cinema accommodation, because it has one good theatre and one not so good, which show identical programmes. Is it a fact that recently an operator attempted to show a 16-mm. programme, but was prevented from doing so by the refusal of the film distributors to supply films to any operator other than the two established theatres in Canberra? In view of the fact that the directors of the company that conducts the two existing theatres have recently acknowledged that when a good film is shown in Canberra - and goodness knows, that is not frequently - it is impossible for every one who wishes to see the programme to obtain seats, will the Minister take action to improve the position?
– I thoroughly agree with the honorable member’s remark in relation to the capacity of the existing cinema theatres in Canberra. Unfortunately, the present capacity is totally inadequate for the number of residents who wish to go to the pictures. I have been trying very hard for abour twelve months to induce some one to build a new picture theatre, but, as with other activities in Canberra, there seems to be a tie-up with a monopoly that is difficult to break. I am not aware of the circumstances in relation to the person who wished to show a 16-mm. programme. From the little investigation that I have made, I think the matter was something to do with the distributors rather than with any action by the Department of the Interior or the lessees of the existing theatres. I shall ascertain the facts, and let the honorable member have a detailed answer as soon as possible.
– I address a question to the Minister for Territories. Following upon a number of questions that have been asked in this House over a lengthy period about the unfortunate tragedy that occurred at Telefomin, in New Guinea, and have not been answered satisfactorily, I ask the Minister whether he intends to make a statement to the House before it goes into recess, or, failing that, whether the parents of the two young men who were killed will be given an opportunity to give evidence before a public inquiry in order to clarify some very unsavoury circumstances in relation to the affair. I am sure that every one will be pleased if the Minister -will take that action. I ask the Minister, also, whether he will ensure that a very troublesome area of New Guinea is adequately policed and that the natives are properly controlled, in order to preserve and enhance Australia’s reputation in relation to its administration of an area that is already the subject of much inters national comment as a result of events on the borders of Dutch New Guinea, and. in order that the world ma3’ know that Australia’s control of New Guinea under its mandate from the United Nations is in keeping with world standards.
– I shall deal first with the second part of the honorable member’s question. Since the unfortunate occurrences at Telefomin, the strength of the post has been increased in a very significant manner. Special action has been taken to improve in every way possible the relations between the Administration, of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and the native people of the newly controlled Telefomin area. Only last month, the Administrator of the Territory paid a personal visit to the area. I have received from him a very reassuring personal report which persuaded me, as I think it would persuade any one else who read it, that conditions in that area are .now satisfactory and that no further trouble or new danger to the officers there is expected. So far as Australia’s international reputation in relation to its administration of New Guinea is concerned, I should like to remind the House and the honorable member that the United Nations Trusteeship Council sends visiting missions to the Territory. The report made by -the last mission to visit the Territory reflected credit on the Australian administration. As to the first part of the honorable member’s question, [ am sure that every member and supporter of the Government and all other honorable members feel the greatest personal sympathy for the parents and other close relatives and friends of the two officers who gallantly gave their lives in the service of their country. “We can also understand and appreciate that, in the poignancy of their personal grief, they may feel that certain events were significant. The honorable member himself, during the adjournment debate last night, referred to a series of events and made a series of statements, some wellfounded and some not well-founded. But we have examined every one of the complaints and suggestions that have been made by the parents and relatives of the two officers. We have examined them with meticulous care and have tried to find whether they had any significant relationship to the deaths of the two patrol officers. After that investigation, which has been carried out by very experienced men in the field, we do not regard the events to which the honorable member referred last night as having a significant relationship to the unfortunate happenings at Telefomin. The cause of those happenings lies elsewhere, and we cannot see that any good purpose would be served by a public inquiry.
– Can the Minister for Territories give the House any information in relation to recent developments in the cocoa bean industry in the territories under his control ? Can he give any indication of the rate of supply from that industry to the concerns- which need cocoa beans, such as Cadbury-Fry-Pascall Proprietary Limited, in the electorate of Franklin, and lesser companies like MacRobertson Proprietary Limited ? Can the Minister inform the House of any intended expansion of the industry?
– Assuming that conditions continue as they have been continuing over the past few years in Papua and New Guinea, I think Australia can anticipate a very greatly increased supply of cocoa beans from that Territory. As an indication of the rate of progress, there has been a four-fold increase of exports over the past four years, the rise being from something like 200 tons of cocoa beans annually to a total of nearly 800 tons. Officers of the Department of Territories estimate that, when the plantings that have already been made come to maturity within four or five years, as they will, exports will rise from the present level to about 5,000 tons of cocoa beans annually. Sufficient plantings have taken place to give us an assurance of that prospect. If, as we also anticipate, additional plantings continue in, the next few years as they have done in the last few years, we can expect that a large proportion of Australia’s requirements will be available from New Guinea within six or seven years.
– In view of the fact that the French Government has exonerated Madame Oilier of all charges levelled against her, will the Prime Minister take steps to influence that Government to return her to Australia so as to enable her to give evidence before the Royal Commission on Espionage and rebut the charges that have been made against her by certain unscrupulous individuals ?
– Madame Oilier, I understood, gave evidence before the royal commission, which seems to answer the last part of the question.
– No, no, no ! Evidence was given behind her back.
– In any event, the case of Madame Oilier is before a French tribunal. I have not heard that the pro.ceedings have terminated. When they terminate, they will terminate with a finding by a French court, and may I add that the French courts are perfectly capable of dealing with these matters for themselves without either the honorable member’s assistance or mine.
– I fell into an error of recollection in my earlier answer. Evidence was not given before the royal commission by Madame Oilier, because she was not a compellable witness;
– No; not at all. Evidence was given behind her back.
– Well, the right honorable gentleman can use ugly terms. Call it conspiracy,, fraud, malice, or anything else. Anyhow, evidence was given.
– As Chairman, I present the following report of the Public Accounts Committee: -
Eighteenth Report. - The form and content of the Financial Documents presented to the Parliament - Part I. - Budget Speech and Estimates.
Ordered to be printed.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
– As Chairman, I present the first report of the Printing Committee.
Report read by the Clerk, and - by leave - adopted.
– Yesterday the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the honorable member for Watson. (Mr. Curtin) asked for information regarding the accommodation for the press in this building. I can now supply the following information : -
Press representatives occupy 22 rooms on this side of the building and; nine rooms on the Senate side. The rooms on this side have a floor space of 4,732 square feet, and those on the Senate side 1,130 square feet. Rent payments for the rooms were discontinued after the 30th June, 1950. Up to that time, rent was charged on a daily basis at the rate of 3s. per square foot pet year of 313 days, but rent was charged for periods of parliamentary recess only.
I was in error yesterday .because I thought the rate was ls. per square foot.
During the adjournment debate last night, the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) raised a certain matter. I regret that I have not had an easy day to-day and have not been able to go fully into the matter, but the position as far as I am able to report it is that an honorable member last week called the attention of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr.
Casey) to a statement made, I think, by Field-Marshal Lord Montgomery on civil defence. In replying to that question, the Minister for External Affairs agreed that he would supply a copy of the statement to each member of the House. That copy was accordingly supplied. As yet, I have not had an opportunity to go into the question of whether it should have been left on honorable members’ seats or put in their pigeon-holes.
– I lay on the table the following paper : -
The board’s report is a somewhat voluminous document. In the main it traverses the question whether assistance should be accorded for the production of basic copper in Australia. The board has found that there would appear to be no need, on the basis of evidence tendered at the inquiry, to impose duties or employ public funds in the form of bounty payments, so long as producers of basic copper can obtain a price of £250 a ton or more for their copper. On unrefined copper duty-free admission from all sources is recommended by the board and on refined copper a duty of £4 a ton from all sources is recommended. These coppers, whether refined or unrefined, have for some considerable time been admitted free of duty from all sources under by-law provisions of the tariff.
There are, however, several issues associated with this report which the Government feels warrant careful examination. This examination is being made but the time factor is inadequate to enable these issues to be determined before the close of the present parliamentary sitting. Moreover, the industry itself is anxious to know the outcome of the board’s report as early as possible and is pressing for its release. It is in the light of these considerations that the Government has decided to table the report. The existing tariff position on copper, and the existing practice in relation to exports of copper products from the Commonwealth will not, however, be disturbed until the issues arising from the board’s findings have been resolved by the Government. I move -
That the statement be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to repeal the existing Lands Acquisition Act 1906-1936, and to replace it with an act that is more in keeping with present-day practice and requirements. The bill does not involve any question of policy. It deals almost entirely with administration and methods of administration. Some sections of the existing act, which experience over the years has shown have now no practical application, will not be re-enacted. The reason for the omission of those sections will be explained later. The bill seeks to amend other sections of the existing act in order to bring both the principles and administrative action into line with modern ideas and methods.
Some of the proposed amendments will affect a large number of people and certain organizations. Many of the clauses are highly technical in a legal sense and, therefore, I do not propose to proceed with the bill beyond this stage. At this juncture, I am taking the opportunity to explain the bill in detail and the reasons for repealing most of the sections which the bill seeks to repeal. In these circumstances, honorable members will have the opportunity to distribute the bill to persons, associations or corporations outside that may be interested in the measure, and, as the second-reading debate will be adjourned until the Parliament resumes in the New Year, those interested will have the chance of having their views presented to the Parliament when it proceeds with the further stages of the bill. I suggest that, perhaps, an all-party committee should consider the measure before it passes to the committee stage. In such a discussion agreement may be reached on many clauses and, in that case, we shall require to discuss only those clauses on which no agreement has been reached. At this juncture I shall explain the bill so that it can be examined thoroughly before the debate is resumed. The measure is of a kind that will lend itself to consideration in committee in more detail than is usually the case. Copies of my second-reading speech and a circular explaining each clause in detail will be made available to any honorable member who may require them.
Many of the amendments will, I am sure, be readily accepted. An attempt has been made to arrange the provisions of the bill in a more convenient and logical manner. Some changes are sought to be made in definitions which are selfexplanatory. It is proposed to enlarge the Minister’s powers in relation to the acquisition of land or interests in land and their disposal. This enlargement is designed to avoid executive council action in many instances in which the amount involved is small. This provision does not apply in any instance to the compulsory acquisition of land. In that respect, the Minister’s powers will not be enlarged. At present, the Minister is authorized to deal with acquisitions involving a maximum value of £50. That provision was first enacted in 1906. Under this measure, it is proposed to increase that sum to £500 and also to empower the Minister to deal with leases of a maximum duration of three years. Those are the only respects in which it is proposed to increase the Minister’s powers in respect of the acquisition and the sale and lease of land. As in the existing act, the bill provides that all the more important acquisitions and disposals shall be referred to the Executive ‘Council. The bill will make it clear that an acquisition will be effective upon the publication of the notice in the Gazette. The rights and liabilities of persons in respect of land, under contracts of sale, &c, will be clarified. The value of land compulsorily acquired will, under the bill, be determined as at the date of acquisition, and not, as in the present act, as at the 1st January preceding the date of acquisition. At present the value of. land that has been acquired has been determined at the 1st January preceding the date of acquisition, but that procedure will be altered by the measure and the value will be determined on the actual date of acquisition. If the Commonwealth acquires land on the 30th December, its value will be reckoned as at that date.
It is proposed that a claimant may institute proceedings if he is not satisfied with an offer, without waiting for the expiration of 60 days as at present. He also will be given a right to go to the court if his claim is not settled in six months, whereas under the present act he cannot go to court if the Minister has not made an offer or notified him that he disputes the claim. The provisions of the present act making the determination of the court final and conclusive and without appeal, have not been included in the bill. There seems to be no good reason why any available right of appeal should be barred. Under the Constitution, the acquisition of property by the Commonwealth must be “ on just terms “. The existing legislation has been held by the High Court to comply with this requirement, and every effort has been made to ensure that the bill will also provide just terms.
The functions of the Attorney-General will be transferred to the Crown Solicitor. The clauses relating to mortgages have been redrafted to clarify the position of a mortgagee. The power to issue a warrant to obtain possession of acquired land will be given to a court of summary jurisdiction instead of to a justice of the High Court of Australia. Provision has been made investing State courts with federal jurisdiction, and a general provision as to costs has been included. A limited power of delegation is proposed for the Minister and the AttorneyGeneral. The bill, which should effect many urgently needed improvements in administration, is commended for the favorable consideration of the House.
I desire now to take a course that is perhaps a little unusual, and I ask the House to bear with me while I make a few comments upon the clauses of the measure. Clauses 1 and 2 are purely formal. Clause 3 (1.) will provide for the repeal of the existing lands acquisition acts, and I draw attention to the saving provision. Where, before the commencement of the new legislation, a notice has been published in respect of land tinder section 15 (2.) of the present act, it is proposed that compensation will be determined and paid in accordance with the present act. If we were to merely repeal the present acts, and start a new system while all sorts of business transactions were in progress, there would be a considerable amount of complication, and many difficulties and anomalies would arise. That is why the Government has inserted this saving provision.
Clause 4 shows the set-up of the new measure, and an attempt has been made to arrange the provisions in a more convenient and logical manner. Clause 5 (1.) provides for interpretations, and Clause 5 (2.) indicates that when the Commonwealth acquires land by compulsory process under the new act, all interest in the land, for example leases, rights of way and so on, will be extinguished under sub-clause 9 (3.). Those interests can hardly be said to be acquired by the Commonwealth, but their owners are entitled to compensation. The sub-clause will ensure that they will be so entitled. Clause 6 (1.) provides for the method of acquisition, and Clause 6 (2.) will prohibit the Commonwealth from acquiring public parks in the States or Territories, whether by agreement or compulsory process. If a State government .should wish to dispose of a public park to the Commonwealth, the State would first have to revoke the dedication or reservation. The Government believes that anybody who wants to protest against any such revocation should be given a full opportunity to do so. If the Commonwealth were given the right to acquire land that had been set aside for public purposes without the State revoking its declaration, the acquisition might take place so quickly that interested parties would not have an opportunity to protest about it before the whole matter had been concluded.
Section 14 (2.) of the present act has been divided into two sub-clauses in the bill, namely sub-clauses 7 (2.) and (3.), and the limits on the powers of the Minister have been slightly increased. The increase is designed to avoid
Executive Council action in many instances -where the amount involved is small. Clause 7 (4.) makes it clear that limited interests, such as easements over land, may be created by agreement in favour of the Commonwealth. Clause 8 (2.) is completely new matter. It will ensure that where a State sells to the Commonwealth Crown land which has been dedicated or reserved for a public purpose the Commonwealth will not be restricted as to the use it may make of the land. If the State revokes the dedication as a public park, and then the Commonwealth acquires the land, the Commonwealth is entirely free to use the land in any way that it thinks fit. Clause 9 (2.) is section 15 (2.) of the act re-expressed in more appropriate language. It is made clear that acquisition shall take place upon the publication of a notice in the Gazette. Clause 10 (1.) is a re-expression of section 17 of the act. It provides that upon the compulsory acquisition of land, the interest of every person in the land is converted into a right for compensation. The present legislation is not clear by any means on that point. Clause 11 follows section 19 of the act, and the provision has been re-expressed and gives the Parliament the power to avoid acquisitions if it considers it necessary to do so.
Clause 12 is a new provision. Subclauses (1.) and (.2.) of this clause empower the High Court of Australia, or a supreme court, to adjust the rights and liabilities of persons in connexion with land that has been acquired, or with transactions affected by the acquisition. Clause 12 (-4.) provides that the rights and liabilities as adjusted are to be taken into account in determining compensation. These provisions are desirable in view of the uncertainty that may exist in certain cases of the effect of the acquisition of land on the rights and liabilities of persons interested in the land. For example, problems may arise where there is an existing contract of sale of the land under which part of the purchase price only has been paid. In such a case doubt may arise whether the purchaser is entitled to recover the money paid under the contract, and whether he is obliged to make any further payments under the contract, including payments already accrued due. Until these questions are settled, it is not possible to determine the way in which the compensation representing the value of the land should be distributed among the various claimants. It is difficult,, however,’to lay down rigid rules on the effect of the acquisition in every case. In practice, most of those questions are settled by agreement, but there must be a legal method of settlement available. It is therefore considered desirable to give the High Court of Australia, or a supreme court, the power to examine the exact circumstances of a particular case and to adjust the rights and liabilities of the parties so that no injustice is done and so that a firm basis upon which the compensation can be determined is established.
Clause 12 (3.) also empowers a supreme court, or the High Court, to declare the basis upon which compensation is to be determined in order to do justice in the special circumstances of a particular case. The court may see fit to exercise that power where it has ad justed contractual or other rights under sub-clause (1.). It is also possible that the rigid provisions of the bill with respect to the basis of compensation, for example the rules as to mortgagors or mortgagees, may not give a satisfactory result in the special circumstances of a particular case. The sub-clause will operate as a “ safety valve “ in such cases.
The clause as a whole also enables the omission from the bill of certain provisions in the present act, namely sections 54 and 55, dealing with encumbrances other than mortgages - for example, rent charges - and section 56, dealing with cases where part only of the land comprised in a lease is acquired. These provisions are not considered to be satisfactory and, indeed, it is doubtful whether it is practicable to lay down rules of universal application in such cases. It is considered better to leave the matter to agreement or, in the absence of agreement, to determination by a court in the light of the particular facts.
Clauses 13 to 21 inclusive do not require explanation. They are mainly re-expressions of sections in the original act. [Quorum formed.]
Clause 22 combines two sections of the present act and value is to be taken as at date of acquisition instead of on the 1st January last preceding that date. This change is considered to provide a more just basis for compensation, which I mentioned in the general outline I gave at the beginning of my speech. Clause 23 is a new provision, which enables the Minister to agree as to price with the owner notwithstanding that the land is compulsorily acquired.
Under clause 25 a claimant may institute proceedings if he is not satisfied with an offer made by the Minister without waiting for the expiration of 60 days. Also, he is given a right to go to the court if his claim is not settled in six months, whereas under the present act he cannot go to court if the Minister has neither made an offer nor notified him that he disputes the claim. I hope that this provision will lead to a much more speedy settlement of claims, some of which are still years behind. We have done our very best to try to speed up settlement of some of the old outstanding war claims, but some of them have not yet been settled.
Under the clause, a court will deal with the particular interest in respect of which a claim is made, unless another plaintiff Ls joined in respect of another interest. The proceedings are for the determination of compensation and the function of the court would be to determine the compensation in respect of the interest claimed, without examining title, and not to give judgment for the amount determined. This would leave the way open for the examination of the title by the Crown Solicitor before making payment. .Sub-sections (2.) and (9.) of present section 37 appear to be unnecessary and have not been included. Subclause (9.) makes it clear that the Commonwealth is obliged to apply for removal of a case either to the High Court or to a Supreme Court.
Under clause 26, the Minister may institute proceedings where his offer has not been accepted within 60 days, without waiting for six months as under present section 3S. In this case, the Minister is to be given the same right as the person who claims compensation. In cases where no claim has been made, provision is made in sub-clause (3.) for the Minister to request the court to determine the person’s entitlement. This clause again deals with each interest in the land separately. The provisions of sections 38 and 39 making the determination of the court final and conclusive and without appeal have not been included. They do not appear in existing section 37 and there seems to be no good reason why any right of appeal available should be barred.
There is no corresponding provision in the present act to clause 28. Under the Commonwealth Constitution, the acquisition of property by the Commonwealth must be “ on just terms “. The existing Lands Acquisition Act has been held by the High Court to comply with this requirement, and every effort has been made to ensure that the new bill will also provide just terms. However, there is always the possibility that, on the facts of a particular case, the specific provisions as to compensation will fail to do complete justice to a particular person. This provision would enable a court assessing compensation in such a case to award whatever amount was necessary to do complete justice, notwithstanding any other provision of the act.
Clause 30 (2.) is a new provision. This has in fact been done in practice. The provision enables outstanding liabilities to be paid to local authorities. In clause 31, the functions of the AttorneyGeneral have been transferred to the Crown Solicitor. The provision for payment out of the Treasury upon an order of a court, in accordance with section 45 (1.) (b) of the present act, have been embodied in clause 32.
Part VI. is the next provision to which I shall refer. This part corresponds with Division 1 of Part V. of the present act. The present provisions are in some respects obscure, and the object of the new provisions is to clarify the respective rights of a mortgagor on the one hand and one or more mortgagees on the other, with little substantial change in their rights as they are at present interpreted. The present act applies in relation to the acquisition of land for the purposes of the War Services Homes Act, subject to adaptations and modifications made by regulations under the act. Many of the alterations to the present act that are embodied in this part are founded on modifications to the present act made by regulations under the War Service Homes Act. The new provisions are, however, thought to be more generous to the mortgagee as against the Commonwealth in the matter of interest.
Clause 38 is a new provision. It enables the Minister to require the owner to furnish particulars of mortgages and further provides that if the owner fails to do so the Minister may agree with the person claiming to be a mortgagee as to the amount due under the mortgage. Clause 39 also needs a brief reference. Where land subject to a mortgage is acquired compulsorily, the acquisition frees the land from the mortgage, but does not, at that point, discharge the mortgage debt itself. The mortgagee may therefore continue to receive or even to sue for and recover, amounts under the mortgage, whether accrued due before or after the date of acquisition. If, however, the mortgagee proceeds to make a claim for compensation against the Commonwealth, the mortgage debt, as at the date of acquisition is, speaking in general terms, discharged from the date of acquisition to the extent of the compensation payable to the mortgagee.
The purpose of clause 40 may be stated briefly. Where both mortgagor and mortgagee claim compensation, it would not be just for either of them to be able to affect the claim of the other by agreeing with the Commonwealth as to the value of the land, nor would it be just for either to be affected by a determination by a court of the compensation payable to the other unless he was represented in the proceedings. This clause provides accordingly.
Clause 41 corresponds with section 51 of the present act. It sets out the manner in which the compensation payable to the mortgagee is to be arrived at. Under sub-clause (1.), the mortgagee gets the principal, interest, &c, due at the date of acquisition, but not exceeding “the compensation payable to the mortgagor “. This expression is explained in sub-clause (2.) and is, in the ordinary case, the value of the land.
The only substantial difference from the present act is that the mortgagee is entitled to interest at the mortgage rate up to the date of payment of the compensation, whereas, under the act, interest at the mortgage rate is payable for a period of six months after the date of acquisition. The present provision for six months’ interest is considered to be arbitrary, and it seems logical to provide for interest simply to the date of payment of compensation. This change is an advantage to the mortgagee where more than six months elapse between the date of acquisition and the payment of compensation. If, however, compensation is paid within six months, the mortgagee is still fairly treated under the bill, because, if the mortgage was not due for repayment, provision is made for compensation for costs of re-investment, and for any loss of interest upon re-investment.
Clause 48 corresponds with section 63 of the act. It enables the Commonwealth land to be disposed of where it is no longer required, or to be leased where it is not immediately required. The present section does not clearly authorize the leasing of Commonwealth land which is not immediately required for a public purpose.
– Why does the Minister not seek leave to have his statement incorporated in Hansard ?
– I was formerly a member of a State parliament, and, when a Minister was obliged to dea] with an intricate bill like this one, he explained it fully so that outside people who were interested, and who picked up a copy of Hansard, would be able to understand most of the amendments for which provision was made. Very often, in this House, honorable members are inclined to take the opposite view. Although the explanation that I am making may be a bit dull to listen to, it is highly technical in the legal sense. I am making it so that those who are likely to be affected may have an opportunity of making representations, if they wish to do so, to honorable members. Under both the pre sent section and the proposed new section, the Governor-General may authorize the disposal or lease. Under the present section, the Minister also has power to authorize a lease for not more than three years where the annual value of the land does not exceed £50. The proposed new section slightly extends the powers of the Minister. He will be able to dispose of land where the value does not exceed £500, and to grant a lease for a term not exceeding three years at a rental not exceeding £500 per annum. In view of the change in the value of money since 1906, when the present section was enacted, these increases in the powers of the Minister are considered to be fully justified.
Clause 50 is new. It provides that the Minister may pay rates and other charges upon land that has been compulsorily acquired, and that any such payment shall be taken into account in determining compensation. Where several lots of land in the one subdivision are acquired together, it is convenient for the Minister to be able to pay the whole of the rates owing in one payment, and to set off the amounts paid on behalf of the individual owners against their respective claims to compensation.
Clause 51 is also new. The position of persons remaining in occupation of land after its acquisition by the Commonwealth has, in the past, been uncertain. This clause will enable the Minister to enter into an agreement with such a person under which he may remain in possession on definite terms and conditions, and not, as at present, mainly on very indefinite terms and almost no conditions. Clause 52 provides that the power to issue a warrant shall be given to a court of summary jurisdiction instead of to a justice of the High Court.
Clause 59 enables the Minister or the Attorney-General to delegate his powers and functions under the act. Honorable members will probably want to examine this clause. The powers of the AttorneyGeneral are of rather a formal character. The powers of the Minister to acquire and dispose of land are also extremely limited, in relation to which I direct the attention of honorable members to clauses 7 and 48. It is necessary from the administrative point of view that some powers of the Minister with regard to compensation negotiations should he dele gated to officers in the various States. That does not, however, relieve the Minister of any responsibility.
The sections of the act to which I shall now refer have been omitted from the bill, for the reasons that I shall outline. Section 7 is not considered necessary. The effect of section 12 is not entirely clear, especially having regard to- the fact that “ land “ may be any estate or interest. The section does not appear to have any practical value. Section 25 is not considered necessary. There appears to be no reason why fencing should be mentioned especially. It will be covered by clause 17 of the bill. Section 26 has been omitted, because a right to compensation is now conferred by clause 10 of the bill. Section 30 has- been omitted, because the production of documents is thought to be covered sufficiently by clause 29 of the bill. Section 34 is omitted also, as the bill provides a different procedure for dealing with claims for compensation. Section 36 has not been reproduced, because the bill provides a different procedure for the settlement of claims, and for bringing claims before a court. Section 41 is obsolete. Section 44 appears to be unnecessary. The Treasury would deal with moneys deposited in the Treasury under the provisions of the Audit Act that relate to the trust fund. Section 48 applies only in the case of acquisition by agreement. In such cases, the invariable practice is for the agreement to require ihe owner to obtain a discharge of the mortgage. Section 50 has been omitted because the general provisions relating to the making and determination of. claims for compensation will apply to claims by mortgagors and mortgagees. The operation of section 5S is exhausted. The Acts Interpretation Act will preserve the operation of that section. Section 64 is not necessary. The powers of disposal given by section 48 are not confined to land acquired under the act.
I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 4th November (vide page 2631), on motion by Mr. Beale -
That the bill, be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 3rd November (vide page 2556), on motion by Mr. McMahon -
That the bill be now read, a second time.
.- The Opposition supports this measure, which represents something new and important in the provision of social services benefits, because its introduction is an underlying principle- of the establishment of a welfare state, and also a point of the gospel of the Australian Labour party. The Opposition is pleased - and I make this statement without being cynical - that the Government has recognized the urgent need for legislation of this kind. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon), in his second-reading speech, dealt most sympathetically and with great understanding with this new problem that will confront him in his administration of the Department of Social Services. The purpose of the measure, as enunciated in the bill and propounded in the Minister’s secondreading speech, is simple enough. It is to provide homes for aged people. That is a most praiseworthy objective. The machinery by which that objective is to be achieved is simple. The provisions of the bill are not difficult to understand. The need for legislation of this type has been apparent for many years. We pay subsidies and pensions in many fields, and in building up the welfare state perhaps we have not paid as much attention as we should have paid to the needs of persons, especially those who are aged and sick. Their needs exercised the mind of the former Prime. Minister, the late Mr. Chifley, and the minds of the members of the Australian Labour party social services committee. The electoral programmes submitted to the people by both the Government and the Opposition before the last general election contained propaganda for the care and housing of aged people - the pioneers of the community.
A curious anomaly has developed in our system of social services. By the aid of life-saving drugs, which are prescribed free for the aged members of the community, we are able to keep them alive, but then they have no place to live. That anomaly will be partly corrected by this measure. No one has been able to tell us the aggregate number of people who will benefit from this measure. It may be that the total subsidy of £1,500,000 will be only a beginning. I am sure that within a very short time it will reach the total of about £10,000,000. I cannot think of any way in which money could be better spent than in the payment of a subsidy upon the construction of homes for elderly people. This measure, which is approved by both the Government and the Opposition, will introduce into the social services structure a new and beneficent influence to assist the members of church organizations, welfare workers and volunteers who labour without profit in the service of the sick poor members of the community, and, in particular, of aged persons. Church organizations especially have given yeoman service in helping aged people. Those workers have carried heavy financial burdens, at the same time as they have found happiness in rendering service, and the subsidy will help to ease those burdens. This scheme promises to grow as its benefits are seen, and an expansion will be all to the good.
As the welfare state has developed and free medicine, pensions and other welfare schemes have been introduced in accordance with what I consider is the Christian approach to these problems, a degree of callousness towards those who are in need has arisen in the community. The welfare of elderly persons has become so much the responsibility of the State that sometimes - only sometimes, but, unfortunately, too often - the close relatives of elderly people take the view that the State should do the entire job of caring for aged citizens. Every honorable member, wherever his electorate is situated, knows that one of the most pathetic groups in the community is the elderly people who are forced to live in back rooms, constantly under the threat of eviction, and of ransom if pensions are increased, because they are exploited by those who rent back rooms to age pensioners. If their position can be relieved slowly, it will be all to the good. If it can be relieved quickly, so much the better. If we, in this Parliament, evolve a scheme that will provide care for the vulnerable aged members of the community, who have not much further to go on life’s journey, so that they may find a little pleasure, comfort and security in the declining years of their lives, we shall have done something well worth while.
The plight of age pensioners and other elderly people is very unhappy. It was keenly pictured by the poet who wrote -
Set is the sun of my years.
And over a few poor ashes,
I sit in darkness and tears.
That view is not an exaggeration. The minds of elderly people who do not own their own homes and have the fear of going over the hill to the poorhouse, are conditioned to the nineteenth-century way of thinking of these things. The average mature man, and even the young man, to-day considers that the Government owes him something, and the thought of his pension does not give him the mental twinge that a similar thought would give to the pioneers who had a different outlook, and a more rigid approach to both their own and the Government’s responsibilities. Many of those people suffer a great deal of anguish even in so simple a matter as applying for the age pension. When the time comes that they cannot live with their families, they have to seek accommodation from charitable organizations, whether conducted by the churches or not. They then feel that they are left out of things, and they become lonely, miserable and unhappy. This measure will enable the church organizations and other bodies that give service to the elderly members of the community to change all that. First, a subsidy will be paid £1 for £1 in respect of homes now being built and to be built for the accommodation of aged people. Since the taxpayer, through the Government, will pay the subsidy and will be required to put his hand in his pocket once again, we must ensure that we do not have too many community settlements, too many swallow’s nests, as it were, and too many groups of aged people huddled under the one roof. We must preserve the individuality of elderly -people as far as possible. The ideal method of doing this would be to accommodate them in cottages. Such a scheme would be expensive in the long run. But I refer the House to the experiment made in England by the Attlee Labour Government, which developed community centres in park-like areas. The Minister for Social Services has probably seen something of those centres. That scheme has been magnificently successful.
Although this bill does not profess to make provision for such schemes, tho Minister has specifically stated that the role of the Government is to provide the money and not to intrude any more than is necessary into the work of the religious and other benevolent organizations that provide homes for aged people. At the same time, a little background assistance in the way of advice about the best way to spend the money provided, perhaps as a consequence of investigation by committees, would, in the long run, enable us to evolve a scheme of which we might well be proud. In the beginning, this measure will result merely in a sort of hand-out. There is a deep humanitarian basis for the bill, which will assist the people who, of their own volition and without any thought of the financial cost or of a subsidy from the Government, have done a magnificent job for the community in caring for aged people. The capital expenditure required to give that advice would be very small, although the upkeep of old people’s homes is usually very costly. If we evolve a formula by which it can become the practice for governments to assist with money and with advice in the construction of homes for elderly people, we shall strike at the root of the trouble that afflicts our elderly citizens. Australia’s housing problems are grievous indeed. They affect the young, the middle-aged, and especially the elderly people, who, with the burden of their years heavy upon them, have to cast about for a place in which to retire. In homes especially provided for their care, they should be able to find comfort, rest, companionship and relief from loneliness.
The community’s responsiblity for a citizen should not be thought to end once he becomes old. Perhaps throughout his life the elderly person has been so engrossed in the task of earning a living that he has not been able to do the things of which he has dreamed. In his retirement in an old people’s home, in which he would pay for his upkeep out of his pension as an independent citizen, he should be able to pick up the threads of community life in a simple way and enjoy much more of the gracious life that he might have yearned for. He should be afforded an opportunity to do the things that he wanted to do when he was earning his living in the harsher days of his youth and young manhood. For that reason, we approve of the legislation. However, there is one weakness in it which we believe can be remedied, and we intend to move an appropriate amendment at the committee stage.
Having examined clause 3 and clause 6, we have, with the help of the Clerk of the House, prepared a simple amendment, which the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) will propose. The object will be to include provision for the aged sick in the plan that the bill will ratify. The Minister has referred to the difficulty of separating organizations which should receive the subsidy from those which already enjoy some form of government help, such as hospitals for aged people. This bill represents a fine basic piece of common sense, as well as good social service, but I submit that we should start the scheme right where the anxiety strikes hardest in the community. There is nothing more grievous than the plight of the chronically sick old person. If such a person happens to be in an institution which is described as a hospital, the subsidy for which the bill provides will not apply. But these are bed cases, and the institutions are their homes! .
The Anglican Church and other organizations have institutions which are homes as well as hospitals but which, because they receive payments under the hospital benefits scheme, will not qualify for subsidy under this bill. “Well, in my opinion, the people in these hospital homes are the very people for whom this bill should provide, and I hope the Minister will accept the amendment I have foreshadowed. I know that great difficulties exist, but I do not think they are insuperable. If we are to make a success of this scheme to provide places where old people can live in comfort and security for the rest of their days, we must take the worst and most needy cases first. We must take the sick. All over the nation we have the problem of the chronically ill person who cannot be insured under the schemes that have been established for the healthy. When they become old, such people cannot obtain accommodation in homes because of their chronic sickness. This great need has led many of the churches to establish homes which are also hospitals, and I think they should certainly participate in this new scheme. Now, if an institution could be registered as a home for the aged and could, at the same time, provide ii sick bay for sick people, it would be able to apply for and obtain the subsidy that the bill will authorize if it acquires land or buildings.
As the bill now stands, a. home for the aged that is also a hospital will not qualify for the subsidy. That is utterly anomalous. I appreciate the Minister’s difficulty, but I do not think that matters of draftmanship and the like should peg us down indefinitely. There must be some way of achieving the result that I have indicated, and we must find that way if this legislation is to be really worth while. I know that honorable members on both sides of the House wish to discuss this measure, and therefore I shall try to discuss the remaining aspects of the bill which I have in mind as briefly as possible. First of all, I should like to refer to the immense amount of social service work done by the churches. This happy marriage of government and the churches through subventions to the many organizations which pursue Christian objectives unostentatiously must delight every honorable member. We should be proud of the fact that we can help the churches in their great efforts to provide care and sustenance for the aged. That the cost of the scheme will grow is inevitable, but we should not bilk the issue. In fact, we should be proud to do all that we can to help to provide new homes for those long queues of aged and sick people who need assistance. One of the most harrowing aspects of the housing problem will be relieved by this legislation.
Honorable members no doubt will be surprised to know that there are in Australia 200 institutions of the kind that the Minister has in mind for subsidy. Some of them are small, but others are extensive. Honorable members can imagine, too, the impetus that the bill will give to social work for aged people. The movement will run like a bush fire through social service organizations, which have been hamstrung for so long by the lack of money. There are no statistics to show how many people will require shelter, but it has been our in- variable experience that, as soon as a benefit is provided, the demand is ten times greater than the organizers anticipated. Doubtless this scheme, too, will become involved in a problem of numbers. For that reason, I say that the bill represents just a beginning. It is only a token. We must face the fact that the amount of subsidy to be paid will increase as the situation becomes clearer. Of course, it is impossible to establish from the census figures or by other means how many old people are in need of shelter, but there must be many thousands of them. How they are taken care of now is one of the major mysteries of existence. How they live on their pensions is another problem that one could ponder for a long time.
The Minister said in his second-reading speech that the task of providing homes for the aged posed a problem that was both social and economic. The Opposition agrees with that statement, and it agrees also with the way in which the honorable gentleman proposes to conserve their independence and to encourage the great voluntary efforts of the churches and other organizations which have done all the ground work. They have led the way, and the people of Australia, through this Parliament, can now supply the cash. The Opposition would like the Minister to clarify the basis on which the subsidy will be payable. He referred in his speech to an institution which has a mortgage and which then borrows money by other means and also .raises, say, ;£20,00.0 by public subscription. .The subsidy in that case, I assume, would be payable only in relation to the money raised by public subscription, not on the total collections including the borrowed money. I can understand such -a provision. Nevertheless, the Minister should make the situation clear to the institutions which have already applied to the Government for assistance.
I should also like “the Minister to explain the categories that will be created under the scheme, which will be administered by the Director-General of Social Services. How soon will we know, with more or less exactness, the conditions that an applicant for subsidy will be required to fulfil? The situation at present is vague. It should be ‘brought down to a particular basis. “When the people who seek this subsidy on a £1 for £1 basis know exactly where they stand, I am sure that we shall begin to go places rapidly. My own view in relation to the subject, in which I have been personally interested for some years, is that there should be both State and Commonwealth subsidies for homes for the aged. Some of the weight should “be taken -off the shoulders of the Commonwealth. Finance should be provided on the basis of one-third hy the Commonwealth, one-third by the appropriate State, and one-third hy the institution concerned, instead of on the 50/50 basis for which the bill provides. However, that is by the way. The salient fact is that the scheme for which the bill provides is good. It may be criticized, perhaps unduly, because it does not deal with the most serious problem in connexion with the housing of aged, members of the community who need shelter. However, the amendment which will be submitted by the Opposition in simple terms at the committee stage, can remedy that defect. I hope that all honorable members will give earnest consideration to it.
The bill will have far-reaching effects, because it will encourage the social workers of churches, welfare societies, and organizations like Legacy, who voluntarily devote themselves to the help of the vulnerable members of the CoIn.munity, particularly the aged. The public purse can properly be tapped to aid people who are trying to do something constructive, instead of merely sitting back and asking .for a subvention from the Government. Therefore, I believe that the scheme will assume great proportions. We may, in our time, see a wide swathe cut in the tangled problem of housing the aged of Australia. Because of the depressions of recent memory, the problems ‘of unemployment and seasonal industries, and a lot of other economic pressures inseparable from a young economy such as ours, there have been many grievous cases -of men and women who have worked through the whole of their -active lives only to conclude, in the evening of their days, that there is no place for them except the industrial scrap heap, or the road over the hill to the poor house. There will -be nothing like that under this scheme. There will be, instead, -voluntary effort supported by a government subsidy. That is a commonsense arrangement.
Schemes for the care of the aged are already in existence in our large cities. All we Iia ve to do is to give them strength, and encourage them to develop. I believe that the bill will achieve that .resultAs I have said, £1,500,000 is a .flea-bite, economically speaking. The costs of administration and upkeep are always the bugbears of these institutions. The bill represents .a happy beginning to a good scheme, and for that reason the Opposition supports it. I again request the Minister to give .the most careful consideration to the amendment that .1 have foreshadowed, which has been designed to help .a .scheme that is close to our hearts and runs parallel with our policy for a welfare .state. I hope that the Government will not allow itself to be per- suaded to reject the amendment by difficulties of draftsmanship, or Treasury objections, combined with the need to pass the bill quickly before we go into recess. The Treasury, of course, can always think up something to stultify a good scheme, no matter which government happens to be in power. I say that without being harsh to the Treasury -officials, but the fact is that they have an immense vocabulary of negatives which they can apply to an immense number of problems. Well, the Opposition does not want them to apply any of their negatives, in this case. If the fact, that some of the institutions which care, for aged people already receive, assistanceunder the hospital benefits legislation 13 likely to thwart their subvention under this bill-, we must find a way around thedifficulty.
Many of these splendid homes shelter, rest, and care for the aged and sick with the most loving sympathy. Those are the institutions which deserve our financial help. If there is some ethical objection to the granting of two kinds of payment by the Government, let us devise some way of revising our code of financial ethics. Let us amend the bill to achieve our purpose and set. the scheme rolling as it should roll. It will, take up the slack of a. grave social problem, which is at its worst when a man and. his wife are. both old and sick. The future holds no; Darby and Joan existence for them. They should be cared for. They should have the first call on hospital attention and shelter. We must ensure that the proposed subsidy shall be used for the good of such deserving people,, and we must. make* the scheme grow. r hope to see* some day, homes and cottages for aged people dotted around the country - not conglomerations of ugly looking barracks, but little cottages, so that “ John Anderson, my Jo “ will be the philosophy of the old people jogging along together. The story of Darby and Joan need not be- a fairy tale; it can be a reality for old people who have done much to- promote our economic progress but have missed the bus themselves.
In these circumstances,, all I have to say is that the Opposition supports this bill with the proviso that the Minister will look most earnestly at the amendment which will seek to do something about which, I know, he is concerned. In the proposed amendment, the Opposition will simply present a formula for his consideration. If he is prepared to accept it either here or in another place, the Opposition will not only support the bill but also give it its blessing.
– The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has spoken generously and reasonably on this measure. I join with him in congratulat-ing. the Government on this welcome, piece of progressive legislation. Like tha honorable member for Parkes, I look upon the bill only as a start, of what, I believe, will be a very considerable part, of our social services structure and,, indeed, in many respects, the best part, of that structure. We should all congratulate the Government and the Minis-tei- for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) on having started something which is not,, perhaps, complete in itself but will grow. It provides a solid foundation on which advances can be made. I, personally, take the greatest interest in this measure because it follows along the lines which. I have been endeavouring to advocate during the last six, or seven, years. For some particular group of individuals’ this or that problem may be the mora important, and the problems may vary with individuals, but, looking at the picture as- a whole.. accommodation is the. most urgent problem which faces aged1 persons in this category. This bill does something to meet the needs of the aged and also a need of the nation. I shall develop those two preliminary points.
As the honorable member for Parkes, has. rightly said, loneliness lack of proper accommodation and, perhaps, highrental for a back room, are pressing problems for a large section of the community. Their problems cannot be solved only in terms of money. Beyond money, there is also the need for proper human, sympathy and a. proper organization to translate that sympathy into effective action. This, bill makes, a real start in that direction. The aged person does mot need entirely the same kind of accommodation which other sections of the community. need, for their particular purposes.. He, or she,,, probably, does not want any great amount of space, the upkeep of which would, be a burden.. Many of us know of cases of elderly couples, or of people who. are living in houses which were suited to them in their earlier days but which they now find to be rather a burden. The- aged man. or woman, and more particularly the aged couple, because- this bill is directed particularly to the interests of the aged couple, need simple and convenient accommodation in which they can maintain the decency and comforts of life without incurring too much expenditure of their own limited faculties. They need something which is easy to run. I have had the opportunity to read a number of technical reports which have been compiled on this subject in Great Britain. Those reports feature the kind of lay-out which would be helpful to these people to make them as comfortable as it is possible to do. Those features may appear as small architectural things. They seem small, and, individually, each of them is small; but proper lay-out, the proper absence of stairs, particularly certain bathroom and kitchen arrangements which do not cost any more to put in than normal arrangements, make all the difference between good and difficult living.
In the next place, these people need interests and companionship. People are accustomed to find companionship in great part among people in their age group. Nobody wants to segregate them. We believe that these homes should be a part of the wider community. No one wants to separate the grandfather or the grandmother from the company of children or that of young people. Such segregation is inhuman. In addition to playing their part in the normal life of the community, it is a great satisfaction to old people to observe the progress of the normal life of the community which is to be their successor. For them, such observation is in a way a participation in the life pf the community. Besides that, they need the companionship of people selectively in their age group. I hope that the cottages and homes which will be provided under this scheme will not be built in very big groups, because we do not want this thing to be institutionalized with thousands placed in one group, but rather that it will be possible to group them sensibly and reasonably in small groups properly related to the community which these old people have helped to create in the life which is, for them, drawing to a close. However, whilst we do not want them to be placed in groups that are too big, where they will be institutionalized, at the same time we do not want them to be entirely scattered under conditions in which it will be difficult to provide them with the specialized service which old people need, or to deprive them of the companionship which they need selectively among people in their age group. If individual homes are properly and reasonably built in accordance with the best practices, this scheme will serve the special needs of aged people. It will serve also the needs of the nation. The old people are a part of the nation. By serving their needs in that sense, we shall serve the nation’s needs. A nation will not be healthy unless it meets this particular need.
Housing is in short supply not only for old people but also for young people, particularly young couples. Often, by reason of inertia and because people do not like to give up a home before something more convenient, or as convenient, becomes available for them, an old couple will continue to occupy a large home which is a burden to them, but which would be a source of great pleasure and happiness to a young married couple with a family. We should not, in this scheme, seek merely to get the best value out of the new accommodation which is to be provided with our existing physical resources. I do not ask honorable members to regard it as being as simple as that ; but, even on that basis, we shall serve the interests of the nation and, at, the same time, help people who, themselves, have not yet reached old age. This may well be a means of making more accommodation a vailable to young people, particularly young people with young families.
Turning more directly to the bill itself, it is based on three main principles. The first of them is the principle of decentralization. Under this scheme, we shall get away from the big state institution. Secondly, the measure is based on the principle of flexibility. This is an experiment. We do not see clearly, at this moment, the full range of the difficulties that lie ahead in operating the scheme. There will be many catches in it which can only be worked out in practice. The Minister is wise in incorporating flexibility in the bill at least at this stage and for the next few years until we see how the thing works out in practice. We are all alive to the necessity to do the best with the resources available to us. Thirdly, the bill is extendable. It is only a start. It takes only one part of the problem, and no honorable member on this side of the House would believe that it solves the whole of the problem. But it is an approach to a solution of the whole of the problem and provides a foundation upon which the Government can, and I am sure will, extend the scheme. It is a first and proper step; it is not the end of the road.. Decentralization, flexibility and extendability are the characteristics of this bill. I shall deal with them in detail.
Decentralization is more than a word. In this instance, in place of inhuman, bureaucratic and impersonal administration, the people who will operate under this scheme will be small groups of individuals who have come prepared on the basis of goodwill to give personal service in addition to material service which the bill will help them to render. Reference has been made to the work of the churches. I believe that that may well prove to be one of the most vital features of the scheme. In past times, in Europe and Great Britain, the churches maintained homes for the aged. There can be no greater service that a church can render “to its members than to give them security, spiritual as well as material, in the closing years of their lives. We pay tribute to the gallant work which has been done and is still being done by churches of all denominations. We hope that the work will be expanded, and that this bill will be the means of expanding it. If I may express a personal opinion, one that may not be verified by future events, may I say that I believe that the groups which will take the greatest advantage of this measure, and which I hope will be most helped by the provisions of the measure, are the church groups which are operating so splendidly in this field. I believe that we can get back something of the tradition of the church conducting spiritual as well as material services for the aged in the final years of their lives.
This is a personalized bill, under which the men of goodwill in the community, who have been banded together in groups during the whole of our history, will get more power to do more good. We hope that the administration of the homes will not be rigidly controlled by any government decree, and we hope that the scheme will draw its motive power from the goodwill which brings together the groups that I previously mentioned in charitable - although that is a word which only partly explains what I have in mind - organizations, which are directed to the better existence of this increasing section of our population.
The next point is that the bill is flexible. You will notice, Mr. Speaker, that the Director-General of Social Services will be given great powers under the measure, although it will not be possible, in my view, to satisfy immediately all the people who need assistance. I believe that the scheme proposed by the Government is so good, and that it presents so many opportunities, that we shall have to ensure that it does not get out of hand. The scheme should be allowed to grow as quickly as possible - consistent with sound growth - and we should be careful that no abuses creep in to ruin or prejudice popular support for what I am sure will be a splendid scheme. It will be allowed to grow at a proper rate, if it is carefully controlled in these vital early stages of its life. We know that although this scheme is directed to the support of aged persons, there is a possibility of flexible operation. For example, sick bays may be run in conjunction with it. It may even happen that a person who is not within the age groups contemplated by the legislation may still be treated as an exception - or the case that proves the rule - and receive assistance under this scheme. When assistance has been accepted under the measure, there will be no reason why the institutions which have accepted the assistance should not be able to receive into them the odd persons who are not fully qualified under the age provisions of the bill. No doubt it will be possible to give grants to homes, which are, effectively, homes for aged persons, even though there should be in those homes some people who do not fully qualify under the bill. The Minister has very wisely, at this formative stage of th» scheme, retained the principle of flexibility, and I commend him for doing so.
However, the bill is inflexible on one point, and I believe that it is .a proper matter to be brought to the notice of the House. Sub-clause (1.) of clause 3 reads -
The purpose of this Act is to encourage and assist the provision of suitable homes Tor aged persons, and in particular homes at which aged persons may reside in conditions approaching as nearly as possible normal domestic life, and, in the case of married people, with proper regard to the companionship of husband and wife.
I believe that the House will particularly commend the Government, and the Minister, for inserting that provision in the bill. It has been a standing and justifiable reproach in Australia, and in other countries, that we have tended to tear husband and wife apart in the closing years of their lives. That is a wrong and unchristian thing to do, and the Minister, in taking the action indicated in the subclause that I have just read, has recognized a great and grand principle which I think all honorable members will support. “We believe that husband and wife should not be separated in the closing years of their lives, and I might well remind the House of the definition of “ aged person “ which appears in clause 2. The definition is - “ aged person “ means a man who has attained the age of sixty-five years or a woman who has attained the age of sixty years and includes the wife or husband of an aged person residing or desiring to reside with the aged person;
Of course, the latter part of the definition is the most important part, and I believe that the Minister has been wise indrawing up the definition in those terms, because it means that when one of a married couple is aged and is qualified in terms of the legislation, and the other party is not so qualified, nevertheless they are both eligible persons under the measure and can both be received into a home which will obtain assistance under this bill. That is certainly a humane and progressive provision. I shall not mention particular cases, but we all have visited some old people’s homes - gigantic State institutions - where the men may be in one group of buildings, and the women perhaps miles away. We have seen married couples who have lived together for very many years, puzzled and at .a loss at being parted towards the end of their lives. That is mot the kind of thing envisaged in this bill. I do :not wish to cast any reproaches on the institutions and I do not want to criticize “them. J simply say that “this measure has put f orward .a better .scheme.
Obviously, this bill is making an experiment, and is not laying down a final scheme. It does not deal with the whole problem of the aged, and we may as well admit that. The Government is trying to deal properly with a part of the problem., rather than with the problem as a whole. If we attempted to do everything at once., we should probably become confused, and fail on all fronts. It is for that reason that I believe that we should be ill-advised at the present stage, and ] emphasize at the present stage, to extend the provisions of the bill to include hospital services, except where they are incidental to the operation of the .main part -of the measure. I am sure that if we did extend the scheme to hospital services, although what we should be trying to do would be a worthy thing, nevertheless, we might, by confusing the issue, prejudice the simple, clear, and constructive thing that we are trying to do in this bill.
I agree with the honorable member for Parkes that the problem -of the aged sick is a cumulative problem. It is, in itself, a much more complex problem than the Minister has laid before the House in this measure, because in addition to the problem of how we are to help and serve sick persons, we also have the aspect of how we are “to .serve and help the occasionally sick who, because hospital beds are occupied by chronic cases, cannot get attention. .1 have been told on good authority, and 3 have learned for myself, that .the nursing and specialized services required for full hospitalization of a healthy person who happens to fall sick and perhaps needs an operation, .are of about twice the magnitude of the hospital services required for a chronic case, if the person chronically ill could be separated from hospital routine. One of the next things that the Government might turn its mind to is the problem of dealing with the chronically ill. That is not as big a matter as the one dealt with in this bill, but nevertheless it is a large matter. I <do not believe that we should approach the clear and simple issues in this bill by confusing them with any other problem, but that is not to say that I do not agree with the honorable member for Parkes that there is another problem to be dealt with at present. I hope that next year, or in the near future, the Government will turn its attention to that other problem in the same constructive and successful way that it has turned its mind to the problem that it has dealt with in the bill before the House. We cannot do everything at once, but here we are taking what I believe to be the most significant forward step that has been taken in the social service affairs of Australia during our generation. I commend the bill to the House, and I am sure that it will receive unanimous support.
.- It is particularly appropriate, that as we are approaching the Christmas season we are considering a. bill that has in it the real spirit of Christmas. I commend the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) for introducing this measure, which will have the enthusiastic support of all honorable members of the House. It represents, as has already been said, the breaking of new ground, and it is a move by the Government to assist, to some degree, the organizations which are prepared to take’ care of the old people of our community. The number of old people who will be qualified under the measure is increasing, as, indeed, is our total population. A representative of one of the churches which is concerned with homes for the aged, said in Brisbane during last week-end that it has been estimated that by 1957 there will br 105,000 persons over 65 years of age in Queensland, which will be almost 10 per cent, of the population. At the present rate of increase of population in that State, it is anticipated that the number of persons who will be over 65 years of age in 1972 will be 135,000. So it is particularly appropriate that the Commonwealth is proposing to assist organizations which take care of the aged, because the need for more and more homes is apparent to each one of us; and I am sure that each one of us is also well aware of the huge expenditure which is incurred by organizations that do this most important work.
I suppose that the body which does most for the aged in Queensland is the State Government, but it is excluded from the provisions of this bill. The Queensland Government provides a series of eventide homes in various parts of the State. One of the good things which came out of the last war was the acquisition by the State Government of the Royal Australian Air Force establishment at Sandgate, and its conversion to a home for the aged. Eventide homes are dotted about the principal cities in the coastal areas of the State, and it is the policy of the Government to extend them.
Various religious bodies, too, have played a notable part in establishing homes for the. aged in Queensland. One of the most outstanding homes in the city of Brisbane is that conducted by the Methodist Church at Chermside. This home does fulfil the spirit of clause 3 of (he bill, in which the hope is expressed that the marital state of the inmates may be maintained. At the home at Chermside, little cottages are dotted over a large area, and couples live in them. They obtain their meals at a central point. It is an ideal place. There are many other organizations which, over the years, have been looking after the aged. I am sure that each of those organizations will be very happy with this bill.
Like the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), I am concerned about the fact that there is a section of the community for which no provision has been made. I shall be kind enough to say that everything cannot be done at once, and that -the Minister is doing an excellent job in breaking new ground with this bill. It is easy to say that a bill never goes far enough. I shall not bc so uncharitable as to make that statement; I merely make a suggestion to the Minister in the hope that on some future occasion, when the scope of this legislation is to be extended, he will be able to make accommodation for the section of the community about whom the honorable member for Parkes has spoken, and to whom I wish to make some reference.
One of the really sad experiences in life is to find some old people who have reached the stage when they have become incurably sick. They are not in such a condition that they can be permanently accommodated in a hospital, and as each honorable member knows, it is the normal thing in all States, though perhaps to the least extent in Queensland, to find that hospital accommodation is acutely short, and that many of these people simply cannot be accommodated in hospitals. An organization established in my division of Griffith proposes to take care of this section of the community, so far as its scope will permit, and a contract has been let for the establishment of an institution called the Mount Olivet Hospital for the Incurably Sick and Dying. The estimated cost is £354,000, and the place will have 150 beds. Honorable members will see from those figures the enormous cost of providing a home of this kind. It will be on the basis of £2,300 a bed. The Queensland Government will provide £150,000, and the balance of the money must be raised by appeals tq the general public. Under this bill, assistance cannot be granted to an organization of this kind. However, I hope that when amending legislation is introduced, as it must be introduced in the future, an organization such as I have mentioned will be included in its provisions.
I am not happy about clause 9 of this bill, which deals with the amount of grants. The Minister has made it clear in his second-reading speech, that the grant which will be made by the DirectorGeneral of Social Services will be on a £l-for-fl basis with the amount raised by an organization which is building a home for the aged. It appears from the Minister’s speech that the directorgeneral will not make a grant to subsidize money obtained by an organization by way of overdraft or mortgage. The position in Queensland is that an organization arranges financial accommodation with a bank, and a home for the aged is built. Organizations are formed in association with the home, and they continually appeal to the general public for assistance, so that funds must be raised to pay off the bank overdraft.
Under clause 9, the Commonwealth will not give assistance in such a case. It appears that the only assistance which will be given under this bill will be to an organization which has raised money, and has funds in hand to commence the erection of a home. That is a weakness of the bill. I hope that the Minister will be prepared to admit that to be so, and make provision, when amending legislation is introduced, for the granting of a certain sum of money to organizations which are prepared to finance the construction of homes on overdrafts. If an organization is compelled to raise funds before it can commence to construct a home, so that it may receive a Commonwealth grant, we may rapidly reach the position that a grant made by the directorgeneral will merely make up the depreciation in the value of money. So I suggest to the Minister, in all seriousness, that whilst this bill is an excellent one, and bears all the evidence of a spirit of kindness, he should consider a provision to enable sums of money to be granted to organizations which finance the construction of homes for the aged on overdraft. Should he do so, the cost to the Government will be no greater, because the amount of the Commonwealth grant is limited to £1,500,000, but it will mean that the homes for the aged, which are so urgently required throughout the Commonwealth, may be built with greater rapidity than they are being constructed to-day.
I commend the Minister for having introduced this bill. I am sure that it will have a speedy passage through the House. I believe that in the heart of every man in this place there is a spirit of kindness, and that no honorable member can object to the principles embodied in this legislation.
– I agree entirely with the last few words of the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts), when he stated that no one would wish to delay the passage of this bill. I do not propose to speak at length, but I wish to state a few points which I consider are apropos the occasion. First. I echo the remarks of those honorable members who have congratulated the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) and the Government upon, this bill. I Have found that there is a general agreement between the various political parties upon measures which advance the social welfare of the people. It is not always that we agree on the amount which should be expended at any given time, but there is a general agreement among honorable members on both sides that money should be spent upon these worthy objects, and that the public purse should be made available for that purpose.
I consider that one of the wisest decisions that this Parliament, or any parliament, has ever made has been to make contributions to cultural and charitable objectives allowable deductions for income tax purposes. Even when we look at the matter in the strictest possible light, we must agree that the Government, if it does not induce people to make contributions for such purposes, must sooner or later find the whole amount itself. But that is not the greatest loss that occurs. The greatest loss is the loss of the voluntary and willing endeavour on the part of people to assist those who may be less fortunate than themselves, or, alternatively, to give to the community cultural institutions for which the public might otherwise have to wait a long while. I entirely agree with one of the main principles of this bill. The Commonwealth is to make available £1,500,000 to encourage other people to build homes for the aged. Co-operation between the Government and the community should be encouraged to a greater degree. The honorable member for Griffith stated that churches and other organizations have made provision, and in some cases substantial provision, for aged persons. That is all to the good, but I should like to see, not only the Australian Government, but also the State governments, assisting in this very excellent work. Over the years, I have seen much social services legislation introduced. and I have seen honorable members, irrespective of which party has been in office, exercise their minds in relation to such matters. For instance, free milk has been made available to school children largely as the result of Commonwealth assistance to the States.
Honorable members on both sides of the House have supported the bill, although some honorable members thought that, even at this stage perhaps, the Government could have gone a little further. I think it is wise, when launching into entirely new social services schemes, to make haste slowly at the beginning so that the weaknesses of the schemes may become apparent, and later adjusted. I have observed many of the problems associated with the care of aged persons. Some aged persons are sick, not in the sense that they have been suddenly attacked by pneumonia, or a similar kind of illness, but in the sense that, over long periods of time, which may extend to years, they need the kind of care that only a hospital can provide. That problem is one that could be met by attaching suitable wings to hospitals. There are also aged and feeble persons who are susceptible to various ailments. Even if they were placed in an institution where they could live more privately than they could in a hospital ward, the fact remains that they must be fairly close to expert nursing and medical services. Those cases present their own particular problem, and a slightly different type of accommodation is necessary, if we are to obtain the best results.
Then there are other aged persons who are without resources, and who have no children or friends to support them. They may be childless couples, or couples who have lost their children, who, by force of circumstances, find themselves without friends. I understand that the Minister has that group, in particular, in mind. That is the interpretation of clause 3. which refers specifically to married aged persons. The best form of accommodation for that group of aged persons is the small cottage. If it is impossible to furnish them with that kind of accommodation, they should be furnished with accommodation in the nature of flatettes, in which they may live in reasonable privacy. One of the wisest statements in relation to social services benefits that I have heard was made by a retired black tracker, an Australian aboriginal. At the time he made the statement, there was a movement afoot to place all aboriginal people on a relatively small reserve adjacent to a large country town. The old man said to me, with perfect courtesy, which characterizes most of the aborigines, “ Mr. Drummond, it would be well if other people realized that black people are like white people, in one respect. They do not all like each other, and some of them prefer to be at a considerable distance from others”. The same thought applies to aged persons. They do need a certain amount of privacy which, unfortunately, in spite of the magnificent work that has been performed by churches and other organizations, including governmental agencies, they have not been able to obtain.
I make a special plea for poor, aged persons in rural areas. Aged persons who have their own homes in town are within easy reach of medical assistance. I have in mind an aged couple who live in an old mining district. Both of them suffer from heart ailments, and both should be within ready access of medical and nursing assistance, but their financial circumstances do not permit them to move. If they were to sell their little home, which is quite weatherproof, and which is a humble place, as many of such places are, but which is very dear to them, they could not obtain accommodation, lighting and heating for the nominal cost at which they are able to live at present. Such cases could be multiplied. I think they constitute a special challenge. There are also single men and women, and widowers and widows, who have very few friends, or no friends worth speaking about. Circumstances have caused such persons to be cut adrift from the community, and they need perhaps a slightly different type of accommodation from that which married aged persons need. They, also, are entitled to sympathy from the community.
I refer now to an administrative problem which I think the Minister, in fairness to the great number of people who are prepared to give of their labour instead ‘of money to assist aged persons, will have to face up to. I have in mind a large country town in which people are busy collecting money, and in which they were collecting money before the proposal now before the House was referred to by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his policy speech. They have approached people who have money, and those people have given of their money. They have also approached others who conduct saw-mills, who have agreed to provide and deliver timber for the erection of accommodation for aged persons. In my opinion, that is a splendid gesture. In addition, no fewer than 70 tradesmen have agreed to give up their week-ends so that they may assist in the work. Any one who knows anything about the wages that tradesmen are paid to-day will realize the value of the labour that they have offered. Doubtless, many of those tradesmen could have worked overtime in their ordinary employment and have been paid for it. I hope it will not be stated that the services that those men will render are not as valuable as the donations that have been given by the people who were able to write out cheques. Moreover, surely there are persons, such as chartered accountants, who are willing to give of their time so that they may certify to the value of the time that has been devoted by the tradesmen to the work. Money is a very fine thing to have and to give, but surely the voluntary personal service that the men to whom I have referred, and countless others, are prepared to render ought to be regarded in the same light as the cash donations that are made by people who are unable to give of their labour.
If the Government were to recognize the efforts of those who give of their time and labour, it would encourage voluntary work, which is the finest manifestation of civic spirit there is. Such people would be encouraged, and be willing, to do something for others without any return other than the satisfaction that they derive from doing something to help less fortunate members of the community. I suggest to the Minister, and to officers of the Department of Social Services who may be listening to the debate, that it should be possible to arrive at a formula that could be supervised by public officers who are willing to be at least as generous in the giving of their time as are these labourers,- bricklayers and carpenters, or which could be supervised by men of high character and standing, such as chartered accountants, who would be able to certify to the value of the labour rendered, so that that effort may be subsidized in the same manner as the Government subsidizes donations by cheque.
It remains for me to say only that I wholeheartedly endorse the principle of this bill. I have only one fear - that the immediate demand for assistance, will exceed the limit of £1,500,000, and that applications will have to be carried over to another period. I commend to the Government the needs of aged married couples. They are the people who should be the first to receive help-. An inadequate allocation of funds should not be allowed to delay the granting of subsidies where they are needed. I congratulate the Government upon introducing the bill, and the Opposition upon its attitude to this measure, which is one of the most worth-while advances in social services that we have seen for some time.
Sitting suspended from. 5.J/6 to 8 p.m. [Quorum formed.]
– This is the first time in five years that my conscience has allowed me to congratulate the Government on any measure that it has introduced. Although I congratulate the Government,. I should like to state that this bill is ten years too late and provides for financial assistance that is £10,000,000 too little. Nothing has been done in. the last ten years by the Labour Government or by this Government to assist towards the provision of homes for aged persons. It was not until the policies of the Government and of the Opposition at the last general election were enunciated that any thought was given to the need of poor aged people for homes. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) has my sympathy. I realize that, he will do his best to do justice to aged people during the next twelve months, but he will have a hard job to do all that is necessary. Although the amount of £1,500,000 is too little to do all that is necessary, all of it will probably not be expended within the next twelve months, because the Government will pay a subsidy of only £1 for £1, and consequently any organization that proposes to build an aged people’s home will have to provide 50 per cent, of the capital cost. That is where the trouble will begin. Nevertheless, this measure is a start in the right direction. I trust that by next year the
Government will, have- convened a conference with the State governments and formulated a plan to take co-ordinated action with the States on the national, level to provide accommodation for elderly people.
Some of the money to be advanced will be expended in areas where there are organizations that wish to provide homes for the aged members of the community, but in districts where such organizations do not exist to sponsor the construction of homes, the aged people will continue to go without accommodation,, although the Government might be willing to subsidize the construction of the necessary homes. This Government should take co-ordinated action with the State governments to construct aged people’s homes throughout Australia, and especially in country areas, so that elderly citizens may be able to continue to live in the districts where they have spent their lives. Otherwise, they will drift to the cities where homes are available. I have seen the Eventide Homes in Queensland, which are of marvellous benefit to elderly people. But I understand that many more such establishments are needed. In New South Wales, also,, homes for aged persons are sadly lacking. In some country centres, such as Bathurst, homes that are ideal for the accommodation of aged people have been established, but many country areas have no such institutions.
An organization that desires to construct a home will have to pay 50 per cent, of the capital cost. It will be in a position somewhat similar to that of a man who wishes to buy a home and who must himself provide 50 per cent., 60 per cent, or 70 per cent, of the price as a deposit before he can obtain an advance. Church workers are willing to dedicate their lives to the care of aged people. This Government, not satisfied with that alone, demands that they must also collect enough money to pay 50 per cent, of the capital cost of the homes in which the aged people are accommodated. The Government should not insist on that requirement, and I trust that it will give the Minister plenty of latitude in dealing with applications for assistance. I have in mind particularly a home in Sydney in which. I am particularly interested, and for which I have worked for the last seven years. The church organization that conducts the home was formerly established in England, but was bombed out during “World War II. The members of the organization to which I refer worked for the national emergency services in England. After the war concluded they came to Australia, and took over the conduct of a home at the corner of Buckingham-street and Clevelandstreet, near Central Railway Station, in Sydney, at which they care for 105 aged people. Approximately 200 persons are on the hooks of the home awaiting admission. Doctors and many other people from time to time ask me to use my influence to get people into the home, but it is impossible because vacancies do not exist. The Minister should have discretion to give financial assistance towards the construction of homes of that type, especially in country areas, so that aged people who prefer to remain in the country in the districts where they have spent their lives may do so. I suggest to the Government that in the northern suburbs of Sydney - the so-called blue-blood areas - the citizens of which it is sometimes suggested have no care for pensioners and persons in need, church organizations and other bodies would be ready to care for aged people if buildings were provided for the purpose.
The Government, in effect, states that organizations that wish to accommodate elderly people must provide a total of £1,500,000 before it will advance £1,500,000 for the benefit of aged people. This Government has pegged the basic rate of pension over the last two years at £3 10s. That amount is not enough. Every church organization that I know of leaves with pensioners accommodated in its homes a proportion of the £3 10s for the purchase of tobacco and other necessaries and comforts. With the £2 or £2 10s. that those organizations take, they must provide food, clothing and accommodation. In those homes, some of the inmates are in good health, but others require hospital treatment. I suggest that provision should be made for aged persons who are in need of hospital attention, and the Minister should have discretion to advance money for the build- ing of homes in which such people might be cared for. The Government certainly is moving in the right direction, but it would do well to adopt the Australian Labour party’s policy. I suggest that it ought to enter into an arrangement with the State governments under which the Commonwealth and the State concerned would advance £1 each for every £1 provided by the organization that wishes to construct an aged people’s home. At present, you make it almost impossible for organizations without considerable financial resources to provide homes in which to accommodate elderly persons. You have pegged the basic pension rate at £3 10s. and you now intend to peg the amount of assistance to be given towards the construction of homes for aged people in such a manner as to prevent organizations that wish to care for those people from providing the necessary buildings.
– Order ! The honorable member should address the Chair.
– I am pointing out to the Government the impossible task that it has set organizations that wish to care for aged people. The honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond) stated that elderly persons could be cared for by voluntary labour alone. If the Government thinks that there are enough persons who prefer voluntary work on Saturday afternoons to the races, football matches and other diversions, it must think again. Financial assistance towards the provision of accommodation for aged people should be provided without any ties. An organization that is willing to do the work should be given the necessary money and allowed to get on with its good work. If the elderly members of the community are not accommodated by this means, they will have to be housed by some other means at far greater cost than is incurred by the church organizations which largely use voluntary labour to care for elderly persons and make them comfortable in their old age.
I ask you, Mr. Speaker, if you have any influence with the Government - and you should have - at least to advise it and to help the Minister to do something really tangible for elderly people who are seriously in need of accommodation. The sum of £1,500,000 is merely a drop in the ocean. If the amount is not increased next financial year to £10,000,000, aged people will suffer from a continuing lack of accommodation. Government supporters praise the Government for giving money to Asiatic countries. This Government, in peace-time, has expended £200,000,000 yearly on preparations for war, but it will not help the aged people whose efforts have made Australia the nation it is. I trust that this bill is merely a forerunner of greater things,, and that, before the next budget is brought down, the Commonwealth will confer with representatives of the State governments and, as the National Government, sponsor in every State a scheme to provide accommodation for aged people.
.- The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue) to-night, for the first time in his four and a half years as a member of this Parliament, congratulated the Government on one of its actions, f am sure that we are all very glad of his generosity. I think, too, it was the first speech in which he failed to mention me. I am grateful for that, too. His forebearance was appropriate to the spirit of this last night of sitting before we begin our Christmas recess. It is particularly appropriate that this wonderful measure to provide for assistance towards the provision of homes for aged persons should be one of the final bills passed by the Parliament before the Christmas recess, because it will bring great benefit to many hapless people who need help. The benefit will not become evident immediately, but it represents a fine Christmas box for many deserving Australians.
Although the honorable member for West Sydney congratulated the Government, he also made some extravagant statements. I am sure that all of us would like more money to be appropriated for the benefit of old people, because we know their need is great. But this is something new. The plan has just been initiated, and we have to find out how it will operate in practice. At any rate, the Government has made a beginning. The honorable member for West Sydney speaks so often about pensioners in this
House that some of us make jokes on the subject, but I pay him the compliment of saying that his heart is in the right place.
– That is a big concession.
– It is, but that, too, is a part of the Christmas spirit. This bill will blaze the trail for a fine new branch of our social services programme. As the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has said, it will inevitably develop a new type of social service which, in my opinion, is sadly needed, and it will greatly benefit many people who are unable to help themselves. The nature of the bill indicates the attitude of the Government to its responsibility to the unfortunate people in our community. Such legislation, of course, is not unusual when a government like the present administration is in office. Many Australians do not remember that much legislation of this type has been initiated by previous governments of the same political colour. Such governments were responsible for the introduction of invalid and age pensions, for the child endowment that so many families enjoy, for the great building society movement that thrives throughout Australia, and for the war service homes scheme. They have shown always that their aim is to blaze the trail towards a better civilization, and they have invariably taken a special interest in the welfare of old people. We are not yet giving old people as much as we should like to give them, but we are giving them more than any other government in history has given them.
I pay a compliment to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who initiated this legislation, and to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon), who, I know, will administer it as it should be administered, because he also has his heart in the right place. The bill will provide a sum of £1,500,000, to be paid in the form of subsidies on a £1 for £1 basis, for the construction of homes for aged people. I emphasize that the money will be given for that purpose. There is no thought of repayment. It will assist voluntary organizations which are providing homes for aged people to double the accommodation that they would otherwise be able to provide. Fundamentally, this scheme is designed to encourage the many splendid people who are engaged in unselfish charitable work for the needy members of our community. There are many of them, but even so their numbers are too few. Tens of thousands of Australians could well lend a helping hand. I refer particularly to the churches, whose auxiliary organizations have done most of this charitable work. Ex-servicemen’s organizations also will qualify for assistance.
The enactment of this legislation should encourage people to come forward and help such voluntary bodies. If they do so, future governments will doubtless increase the amount of the annual grant, and the problem of providing care and accommodation for old people will finally be solved. Up to the present, the only real encouragement that has been given to voluntary workers who have struggled to raise money for homes for the aged has been through the tax relief which is given to people who make donations for such purposes. The addition of straightout grants to qualified organizations should be of great help. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who spoke first for the Opposition in this debate, announced that the Opposition proposed to move an amendment at the committee stage so as to include in clause 3 a reference to the aged sick. All of us, of course, want to help the aged sick, but this bill has been designed to achieve a particular purpose and I deplore any effort to introduce an amendment merely for the sake of its human appeal.
Nothing would stir the heart of anybody more, of course, than a reference to the “ aged sick “. But let us not confuse the issue. “We should refrain from taking advantage of this splendid measure in order to try to win a. little political advantage by means of a catchcry. An amendment such as the honorable member for Parkes foreshadowed should not be proposed on this occasion. The purpose of the bill is broadly stated in clause 3, and, no doubt, people who may be described as “aged sick” will benefit under it, although they are not referred, to specifically. The clause refers to “ aged persons “, and the object of the bill is to encourage and assist the provision of suitable homes for such persons. “Why introduce a side issue at this stage? The discussion of the proposal in this debate has already given rise to certain misunderstandings. The proposed subsidy of £1,500,000 will be only a drop in the bucket. But the idea will grow, and, as the years pass, larger sums will doubtless be provided for the same purpose. Then, we can think of extending the scheme, if an extension should be found necessary in practice.
I emphasize the fact that the scheme is not intended in any way to take “the place of the work in connexion with hospitals which is now the responsibility of State governments. The suggestion that provision for people who are both old and sick has been deliberately omitted from the hill tends to create a false impression. The bill, I repeat, has a specific purpose, and we should not let the matter become confused by the introduction into the debate of side issues connected with other matters that are not the responsibility of this Government. I take my cue from the honorable member for West Sydney and the honorable member for Parkes when I say that it would be wrong to relieve the State governments of their responsibility to provide hospital services.
If we were to add millions of pounds to the proposed expenditure, and to widen the purposes of the bill so as to provide for hospital treatment, the only result would be to relieve State governments of certain responsibilities to which they aTe now committed, so that no greater benefit would accrue to the people whom we are trying to help. The Government has no intention of wasting money in that way. This proposal is entirely new. The object is to encourage and assist in the provision of homes where aged people may lead normal domestic lives. I do not wish to convey the idea that the money will be used to build cottages. The purpose is to assist the construction of large homes where, nevertheless, an elderly couple, two maiden sisters, or two widowed sisters, for example, may live out the rest of their lives in a normal domestic atmosphere. Such conditions are not available now to many people in the evening of their lives. But the idea of home is of great importance to them.
To everybody, I think, the word “ home “ means the attainment of peace.
What are we all striving for in this world, after all? Are we not striving to attain peace and tranquillity? The main purpose of the bill, therefore, is to bring peace of mind and comfort to some of our aged citizens, who may not have known for many years the joy of living in a homely atmosphere. One of the cruel features of our civilization is the neglect of old people. Such neglect is frequently due to thoughtlessness, of which younger people in all walks of life are guilty. There are thousands of lonely old people in Australia, and there is nothing more terrible than loneliness in old age. Therefore, anything that can be done to relieve the situation of such people will be a welcome innovation in our system of social .services. The people will always thank this Government for having introduced this scheme. Many old people have not had a chance throughout their lives. Probably, they have been obliged to struggle against adversity in bringing up their families and having fallen upon mischance are now unable to work out their problems for themselves. They will be helped under this scheme.
The responsibility rests upon civilization to take up this challenge. Every community owes a. particular debt to its old people and also to its very young. That is a responsibility which we should not, and cannot, avoid. Talk about success in life and about material progress is all very well, but if we forget the need to preserve the contentment, love and affection which is engendered in the home we shall make a fateful mistake. It is in recognition of that principle that the Government has introduced this bill. For the past three, or four, months the Parliament has been considering matters of great importance to the nation, including economic matters and foreign affairs, which, no doubt, are of vital importance. At the same time, we should realize that we shall not succeed as a nation if we are not prepared to accept the responsibility of assisting the old people who are unable to look after themselves.
– Tedious repetition.
– It may be; but what I have said cannot be said too often because many people in every community tend to forget these vital matters. As has rightly been said, this measure is only a start. I trust that as experience is gained in the best way of administering this scheme, the Government will provide more money for this purpose because, undoubtedly, it will be needed. However, I have no doubt that this Government, inspired as it always is to assist the needy, will be the first to do whatever it may be required to do in the interests of the old people so that they may find happiness in their declining years.
.- It is a wholesome thing that the Parliament should consider the problems of the aged and legislate for their welfare. From a welter of debate on a wide variety of matters, the Parliament has now turned its attention to the needs of the aged, the pioneers of this country. The introduction of this scheme will certainly, be a cause for tremendous joy and satisfaction to the community, particularly to the aged people themselves. It will also be eagerly welcomed by those in the community who do not merely give lip service in this matter but, at great sacrifice, work in the interests of the aged. They will be delighted at the fact that the Parliament is legislating to do something for the welfare of the pioneers of this nation by enabling them to live under conditions befitting those who made possible the conditions that we now enjoy. I am delighted to support the bill and I shall also support the amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). The object of that amendment is that special medical provision shall be made for chronic cases of ill-health among the aged. Every honorable member will agree that it is necessary, not only to provide suitable housing for the aged, but also to make special provision for aged persons whose health requires attention although their complaints may not be sufficiently serious to justify their being hospitalized.
I should be less than fail- if I did not say a word of thanks to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) who has introduced this measure. The Parliament accepts it and honorable members are delighted that it has been introduced. The aged people who will be enabled to live at a reasonable standard of comfort, free from the difficulties that now beset them, will thank the Parliament for giving consideration to their needs. After having dealt with a wide variety of subjects, for the most part related to finance and profits, the Parliament has now turned to a consideration of the needs of the aged. I ask honorable members generally to recall the history of this country and to contemplate the work that our pioneers have done since Governor Phillip arrived at Botany Bay 166 years ago. We think of the great physical development that has taken place since that time. We think of the crossing of the Blue Mountains and. the great mining development that took place in the early days. We recall how the pioneers penetrated into the heart of this continent. We remember too that many of them fought in defence of this country and kept Australia free. We think with pride and satisfaction of those who made our present-day conditions possible and enabled U3 to live in a period of relative prosperity. Having regard to those facts, we might pause to consider that from a magnificent national income of £3,700,000,000 the Parliament should be allocating only the sum of £1,500,000 for the purpose of housing the aged. Those in the community who engage in charitable works will be required to supplement that sum by raising a similar amount. The responsibility for making this scheme work will really rest upon that section of the community. In addition, the responsibility for maintaining these homes after they have been constructed will fall directly upon those charitable persons who will also be asked to accept the task of providing medical services and foodstuffs for the aged occupants of these homes and, generally, to attend to the needs of these people.
I join most heartily with those honorable members who have said that this form of assistance to the aged should be decentralized. I believe that the Minister will look fairly at this matter and ensure that these homes shall not be centralized in the capital cities and larger centres of population, but shall also be established throughout the country so that aged persons will be enabled to spend their declining years in the localities in which they have lived for the greater part of their lives among their relatives and friends and comforted by thoughts of their boyhood and girlhood. It is important that the aged persons should be enabled to live under such conditions. I agree with the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) that it is terrible and ghastly to think of the aged without friends and with nobody to care for them, living alone in a world that has gone ahead of them and which concerns itself with the development of atomic energy, the attainment of flight faster than sound and with all the inventions that occupy the mind of the average person to-day. At the same time, those who pioneered the country are left with their memories of days which, perhaps, were more stabilized and during which, perhaps, life was more honorable and more decent. The aged must be enabled to live under decent conditions in the communities to which they belong. There are many reasons why that situation should be made possible.
The families of aged persons have a great responsibility in this matter. It is not wholly the responsibility of the State. Those families should accept this responsibility and do everything in their power to keep father and mother together. The family that fails to do that will do something that is anti-Christian and anti-social, and will fail to do something which even the primitive aborigines would not fail to do. The Australian aborigines under their tribal’ code care for their aged and assist them in their last days. Therefore, the families of the aged have a responsibility in this matter. We are aware also of the kindly hearted people in the community who are engaged in charitable work and are ever ready to look after those who are unable to look after themselves. Upon those people will fall the responsibility of building up organizations either through local government authorities, or through the churches, to match £1 for £1 the money that is being made available by the Government for this purpose. That will be a community effort.
I have no doubt at all that the people as a whole, although they may be finding it difficult to live in tho face of rising costs and raging inflation, will honour that responsibility. The churches, at present, are carrying an almost unbearable burden in their endeavours to maintain their organizations. Priests and pastors, brothers and nuns are playing an important part in the development of this country in keeping their charitable organizations going. We hear much in this chamber about the horrors that prevail under totalitarian regimes, and the fact is emphasized that we strive for a better way of life and that we are not pagans but God-loving and God-fearing people. Upon the churches, in the main, will fall the responsibility of matching fi for £1 the money that is provided by the Government for the building of homes for the aged. Those organizations will also have the responsibility of maintaining those homes and caring for the aged. For those reasons, I wholeheartedly support the foreshadowed amendment of the honorable member for Parkes. As I have said, the amendment seeks to provide special medical attention to aged persons in chronic ill-health whose complaint, however, would not justify their being hospitalized. I trust that as this measure is just the beginning of this scheme and is blazing the track as it were, the Government will give further consideration to that request. It must not allow the matter to rest where it is.
Clearly, the sum of £1,500,000 to be provided for this purpose under this measure will not be adequate other than to match finance that will be raised by Christian and patriotic members of the community who are prepared to co-operate with the Government in this matter. One organization in my electorate has raised over £S0,000 for this purpose and has been awaiting the Government’s decision. Organizations in every district have been waiting for the Government to introduce a measure of this kind. I trust that when the bill becomes law and the demand for these facilities is made known, the Government will not restrict this form of assistance, but will give every aid to those who want to help aged persons who have been left without relatives and friends and are practically unwanted in society. Those people have served this country so well and, consequently, this is a responsibility, not of the State governments, but of the Australian Government. It is idle to contend that this is a State matter simply because the States are responsible for hospitalization. Aged people should not be abandoned to live in shabby conditions under which many of them have lived in the past. . Only in to-day’s press it is reported that a person on a chance visit looked into a tent and found the corpses of two aged persons who had died as a result of neglect. They had been dead for some time. People whom I have known, have died in similar circumstances, and others, because of their feebleness, have allowed candles or lamps to fall, which have set their humpies on fire and burnt the occupants to death in the general conflagration. All that has happened because those old people had no one to help or care for them. Adequate assistance to those people cannot be measured in pounds, shillings and pence. It must be measured in human kindliness and feeling for one another. In this day and age it would be a tragedy for us, and Australia would be regarded as a backward nation if we failed to realize the full significance of the plight of many elderly people and did not act along the lines laid down in this measure.
After the bill becomes law I know that the officers who will have charge of the matter will deal with it in a sympathetic way, and I sincerely trust that there will be no delay in giving full effect to its provisions. It is urgently necessary to build homes for aged people, and I suggest that immediately various groups and organizations have made out satisfactory cases, money should be made available to them to enable them to provide as many homes as possible as quickly as possible. I have addressed myself only briefly to the matter, but I know that the nation appreciates this progressive measure that has been introduced by the Minister. I know that he will be remembered and respected for pioneering such a progressive piece of legislation, but I plead with him to give very favorable consideration to the proposal of the honorable member for Parkes to extend the measure to embrace persons suffering from chronic illnesses. I ask the Minister on my own behalf, and on behalf of a great number of pensioners, to ensure that as soon as possible the Government will match £1 for £1 the money raised by local groups for expenditure on homes for the aged.
.- It is very gratifying to note that the Opposition is supporting this bill, which will provide funds to enable homes to be built for aged persons. This measure is a social services measure in its widest sense. There are all sorts of theories about social services, and some of them Lave been put forward in the House to-day to show that there are different methods of reaching the same objectives. We believe that the true Liberal objective is to foster the family unit as the basis of society. It has always been the true British custom to give the citizen and his family as much freedom as possible in his home, his work and his social life. Therefore, it has been interesting to see honorable members opposite, led by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), jumping on this very popular band wagon. The freedom of life that I mentioned is in some ways contrary to the objectives that honorable members opposite have expressed for a number of years. All too frequently they have asked people to rely on the welfare State, and have promised, in accordance with their socialist philosophy, that they will look after the people from the cradle to tho grave. Quorum formed]* I am quite aware that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who has just called attention to> the state of the House, does not like what I am saying about the socialist objectives of the Labour party. The Australian socialists have promised that, they will look after the people from the cradle, to- the grave, but I suggest that nothing would more easily destroy our moral fibre, initiative and national character. The socialists want us to wait like animals- in our cages; for the State keeper to come round and feed us. However, the welfare of the, citizens is one of the first duties of any government, and, during the past decade, there has been a realization among the thinking people of the community that we have a responsibility to- those who are growing older and those who are unable properly to look after themselves. As a consequence of that state of mind, the. Government has stepped in and considerably widened the avenues of governmental assistance to the people. Through the measure at present before the House, the Government is now adopting a new approach to our social welfare scheme.’ The Government now proposes to subsidize on a £1 for £1 basis the money raised by groups in the community to provide homes for elderly people. But, following the true Liberal philosophy, the Government is providing some money while expecting independent groups in the community also to provide money.
As the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) said previously to-day, this measure lays the basis for much greater progress in social services. Although honorable members opposite have supported the bill in a general way, they have forecast that the Opposition will move an amendment to widen the scope of the proposal. It has been stated that the Opposition will seek to amend the bill to provide for chronically ill people. In that regard I support the argument of the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer), who suggested that we should not confuse the issue before us. The bill sets out to do one thing only and that is to assist those who are at present providing homes for tie aged. After this measure has been disposed of, it will be a matter for further consideration whether we can give some assistance to the chronically ‘ ill. But do- not let us confuse the issue, because the provision of homes for aged’ persons is a most necessary service, and it is dealt with clearly and definitely in the bill at present before us. Even now, before the measure has become law, the Government has received applications from organizations for assistance which, if granted, will perhaps use up the amount of money that is to be made available. Consequently, it is apparent that there is a great need for homes for the aged, and we should therefore concentrate on this measure and not allow the issues to be confused.
The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) maintained that it was idle to say that the States were responsible for hospitalization. It is certainly not idle to say so, because the fact is that except to the degree provided for in. the Constitution, hospitalization is quite definitely a State responsibility. The Commonwealth is the tax-gatherer of this country and it raises money under the authority of the Australian Loan Council, hut one of the functions of the States is to spend some of that money on hospitalization. Therefore it would not be for the good of the people if we were to relieve the States of that responsibility. Of course the States could voluntarily forego their rights and privileges and make hospitalization a Commonwealth matter, but they have never shown any desire to do so. Indeed, it is very hard to persuade them to take back their taxing powers. The States have received all the loan money that they have required for their various undertakings, but they have not been able to spend all the money they have received. At the end of the financial year before last the States had £6,000,000 of such loan moneys left over, and last year they could not spend £3,000,000 of the money supplied by the Commonwealth. Therefore, although the address of the honorable member for Macquarie was quite interesting, he was not right when he said that the States are not fully able to assume responsibility for hospitalization.
This measure stresses that aged couples should not be parted, and consequently it will . make a great contribution to the social welfare of the nation. I believe that one could say that the measure is co-operative, and gives social services while preserving the freedom of the individual. This is a bill to deal with human values and human relationships; but while we are considering the needs of married couples, let us not forget the aged widowers, spinsters and bachelors. I hope that when consideration is beinggiven to various applications by organizations, the Minister and the Department of Social Services will also consider giving monetary assistance to those organizations which are providing homes for aged single persons. I believe that such persons are the really essentially lonely people of the community. I am glad that the bill will provide money for the provision of “ homes “ for aged people, and not institutions. The word “ institution “ has a cold and lonely sound about it, and has become associated with a certain amount of regimentation and discipline. The Government apparently has no desire to set up institutions, because, according to the bill, it will not interfere in any way with the organizations that are at present providing homes for the aged. The Government will provide the money, and the organizations will carry on the good work. Those matters explain why this bill excites the interest and sympathy of honorable members. I should like to mention to the House that my colleague and friend, the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler), desired to speak on this bill. He and I have talked about :’t a good deal, and I know that he shares my views on this matter. I point out that he cannot be here to speak on the measure, because he is representing the Government at Remembrance Day celebrations.
One matter that I wish to bring to the attention of the Minister is in relation to clause 5 (2.), which reads as follows : -
A trustee or trustees under a trust established for charitable or benevolent purposes shall, if the Governor-General so approves, be deemed to be an organization referred to in the last preceding sub-section.
There is a particular case, of which 1 have some knowledge, that I desire to mention in this connexion. A sum of money has been left to an organization which has been considered suitable, within the definition of the will, to provide homes for the aged. At present, it seems that the agent for setting up a trust will be the shire in which this home is to be established. However, I find that clause 5 (3.) provides as follows: -
An organization conducted or controlled by, or by persons appointed by, the Government of the Commonwealth or of a State or a local governing body established under the law of a State, is not eligible for assistance under this Act.
In the case which I have in mind, “the shire will only be the agent or channel through which the money left by the will, will pass. The shire will set up its own committee, or trustees, to build and manage the homes. The committee is to consist of one or two representatives of the shire, and representatives of various local organizations, both men’s and women’s groups, for example, the president of the Country Women’s Association and the president of the Old Age and Invalid Pensioners Association. This committee will be appointed for the specific purpose of providing homes for aged persons. I hope that it “will come within the scope of clause 5 (2.) and will not be debarred by the next sub-clause, because the channel through which the money will come to the committee happens to be a shire council.
I join with honorable members on both sides of the House who have congratulated the Government and the Minister on their vision in this matter. I also express my thanks to the officers of the department for the assistance which they have given in making available to this country such a humane measure.
– This very important and desirable piece of legislation provides a happy note upon which the Parliament should finish its labours before going into recess for Christmas. Everybody in the House supports the general principles of this legislation. Most of the ground has already been covered by previous speakers, and there is not a great deal more that can be said of the matter.
Up to date, we, as a Commonwealth, in our social services legislation, have accepted the principle that the people as a whole should make some contribution to the happiness, contentment and wellbeing of the aged people in the community. We have made that contribution by means of our general social services legislation in the way of pensions, medical benefits and so on. But I believe we all recognize the further principle that, in this matter, as in life generally, it is not merely a matter of money. This vexed question of money, which causes all of us a certain amount of concern at times, is something which we must have if we are to meet at least our minimum requirements to enable us to live; but we all have had enough experience of life to realize that money alone cannot purchase happiness. Indeed, it is a wellaccepted fact that, in many cases, too much money can be detrimental to the attainment of happiness. It is essential that the minimum requirements of our aged people, in the monetary sense, shall be met. We consider that people who have to rely entirely upon the base rate pension for their livelihood, because they have no other income, are not receiving, sufficient to enable them to maintain those minimum standards. But I think this bill recognizes the principle, to which I certainly subscribe, that merely to increase the pension, and merely to look at this matter from the economic or financial point of view, will not solve the problem. There are other matters in respect of the welfare, happiness and well-being of our aged people that need attention.
I believe that many elderly people,, assuming that the basic financial requirements are satisfied, regard the provision of adequate housing facilities at a nominal rent as the greatest necessity in their lives, to make them really happy. Some people in receipt of a pension areadequately housed. They own their houses. But quite a number of other people live under deplorable conditionsAll honorable members have had experience, in the course of their duties, of assisting the aged people with theirproblems. In my experience, this section consists mostly of elderly ladies - widows or unmarried ladies - some of whom have no relatives to help them - and some of whom, unfortunately, seem to have been forgotten by their relatives. Many of them struggle along as best they can. They pay high rents - as much as 30s. a week and even more - out of their small pensions. Sometimes they are unable to care for themselves adequately, and are unable to cook for themselves. They experience great difficulty with such simple little problems as obtaining firewood, because of the economic burden of it, or, if the firewood is obtained, they are not able to have it chopped, and prepared for the fire. That is a very simple little matter which we would not give a thought to ourselves, but for elderly women who spend a lot of time in their rooms, the provision and preparation of that fuel sets quite a problem, which causes them a lot of hardship and distress.
Religious bodies of all denominations and charitable institutions have played a great part in meeting the emergencies which come into the lives of many of our elderly people, and I should like to add my tribute to those paid by other honorable members to the fine work that tho various religious bodies have done in providing for the welfare of the aged people.
A good deal of experience has been gained in recent years in this country, and in other countries, of the type of housing which is most suitable for the needs of our elderly citizens. Two general types of housing seem best to fit their needs. In some cases, small independent cottages in little groups, each one completely self-contained, with a little garden., are considered most satisfactory. That type of accommodation has been provided mainly by religious bodies and charitable organizations. In other cases, larger blocks of buildings are established, in which flatettes with bed-sitting rooms are provided. Communal facilities, such as dining-rooms and recreation rooms, serve quite a desirable purpose. It is an undoubted fact that among the peculiar problems which face many old people are the sense of loneliness, the sense of being left on their own, and the sense of frustration. These problems are met, to some degree, in these particular types of homes, where there are communal recreation rooms. A further basic fact which definitely should apply, and does apply in the case of homes which are conducted by religious organizations, is that the payment to be made by the aged persons should be a very moderate or even a nominal amount. Those seem to me to be the general principles upon which this problem of homes for the aged have been tackled, and it is along those lines that I think development will take place in the future.
The Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) has made an important point clear in his second-reading speech, and that is that the Government does not propose to interfere in any way with the internal workings of the religious and charitable bodies which will be the main beneficiaries under this legislation. It is for those bodies to carry on the work in the manner in which they, from their knowledge and experience, think fit. The Government does not propose to interfere, or tell them how to conduct their business. It proposes to make this financial assistance in the form of a subsidy on a £1 for £1 basis to enable the religious bodies and charitable organizations to expand their activities.
I, personally, am pleased that the Government has chosen this form of assistance to help .to solve this very important problem so that this country may be able adequately to meet its obligations to its elderly citizens. Some people have suggested that governmental assistance should be provided in the form of governmental homes, and that the Government should actually build and conduct such homes as government concerns. I could not support a proposal of that kind. It is very doubtful whether the constitutional power resides in the Commonwealth to provide such a form of assistance, but quite apart from that fact I feel that it is much preferable, and much more desirable for the assistance from the Government to proceed in the maimer proposed in the bill, to help the established institutions, most of which are the religious and charitable bodies conducted by various denominations, to increase their activities.
When we examine the bill, we realize that this legislation breaks entirely new ground. This is something that has never been done before in this country, and, as such, the legislations is necessarily of an experimental nature. We shall learn much as the scheme progresses. One honorable member who spoke earlier in the debate said that he regarded this bill as the most significant piece of legislation in the social services sphere that has been introduced in this generation. I think that view is taking the matter too far, but I feel that if this scheme develops in the manner and to the extent that most of us hope and feel it will, it certainly will become a very important piece of legislation in the social services set-up of Australia. This bill is breaking new ground, and there will be a certain amount of trial and error as the scheme proceeds. The scheme will undoubtedly develop quickly, and I hope and expect this problem to be tackled effectively in the near future.
I do not take exception to the fact that the amount of money to be provided under the bill is limited to £1,500,000. Some honorable members say that the sum is not enough, but I consider that it is a reasonable start. That amount of money is provided for the rest of this financial year, and. it is a reasonable start for legislation that is entirely new. We shall be able to see how the scheme works out, and where we go from here in the next financial year. However, .1 feel that clause 9 places an unnecessary restriction on the payment of moneys. It provides that the maximum liability that the Commonwealth may incur shall be onehalf of the capital cost of the home being subsidized. Up to that limit, the Commonwealth will match only moneys that the institution or charitable body has spent on the project, or money that it actually has in hand. That means- that there is specific provision that the Commonwealth will not match moneys that the institution: intends to borrow. The result is that, if a religious or other charitable body proposes to erect a home, or a series of homes, costing, say £100,000, the maximum amount that the Commonwealth would contribute towards the capital cost would be £50,000. If that body were to- raise only £30,000 in cash, ‘ and if it proposed to borrow the remaining £2-0,000, the Commonwealth would subsidize only the amount of money in band. In other words, it would subsidize the £30- 000, but it would not match the. £20,000 that the institution proposed toborrow.
That limitation on the scope of the legislation dictated, doubtless, by financial prudence^ narrows the good work that will be done, because the Minister stated, and- it is expressly set out in the bill’, that recognized religious and charitable bodies will be the main beneficiaries. Ry reason of their very nature^ those bodies have to battle hard to get their money. They are obliged to- raise it by public subscription. The general method by which they finance their very desirable and worthwhile projects is to- obtain bank accommodation and assistance by way of overdrafts and loans. If these institutions that are carrying out the desirable and necessary work envisaged by the bill raise money themselves,, and if, in addition, they borrow money, the Commonwealthshould be willing to subsidize, on a £1 for £1 basis, the full amount that they are prepared to- invest in the project. Et is a minor1 machinery matter, but it is one that the Minister should re-examine so that the legislation may operate in. as wide, and as beneficial, a manner aspossible.
I suggest also’ that the Minister,, when working- out the details’ of the scheme should re-examine clause. 2, which defines the capital cost of. a home. It is proposed, that the Commonwealth, shall pay up to one-half of the capital cost, of the home, but, for some reason, that I confess. I do not understand, the capital cost is defined, in the case of a. home that is being erected,, as the. cost of erecting it, including the cost of necessary fixtures in the home,, but not including the cost or value of any land. That seems to-be an unduly restrictive and narrow definition. I cannot see’ any reason why such a. restriction should be imposed. Surely it is common practice, and common sense, to assume that, in the case of a home that is bought by a private person, or i:i the case of a series of homes or a large block of buildings, including a number of flatettes, for the aged, the capital cost is the cost of the land,, plus the cost of the building, and plus the cost of the fixtures. I suggest that, when the details of this scheme are being ironed out later, the Government should remove that restriction.
The only other machinery matter to. which I direct attention is that which is covered by the amendment that has been, foreshadowed by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). I think most, honorable members will agree that: the most pressing need is for the provision of: some form of hospitalization for aged people whose health has broken down,, and’ who are. not able to care for themselves, and have, nobody else to care for them. Unfortunately, public hospitals, generally speaking, are not willing toadmit such people, and it is only in thespecialized institutions, most of which, are conducted by religious organizations thatcare for aged persons, that there is any prospect of obtaining a bed. There is an alarming shortage of beds for aged persons who are ill. It seems to me that for the Commonwealth to provide money for the establishment of homes for aged persons who> are in good health when> the need of those who are ill is greater1 is to make a narrow approach to the question. I suggest that, as the scheme develops, and as we learn more about it, a greater proportion of the money should be devoted to the provision of assistance for aged people who are ill.
There are,, of course, some machinery difficulties associated with that aspect of the matter. The question of the jurisdiction of the Department of Social Services on the one hand, and of the Department of Health on the other, arises. The Department of Health administers the payment of hospital benefits and, in the case of institutions that are caring for elderly persons in particular, the Department of Health would be paying hospital benefit. In other words, it would be making a contribution towards the cost of maintenance.. It is proposed now that the Government shall make a contribution towards the capital cost of homes, but that it shall not make a contribution in the case of institutions that are caring for aged persons who are ill. Perhaps that restriction arises from the fact that both departments would be involved. At times I find it difficult to justify, in my own mind, the existence of the Department of Health. After all, health administration, in its broadest aspects, is not. a function of the Commonwealth. It is a function of the States. The Commonwealth Department of Health, carries out some important functions, but it is continually impinging upon the activities and functions of the Department of Social Services. The power of the Commonwealth Department of Health to engage in most of its activities is derived from the constitutional power of the Commonwealth to provide social services. I think it is desirable that most of the functions of the Department of Health should be brought under the jurisdiction of the Department of Social Services. To do so would prevent a lot of overlapping, and probably it would eliminate what I think is the reason for the restriction to which I have referred.
I have put forward these objections to the bill, not as being fundamental, but as matters that should be considered as the scheme develops. The bill is a good bill. It establishes an entirely new and novel principle in this country. It recognizes that the Commonwealth has an obligation to help our elderly people, the pioneers of this country, to obtain adequate housing, and it clearly implies that those adequate housing facilities should be provided at reasonable cost. In its broad and general principles, the bill is very, very sound, and I hope that, if the Minister is not willing to accept the amendment that has been foreshadowed, he and his departmental officers will give thought to these matters I have raised, as the scheme develops.
As I stated earlier, perhaps the most important direction in which the Commonwealth may assist the aged would be to ensure that the alarming and growing shortage of accommodation for the aged sick is overcome. In Melbourne - and I imagine that the position is the same in other cities - it is almost impossible to have an aged person who is ill admitted to a suitable institution or hospital so’ that he may receive adequate medical and nursing attention. It is a really pressing problem. Although the bill does not cover that position, I suggest that the Minister should give serious thought to it, and that, later, the Commonwealth should contribute financial assistance, not merely by providing finance for homes for aged persons who are well, but also by financing proper accommodation for aged persons who are not well. I think that this measure will go down in history as being a worthwhile and desirable piece of legislation and that we should regard it, not as being final in itself, but as a step forward towards bigger things and towards a. greater recognition of our responsibility to the aged persons of this country.
.- With very great respect to those honorable members who may express the opposite point of view, let me state that, in my opinion, it is unfortunate that this very great piece of social legislation should have been introduced at the end of this sessional period. There is some haste for the House to rise. I have been absent for some considerable time, and I have no cause to take any exception to that, but, because of the- importance of this measure, and because of the haste to which I referred, I fear that some honorable members will be deprived of the opportunity of expressing their personal satisfaction at the introduction of it, and of seizing the opportunity to emphasize its salient features and its great advantages to the social scheme in general.
I listened with very great interest to the remarks of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. “W. M. Bourke), who always makes a valuable contribution to debates, and I agree very largely with his statements. I have no doubt that there are other honorable members opposite who share his views, and I know that every member of the Australian Country party would like to have the opportunity of expressing his own personal satisfaction at the fact that the Government, at last, has brought down a measure of this description to serve such a splendid purpose. I should like to offer my sincere congratulations to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) upon the tenor of his second-reading speech. I have listened to a great number of speeches in this chamber covering a great number of important bills, some of which have dealt with social services benefits in. general terms, and some in particular terms, but I do not think that I have ever listened to a speech that has been pervaded by a similar degree of compassion and understanding, or by a greater sense of proper social justice, than the speech of the Minister when he introduced this measure. He stated that the purpose of the bill was to set up machinery so that the Commonwealth may make grants to recognized charitable bodies and institutions to assist them in the provision of homes for aged persons. Every honorable member will agree that that is a very laudable purpose, that it is something that needed to be done, and that it needed to be done urgently.
The Government is to be congratulated on taking the decisive action that it has taken. I congratulate the Minister, also, on the introduction of this very important bill. The sum of £1,500,000 has already been appropriated in the budget for the current financial year to meet expenditure and grants towards the provision of homes for aged persons. The question of the inadequacy of that amount does not necessarily arise. The cold fact remains that it is £1,500,000 more than has ever been provided before for this purpose by an Australian government in the 53 years since federation. That provision is a gigantic step forward. I support the other honorable members who have expressed the view that the expenditure of £1,500,000 must help considerably towards the solution, of the vexed problem of accommodating aged people. As the effect of that expenditure comes to be appreciated throughout the community, the responsibility to increase the appropriation will surely be recognized and accepted generally. No previous administration has had the same kind of social conscience that this Government has. No other government has attempted to introduce a measure of the social significance of this bill. The Minister stated that it breaks new ground. That was an apt statement of the position.
The attitude of Australians to aged people has always depressed me, so that I often wonder where our social standards have gone in the last few years. There was a time when aged people were respected throughout the Australian community, and retained- their personal identity and respect, but in the last few years their position has greatly changed. [Quorum formed.] There was no need for the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) to call for a quorum. I should not have detained the House much longer. I wish merely to express my appreciation of the introduction of this bill and my hope that it will be unanimously passed by the House. I had reached the point of saying that the attitude of Australians to aged persons has always depressed me. Indeed, Australians have what might be described as a Goneril attitude to aged people. I remind the House of that wretched old man, King Lear, who, having divided his kingdom into three parts - in contrast, most of our aged people have no kingdom to divide - sought to ascertain the affection in which he was held by his three daughters. He asked them to indicate in some way the measure of their love. You, Mr. Speaker, will recall that that termagant of a woman, Goneril, expressed herself in these terms -
Sir, I love you more than word can wield the matter,
Dearer than eye-sight, space and liberty;
Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare;
No less than life, with grace, health, beauty, honour :
As muchas child e’er lov’d, or father found.
A love that makes breath poor, and speech unable;
Beyond all manner of so much I love you.
The sentiments of that senseless woman have sometimes been expressed in precisely the same way by our young people in the expression of their attitude towards the aged members of the community. There was a time when our aged people occupied a unique place in the community, and I hope that this bill, if it does nothing else, will restore them to that rightful place.
The greatest thing that our aged people can have, altogether apart from good health, is personal dignity. During the last generation, I have watched a general depreciation in the personal dignity of our aged people. I have watched grow old men and women who have served the community faithfully and well, and have toiled and slaved to improve the positions, in the first place, of their own families, and in the second place, of the community. Because of a great many of our senseless industrial laws, they have been thrown on the scrapheap, women at the age of 60 years and men at the age of 65 years. Those people have been taught to believe that at those ages they have reached the end of their lives, that they cannot expect to retain their rightful place in the community, and that they are an obstruction to the younger members of the community whom they keep out of their rightful places in society and in the hearts and minds of others. We have watched, in recent years, the gradual approach of this dreadful state of affairs and the disappearance of the respect and affection that should rightfully belong to our aged people.
As my electorate would indicate, I am a country man. I represent a rural constituency. Country citizens have a greater regard for aged persons than have people in the urban communities. I know that the old men and women of the
Riverina electorate would much rather live in the Riverina, under any conditions, than be moved elsewhere. I have seen men and women who have reached the age at which they can no longer obtain gainful employment, establish humpies on common ground at public watering places near villages where their friends live. They occupy those humpies with much personal satisfaction and retain their personal dignity and stature in the community. They hold the personal respect that they have always enjoyed. The old men are still addressed in the village by the title of Mr. and the elderly ladies continue to receive the respect that rightfully belongs to the ladies. As a consequence, nothing would drive those people away from the country villages where they have lived. That is an excellent thing. It is nothing short of criminal folly to move people who are above a certain age from a town where they have had long and pleasurable associations to institutions in far-distant metropolitan areas.
I think the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who led for the Opposition in this debate, was the first honorable member to make reference to the welfare state. I hope that the time will never come when our aged people shall be left to the mercy of the welfare state. I can conceive of nothing more terrible than the spectacle of the aged being marched into great, gaunt institutions in the centres where the population is most concentrated, to be tended by uniformed attendants. That is the conception of their duty to the aged people that is held by the servants of the welfare state. This bill is certainly necessary in order that the work that has been done so competently and so well, though within strict financial limits, by the churches and other welfare organizations, may be continued. It provides for the extension of that work. I wonder what would have happened in our community if the churches and other charitable - I make no apology for using that word - organizations had not undertaken those onerous responsibilities. Where should we be to-day without our churches and charitable institutions? Unfortunately, it has now become fashionableto hold the churches and religious institutions generally up to violent -criticism and derision, and to hold out to destruction conventional society, as conventional society is known to those institutions. It will be comparatively easy for a generation that was born into conventional society, and enjoyed Christianity as we knew it when we were young, to retreat back into Christianity and enjoy its standards as we knew them when we were children. But our children will not be able to do that so easily, and therefore we should recognize the very great work that the churches have always done for the aged and the infirm, for whom they have worked industriously.
I am very proud that this Government has been the first in Australia’s political history to assist the churches in their valiant work for elderly people. Our aged people are really our important people. Our attitude towards them in recent years has “been entirely wrong, and it should be changed forthwith. I believe that life can “begin at 60 or ‘65, and that there are no limits to what a person can do so long as he has the requisite health and strength. I have recently had the opportunity to visit other countries, and the most profound impression gained in my travels relates to this very subject. In the United Kingdom I met again men .and women whom I had not .seen since I was a boy. Some of them are now 80 or 90 years of age, and still hold the important place in the -community that they occupied when I was a child. And they deserve to hold it. They are still honoured in their own homes and retain the respect of the community in which they live. Their families pay them respect with a regularity that is indeed touching in the eyes of a stranger from a country such as Australia in which one does not have that delightful experience with any degree of regularity.
During my travels I saw all sorts of artistic and cultural organizations, and a great leavening of the aged was in every one of them. I listened to orchestras, and the average age of the musicians was over 55 years. The aged were still playing in the orchestras. I listened to .some of the finest choirs in the world, and the average age >of the singers was about 50 years. Again the aged were .still playing their part. I saw pictures painted by aged people. I read books written by aged people. I have seen work of every description done by aged people, and so I say it is a delusion to imagine that, because pensions are provided for women when they are 60, and for men when they are 65, that represents the end of their lives. It ought to be the beginning of their leisure. Limitless opportunities are available to each .one of them to live splendid lives right to the very end.
I want to end my speech by referring again .to the excellence of the Minister’s speech, and, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, I shall quote a few .sentences from it. He said, for instance -
Tie Commonwealth is anxious “to provide leadership an .assisting to find a solution of what is a delicate human problem - the care and companionship of aged people.
That, coming from a comparatively young man, and a bachelor - if I may be permitted to reveal the fact - surely demonstrates just what kind of a man he is, and I am very glad that he had the opportunity to introduce this “bill. Later in his speech, he said so succinctly -
We should be wrong if we thought that elderly people are concerned only with income-
That is a delusion that has “been shared by too many Australians for too long - and that .an increase in ^pension .will cure all the troubles of the aged
There are thousands of people who believe that. “He went on -
Income is not ‘the only problem, Loneliness boredom, and the sense of not being wanted are .also’ ‘among the problems of old people.
In my opinion, they are the greatest problems of -all. “We cannot .discharge our responsibilities to the aged with £1 notes any more than Goner.il could discharge her responsibilities to her father with senseless words. We have to try to restore our old people to the sanctity of their own homes and give them the respect that is their due. I know that what I have said is not easy for those who share the opposite view to take. Their idea of helping the aged could be summarized in .this way : “ Give them £5 a week. Give them the basic wage. To hell with them as long as we give them enough “. That would not discharge a single responsibility. I make one final quotation from the Minister’s speech -
All of us would like older people to be able to remain contentedly in their own homes, and to have the feeling of independence. The family remains the most important unit in our society and the stronger the family unit with its mutual ties of love, companionship and care, the stronger will be our nation and our Commonwealth.
These are sentiments that honorable members of the Australian Country party share absolutely.
.- After paying a visit to the aged people of Europe with the aged member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton), I think it might be a good idea, Mr. Speaker, if we returned to the bill. I acknowledge, of course, that the honorable member kept to the bill at least when he read passages from the second-reading speech by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon), but that was his only contribution to the debate that was of any value to the House. I assure you, Mr. Speaker, that, unlike the honorable member for Riverina, I shall not endeavour to recite poetry during the short time for which I shall address myself to this measure. However, before I discuss the bill, I must refer to one statement by the honorable member. He spoke of his hatred of the welfare state and expressed the hope that he would never see a welfare state in this country. But, at the same time as he mouthed those sentiments, he gave his support to the bill and congratulated the Minister for introducing) it, and it is another step towards the welfare state. I welcome it because it is a step towards the welfare state. I remind the honorable member for Riverina that an earlier step taken towards the welfare state was the introduction of the age pension. This bill represents only a very hesitant step in the same direction, unfortunately. The idea behind it is very laudable, and I should like to congratulate the Government as other honorable members have done, but I am unable to do so because, although I frankly admit that the introduction of the measure is a step in the right direction, I regret that the Government has been so nervous and hesitant in its approach to the matter.
The plight of the aged poor of this community in relation to housing is worse to-day than it has been for many years, and that is due very largely to the fact that we are somewhere near the top of an inflationary spiral. Living costs have increased to such an enormous degree that the improvements that we have made since the pre-war years in the provision that we make for the aged have not kept pace with the spiral. Although this Government is providing the highest weekly rate of age pension that has been paid in the history of the Commonwealth, the maximum pension of £3 10s. a week, does not provide as much comfort for the aged as did the pension of £1 10s. a week fifteen years or so ago. Certainly it is not providing as much sustenance or comfort as did the pension of £2 2s. 6d. which was provided by the Chifley Government in 1948. The unfortunate truth is that, although the present pension is the highest in our history, in terms of money, its actual value is very small.
– Order ! The honorable member said that he was going to stick to the bill, but he has not done so.
– I am coming to the point, Mr. Speaker. The value of the pension is so low that aged people are finding it hard to obtain living accommodation. That is why it is necessary for the Government to make a gesture, at any rate, towards providing housing for them. Aged people were able to rent a room for 5s. or 7s. 6d. a week fifteen years ago, but to-day they must pay £1 5s., £1 10s., or £1 15s. a week for a room. They just cannot afford to pay such, amounts for accommodation, and something must be done for them. Therefore, I welcome the first step that the Government has taken in this direction. As I have said, it is a hesitant, nervous, and very short step.
– It is just a shuffle.
– Yes, but at least it is a movement in the right direction.
The first point to be noted is that the bill provides for the appropriation of £1,500,000 for assistance towards the cost of housing the aged poor of the community. But this is governed by the proviso that religious institutions, charitable institutions, organizations of former members of the defence forces, or organizations approved by the Governor-General must also provide £1,500,000 towards the purchase of the necessary homes. Unless those organizations come to light with that amount, the bill will be meaningless. It will not serve to provide even one home for an aged person unless such an organization provides half the cost of that home. Even iSO, I welcome the measure as the first hesitant step towards the proper care of the aged poor.
– It is a pittance.
– Yes, but at least it is something, and I hope it will be improved upon. The provision of £1,500,000 to assist the provision of housing for the aged on a £1 for £1 basis sounds all right, but we find, when we examine the bill, that the scheme is hedged around to such a great degree that it will be exceptionally hard for religious or charitable organizations to take full advantage of it. I do not want to repeat unnecessarily anything that has been said before, but I wish to enlarge on some of the statements of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke), who pointed out some of the apparent weaknesses of the bill. I shall refer to some of the details which the honorable member skimmed over very briefly.
I refer first to clause 2, which provides a definition of the expression “ the capital cost” in relation to an approved home. The honorable member for Fawkner pointed out that the cost of the necessary fixtures in a home would be included in the capital cost, but that the cost or value of the land on which it stood would not be included. Well, if a religious organization wants to build half a dozen small houses for aged people, it must first acquire a piece of land, and, in order to do so, it must pay the full market price for it. The cost of the land would probably equal half the cost of the homes to be built on it. Therefore, in that instance, the Government would contribute not £1 for £1, but £1 for every £2 which the religious organization provided. That is the effect of the first part of the definition of “the capital cost”. The second part of that definition also is rather peculiar, and, I submit, should be reconsidered. It provides that the capital cost, in relation to an approved home, means the amount which the DirectorGeneral is satisfied is -
Under that provision, if a religious or charitable organization desires to house, say, twenty aged persons, and it has in hand sufficient money to purchase a suitable house for that purpose for,- say, £30,000, the Government would provide £15,000 of that amount provided that the organization had the other £15,000 in hand. The point I make is that in that instance the total purchase price would include the cost of the land. Therefore, the second part of the definition of “ the capital cost “ is at variance with the first part of it. The position will be that if an organization decides to build a home it will have to pay the full cost of the land and half the cost of the building, but if it purchases an existing building the Government will pay half the total purchase cost as it will pay noi only half the cost of the building, but also half the cost of the land on which the building stands. Clearly, that is anomalous, and I should like the Minister to explain that provision fully. In those circumstances, organizations which are interested in providing housing for the aged, but which, necessarily, are obliged to obtain the requisite finance from sources other than from direct charitable donations will, in order to take full advantage of the assistance being made available under this measure, prefer not to erect new buildings but purchase existing buildings. If many of these eligible organizations follow that course, the result will be that instead of small homes being provided for the aged on a community basis, less suitable accommodation will be provided for them in existing buildings. I repeat that under this provision an eligible organization which, erects a new building will be required to pay two-thirds of the total cost, including the cost of the land, whereas it will be required to pay only 50 per cent, of the cost if it purchases an existing building. In those circumstances, an organization will prefer to acquire an old family home capable of accommodating, say, twenty aged persons, instead of building a modern structure which would ensure complete privacy and comfort for aged persons. The ultimate result will be that many aged persons will be accommodated under mate-shift conditions, or at least under conditions that will not be nearly so satisfactory as would be provided in new structures. I again urge the Minister to reconsider the definition of “ the capital cost “ with a view to rectifying the anomaly that I have indicated.
The Government has a definite responsibility to make provision for the wellbeing of the aged poor. Some honorable members have said that this is a State responsibility. I do not agree with that view. Under the Constitution, the National Parliament is empowered, and acts upon the authority, to provide pensions for the aged. That being so, this Parliament has a moral responsibility to make available funds to enable them to live in frugal comfort. Although, under the Constitution, the National Parliament is not specifically given power with relation to housing, it has a moral responsibility to make provision for the housing for the aged poor. To some degree it is accepting that responsibility in this measure under which religious and charitable organizations will be obliged to bear half the cost of providing homes for the aged. I have no doubt that those organizations will be only too happy to co-operate with the Government in this direction. Nevertheless, that fact should not relieve the Government of its responsibility. Therefore, it should be as generous as it possibly can. Indeed, charitable and religious organizations would be making a great contribution if they were required under this measure, not to make any funds available, but to supervise the operation of this scheme, to maintain the homes proposed to be built for the aged and to care for the aged persons who occupy such homes. When the Govern ment is prepared to make available the sum of £1,500,000 for the purpose of providing homes for the aged it should ensure that those organizations which will be required to provide a similar amount for this purpose shall be given every opportunity to do the best they possibly can in the interests of the aged. I suggest that in that respect the bill as drafted is too restricted.
The honorable member for Fawkner also referred to clause 0 which deals with the amount of the grants to be made available. That clause reads - (I.) Subject to this section, the amount ot a grant under this Act in respect of an approved home shall be an amount not exceeding -
That is quite satisfactory- -
I suggest that that provision requires to be amended having regard to the procedure that is usually followed by charitable and religious organizations in financing the building of benevolent institutions, including homes for the aged, hospitals and orphanages. The practice followed by the majority of those organizations is to proceed with the erection of a building long before they raise the total cost of it. For instance, if an organization decided to build an orphanage at a total cost of £.)0,000 and it had £5,000, or £10,000, in hand, it would go ahead immediately with construction and arrange finance to cover the balance of the cost which might not be paid off for a period of 50 years. The important point is that in the meantime the organization is enabled to carry on its charitable work. Under this measure, if an eligible organization decided to build a home for the aged at a cost of £50,000 it would be required to have actually in Land half that sum before the Government would make the other half available to it. The Government should reconsider that clause and amend it to provide that it will make available 50 per cent, of the capital cost and thus enable the organization to go ahead with the erection of the necessary building and allow the organization to spread the payment of the balance over a period of years. If that were done, the position of eligible organizations in respect of this assistance would be improved at least by 50 per cent. In any event, as the Government is undertaking to make available the sum of £.1,500,000 for this purpose, it should prescribe conditions that will enable eligible organizations, which will provide u similar amount in the aggregate, to follow the procedure which they are now accustomed to follow in the provision of buildings for charitable purposes. The Government should have no objection to amending clause 9 along those lines. lt should attack the problem from that viewpoint. If the Government waits until the various organizations raise £1,500,000 through donations, aud by fetes and by other means, it will take the organizations three or four years to raise the money, and aged people will consequently be deprived of homes for that time. It would not cost the Government anything to make it easier for the approved organizations to go ahead immediately and provide homes for the aged people who are greatly in need of them. The Government should remember that whenever charitable and religious organizations accept a responsibility of any kind to raise money, they always manage to raise it; consequently, there will be no risk to the Government if it adopts my proposal, but there will be a great benefit to aged, homeless people. Clause 9 (2.) roads -
The Director-General shall not make, or agree to make, a grant under this Act to n eligible organization in respect of an approved home unless lie is satisfied that the sum of the moneys (if any) expended, and the moneys presently available for expenditure, by the organization towards the capital cost of the home, together with the amount of the grant, will not bc less than the capital cost of the home.
That seems to me, although I may be wrong, to be more or less a repetition of paragraph (b) of clause 9 (1.), and therefore it needs simplification. If the matter is not further examined it will cause more delay in the provision of homes for the aged. I am very pleased to see that the Government, in this measure, is taking another step towards the welfare state to which the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) so violently objected earlier in the debate. We must accept responsibility for the care of the aged, but I believe that during past years this country has neglected that responsibility, and much more should have been done to help those deserving people. We are providing pensions for them, which, although only pittances, they have paid for during their working years. Similarly, they have paid for the homes that they should be living in at present. We should do everything possible to make their declining years happier than they are now, and if we can do that we can say that this Parliament has been of some use to the aged people who are unable to fend for themselves and who deserve every consideration.
– I desire to say something about the nature and magnitude of the problem of caring for the aged, and I want to relate those remarks to the remarks made by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) when he was foreshadowing an amendment to this bill.
– I foreshadowed one amendment in the committee stages of the bill.
– I understand that the substance of the honorable member’s amendment will be that homes for the aged should be provided in conjunction with hospital facilities.
– The amendment will concern the provision of a subsidy to institutions that care for aged, sick people, but which are not hospitals within the meaning of the legislation. [Quorum formed.’]
– I understand that the honorable member for Parkes intends to move that some special provision be made for aged, sick persons. When I used the phrase, “hospital facilities “ previously, I was using it in its broad sense, and I do not think that
I misunderstood the honorable member. I point out to the House the undesirability of adding to the magnitude of the problem of caring for the aged, or of adding a provision to the bill which might restrict it to people for whom provision is made in other legislation. I intend to put some figures before honorable members, which relate to the size of the aged population in proportion to the general population, and indicate the rate at which that proportion is increasing. They refer to the population of England because I have not the precise figures for Australia, but I suggest that that will make no difference to my argument because the problem in Australia is the same as the problem in England, and the proportion of old people in Australia to the total population is increasing at almost the same rate as the proportion of old people to the total population of England is increasing. In 1891, 5 per cent, of the English population were over 65 years of age. By 1951 the percentage had risen to 11 per cent, and it is estimated that by 1980, which is not so far away, the percentage will have increased to 20 per cent, of the population. In other words, by 19S0 one-fifth of our population will be composed of persons over 65 years of age. Therefore, honorable members will appreciate the magnitude of the problem of providing sufficient homes for up to one-fifth of the people, though of course not the whole of this one-fifth will used to be accommodated in them.
The increased proportion of older people in the population is due to a falling birth-rate in England, which factor is also present in this country, and the increasing efficacy of general health measures which are prolonging life and altering the pattern of old age. Those measures are altering it by substituting for acute terminal illnesses, more longdrawn out terminal processes. The result of that will be that the duration of incapacity in the other groups of the population will increase. It has been estimated that to about the age of 70 people are potential donors to the common effort, and after 70 years they are potential debtors to the common effort. Therefore, the problem is not only one of providing homes, but also of doing something to defer the incapacity of old age. I believe that the present is a relevant time to point out to the House some of the measures which can be taken to help to diminish this problem of incapacity of old age. Some of them are extremely simple. For example, it has been discovered that the two most effective measures that can be taken to keep people in employment, and keep them active in their old age, are the provision of suitable spectacles and the provision of ‘suitable hearing aids. As age increases, a greater stimulus of the sensory mechanism is required in order to produce the same results. Therefore, in addition to passing the legislation at present before us, we should realize that we can deal with the age problem not only by providing shelter for the aged but also by attempting to diminish the size of the debtor group relevant to the rest of the community. In other words, we have to defer, if possible, the onset of old age.
I believe that this measure, which is an excellent one, is based on proper principles. It does not approach the matter on the basis that it is primarily or wholly a Government responsibility, and it is in line with the social services legislation that established the health scheme of this Government, which takes as its basis the belief that the community should make some effort and some contribution to social services and that the Government should assist that effort. That is the supremely important factor in this legislation. The bill is not designed to set up institutions controlled by the Government, or chiefly supported by government finance; it is designed to assist the people to help themselves. It is very important, for two reasons, that the legislation should be designed on these lines. The first is that it is immensely important that out social services legislation should not absolve the family from its responsibility, and the second is that it is doubtful, in the light of what I have said about the increase of the aged element of the population, whether the problem can be solved by the family alone, the State alone or institutions of the kind mentioned in the bill alone. It will require a common effort from all three groups to deal with this matter, and therefore I join with other honorable members in commending the Minister for having approached it on the basis laid down in the bill. I am sure that the measure will be effective legislation, because it does not lay the primary responsibility on the State for the provision of homes for the aged.
.- I join with other honorable members in expressing satisfaction at the introduction of this bill. I have no doubt that the reason for its presentation to the House is that the social conscience of the community has been disturbed by the fact that adequate provision has not been made in the past for the care of aged people. Honorable members will need to realize that this Parliament will have to accept to an increasing degree the obligation to provide suitable housing, and to make provision for the general happiness and wellbeing of that worthy section of the community. The sum of £1,500,000 which is to be made available this financial year to assist religious and other bodies to build homes for the aged, is not a princely amount. Australia would expend approximately that sum each day if it were waging a war. Therefore, we should not be tempted to think that we have satisfied all the demands of this problem by the provision of £1,500,000. Our responsibilities in this matter are increasing. People are now living longer than they have at any previous time in history. As the result of the immigration programme, our population is also increasing rapidly. So, in future years, we must expect to be called upon to make provision for the care and well-being of increasing numbers of a’ged persons.
I have some knowledge of the responsibilities that are involved in this matter. In the electorate of Sturt, which I have the privilege to represent in this House, there are institutions which make special provision for the care of aged persons. Certain religious organizations have done magnificent work in caring for them. Any one who has a knowledge of the splendid work that has been accomplished at the Felixstowe-road Aged Folks Home, sponsored by the Central Methodist Mission of Adelaide, cannot fail to be impressed with the marvellous standard that has been attained. That achievement is worthy of the highest commendation. So greatly has it commended itself to the general community that railway workers in South Australia have made weekly contributions which, in the aggregate, have financed the erection of two new wings to accommodate aged persons. In those homes, husband and wife are not separated. The greatest care, and the most sympathetic consideration, are given to those who are in the eventide of life. This lead is followed by many other religious bodies and charitable organizations in South Australia, but it is time that some assistance is given to them to enable them to carry on the worthy work that they have undertaken.
I believe that this kind of work, to ar increasing degree, must be accepted as a Commonwealth responsibility. The State does not adequately or satisfactorily make provision for the care of aged people. The Old Folks Home at Magill is totally inadequate for the purposes that it should serve, and does not provide the comfort that should be available to elderly people. What is most regrettable is that, in that institution, husband and wife are separated. I consider that accommodation of a better standard, more in keeping with modern developments in social care in other countries, should be provided at that place. Honorable members who represent other electorates in .South Australia are aware that the shortage of accommodation for elderly folk is so acute in that State that arrangements have had to be made to house them in the mental asylum in Adelaide. It is deplorable that people who are in the eventide of their lives, have the prospect of spending the remainder of their days in an ‘ institution established for the care of mentallyafflicted persons. That is totally inappropriate and unsatisfactory. The splendid accommodation that has been established by religious bodies for the care of aged people is a pattern that the State should copy with its institutions.
I hope the Government realizes that it is at the beginning of a substantial programme which will have to he undertaken if we are to provide the care which aged persons need. They have given the best years of their lives in work and service in Australia, and have thereby brought to us the well-being, advancement and general prosperity which exist in the Commonwealth to-day. We should be prepared to share some of our advantages with those who have made it possible for us to enjoy them, because we have a great responsibility to them. I feel that, in this legislation, there is an acknowledgment and acceptance of that responsibility.
I support the amendment foreshadowed by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), which makes provision for the payment of a subsidy to institutions which care for aged sick people. Some folk in their declining years require special care and medical attention, although their condition does not warrant their admission to a hospital. Accordingly, they are accommodated in the sick bay of the institutions in which they live, and I believe that the benefits of the Commonwealth medical scheme should be available to them. For that reason I strongly support the amendment.
.- As was generally anticipated, this bill has given satisfaction to honorable members on both sides of the House, and some very generous commendatory remarks have been applied to it. Of course, we have had the odd, jarring note, that the amount of £1,500,000 provided for this financial year was not enough in some respects. Well, in my experience, any move of this description always brings forth the objection that the accompanying financial position is not enough. As long as we try to do something for one body of people, whether by way of subsidy, bounty, or any other form of assistance, another person will claim that he is equally entitled to the benefit, and, frequently the result is that nobody gets anything. It is true that only £1,500,000 is provided for this financial year, but it is £1,500,000 more than has ever been provided before for a purpose of this kind. This is only the beginning - a beginning which, I believe, will grow with the passing of the years, and it should be regarded from that point of view.
Some honorable members believe that the bill does not go far enough, and that certain other worthy institutions are being neglected. I point out again that this is only a beginning, and that the Government cannot provide for everything in Australia at the commencement of any scheme. The cost of meeting all the demands which some honorable members seem to consider should be met, would run into £50,000,000 a year, and I hope that no government would provide such a colossal sum for an experiment of any kind. The Government is to be highly commended for making this beginning, even though the amount i/i only £1,500,000. But if that small sum were distributed among all the States to subsidize hospital schemes and to help the sick, the effect would be so negligible that nobody would know that there was any benefit at all. Spent on the purpose for which it is provided, and that is to build homes and cottages for old people to live in, the money will do a magnificent job in all parts of the Commonwealth, in the country districts as well as in the cities.
For that reason, I rather regret that a jarring note has been introduced, and that an amendment must be moved to a bill which all speakers have commended as a generous piece of legislation. The institutions which the amendment is designed to benefit are worthy institutions, but if they do not come within the ambit of this legislation, why do Opposition members try to delay the passage of the bill, or introduce a jarring note by saying that it is not enough, and that provision should be made for this, that and the other thing? If, in the experiment, we discover that certain worthy institutions are neglected in this legislation, let us register the vow that we shall see that they are included in a much larger allocation in the future. That suggestion may not be satisfactory to the institutions concerned, but if this bill had not been introduced, the £1,500,000 would not have been available this year, and they would still be no worse off than they are to-day.
I hope that the Minister will resist any attempts to use this money to subsidize large institutions. I hope, too, that he will ensure that country districts will be treated on an equal footing with the cities, at least in proportion to their respective populations.
I seldom refer to my own electorate in this chamber, but I think that, on this occasion, I am entitled to do so, because the Anglican Church has commenced a scheme for the construction, in very pleasant surroundings, of a group of cottages known as Clifton Waters village. It is proposed to build cottages that will cost no more than £1,000 each, each cottage to consist of three rooms including a bedroom, a large lounge and dinette, and a large electrically-equipped kitchen. The cottages will be detached, and each will have its own vegetable and flower garden. The village will be a credit to Gippsland, and to Victoria as a whole. Encouragement will be given to aged persons, who have £1,000 or £1,500, to expend that money in the erection of a cottage for their own use. All facilities, including sewerage, will be provided. Those persons will be able to own their own little cottages and live in them until they pass away, when they will become available for somebody else. I think it is a splendid scheme, and that it is one that the Government, or any other institution, should seek to help. It is proposed that there shall be a daily visit by district nurses, .who will attend to these persons in their own little cottages. The village is not very far distant from the general hospital. If the nurses think that, when, those persons become ill, they should go to the hospital, they will be sent there. Otherwise, they will be treated in their own homes. I have made an appeal to the Minister on behalf of this organization, and I know that he has registered that appeal, together with others. That is why I make a plea on behalf of country districts. To provide such persons with detached cottages, where they may potter about and grow their own flowers and vegetables, is very much better than to herd them together in fiats in the cities. I wish to commend, those who have had the foresight to establish that village in which aged people will be able to enjoy the society of one another amidst picturesque surroundings.
The proposed provision of £1,500,000 is for the purpose of providing cottages of that description, not elaborateinsti rations, the cost of which will run into tens of thousands of pounds. It is intended that the cottages at Clifton Waters shall be built with local labour. The scheme that is envisaged by the bill will provide such cottages on a maximum scale. The proposals that are envisaged in the amendment that has been foreshadowed may be implemented by the allocation of a greater sum of money on another occasion. The proposed allocation of £1,500,000 is too small to cover everything at once. I hope that the proposed scheme will develop from year to year so that many more people may be able to enjoy its advantages. My main purpose in rising was to make a plea for the Clifton Waters village.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 - (1.) The purpose of this Act is to encourage and assist the provision of. suitable homes for aged persons, and in particular homes . . .
.- There seems to be some misapprehension about the amendment that has been foreshadowed, and probably it arises from the fact that reference was made to it during the second-reading stage. I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), after the word “ persons “ first occurring, the following words be inserted : - “ and aged sick persons “.
An examination of the bill reveals that, probably, it could be interpreted as including aged sick persons in addition to aged persons. The Opposition desires to have the position clarified, and it is for that reason that the amendment has been moved.
The honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron), who is a medical man, seemed to be alarmed because he feared that the clause, as amended, would cut across the question of hospitalization, and that social services health schemes would be involved. Let me clarify the position by quoting an example. In the electorate that I represent, there are certain homes that are conducted by, I think, the Anglican Church and the Methodist Church. Those homes receive, chronically sick aged persons such as diabetic cases.
Those cases would be walking cases, bus they would need rest and, occasionally, treatment. To all intents and purposes, they are homes for aged persons, but they are sick aged persons. According to the statement of the Minister, and the provisions of the bill, such institutions would be excluded from the benefit conferred by the bill, because, I understand, they receive some form of hospital benefit. Nobody would be foolish enough to think that the proposed subsidy of £1,500,000 would go very far. The bill has been introduced for the purpose of formulating some sort of scheme upon which we may build, both by increasing the amount of the subsidy and by inducing various organizations to find the funds upon which the subsidy is based. If our first contribution to the scheme is to apply a rather harsh exclusion to aged sick persons, we will not achieve the desired result.
There is no need to canvass the amendment. Either it is a good amendment, or it is not. Either it is acceptable to the Government, or it is not. It is not a question of attempting to have hospitals covered by the clause, as the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) seemed to fear. Let me illustrate the point in another way. Aged persons are received into many of the big homes, and are cared for in those homes. Such persons are healthy within the limits that are imposed by their age and physical condition. But attached to those home3 is a hospital annexe where they may receive treatment without leaving the home. Such institutions are covered by the clause, but if a cottage that is purchased by some religious organization happens to be a mile along the road, and if the same sort of medical treatment is given at that home as is given in the former home, where sick aged persons are treated and rested, it is excluded from the subsidy.
Let me urge upon the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) the urgency of this matter. It is necessary that aged sick persons be provided with accommodation as quickly as possible, and that this very good measure be implemented as soon as it becomes law. The first call upon the subsidy should be for the benefit of the aged sick persons. That is obvious. As every honorable member knows, the problem is one of getting such persons into homes, because there is a long waiting list. They are a cause of anxiety to the Government, to themselves, and to their relatives if they have any. It is for that reason that very many religious organizations have been concentrating on the acquisition of small homes. In the case of my own electorate; they may buy a home at Burwood or at Strathfield, furnish it very quickly, and wait until later to make general alterations. Then they receive aged sick persons who have nowhere else to go. The State hospitals are full. Chronically sick people of any age are not received into many of the larger hospitals. These small institutions are easing the agonisingly desperate position. In fact, the Minister will be opening one such home in my electorate next Sunday. I am not making that statement as an advertisement, but in an effort to illustrate that progress is being made in the various suburbs of the capital cities in the provision of homes for aged sick persons as well as for aged persons.
The amendment is. not intended to cut across anything for which provision is already made in the bill. The Government is laying the basis for something big, and I am prepared to say so. I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment, but, if he is not willing to do so, he should be able to explain to us whether the clause applies to homes for aged sick persons. There will not be an immediate demand for assistance in the provision of such homes, but there, will be a demand for it in the future. Organizations that are interested in the erection or purchase of such homes are in need of the subsidy, so that they may erect more and more such homes: They have first priority in the care of aged people. A consequential amendment to clause 6 is implied, but I shall leave the position at that. I ask the Government, for the sake of the efficient implementation of the scheme, to include provision for aged sick persons. On the other hand, I ask the Minister to inform the committee whether there is implied in clause 3 provision for the payment of a subsidy upon the building of homes, or the purchase of existing homes, for aged sick persons.
– I am rather inclined to oppose the amendment. I fully appreciate the purpose for which it has been moved. I agree with many of the statements of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), but I think that he is under some misapprehension. The clause contains the following words: -
The purpose of this Act is to encourage and assist the provision of suitable homes for aged persons. . . .
If the honorable member looks at clause 2, he will note that it includes a definition of the term “ aged person “. Clause 2 states -
In this act unless the contrary attention appears - “ aged person “ means a man who has attained the age of sixty five years or a woman who has attained the age of sixty years and includes the wife or husband of an aged person residing or desiring to reside with the aged person.
The definition does not make any reference to the aged person being sick or healthy, or anything of that description.
– The Minister for Social Services does not take that view.
– I have no doubt that the term “ aged persons “ in clause 3, not only is capable of including, but also must include, the aged sick person. My view is that the inclusion of the words proposed in the amendment could add nothing to the clause. I fear that the inclusion of them might detract from the effect of other clauses. I know that, very often, questions of interpretation must come before the courts, but I do feel that, if the Government were to insert in clause 3 something which implied that “ aged persons “ did not include aged sick persons, except where specifically mentioned, it might well seem that a contrary intention appeared in other parts of the bill. Again I state that those matters of legal interpretation are difficult. I want to make the thing as clear and as plain as possible. The bill, as it is drafted, is clear on the point that the expression “ aged persons “ always includes aged sick persons, and there is no reason to amend the bill in relation to that matter. I think that the honorable member for Parkes should be thinking rather of the meaning of the word “ homes “, and that he is under a misapprehension.
The expression “ aged persons “ includes aged sick persons, but the word “ homes “ does not include hospitals. I think that the honorable member has not looked closely at the drafting of the bill. The purpose of the measure is primarily to provide homes, and not hospitals. I am in entire agreement with the honorable member that hospital accommodation for chronically ill elderly people should be provided. I believe that the problem in relation to that matter is even greater and more complex than the honorable member has stated it to be. But I do not think it is proper to attempt to solve it by amending the bill. This measure is a far-reaching one, and no comprehensive amendment in it should be made now. The bill is designed for a good purpose, and we should not confuse the issue by attempting to make it achieve also the objective that the honorable member has in mind. I do not suggest that that objective is not worthy. It is extremely worthy.
The purpose of the bill is to provide suitable homes for aged persons. If the honorable member reads the whole of sub-clause (1.) of clause 3, he will see the words - . . and in particular homes at which aged persons may reside in conditions approaching as nearly as possible normal domestic life, and, in the case of married people, with proper regard to the companionship of husband and wife.
That purpose does not in any way preclude the provision of auxiliary hospital bays in conjunction with homes, the provision of which is the primary purpose of the bill. Persons who are accommodated in aged people’s homes will, in the unhappy course of nature, naturally fall sick as they grow older, and therefore I hope that auxiliary hospital bays will be provided. I hope also that the provision of homes of the type envisaged will make easier the conduct of the admirable services that are now provided, in Sydney for example, by the Sydney District Nursing Association, and in States other than New South Wales by similar bodies under various names. The amendment moved by the honorable member for Parkes detracts from rather than adds to the force of clause 3, which, in its present form, will allow to be done the things that the honorable member wants to be done. For those reasons I am inclined to oppose the amendment, although I wholeheartedly agree with the honorable member about the great and pressing problems that he has mentioned. No doubt those problems will receive the attention of the Government as .the opportunity occurs to attend to them. The bill does something clear and definite, and it constitutes a great forward step. We should not confuse the issue by trying at the same time to do something else.
Finally, let me say that clause 3, as it is drafted, and quite apart from the provision of hospital accommodation, is wide enough to permit an ample number of applications which will absorb the entire £1,500,000 that will be made available for the purpose. Also - and this is much more important - it will enable the complete administrative resources of the Department of Social Services, at this experimental stage of the scheme, to be utilized to the full. We shall have to go slowly. The provision of hospital accommodation, which is apparently desired at. this stage by the honorable member for Parkes, although his amendment does not in my view further his purpose, can be made only at the cost of restricting the operation of the bill in other spheres. Since the bill is in a sense a lever to introduce social change, and carries with it great hope for beneficial changes in the long run, we should not restrict its operation at this stage by diverting some part of our monetary and administrative resources to an attack on the other problem that the honorable member for Parkes has mentioned. Again I emphasize that I am in entire agreement with the honorable member about the existence of that problem and about the need to turn our attention to it next.
– The point made by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) is simple. It is true that, in a general way, the term “ aged persons “ includes persons who are aged, whether or not they are sick, but that is no answer to the arguments of the honorable member for Parkes. If the bill were intended to make provision for aged sick people it would not merely specify aged persons. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) agreed that the purpose of the honorable member for Parkes is worthy, but he stated that he was inclined to oppose the amendment, apparently because in his view the purpose could be best achieved by the passage of another measure. The honorable member should have listened to the arguments of the honorable member for Parkes if he intended to participate in the debate on the amendment. I put it to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) plainly that aged sick persons are a distinct class of people. The provision of homes for them as such is not quite the same thing as the provision of homes for aged people. A different type of agreement would have to be entered into for the purpose. The honorable member for Parkes has referred to the controversy over that matter.
The deaconesses of the Church of England have pointed out that the buildings proposed to be constructed at Liverpool and Ashfield will be for the accommodation of aged people who are ailing, but are not, in the strict sense, hospital patients. They need something more than a home. They need a degree of additional attention, and they might properly be described as aged sick persons. They should be brought within the scope of the provisions of the bill. Either they are included in the term “ aged persons “ or they are not. If the Minister’s intention is to exclude them, let him say so. The Opposition takes the view that they should be included and that the matter should be put beyond doubt. That is the purpose of the amendment, and it can be achieved easily. There is no reason why homes for such persons should not be included in the scheme. They could be included merely by a specific reference to aged sick persons in the clause and by a slight adjustment in the requisite agreements. Apparently the draftsman considers that they are not included in the term “ aged persons “. I ask the Minister whether I am right in thinking that the draftsman takes the view that homes for aged sick persons are not covered by the bill as it is drafted.
– If home life is to be provided in a home and some of the inmates are aged sick people, the home will he eligible for assistance.
– That is not the point. Let us suppose that the home was not a large institution and provides accommodation for only ten or fifteen ailing persons who would not normally go into a general hospital.
– If home life is provided for ailing people the home will be eligible for assistance.
– That is different. Would a home that provides home life only for aged sick persons be an eligible home ?
– Yes, if the inmates are aged persons.
– Then there is no harm in specifying in clause 3 that aged sick persons shall be included. That would put the matter beyond doubt, and would be the proper way to deal with the matter. That is the purpose of the amendment. Surely the Minister will agree that the amendment is reasonable and would improve the bill. Therefore, there is no reason why it should not be accepted. The main thing is that a degree of home life shall be provided in the institution. The mere fact that aged persons are ailing should not exclude that home from the provisions of the bill.
.- I support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and supported by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). The bill solves part of the problem of caring for aged people in Australia. If they are so sick that they need hospital attention, they can obtain it in hospitals subsidized by the Commonwealth and by the State governments. The bill makes it plain that if they are well, homes that accommodate them may receive a subsidy from this Government. I should have thought that it was very likely that homes for aged sick persons also would be covered by the bill, but I have had brought to my notice a precise and immediate example that reveals a gap in the provision that is made in this bill for the care of aged persons. That example relates to a settlement situated at Hammondville, in my electorate, and conducted by Hammond’s Pioneer Homes, a non-profit company registered under the Companies Act of New South Wales and, one would think, in every way an eligible organization within the meaning of the definition in clause 2. The honorary administrator of the company telephoned the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) and was informed by the Minister that a new project, which I shall shortly describe, would not be covered by the bill. The Minister has confirmed with me that that project would not be covered by the bill because of the interpretation given by. the Minister, which is an interpretation that he may give in general terms to the DirectorGeneral of Social Services, in whose discretion grants under this bill will be made. I believe it is necessary to fill the gap and to specify that provision shall be made for aged sick persons.
In the last two or three years, Hammond’s Pioneer Homes has constructed several cottages, each comprising two distinct dwelling units and occupied by two aged - couples within the meaning of the term “ aged persons “ in the bill. There is no doubt that if the company contented itself with building such cottages it would be able hereafter to obtain grants under the terms of this measure from the DirectorGeneral of Social Services.
– Is the company short of money?
– Later I shall give the honorable member an address to which subscriptions may be sent. The company has in the process of construction, within the period specified in the bill, a nursing home. If the building were not described as a nursing home, the company would be eligible for assistance towards its construction under the terms of the bill, but because it has been imprudent enough to describe the building as a nursing home, it will not, according to the Minister,, be eligible for assistance towards the project.
Mi*. Haylen. - If it were described as a sick bay assistance would be given.
– Yes. It will be integrated with the existing settlement of cottages. They are adjacent, and they are held under the same title deeds. Apparently, as long as the aged persons are well, they can be accommodated in homes subsidized under this legislation. When they fall sick, they can go into a hospital if they are sick enough, but, if they are chronically ill and only need assistance, they cannot be accommodated in hospitals and they cannot be accommodated in homes subsidized under the bill. A time will come when persons who occupy homes subsidized under the bill will be no longer able to look after themselves and, unless they can secure admission to hospitals, they will rapidly grow weaker and the homes will quickly deteriorate. It is natural, and I believe recommended by geriatricians, that in such circumstances aged persons should transfer to homes where those things which they can no longer do for themselves can be done for them. Hammond’s Pioneer Homes, in carrying out an integrated scheme, is now constructing a nursing home, which will be opened a fortnight from next Saturday by the Governor of New South Wales. I cannot see why the benefits of this bill cannot be made available to that home.
– The Minister is just obstinate.
– That is true, and be is obtuse. It is to guard against his obstinacy and his obtuseness that thi3 amendment has been moved and is being persevered with. The nursing home at Hammondville will accommodate 41 aged persons as defined by the bill. They will all be. pensioners, and, if they pay their pension, or the greater part of it, to the company, they will be accommodated in the home for the rest of their days. Only because they are pensioners and, accordingly, can receive free medical assistance under the pensioners’ medical scheme, if and when they require medical attention in the home, is the company able to construct, or to hope to maintain, such an establishment.
The honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) suggested that these institutions might be hospitals. This nursing home will not be a hospital. The amendment proposed by the honorable member for Parkes and supported by the Leader of the Opposition does not contemplate hospitals. It refers, rather, to an intermediate stage. These nursing homes are integrated parts of homes for the aged, and all enlightened thought on the subject seems to agree that, instead of being added later to such settlements for ‘aged persons, nursing homes should, in fact, be the nuclei of such settlements.
– Tedious repetition !
– I have had some good examples to learn from in this chamber.
– Apparently the honorable gentleman is an apt pupil.
– I should have thought that the Minister, when he received his knighthood, would have acquired some good manners with it.
– I expected the object of this bill to be to encourage eligible organizations to collect money to match the amounts which the Government will make available. In other words, if the Government makes available £1,500,000 for the year, there should be a possibility of at least £3,000,000 being expended during the year to provide homes for aged persons. But the narrow, interpretation that the Minister is going to impose on the Director-General of Social Services will certainly not encourage eligible organizations to erect homes, whether they are nursing homes or not, for aged- persons who are not sick enough to go into hospital but who are too sick to look after themselves. Thus, the aged persons who need assistance most will not be catered for. The instance at Hammondville, which I have cited, is a precise and immediate example of this gap in the legislation. I submit that the amendment is perfectly reasonable. It is being persevered in because the Minister has given an interpretation which will exclude from the bill a most deserving section of the community - that section which consists of people who are unable to look after themselves, either financially or in the ordinary domestic sense. For that reason I again urge him to accept the amendment.
– I hesitate to enter this discussion at such a late hour, but it seems to me that the members of the Opposition, and particularly the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who moved the amendment, have failed to appreciate fully the intentions of the Government. They are not completely aware of the situation in relation to the problem of housing old people. Only £1,500,000 is to be made available under the bill for this work in the current year.
– Why should it be only £1,500,000?
– It is all very well for the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) to interject critically. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Minogue) said earlier to-night that this work should have been undertaken ten years ago, and, at that period, of course, the honorable member for Melbourne was a member of a Labour government which showed not the slightest consideration for aged people. I believe it would be fair to say that, even at this stage, the Department of Social Services has received applications for subsidies under this legislation amounting to at least £1,500,000 for the current year. Probably the applications exceed that figure. That means that, if the amendment were accepted, the applicant organizations would receive less from the total of £1,500,000 than the Government wishes them to receive. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) clearly do not appreciate the main circumstances associated .with the task of providing homes for aged people. Earlier to-day the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts) mentioned an outstanding example of an aged people’s home, which is situated at Chermside in the electorate that I represent. The matron of each section of that ‘ home is a qualified nurse, and every resident is able to obtain proper nursing attention for illnessess such as influenza and other complaints which last for a few days.
The Government intends this bill to provide for the needs of institutions such as that, and, if it does not serve that purpose, my understanding of its terms is completely astray. I maintain that when old people reach a stage at which they cannot be nursed in such a home, a hospital is the best place for them.
– But there are not enough hospitals. What rubbish to talk!
– There is very little delay in obtaining admission to public hospitals in Queensland. This Government’s record of providing assistance to people, whether they be aged or not, is outstanding, and it cannot be said truthfully that it has failed to give adequate consideration to the needs of all sections of the community in relation to the treatment of illlnesses. I believe that, if the amendment were accepted in order to make provision for the aged sick, the principal purpose of the bill would be thwarted and many homes which are badly needed would not be provided. The most urgent necessity of aged people in our community is adequate housing. We have often been told that we should give them a larger income. I do not believe for a moment that a higher income would meet the principal need of a majority of our aged people. The essential requirement is accommodation. As we shall have only £1,500,000 available this year, it would be a pity to draw upon that amount merely to cover a few special cases - and I maintain that they are very scarce - where a special hospital is set aside for the treatment of people who are old and sick.
– The Government has not carried out its election promise in regard to this matter. The Government promised to subsidize, on a £l-f or-£l basis, all institutions which care for the aged. Now we are told that people who are aged will be able to get something, but that, if they happen to be sick as well, they will get nothing under this legislation. In any case, the amount made available is to be limited to £1,500,000. Why, heavens above, Australia spent £1,000,000 a day during World War II ! This Government now proposes to spend a day and a half’s war expenditure in one year to look after old people.
The Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) knows that there will be many applications in the files of the department very soon. The Government will have to conduct a lottery or use some other such method to determine which applications shall be successful! Perhaps the decisions will go, like kissing, by favour!
– Order! The honorable member must refer to clause 3.
– Other honorable members have discussed the proposed provision of £1,500,000 and have praised the Government. I say that the amount is too small and that the Government had better come up to date. The Minister has said -
I think the House will agree that the Commonwealth . . . has made a generous but a necessary gesture towards the solution of one of our great human problems. . . . We look forward to the day when the principle of Government assistance to self-help and voluntary effort will be more widely accepted.
The Liberal socialists-
– Order! Will the honorable member return to the subject of clause 3 and the amendment?
– Yes, Mr. Chairman. The Liberal socialists and the Country party socialists applaud this clause, and so do the Labour socialists. We are all socialists, more or less. But I say that the purpose of the bill is not the same as the Government promised at the time of the general election campaign. The purpose, according to clause 3, is to encourage and assist the provision of suitable homes for aged persons, and, in particular, homes at which aged persons may reside in conditions approaching as nearly as possible normal domestic life. That is not good enough. I know the Australian community as well as most people do, and I know how the people within the British Commonwealth behave badly, in many instances, towards their aged parents. The provision of homes of the sort described in clause 3 will not solve the problem as it should he solved. The people of the British Commonwealth do not behave towards their aged as well as do the Germanic, the Nordic, the Teutonic, the Slavonic, the Greek and the Italian. Australians far too often put their old people into homes when times are good and take them out when times are bad so they can live on their pensions.
Sitting suspended from 11.80 p.m. to 12 midnight.
Friday, 12 November 1954
– This clause proposes that the money to be provided will be expended on the provision of homes for married couples. If that is not so, the final words of the clause are meaningless. I should hope that the Government would build flats on the European model in order to do everything possible to help the old people to lead a leisurely life. I make the suggestion to the Minister that, if ever flats are built under this provision, perhaps an aged couple who live in the building and who come within the ambit of this measure could be caretakers of the building. That would be in accordance with the European custom.
The great tragedy is that many old couples cannot live with their families. Because of age and other considerations they are obliged to live in rooms and lodgings. They are finding it most difficult to do so. Many may not be able to obtain accommodation in homes of the kind that are to be provided under this measure. The most tragic cases of all are those of people who are being exploited by’ harpies who live on them and, on every occasion on which the pension or the basic wage is increased, raise the rental payable by old people. The condition of these unfortunate people grows worse. All honorable members desire to do something for the aged. The Opposition does not object to this bill. We support it. But if the Government is going to do something for the aged, it should set up an all-party committee along the lines of the old social services committee, with a view to finding a solution of this problem which confronts old people in the evening of their days.
A lot of pharasaical talk is being indulged in throughout Australia on this subject. Old people to a large degree are a problem because medical science has prolonged the average life span. Old people are not able to earn their living, and they must be provided with assistance of this kind. However, only the working section can provide all the requirements for the community, and I am a little afraid that unless we do something novel and striking in the way of looking after the aged this measure will not be sufficient. The Minister has said that the measure is a step in the right direction. It is too short a step. If the Minister has already received the number of applications which I believe he has received, and which, probably, would involve an expenditure of £6,000,000, he should introduce an amending bill when the Parliament re-assembles in order to push this matter further forward. By our treatment of the old we shall be judged. In the natural order, the young bird does not feed the old bird. Unfortunately, in our civilization, quite too many young people are set in the heresies of materialism and are neglecting the interests of the aged. “Whilst the Government is to be commended on introducing this measure, it is perhaps giving an opportunity to that class of young persons to avoid their responsibilities further in this matter. I should like to see a change in the attitude of the community towards the aged and the introduction of something that would more approximate the spirit that prevailed in this country twenty or more years ago. To-day, our people do not look after their old as most Europeans and Asians look after theirs; The Asian people adhere to ancestor worship which also really means caring for the aged in the battle of life and, honouring their memories when they are dead, they at least make some return to those who reared them. [Quorum formed.]
– The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), in . a constructive speech, raised certain points which should be answered. Most of them were answered effectively, and accurately, by my colleague the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. “Wentworth) who, if I may say so, gave a perfect explanation of the clause now before the Chair. In the light of what has been said, the Go vernment rejects the amendment for several reasons. “We have to ask ourselves what the purpose of the clause is. “What does it mean? Quite clearly, it means two things. First, it relates not to hospitals but to homes; and, secondly, it relates to aged people, that is to women over the age of 60 years and males over the age of 65 years, or the husband or wife of persons of those respective ages. In each case, we have to determine the essential nature of the scheme. If it is to provide homes for aged people, we must apply that test. If an application for assistance under this measure relates to a home for aged people, that application will be considered. We must ask ourselves, first, whether the money is required for a home ; and, secondly, whether it is required for aged persons. If the answer to those two questions is in the affirmative, an application for assistance will be considered. That is the whole purpose of the measure, and it is demonstrated by applying that simple test.
Honorable members opposite have lost their sense of perspective in arguing about this matter. I assure the committee that the bill will be generously administered and that the Government will do whatever it considers good to do within the terms of the bill. It will exert itself to the maximum to ensure that good shall be done. Honorable members opposite are a little unrealistic when they endeavour to interpret the clause literally and, perhaps, a little extravagantly. I again assure them that the measure will be interpreted in a sensible way and that it will be administered to the satisfaction of most of the people concerned. Looking at the general definition, the test to be applied is whether the building is a home and whether it is a home for aged people. That does not mean to say that if a few sick people happen to be accommodated in the building, that home will be automatically excluded from the operation of this measure.
– The Minister told his departmental officers that such a home would be excluded.
– If, in a home, there are a few sick beds, or something that is incidental to the main purpose of the home, it still remains a home and, therefore, would come within the scope of this scheme.
I shall mention three other facts of importance in helping the Government to make up its mind in the matter. The first of them is that in a scheme of this kind it seems desirable to go slowly at the beginning. It would be wrong as a matter of practice, or principle, to endeavour at this stage to cast our net too wide, because, if we did so, we should soon get into trouble. The amendment would add absolutely nothing to the clause as drafted. A common-sense rule in legal interpretation is that the whole includes the part. If, as is proposed under the amendment, the adjective “ sick “ were inserted in the clause, making its purpose to assist in the provision of suitable homes for aged sick persons, the clause, obviously would thereby be restricted. I repeat that the amendment would add nothing to the bill as drafted. On all scores, therefore, the Government rejects the amendment. It may be possible that what honorable members opposite had in mind was to apply the provisions of this measure to hospitals. Such an amendment, if accepted, would change the whole purpose of the bill. For that reason the Government cannot accept the amendment.
I am disappointed that the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) misrepresented my attitude in the case that he cited. The Government has said that it is not prepared at this stage to commit itself in an individual case. If an individual makes an inquiry, as the honorable member’s friend did when he rang me up and asked whether the home which he mentioned would come within the scheme, he will be told, as I told that gentleman, to put in his application and it will be dealt with on its merits andin accordance with the law. I was not familiar with Hammond’s Pioneer Homes. I did not know their scope, or whether the organization conducted homes or hospitals. The honorable member should recommend his friend to put in his application. If that is done, the application will be dealt with. I am sorry that the honorable member’s friend told him that I had turned down his application. That is not the case and no one knows better than the honorable member’s friend that his application was not turned down. I repeat that the amendment would add nothingto the bill as drafted. It is unnecessary. It would merely clutter up the clause and, possibly, cause confusion in the future.
.Is the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) able to give me an assurance in respect of a specific case. On next Sunday he will open a home for sick aged persons. In performing that duty, will he be able to tell his hearers that that home will be eligible for subsidy under this clause? He will not be able to do that. Therefore, the whole of his explanation was not valid but evasive.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of bill - by leave - taken as a whole and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 10th November (vide page 2789), on motion by Sir Philip McBRide -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition will not take its objection to this bill to the point of voting against it, but we consider it strange that in the dying hours of the sitting the Government should introduce legislation of this sort. The bill proposes to amend the Broadcasting Act by increasing the number of members on the Australian Broadcasting Control Board from three to five. If the Government finds it necessary to have two part-time members on this board to assist three full-time members in hearing applications for television licences, the Opposition would like to know what is wrong with the present members of the board, even though it is true that a royal commission has recommended that thenumber of members of the board should be increased. When the board was originally established there were three members on it. The board was charged with the responsibility of co-ordinating commercial and national radio networks, supervising the general interests of broadcasting and making reports to the Parliament. Indeed, honorable members received one of those reports yesterday. The personnel of the board has changed during the years, and the gentleman who was once the third member of it is now the chairman. A second member has been appointed from outside the Public Service, and I believe that the present third member is a member of the Public Service.
The Government is apparently not too pleased with the membership or competence of the board, because it now desires to add two members to the original three members while the board is inquiring into the important matter of the allocation of television licences. We do not know who the two new members will be. Will -they be persons who have some competence in the science of television or radio telegraphy? Are they to be required to know anything about those subjects, or will they be people who have been faithful servants of the Liberal party? I raise that point because the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony), who is ill - and I greatly regret that illness - removed several members from another board and placed members of the Liberal party in their places. He found a place for Dame Enid Lyons at the expense of a woman Labour appointee.
– That was a very good appointment, too.
– In view of the interjection of the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), it seems that the Government has a few more suitable appointees in view. If so, they will be appointed to ensure that television licences when granted will go to good supporters of the Government. The policy of the Labour party provides for the nationalization of radio services, and although it is too late to do anything about commercial broadcasting stations which aire operating on the medium wave band, we can at least pre vent television from becoming a menace in the home if the motive force in obtaining television licences is to make a profit and is not to provide information or decent entertainment for the cultural advancement of the people. If honorable members on the Government side want to know more about this matter, they should read Lord Keith’s recent book on the subject, in which they will find what members of the present Government said about broadcasting in earlier days. The name of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is also mentioned. However, I do not propose to read from that book at present. All I want to say is that there is much opinion in this country to support the view that we should not worry about television when we have much more to do to make Australia safe. If we are to be attacked in a few years, we should not be diverting labour and materials to provide television services for a couple of capital cities.
Under this measure the board will be charged with the duty of hearing evidence about licences to be granted in Sydney and Melbourne. Now. Australians are a small people occupying a vast space. America is wealthy, and Great Britain is relatively wealthy. Let those countries conduct experiments on television, and we can enter the field later and obtain, through the results of their research, the latest methods of telecasting - as the term is - instead of making the mistake of adopting a particular system and having to scrap it later. I cannot understand the insensate haste of the Government to get commercial television established. In the days of the Chifley Government we wanted experimental television-
– The Chifley Government wanted to put a television station in each capital city.
– The honorable member for Fisher (Mr. Adermann), who is not sitting in his proper place in the House and is therefore interjecting wrongly, should remember that the Chifley Government included his native State of Queensland in its plans ; but this Government proposes to ignore Queensland.
Mi. Adermann. - The people will have to pay for television wherever the stations may be established.
– That may be so, but the Chifley Government intended to conduct its particular experiments only to a certain stage, and at a later time it was to be decided what we should do about the whole matter of television. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which is to be the inquiry authority in the terms of the recommendations of a royal commission, only yesterday recommended that we should have frequency modulation broadcasting in this country. Apparently we shall soon reach a stage here when we shall be loaded down with all sorts of luxuries that we shall not be able to afford if Australia’s position is as dangerous as we believe it to be. One thing that the press interests will not want is facsimile broadcasting, which is a method by which newspapers can be transmitted to people’s homes over the radio in the same way as television programmes. I have an unhappy feeling-
– So you should.
– So I should have an unhappy feeling when a wealthy man like the Minister for Defence is in charge of this move to give benefits to his friends. I have an unhappy feeling about an article that I read in a newspaper recently in which it was stated that a combine in Sydney representing the Sydney Morning Herald, the Macquarie broadcasting network and other interests, was applying for a television licence. I do not believe that it is a good thing for the community to have monopolies of any sort in this country, and if we are to allow a big group of radio stations and metropolitan newspapers to have a television licence we shall be adversely serving the public interest. If we are to have television licences operated on a commercial basis I should like to see the Government make provision in this legislation for universities, schools, churches and all those authorities that cater for the intellectual and spiritual life of the community to be given an important interest in the licences - if necessary completely free - in order that they may counterbalance the grossly materialistic elements and interests that will become associated with television for the purposes of exploiting some of the worst things that happen in human life. We have only to read some newspapers in order to see how selfish interests pander to sin and sorrow of all kinds.
– The honorable member must have been reading the Tribune.
– There is a very good church newspaper in Melbourne called the Tribune, and there is a Communist newspaper in Sydney called the Tribune. I do not know which newspaper the Minister referred to. All I know is that what has happened in regard to television in the United States should not be allowed to happen in this country. Television in Great Britain is under national control, but even with the commercial setup which is soon to operate, television in Great Britain will be under far greater restraint than the restraint the Government proposes to impose on it here.
– What may be said about colour television?
- Colour television is very costly. The Columbia network in America obtained permission a few years ago from the Federal Communications Commission to operate colour television, but that permission was subsequently withdrawn. There are experiments with colour television going on all the time, and if we want it here - and it is better than black and white television - let us wait until the experimental stage in the United States has been passed. But there are unseen forces operating behind this Government, and pushing it into television. I do not believe that it will be in the public interest any more than I believe the British experiment will be in the public interest. The British Labour party has stated that when it is returned to office it will repeal the relevant British commercial television legislation, and the chances are that that party will win the next British election.
– It has not a chance.
– I believe that the British Labour party has a better chance of winning the next British general election than has the Conservative party. But that is by the way. Whatever will happen is for the British people to decide.
I suggest that this Government should not take a step which will make it difficult for subsequent governments to annul if they find it in the national interest to do so, to alter or scrap whatever may be done, and to start all over again. Television will not be a money spinner in this country. The experimental stage will be costly, and I believe that a number of private interests will come to the Government after a while and ask for subsidies on the ground that they are performing some great public service. Of course I do not believe that they will be performing such a service, because television would not be operating in country districts; it will be confined to the cities. This Parliament should not pander to those who are fortunate enough to live in the 800 square miles of Australia which is occupied by more than 4,000,000 people. The people who live in that area are not the only good Australians, and it is far better that we should hasten slowly on this matter and try to do more important things first.
We have not been badly served without television, and I am not sure that we shall be well served with it. But I am concerned that television should not., fall into the hands of those who are more concerned with making profits for themselves and those behind them, than in teaching the children of Australia more about their country, and the people of Australia how to enjoy a better and fuller life. Honorable members who represent widespread electorates will have to answer to their electors if, to the disadvantage of certain districts, they help to provide something for the swollen centres of population that are draining the economic life of Australia. Melbourne and Sydney flourish and grow strong at the expense of the rest of Australia. I cannot imagine why any government should, now that we are all talking about decentralization and development, do something which will help to centralize people in those two capital cities more so than in the past.
Therefore, while allowing this legislation to go through, we register our protest and give no. assurance about our future attitude towards any licences that may be granted by the board, three members of which we know and two prospective members of which we do not know. The Government itself will probably remain ignorant- about the identity of those prospective members until somebody comes to a Cabinet meeting and says, “ These two people are highly recommended by the Melbourne Club, or the Union Club, or the Sydney Morning Herald, or the Baily Telegraph, or the Melbourne Herald. They will be useful and acceptable to us; so put them on the board. They will do what our friends want, and we shall get all the support we want on the radio, by television and in the newspapers in the next general election “.
.I oppose this bill. I protest also at its introduction so late in the session, and at such a late hour. I believe that the Government has had plenty of time in the last few months to bring in this legislation. The bill seeks to increase the membership of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board from three to five by the appointment of two part-time members. The Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), who is in charge of the bill, has not given a reasonable explanation of the need for the proposed increase of membership. I recall’ that when the original board was ‘appointed, members of the Liberal party, and the Australian Country party occupied the- Opposition benches in this chamber, and they protested strongly against the proposal to appoint a board of three to control the broadcasting system. Those honorable members claimed at that time that a board of that kind was quite unnecessary, that the Labour Government was overloading the broadcasting system with boards, and that more people than necessary were controlling broadcasts. They also objected to the existence of the Parliamentary Broadcasting Committee. When the wheel of fortune turned and the Liberal party and the Australian Country party became the government, the Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) did not re-appoint the broadcasting committee, which, for years, had done a good deal of valuable work.
– What a shame!
– The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) ridicules that committee. He was a member of it for a time, and had he given to the job the attention that it deserved, he would know a good deal more about broadcasting than his interjection suggests he knows. I believe that he wasted his time as a member of that committee, because he did not attend to his duties or understand his work.
The Postmaster-General, at the beginning of 1950, decided that the broadcasting committee was unnecessary because the broadcasting system was overloaded with boards and committees. He had objected to the appointment of the original Australian Broadcasting Control Board, but he got rid of the Broadcasting Committee, and said that the position generally had been improved. The purpose of the bill now before the House is to increase the membership of the control board from three to five. It was reasonable to expect that the Minister would give a detailed explanation of the reason for the proposal, in view of the attitude of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party to the board and to broadcasting generally when they were in opposition.
It is said that the board will have a considerable amount of work to do with the introduction of television, but I suggest that the two part-time members will not take any work off the shoulders of the three full-time members. When the board meets, possibly once a month, the two part-time members will possibly add to the work of the three full-time members. I should also like to be informed of the type of gentlemen whom the Government proposes to appoint as part-time members. I know that the bill provides that certain persons with financial interests, direct or indirect, in broadcasting stations, will not be eligible, for appointment, but we have had experience of appointments by this Government to boards and we have cause to view this proposal with some doubts. In other matters, the legislation has contained provisions designed to prevent persons associated with certain interests, from being appointed to boards, yet we have found that the Government has been able to circumvent those sections. I am afraid that if this bill is passed, a similar state of affairs will arise in the future in respect of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. When the Government was considering the appointment of the royal commission on television, all sorts of promises were made to the effect that the members of the commission would not be persons who had any personal interest in television. However, when the personnel of the commission was- announced, it was a different story. A number of interests which were particularly concerned with the introduction of television into Australia, had representatives on that commission, and the kind of report was made that this Government desired, that is to say, that television should be introduced, and that commercial interests should be granted television licences.
Personally, I object very strongly to that decision and I am inclined to believe now that the idea of appointing two part-time members of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board is to push along with the introduction of commercial television. I say definitely that Australia to-day cannot afford television, particularly a government system of television with commercial television superimposed on it. It is suggested that, at the present time, two commercial licences will be issued for Sydney and two for Melbourne. That suggestion means that there will be three television stations in Melbourne and three in Sydney, because there will be a government station in each of those two cities. An expenditure of some millions of pounds will be incurred on the erection of the television stations alone. A large quantity of equipment will need to be provided, and a large number of highly skilled technicians will be employed on tha work for a long period. That will be just for the erection of the television stations, and to make the necessary preparations for the introduction pf television.
I asked a question in the House on Wednesday afternoon, and, in fact, I asked a similar question some time ago, about the provision of telephone services in the metropolitan area of Melbourne. What applies to the metropolitan area of Melbourne applies also to other capital cities and, possibly to every town throughout Australia. I have been informed by the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral that more applications for telephone services are being received than the department is able to handle, and that the waiting list is growing every week. In the metropolitan area of Melbourne alone more than 15,000 people are waiting for telephone services, and I have been informed by the Minister that one of the reasons why the lag cannot be overtaken is the shortage of skilled technicians. The work on the installation of new telephone exchanges and telephone services in general is highly skilled. The erection of television stations is technical work of a somewhat similar kind, and a technician who can do television work can also do work on telephone services. If six television stations are to be built, the demand for technical workers will be very great, and the provision of essential telephone services will be further delayed.
We cannot have everything. When we are in that position, it is only sensible to decide to have essential things first, and allow the luxuries to wait. Television in Australia is definitely a luxury. It is an expensive luxury for a small section of the community. So far, I have only referred to the provision of television stations. The next matter is the provision of television sets. We are told by the people who are eager to manufacture television sets that the cheapest sets will cost at least £140, and that a good set will cost about £200. So television at the present time is an expensive luxury which the majority of the Australian people cannot afford.
– They will buy television sets.
– High-pressure salesmen will be on the doorsteps, and unthinking people will buy the sets, as they have bought expensive luxuries over the years, and got themselves into trouble in doing so. The introduction of tele vision to Australia at the present time is too expensive a luxury for the whole community. We cannot afford a luxury of that kind when we are short of essential services of a somewhat similar nature. Television is still in the experimental stages. The Government has not told us whether Australia is to have the English system or the American system of television. Colour television, which is more expensive than black and white, is in operation to a limited degree in the United States of America. I suggest, as the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has suggested, that it is a very good idea from our point of view to allow other people to continue with experiments until such time as they have this system perfected. When that day comes, Australia may be able to afford television.
I know that advertising agents are clamouring for the introduction of television, and are endeavouring to form public opinion in favour of it, but as I see the position, the only people who are eager for the introduction of television in Australia in the immediate future are those who think that they can make a profit out of it. Combines are clamouring to obtain commercial television licences, and advertising agents are looking for a new field of business. Certain manufacturers see the possibility of making great profits from the sale of television sets, because some broadcasting receiving sets are lasting longer than the manufacturers had. anticipated, and their sales are not so big as they would wish. Those manufacturers think that they will have a ready market for television sets, and make big profits. I am not interested in the desire of profit-making organizations to exploit the public with the sale of articles that the people can do without. I am definitely opposed to the immediate introduction of television in any form. I believe the Government should proceed very slowly even with the introduction of government-controlled television stations; but I am convinced that it is essential that commercial interests be kept entirely out of the television field. We have had sufficient experience of commercial broadcasting to be fully aware of the whole position.
– By Labour stations?
– By all types of commercial stations. Australia would be a much better place if there were no commercial radio stations. We have been obliged to suffer them for many years, and I do not wish to see a similar state of affairs exist when television is introduced. Commercial interests should be kept entirely out of the field when television is introduced.
– What does the honorable member think about colour television ?
– We shall be obliged to experiment with colour television. The present intention of the Government is to introduce a black and white system, but, by the time it is introduced, the colour system probably will have been perfected. The black and white system will then be out of date. Australia is able to do without television at the present time, and I suggest that it should continue to do without it. While we are doing without it, we can definitely do without additional members on the broadcasting control board. It is my belief that two parttime members would not take any weight of work off the shoulders of the existing members, but that they would add to their difficulties, their troubles, and their work. I suggest that the bill should be withdrawn. It is one that we do not need. It has been introduced too late in the session. It should never have been introduced. I definitely oppose it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
Clause 11 - (1.) The committee shall inquire into and report to the Minister upon the facts relating to-
the costs of or connected with stevedoring operations and the extent to which those costs have, since the commencement of the Stevedoring Industry Act 1947, affected rates of freight for the transport of goods by sea; . . .
Senate’s Amendment. - Sub-clause (1.), after paragraph (c), insert the following paragraph: ” (ca) the profits made from stevedoring operations by companies or other persons engaged exclusively or otherwise in the stevedoring industry, including profits so made by companies or other persons engaged in whole or in part in shipping operations and deriving profits either directly or indirectly from stevedoring operations; “.
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
The amendment does not require a great deal of explanation, because honorable members who were present during the committee stage will recall that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) raised the point whether the clause covered, in sufficient particularity, the capacity of the proposed committee of inquiry to examine the question of profits, and certain other cost aspects of stevedoring charges. I stated that I would ask the draftsman to examine the clause to ascertain whether that point was covered with sufficient particularity. After I discussed the clause with the draftsman, it was felt that, rather than have any misunderstanding, the Government should adopt, in substance, the proposal of the right honorable gentleman. The amendment does not take the clause beyond the point that we believe it covered in the first instance, but it does make clear, beyond any doubt or argument, that the question of profits, so far as they are related to stevedoring charges, shall be inquired into. I commend the amendment to the committee.
– Although we are not certain, we assume that the bill will become law some time next week. May we assume that, as soon as it becomes law, the inquiry will proceed, or will it be delayed until after Christmas?
– No. It is the intention of the Government that the committee of inquiry shall be appointed as soon as practicable. I nope it will be appointed within a reasonably short space of time.
– What does that statement mean precisely ? Does it mean that the committee will -be appointed within a fortnight or three weeks?
– I hope that it will be appointed within a week or two.
– That is better still. L am sorry that the Government has not taken the matter a little further, and agreed to an investigation of freight charges, because they have an important bearing on the whole matter.
– The question of freight charges will be investigated. The Government has already taken the power to inquire into freight charges.
Mi-. CALWELL.- I thank the Minister for that assurance. If the committee of inquiry is competent and impartial - and I imagine that it will fulfil both of those requirements - it should elicit quite a lot of useful information. I am sure that when that information is published, much of the propaganda against the waterside workers will be found to have been false and vicious, and very often entirely political.
– I offer my services to the Government.
– I am sure that the inquiry into the question of profits will reveal that the stevedoring companies, rather than the incompetence of the waterside workers, have been the cause of the trouble. After all, the stevedoring companies are only agents for the British shipping lines. In the final analysis, the Inchcape group controls the lot, and milks all of us. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has offered his services on the committee of inquiry. I hope that the Government will not reject that generous offer lightly. If the Government wants any assistance from the Opposition in ascertaining the facts, or in relation to the union, it may be assured that the Opposition is willing and ready to cooperate at all times and under all circumstances. Nobody wants any branch of industry to be loaded with unnecessary charges, and the sooner our industries are made more efficient the better it will be. I am sure that the stevedoring charges, which are based on the use of obsolete wharfs in many. of our capital cities, none of them being worse than the Darling
Harbour wharfs in Sydney-
– Order! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the amendment.
– As the Minister himself knows, stevedoring charges are related to all of these matters.
– I shall reply, if .the honorable member intends to continue indefinitely.
– Order ! The honorable member is referring to another sub-clause.
– If the honorable member wants to make a speech on the amendment, I shall reply.
– I do not mind. Let us have plenty of speeches, because we shall not have another opportunity this year. I am somewhat concerned about the manner in which the stevedoring industry has been conducted for quite a long time.
– Why did the honorable member not make a speech at the secondreading stage:?
– Because I did not get a chance. The Vice-President of the Executive Council gagged the debate.
– The Leader of the Opposition gagged it.
– Now the Government wants to gag the amendment through. It has slapped down an. amendment and stated, in effect, that it must be considered in committee forthwith, and pushed through in the best tradition of the defunct German Reichstag.
Mr. JOSHUA (Ballarat) [12.55 a.m.j. - I desire to direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) while he is in the chamber. He will remember that the fourth report of the Stevedoring Industry Board was tabled in the House at about the end of November, 1953, when the Parliament was in session. The Parliament will not be in session at the corresponding time this year. Will honorable members be obliged to wait until next March before being able to examine the fifth report of the board ?
– If I may reply across the table, I wish to inform the honorable member that I have not yet seen that report. As soon as the substance of the report is available, I shall ensure that it is made available to honorable members. If I am obliged to wait until the report is formally tabled, that will be the end of the matter until the Parliament meets again.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
Clause 8 - ( . 1.) The rate of the bounty in respect of any sulphuric acid is the rate applicable . . .
Senate’s Amendment. - At the end of subclause (2.) add the words - “or that, in such circumstances as are prescribed, no bounty is payable “.
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
This amendment is of a drafting character. It is intended to ensure that there will be power, in making regulations under the act fixing the rates of bounty, to give effect to the recommendation of the Tariff Board that bounty is to cease when the landed cost of imported brimstone is £25 10s. a ton or higher, or to any similar recommendations that the board may make in the future.
– The Opposition agrees to the amendment, and it accepts the explanation of the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison), which was delivered with his usual clarity and courtesy. If the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) had been half as helpful in explaining the amendment to the previous bill, it would have been agreed to much more quickly.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Sitting suspended from 12.59 to3.12 a.m.
The following bills werereturned from the Senate, without amendment : -
Gold-Mining Industry Assistance Bill 1954.
River Murray Waters Bill 1954.
Aged Persons Homes Bill 1954.
Broadcasting Bill 1954.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) agreed to-
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to a date and hour tobe fixed by Mr. Speaker, which time of meeting shall be notified by Mr. Speaker to each member by telegram or letter.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) agreed to -
That leave of absence be given to every m ember of the House of Representatives from the determination of this sitting of the House to the date of its next meeting.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
In moving the adjournment of the House, I recall to the minds of honorable members the fact that this sessional period closes a parliamentary year that has been very memorable, and in many ways most historic. Before we last adjourned for a Christmas recess, we had been thinking very much about the visit to Australia of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second. As we look back on the year that has passed, we remember the Royal visit with great pride and pleasure.
I do not want to detain the House, because, according to the point of view, it is now either late at night or early in the morning. However, before we adjourn I should like to offer congratulations and Christmas wishes to yourself,
Mr. Speaker, to the Chairman of Committees and to the Temporary Chairmen, who have acted during this sessional period. I should like to offer Christmas wishes also to the Leader of the House, the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) and to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). I bracket them for this purpose because, between them, they have flogged us through a great deal of work during this sessional period. I should like to offer to the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), to all other members of the Opposition, and to all other honorable members my warm good wishes for a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.
As I have had occasion to remark before to-day, many people perhaps have a false idea of the happenings in the Parliament. I have heard it said that members of the Parliament should be paid for their work at so much for each day of sitting. That is all nonsense, because the work of the Parliament has become infinitely more rigorous and continuous than it was when I first entered this House. I have no doubt that honorable members on both sides of the House devote their talents and energy unremittingly to the interests of their electors, as they respectively see them. I should fail in my duty if I did not offer Christmas greetings to the whips, who, at all times, are whips and occasionally, no doubt, scorpions. I should like to offer our thanks and good wishes to the Clerk of the House and his assistants, and to the gentlemen of Hansard, who are at present under the threat of having to publish the reports of our speeches within a day instead of after the lapse of a fortnight, and who, at all times, do us perhaps rather more than justice.
– What about a special message for the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) ?
– I ask for notice of that question. I should like to offer our thanks and good wishes to the officers of the Library, to the attendants of the House, to the refreshment-room staffs and to all those who cater for our requirements and attend to our needs as we discharge our duties. I am not at all sure -
I have been reminded of it by some one - that, if it is not a breach of the Standing Orders to do so, I should not offer our goodwill to our elder brethren in another place, because, by some remarkable dispensation of providence, they have, during the current Parliament, found it possible to agree steadily and uniformly with the Government. Therefore, I know that my friend the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) will agree with me that we are greatly indebted to them.
We go into recess on this occasion perhaps a little earlier than is usual for it is now only the middle of November. We shall, nevertheless, look forward to the work of the Parliament in a new year. We have had many exciting battles. We have had many differences of opinion. There have even been times, Mr. Speaker, believe it or not, when some members of the House did not agree with your rulings.
– Thank heaven!
– At all times, somewhat fewer than half the members of the House have found it possible to disagree most heartily with anything that I might say. But I always like to feel, and I say this after 26 years’ experience of parliamentary life, that though we carry our differences with us, because we believe in them, we are able to go to the end of the year feeling that there is in this House a great deal, of goodwill and mutual respect. We may, therefore, all wish to one another a merry Christmas and the happiest of good new years.
.On behalf of the Opposition, in the unavoidable absence of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), I take this opportunity to thank you, Mr. Speaker, the Chairman of Committees and the Temporary Chairmen for the service that has been rendered to us all, and to extend to you and to them, Christmas greetings and best wishes for a very happy recess. That goes, likewise, for all members of the Government and honorable members who sit behind the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). It goes also, in particular, for the Clerk of the House, the Clerk Assistants, and especially for the Hansard staff. I do not know how they put up with us. It also goes for every member of the other staffs of Parliament House. The Prime Minister has spoken of the arduous session that we have experienced and of the hard work which is the lot of members of this Parliament. It is true that the Ministers and the officers of the Opposition work strenuously indeed, but, in my opinion, the work of the average member of this Parliament is not comparable, when one takes differences of remuneration into consideration, with the work of the staffs of the Parliament, whether they work in this chamber, in the kitchen, or elsewhere in the building.
The Prime Minister has said that this has been a memorable session. That is true. There have been some cheerful occasions, and there have also been incidents which have incurred my resentment, which still smoulders. One thing for which these sittings has been memorable more than for anything else has been the indecent haste with which members have hurried into recess. It has also been particularly memorable for the disgraceful application of the gag by the Government. I daresay, if the records were examined, it would be found that an alltime record had been set for this procedure. Those remarks, uttered in all seriousness, do not detract from the sincerity with which the Opposition wishes everybody - Government members and others alike - a very happy recess. I hope that the comments I have made on the subject of the curtailment of the right of members to speak in this place will have some impact on the Government in our sittings in the new year.
– I find myself this morning in the very privileged position of representing the Australian Country party in associating its members with the remarks which have been made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who spoke on behalf of the Opposition, in expressing appreciation and Christmas wishes to all those who have. been concerned with the work of the Parliament during the sittings that are about to conclude. It is well known that the privilege has fallen to my lot because our leader, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), and our deputy leader, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen), are abroad on urgent national business. Both right honorable gentlemen, realizing that they would be absent on this occasion, have asked that they be particularly associated with the usual expressions of appreciation and goodwill which are offered at this time of the year. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to accept on behalf of the members of the Australian Country party, in support of the expressions of the Prime Minister, our great appreciation of your work in this chamber. I say, with all sincerity, that we have a great admiration for the way in which you have treated us during these sittings. We know that you bring to your task a very wide knowledge of the Standing Orders and of the traditions which guide the deliberations, not only of this Parliament, but also of the Mother of Parliaments. We know also that you have brought to your task an obvious impartiality in dealing with the many problems that confront you. At the same time you have shown on many occasions what I describe as a very human understanding of the frailties that all of us exhibit from time to time. We appreciate that, and this is the time when we express that appreciation. That expression of appreciation is offered not just to you yourself, but also to those associated with you in your office, that is to say, the Chairman of Committees and the deputies who assist you from time to time.
We convey also our appreciation to the Clerk of the House and his assistants. We have good cause to know at times exactly -how valuable is the advice they offer to us from their deep knowledge of the procedures of the House. We have a great appreciation of the services rendered to all honorable members by the Hansard staff. As was stated a few minutes ago, we deliberated within the last few weeks on the possibility of some improvement in the reporting of the proceedings of’ the House, but it is well realized by all honorable members that those deliberations did not in any way constitute any criticism of the actual work of the Hansard reporters. Many a time and oft we all of us have thought, when we looked at pulls of our speeches, “What a splendid speech I made last night “. I said that to myself yesterday morning. Then there are the attendants. We press a button in front of us and we get quiet but effective service. To the attendants also we offer our thanks.
The Prime Minister referred to the whips. As I am a whip, it may be felt that it would not be fitting for me to make any reference to them, but I think I should say on this occasion that I have found there is a collaboration between the whips in this House to which I ought to pay tribute. We have worked together as a team and have done our best to assist in the proper conduct of the work of the House. I take this opportunity to thank the other whips for the work they have done. That remark applies, not only to the Government whip, but also to my colleague on the other side of the House, with whom I have had much association and whose decency and straightforwardness I appreciate very much. I know that that feeling is shared by the Government whip.
Finally, on behalf of the Australian Country party, I say that, at the end of the first sessional period after the last general election, a period in which every promise made during the election campaign has-been honoured, we of the Australian Country party reiterate our allegiance to the Prime Minister, in whose leadership we have the most complete confidence and whom we shall continue to support, as we have done in the past.
– I join with my colleague, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), in expressing sincere thanks to all employees of the Parliament who have assisted it to function smoothly. I also extend the compliments of the season to the workers on the press. Quite frequently, the press reports have not pleased me, but in making these remarks of goodwill I dissociate the working journalists from the proprietors.
Motion (by SIR Eric Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 28
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Conciliation and Arbitration Act - Annual Report by the Chief Conciliation Commissioner, for year ended 7th October, 1954.
Norfolk Island - Report for year 1952-53.
House adjourned at 3.37 a.m. (Friday) to a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
I askthe Prime Minister whether it is a fact that yesterday he told the Federal Congress of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers, and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia which is meeting in Canberra, that he always welcomed discussion with the federal executive of that organization in relation to matters which affected their membership, and that he has extreme confidence in every one of their federal officials. If that is so, has his attention been drawn to the resolution that was carried by the Federal Congress yesterday, which seeks clarification of section 47 of the Repatriation Act, allegedly because the Repatriation Commission has failed to carry out the expressed intention of the act? If so, will the right honorable gentleman give consideration to the setting up of an all-party parliamentary committee to examine the Repatriation Act and, in particular, decisions that have been made by the Repatriation Commission in relation to suction 47, and thereby show in a practical way that he is really sympathetic with the problems of the members of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia?
The honorable member will recall that the setting up of just such a committee as he now advocates was debated in this House during the passage of the Repatriation Bill last month. Indeed, the honorable member participated in the debate. I have nothing to add to the reasons which were then given why the Government is not prepared to accept the suggestion.
Can the Prime Minister inform me whether Australian citizens when visiting the United Kingdom for the purpose of extending their education, industrial or otherwise, are liable for military service after twelve months’ residence in the United Kingdom? In such circumstances can Australians be compelled to join the Army in England for a term of two years? If so, does this mean that such persons are unable to return to Australia until after their period of service has expired? If these are facts, are Australian citizens made aware of them prior to leaving this country for England?
The United Kingdom National Service Act 1948 provides in Part 1, section 1 (1) that “. . . every male British subject ordinarily resident in Great Britain who has attained the age of eighteen years and has not attained the age of twenty-six years . . . shall be liable to be called upon to serve in the armed forces of the Crown . . .”. In regard to the phrase “ ordinarily resident “ section 34! (4) of the same act provides as follows : -
For the purposes of this part of this Act, a person who is resident in Great Britain shall be deemed to he ordinarily resident there unless -
He is residing there only for the purposes of attending a course of education; or
The circumstances of his residence in Great Britain are otherwise such as to show that he is residing there for a temporary purpose only; or
Being a person who is, under the provisions of any Act in force in any part of His Majesty’s dominions outside Great Britain, a national or citizen of that part within the meaning of that Act, or a person who was born or is domiciled in any such part of His Majesty’s dominions or in a British Protectorate, a Mandated Territory, a Trust Territory or any other country or territory being a country or ‘ territory under His Majesty’s protection or suzerainty, he has been resident in Great Britain for less than two years.
Australian visitors to the United Kingdom for the purposes referred to by the honorable member would not therefore be liable for military service under the United Kingdom National Service Act.
The taxing of the Commonwealth’s bill nf CostS was completed before the taxing master on the 28th October, but the taxing master reserved certain items for further consideration and has not yet given his certificate.
What was the tonnage of flour shipped from the States of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia, respectively on Australian Wheat Board orders during the period the 1st September, .1953, to the 31st August, 1954?
For the period from the 30th August, 1953, to the 28th August, 1954, flour exports from the major exporting States were -
The Australian Wheat Board allocated its orders, which were less than 40 per cent, of the quantity exported for the period, so as to give, as far as practicable, equality of average running, time of mills in each State. This is in accordance with a request by the Federal Council of Flour Mill Owners.
The average f.o.b. price for all exports of basic steel and steel products was £44 2s. lOd. a ton.
The average price of all steel products imported in 1953-54 was £92 8s. a ton.
The average f.o.b. price of all galvanized iron exported was £77 15s. 5d. a ton. The Statistician does not record separately details of the gauge exported.
No details are available as to the gauges of galvanized iron imported. The average f.o.b. price in the country of origin was: Flat, £74 4s. lid a ton; corrugated, £95 14s. 5d a ton. Two-thirds of the imports arrived in the second half of the financial year, whilst onequarter of the imports arrived in the last month of the financial year. In the light of the steady growth of imports in the last part of the financial year 1953-54 action has been taken to curtail exports in 1954-55.
Has the Prime Minister any knowledge of an organization operating in Australia known as the American Investigation Agency, which has its head office in the United States of America? Is it a fact that official Australian, recognition is given to the officers of this agency, and that all Commonwealth governmental facilities are made available to them in carrying out their duties? Is it also a fact that the officers of the agency carry identification cards containing personal particulars, including their finger-prints? Will the Prime Minister state whether the agency is a United States Government, semi-government or private organization, and also furnish information in relation to the particular type of work or activity upon which it is engaged in this country ?
I have had an inquiry made by the Commonwealth Investigation Service into what the honorable member described as the organization known as the “ American Investigation Agency”. The report states that this name is a name registered under the New South Wales Business Names Act by a young man living in Sydney. When interviewed this young man stated that he has no office in the United States and has no official recognition by the United States Government, nor has he had made available to him any facilities by the Commonwealth Government. He went on to say that in the whole of its two and a half years of existence the agency had done only two small private assignments, both for an American organization describing itself as the “ Master Detectives International Service Organization “ - which incidentally charged him 10 dollars as a joining fee - each being an attempt to locate a missing person. It was apparently successful in one instance, which related to a divorce matter, but not in the other matter. Apparently also the young gentleman has issued two of his friends with identification cards containing personal particulars and finger-prints. If the honorable member wishes to pursue his inquiries further, I will make available to him the name of the person concerned.
As regards the balance-sheets of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, as appearing on pages 36-37 of the printed copy of the annual report for the year ended the 30th June, 1954-
Central Bank - ( i ) Other deposits, &c, £271,933,062, (ii) other liabilities £5,375,694, and (iii) other assets £57,743,661 ;
Rural Credits Department - Other liabilities,& c, £51,866,696; and
Industrial Finance Department - Other liabilities, & c, £19,664,889?
(i) What was the amount owed, or owing, by any section of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia to any other section or to the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia, or to the Commonwealth Savings Bank of Australia; (ii) where do these amounts appear in the balance-sheets of the respective banks; and (iii) what arrangements were applicable to each of these amounts and what was the rate of interest?
Rural Credits Department - Other liabilities. - This item represents funds borrowed from the Commonwealth Bank referred to under (iii) above, deposits of customers temporarily in credit and provision for contingencies.
Industrial Finance Department - Other liabilities - This covers funds borrowed from the Com monwealth Savings Bank in terms of section 128 (2) of the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945- 1953, miscellaneous items and provision for contingencies.
(i) All the departments of the Com monwealth Bank, the Commonwealth Savings Bank and the Commonwealth Trading Bank keep liquid funds and, in the case of the Commonwealth Trading Bank, its special account, on deposit with the Commonwealth Bank. Borrowings were - By Rural Credits Department from the Commonwealth Bank, £48,800,000; by Industrial Finance Department from the Commonwealth Savings Bank, £16,000,000. (ii) Deposits with the Commonwealth Bank by its various departments - In “ Deposits . . . Other” in the Central Bank’s balance-sheets and in “ cash balances “ in the balance-sheets of the individual departments. Deposits with the Commonwealth Bank by the Commonwealth Savings Bank- In “Deposits . . . Other” in the Central Bank’s balance-sheet and in “ Cash balances and money at short call “ in the balance-sheet of the Commonwealth Savings Bank.’ Deposits with the Commonwealth Bank by Commonwealth Trading Bank. Liquid funds in “ Other deposits of trading banks “ and special account in “ Special accounts of the trading banks” in the balance-sheet of the Central Bank. In the balance-sheet of the Commonwealth Trading Bank, the amounts involved appear under “ Coin, bullion, notes and cash at bankers “ and “ Special account with Commonwealth Bank “, respectively, (iii ) In respect of the deposits with the Commonwealth Bank, arrangements and rates of interest (if any) are similar to those- applicable to deposits by other banks and savings banks. Loans from the Commonwealth Bank to the Rural Credits Department and from the Commonwealth Savings Bank v to the Industrial Finance Department are made on terms and conditions decided by the board in accordance with sections 05 and 128 of the Commonwealth Bank Act 1945-1953. The Rural Credits Department lends to governmentguaranteed marketing authorities at 3$ per cent, per annum. The rate at -which this money is advanced by the Commonwealth Bank to the Rural Credits Department is the rate charged by the department to governmentguaranteed marketing authorities less a reasonable margin. The Commonwealth Savings Bank lends to the Industrial Finance Department at rates determined on the same principles as those charged by the Savings’ Bank for loans to Statu governments under amalgamation agreements. 2. (i) Amounts due to States and State authorities under amalgamation agreements and to .the National Debt Sinking Fund and provision for contingencies, (ii) Accrued interest and sundry assets. 3. (o) Yes. (6) The acquisition of investments by the Commonwealth Bank is not dependent upon the amounts held in special account.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 November 1954, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1954/19541111_reps_21_hor5/>.