21st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he has had under review the international proposals that are at present being made for the control of atomic energy. In view of a Russian move which has been reported this morning, and which seems, ostensibly at any rate, to be a move .in the direction in which the West has proceeded in pressing for the international control of atomic energy, will the Prime Minister consider making available to this House an opportunity to debate this whole matter, particularly, perhaps, under the provisions of Standing Order 107 ?
– Before I give the honorable member an answer, I should prefer to bring myself up to date with the latest information that the Government may havo in respect of the conference to which the honorable member has referred, because some of the reports may or may not be mere speculation. I shall certainly consider the matter.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Interior. Following the reply given recently to the honorable member for Shortland by the Minister for Civil Aviation, who stated that he had authorized the acquisition of certain land at Hexham., near Newcastle, for an aerodrome site, I ask the Minister what action has boon taken by the Department of the Interior to acquire the land and to inform the local authorities and other interested persons fully in the matter. Also, how long might it take for the acquisition to be completed?
– I cannot tell the honorable member how long it will take, but I can tell him that approval for tho acquisition of the site was given, after consultation with the Minister for Civil Aviation, on the’ 18th March last Negotiations with the owners have commenced, and I understand that an officer of the Department of the Interior and an officer of the Department of Civil Aviation will visit the area next week in order to try to speed up the negotiations in relation to the acquisition of the necessary sites. One other factor which affects the matter is that the land selected for the aerodrome is below flood level, and I understand that the Newcastle municipal authorities wish to be able to use it as a dumping ground in order to’ raise the level, and alao to enable them to get rid of some waste material. I assure the honorable member that all possible speed is being made in order to try to have the acquisitions finalized at the earliest possible moment.
– I address my question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. As King Island is entirely dependent on air service for passenger traffic, and as a large proportion of freight is also carried by air, is the Minister aware that planes cannot fully load, inwards or outwards, with the present airport facilities, with the result that freight and passenger rates are’ proportionately higher than those obtaining in most other air services in Australia? Docs the Minister know if early measures can be taken to improve the position at the island, or oan some priority be given to the proposal to extend existing runways or build1 new ones?
– The honorable member has repeatedly brought to my notice his claims regarding the aerodrome at and air services to King Island. It is a rather isolated community. There are three gravel runways, all-weather strips, at King Island. In that respect the island is in an infinitely better position than are many other isolated areas in Australia. However, chiefly as a result of the representations made by the honorable member, officers have gone to King Island on several occasions to see what can be done to lengthen the airstrips. I am afraid that the topography of the area is such that the strips cannot be extended without undertaking some very major work, which would cost, perhaps, £850,000 or £500,000. Such an expenditure is out of the question at the present time.
– Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture indicate whether the Government proposes to establish an export credit guarantee scheme in Australia along the lines of such schemes now operating in certain overseas countries!
– That is a matter of policy which the Government’s officers have studied, lt seems that some people believe that the Government ought to underwrite ordinary commercial risks, which is completely different from underwriting the availability of exchange rates. The matter is being examined.
– Will the Minister for the Interior use his authority under the Liquor Poll Ordinance to prescribe the question of hotel trading hours in the Australian Capital Territory as one for decision by referendum, so that the cases foi and against the proposition may be put to the PeOple unci a decision made by the whole electorate? In considering this matter will the Minister have regard to the fact that the subject has been before the community for well over twelve months?
– The matter is still under consideration, I should like to direct the honorable member’s attention to the fact that only last week the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council recommended against a referendum on that issue.
– I shall be glad to prepare a statement that will show the use that has been made of that legislation, which was passed by this Parliament, and I shall make such further comments on the matter as seem proper, in answer to the honorable gentleman.
– I ask the Minister for Health what cash amount it paid each day from Commonwealth funds for uninsured persons in hospitals. What amount is paid a day for each person in mental hospitals? Is there a difference in the rates paid? If so. would not the financial problem of the States in relation to giving proper treatment to mental patients bo overcome by payment of the same rate for mentally ill persons and physically ill persons?
– As I said yesterday, the States very markedly discriminate between ordinary hospital cases and mental hospital cases. There is no ordinary general hospital in the States in which conditions are anything like those that exist in certain State mental hospitals, where overcrowding is so great that patients are lying on the floor. There is no intention to give hospital benefits in respect of those cases. Pull hospital benefits are paid in respect of all those, cases which at present are treated in acute psychiatric wards in general hospitals.
– I direct to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture a question which relates to the urgent, need to improve the quality of Australian wheat, and to the fact that probably the best way to do this is to pay farmers more for higher quality wheat. Is it a fact that experts have suggested schemes for wheat grading? Have those schemes been considered by the Australian wheat Board, and are they considered to be practicable? -
– I know that there is considerable interest in up-grading the quality of Australian wheat, but it is not an easy matter for various reasons. In ohe first place, the nature of the soil is the main factor which determines the protein quality of wheat. That is why northern New South “Wales and Queensland wheat characteristically has a high protein quality, and it is difficult to maintain a high protein quality in wheat in the southern States. In the second place, there is a real problem, of great magnitude, in the segregation of different qualities of wheat, which, of course, is essential if farmers are to be paid premium prices for it. The matter is being studied,’ but, of course, the State bulk wheat handling authorities would have to make provision for the handling and segregation of high protein wheat. Up to the present time, apparently, they have not found it possible seriously to consider that aspect of the problem. In the meantime, there is a market for the kind of wheat which is of standard Australian quality. We should guard closely against accepting too readily the criticisms of -those who tend to disparage the quality of Australian wheat, which at present has a most useful purpose. Some of those people are more concerned with criticizing the price than with the upgrading of the quality of wheat produced in Australia.
– Is the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture aware that a few weeks ago, as there was no Manitoba No. 1 wheat available for commercial purposes, I brought back from Canada a sample of Manitoba No. 2 wheat; that the sample has been tested and has shown the Australian fair average quality standard to be immeasurably superior in every respect?
– The honorable member has been most active in defending the reputation of Australian wheat, and I am aware of the action that he has taken to confirm it. Manitoba No. 1 wheat is regarded as setting the standard for high quality, and it is a valuable tribute to our fair average quality standard that it is superior to the sample which the honorable member brought back with him from Canada.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Services. Having regard to the time that has elapsed since the funeral benefit for pensioners was introduced, authorizing a grant of £10 when the average cost of a burial was £25, and in view of the rapid increase in costs in recent years, resulting in a rise in the average cost of a burial to £60 while the grant remains at £10, will the Minister consider a revision of the benefit to bring it into line with present-day costs?
– At least three motions on social services have been discussed in this House during the last few weeks. On each occasion, the Government has pointed out that social service problems are more properly dealt with at budget time. I assure the honorable member that that course will be followed in regard to this particular matter also.
– Yesterday, I addressed to the Minister for Social Services a question about the procedure by which an applicant for an age pension may have a certain proportion of his assets excluded from the operation of the property means test if he intends to purchase his own home. Has the Minister any further information to give to the House on this matter ? Can he explain how a pensioner can prove to the Department of Social Services that he or she really intends to purchase a home? What documentary evidence is a pensioner required to produce? Is any time limit set for the purchase of the home?
– The honorable gentleman has taken a great interest in the problems of age pensioners who intend to purchase homes for themselves, or have sold homes and have some capital with which they hope to purchase another home in the future. His efforts to get some liberalization of what is called the property means test have been successful. He has asked about the position of a pensioner who has sold a home and has some capital with which he hopes to purchase a new home. It is true that a decision was made, I think by my predecessor, that such capital may be exempted from the property means test for a limited period. No specific period U prescribed. Each case is dealt with on its merits. I believe the bona fides of the pensioner are tested about every sis months. I should not like to enter into a discussion now of the administrative procedures involved. If the honorable gentleman has a particular case in mind, he should refer it to the Director of Social Services in the appropriate capital city, who will inform him, first, of the administrative procedures; secondly, of the proof needed; and, finally, of the time at which a second investigation will be made.
– Will the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture examine the reasons for the deficit of £96,000,000 in our overseas trading balance and endeavour to win back the trade that Australia has lost? Is he, after his recent visit to the United Kingdom, satisfied with the way in which Australian goods are advertised in that country? If he is, how can he account for the ignorance of our products that is displayed in many parts of England? Has this country trade representatives in the larger cities in the United Kingdom? Is he satisfied with the packaging and labelling of our products?
– The honorable member’s question is very comprehensive. Our adverse trade balance has largely been caused by the tremendous import demands that have followed this Government’s success in raising Australia’s prosperity to a high level. There was an undoubted contraction of primary production during Labour’s term in office, tt sot the standard of remuneration for the dairy farmers as the basic wage plus 2os., for a 56-hour week. This Government has been busy restoring a condition of equity between the primary industries and other sections of the community. Its success is shown by the production graphs. The Government is taking a proper and wide interest in the merchandising of this country’s goods in the United Kingdom. This has been especially so since that Government announced its policy of terminating bulk buying. Government assistance in the merchandising of Australian products is now much more extensive than it has been previously.
– I ask the Minister for Territories what stage has been reached in the fulfilment of Darwin’s building programme for housing, business and industrial premises. To what extent has this programme been undertaken by private enterprise? Is he aware that a company is interested in erecting, at Night Cliff near the Darwin aerodrome, a hotel that will assist greatly in overcoming the accommodation problem, which is especially difficult during the winter season?
– In order that I may be able to give the latest statistics, I shall obtain the information and supply it to the honorable member.
– I understand that the Government is interested in the discovery of oil in this country. Has the Minister for Supply any information to give to the House about the possibility of oil being found in commercial quantities in the Longreach district in Queensland? If he has no such information at the moment, will be make inquiries and make a statement on the subject to the House next Tuesday?
– This question is properly referable to the Minister for National Development. I shall direct his attention to it, and, no doubt, he will reply to the honorable gentleman in due course.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, relates to an answer that he gave last week to a question by the honorable member for Robertson in which he said that he expected to receive shortly the report on a survey of the poultry industry. Is the Minister aware that poultry farmers are in a serious economic plight, due to a rise of their costs of production in Australia and a fall of overseas prices? Does he expect to receive the report this week? If so, will he consider it immediately? Will he make his recommendations to Cabinet as soon as possible, and will he treat the release of the report and the Government’s decision on it as a very urgent matter?
– I have made inquiries to find out when the report will be received from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. I understand that it is almost ready now. The bureau has been making a fundamental re-survey of the poultry industry. I am sure that the findings made on the aspects of the industry which have been studied, will be of tremendous value in exposing present weaknesses in the structure of the industry and in bringing to light certain lines of action which it is within the competence of the industry to take to improve its efficiency and reduce costs of production. I assure the honorable member for MacArthur and the many other honorable members who are interested in the matter that slier*) will be no undue delay in releasing the report to the public.
– I address a question to the Prime Minister. In view of the fact that an appreciable period has elapsed since the double dissolution constitutional crisis of 1951, is there now any good reason why the papers concerning the granting of the double dissolution should not be placed before the Parliament?
– I think not.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. In view of the fact that no honorable member on the Opposition benches has any objection whatsoever to the tabling of the McKell papers, will the right honorable gentleman explain his dilatoriness in producing those documents, and advance any good reason why he should not produce them at the first sitting of the Parliament next week?
– If the honorable member for Melbourne is interested in exploring my mind, I may tell him, purely as a parliamentary exercise, that I have been waiting for some responsible member of the House to ask me to produce these papers. He asked me this morn ‘.113, and I indicated that I would produce them.
– I did not think the Prime Minister did so indicate.
– Then the honorable member did not follow the question, I regret to say.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services whether British exservicemen now residing in Australia may be granted war service home loans, and, if not, whether he will refer this matter to the Government for a decision in view of recent reciprocal agreements that deal with various aspects of social services.
– The Government takes the view that its main obligation is to provide homes for its own exservicenien, and it intends to carry out that policy before it provides homes for any other ex-servicemen who are not Australians. This matter has received careful consideration on numerous occasions, and 1 regret to have to inform the honorable member that I am not prepared to put a further submission to the Government about it.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that as a result of the appalling devastation caused by the recent disastrous floods in areas such as Hexham, Singleton and Maitland, an enormous amount of work still remains to be done to clear debris and silt from streets and homes? Does he also know that miles of fencing will have to bc erected and farmlands will need to be cleared and levelled? All this work will have to be done, but because of the shortage of labour and finance in many cases, home’ owners, businessmen and farmers are unable to make much headway in the work required. As a result, the national economy must suffer. Will the right honorable gentleman confer with the Minister for the Army, and ask him to visit the areas affected to ascertain whether military personnel and equipment, including National Service Trainees, could be made available and used in the work of restoring the Hunter Valley centres to their once prosperous state?
– I shall study the honorable member’s question and discuss it with such of my colleagues as may be appropriate.
Mr. Fitzgerald having asked a question for which notice was subsequently ashed,
– Order ! I point out quite clearly to the House that honorable members ask questions here on their own account and not on the account of any other person or organization. On any occasion in future on which an honorable member tries to give an advertisement to outside bodies, I shall rule the particular question out of order.
-I lay on the table the following paper : -
Fifth Report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board for theyear ended the 30th June, 1054.
Let me explain to honorable members that the report does not cover the same range of subjects that has been covered in earlier years. The chairman of the board has pointed out, in a covering letter that he forwarded to me, that, in view of the setting up by the Government of a committee of inquiry to inquire into and report upon the facts relating to a number of matters, including the functioning of the stevedoring industry, it was thought proper that the report should be recast so as not to include matters that would be the subject of disputation before the committee. Accordingly, the contents of the report have beenlimited to the financial accounts, a summary of strikes and stoppages, and the usual statistical information. No doubt honorable members, in view of that comment by the chairman of the board, will be interested to learn that the committee of inquiry made a statement yesterday afternoon in which it intimated that it would be disposing first of all of the major issues before it, and that in so doing it should be able to shorten the inquiry rather than have it continue for the length of time which earlier had seemed likely.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. In the Sydney Morning Herald of Saturday, the 7th May, there appeared an advertisement which misrepresented very materially some observations that I had made in the course of a speech that I delivered during the foreign affairs debate on Wednesday, the 4th May. I think that, ifI read the advertisement, which was an advertisement for a book written by Dr. John Burton entitled The Alternative, and then recollect, as far as I am able, the words that I used in my speech, it will be apparent that there has been a very great misrepresentation of what I said. The advertisement reads as follows: -
y Dr. John Burton. (formerly Secretary Department ofExternal
With the important Afro-Asian Conference only just comoleted and fraught with all sorts of possibilities for Australia, this becomes an important work. Some will agree with it. many will disagree - but it should be read. (Mr. Turner, M.H.R. Bradfield, said he believed every Australian should read the book on foreign policy by Dr. Evatt’s former secretary, J. Burton.” House of Representatives debates as reported Sydney Morning Herald. May 5th).
Copies available from all good booksellers.
Then appears the name of the people who inserted the advertisement - Morgan Publications. I have refreshed my memory of what I said during the debate and, as far as I am able to recall, my remarks were as follows : -
Can we believe that, if the countries of South-East Asia become Communist, that will be no threat to us? That thesis has been advanced by Dr. Burton, who is the alter ego of the Leader of the Opposition. Dr. Burton says it does not matter to us if those countries become Communist, that no threat will thereby exist so far as Australia is concerned. Surely any one who advances that view ignores the nature of the Communist world. If these South-East Asians become Communists, they will be welded into the vast machine whose purpose is to destroy democratic countries. In fact, we are confronted with the question whether we believe that our way of life is better than the Communist way of life. 1 read Dr. Burton’s book, and 1 suggest that any one who wishes to understand the policy of the Leader of the Opposi tion should read it.
I would not suggest, of course, that Australians should read the book, but I think that any one who read the words contained in the advertisement, torn from their context, would reasonably presume that I was recommending the book to them on the basis that I believed in the thesis that had been advanced. I think that would be a reasonable inference to anybody who read the advertisement. The advertisement, by the tearing of portion of my remarks completely from their context, has conveyed precisely the opposite impression from that which my remarks were intended to give.
There is no need for me to elaborate the point. The impression conveyed by the advertisement and my meaning are plainly at variance. The advertisement has appeared in Sydney and wherever else the newspaper circulates, and for all I know, it may have appeared in other places as well. I express the hope that the newspaper will now do me the justice of pointing out that I have been misrepresented. The journal in question has always treated me fairly, and I am satisfied that this misrepresentation was inadvertent. Nevertheless, it does me au injustice, and I trust that it will be refuted.
– I ask for leave to move a motion to fill a vacancy on the Committee of Privileges.
– Is leave granted?
– There is no point in saying “ Aye “. The only thing that matters is a call of “ No “.
– I rise to order. You have ruled that there is no point in saying “ Aye “. It is customary for the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison), who is the Leader of the House and me to try to facilitate the working of the House. The right honorable gentleman consults me beforehand and asks me whether the Opposition will grant leave to enable certain business matters to be taken. If, when leave is sought, I do not indicate to members of the Opposition that the Opposition has no objection to the granting of leave, some honorable member might say “ No “. If an honorable member did say “ No the work of the House would suffer. My purpose in saying “ Yes “, or “ Aye as I have indicated, is to help the House and not to hinder it, and I do not consider that I should be rebuked when I am trying to be helpful.
– Order ! There is no substance in the point of order. The Standing Orders clearly prescribe that consent for leave to be given must be unanimous. The honorable member, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, is not entitled in these circumstances to speak for any one. Arrangements between him and the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison), as the Leader of the House, have nothing to do with the Chair, and I ask the honorable member to refrain in future from making any comment when I ask the House whether leave is granted.
– May I ask that a meeting of the Standing Orders Committee be called so that this matter may be discussed, and put right?
– I have no objection to that course, but if the committee takes as long to come to a decision as it did on the last occasion on which such a decision was required of it, the matter will not be settled until the next century.
– I rise to order. Do you, Mr. Speaker, rule now that if an honorable member in any part of . the House, when leave for the taking of certain action is sought, opens his mouth except to say “ No “, he is out of order ?
– I do.
– The sooner the Standing Orders Committee meets to consider the matter, the better it will be.
– The committee met last November, and nothing has yet been heard from the Government about the decisions that were made on that occasion, which is now more than six months ago. If an iceberg attitude is to be pursued further, I do not mind.
– I understand, Mr. Speaker, that it is your duty, as Speaker, in accordance with the powers that are given to you by the House, to facilitate the business of the House. I venture to suggest that the action that you now contemplate will not facilitate the business of the House. I suggest that you should reconsider your ruling.
– The House frequently points out to me that I am obliged to observe the Standing Orders. Those standing orders distinctly state that if an objection to- a request for leave is taken, leave may not be granted. The Standing Orders do not provide that consent shall be given by any honorable member. The relevant standing order deals only with objections, and the Standing Orders generally do not permit any one member to speak for others. For die information of the Vice-President of the Executive Council, I point out that the Standing Orders do not mention either a Leader of the Opposition or a Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Nor does the Australian Constitution make reference to them.
– I take objection to your ruling, sir.
Mr. Calwell having submitted his objection to the ruling in writing,
Request fob Leave.
I move -
That the ruling bc dissented from.
I have moved this motion because I consider it desirable that the work in the Parliament be facilitated. It is the duty of Mr. Speaker to help honorable members to expedite the work of the Parliament. I suggest, with respect, Mr. Speaker, that you have unwittingly misinterpreted the intention of the Standing Order on which yon rely for your ruling. It may be true, literally, that honorable members do not need assistance from any one - from their leaders or deputy leaders - whether or not the leader and the deputy leader of the Opposition are mentioned in the Standing Orders. If you continue to rule as you have done, more difficulties will be placed in the way of those who wish the debates of this House, on matters that either the Government or the Opposition might bring before it, to be conducted with decorum and dignity. For a long time, when leave of the House wa3 sought for a purpose, and the Opposition agreed that leave should be granted, 1 called “ Yes “ to give some indication to you, sir, and no objection to my action was taken. In recent times, you have taken objection, but I have persisted in calling “ Yes “ feeling that perhaps you would realize the purpose I had in mind. I certainly do not wish to commit a breach of any standing order. I do not wish to prevent the House from doing what it ought to do, and I am certainly not being an obstructionist when I give an indication that the Opposition is prepared to grant a Minister the leave that he seeks in order to make a statement. I can cite many instances to show that Ministers have been granted leave to make most important statements, for example, in relation to Foreign Affairs. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) may rise at 8 p.m., and ask for leave to make a statement. If one honorable member calls “ No “ in answer to the question from the Chair, “ Is leave granted ? “ leave would be refused, and that would not add to the dignity of the Parliament, or help to maintain its integrity. In addition, it would lead to delay in the proceedings. If the Leader of the Opposition or Deputy Leader of the Opposition indicates to his followers that it is the desire of the Opposition to co-operate with the Government, that call or gesture is of assistance in the conduct of the business of the House, and I do not think, Mr. Speaker, that you should prevent that practice, which has been in operation for so long, or that you should have accused me of a breach of order in continuing it.
Mi-. HAYLEN (Parkes) [11.16].- I second the motion. I consider that a mistake has been made, and that the sooner we adjust it and resume consideration of the business of the House, the better.
.- I quite understand what I believe to be in the mind of Mr. Speaker in connexion with his ruling on this matter, and also what I believe to be in the mind of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) in submitting the motion. I accept the suggestion of the honorable member for Melbourne that the purpose of his calling out “Aye”, when the Chair put3 the question, “ Is leave granted ?” is to facilitate the business of the House. However, there is one most important point which agitates my mind in con.nexion with the matter. That is, the extent to which individual members of this House are to subject themselves to a machine. That is a very important consideration. I say, as an individual member of this House, who has rights equal to those enjoyed by any other honorable member, that an occasion might well arise when I, as an individual, might prefer to object to the granting of leave. The suggestion of the honorable member for Melbourne is that he, as Deputy Leader of the Opposition, will speak in such eases on behalf of his party.
– No, he does not.
– The implication of his remarks was that he would speak on behalf of those who sit behind him. It is possible that the Minister in charge of the House, on my side, may have a similar idea. I do not deny that possibility, but 1 suggest that such an idea, wherever held, is a denial of a right pertaining to individual members of this House, and therefore, I support the ruling of Mr. Speaker.
.- T think that the point is perfectly simple. It is true that if there is a single “No” in reply to the question from the Chair, “ Is leave granted ‘( “ that expression of dissent denies the right of a Minister or an honorable member to submit a motion, or make a statement, without notice. If the objection to the ruling of Mr. Speaker, which has been taken by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) were upheld, there could be a chorus of 20, 30 or 40 “Ayes”, and a single “ No “ would bc drowned in that chorus. Honorable members opposite may laugh at that suggestion, but it is a distinct possibility.
Question put -
That the ruling bo dissented from.
The House divided. (Me. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I now point out to the House the effect of its decision. It is now in order for an honorable member to say “ Aye “ in response to the question from the Chair, “ Is leave granted ? “, but it is also still in order for any one honorable member to say “ No “, in which case, the “ Noes “ will have it and leave will not be granted.
Motions (by Sir Eric Harrison) agreed to -
That Mr. Galvin he appointed a member of the Committee of Privileges, in place of Mr. Sheehan, deceased.
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the appointment of two additional members to serve on the Committee of Privileges.
That Mr. W. M. Bourke and Mr. Freeth be appointed as members of the Committee of Privileges.
Bill returned from the Senate without a amendment
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - I have received from the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) an intimation that he desires to submit a definite matter of urgent public importance to the House for discussion, namely : -
The continued failure of the Government to take action for the relief and prevention of mental illness in Australia, and the inadequacy of the contribution it now proposes to make to the States, and the limitation of thu contribution to the provision of ca pi fail equipment for institutions.
Is the proposal supported?
Eight honorable members having risen in support of the proposal,
– Nobody in this country can derive any satisfaction from a contemplation of the contents of the Stoller report. Nobody can feel happy about the neglect which has occurred over the years in making the buildings more up-to-date, or modern, or in providing the necessary space for those members of the community who are afflicted with mental illness and have to be maintained in State Government institutions.
The Stoller report is a fascinating document in some ways. It is hard to understand why the condition of affairs which has been found to exist, could have existed for so long without the public being aware of all the facts. I know that various State Ministers of Health have been complaining for many years about the lack of assistance received from the Commonwealth. In fact, the States have received practically no assistance in respect of the capital expenditure required to bring buildings up-to-date. But it required a document of this kind to bring to the notice of the Australian public just how bad conditions are. It is not an overstatement to say that the report has shocked the public. However, the document should not be read as if one were reading a work by Charles’ Dickens in the last century, .exposing some terrible evil about which the com munity knew nothing. We can exaggerate the situation quite unfairly, and none of us should do that. This question has been canvassed in this House in recent weeks, ever since the Government authorized the publication of the Stoller report, and I have noticed that there has been a desire on the part of honorable members opposite to take advantage of the publication of the report in order to try to exculpate themselves by throwing all responsibility for the condition of affairs on .to the various State governments. That is all wrong. The Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), I think, has tried to make a lot of political capital out of this matter. He has tried, since the publication of the report, to put himself right with the Australian people regarding bis failure, as a medical practitioner who has been a long time in Parliament, to do anything to amend the Constitution so that health shall become a complete Commonwealth responsibility.
– What was the honorable gentleman doing in 1946?
– The Minister immediately says, “ What were you doing in 1946?” I remind the honorable gentleman that we are nine years older, and that he has been a Minister for the past five years. Whilst he did advocate that health should be included in the referendum proposals of 1946, he has never raised the question since he has been a Minister during the last five years. .1 see no indication that this Government proposes to take a referendum to make health a Commonwealth responsibility. If the Government will put forward such a proposal it will have the whole-hearted support of the Opposition.
– Why could we not get it before?
– The Minister says now, in effect, “ Do not ask me what we propose to do in the future, tell me why you did not help us in the past “. I tell him to look forward and not backward. The right honorable gentleman is quite a fascinating figure. He has been in this Parliament longer than any one else. He has been in more governments than any one else. He has tried to get into every government that did not want him, even when he was told that he was not welcome.
– That is absolutely untrue.
– I rise to order. This statement is insulting to me, and to the Minister for Health. It has nothing to do with the subject before the House. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to rule that the statement is insulting, and request that it bc withdrawn.
– Order ! I am not able to rule that it is insulting, but I do rule that it has nothing to do with the subject before the Chair.
– I shall bring the statement to the point where it has great relevance to this matter. Nobody is less entitled than is the right honorable gentleman to criticize any honorable member who has come into the House after him, or any State government, for the failure to improve the conditions existing in our mental institutions. The Government, since the right honorable gentleman has been the Minister for Health, has never brought before a conference of Ministers the subject of assistance to the States for the maintenance of persons in mental hospitals, but the representatives of the State governments have repeatedly asked for such assistance. They have raised, at conference after conference, the question of the payment of invalid pensions to persons who are mentally ill, and the Government on all occasions has -turned a deaf ear. The Government has never before spoken of helping the States with their capital expenditure. The Government’s decision to make a contribution to the costs of the States on a £1 for £2 basis is niggardly. Moreover, if the problem is to be solved in the way that Dr: Stoller recommends, the sum of £10,000,000 will be totally inadequate. At page 175 of the report it can be seen that the number of additional beds said to be needed by 1960 is 16,000. As the capital cost of each bed is estimated at £3.000, the sum of £48,000,000 will have to be provided by 1960 for capital expenditure. This Government’s contribution of £10,000,000 is based on the assumption that the total expenditure will be only £30,000,000, .therefore it will really be contributing on a basis of £1 for £4. I do not know how it proposes to explain away that inconsistency. Perhaps it intends to permit a certain amount of overcrowding to continue. In Victoria, of which I know perhaps more than I do of other States, the State Government proposes to spend in the next few years £20,000,000 on modernizing and building mental hospitals.
– Only one scheme has been announced.
– The Victorian Government proposes to spend £20,000,000.
– This Government’s subsidy would then be a great help to them.
– The Government proposes to give to Victoria only about £2,500,000.
– That is better than nothing - which is what the Labour Government gave them !
– I am pointing out that, in fact, the Australian Government is not subsidizing Victoria to the extent of £1 for £2, but about £1 for £8.
– All these figures are based on the needs by 1960.
– But this is the only contribution that the Government is proposing to make. The Government says, “ We have absolved ourselves of all responsibility”, but it cannot absolve itself of responsibility by saying that the care of the mentally ill is a State matter. Under the constitutional amendment of 1946, the Australian Government accepted the responsibility of looking after the physically ill. It agreed to assist the States in the building and maintenance of hospitals by paying 8s. a day for patients, but it pays no social service benefit at all in respect of a person who has to enter a mental home. In 1949 the Chifley Government paid to Victoria ls. 4d. a day in return for that State no longer requiring the relatives of the mentally sick to pay for their maintenance. It was not very much, but the only thing that the Minister has done in the field of maintenance has been to cancel that payment.
– They cancelled it themselves.
– This Government cancelled it. The matter was brought to its attention in 1953 at the conference of ‘Commonwealth and State Ministers.
– They cancelled it after three years.
– Order! The Minister for Health will please comply with the Standing Orders, which provide that honorable members are entitled to bo heard without interruption.
– No maintenance contribution has been made by the Australian Government since then. That has brought about a ridiculous position. Let us take the case of a mentally ill man who is receiving the age pension. While his wife is alive or his children can maintain him at home he will continue to receive it, but if he becomes senile and must enter a mental institution his social services benefit is cancelled immediately. Benefits are payable in respect of children up to 14 or 16 years of age while they are residing at home, but if their mental condition deteriorates and they enter an institution the State is paid nothing towards the cost of their maintenance.
– And they are not mental cases.
– There need only be a deterioration in their mentality, as a result of which some one must look after them. It is quite inhuman for the Government to say, “ We are willing to help the physically sick but not the mentally sick “.
– That is just what we are doing under the aged persons’ homes legislation.
– The Government is only following the Chifley Government’s procedure in regard to immigrant children. The Opposition did not oppose that legislation, but so much must be done, and so little money has been made available, that I am certain all requests have not been complied with. Probably the Minister has not sufficient money to enable him to meet all these requests. Therefore, it is the duty of the Australian Government to accept responsibility for the mentally ill and to make greater contributions both for capital expenditure on, and maintenance of, these institutions. When a person is admitted to an institution it should be paid Ss. a day, as is done in respect of the physically ill, for perhaps six months. If the person then seems destined to remain in the institution for a long period the Government could make a social services contribution. The States cannot be expected to continue to carry these tremendous burdens. It is quite wrong to say that they have received £600,000,000 in the last five years and should have spent enough of it on mental hospitals to overcome conditions revealed in the Stoller report. The States have insufficient money to discharge their responsibilities to all sections of the community. [Extension of time granted.] I thank the House for its forbearance and indulgence.
I have before me figures which show that the State governments have spent considerable sums from loan funds on mental hospitals. The Stoller report shows that New South Wales, is spending about £5,000,000 this year and Victoria is spending £1,000,000. Both States intend to spend much more in the near future.
– They have always promised to do that.
– They are doing it now and it is wrong for honorable members to say that they are not. It has been said that New South Wales and Queensland have salted away large funds that they could use for this purpose. The report of the Auditor-General for New South Wale’s is often quoted, or misquoted, in order to try to justify that charge. At the 1st July, 1953, the General Loan Account in New South Wales, according to the State AuditorGeneral’s report, showed a balance of nearly £7,00.0,000, but a year later the balance had gone down to £3,309,000. So New South Wales has not got the large sums that some people talk about. It i3 true that the Aggregate Cash Statement showed a rise of about the sum by which the General Loan Account had fallen. However, the overall position was that in that twelve months New South Wales had not been savins: money which it could have spent on mental hospitals.
Victoria has always had a raw deal from the Australian Loan Council, and the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth), when he was in the Victorian Parliament, supported a government that complained bitterly of its treatment by the Australian Loan Council. In Queensland, there was a balance of £2,500,000 in the loan fund in 1952. The balance went down to about £1,500,000 in 1953, and it had risen by only about £20,000 at the 30th June, 1954. Certainly the balance in the Trust and Special Funds rose during that period, but in June, 1954, the net cash balance in the hands of the Queensland Government was £600,000 less than at the end of June, 1953. In any case the States have big responsibilities in other fields. They cannot get enough money- under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement to build all the houses that they want to build.
– Victoria spent £1,500,000 on putting electric trams into Bourke-street.
– That expenditure was very reasonable on a long-term view. If I were interested in motor traction companies or oil companies, probably I should take the same view of that expenditure as does the honorable member for Isaacs. We must leave the State governments, which have responsibilities to their people, to decide how best their money can be spent. But we can be quite certain that no State is getting all the money it requires. Uniform taxation and the Loan Council have combined to cripple the powers of the States to raise money and to restrict the ways in which they can spend the money available to them. The Loan Council scrutinizes the proposed expenditure of every penny that is voted for the States.
Let the Minister for Health stop trying to make political capital out of this unfortunate position. Let him get on with the job. Let him tell us what the Government proposes to do in the years immediately ahead. Let him seek the co-operation of the State governments and of all parties in the State parliaments. If he does that, we shall get somewhere. There is not a State politician anywhere in Australia who to-day agrees with the Minister for Health in regard to this matter. If we go to Victoria, we find that the Hollway Liberals, the Bolte Liberals, the Warner . Conservatives and the opposing groups in the Labour party are unanimous in saying that the Commonwealth Minister for Health is the tragic Minister for Health, as once he was the tragic Treasurer. If we go to South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania, we find the same unanimous chorus of criticism. The Minister for Health in Tasmania, who is himself a doctor, is one of the most caustic and scathing critics of this Minister. The former Minister for Health in Victoria was equally scathing. The present Chief Secretary and Deputy Premier of Victoria has been most scathing in his criticism of the Commonwealth Minister. The Minister for Health in New South Wales and the Minister for Health in Queensland have gone on record as saying that not only has the Commonwealth Minister not helped them in health problems, but he has continually opposed them. He has repeatedly refused to meet them. Now, after this Government has made its decision, he is prepared to meet the State Ministers, not for the purpose of making an agreement with them, but for the purpose of telling them, “This is all that we are prepared to do for you - this and no more. Now be very grateful for it. Do not, to quote a Dickensian incident, come back like Oliver Twist and ask for more “.
– I am very glad that the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has raised this matter, first, because it has given me this opportunity to make a statement to the House about the position generally; and, secondly, because it has given me an opportunity to give the lie direct to his statements about the attitude of the State Ministers for Health. The Minister for Health in New South Wales came to see me about three months ago and told me that the statements in the public press about resolutions carried in Perth were lies. He explained that the Ministers for Health in the States, with the exception of the Victorian and Tasmanian Ministers, had stated how co-operative I had been in handling their problems, and how ready I was to go to Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and other States to see their problems on the spot. They realized that this Government, during its period of office, had found about £120,000,000 of extra money to assist the sick people of the country, and that that contribution had been of considerable help to the State governments in dealing with health problems.
The honorable member for Melbourne has complained of supposed delay by the Government in dealing with this report. With regard to speed in dealing with health problems, this Government can be likened to Phar Lap and the Labour party to a tortoise, or perhaps to a crab, because it went backwards in this matter. I ventured to say that the paltry tinpot referendum proposals put forward by the Labour party in 1946, which were carried despite my admonitions, would lead to conflict and confusion. They have done just that. The agreement entered into with the States by a Labour government five years ago postponed for six years the reforms that are taking place now, which reforms will bring about a new outlook on mentally ill people and give them a chance to be treated in a decent way. Dr. Stoller, in his report, points out how necessary that is. The honorable member for Melbourne said that we should have sent the report to the States. It has been sent to the States, but what is the position in each of the States? Each State government has full information about its mental hospitals, provided by its own officers. I know of my own knowledge that practically every State Government during the last five or six years has ordered an expert inquiry to be made into mental health problems. Have the reports of those inquiries been published? No. They have been concealed from the people. Now we have a report made after the first full investigation of mental disease in the Commonwealth. The terrible conditions disclosed in that report have shocked the people.
Let me remind the House of the official attitude of the Labour party to this matter. I shall read a statement made by Senator McKenna, the Minister for Health in the Chifley Government, in almost the last month of the life of that Government. Addressing a conference of State and Federal Ministers in August, 1949, he said-
Throughout the history of federation the matter of caring for mentally sick people as a financial responsibility has been regarded by the Commonwealth governments of all types as one for the States.
Wo make no apology for having taken some time to consider the Stoller report. It was considered first by a Cabinet subcommittee, and then by Cabinet itself during the last few days. The report was published only last week, but we make no apology for the delay in publication. We desired to do something that would give a stimulus to the treatment of mental disease throughout Australia, and bring to an end the terrible conditions existing in mental hospitals in the States. Let me read to the House what Dr. Stoller said about the Callan Park institution. It was as follows: -
Hygiene facilities especially in dormitories were appalling but some effort was being made to remedy this. In some dormitories, especially on the female side, floor beds were placed in between the ordinary beds with the outer thirds of the floor bed under each of the two adjacent ordinary beds. In other cases, floor beds were solidly packed to such a degree that any patient, wanting to get to the lavatory at night, had to crawl over other patients. This situation existed even in the female hospital ward. Beds were inpassage-ways, and, in the female hospital ward, were on an open verandah exposed to the weather.
Similar conditions exist in Victoria. Speaking of the Kew Children’s Cottages, Dr. Stoller said -
Conditions at Kew Children’s Cottages were so appalling (though there is now rapid improvement) that the community had been repulsed, and it was regarded as the “ very last thing “ to have a child there.
At the Goodna Mental Hospital in Queensland, many old ladies live in chairs in the centre of a dormitory and never get out. They cannot be moved because of the denseness of the patient population in that place. Yet Opposition members will say in this House that such people ought to be given an increased pension, that the State governments ought to be given a couple of shillings a week more, or that the State governments should be subsidized by a few shillings a week, which will not give one bed.
It is quite obvious that the first and most important need when dealing with our mental patients is to provide adequate accommodation. The patients need room to turn round in, and room in which to live. The conditions in many mental hospitals at present are such as would not be tolerated in cattle trucks; yet cattle have to live and travel in their trucks for only a few days at a time whereas many mental patients have to live under worse conditions for years and years. Nobody who has one atom of human sympathy in. him will fail to be moved by the plight of these people, which can be ameliorated only by the provision of adequate accommodation. If we are able to provide sufficient room for these mental patients we shall reach a situation where a doctor will be able to examine the patients individually.
Anybody who has had anything to do with insane people knows that they are like hunted, frightened things. If they’ are examined in the presence of others they will not give adequate answers and the examination cannot be conducted properly because they are afraid that everything they say is being overheard. Under such circumstances a. doctor cannot arrive at a correct diagnosis, and consequently cannot prescribe the proper treatment. If the proper treatment is not prescribed and applied, the patient cannot be cured. Therefore, honorable members will perceive that the first necessity is to provide adequate accommodation. Until recently, in some State capital cities there have been private institutions where business executives, members of Parliament and other persons in high and low positions were able to get treatment and get back to work within an extraordinarily short time. Most of those institutions have been allowed to disappear, and, consequently, persons who would have been cured now have to enter other institutions, where they gradually deteriorate until it is impossible to expect that they will be cured.
– What is this Government doing?
– The Government is doing the right thing. For over five years I have asked the States to cancel the rotten agreement drawn up by the Chifley Government. That agreement provides that no more money shall be given to the States for their institutions than was collected from the patients. I have tried to abolish that agreement and deal with the matter on a proper basis by. first of all, providing adequate accommodation; but I have been unable to succeed until now. I know a place at Earlswood in Great Britain where mentally deficient people are given farm work. They are taught to handle tools and work for themselves, and consequently they do not deteriorate. That institution is able to show prize bullocks, prize sows and other farm stock, and the mental patients who work on the farm have something to live for. Le! honorable members read the Stoller report to find out how many patients in our mental hospitals can be given work, and what they have to live for. There is one place at Tom aree, near Morisset, where a few patients are living happy lives because proper accommodation for them is available there. All the evidence points to the fact that adequate accommodation is the first necessity in dealing with our mental institutions.
There are eight or ten different types of mental patients in. each mental hospital. There are acute cases of mental disease, and so on. We hope that the day is noi far distant when each of the mental hospitals will have a fine reception centre in the big cities so that each different type of patient can be dealt with. Broughton Hall, in New South Wales, was built to accommodate about 100 patients, but there are about 500 there now. Those patients cannot all be properly treated because their complaints cannot be properly diagnosed. The main reason for that is that there is not sufficient accommodation for the patients to be treated privately. Senator McKenna has said that this matter is not a Commonwealth responsibility. I say that for the first time an Australian Government is willing to accept responsibility for a third of the capital cost of the new buldings that are necessary to provide 10,000 beds for mental patients throughout the Commonwealth.
The honorable member for Melbourne asked what would happen in 1960. I am not concerned with what will happen then, I am concerned with what is happening now. “We must provide 10,000 beds as quickly as possible, before we concern ourselves about what might happen in 1960. If the State governments can spend £30,000,000 in the next ten years, we shall have the accommodation that we require and we can then reconsider the matter. After we have the necessary accommodation we shall be able to treat these unfortunate mental patients in the proper way. Everybody says that they should be regarded as mentally sick people, and I say, “ For God’s sake regard them as such, and give them a decent place in which to lie down and rest “. After we have done that we can start to get somewhere. Surely no honorable member will disagree with those sentiments. It is of no use to say that we shall give them something in the way of treatment. That is all very well, but we cannot give them proper treatment until we have proper accommodation.
There are all sorts of mentally ill patients. There are seniles who can be made much more comfortable and can be looked after much better if they are properly housed. There are epileptics who have fits and become absolutely mad during their fits, but who are sane at other times. Surely such patients as those must be segregated. There are memtally deficient people. Again they must be segregated. All those people who are able to work should be given work, because if they can do work their condition will not deteriorate any further. I suggest that most mental patients should be able to do a good deal of work, and that many of them are able to earn money. If they were given the opportunity to work, and, perhaps, to earn money, they would considerably improve their health and cease to be a charge on the community. However, the only suggestion that the States or the Opposition can make with regard to the bad position of the mentally ill is that the Commonwealth should pay Ss. a day a patient for a hospital bed when often no bed exists. I say that what the patients need is proper accommodation and active work.
I shall be glad if I am able to shock the conscience of the community in regard to this matter, but I am afraid that I am only able to cause laughter on the Opposition benches. Nevertheless, I remind the House that during the eight years of office of the Labour party it did nothing to help the mentally ill. When I spoke on this matter in 1946 I pointed out that 6,000 beds were needed in our mental hospitals. To-day the number has increased to 10,000, and. the reason for that increase is that we have been cursed by the agreement made by the Chifley Government with the States. For years and years that agreement has resulted in the postponement of the proper reform of mental institutions in this country. When the House deals with this matter, I hope it will show quite clearly that it believes that the Government is carrying on a policy which is the first step towards a tremendous reform of Australian mental institutions, and of the Australian approach to mental illness. To-day even the criminally insane, although they certainly should be segregated, are scattered among the general mental patients in our hospitals. [Extension of time granted.]
It is the tendency of the public mind to put all mental patients on the same basis, but every such patient is an individual human being. They cannot all be expected to do the same things or have the same qualities. Some of them can be trained for sewing, others for painting, carpentry, clerical work, boot-making, canteen work, engineering, basket-making and so on. If we are able to obtain enough accommodation for these patients, we can start to teach them and get them working at ordinary occupations. Then they may have entertainment at night. Surely these people, are worthy of such treatment, but they cannot be given that treatment unless a suitable place is provided, and unless ample land is available for the purpose. Many years ago the various governments set aside, for these purposes, huge areas of public land which would now have an extraordinary capital value for residential purposes. It seems to me that it would be worth while to sell those areas and acquire cheaper area3 in the country where the patients could be treated just as easily, and thus, to some degree, relieve the present congestion in the large capital cities as well as in the mental institutions.
Surely a case has been stated for the States to give a high priority to this task, the responsibility for which is theirs constitutionally. Over the last five years, no less than £621,000,000 has been made available to the States in the form of loan money. Of that sum, £359,000,000 has come from Commonwealth sources and has not been raised on the loan market. The expenditure of £20,000,000 by the States for this purpose would help to lighten the burden. If we embarked upon this course of action, I believe, as Dr. Stoller has suggested, that we might be able to reduce the mentally diseased population by as much as 10 per cent. At present, there are 30,000 mental patients in Australia. A reduction of 10 per cent, would mean that 3,000 additional beds would become available for use by other patients. There must be adequate accommodation, diagnosis and treatment ; the mentally sick must be segregated and treated as medical cases and not just as a mass of people who might be branded as being imbeciles or insane. They are human beings, and they should be treated as such.
.- The fact that there are more people in Australia suffering from mental disorders than from all of the physical disorders put together is indeed a melancholy one. For that reason, this subject is one of very considerable importance. It is amazing that charity should have been so lacking, and that we as a people should have been so lacking in economic sense, as to have given this subject the scant attention that it has received. I am particularly interested in the case that has been presented to-day as related to Victoria. I believe that much has been done in that State to quicken the interest to which the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) has referred this morning. The former Minister for Health in Victoria, Mr.
Barry, was very active in this field. The first step that he took to overcome the difficulty was probably one of the most convincing proofs of his interest in the matter. He was responsible for the appointment of Dr. Cunningham Dax, who is a world-wide authority on mental disorders. His appointment has had remarkable results, the most noticeable of which has been the fact that it has aroused much public interest.
I think the Minister for Health will admit that, throughout almost the whole of the Commonwealth, there has been very little public interest in mental disorders. That seems to have been one of the very great tragedies that has been associated with the whole question. As I have stated, public interest was aroused as the result of the appointment of Dr. Cunningham Dax. Once attention had been directed to the problem, there was increased expenditure on buildings and maintenance. In addition, much social interest was aroused in Victoria, and a number of auxiliaries were established in that State. The first signs of development that I saw became apparent at the time of the formation of those auxiliaries. One was formed in the electoral division that I represent. The people associated with it took such an active interest that it was apparent that they had become conscious of their responsibility towards these less fortunate people. It seems that the action that was taken in publicizing the position, and in drawing attention to overcrowding in mental institutions, was really worth while. I have been of the opinion, up to the present anyway, that there has been a lack of interest in the problem by the various Ministers for Health. If published reports are correct, it has been stated over and over again that the State Ministers for Health have been unable to meet the Commonwealth Minister for Health.
– They themselves met, but they did not invite Commonwealth representatives to their conference.
– It is reported that the State Ministers asked the Commonwealth Minister for Health to convene a conference but that he failed to do so.
– That is absolutely untrue. They called a conference of their own, hut they did not invite the Commonwealth to send a representative.
– Order 1 The Minister has had an opportunity to speak.
– Such reports have been published.
– They are quite untrue.
– Later, the State Ministers for Health called a conference, but the federal Minister for Health did not attend.
– He was not asked to attend.
– Order ! The Minister must not be disorderly.
– Such lack of cooperation is a very great shame, because, if, over the years, the interest that has been quickened in Victoria had become Commonwealth-wide, as it appears to be at present, we would have been so much further advanced in the treatment of mental disorders. There have been very many degrees of frustration. Although much publicity had been given to this problem in Victoria by the former Minister for Health, Mr. Barry, it seems that he experienced many frustrations. It may be that the Premier and the State Treasurer were not as sympathetic as they might have been. Even after authority had been given for certain maintenance work to be carried out at mental institutions, more time elapsed before the Victorian Department of Public Works bothered to commence the work. Its failure to act led to a great deal of public scandal, and one recalls, in relation to the Kew cottages, that much was said about the disgraceful drainage conditions.
Lack of money is admitted to have been an important factor that led up to the present state of affairs. I could not be in greater agreement with the Minister for Health than when I agree with his statement that there is a shortage of accommodation, and that the building of such accommodation must be accelerated. Accommodation must be increased to provide more space for the patients, and better facilities for the medical staff.
There are two institutions in the division of Darebin which I have been called upon to inspect, and in relation to one of which in particular the Commonwealth cannot escape blame. My attention was directed to the conditions that obtained at the Mont Park institution. These conditions were deplorable, but the conditions that obtained at the Repatriation General Hospital at Bundoora were no better. I brought that fact to the notice of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), who promised that he would try to have money made available, even if only for maintenance work. If it may bc stated that such matters have lacked attention by the State governments, it may also be stated that there has been a lack of attention on the part of the Commonwealth.
The Repatriation General Hospital at Bundoora is the responsibility of the Commonwealth, although the staff is provided by the Victorian Government. But it is to the maintenance of that institution that I refer in particular. The dilapidated state of the buildings was quite apparent to any one who made an inspection. It was more apparent internally than externally, and it must have had a very depressing effect upon patients who were being treated in the hope that many of them would be restored to a normal state of health. The condition of the toilet and lavatory blocks was, and, as far as I know, still is, a disgrace. If there is one place which should have proper toilet facilities, and in which lavatory accommodation should be at its best, the repatriation hospital to which - 1 have referred is that place. The conditions there are a standing disgrace to the Commonwealth and to the Government of Victoria, which have permitted them to exist for such a long time. I should say that the drainage, and the surrounding facilities, constituted a menace to persons who were residing in the buildings. I am not over-painting the picture. As I have stated, I brought these matters to the notice of the Minister for Repatriation, who made a personal inspection of the institution. He can do nothing except agree with me completely. The floors and doors of the recreation building have decayed, and the building generally is in a disgraceful condition. Indeed, it is almost in a state of collapse. Yet that building is an integral part of an institution in which sufferers from mental diseases are housed and treated. It is a great pity that any of the buildings should have been allowed to fall into this condition, because the staff, and especially the medical staff, is probably the finest available, and it is completely frustrated by being asked to workunder such conditions.
As I understand the matter, the staff position in both State and Commonwealth institutions is completely unsatisfactory. The situation was discussed in Victoria a short time ago, and it was then agreed that it probably would be of little use to press for the provision of additional buildings, because staff difficulties would only be accentuated. As I read the report, it is recommended that homes be provided for members of the staffs of mental institutions, and if that recommendation is carried into effect, the staff difficulties might easily be overcome. A great deal is being done for sufferers from tuberculosis. The right thing is being done by them, and although the cost is great, every one is agreed that the money provided for that purpose is well spent, even from the economic viewpoint.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– I must immediately contradict the allegation made by the honorable member for Darebin (Mr. Andrews) that the State; Ministers for Health invited the Commonwealth Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) to attend a conference, and that he refused to attend. That statement is completely untrue, and an apology is due to the Minister for Health for the misrepresentation the honorable member for Darebin has made.
– Mr. Playford said that he asked for a conference.
– He was not entitled to do so, and has never been entitled to make such a request.
– A report to that effect was published.
– Order !
– Members of the Opposition cannot take it. I do not mind the interruptions, because they show that the withers of honorable members opposite are well wrung. The second point I wish to mention is that the New South Wales Minister for Health has been courteous enough to advise the Minister for Health in this Government that, at the conference held recently in Western Australia, no vote that might be regarded as a censure of my right honorable colleague was taken. I think it wise to mention both of those matters so that the record may be kept straight.
What has the Minister for Health tried to do in the years since he became a member of this Parliament? Those who care to read the records in Hansard may see for themselves. The right honorable gentleman has tried to ensure that those who suffer from mental illnesses shall have the best possible attention. Over many years he has consistently adopted that approach to the problem of mental illness. It is not a question of obtaining political advantage, hut of giving Commonwealth help, and deciding how it can best be given. Those who attack the Minister exhibit a most ungrateful attitude to the Commonwealth’s approach to this problem, and they display also a complete lack of understanding of the real intentions of the Minister. They seem to be lacking in sincerity. If I might adopt the form of a parable, they are like the vultures who look for the new-born lamb to pick out its eyes and stunt its growth. The critics of the Minister do not want to give credit or help, and they do not wish” to make a real contribution to the solution of the very difficult problem of caring for mentally afflicted people.
I have heard it said, and I have read in some newspapers, that credit should be given to the great achievements and service of Dr. Stoller. But let us go back to the beginning, and ask who appointed him to make his inquiry. Who was the man who, in effect, said, “ There has been a series of complaints about conditions in mental hospitals over the last ten or fifteen years. Before we can act we must ascertain the facts. That is the only sensible basis for action.”? It was my right honorable colleague who took that view and who appointed Dr. Stoller to make an inquiry and bring the facts to the attention of the public. The Minister has given Dr. Stoller all possible help and co-operation in the conduct of his inquiry and in the preparation of his report. We can now hope that, as a result of the action of the Minister, a solution of the problems of mentally ill people will be found, and that the State governments will be goaded into taking action to overcome the difficulties. You, Mr. Speaker, must know that for many years the Minister for Health ha3 adopted a consistent approach of finding out the facts and that the State governments have persistently refused to take his advice.
What has been the attitude, not only of the States, but also of the Commonwealth, to the constitutional responsibility for mental illness? The Minister has pointed out that, at a conference between State and Commonwealth Ministers in August, 1949, the Labour Government that then held office in the Commonwealth adopted an attitude which the Australian Labour party has not since changed. Its attitude then was that the problem of caring for mentally sick people had been regarded by all previous Australian governments as a financial responsibility of the States. For some years that has been the consistent approach to the problem by members of the Labour party. Now that a report has been made and something has been done, they adopt a “ holier-than-thou “ approach and say to the Government, “ If we were in your position, we would do something quite different “. The facts are abundantly clear. Labour has not previously been prepared to make a contribution to the solution of the problem. It was not willing even to increase the amount of money payable to the State governments for the upkeep of mental institutions. Labour was content merely to make a substitution by cancelling the payment made by patients and their relatives and substituting payment to the State governments by the Commonwealth of ls. a day for each mental patient. It was not prepared to increase the payments. Labour, in maintaining that attitude, stood largely on the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth.
In New South Wales, Ave have witnessed the humiliating spectacle of the New South Wales Minister for Health, as recently as March of this year, adopting the attitude that everything was going well and that there was nothing wrong with the mental institutions in that State. In the following months, seventeen doctors resigned from New South Wales mental hospitals. The last five resignations took place fairly recently. The doctors who resigned complained that the New South Wales Government had consistently taken the view that everything was going well and that there was no need for government action. In fact, after several doctors had resigned, the New South Wales Minister stated that the doctors who had made the complaints were wilful liars because they alleged that conditions in the New South Wales mental hospitals were degrading and needed attention. What happened? As I have, stated, my right honorable colleague, the Minister for Health, adopted a very proper course. He was aware of the fact3, but he knew that unless public opinion was startled, nothing would be done by the State governments. Consequently, Dr. Stoller was appointed by him to make an inquiry and present a report.
Dr. Stoller has reported factually and faithfully, and has directed attention to the fact that the first task, in coming to grips with this problem, is to provide accommodation for some 30,000 mentally ill people. Immediately that circumstance was known and could be thoroughly considered by the Government, the Minister placed before the Cabinet submissions that were promptly agreed to. As a result, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has recently made a public statement about the matter on behalf of the Government. In that statement, the Prime Minister made it clear that the first job was to provide satisfactory establishments for the examination, treatment and accommodation of patients, and as Government supporters earnestly hope,, for their ultimate cure. The Prime Minister announced that this Government will make £10,000,000 available to the
States on the basis of £1 to be provided by the Commonwealth for every £2 provided by the States. He announced, also, that the States can. obtain this assistance immediately they are able to provide the necessary accommodation for mental patients. The States have to find £20,000,000 over a period which Dr. Stoller believes would be about ten years. Should we pay much heed to the arguments of honorable members opposite when the amount that the States are asked to find is only £2,000,000 a year? The facts prove conclusively that there is no sound basis for the contentions of honorable members opposite, because every honorable member knows that New South Wales, for instance, ended the last financial year with a substantial surplus. In addition, we all know that during the course of the last financial year the New South Wales Government expended on mental hospitals and health at least £1,250,000 less than it expended in the previous year. Whereas in 1952-53, New South Wales expended £4 16s. a head on health, in 1953-54 the rate of expenditure had dropped to £4 7s. 8d. a head. New South Wales is typical, and those figures are proof of the fact that the State governments have consistently neglected the mental health problem. Until recently they have not only neglected it, but have also denied that the problem existed. The approach of the Government to this problem is humane. The Minister for Health is not interested in political argument about it. He is interested, first, in the problem of providing accommodation for people who are mentally sick, and, secondly, in giving them an opportunity to live a full life. He is eager, not only to provide accommodation, but also to ensure that the mentally sick shall derive full benefit from the new era that is now beginning for them.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) put -
That the business of the day he called on.
The House divided. (Mr. Speakeb - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Homes for the Aged - The Parliament.
Question proposed -
That the Speaker do now leave the chair.
– I take this opportunity to bring before the attention of the House, and especially before the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) the subject of homes fox the aged. Provision was made in the last budget for a Commonwealth subsidy of £1,500,000 to assist such homes. I took part in the debate on the enabling bill, and suggested to the Government that the amount of £1,500,000 was a ridiculously small sum to be granted for such a purpose. I suggested also to the Minister that before the introduction of the next budget he should approach the State governments to ascertain whether something more could be done in relation to finance for this purpose. I also predicted that, although the amount of t’1,500,000 was totally inadequate, by the time the next budget had been introduced all of that amount would not have been expended. Recently, I asked the Minister for information in regard to the expenditure of the money, and he informed me that only about £500,000 of it had been expended. The fact that £1,000,000 of the provision remains unexpended supports the contention that’ I made when the bill was being debated. For once in the life of this Parliament, every member of the House agreed that the Government did something in the right direction when it introduced such a bill. But it has left institutions, which cannot find the 50 per cent, that the Government requires of them, unable to care for those pensioners whom this bill is said to be designed to benefit.
– The pensioner is still paid.
– Yes, but the buildings are not being erected at the rate at which they should be erected. The Government should not have strings tied to this offer of £1,500,000, but should give the money to people who, it is satisfied, will spend the money in the right way. ff this Government is not prepared to give £1,500,000 as a straight-out grant to the institutions, then it should approach the State governments and make the contribution on a pro rata basis. Perhaps 60 per cent, could be contributed by the Commonwealth, and 40 per cent, by the States. That would be a good investment by the State governments, because they have the responsibility of maintaining homes for pensioners. If the State governments could participate in this plan in the way I have indicated, they would provide adequate homes for ail these aged people.
In my electorate, as in the electorates of other members, there exist such homes as I have mentioned. One of them in my electorate caters for more than 100 people. Adjacent to it there is plenty of land available on which to erect additions to the building, but not one penny is available to enable participation in this grant or subsidy. During the last ten years, debts have been incurred by this home in order to make provision in the existing building for the care of aged people. In effect, the Government says to the authorities in charge of such homes. “You are not in a position to find 50 per cent., so we cannot do anything abour the matter”. I wish to make that point clear to honorable members before tb, next budget is prepared. The Minister for Social Services should communicate with the State governments, and try te arrange for this amount of money to bigiven without attaching any strings to h.
– No strings artattached.
– There are strings attached, as I pointed out to the Minister in respect of the home I mentioned, which is situated in Buckingham-street. That is in the electorate in which the honorable gentleman was born. He should know about it, and should have some sympathy for these aged people. Of course, since he joined the Liberal party, his sympathies have faded away. The honorable gentleman knows that it is impossible for homes such as that to raise any money. The authorities in charge of such home? cannot go from door to door and beg £20,000 or £30,000 to match the amount of the Commonwealth contribution. Ii is impossible also to feed the inmates for £3 10s. a head a week. When I presented a petition to this House from 500 of my aged constituents - and they were 500 of about 5,000 - and asked the honorable gentleman to take action to keep those people from semi-starvation, he said that it was a budget matter, and that he would not do anything about it until the next budget was under consideration. I hope the Minister will give those pensioners at least an additional £1 a week, to be retrospective to last January. He will then be doing something humane. I hope also that when this money is granted, no strings will be attached to it.
Suppose a person is destitute, and the cost of a room for the night is 4s. or 6s. One does not say to him, “ You had better go away and find half the cost, and I will give you the other half “. Yet that is precisely what the Government is doing. The Government is saying to these homeless people, “ Go and cadge 50 per cent of the required amount, and we shall give you a like sum “. Such a position should not be allowed to obtain in this community. In this House, honorable members are accustomed to talk in terms of millions; but when something should be done for these aged people, the Government shows a paltry attitude indeed.
In the electorate of West Sydney, there are half a dozen homes besides the one that I have already mentioned. At an institution at No. 7 Young-street, Sydney, about 700 meals a day are given to the poor people. That indicates that an amount of £3 10s. a week is not sufficient to feed decent Australians. Yet this Government tells the people that it is looking after the poor and the sick. It is a downright shame that we make paupers of people who have attained old age and, through no fault of their own, are not able to look after themselves.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- The matters that I wish to raise will take a lot longer than the two minutes that remain before the sitting will be suspended. However, there is one matter which I can bring to your attention, Mr. Speaker, in the limited time available. I refer to an interference with what I believe are the traditional rights of Whips in this Parliament. I do not wish to canvass a ruling that you have given to the effect that Whips are not allowed at division time to signal their members in the passages and other places by calling out “ Division “. I know that your opinion on this matter is that lights and bells are provided for that purpose; but I point out that the Parliament has changed in recent years. Some honorable members now have private rooms, and where occasionally the bells may not be heard, a musical voice might penetrate. At present an honorable member who is not in the chamber may not be aware that the bells are ringing for a division.
I know that you, Mr. Speaker, are a stickler for House of Commons procedure, and I give you credit for it. As long as you consistently follow that policy, I shall strongly support it. However, I point out that for generations Whips in the House of Commons have signalled a division by calling in the passages, “ The House will divide “, or, “ Division “, as the case may be. Perhaps you will review your attitude on this matter, Mr. Speaker, and consider the re-adoption of that practice in this House. The voices of the Government Whip and the Australian Country partyWhip, while possibly not the sweetest, would at least add a certain amount of harmony to our proceedings.
Debate interrupted under Standing Order 291.
Question resolved in the negative. Sitting suspended from 1345 to 3.15 p.m.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harbison) pro posed -
That orders of the day Nos. 2 to 7 be postponed until after orders of the day Nos. 8 to 10, Government Business.
.- I oppose the motion on the ground that the bill introduced by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), which seeks the establishment of a Civil Defence Council, is of far greater importance than the business which the Government now proposes to ask the House to consider. That bill was apparently given a run by the Government in order to satisfy the honorable member-
– I rise on a point, of order. At present, matters of Government business are before the House. The Civil Defence Council Bill 1955, to which the honorable member for Yarra refers, comes under general business. I suggest that Government business has precedence over general business, and that I should have to move for the suspension of the Standing Orders in order to change that state of affairs.
– Order ! I do not know that a suspension of the Standing
Orders would be necessary in these circumstances. It is merely a matter of postponing Government business until general business has been discussed. That was done on Tuesday in regard to a motion affecting myself, so there is no need to suspend the Standing Orders. Beyond that, it is a matter for the House to decide. If the House, by a majority, wishes general business to be discussed, that will be discussed.
– Briefly, I oppose the motion in order to emphasize the necessity for the Government to take a serious view of the proposal of the honorable member for Mackellar for the establishment of a Civil Defence Council. I am afraid that the Government, because of the insistence of the honorable member, gave him an opportunity to introduce his bill, but now proposes to do nothing further in this matter, which is of the utmost importance and gravity. As Government supporters are aware, no provision has been made for the defence of this community against an attack - especially an atomic attack.
– Of course, that is not true.
– Order! The honorable member may not argue the merits of the matter.
– The Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) can demonstrate that what I have said is not true by making a statement to the House giving details to the contrary. I am certain that, except for the establishment of purely nominal committees in some of the capital cities, very little has been done. I have endeavoured to ascertain the position in Melbourne. but it would seem that if anything happened in that city to-morrow, there would be no organization ready to take over civil defence. If there is, there seems to have been no liaison between it and the State Government on the matter. If the Minister for Defence has some plans that he is hiding from the community, it is time that he took them out of his secret drawer and told us what is proposed. The organization of the civil population in their own defence cannot be kept secret. It is time the Minister took the matter seriously, and listened to the honorable member for Mackellar. That honorable gentleman has been given an opportunity to bring a bill before this House, but, obviously, the Government now proposes to pigeon-hole it. The Minister should treat the bill seriously and inform honorable members when the Government proposes to do something about it. If the honorable member for Mackellar is not to allow Cabinet to treat him, his legislation and this very serious subject as a joke, he will join me in my protest against the motion.
– I agree with the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) that the matter of civil defence is the most serious subject on the business paper. That iB my own honest belief. I have no reason to believe that the Government thinks otherwise, or will treat the matter as a joke, or will delay the consideration of ‘it.
– Why did the honorable member have to bring down the bill?
– I have not full knowledge of the Government’s intentions in the matter, but the honorable member may be quite certain that I do not intend to treat it as a joke. The matter will be pressed at the proper time and in the proper way. The bill proceeded to the second reading only last Thursday. In the normal course of business it would come up again for discussion next Thursday, and that would be the proper and appropriate time. I have not been advised of the Government’s intentions. It may be that a bill like this should lie on the table for a week or two so that, as I have suggested, honorable members may make constructive suggestions for its improvement They should be given an opportunity of fully examining the bill and its implications. I feel that an opportunity should be provided at an early date for the consideration of the bill, but perhaps to-day is too early.
– It will be bad luck if some one starts a war.
– If the honorable member will allow me, I shall repeat what I said in my second-reading speech, that action must be taken on the matter before the House rises, which, I understand, will be in three or four weeks’ time;, I agree, that it should not be shelved, hut, I. feel that to-day, probably is not the: appropriate time, to press it.. On the. other hand, I feel that the. appropriate time to press it cannot be. indefinitely delayed.
, I support the general contention of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon), which was endorsed in part by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). The Civil Defence Council Bill. 1955 is extremely important. I hold the view that although the Minister for. Defence (Sir Philip McBride) has done a great deal of work on the matter^ little of what has been achieved has yet been made known to the people. As the honorable member for Yarra said, civil defence does not call for secrecy. It is one matter that should be made open, plain and clear to every citizen, and until we see clear evidence that the Government has really acted in this matter, there will be an urgent case for bringing the bill before the Parliament at the earliest opportunity.
– I agree with other honorable members who have referred to the urgency of the measure introduced by the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), and the undesirability of postponing consideration of it indefinitely. I agree also with the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) that it would be interesting to know what steps, if any, have been taken by the Government to lay the. foundations of an adequate system of civil defence in this country. However, the main reason why I have risen is to support the general idea that private members should not lightly give away their privilege of airing grievances or of introducing private members’ bills. Looking at the history of this Parliament during the last twenty or 30 years, one cannot fail to notice that during that time the influence of the private member has declined greatly. There was a time within the memory of many of us when private members introduced bills, if not regularly, at least not infrequently. But it seems that now, due to the pressure of business’, the rights of private members, are being increasingly overlooked.
Indeed,, the: fact is: that, what they think about, various problems no longer’ matters very much.
One of the few privileges left to us is the right to express our views on a variety of matters on-, certain set days,, and to introduce bills, subject to certain conditions. Although on this occasion I, like other honorable members, realize the necessity for Government business to have priority, I welcome this opportunity to say that I hope that will not become mere or less automatic in the future.
– in reply - I was very interested in the remarks made by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon). He has tried what is, I suppose, one of the oldest political tricks in debate.
– I rise to order. The VicePresident of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) has said that my reference to the importance and urgency of the bill presented by the honorable member for Mackellar is a political trick. That remark is most offensive to me, and I ask for it to be withdrawn.
– The word “trick” is not quite in keeping with the rules of the House. I. think the right honorable gentleman probably meant to say “ tactics “.
– May this be treated as a non-political issue?
-Order! It is not for me to decide whether anything is political or non-political.
– I withdraw the phrase “ political, trick “, and substitute for it the phrase “ political technique “. I hope that satisfies the honorable member for Yarra. Let me explain what I mean. One. of the oldest techniques of debate is to try to entice the unwary into declaring themselves on any issue. The honorable member knows full well that the business of the House cannot bc taken out of the hands of the Government on a day that is not devoted, to private, members’ business. This afternoon is not an afternoon set aside for private- members’ business. Private members thought so little- this morning of their right to air their grievances that they permitted the discussion of a matter submitted to the House to take up almost the whole of the time allotted for airing grievances.
On the notice-paper to-day, there are four items under the heading of general business. Ever since the honorable member for Yarra and his colleagues have occupied the corner benches on which they now sit, they have said that the greatest menace now confronting Australia is the menace of communism. But in speaking to this motion, he did not say a word about item No. 1 under the heading general business, which relates to the interim report of the Royal Commission on Espionage, in the course of which the leader of the party from which he has broken away was attacked. The proceedings of the commission have revealed the existence of an espionage group aimed at the destruction of this country. But now, possibly because of what is happening in Victoria at present, the honorable gentleman, is running away from that issue. He says that the Civil Defence Council Bill 1955 should be discussed now. Apparently he considers that a prior item under general business, the interim report of the Royal Commission on Espionage, is no longer of importance. The Victorian general election campaign must have had a salutary effect upon him, because apparently he says now that he is satisfied there was nothing in the charges made against the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and is trying by devious means to build a bridge across which he can travel back to the party which he left.
The honorable member for Yarra is not a newcomer to the House. He knows full well that if government business is taken out of the hands of the government, the government resigns. Therefore, the honorable member opposed my motion with the object, either of building a bridge over which he can crawl back into the ranks of the official Opposition - T do not put that past him - or of trying to force honorable members on this side into declaring themselves in certain ways so that they could ,be dragged at his coat tails. Honorable members on this side had the right to ask, if not in this cham- ber, then in the party room, for an opportunity to discuss the bill introduced by the honorable member for Mackellar, but they have not done so. The honorable member for Yarra, having defamed the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), is now seeking to find a way back into the Labour party. If that is the kind of breakaway party to which he belongs, I might congratulate the official Opposition upon having got rid of a very nasty influence within its ranks.
Government business cannot be taken out of the hands of the Government on a day not devoted to general business. It is true that I took certain action yesterday, Mr. Speaker, to facilitate the discussion of a motion affecting you. I believe that any government which failed to give the House an opportunity to discuss immediately a motion of no confidence in the Speaker would, in effect, support the motion. We were not prepared to support that motion of no confidence in you. We were not prepared to permit a motion of no confidence in the Chair to stand on the notice-paper for seven months. That was done by the last Labour Government, with the object of whipping its members into support of the then Deputy Speaker. We decided to put the motion of no confidence in you, Mr. Speaker, before the House immediately. It was quite fitting and proper to draw attention to the fact that, because I took that action in that case, I could take similar action in relation to the Civil Defence Council Bill. The reason why we agreed to the discussion of the motion of no confidence in you was obvious to the House.
We shall not allow the honorable member for Yarra to take the business of the Government out of the hands of the Government. If the honorable member wants the House to divide on the motion, he has the right to call for a division. That is one of the privileges of honorable members, but I suggest to him that when next he rises to his feet and gives prominence to the proceedings of the Petrov commission, the sincerity which we have attributed to him on previous occasions will not be attributed to him then.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sir ARTHUR FADDEN (MoPherson-
Treasurer) [2.35]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend the coinage provisions of the Crimes Act, so as to ensure that, as until lately had always been supposed, the gold sovereign falls within the definition of “ current “ coin, to counterfeit which in Australia is an offence.
Until the members of the British Commonwealth went off the gold standard, there was no doubt that the provisions of the Crimes Act were applicable to the counterfeiting of sovereigns. Since then the regular minting of sovereigns has ceased and exchange control in those countries has made the sovereign no longer available as an ordinary or general medium of exchange. These facts have an important bearing on the operation of section 54 of the Crimes Act, which makes it an offence for any person to make or begin to make any “ counterfeit current coin “. The word “ current “ in this connexion would normally bear its ordinary dictionary meaning, which is “ permitted by law to be in general circulation as a medium of exchange but section 51 of the Crimes Act extends this meaning to cover, amongst other things, coin of any of the kinds or denominations “ which are coined in any of the King’s mints “.
In a recent prosecution in Melbourne under section 54 of the Crimes Act, the defendant admitted that he had manufactured 745 counterfeit sovereigns, but a judge held in General Sessions that the sovereign was no longer “ current coin “ within the meaning of the act, and the defendant was acquitted on this technicality. Honorable members will, I am sure, agree that such a position, whereby the gold sovereign can be counterfeited in Australia with impunity, cannot be allowed to remain. The counterfeiting of sovereigns also raises problems far beyond the limits of Australia. Although at present the sovereign is not in circulation in Australia or in most other parts of the Queen’s dominions, it is extensively used throughout the Moslem world, and there is evidence of its substantial use in Hong Kong, India and South America. The number of sovereigns in circulation abroad is estimated at over 300,000,000.
The value of a gold sovereign has always stood at a premium over the value of its gold content, but its value, measured in sterling, has recently dropped in the Middle East from £10 to about £3 6s. The United Kingdom Government believes that the greatest factor in this fall in value has been the circulation of counterfeit sovereigns, some of which contain nearly the right weight and fineness of gold. In fact, in certain markets in Arabian countries a different rate of exchange has been quoted for genuine and false sovereigns.
Accordingly, the United Kingdom authorities have been taking energetic steps to stop counterfeiting and the circulation of counterfeit sovereigns to protect the value of the gold sovereign. To this end, criminal proceedings against the makers of, and dealers in, counterfeit sovereigns have been brought successfully in Switzerland, Italy and Tangier. The Victorian decision has received a good deal of publicity abroad, and the United Kingdom authorities will specially welcome the amendment made in this bill, because it will restore, as far as counterfeiting is concerned, the legal status of the sovereign as a “ current “ coin in this country. The technical difficulty in Australia which the bill is designed to overcome does not exist in the United Kingdom because the definition of “ current “ coin was amended there in 1936, so as to include any coin which “has been coined “ in any of theRoyal mints. A gold sovereign clearly answers that description. It is desirable to bring our law into line with the United Kingdom law in this respect. The bill accordingly makes a similar alteration in the Crimes Act.
What I have so far said touches only one of the two alternative descriptions of a “ current “ coin which are included in the definition given by section 51 of the Crimes Act. In its second limb, section 51 covers coins which are “ lawfully current in any part of the Queen’s dominions “. These words have been differently interpreted in different parts of the British Commonwealth. Whether or not a coin answers this description may therefore depend on what can be established as to the law and practice of other parts of the British Commonwealth. The bill, however, does not touch this part of the definition. It is not necessary to do so because the bill widens the first limb of the definition to cover any coin which has at any time been coined in any of the Queen’s mints. A case where it would be necessary to rely on the second limb of the definition is not very likely to arise, at any rate in Australia.
The present opportunity is being taken to transfer to the Crimes Act two almost buried provisions now contained in sections 18 and 20 of the War Precautions ActRepeal Act 1920-1934. Those provisions relate to the defacing or destruction of current gold coin and to the destruction or damaging of posters or advertisements relating to Commonwealth loans. Both are appropriate to the subjectmatter of Part IV. of the Crimes Act, and are dealt with in clauses 4 and 5 of the bill. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motionbyM.r. Allan Fraser) adjourned.
– I move -
That thebill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to make minor but important amendments to the Public Service Arbitration Act, mainly to clarify points on which difficulty has arisen in recent proceedings. The principal amendments, broadly stated, are -
First, the act as it stands contains an express prohibition against representation of a person or organization by counsel or solicitor in any proceedings under the act. This applies not only to proceedings before the Arbitrator but to proceedings in the court itself, by way of reference or appeal. Unlike the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, the existing Public Service Arbitration Act contains no provision which expressly permits an officer or member of an organization to represent that organization in proceedings under the act. Nevertheless, the uniform practice until very recently has been to permit the representation of an organization by one of its own members or officers, notwithstanding the fact that hp might himself be legally qualified.
In the repatriation medical officers’ case, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court held, in March, 1955, that the act could notbe interpreted as permitting this practice. The matter was tested by mandamus proceedings in the High Court, which took the contrary view. It held that the prohibition of counsel or solicitor applies only to representation by counsel or solicitor in his professional capacity, and that the act does not prevent an officer or member from representingthis organization in that capacity, even though he is legally qualified.
Before these proceedings took place, the High Council of Public .Service Organizations requested that the act should be amended to provide expressly for the continuance of the present practice in this regard. In view of the High Court’s decision, no amendment is logically necessary. But it seems preferable to deal with the matter expressly, as the High Council .suggested. This will be done by clause G of the bill. Since the Public Service Board is not an “ organization “ within the meaning of the act, opportunity has been taken to make clear that, like organizations of employees, the board and other Commonwealth employing authorities may be represented by one of their own officers, even though he is legally qualified.
Secondly, in 195.1, the main Conciliation and Arbitration Act “was amended to permit representation by counsel or solicitor, by leave of the tribunal, in proceedings arising under that act before either the court or a conciliation commissioner. This arrangement applies also to proceedings under the Stevedoring Industry Act, the Navigation Act and the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Power Act, though under the Coal Industry Act the consent of the parties is also required. No comparable ‘amendment was made in the Public Service Arbitration Act. The Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court, in his annual report for 1954, expressly advised amendment ‘to permit representation by .counsel or solicitor, by leave of the court, in proceedings under .the act before the court. The High Council of Public Service Organizations, moreover, although maintaining its opposition to the system of appeal and reference, has sought an amendment to permit this limited representation. An amendment for this purpose is made by clause 6 of the bill. I emphasize, however, that nothing in the amendment will permit legal representation .before the Arbitrator; that the clause leaves it to the court to decide on each occasion whether or not the circumstances justify representation by counsel or solicitor; and that this legal representation will not be automatic. It is not proposed to alter the practice that has existed for very many years whereby counsel has not appeared before the Arbitrator, and it will be in the discretion of the court itself to decide whether an .appeal from the Arbitrator is such, as to justify representation .by counsel.
Thirdly, I refer to the fact that claims and applications under the act commonly comprise ‘several subject-matters, which may !be of diverse character and of widely differing degrees of public importance. Under the act as it stands, ‘however, it is by no means clear that the Arbitrator can isolate ‘the particular part or parts of a claim or application which it is desirable to refer for determination by the court. The scope likewise of the court’s power to refer matters back to the Arbitrator is >by no means clear. Recent instances have shown the desirability of putting the matter beyond doubt. Clauses 4 and 5 of the bil are designed for this purpose. Under these clauses, part of a claim or application may be referred to the court, and likewise the court will be able to refer back to the Arbitrator for determination, it may be in the light of some expression of its own views, part of the claim or application before it. Fourthly, clause 3 of the bill will make it clear that the Arbitrator possesses similar powers to those which are expressly conferred upon the Arbitration Court and upon conciliation commissioners by section 40 (d) of the main Arbitration Act. The Arbitrator has hitherto interpreted his own act as placing on him an express duty to hear and determine all matters submitted to him, and therefore as denying to him the power to refrain from hearing a matter which is trivial in character or more proper for determination by some other industrial authority, or a matter which in the public interest should not be decided at all. Three judges of the Arbitration Court recently expressed the opinion obiter that, as a matter of construction, the Arbitrator does possess these powers. Clause 3 of the bill will put the matter beyond doubt.
Fifthly, the act requires a determination to be expressed to come into operation as from a date fixed by the Arbitrator, but not earlier than after the expiration of 30 days after the determination has been laid before both Houses of the Parliament. The Arbitrator ‘has not regarded the provision as a mandatory requirement that every determination must specify a date for its coming into operation. In the recent proceedings concerning marginal adjustments in the Public Service, however, the Chief Judge held that a determination which did not contain an express date of operation was not a valid determination, and could not be made the subject of an appeal. Clause 7 of the bill will make a determination operate 80 days after it was laid before the House, unless the Arbitrator fixes a later date. The amendments will have no retrospective effect, but clause 9 makes clear that they will operate, of course, as machinery amendments normally do, in respect of current proceedings. The amendments relate, as honorable members will see, only to procedural matters, though some of them are of substantial importance. In particular, the amendments providing for legal representation in proper cases before the court will assist not only the parties but the court itself. The Chief Judge has emphasized that technical questions of great complexity frequently arise in this kind of proceedings, and the assistance of qualified professional argument is of material advantage in the effective operation of the system. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Haylen) adjourned.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
In 1924, the wine industry of the Commonwealth found itself in difficulties, and, by the Wine Export Bounty Act of that year, steps were taken towards its rehabilitation. The measures adopted provided for the payment, from general revenue, of a bounty on wine shipped overseas. Subsequently, in 1930, payment of the bounty was made from a fund - the Wine Export Encouragement Account - created by increasing the excise duty on spirit used to fortify wine. By 1947, the industry had recovered sufficiently to allow the bounty to be discontinued. At that stage, about £1,100,000 had accumulated in the encouragement account. Under the Wine Export Bounty Act 1947, £500,000 of this sum was placed in a trust account known as the Wine Industry Assistance Account, and the balance was transferred to Consolidated Revenue. A provision in the 1947 act was that moneys remaining in the trust account might be expended within a period of ten years for the benefit of the industry, subject to an investigation by the Tariff Board of any requests for assistance, and subject to the Minister for Trade and Customs making a determination thereon.
In 1949, an application to use £300,000 for advertising purposes was refused, but in 1951 the industry sought to have the money devoted towards the establishment and maintenance of an institute to conduct research into matters associated with wine-making, grape-growing, and joint wine-making and grape-growing work. The Tariff Board agreed there was scope for extending the research activities already being carried on, but it suggested that the industry should make a substantial cash contribution towards the support of the proposed institute. A committee comprising representatives of the Australian Wine Board, the Federal Viticultural Council, the Federal Grape Growers Council, the Department of Trade and Customs, the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the State Departments of Agriculture in South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia, presented to the Minister a statement setting out the nature and range of the contemplated research. It was envisaged that part of the programme would be covered by the various State Departments of Agriculture with moneys made available to them and partly entrusted to the staffs of new laboratories to be established. The Government is favorably disposed towards the more recent request and, having in mind (i) the wine industry’s offer to subscribe £4,000 annually to the institute, (ii) the current recession in sales, and (iii) the existing levy on grapes of about £32,000 each year to provide funds administered by the Australian Wine Board, I recommend the bill as a worth while and permanent means of helping the grape-growing and wine-making interests. It will be noted that the bill proposes to appropriate up to £100,000 from Tile assistance account to cover capital expenditure on land, buildings, equipment and the like for the purpose of the institute, and to fund the balance of the money to earn interest to keep the institute in operation.
The Australian Wine Research Institute has now been registered in South Australia as a company limited by guarantee and not having a share capital. The incorporation under a State law will promote convenience in administration and will enable the institute to manage its affairs smoothly and expeditiously by r.he avoidance of severe restriction of notion which might result if, as an alternative, it had been established by Commonwealth act as a statutory corporation. Under the provisions of the articles of association, the control and management of the institute is vested in a council. The initial members of the council are, in effect, the directors, and they comprise the chairman and two other members of the Australian Wine Board, a representative of the Australian Government, and a representative of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. The rules of the institute were drafted after close consultation between representatives of the wine industry, the Department of Trade and Customs, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and appropriate legal authorities. The rules have been approved by the Minister for Trade and Customs, and copies will be available for perusal when the bill, is being considered in committee. It will be noted that, under the terms of the bill, no further moneys from the Wine Research Trust Fund will be paid to the institute if an alteration is made to the memorandum or articles without the approval of the Minister. I commend the bill for the favorable consideration of the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Chambers) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 10th May (vide page 565), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now rend u second time.
– The purpose of this bill is to defer beyond the 30th June, the final distribution of profits of the Joint Organization, which is required under the terms of the Wool Realization (Distribution of Profits) Act 194S-1952. This amending measure is necessary because the Poulton case has not yet been finally settled. The judgments of both a single judge of the High Court and the full bench of the High Court have gone against Mr. Poulton, and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) has informed us that Mr. Poulton’s solicitors have intimated that they intend to seek the leave of the High Court to appeal to the Privy Council in England. It is obvious that final judgment in this case cannot be given by the Privy Council before the 30th June of this1 year. Therefore, it appears inevitable that the Government must be enabled to defer beyond that date the distribution of the amount of £2,900,000 of Joint Organization profits from the sale of wool that was submitted for appraisement through dealers. It is in dispute whether those profits properly belong to the dealers or to the growers who sent the wool to them. The Poulton case is a test of the contention of the dealers that a share of the profits belongs properly to them. The length of the further delay that might now occur can only be guessed. The delay that the Poulton case has already occasioned seems interminable to many people who are interested in the distribution of the Joint Organization profits from the sale of wool. It seems now that another twelve months may elapse before final judgment is given by the Privy Council. However, that is only guess-work, and the delay may be even greater.
– It may be very short if leave to appeal to the Privy Council is refused.
– 1£, as the Minister has- stated, leave to appeal to the Privy Council’ is refused, the matter might he greatly shortened,, but I remind hint of the Nelungaloo- case with which Ha is well acquainted. That case, which concerned the acquisition of wheat, was argued before the High Court towards the end of 1947. The appeal before that court was dismissed by it in May, 1948, and one of the parties then proceeded to the Privy Council without leave from the High Court. The Privy Council dismissed the appeal because leave to appeal had’ not been given by the High Court.
– That is not so.
– I. acknowledge the honorable member’s right to his opinion, but I do not concede to him any right to contradict me on the facts. The honorable member will recall the Nelungaloo case. As I understand the facts, the case was argued before the High Court in November, 1947, and the: appeal was’ dismissed in May, 1948. One of the parties then took the case to the Privy Council, which dismissed the appeal in July, 1950, because leave to appeal had not been given by the High Court, o The honorable member for Riverina (Mr:, Roberton) is probably confused, because^ it was then, and only then, that leave to> appeal to the Privy Council was sought in the High Court. The application to the High Court for leave was made about the middle of 1951, and the court eventu-ally refused leave in March, 1952. The entire proceedings extended over a period of about five years, and they were terminated only by the final refusal of the High Court to give leave to appeal to the Privy Council.-
I suppose Mr. Poulton and the dealers for whom his case is a test of their rights are not to be blamed for taking every opportunity that is legally open to them’ to establish their rights and to obtain the benefit of them. It is certainly the right of a litigant to use to the full advantage the machinery of the law for his own benefit. Mr. Poulton is not responsible for the system which allows appeals to the Privy Council. The case itself is another justification for’ the argument that the system of appeal to the Privy
Council’ should be ended and- that’ the High- Court of) Australia, should be made the final.’ court, of appeal for Australian litigation.
– The general public think so, too.
– As- the honorable member has observed, that is the view also of the people of Australia. I hope1 that that very important change will be made some day. The extraordinary delays that have already occurred, and the further delays that will, now occur, provide additional evidence of. the need for a. change in the system of appeal.
As I have stated, until the Poulton case is decided,, it. is not possible, to distribute the £2,900,000 of J Joint Organization profits on the sale of wool submitted for appraisement through dealers. The Minister has pointed out that the Wool Realization Act requires that the expenses and charges of the Wool Realization Commission must be known precisely before the final distribution is made. Obviously, the costs involved in the Poulton case cannot yet be precisely determined], and therefore that provision in the Wool Realization Act makes this amending bill’ necessary. I suppose, for that reason, the distribution of about £12,500,000 which was- begun recently- and is now in process is termed an interim distribution, though in relation to wool submitted for appraisement through brokers it is, in effect, a final distribution. I notice that after everything has been cleared up, including’ decision on the £14,000 received from the Joint Organization after a special distribution was made in June, 1953, any amounts which are too small or which itwill be impracticable to distribute among the growers are to be- paid into the Wool Industry Fund’. As that fund is used mainly for research activities which benefit the wool industry generally, I imagine that that course will meet with general acceptance. The Labour party w.ill offer no- opposition to the passage of the bill.
Mr. ROBERTON, (Riverina) [3.5T’.- This measure can appropriately be described only as the grand’ finale to a magnificent performance. Those of- us who have: been engaged in the wool industry have some recollection, of feates what weise -felt for the second time in our -history ion the outbreak of World War TJ., when the “first Menzies Government was in office. Woolgrowers generally knew from experience that the” outbreak of war spelt the end of normal commercial methods of selling wool. The Menzies Government at that time rose supremely to the occasion by entering into an arrangement with the United Kingdom Government which provided that if the Australian Government acquired all the wool that was in Australia at that time, and all the wool grown during the period of the arrangement, and met its constitutional responsibilities by paying for it on just terms, the United Kingdom Government would buy that wool from the Australian Government. It is to the everlasting credit of the United Kingdom Government that it agreed to that arrangement. The United Kingdom Government, of course, undertook the very onerous responsibility of either storing the wool here, or in other parts of the world, or shipping it from Australia to other parts of the world, and, later, feeding it on to the market during the war period in such a way as not to disturb the normal commercial processes that operate in the wool trade.
When the question of price arose, the United Kingdom Government and the Menzies Government agreed upon what can only be described as a remunerative price to the industry. Indeed, the price began at 13.04d. per lb. in 1939, and remained at that level until 1942, when the United Kingdom Government and the Australian Government agreed that, as a result of the rising costs to which the Australian wool-producers were subject, it should be increased to 15. 5d. The price remained at that level during the whole period of acquisition. That arrangement - the “buying of wool at that remunerative price, the storage of it both here and abroad, and the feeding of it on to the market - was a very great responsibility to be undertaken by the M-other Country in addition to all the other responsibilities that it bore on its shoulders at that time. The question then arose of what the United ‘Kingdom was likely to ‘do with the huge accumulated stocks of wool, which might amount to hundreds of millions of bales by the end of the war. The United
Kingdom Government immediately rose /supremely .to the occasion, and stated than (any losses incidental to .the disposal <of :the accumulated stocks would :be borne exclusively by the Government and people of the United Kingdom. I grasp this opportunity to emphasize here and now, perhaps for the last time, what .a marvellous gesture the United Kingdom Government made when it agreed to take our wool at that remunerative price, to dispose O.t it, and to bear any losses incidental to its sale.
The question of profit then arose. It was asked what was likely to happen to any profit that accrued from the sale of the accumulated wool when hostilities ended and it was released to the market in the ordinary way. Honorable members on the other side of the House have engaged in the most defamatory criticism of the Government and the people of the United Kingdom, from time to time, whenever the question of profits arises. What is the truth of this matter? The Mother Country agreed that, whilst it would bear any losses incidental to the sale of the wool, it would share equally with the countries concerned any profits that might accrue. That was another magnificent gesture to Australia and New Zealand and South Africa, and to the people :engaged in the wool industry in those countries at that time. Fortunately, no losses were incurred and the people and the Government of the United Kingdom were free of that contingent onerous responsibility. However the very generous arrangement made by the United Kingdom continued during the war, and it was to become even more generous when, after the war, the accumulated stocks of wool were fed on to the market. It could be argued that the United Kingdom Government would -have been justified in recovering any losses as rapidly .as possible, but instead of doing that, it fed the wool onto the market through an organization that was established here to assist it to do so, in such a way as not to disturb the market for current clips, or the wool industry generally. Because of that very fact there were very substantial profits from the resale .of the wool.
During that process of sale the Joint Organization, which was established for that very purpose, disposed of about 15,000,000 bales of wool, 10,000,000 bales of which belonged to Australian woolgrowers. The profits from the resale of that wool, which was very technically and skillfully carried out by the wool trade in the United Kingdom, amounted to £93,000,000. Had the Labour Government continued in office after 1949, I, who was privileged to serve the wool producers of this country for many year3, should have been compelled to appeal to it for a distribution of those profits. That Government had resisted any attempt to have a distribution of the profits made. Had it remained in office and continued its resistance it would have been necessary for me to threaten it with litigation in order to force it to meet its responsibilities. In fact, I did threaten it at one stage. The first distribution of the profits was made by the previous Government at the death-knock in 1949.
– On the very day of the general election, I think.
– Exactly ! On the very eve of the general election the previous Government met its responsibilities in a minor degree, and made the first distribution of those profits. The present Government, on coming into office, examined the position of the wool industry, took the industry as a whole into its confidence, and explored methods of action that would be in the best interests of everybody concerned. The second distribution of the profits was made by this Government in 1952. At the will and pleasure of the people engaged in the industry, it was arranged - that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture should spread the distribution over subsequent years until the profits were completely distributed. The third distribution was made in 1953, the fourth in 1954, and the fifth this year, to the wool-growers to whom those profits rightly belonged under the arrangement that had been entered into between the Australian Government and the United Kingdom Government. During that period there were no threats of litigation, no rumours of litigation, no impassioned appeals to the Minister to stand up to his responsibilities, and no suggestions that the money was being withheld from the growers. Every year these funds were distributed to the people to whom they rightly belonged, until the point has been reached now when this bill may be described as the grand final*of a magnificent performance, spread, of course, over a considerable period of time.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro, who led the debate for the Opposition, referred to the Poulton case. The Poulton case arose, briefly, because the arrangements entered into by the Australian Government and the United Kingdom Government provided in fairly precise terms that any profits arising out of the resale of the wool should go to the growers, and the question arose as to what would happen to wool which the growers normally sold through the dealers when that wool was subsequently acquired by the Australian Government in the normal way. So the Poulton cas* is still unresolved.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro referred to the Nelungaloo case. That was most unfortunate for the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, because I, for my sins, was entirely responsible for the Nelungaloo case, and I have cause to know about it. Let me inform the honorable member just what happened in that case. There was acquisition by the Commonwealth, and the Australian Government of the period refused to stand up to its constitutional responsibilities and pay just terms for the wheat, that was acquired. What happened with regard to wool also happened with regard to wheat. I was placed in a position in which I had to go to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture and the Prime Minister of the day, and J had to say on behalf of the wheat-growers, as I did also on behalf of the woolgrowers, that if the government did nor. stand up to its constitutional responsibilities, the people to whom these products belonged would have to take the necessary action to protect their equity in their own products, and to protect the government from its own dishonesty. We had to take action in. the High Court of Australia. I must confess that no one knew less about the law than I did, and that I do not profess to know much about it now, but I do know what happened in that case. The case was heard before a single judge, who found against the wheat-growers.
We were then in the position where we had either to accept the decision of the single judge as final and irrevocable, or appeal to the High Court. I was informed that there were five judges who were competent to sit on the High Court Bench and give a decision in that case. Because of that numerical factor alone - because there were five judges - and a final decision was unavoidable, we decided to appeal to the Full High Court. But five judges were not sufficient for the socialist government of that time to resolve a question of this kind, and so it cabled to Japan for the return of a judge who was sitting at that time on the trial of the Japanese war criminals. The government flew that unfortunate man from Japan to Sydney and put him on the High Court Bench as the sixth judge. He sat there in front of me, day after day, utterly bewildered. He had no earthly idea what the case was about.
– Order ! I cannot allow comments upon members of the judiciary.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. Speaker, as I am in duty bound to do. Let me say that in that case the High Court was equally divided; three judges found for the growers and three for the Commonwealth. When that happened, unfortunately, the case went against the growers. That is the history of the Nelungaloo case, and I give the information to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro in order that he may be properly informed.
Then the question arose of an appeal to the Privy Council. Counsel had to go to the Privy Council and make application for leave to appeal. They were told there that the inter se question would not be raised by the Commonwealth, and on that basis, and that basis alone, we decided to appeal to the Privy Council. In the fullness of time the law lords of the Privy Council heard the appeal, and the Commonwealth raised the question of inter se. It was an inter se judgment that was given by the Privy
Council against the wheat-growers in that instance. Those are the facts of the case, and I shall not have them contradicted by any one who was not involved in the case at the time.
All that one can say in connexion with this bill is, shortly, that it provides that the amounts of money left in the Wool Disposals Profit Fund should be paid to the Wool Industry Fund for the benefit of the latter fund. The bill has no other purpose. There are no other practical methods of paying this money into any other fund, and no other practical way of disposing of this money. This bill provides for the ultimate disposal of an amount that is not likely to exceed £15,000, which has resulted from a very large operation that has extended over a period of years. The Minister is to be congratulated for having brought this vast undertaking to such a successful conclusion.
– My comments on this measure will be brief, because the history of the joint organization was outlined very effectively by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) in his second-reading speech. It has also been dealt with by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), and, perhaps more effectively, by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton). However, in view of one or two points which have arisen during the debate, some comments are necessary at this stage.
The original Wool Realization (Distribution of Profits) Act was passed in 1948, but, as has been said, the first interim distribution was not made until the end of 1949. Nevertheless, it is a fact that this Government has arranged since then for a further interim distribution to be made each year until what may be regarded as the final interim distribution of approximately £12,500,000 was made at the end of last month. It is refreshing to see that the Opposition is supporting this measure. I say that particularly because of the attitude adopted in the past by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who, on each occasion since 1950 that the Government has announced that an interim distribution’ was! to be made, has’ attacked the Government for not making a full distribution at the time. It is interesting’ to note that the Opposition, to-day, supports the measure and the action of the Government in distributing the profits, over that period.. The withholding’ of final’, payment, has proved to be: the wisest course, that could have: been adopted. From 1947 onwards inflationary pressures were in evidence in> the? community, and they continued until they were brought, under control by this Government in 1953. It was. obvious to all that the payment of £93,000,000, in a lump, sum, would have a detrimental effect upon the economy.. To-day;, apparently, the Labour party sees the: wisdom- of that for the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has supported the. Government’s action. If the honorablemember for Lalor had been here, instead of being busily engaged supporting Labour candidates in the Victorian election campaign,, I doubt whether he would have- displayed the same reasonable, approach. Another justification for distribution over a period was the effect, of such reimbursements upon taxation.. Generally speaking,, the recipients have, been thankful that they were not made, in one year..
Persons who left the wool industry before the boom period were not in the same? comfortable position as> those- whoremained in it during or after that’ time, and; the- Government gave sympathetic consideration to an early distribution, in full, in, their case. Those who left the industry before the 1st September,, 1949, were told that they could participate in a special distribution, in full, in 1953. That distribution w.as in- f act made in June of that year and the recipients, were paid all that was due to them with, the exception of their share, of a relatively small amount of a. Hew thousand pounds that has since, come into the: fund. It is interesting to note that the total amount, available, for- dia:tribution to those- receiving final- payments, in June,, 1953,, is a little: morethan £700’. The individual amounts are, I think, in the vicinity of 2s. Obviously,, administrative-, costs prohibit the distribution of this small amount, which will’, under this; legislation, be transferred to the Wool’ Industry Fund.
The amount that will’ remain in the profits fund is- approximately £2,900j000. That sum represents moneys for wool’ handled1 by dealers, as distinct from brokers, during the Joint- Organization period’ and was the subject of litigation in the- Poulton case. The object of the measure: is to ensure that those fund* can be dealt with until a final! decision on- distribution’ is made-. The bill, apart from that aspect, concludes a very satisfactory distribution of profits which- has- been an unexpected’ but welcome ad’d’ition to our- national income.
– L support the. Government’s, action in> introducing the hill and. deplore the attitude, of the honorable, member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton)’, who: has, delved into the past, and ignored inflationary trends in order to> make a little political, capital, before commend.ing the- Government for its present, action. His speech was hardly worthy of him,, and his attitude was, quite unrealistic. The Government, has taken a long while to distribute the profits. The first distribution was made, on the eve. of the T94i9. election, and the payments have not’ yet been completed.. However, the Government faced real difficulties in this matter and the. Poulton case- stayed itf hand.. Doubtless the farmers say, “The Government has our money. Why can it not distribute it? Why are there interminable delays as a result” of litigation? “ The bill brings out the point that, something should be- done to avoid” such delays, which are encountered in both State and Commonwealth spheres.. Such matters- a-‘ this should be dealt’ with much more quickly.
This huge scheme involves the disposal, of 10,,500,000 bales of wool and the. distribution of. £93,000,000. in profits. Those are gigantic sums, and the fact that only 3’ per cent, of the profit is. still retained does not. reflect, too. badly upon. the. Government’s efforts in the. face, of such litigation.
Wool is our- greatest source1 of income, and it was proper- for the Government to take strong action in time of war to- protect it. We have not a hot war on our hands to-day, but. we face a fairly severe economic war. Our wool industry is becoming very largely a weapon in the war for dollars. Perhaps the Minister is considering whether a government organization shall dispose of our wool clip so that it will produce more dollars. Farmers who sell their wool on a free market might say, “It does not matter very much to us: the main thing is to sell our wool “. We have reason to believe that there is an acute dollar shortage and that many countries which buy our wool are exchanging it for dollars. The time might very well have arrived for the Government to insist that a “portion of the proceeds from our wool-clip shall be paid for in dollars, just as those who sell oil to Australia require a large proportion of the payment to be made in that currency. I support the bill.
– I Jo not intend to delay the passage of the bill, which has been discussed fully. It was strange to hear the Leader of the Anti-Communist Labour party (Mr. Joshua) say that dollars are scarce when, yesterday, he condemned the dollar loan that this Government is raising. I compliment the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) upon the very satisfactory way in which this measure has been handled. There is more to the matter than the payments made. Some honorable members think the payments should have been made earlier and that the Government has not been looking after the interests of the wool-growers. There may be some wool-growers who want to get all that is due to them in one lump sum, if that is possible, but they are few in number. I must say that I have not heard any complaints about the size of the payments, about delay in making them, or anything like that. All the woolgrower to whom I have- spoken have been very happy with the’ way in which payments have been made. Wool prices have dropped to> some extent, and the- income of wool-growers iff not so high as it was some- time ago. Therefore, the- action in spreading the payments over some years has done much to relieve the wool-growers of a burden of taxation that they would have had to bear if larger payments had been made in years when the price of wool was very high. Considerations of that kind exercised the mind of the Minister, and he chose the best time to make the payments, a time when they would be of the greatest benefit to the wool-growers.
– I want to make some comments on the speech of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton). He failed to give any credit, to the government which was responsible for bringing this scheme into being, administering it during the most important period of its operation, and making large profits for the wool-growers. The original wool disposals scheme was brought into being just after the beginning of World War II. by an antiLabour government, which entered into an agreement with the United Kingdom Government for the disposal of wool at 13-Jd. per lb. During the ensuing years, the Labour party, which was then in opposition, frequently requested the government of the day to seek an increase of that price. We- felt that, in view of the increased prices of commodities that we bought from the United Kingdom and other countries, and in view also of rising costs in this country, it was necessary that the wool-growers should be paid a higher price for their wool. Although we made that request repeatedly to the Government, it was rejected.
When the Labour party came into office in 1941, I had the honour-, as an assistant to the then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, to prepare a case for presentation to the United Kingdom Government for an increased price for the wool-growers. We managed to gel the price increased, to 15$d. per lb. The present Government parties, which were then in opposition, thought that,, by asking for a higher price, we were slugging Great Britain; but we believed that we had a. duty to Australian wool-growers. As I have said, we.- asked, for a higher price, and we got it. I think those facts should he made known.
The Labour party had the task of helping to bring, into existence in 1945 the wool’ realization- scheme, known as J.Oi
It did an excellent job. The Joint Organization scheme was a far better scheme than that which was put into operation after World War I. The profit of £90,000,000 available for distribution to the wool-growers is an indication of the excellence of the work done by the Joint Organization. I think a great compliment should be paid to the officers responsible for the administration of the organization, and I think also that some praise is due to the government which appointed them. Looking through the reports of the debates on the subject, I find that the principal criticism levelled at the Labour government of that day by the then Opposition related to the appointment of the officers of the organization. The men who were appointed to the job were severely criticized, but they did exceptionally good work. I am pleased to see that to-day honorable members opposite have had to eat their words. They are congratulating the Jrovernment upon something for which it does not deserve to be congratulated, because the great work of bringing the scheme into existence and administering it during the most important years of its life was done by a Labour administration. The wool-growers, who have received millions of pounds from the operation of the scheme, should be grateful to that administration for its foresight in entering into such a scheme, and stabilizing the wool industry over a long period. In view of the politically biased speech made by the honorable member for Riverina, I thought those facts should be put before the House.
.- I wish to speak very briefly on this bill, and only on a fairly irrelevant matter which was introduced into the debate only as a result of a misunderstanding by the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) of the remarks made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). The honorable member for Eden-Monaro sought to justify the bill because of the delay that was likely to occur before the Poulton case was decided by the Privy Council, if leave were given by the High Court to appeal to the Privy Council. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro mentioned the
Nelungaloo case, a wheat acquisition case, only to show how long the delay might be. But the honorable member for Riverina took the opportunity to make an attack on the preceding Government over the N Nelungaloo case. He confessed that he knew nothing of the law now, and that he knew nothing of the law then. Honorable members are not accustomed to such modesty on his part, nor indeed to such veracity on his part.
– Order ! I cannot allow an honorable member to question the veracity of another honorable member. The honorable member for Werriwa must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw the word “ veracity “ and substitute “ accuracy “. The honorable member for Riverina asserted that, before the Privy Council, the Australian Government, the respondent to the appeal, had raised an inter se question, which meant that the Privy Council could not determine the appeal unless the appellants had previously obtained leave to appeal from the High Court.
– I rise to order. I submit that it is not in order to conduct a debate on a legal issue which has nothing to do with the wool industry or with the issues involved in this measure.
– I also rise to order. I mentioned the Nelungaloo case because I contended that the delay in that case revealed the necessity for this bill. Similar delays are being, and may continue to be, experienced in this connexion. The honorable member for Riverina then dealt very fully with the Nelungaloo case, contradicted what I had said about it and, therefore, set aside the arguments that I had advanced. Those arguments were very relevant to this bill. The fact9 of the Nelungaloo case are now being stated by the honorable member for Werriwa.
– Speaking to the point of order, I may mention that I have referred to this matter only because you, Mr. Speaker, permitted it to be raised by the honorable member for EdenMonaro, and, at greater length, by the honorable member for Riverina. I shall not take much longer to deal with the runts which have been raised already, if am permited to continue.
– A discussion of the N elungaloo case does not come within the scope of the bill. However, it is true that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro raised the question, and that then there was a dispute between him and the honorable member for Riverina on the facts. The honorable member for Riverina dealt with the case in some detail. Now the honorable member for Werriwa wants to correct something in the statement of the honorable member for Riverina that he considers was wrong. I think he should be very brief about it.
– I shall be. The appeal in the Nelungaloo case came before the Privy Council in June, 1950, during the term of office of the present Government. Very prominent and distinguished counsel were retained by the Commonwealth to argue the appeal. They were - The gentleman who is now Mr. Justice Taylor of the High Court of Australia, Mr. D. N. Pritt, a senior member of the English bar, Mr. F. Gahan, and Mr. R. Else Mitchell. The hearing of the appeal extended over eight days in June, 1950, and the decision of the Privy Council was given on the 27th July. Therefore, any points that were raised before the Privy Council were raised eight months after the present Government assumed office. But I point out, in justice to this Government, because the facts will speak for themselves, that this Government’s counsel did not raise the point. The inter se question was raised by Nelungaloo Proprietary Limited - the interests represented by the honorable member for Riverina. The concluding passage of the judgment of the Privy Council makes that abundantly clear. That passage may be found at page 160 of volume 81 of the Commonwealth Law Reports, and it reads as follows: -
In this appeal however, it is the appellant who invites a decision of an inter se question. The rule applicable was thus laid down by the Board in the Banks’ case ( 1 ) : the appellant may accept the determination of the High Court on the inter se question and present a petition for special leave to appeal on other questions only. But if he insists in his appeal on raising an inter se question, whether as part of his main ground of appeal or as part of an alternative ground of appeal, he must obtain a certificate from the High Court unders.74 (of the Constitution).
It is quite plain, therefore, that neither the Labour Government before 1949, nor the Menzies-Fadden coalition raised the point. The appellant itself raised the point, and, by so doing, defeated its own case in the Privy Council.
There is only one other matter that 1 desire to mention. It is neither necessary nor permissible for me to traverse it at length, but the honorable member for Riverina referred to the conduct of one of the justices of the High Court on that occasion. The facts are that three matters arose for decision by the High Court on the appeal from Mr. Justice Williams. On two of those points the court was evenly divided. Mr. Justice Williams had previously determined those points against Nelungaloo Proprietary Limited. Therefore, apart from the fact of the court being evenly divided on those matters and the appeal being dismissed on that ground, it is quite plain that four justices were against Nelungaloo Proprietary Limited, and three only were favorable to it on those two points. On the remaining point, five of the justices, as well as Mr. Justice Williams at the first hearing, held against Nelungaloo Proprietary Limited. I realize that this matter is completely irrelevant, but since points have been raised which may reflect on the conduct of the High Court of Australia in November, 1947, and May, 1948, and on the conduct of the Labour Government before 1949, and of this Government since that time, and on the conduct of Nelungaloo Proprietary Limited, I have brought these facts to the attention of the House.
.- As the representative of a wool-producing electorate, I consider that I should say a few words on this measure which will draw the curtain on one of the greatest acts of co-operation that has ever been undertaken in any field of primary production in this country. That, of course, is the Joint Organization. No vaster scheme has ever been envisaged or carried out by the officers of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, and their counterparts in England. Moreover, I do not suppose that any particular scheme has received more warm-hearted approval from all sections of the Parliament than this one has. It has been operating for twelve years, and has been designed to dispose of the surplus wool that we accumulated during the war years. Although there were minor criticisms of the JointOrganization when the last Labour Government operated the scheme, I do not think that any of them were directed at the principals of the organization. I suggest that that is a wonderful tribute to the men who have carried out the scheme so successfully.
– They had experience of a similar kind during World War I.
– The scheme that then operated was not nearly as large as the Joint Organization. The fact that this scheme has been operated so successfully, shows that in time of severe stress, all sections of the Parliament and the people can co-operate to see that a great body of Australian primary producers shall get economic justice. The wool-growers have received justice, and I believe that the 60,000 to S0,000 wool-growers in Australia, would, if they could speak here to-day, pay a glowing tribute to all those who were concerned in the scheme. Some of the finest Australian merino wool is grown in my electorate, and, on behalf of those wool-growers, may I say that they have never disapproved of this scheme. I believe that their attitude is similar to the attitude of wool-growers throughout the country. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen)., who has been in charge of the scheme for five and a half years, ‘has continued in the footsteps of his Labour predecessor. It is most unfortunate that we cannot find, in other great issues that face us, the same kind of inter-party co-operation as we have seen in the administration of the Joint Organization. This great scheme is a shining example of cooperation for the good of Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee: ‘
.- I rise to seek some information. Can the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) tell me how Joint Organization profits will be paid in ‘respect kj£ a grower who sold to a dealer and received a signed undertaking from the dealer that any profit from the Joint Organization would be returned to the grower? The person whom I have in mind can be traced, so that the issue is not complicated by the involvement of numbers of persons who cannot be identified. What is the position in the case that I have outlined?
– A dealer may, according to the judgment in the Poulton case, have an entitlement. If he cares to transfer his entitlement to the grower who sold the wool to him, and is prepared to give a legal indemnity to the Australian Wool Realization Commission in respect of that commission paying money to the grower instead of the dealer, then the Australian Wool Realization Commission is prepared to consider the matter. If it has security, it will consider paying to a grower direct the amount that would be his share of the profits. I suggest to the honorable member for Mallee that he should advise the grower in question to get in touch with the Australian Wool Realization Commission, through either me or the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. I make a similar suggestion to all other honorable members, and to any growers who may be in a similar position. If the approach is made through me, I shall ensure that the grower’s case will be studied promptly. If the indemnity that has been given to the Australian Wool Realization Commission is adequate, I believe that that organization will make the payment.
– Would the decision in this case be subject to the judgment in the Poulton litigation?
– As I understand the position, it would be subject to the judgment in the Poulton case only in the sense that that judgment might determine that the dealer was the person who was entitled to be paid.
.- I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) whether the arrangement is not the opposite to that which he has outlined ? I understood that a grower who sold wool to a dealer retained his rights in that clip, or lot, and that the price ttc- be paid depended upon the extra money that the dealer might expect to get when a statement was received. I understood that the dealer was not entitled to the money, but that he had to give an undertaking to pass it back to the grower. Has that arrangement been abandoned completely, and has the grower no rights in relation to wool that is sold to a dealer?
– I do not think ‘that the arrangement to which I referred is completely opposite to that which the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark) has outlined. Perhaps I did not make the position quite clear. If, either in the initial stage or at a subsequent stage of a transaction between a grower and a dealer, the dealer, by subscribing to a document, surrenders his right, the grower clearly retains his entitlement to the money.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 10th May (vide page 566), on motion by Mr. McEwen -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The bill appears to be a purely consequential measure which arises from the fact that last year there was a bill introduced the purpose of which was to suspend the activities of the Australian Hide and Leather Industries Board. It was not possible for the board to wind up its activities at that time, because it was necessary for it to do so in an orderly manner. I understand that the windingup process has been completed and that, therefore, there is no purpose in retaining the legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma; progress reported.
Message .recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) -agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to repeal the Hide and Leather Industries Act 1048, and for purposes connected therewith.
Resolution reported and adopted.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 10th May (vide page 573), on -motion by Mr. McMahon -
That the bill he now read a second time.
– The Government could be more readily congratulated upon a very acceptable addition to the provision of social services benefits if it had first done justice to the main body of social services recipients. While the Government continues to withhold from age pensioners, invalid pensioners, widow pensioners, and recipients of child endowment, payments that are equivalent, in terms of purchasing power, to those that they received at the time it assumed office, it deserves, not the congratulations of the House or of the people, but their strongest condemnation. The measure that is now before the House will involve an expenditure of approximated £50,000 a year, but the amounts by which the Government is underpaying the age, invalid and widow pensioners, and recipients of child endowment, total approximated £50,000,000 a year. I am astonished, therefore, when I hear Government supporters express complacent satisfaction when the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) introduces a measure of this kind, and when I see them remain silent and default in their duty by not reminding him of his obligation to extend fundamental justice to the pensioners, which was promised to them before the general elections of 1949 and 1951.
It is interesting to note that the Government has thought it necessary to increase the rates of the allowances that are paid to trainees under the civilian rehabilitation scheme. The existing rates were fixed by the Chifley Administration in 1948, and the Minister has rightly brought them into line with present-day costs. He proposes to increase the allowance for an unmarried trainee from 15s. a week, which was the appropriate amount in 1948, to 35s. a week, which the Minister considers is the appropriate rate for 1955. He proposes also to increase the rate for a married trainee without children from 30s. a week to 60s. a week for the first eight weeks, and from 15s. a week to 30s. a week thereafter. The rate for a married trainee with one or more children is to be increased from 30s. a week to 60s. a week throughout the period of training.
Is there one honorable member in this House who will oppose those increases or argue that they are not proper in the light of the increase of the cost of living and the reduction of money values that have occurred since 1948? In all three instances, the Minister proposes at least to double the existing allowance. However, this must not be taken to indicate that members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party considered in 1948 that the rates fixed then were too low. On the contrary, the speeches that were made by members of those parties when the authorizing legislation was under consideration in this House contained not one suggestion that the allowances then proposed to be fixed were too low. The rates decided upon by the Chifley Administration were considered to be appropriate to the times. The Minister now proposes to increase those rates to rates appropriate in terms of present money values and purchasing power. That fact is an indictment of the Government for its refusal to apply the same measuring stick to pensions. The Government can take this action in respect of training allowances, because the increases will cost only a few thousand pounds a year. However, I suggest that if the principle is just in this instance, it would be just also in reference to the rates of age, invalid and widows’ pensions.
– Is the honorable member working on the C series index figures?
– I am working on the figures that were given .to the House in the Minister’s second-reading speech. I point out that the Minister has considered it proper to double the 1948 rates of allowances to rehabilitation trainees. If that principle were applied to age and invalid pensions, the rate would be £4 5s. a week instead of £3 10s. a week, the level at which the Government maintains them and thereby inflicts extraordinary hardship and suffering on a worthy and deserving body of people in the Australian community.
– Order 1 I shall not allow a full discussion on that matter.
– I have concluded my reference to it. I wish merely to direct attention to the fact that the rates of age, invalid and widows’ pensions and of other social services benefits are insufficient and inappropriate to-day, and that the principle that is to be applied to rehabilitation training allowances might’ be equally well applied to pensions.
Honorable members on both sides of the House can take pleasure in and claim credit for this measure. The proposal for civilian rehabilitation by the restoration of physically handicapped persons through treatment and vocational training to the fullest mental and physical usefulness of which they are capable was first made in this Parliament in a report presented in September, 1941, in the days of the first Menzies Administration, by the Social Security Committee. However, it was left to the Curtin and the Chifley Administrations to put that committee’s recommendation into effect. Those honorable members who are acquainted with the history of this matter know that the late Mr. Chifley took a very keen personal interest in the establishment of this new form of social service; that my distinguished namesake, Senator Fraser, as Minister for Social Services in the Curtin Administration, initiated the provision of the service ; and that it was authorized by legislation which was prepared and submitted to the Parliament by the present Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator MeKenna), as Minister for Social Services in the Chifley Administration in 1948.
The principal proposal contained in this bill is the extension of the scheme to juveniles, that is, to persons between the ages of fourteen and sixteen years. At present, such persons are excluded from the scheme because the existing legislation provides benefits only for persons who are eligible for invalid pensions or for sickness benefits. It is not at present possible for juveniles under the age of sixteen years to qualify for those benefits. The extension of the scheme in this manner is completely in conformity with the proposals which were advanced by the Chifley Administration and which were submitted to the Parliament by Senator McKenna in 1948. It is appropriate that C should quote from the speech made by him on that occasion. It is reported in Hansard for the 28th October, 1948, volume 199, at page 2323. Senator Mckenna stated -
The extent to which the civilian rehabilitation scheme can be undertaken at present is determined, not only by the availability of suitable properties for use as rehabilitation centres, out-patients’ clinics and psychiatric centres but also by the availability of suitably trained staff, such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists, education officers, nursing sisters, physical training instructors, trade instructors and the like. It is the Government’s intention to make increasing use of such specialists in its rehabilitation scheme, but there is considerable difficulty in obtaining them. For the present, therefore, it is proposed to limit the scope of the scheme to invalid pensioners and claimants for invalid pensions and persons receiving or claiming sickness benefits who might otherwise become unemployable. It is hoped that, at an early date, it will be possible, as a result of the establishment of more centres and clinics and the acquirement of more specialist staff, to extend the scope of the scheme to cover all physically handicapped persons. in the community, including adolescents, as well as persons suffering from certain industrial diseases.
It will be seen, therefore, that this bill is completely in line with the intention of the Chifley Administration at the time at which the Social Services Consolidation Bill (No. 2) 1948 was introduced.
The second proposal is to extend the application of the scheme to certain approved persons on the payment of an approved fee. The persons to whom it is intended to extend the scheme are those who are at present excluded because their means are such as to prevent them from qualifying for the invalid pension or for sickness benefits. This extension of the scheme, also, is in conformity with the intentions of the Chifley Administration as they were expressed in the remarks by Senator MeKenna that I have quoted. The Australian Labour party is completely at variance with the Government’s intention under this measure to charge those persons a fee for the service which they will receive. Members of the Australian Labour party consider that health is a matter, not only for the individual, but also for the community. We of the Australian Labour party believe in a national health service. We consider that the people pay in taxes, according to their incomes, for the services that will be rendered to them by the Government in this respect. We consider also that the man on the high income properly pays a higher rate of tax. That is how he makes his higher contribution, according to his means, to the cost of the provision of these social services. If a man’s physical disability is such that treatment in a government rehabilitation institution will help him, and if he is recommended for such treatment by a competent medical authority, the treatment should be given to him as a right in return for the taxes that he has paid as an ordinary member of the community. We object strongly to the proposal that fees should now, for the first time, be imported into this scheme, which was originally established by a Labour government on the basis of service to the community, and provided as a right of people needing it.
– It is a backward step.
– That proposal is, indeed, a backward step, and I hope that before the measure is passed the Minister will consider that position, particularly as he and other honorable members opposite are in agreement that, as far as possible, the operation of means tests should be eliminated.
The third amendment proposed - and it is valuable - is the extension of the rehabilitation service to recipients, of the tuberculosis allowance. Whilst the great: majority of persons who receive that allowance also receive the invalid pension, some sufferers from tuberculosis are debarred by the means test; from receiving the invalid pension.
– They receive the tuberculosis allowance.
– Yes.; but the point that I was, proceeding to make is that the tuberculosis allowance is given under a more liberal means test than is the invalid pension.
– All recipients of the tuberculosis allowance are not now entitled to this service.
– That is correct., Therefore, the provision that the service shall now be extended to all recipients of the tuberculosis allowance, irrespective of the fact that they may not be. able to qualify for the invalid pension, is very useful, I imagine that those people will benefit immensely by vocational training, or. re-training after they have completed the, health training necessitated by their illnesses.
The next amendment to- the principal act which is- to be- effected by the bill also commends itself to the Opposition, ft is a provision that loans of up to £200 may be’ made to disabled’ persons who are unable to engage in normal industrial activity,, even after training^ but who could be satisfactorily established’ in selfemployment at home. It is easy to visualize,, for instance, the case of a crippled man,, who is; anxious to he restored to- useful employment, but who, by the very nature of his disability- is unable to travel, to and from normal places of employment in industry. The- Minister is to be commended for the. good sense and kindly thought that has prompted, the proposal for the making of loans of up to £200 to- enable such persons to buy plant and equipment. The loan will, of course, be made on a business basis. I understand that the ordinary gilt-edged interest rate will be charged, and that repayment of the. loan over a period of years will be required1. I am glad to note the: Minister’s, assurance that the primary purpose of the scheme, remains the reemployment in normal industry of those people, and that this proposal will, operate only in cases where the trainee is obviously incapable of re-engaging in normal industry.
Under the bill the name of the scheme is to be changed from the “ Community. Rehabilitation Scheme “ to the “ Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service”. 1 hope that that change, is a product of the Minister’s thought on this matter, and that he: has in mind, a steady enlargement of. the- nature- and’ scope of the service that could be rendered. It is certainly true that a great deal can be done, to assist people who are physically handicapped to- rehabilitate themselves to the point where they can take their places: in the ordinary life of the- community. Now that the. name of the service is to be.- changed, the Minister might properly consider that, rehabilitation could also, be offered, to many people who are not physically handicapped, but who, by the nature of their lives, have lost the capacity to engage in normal industry, and who would benefit immensely from re-training. For example, a widow, with dependent children, whose pension ceases when the children reach the’ age of sixteen years, is thereupon thrown back on her own resources if she has not reached the age of 50 years. Having spent many years in performing the domestic tasks associated with the rearing of a. family, she may no- longer be able, readily to engage in ordinary employment again. Perhaps a refresher course,, or’ a new course of training, if that were necessary, or some form of vocational guidance, would’ be valuable to her. However, I do not suggest that such a service should be. confined to widows, whose pensions have ceased because their children have reached the age of sixteen years. There are many deserving cases* of single- women in the! community, including some of the finest people the community produces, who give up.- their normal hopes in life- in order to attend to- aged . parents, or elderly or sick relatives or friends. The, time may come, when such people may again need to engage in an ordinary occupation. The Minister might well consider the extension of special courses of. vocational, training to include such, people, because they do not obtain any Government assistance1 until they reach the age of 60 years. If the Minister were able toextend the service, to. assist such women to earn their own. living as the- result o£ appropriate courses of vocational training, he would be performing a very valuable service- that would add to his, reputation long after he ceases to occupy the office of Minister for- Social Services.
L wish now to direct- the Minister’s attention to a provision in the principal act which is to be continued by the1 present bill. I refer to sub-section (1.) of section 135m:, which reads: -
The Director-General may, having regard to- the age- and to the mental and physical capacity of a perso who is a- claimant for a pension: or is a pensioner, and. to: the facilities, available to that person for suitable treatment for physical rehabilitation- and suitable trainingfor a vocation,, refuse to grant a. pension to that person ot cancel or suspend that person’s; pension, unless that person receives such, treatment or training.
I have no doubt that that provision! was included in. th& act for very com- mendable reasons. It was- not a new provision in. the- Rehabilitation Act introduced by Senator MeKenna in 1948. At that time, it was already contained in the consolidated social services legislation, and I imagine that nobody originally took, much objection, to it because it could be. argued that it would be an encouragement to a person to take a rehabilitation, course which would be to his benefit, if he knew that his failure to take such a course might result in the loss of his social’ services benefit. However, to my mind’, and’ I think in the opinion of my colleagues generally, the operation of this section has proved to have a most unfortunate effect. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr: Pearce)’ nods his head in approval’ of my remarks. The cases to which I shall refer- have occurred1 particularly in Queensland’, where- that honorable member’s electorate- lies. I suggest that the Minister might well now consider, in the light of actual experience, whether thisprovision should be allowed to remain va the act. It means that the departmentcan now tell a crippled man who has been! ruled1 to be totally and permanently incapable of work, and who has been granted an invalid pension in accordance with the law, that it. believes he is capable of being rehabilitated and that he must go to a training institution or lose his pension. There have been some truly tragic cases of the kind in Queensland. The department can say to- such persons, ““We insist that you must submit your body to this medical treatment, and yourself to this vocational training “. The invalid pensioner may feel that he is quite incapable of undertaking such training. He may feel that his own health- would not stand up to the treatment that he is required to undergo. He may be completely unwilling to leave his present place of abode and establish himself in one of these institutions. W,take a great liberty when we give ourselves the right to interfere unnecessarily with a man’s, control of his own body. A man’s body is- to- him a sacred thing, and. ha himself should finally br the judge, in nearly all cases> of. itodisposition. I agree that in certain cases, such as when- a person is suffering’ froman infectious disease, or in other circumstances in which- failure to. treat him. could injure fellow members, of the com:munity, compulsion is necessary. But 1 suggest that, in cases of. this kind compulsion is not necessary and- should- nolba applied.
Furthermore, when an invalid pensioner is brought into an institution by this form- of economic compulsion against his will, he is a very unsuitable subject for a rehabilitation course: and in most cases the department would be wasting- its money on such a man. I do not wish to refer in detail to’ the tragic facts of cases which have occurred in Queensland, where deaths have occurred, but; I do> suggest, that the experience of the operation of this provision call’s” for reconsideration, of it
– What does the- honorable member mean by deaths ?’
– I’ have said that I do not wish to go into the details of these matters.
– But the honorable member should.
– Why. should I?-
– The honorable member should not make a general statement of r h at kind; he should be more specific.
– I think I am perfectly entitled to make a general statement. Any member of the Government can ascertain the facts by inquiry of Ministers or of departmental officers. I am dealing with general issues in this bill, and I do not propose to deal in detail with these pitiful and tragic cases, even though the honorable member desires me to do o. It would merely bring up sad facts, and would hurt the memories of people concerned. If the honorable member is really interested - I hope that he is - let him ask departmental officers or Ministers for the facts.
– Or ventilate the facts here himself.
– The record of the rehabilitation service to date shows that 7,000 persons have been restored to work, of whom 2,700 are invalid pensioners. That is a fine constructive record indeed, and I congratulate all who are connected with this service on the splendid job that they have done and are doing. Incidentally, of course, the service has been operated at a profit to the Government. We often talk about the virtues of private enterprise and the fact that public enterprises inevitably show losses; but here is a public service of the most humanitarian kind, which has produced on the balance-sheet, in terms of actual cash, a profit for the Treasury. The cost of the service is about £460,000 a year. Even with the amendments now being made, the cost will not rise much above £500,000 a year. Yet, the saving to the Treasury in invalid pension payments alone amounts now to over £500,000 a year, and, in addition, there is a saving of over £50,000 a year in sickness benefits. In terms of actual production, those who have been restored to economic usefulness by this service are adding to the value of Australian production to the extent of about £1,250,000 a year. It is something in which all members might take much pleasure and considerable pride.
I direct the attention of the Minister to the provision in the Social Services
Act which requires 85 per cent, incapacity as qualification for an invalid pension. This matter is relevant to the present legislation, because even after this bill is passed a man will not be entitled to free treatment unless he cas first qualify for an invalid pension. The general experience of members on this side of the House, who, if I may say bo without disrespect, are in closer contact with their constituents than are members on the Government side, is that th* present requirement of 85 per cent, incapacity operates with some harshness in certain cases. Some people are completely incapable through physical disability of engaging in ordinary industry, as one finds after having interviewed them, dealt with their cases and got to know them pretty well. Yet, the government medical officer might find himself unable to certify those persons a* being 85 per cent, incapacitated. The figure of 85 per cent, has been in the act for many years, and I suggest that the time might well have arrived when, in the light of experience, the figure could be revised and, perhaps, considerably reduced. I hope that the Minister will give consideration to that suggestion.
This is a new form of social service with which we are dealing. It is one which, I think, did not operate anywhere in the world until after World War II. This service for the rehabilitation of civilians first became a matter of public interest because of the success of similar schemes for the rehabilitation of men who served their country in war. We now have a highly successful scheme in Australia, and there is also a similar scheme operating excellently in the United Kingdom. It is worthy of note that that scheme contains a provision which requires private employers to have upon their payrolls a certain percentage of physically disabled persons. That compulsion is placed upon employers to ensure their co-operation in enabling people who have been rehabilitated to take a useful place in industry. I would not like .to see such a provision required in the Australian law. As well as the support of the Government, the Department of Social Services and the Treasury, and the devoted work of those officials who administer the scheme, it requires for its success complete community acceptance and the co-operation of all employers, particularly large employers who have benefited from living in this country and are in a position of economic security. Those employers might very well, as a matter of policy in their companies and organizations, ensure that reasonable opportunity is given to at least a percentage of physically disabled persons to obtain employment with their organizations.
Until a couple of years ago that cooperation was not forthcoming from Australian employers to the extent that it should have been forthcoming and which the community had a right to expect. I am glad to know that during recent months, as a result of better education of the people regarding the possibilities of this scheme and the special efforts that have been made to enlist the co-operation of employers, a wider measure of assistance is now being given by private employers. I hope tha t will continue, because it is sad for a man who, after feeling that his days of economic usefulness were past, has his hopes restored because of successful rehabilitation through this scheme, to find his hopes again dashed because -an employer is mot prepared to give him a chance to prove his usefulness in industry. There may be cases where a man is not restored to 100 per cent, earning capacity *nd in such cases the Minister might consider the provision of some form of subsidy. If a man is 70 per cent., or 80 per cent., equipped for re-employment, the Minister might consider a scheme for temporarily subsidizing his employment until he is able to give a full return to an employer for his wages. It depends largely upon the sympathetic co-operation of the employers. About 100 trainees have completed rehabilitation and are anxiously awaiting the opportunity to re-engage in employment. The employers of Australia could easily absorb that number. Many of the larger employers already look on the scheme with favour. They have found that the trainees give useful and devoted service. I hope that these 100 men will soon be absorbed in industry. I trust that the scheme will continue to be successful, that it will expand, and that it will restore to a happy and useful existence many who would otherwise be doomed to monotony aDd penury.
This proposal is justified not only on economic grounds, but on social and humanitarian grounds also. It is in complete keeping with Labour’s ideal of developing the welfare state. It may be difficult for those who are the products of a different type of political thinking to appreciate and wholeheartedly operate such a scheme. I am glad that the pre sent Minister has shown that he is an exception. He is, within the limits imposed upon him by his ministerial colleagues doing useful work. To that extent, I must commend him.
.- 1 support the bill with a great deal of pleasure because it marks an advance in our .rehabilitation scheme. The Government has learnt a good deal from the mistakes of the past, and speedily rectifies those that come under its notice from time to time. That was why I asked the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Eraser) to be specific in alleging harshness towards individuals in considering claims for rehabilitation grants. He may be thinking of some cases that occurred a considerable time ago. I very much doubt whether he would find, under the present arrangements in Queensland, any such cases of hardship.
I am pleased to see that the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts) agrees with me. He will confirm the fact that the organization there is excellent and provides little cause for complaint. Nowadays the most expert medical advice is sought before a person undertakes a course of rehabilitation. He is examined by specialists in the particular mental or physical ailment from which he suffers, and the specialists’ advice is followed implicitly. I know that often people are not happy to receive an invitation to attend a rehabilitation centre. Such statements as were made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro concerning tragedies and failures do little to assist rehabilitation. On the contrary, they do a great deal of harm in the minds of persons who receive such invitations. No doubt his statements will receive prominence in the press. It was most unfortunate that the honorable member should have raked up the past. Cases of hardship are now few and far between and tragedies are non-existent. Any one with a knowledge of the rehabilitation section in Queensland would advise any person to undertake the rehabilitation course wholeheartedly, for it confers immense benefits. Certainly, such a person could not lose by attending. People should not be discouraged by statements made, perhaps, for political reasons. If honorable members are to criticize the scheme let them be constructive.
The honorable member’s remarks on subsidies when the rehabilitated person enters full-scale employment are not now applicable. The Minister has the assistance of some of the most experienced men in the world in the subject of rehabilitation, and employers generally are willing to offer practical help. The trade union movement, the rotary clubs, the employers’ associations and other sections of the community are gradually being drawn into this co-operative effort towards rehabilitation. Eighty per cent, of those attending rehabilitation centres know, before they have completed their courses, that they have a job to go to. [ know of no other nation that has so advanced the work of rehabilitation. It speaks volumes for this scheme and the admiration that it has aroused throughout the community. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro may sneer at the employers of Australia if he likes, but, generally speaking, they have thrown themselves wholeheartedly into this scheme. It is ,to the credit of the trade union movement that it, too, has joined in ‘enthusiastically. From the boss to the workmate, there is sympathy, understanding and a realistic approach to the task of getting disabled men and women back into employment.
So the question >of a subsidy -does not arise. There is no need for a subsidy. We <have a splendid scheme which is achieving wonderful results. I think we have reached the stage now when we can give some thought to the proposition that a person who is 85 per cent, incapacitated should not ‘be placed immediately on the invalid pension list, but should be given some kind of interim pension, equal in value to the invalid pension, but not described as an invalid pension. If that were done, I think some of these people would not feel that they were doomed not to work for the rest of their days. If a man in his early forties collapses suddenly at work and is told by a doctor in whom he has confidence that he must be very careful of his health, that he must not run upstairs quickly, that he must rest frequently and that if he exerts himself too much he is likely to collapse and die on the spot, and if then he is pu: on the invalid pension list, he will begin to think, “This is where I shall stay for the rest of my days “. Even if tb> Rehabilitation Branch tells him that it can make him into a working member of the community again, it is very difficult for him to throw off the complex from which he is suffering. The treatment of these people would be much more easy if, instead of giving them an invalid pension immediately, we gave them an interim pension, call it what we will. If they were accepted for rehabilitation treatment, they could continue to draw the interim pension and if they were not suitable for treatment, the interim pension could be replaced by the invalid pension. I believe we have reached the stage when we can give serious consideration to that proposition.
I am pleased to know that the department has now embarked on a long-term plan for the improvement and replacement of the buildings in which rehabilitation centres are located in the States. After “World War II., building materials were scarce and it was difficult to acquire existing buildings, so it became necessary for the department to buy old buildings and renovate them to the best of its ability. Consequently, we have not many rehabilitation buildings, anyhow in the eastern States, of which we can-be proud. But that situation is changing, because we have come to realize that rehabilitation has proved its worth and is here to stay. The Government is pleased with the response of rehabilitees and the public generally to the scheme. Therefore, we can look, ahead ‘and plan on the basis of a permanent scheme. I hope that the work of providing adequate buildings will go on speedily, so that very soon outmoded and uneconomic, buildings will be disposed of and we shall have modern buildings throughout Australia.
The provision which enables the department to use social workers has paid good dividends. The only unfortunate aspect of the matter is that there are not enough social workers in Australia to go round. I cannot pay too high a tribute to the services rendered by the social workers attached to the social services centres and the rehabilitation centres. They are doing a splendid job, but we need many more of them. I know from my experience that if a man is taken out of his old environment, trained at a rehabilitation, centre and returned to that environment, it is extremely difficult for him to settle down and take his place again in the community. Most people do settle down eventually, but the process of settling down could be made very much easier if social workers were more plentiful. A social worker could go to a man’s home and to his place of employment, paving the way for his re-entry into family and working life. The Minister and his departmental officers have been in touch with Australian universities with the object of trying to get more trained social workers. I hope that we shall see the results of those efforts in the next few years. I believe that the diploma courses provided by the universities will be the source of goodly supply of social workers next year, and I hope the department will be able to persuade some of those young men and women to enter its employment.
The provision of the bill from which we can expect the greatest results is that which will give the benefits of rehabilitation to young people from the age of fourteen years onwards. There has hitherto been an alarming gap in the education of the young people whom the bill is designed to assist. It is the gap between the time they leave school and the time they begin a rehabilitation course at the age of sixteen years. The purpose of. education is- to train us to earn our living, stand on our own feet and face whatever difficulties- we come up against. At. the present, time,, these handicapped young people leave school at about the age. of fourteen years and are cared for by their f families until they undertake a rehabilitation course at the age of sixteen years. There is a gap between the discipline of the school and the discipline of the rehabilitation course. There is a great loss of time but, much more importantly, there is a loss of the young person’s keenness.
When the bill has been passed, we shall have reached the stage when, with the co-operation of crippled children’s societies, spastic centres and State education departments, the rehabilitation centres will be able to accept youngsters, straight from school and train them for employment. I believe that in a short time those youngsters will be on their way to a career. That is a splendid step forward. The co-operation of crippled children’s societies, spastic centres and State education departments will be given promptly. They are very keen to see these young people placed in employment. They are also very keen that the young people shall be made to know that there is no need for them to be dependent upon the community and that, despite their handicaps, they will be able to earn a living wage and make a career for themselves. That provision will be of great help to the community. With the cooperation of the voluntary organizations to which I have referred, organizations which have done such splendid work, the scheme will go on to even greater success. On the mercenary side,, if I may so describe it, I believe there will be a great saving of money for the taxpayers, because if these young people are permitted to undergo rehabilitation training at an earlier age, the course will be much shorter than- it is now.
The rehabilitation programme has resulted from the splendid work done by the Social Security Committee which was set up in the early 1940’s. We have advanced to the stage in Australia where the people have accepted the fact that rehabilitation and social services generally are their responsibility. I. do not know of any person in Australia, who begrudges that portion of taxation revenue that is devoted- to social services. Therefore, the Government believes that it, has the public behind it in this, matter. A vast amount of work still remains, to be done in understanding the needs of. social services in the community. Some thought could be given with good effect to the reestablishment of a joint committee on social service. so that the whole problem may be examined by the representatives of the people and recommendations submitted h> the Government. Experience in the past suggests strongly that that would be a wise course to adopt, and I am sure that members of all political parties would agree that much could be achieved by private members of the Parliament in that direction.
Extending that thought, I believe that much good work could be achieved in the community by voluntary committees working in various centres. I suggest that a lead in that matter should be given by the Government just as it did in setting up repatriation committees throughout Australia. In many instances, those committees are still functioning and performing worth-while works. If we were to ,:stablish local committees for persons undergoing rehabilitation in the various communities throughout Australia, I am wre that they would fill a great, need in the community. They could be charged with the task of paving the way back to employment for persons who leave rehabilitation centres or institutions for the treatment of tuberculosis sufferers. 1 strongly suggest that something should be done in that direction. If it is not done by the Government, I believe that members of the Parliament could give a lead in their electorates to public-spirited persons in setting up such committees.
If we might look ahead a little further, f believe that we could look forward to the day when we could extend the benefits of rehabilitation to widows who are passing from the classification of an A class widow to the stage where they have to obtain employment again. I extend my sympathy to widows in that category. It is difficult for a mother, without assistance, to battle for children and rear them through the years, and then have to look forward to the day when her youngest child reaches sixteen years of age knowin? that she will not be eligible for a pension until she reaches the age of RO years. Women in that category have to find their wa.v back into employment. Perhaps we could discover a method by which such mothers could be trained for employment in the years after their youngest child ha* reached the age of sixteen years. 1 hope that the Minister for Social Services and the Parliament will understand that any criticism I have made has been advanced in the desire to be constructive. I believe that the Parliament unanimously supports the rehabilitation scheme. All honorable members know that those who work for the rehabilitation scheme are doing a grand job. If we can make helpful suggestions gained from experiences in our own electorates, the Government will listen to them and they will be implemented through the Department of Social Services if it is possible to do so.
I do not wish to resume my seat without making some reference to the splendid work that is being done by officers in the rehabilitation branch of the Department of Social Services. Wherever I move, I find that those officers are performing work that they do not regard simply as another job. They feel that they are entrusted with a delicate task in restoring: people to employment and helping them to maintain their dignity and their usefulness. They assist those people tomeet the many problems that confront them. Without exception, the men and women who are engaged in this task aredevoting themselves to it wholeheartedly. They deserve from every honorable member, and from the public generally, the highest praise it is possible to give them. Their task is tremendous. The work they are doing is difficult. We cannot fully understand it unless we concern ourselves with it personally. The officers are dealing with human problems that must placea strain on them mentally and physically, but they do not complain. They undertake more and more responsibility, with the realization that the work they are doing is for the benefit of the people generally.
I offer my congratulations to the Minister for Social Services on the measure he has submitted to the House. He shows a great personal interest in the problems of social services generally and in the work of the department. All honorable members will agree that the Minister is always ready to listen to any representations concerning problems that are associated with the department under his administration. We owe him thanks for that interest. I hope that the measure will have a speedy passage through the Parliament and that it will be welcomed by the people. I am sure that we shall get the full co-operation of the people in putting the legislation into effect unless some sections attack it, as some honorable members on the Opposition side have done, for party political purposes.
– I am pleased that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) has been able to introduce this bill before the budget session. Recently, when honorable members of the Opposition side have made suggestions in connexion with social services benefits, the Minister has replied that the requests would be dealt with in the budget session. Even to-day the Minister has stated on three occasions, in effect, that this was the wrong time to introduce a social services measure.
– This measure will cost nothing.
– Did I hear the Minister correctly? Did he say that the measure will cost nothing?
– Yes, it will not cost anything.
– I am sure that the people will not be very happy to hear the Minister say that this legislation will cost nothing. If it will not cost anything, will it be of any benefit to the people? T believe that it will cost something.
– In the opinion of the honorable member for Port Adelaide it is necessary to spend money to introduce something useful.
– This measure will be of great benefit to many people, and [ do not take the statement of the Minister for Social Services literally.
– It is true.
– The Minister has stated that it is true that the measure will cost nothing. I do not know what the Minister means, because he has said that the relevant allowances in some instances will be increased by 15s. a week. Ultimately, the legislation must involve /On]e cost, if not this year, then in future years. However, I do not wish to continue in that vein. I would say to the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) that my interpretation of the speech of the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) was that it was not of a party political nature at all. He was endeavouring to advance suggestions that would be beneficial to the persons affected by this legislation. Personally, I do not consider this bill from the point of view of economics at all. In 1948 or 1949, soon after this scheme came into operation, I travelled with the then Minister for Social Services to Victor Harbour. There I inspected the Mount Breckan establishment, which had been used for the rehabilitation of exservicemen, and had later been taken over for the treatment of those receiving invalid pensions and sickness benefit. The then Minister said, in conversation with me, that he considered that that institution would be the means of saving a considerable sum of money, and therefore would be an economic proposition from the Government’s viewpoint. I told him that I was not so much concerned with its being an economic proposition, as I was that it should perform a humanitarian function. I still hold that opinion.
The Minister for Social Services ha* stated that those who are not eligible for invalid pensions or sickness benefit will be charged a fee if they wish to use the rehabilitation services. I am sorry that the Government finds it necessary to impose such a condition, and I suggest that as the Government intends to alter the name of the rehabilitation organization to the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service, that service should be true to its name and should actually render a service to the people. It should render a service both to those unfortunate persons who receive invalid pensions or sickness benefit, and also to those who are disentitled by their private means to social services, but who need rehabilitation.
Honorable members should remember that an invalid who has over £1,750 is not entitled to an invalid pension. If that person is laid aside by sickness or accident, he will either have to pay a fee for rehabilitation service, or wait until he has spent ‘enough of his capital -to entitle him to an invalid pension or sickness benefit. Perhaps such a person would have to wait so long for treatment under the rehabilitation scheme that he would no longer receive any benefit from it. I understand from ‘the Minister’s speech that this scheme will apply only to approved cases, and that those who are considered to be incurable will not be approved for rehabilitation courses.
I have known men who have not been entitled to invalid pensions or sickness benefit because, being self-employers, they could not show loss of income. I have brought many such cases to the notice of the Department of Social Services. Under the present scheme, such men would not be entitled to rehabilitation unless they paid a fee, and I suggest that the scheme should be widened to embrace them. I am afraid that I do not fully understand the figures cited by the Minister relating to those invalids who have returned to employment, because many people who have merely received sickness benefit have been treated under the rehabilitation scheme, and, in any event, they would sooner or later have returned to work. Only to-day an honorable member of this House mentioned to me that he had battled for a long time to obtain an invalid pension for a certain person, and when it was finally decided that a pension would be granted, the person concerned said that he no longer wanted it as he ‘had obtained a job. Therefore, honorable members will see that it is difficult to say accurately how much money has been saved, or how much will be saved, by the Government’s rehabilitation scheme. Nevertheless, I am not concerned about the money saved ; I am more concerned about the human aspect of people being enabled to return to work.
When I investigated the rehabilitation scheme at Victor Harbour, I discovered that many of those receiving treatment were young men who had been injured in motor cycle accidents. They were being taught to work treadle machines and looms, not with the object of teaching them to be weavers, or of teaching them any other “trade, but merely to strengthen their limbs. I believe that that was the right and proper way to go about their rehabilitation. I do not believe that rehabilitation -can ‘embrace vocational training schemes, because in order to ‘become a /skilled tradesman a person has to spend many years as an apprentice and -a worker in the trade that he chooses. That applies to fitters and turners, patternmakers, and even factory machinists on repetition work. I suggest that all such jobs have to be learnt under actual working conditions. Therefore, I consider that rehabilitation is much more important than vocational training in any scheme such as the one at present before the House. If we can rehabilitate a man and cure his illness, or give him back the power of his limbs, then he can obtain training or employment for himself. 1 am very pleased that the payments and allowances will be increased.
I now desire to refer to children of from fourteen years to sixteen years of age. The Minister stated that he did not want to cut across the activities of crippled children’s organizations, spastic centres and so on. I quite understand his desire not to interfere with those very worthy organizations, but it may be difficult for the Government not to impinge upon the activities of those bodies when it puts its rehabilitation scheme into operation. I do not know whether it if the intention of the Minister to have a medical nursing service made available for this treatment. I should be very pleased if that is his intention. It will be difficult to help these young people who have commenced in industry, and I hope that the attempt to help them more than they are being assisted at present will he successful.
When I visited Mount Breckan in the early days of the scheme, I was impressed by the enthusiasm of the workers there.
One man who accepted a position at Mount Breckan had had a good job in the State .Education Department. The emolument that he received at Mount Breckan was no greater than he had received in the Education Department, but he had gone whole-heartedly into the new work because of his love of humanity and his desire ‘to help his fellow men. Among other activities, he had many of them arranging letters for type setting. His idea was not that they should .be able to set up as printers, but that they should be helped to manipulate their fingers and brought back to a state of health in which they could seek employment. In the early stages, there was some difficulty in obtaining employment for these folk, and such difficulties will continue to exist. The man who was a tradesman will be able to return to his industry, but difficulty will be experienced i.n placing some of the epileptic cases and those - who are not mentally bright. Everything possible may have been done for such cases but, ‘unless they are placed with a very sympathetic employer, they may not be able to carry on.
I was impressed by the statement of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) concerning the efforts that had been made by associations such as the Apex Club and Rotary. I support his suggestion for the establishment of local committees to help these people, because it is desirable that the employing community should be made aware of its responsibility to them. I think that the -honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Eraser) mentioned that in the United Kingdom the employment of people who were not completely fit had been made compulsory. I should not like to think that it is necessary for us to enforce similar action by legislation, hut I hope that some help will be given by the employing section of the community. A few months ago, I was speaking to persons who were endeavouring to secure employment for people who had been rehabilitated. They had been able to obtain employment in certain cases, but they told me that they had to work without very much publicity because if it became widely known that they had secured employment for people who were prepared to do their best they would be flooded with applications from other people who would not be so conscientious. I was told that there was a limit to their ability to place people in suitable work. Tt was difficult for them to persuade some people of mediocre ability that they could not do a -job as we’ll as somebody else.
The action of the Minister in introducing this bill is to be commended. As the honorable member for Capricornia said, everybody recognizes .the -obligation of the Government to provide social services. I think that honorable members on both sides .of the House realize that the welfare state, whether in Australia, the United Kingdom or any other country, has come to stay. We may be able to criticize some measures that have been taken. Some people will even criticize a proposal such as the one before the House. They may say that it is not possible to train some of these afflicted people, but we must not disparage the scheme. We must remember the good that will come from it, not the failures. A small section of the community still derides social services benefits. They apeak of people who collect a pension and go straight to a hotel. They do not mention that for every person who does that, 500 others take their pensions home. They mention people who collect child endowment and use it to have a day in the city. They do not mention the homes in which the endowment is used to good effect. Whatever social services are introduced, some one will criticize them, but we must not take too much notice of such individuals. As the representatives of the people, we must take a wider view, and consider what benefit a social service will confer on the people as a whole.
Recently, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) stated that additional social services would require additional taxation. I think that he said that the Government could not give to the people anything for which somebody did not have to pay. That is a fact. The Government does not create money. It only takes money from people and uses it for the benefit of the community.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition agree with that?
– I think that he would agree with it. I do not think that he imagines that one can take money out of the air. He knows that we can only use what has been produced. There is nothing that we eat, or drink, or wear, or use to build houses, that somebody has not produced. Production costs money. Some people may question whether it is desirable to tax people is order to pay £5 a week to persons who need to he rehabilitated. He is quite right in so doing, and in offering his opinion, but it is fundamental that one cannot use something before it has been produced. The Government should not take something from certain people unless it offers them a reasonable payment in return. If it did, I would object.
Mr. Speaker, I regret that I have digressed. The introduction of the bill is a move in the right direction. I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Eraser) mention the speech that was made by Senator MeKenna in 1948, in which reference was made to what the then Government proposed to do, and to what it would like to do in the future. I believe that the Minister for Social Services is trying to give effect to the proposals to which” Senator MeKenna referred at that time. I quite realize that it may not be possible to introduce some of the benefits to which we looked forward at that time, and to which we are still looking forward; but each year it may be possible to introduce further measures to provide for a fairer distribution of this world’s goods amongst those persons who produce them and amongst those who, because of physical disability, are not able to produce them. I have always been thankful for the fact that I have been able to work for what I have consumed. I” know other persons who are equally as good as I am, but who have not been able to work for the things that they need. I hope that honorable members will not view this problem as a party political matter, but that they will endeavour to give physically handicapped people a better measure of this world’s goods, and an opportunity of being restored to better health and strength than they have enjoyed in the past.
.- At the risk of seeing the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) suffer embarrassment, I propose to add my share of praise to that which has already been offered to him this afternoon for his action in introducing this measure, which represents a departure from the usual approach to the provision of social services benefits. The bill provides for an increase of the living-away-from-home allowance that is payable to trainees, and for loans to be made to physically handicapped persons who are able to employ themselves. It provides also that the Director of Social Services may arrange, either with State authorities or voluntary organizations, for the treatment of those persons who come within the ambit of the proposed legislation. Moreover, it provides for an extension of treatment to persons between the ages of fourteen and sixteen years who are not direct recipients of the invalid pension. Lest the Minister should be carried away with the praise that he has been accorded, 1 propose to submit some constructive ideas, and, naturally, some criticism.
Mr. Daly interjecting,
– I hope that the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), who has just interjected, will appreciate the fact that we are dealing with human beings, and that we should give to the plight of these people the consideration that it demands. The regrettable feature of this bill is that it over-emphasizes the economic aspect of the problem. It is quite true - and I interjected in order to correct the honorable . member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) - that the proposals outlined in the bill will cost the taxpayer nothing, because, although they will involve a cost in one direction, they will achieve a saving in another. I hope that the Minister, when he is dealing with the problem, will not approach it entirely from the economic angle. I hope that ultimately the rehabilitation of physically handicapped persons will not be considered in the light of economics, but that their restoration to a stage at which they can do something for themselves, even though it may not be economically productive, Will be the predominant consideration.
The history of the treatment of physically handicapped people in Australia is an extremely sorry one. It is true that, in 1941, the Menzies Government first, dealt with the problem, but at that time the emphasis was on the rehabilitation of those persons who were entitled to an invalid pension so that the Government might be saved the cost of that pension. The measures that were adopted to overcome the problem were advanced to a practical stage in approximately 1948, when the centres that had been established for the rehabilitation of physically handicapped ex-servicemen were used for the rehabilitation of physically handicapped civilians. In Western Australia, that transition stage was a very happy one, and I take this opportunity of congratulating the officers of the Department of Social Services for the excellent way in which that work was done, and in which it is being done at the present time. Neither I nor anybody else has any complaint about the very fine work that is being done by the rehabilitation centre in Western Australia; but nothing has been done other than for those persons in relation to whom the Government hoped it would be able to save some pension money. ff the scheme is to be governed by the economic factor, I suggest that the rehabilitation of physically handicapped persons should start at an age when treatment and education may be of benefit, with an ultimate saving of money. Fourteen years of age is too late to commence treatment. At that age,, many children are beyond the stage at which they may derive any material benefit from remedial treatment and education. If treatment were to be commenced at ten years of age, eight years of age, or even six years of age, it is possible, and highly probable, that the Government would be saved the cost of the invalid pension to which the children otherwise would become entitled. It is with that particular section that I propose to deal. In spite of the constitutional limitations that it is suggested are imposed upon the Government, it has a right to enter this field.
Let us consider the question of crippled children, particularly spastic children, lt was not until 1949 that the first government school for spastic children was established in Australia. That school, which was equipped and staffed for the education of children who were physically handicapped by cerebral palsy, was established in Western Australia. I believe that it is still the only school in the Commonwealth for children so afflicted. It is necessary that a therapeutic clinic should be attached to such schools, and it fell to the people of Western Australia, particularly the Spastic Welfare Association, to provide that part of the treatment. At that time, we set out to treat 40 children, which we believed would be the maximum number, at a cost of £4,000 or £5,000 for capital equipment, and a small amount each week. To-day, that centre is training and treating 140 children of nursery, kindergarten, school, and adolescent standards. The capital cost of the buildings was approximately £S0,000, and the cost of maintaining the centre, apart from the upkeep of the school, which is borne by the Western Australian Government, is £600 a week. That sum has to be found by voluntary contributions.
The whole history of the treatment of physically handicapped children, who. unless treatment is available to them, ultimately must become a charge on the State, is not a good one. The first spastic centre was established in Melbourne, in connexion with the Children’s Hospital, about 1942, but unfortunately, a meant test applied to admission to the centre. The parents of many handicapped children were unable to send them there for treatment and were obliged to take them elsewhere. Generally, they travelled to America. In 1945, a family with a spastic child was on its way from Western Australia to America. When the parents and their child reached Sydney, some one asked, “ Why go to America ? Why not do something here ? “ So the first real spastic centre in Australia was started at Mosman by Mr. and Mrs. McLeod. The cost of construction work alone for thai centre has run into six figures, whilst the cost of operating it is tremendous, but the whole cost has been borne by voluntary contribution. Queensland, Victoria. South Australia and Western Australia now have centres of this kind for the treatment of spastic children who, previously, had been hidden behind locked doors in their homes because people did not understand the meaning of their disability. These children are now being given an opportunity to enjoy some of the things in life that other children enjoy. If their disability is of a certain kind, they are trained with a view to equipping them for an occupation.
I believe that this problem of the treatment of physically handicapped children is a more difficult one than is the rehabilitation of physically handicapped adults. We do not know how many physically handicapped children, there are in. the Commonwealth. The Minister for Social Services’ has told us of the very fine record which has. been achieved in the rehabilita-tion centres conducted by the Department of. Social Services. 5e> stated that 7,000 people had passed through those centres. I should not be surprised to find that there, are more than 7,000 children in this country who, unless they receive specialized treatment and education, will be a charge upon the Government at a much earlier age than fourteen years. The Minister is to be highly commended, because I believe that the extension of rehabilitation benefits to the fourteen years age-group represents an attempt to open the door on this very vital and necessary social service of handling the children at an early age. Perhaps the door is being opened only a chink, but the Minister will be able to claim credit for having turned the handle and let in a ray of light on the darkness in which these children, who ultimately will be adults, have been living. I know that the Minister has great sympathy and understanding for this situation. I hope that he will continue to receive the support which his Cabinet colleagues have given him in the past, and that adequate provision will be made for the treatment of these children.
I know that the argument will be advanced that, when all is said and done, the treatment and education of physically handicapped children is the responsibility of the State governments, but that argument will not wash with me. In Australia to-day, we have governments which have power but no responsibility. That applies not only in the. State sphere but also in the Commonwealth sphere. The States have power to expend money but no responsibility for raising the money. In certain respects, the Commonwealth also has power without responsibility. Inrespect of the treatment and education of physically handicapped children, cooperation between the Commonwealth and the States is essential. This problem was handled, early in the post-war period, by the “World Health Organization, and if honorable members care to read the reports of that body concerning the rehabilitation of the. physically handicapped, particularly physically handicapped children, they will find that the organiza- tion. recommended, that this problem could be handled properly only by co-operation between, governments and voluntary organizations.. The matter is one. for the Commonwealth, the States and local government bodies. A three-fold effort is required. Although Australia agreed, in principle, to that recommendation of the World Health Organization, our own physically handicapped children are the responsibility of nobody except those who care voluntarily to undertake the obligation of caring for them. This country is behind other countries which the World Health Organization is helping. I refer to the backward nations, which are being provided with facilities, and are being encouraged to provide facilities themselves, to deal with this problem. They are doing so, and have reached a more advanced stage than has this so-called advanced country of ours. I suggest that honorable members should read some of those reports. If they do, they will see how far behind other countries we are in a co-ordinated effort to deal with our physically handicapped children, from both the humane and the economic aspects.
It is time we decided to end the chaos which exists in connexion with responsibility for social welfare in this country. Is it the responsibility of the Commonwealth or of the States? Where should the line be drawn? Should it be drawn Rt one year, five years, fourteen years, or sixteen years?’ Where shall we draw the line between education and hospital treatment, between hospitals for the treatment of chronic cases and mental hospitals, and between hospitals for the treatment of acute cases and casualty wards? One might just as well mark a red line through a building and try to make every activity on one side of it the responsibility of the Commonwealth and every activity on the other side of it the responsibility of the States. The present position is chaotic, and’ this Parliament and the Government share a responsibility to take the lead to rectify the situation. At present we have the spectacle of power without responsibility, and responsibility without power. Until power and responsibility are combined in each of the various’ authorities, the present difficulties will not be removed.
Voluntary organizations assume a tremendous financial responsibility in caring for physically handicapped children. The efforts of those voluntary bodies represent a considerable saving of expenditure to the States. Let us instil a little human sympathy into this work. Let us undertake it because we want to do it and because we recognize that these afflicted children are human beings, and not merely because we regard them as cogs in an economic machine. It is a terrible thing to see a child with a full intellect which is capable of any achievement, and which might be greater in capacity than is the intellect of many of us in this chamber, including myself, made helpless by a physical disability and rendered wholly dependent, even at twelve or fourteen years of age, om the assistance of a mother or a father for such simple undertakings as a visit to the toilet. No child should be allowed to suffer such indignities if it is within man’s power to prevent them. Voluntary organizations have assumed the responsibility of worth-while work that will help physically-handicapped children immensely. Even children who, unaided, cannot perform the natural functions of life, can be greatly helped if they are treated early enough, and many of them may become almost normal.
I could tell the House of many such children. I have been greatly interested in a Western Australian lad, aged sixteen years, who has been treated by the spastic centre with which I am associated. Ee has a high degree of intelligence, and his mental capacity is excellent. Persons who have his welfare at heart, including myself, sought to establish him in a small business such as a kiosk for the sale of cigarettes, newspapers, lottery tickets and the like. Mentally, the child was much better fitted for handling goods and undertaking monetary transactions than were many of his teachers, but his fingers were not physically capable of handling, as quickly as his mind could work, money and the goods that he might have sold. It was necessary for us to try to find some other occupation better fitted to his physical limitations, which might not have been so severe had it been possible for him to have treatment earlier in life. Early treatment might have improved his muscular co-ordination to the degree at which he would be physically capable of undertaking activities with which his highly developed mind would cope without effort.
In tackling problems such as this, we must give thought to the human as well as to the economic considerations. It is tragic that so many children born with physical disabilities are kept hidden from the public gaze. The reason is, mainly, that suitable treatment and facilities,, as well as sympathy from their fellows, are lacking. When the spastic centre in Western Australia in which I am interested began, it had only 40 children on its books. Within twelve months, it was. treating nearly 100 children. At present it treats 150, and it is impossible to tell how many it is likely to be called upon to serve in the future. That organization has voluntarily accepted a responsibility to assist spastic children, and it depends upon the generosity of the public. The position in all the other States is similar. The first thing to be done is clear. Ato early lead must be given by this Government in an effort to straighten out the chaotic conditions that exist, and the responsibility for this work of caring for afflicted children must be shared in due proportion between the Commonwealth and the States. The responsibility does not devolve solely upon the Department of Social Services. The Department of Health and the State Education Departments also can play an important part. The work must, be well co-ordinated and the responsibility effectively shared.
Arrangements should be made for medical practitioners to register physicallyhandicapped children immediately their condition is revealed. This would enable the most urgent problem of treat* ing the physical disability to be tackled early with the hope, in many instances, of effecting a complete cure. It might be impossible in some instances to obtain any success, but at least an attempt to remedy the disability should be made before a child reaches the age of fourteen years and becomes a possible claimant for an invalid pension. Younger children also are entitled to treatment even if, at the best, it will only enable them to be trained how to feed themselves, how to talk, how to read and how to obtain some small enjoyment from the activities that normal children enjoy. No distinction on economic grounds should be made between children of various ages. They all must be treated as human beings.
These vital reforms in the methods of approach to this problem of the rehabilitation of physically-handicapped persons are urgent. The chaotic division of responsibility for treatment must be resolved, and, in the light of the knowledge of the number of children that require treatment, it must be decided how the necessary financial relief shall be given to the voluntary organizations which at present, almost alone, undertake the responsibility for the treatment of physically-handicapped children. I should deeply regret a condition of affairs in which this treatment would be gven by any but voluntary bodies.I repeat that excellent work has been done by the rehabilitation centres. I refer particularly to the centre inWestern Australia, because I know it so well. I cannot speak too highly of it. Unfortunately, there is what I may term an almost inhuman side to the government control of institutions such as this, and under less sympathetic control than is exercised over this centre at present, the needs of physically-handicapped children might suffer. Voluntary organizations chiefly must do the job. They must be encouraged to expand their activities and to redouble their efforts, and they must be relieved of much of the terrific financial burden which at present rests upon them.
I should not like, at any time in my life, to feel a sense of guilt arising from the thought that one physicallyhandicapped child might be able to point to me and say, “ But for that man, I should be a whole person to-day “. I should hate to think that any responsible member of this House might have cause to feel such a sense of guilt.
The proposal contained in this bill is a very great departure from previous practice. The rehabilitation and the treatment of physically-handicapped people should be greatly extended, and there are sound arguments in favour of the new approach to the financial aspect of this work. If we consider this matter from the economic stand-point, let us begin where we can do the most good. But, in the process, let us not ignore the human side of the problem. I suggest that honorable members give careful consideration to the recommendations of the World Health organization. 1 understand that about 78 nations are members of that United Nations agency, which has done fine work and has made many sound recommendations that might well be adopted in Australia. This country, in some respects, lags far behind some of the so-called backward nations in the treatment of physically-handicapped children.
I now wish to refer to the sum of £200 which has been provided in this bill for self-employment. That is an introduction to an excellent plan which is based upon the scheme for the transition of exservice men and women to civilian life. If the plan is judiciously applied, it will undoubtedly be successful. I hope, however, that if a person is assisted and it is found later that the particular avenue into which he has been directed or has himself selected is beyond his capacity he will not then be written off asineligible for further assistance. That would be a regrettable result. In the general scheme of rehabilitation there must be a measure of trial and error. Doctors and vocational guidance officers may sometime err in their opinion of the most suitable occupation for a handicapped person, but that person should not suffer as a result of that error.
I commend the Minister upon the proposals contained in this measure. They have been drawn up not only because of his sympathy for the physically handicapped but also because of the knowledge and understanding that he and the officers of his department have gained and which have led to this important advance in Australia’s social services scheme. I wish the Minister every success with advances in the future which, I believe, he will attempt to achieve.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
.The responsibility for rehabilitating unfortunate members of the community who are the victims of ill health and physical incapacity rests upon the government of the nation. I welcome this measure, but I intend to comment upon its restrictive nature. However, I commend the provisions of the bill that deserve support. I believe that the community, appreciative of the value of the measure, will facilitate the valuable work which will be done under it. The bill represents a step forward in the field of social reform and public welfare. Its beneficial features have the support of the Opposition, because the Labour party has always been to the fore in initiating legislation for the purpose of assisting the needy and the distressed. I should regret to think that this measure represents the limit of the resources of the Government, or the extremity of its compassion. From the figures submitted by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) in his second-reading speech it is clear that the proposals embodied in the bill will cost the people nothing. Those are not my words, but those of the Minister.
It is to the credit of Mr. Chifley, who was my illustrious predecessor as member for Macquarie, that under his Prime Ministership in 1948, legislation providing for the rehabilitation of distressed members of the community was pioneered. It is on that legislation that the present measure is built. The financial provisions of the bill, however, barely meet the needs of the present situation, having regard to the increased cost of living and the additional charges in other forms that must be borne by the people. The increases of benefits to be provided will hardly meet the increases of costs that have occurred since a measure of this kind was last introduced. The blight of the means test also hangs heavily over this legislation, as it does over the whole community. Many of the advantageous features of the measure will be affected in some degree by the incidence of the means test.
I do not imply that the legislation is not desirable. I believe that it is desirable. Legislation of this character has a long history in Australia. I have conducted some research into legislation dealing with workers’ compensation and with the victims of industrial complaints. In 1926 a Labour government in New South Wales, under the Premiership of Mr. J. T. Lang, pioneered workers’ compensation legislation which embraced rehabilitation of the victims of industrial mishaps. Section 52 of that act deals specifically with that phase. I pay a tribute to the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) who this afternoon attacked the measure, rightly, because of its failure to deal with infants. He applauded, as I do, the fact that the bill will bring a new section of the population into the field of benefit. I refer to children between the ages of fourteen and sixteen years. That provision has long been required, and the Minister is to be commended for its inclusion in the bill, because that section of the community should be the subject of rehabilitation efforts. However, as the honorable member for Moore said, the rehabilitation of children who require attention from the earliest days of their lives should come within the scope of a wider national plan. It is true, of course, that the authority to deal with these matters rests with the State governments.
The bill caters in another way for another section of the people. I refer to the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen. T have here a copy of a reply that was ma.de by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Francis) to a question regarding the number of ex-servicemen who had been treated under the scheme and the kind of treatment that they had received. The Minister’s reply read, in part, a? follows : -
Since the commencement of the scheme, in January, 1053, 1,310 applications have been received - 1,128 from members, and 188 from widows. Of those applications, 514 have been approved as eligible for training or are still under consideration, and 445 have been rejected as ineligible or unsuitable. Three hundred and fifty-seven applicants have either been placed in suitable employment or have withdrawn their applications.
That reply indicates quite clearly that there is another section of the community which is receiving consideration. By passing this bill, the Parliament will help to develop a national approach to the problem of the rehabilitation of its less fortunate citizens. It is necessary that we should deal with this problem on a firm and national basis. The fact that we have to deal with it in- piecemeal fashion highlights the need for consideration to be given to overcoming the constitutional difficulties that now make it impossible to provide in one scheme for the treatment of all our citizens who require to be rehabilitated. It is true that provision is now being made for the making of agreements with the States with respect to various categories of such persons. That, perhaps, could help to overcome the difficulties to which I refer. But a worthwhile national scheme should be developed on adequate foundations which would extend equally to all citizens the compassion and assistance that can be bestowed on the people by a charitable and earnest government. Such a plan would improve the health of the people and increase the efficiency of our labour force. It would enable its beneficiaries to enjoy the health and happiness that should be theirs, and also enable them to play their part in the development of Australia.
It is upon the basis of the development of the individual and respect for the personality of the individual that members on this side of the House approach this problem. We are deeply interested in the fact that as a result of vocational therapy, physiotherapy and special training, people will be enabled to become effective once again and to play their part in the nation’s work force. However, we are much more concerned about the happiness, contentment and wellbeing of the individual, and his or her capacity to enjoy life.
The Minister directed attention in his speech to the great service rendered by the scheme up to this stage. He pointed out that 700 invalid pensioners and recipients of sickness benefits have been restored to the work force through the rehabilitation service. That is, indeed, important. He went on to say -
As a result of the employment of 2,700 invalid pensioners a saving of over £500,000 per year in the payment of invalid pensions and dependants’ allowances is now being made. By reducing the time of those on long-term sickness benefit a further yearly saving of £50,000 can be added.
I do not question the Minister’s figures. I accept them. I believe that by doing as he suggests we can form a basis for the consideration of a much wider, and a much more beneficial rehabilitation scheme for the people of this country. It is said that this scheme already is saving the nation £500,000 a year, and that the cost of this new scheme will be £460,000. Therefore, it would seem that this measure will tend to keep in check the number of pensioners, increase production and lighten taxation. In short,accepting the Minister’s word, it will cost the taxpayers nothing, but will add to production and the wealth of our country. If that be so, a prima facie case has been made out for enlarging the scheme. In that connexion, I vigorously support the remarks of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Eraser), who led the debate on behalf of the Opposition. He pointed out that the proposed increase of training allowances is not adequate, and that it does not meet the existing conditions. Honorable members on both sides of the House will be seised with the importance and correctness of that contention. The fact is that the cost of living is continuing to skyrocket. In consequence, the allowance should be considerably increased.
I shall now address myself briefly to some other aspects of the measure. As I have said, the value of occupational therapy is well known. This bill sets out to deal with it. I applaud the Minister’s consideration for the needs of sufferers from tuberculosis, and the provision of a rehabilitation service which will help them to overcome their special problems. The need of this work as a means of building morale and reclaiming human beings in order to prevent economic loss and wastage is well known; but as I said before, the most important thing is to increase the happiness and well-being of the people. To-day, sufferers from tuberculosis are paid an allowance of approximately £9 a week while undergoing treatment. The great danger is that when the sputum test of sufferers from tuberculosis becomes negative and they are certified as being no longer positive risks, they invariably are reduced to the standard of invalid pensioners, and are obliged to treat themselves, buy the requisite protective foods, and provide themselves with the clothes and accommodation necessary to help them to gather strength so that they might once again play their part in the development of this country by seeking employment similar to that which they enjoyed before contracting the disease, and be on equal terms with their fellows in the battle of life. Such sufferers urgently need help during that period of transition, and in that respect this scheme should come into its own. It is true that under the scheme these people will receive consideration.
I make a plea for those who are engaged in voluntary work in this field. £ refer to members of organizations and societies, such as the Australian Bed Cross Society, the Country Women’s Association, the spastic and crippled children’s organizations, and other bodies which are playing a practical part in this sphere. Although this measure will make it possible for greater assistance to be granted to individuals, we shall continue to need the help of voluntary organizations to supplement the work of the Government.
At Wentworth Falls, in the Blue Mountains in New South Wales, there is a very fine organization comprising persons who know no politics and no religion, who are dedicated to helping their fellow-men. With this organization is associated the Citizens T.B. League of New South Wales, and a rehabilitation centre, which is financed by the people of that area. The cost of running the organization is about £50 a week, which is raised by voluntary subscriptions from patriotic and public-spirited people in the area. A healthy mind is a pre-requisite for a healthy body. By occupational therapy, sufferers from tuberculosis are encouraged to develop their latent talents and again become useful members of society. I point out that there is no provision in the bill whereby funds will be made available to voluntary organizations to assist them to carry out this essential work. They teach young women shorthand and typewriting, and other work which, it has been said, will be of less value than the work that will be done under the Government’s plan. But is it of less value to the community? I think not. The work of teaching men the furniture trade and of assisting young men to develop hobbies and handicrafts is of tremendous value. The Government should see to it that funds are made available to these organizations so that they can continue their good work. The individuals concerned should be paid the same amount as is to be provided for training under this measure. The organization at Wentworth Falls to which I referred is under the strict supervision of the Department of Health. It is carrying out such splendid work on behalf of the community that it deserves to have the blessing of this Government. This is only an isolated instance of work that is being done by people on an honorary basis. Similar work is being done by numerous organizations in this country. Doubtless, honorable members know of many in their electorates. The standard of the service that they render is the hall-mark of citizenship in a Christian society. In this bill, the Government has overlooked the needs of people of that kind. I urge the Minister, who is undoubtedly sympathetic to the needs of sufferers from tuberculosis - and, I am quite certain, equally sympathetic to the needs of others in distress - to heed my representations, and consider what can be done to deal with this problem. As I have said, it is not covered by the bill now before the House.
There are other people who require consideration. I refer to people who have undergone a scheme of training and are self-employed, and who may be considered, to some extent, to have been rehabilitated. They are not quite capable of joining their fellow men in working in competitive fields, but, because of some handicraft or skill, they are able to earn some money in their own homes or in their backyards. The efforts of those people should be recognized in some way, and assistance should be given to them. There are also people receiving tuition in their own homes, under the care of their own families/ and with the assistance of their friends. Such people should not be disqualified from receiving assistance simply because they are unable to visit a governmental institution in order to receive the benefits envisaged by this bill. In such matters as these, there is need for greater reform.
I do not wish to disparage in any way the work of the Minister in connexion with these matters. I know that he and his departmental officers have approached the problem from a particular point of view and in the light of their own knowledge. But, as I said at the outset, legislation of this kind is blighted by the means test provisions, which still apply to people who are trying to earn a living after having received occupational therapy and acquired some skill that enables them to play their part in the community. The Minister, when referring to this problem, said that training sometimes spreads over many months, and encouragement is needed to prevent some from relinquishing training and accepting a job of a type which, in many cases, would have a detrimental effect physically or even psychologically. He said that, obviously, this would not be in the long-term interest of such persons. The answer to that seems to be that it is reasonable and just to expect that extra financial assistance should be given to those people who, because of necessity, are afraid to restrict the income of their families, and their own opportunities, by undergoing training, when they urgently need money in order to live. That urge to earn sufficient money to maintain the family and the individual is so great and so important that the Minister himself has referred to it very pointedly in his speech. I underline that to-night to show that the means test provisions are a blight on all legislation which has for its purpose the establishment of a new and better order. It is to be regretted and deplored that the progressive legislation envisaged by the labour party. which would have been introduced had that party come tn office, cannot now be enacted because to-day another government sits on your right. Mr. Speaker. I hope that the Minister will, bv means such as are indicated in this legislation help to overcome the problem of the means test so that individuals will receive the treatment to which they are justly entitled.
I have referred to the organization at Wentworth Falls. I remind the House that that organization is performing a very fine service, but net for only sixteen or twenty ex-sufferers from tuberculosis. There are also a number of rendle who come- from the Queen Victoria Home, a sanatorium nearby, and who are receiving beneficial treatment at the premises of the organization to which I referred. I particularly stress that fact, because I think it is of the utmost importance. It is necessary to maintain a national approach to all of these problems.
The legislation before the House at present is weak, in that it does not provide for adequate fees to be paid to those undergoing treatment and training. Those amounts should be increased. If the Minister is prepared to stand by his own statement that this scheme costs nothing, then obviously it cannot hurt the Treasury or the nation and it will add nothing to the budget in the long run, because the Government will be reimbursed by taxation, increased production, and the advanced development of the country.
I return now to the point made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) with regard to compulsion. Members on this side of the House are most reluctant to agree to any form of compulsion. We believe that participation in this scheme should be voluntary. We believe that if the Government forces people to do something which they do not want to do, particularly people who are invalids, those people will be adversely affected psychologically. Grave mental hardships will be caused to them, and their return to good health may be retarded for a long time. Of course, there are members on the Government side who always believe in compulsion. They have been taught in the school of compulsion and of stand-over methods. Such ideas are foreign to the policy of the Labour party. We on this side of the House are steadfastly opposed to compulsion, especially in matters which deal with human beings and the upholding of the dignity of the individual.
Another matter to which we are opposed’ is the qualification of 85 per cent, incapacity for an invalid pension. That percentage is too high. It inflicts on many people a burden which they should not be called upon to bear when they are trying to recover their health. Nobody is ill through choice; nobody is idle because he wants to pretend he is a cripple or an invalid. The average Australian is prepared to do his job. The Government should be prepared to reduce that percentage. If it is not, then it should consider the acceptance of people of a lower percentage of incapacity for rehabilitation. In doing so, the Government would restore to the work force of this country tens of thousands of people who could make a contribution to the development of the nation.
I now refer to the administration of the proposed organization. It is necessary to select people for the filling of administrative posts who are sympathetic towards the needs of invalids, those in distress, and those who need building up and restoring to good health.
I sincerely hope that the suggestions made by me and by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro and others will receive most earnest consideration by the Minister and by the Government. I hope that from the suggestions which have been made here a better and more useful plan will be evolved to improve the health of the people of this country.
.- One cannot help but feel sympathetic towards all suggestions that are made for assisting persons in distress. But one must remember that, in addition to this Government, there are six State governments in this country. There are also various local government bodies. All of those bodies that I have mentioned have duties with regard to providing for distressed persons. To hear remarks sometimes made in this House, one would think that there was no obligation on anybody, other than the Commonwealth, to make such provision. To-day, the Commonwealth Government is spending about £200,000,000 a year on social services. To put it in another way, that sum is being found by the Menzies Government. If one recalls that, in 1938-39, just before the war, the annual expenditure in this field was only £.1.7,000,000, one realizes what tremendous advances have been made by this Government. The United Kingdom social services began to get out of hand, and it was realized suddenly that a halt had to be called. If the Government listened to every suggestion that was put to it, there is no doubt that the same thing would happen in this country. The annual expenditure of £200,000,000 does not include the many millions spent on immigration, repatriation, war service homes, and other activities. Moreover, the Government is undertaking great capital works for national development. It is strange to hear honorable members opposite urging the Government to spend more money on various things when, last year and this year, they have resolutely refused to assist it to borrow money for development. I do not understand how they imagine that money can be found for these things when they have said, “ We will not borrow it, just because it comes from overseas”.
– Borrowed money cannot be used for social services.
– If the Opposition were really sincere and wished to help the underdog it would be only too delighted to have money for other purposes so as to provide more money for spending on his behalf. Social services have developed greatly, especially under the administration of this Government. Only last year, a notable advance was made by the provision of funds for the establishment of homes for aged persons. Already, £608,000 has been found for this purpose.
– It is not enough.
– ‘Of course it is not. But each year £150,000 is made available but, so far, the Government’s offer has not been taken advantage of. Homes have been provided for almost 1,100 aged persons including nurses, blind persons, and even local preachers - a real crosssection of the community. The Department of Social Services has made sure that the conditions in these homes will approach, as nearly as possible, normal domestic life. The bill makes a further advance in the field of rehabilitation and provides for a wide class of applicant. It provides for the treatment and training of pensioners and claimants for pensions, and for those who, without treatment and training, would be likely to become unemployable. It provides for persons who are suffering from tuberculosis and also for young persons who have attained the age of fourteen but not sixteen years. One must join with other honorable members who have congratulated the Minister on this fine advance.
The Commonwealth has undertaken useful rehabilitation work, if one may use that phrase, over many years. It has been rather in the nature of “first education By that I mean the earliest, or pre-school, education which has been in its hands for so long. I have in mind especially the’ Lady Gowrie child centres. In 1937, a former Prime Minister, who was then Minister for Health, outlined the functions of the Lady Gowrie Council and referred to the need to devote detailed attention to the care of the infant and growing child of pre-school age as an important way of raising the standard of health in the community. In the same way, this bill is aimed at advancing the standard of health in the community. In 1937, a Liberal government adopted that course with regard to even younger children than will benefit under the bill.
The Lady Gowrie child centres have continued ever since, on lines that do not impinge upon the field occupied by the State governments. For that reason, there is no overlapping of effort. A demonstration centre has been established in each capital city under the direction of the Commonwealth Department of Health. Great use has been made of them. Not only general education, but also mental health and the way in which young children should be brought up are taught, so that the utmost value can be obtained from these specialized centres. They are, in fact, places of research in health and their purpose is to achieve for the children, social adjustment, emotional stability, physical health and mental alertness. The objective is the attainment of “total health” and all-round growth. Specialized teachers not only work at the kindergartens but also visit the homes of the children so that they may better understand the environment in which they live. In this way there is continual study and research upon the pre-school child of Australia. This knowledge is subsequently disseminated. The schools have become training grounds for medical students, nurses, infant welfare workers and occupational therapists. Personnel is also provided for kindergartens outside the specialized centres. In addition, various Commonwealth departments have made use of the knowledge acquired over the years by the Lady Gowrie child health centres. The Department of Immigration has co- operated with the centres, and every facility has been made available to assist in the provision of leaders to help to develop pre-school services in immigrant camps. The Department of Territories has obtained reports in connexion with the establishment of pre-school services in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and in the Northern Territory.
– How does the honorable member link these remarks with the bill?
– I am dealing with a matter that has been dealt with by various honorable members opposite. In the course of their speeches, they have suggested that this Government has neglected to do certain things. I am pointing out a new sphere of activity, of which apparently they are not aware, in which the Government has worked successfully for a long period. The Department of External Territories also has made use of the activities of these child health centres in connexion with its activities under the Colombo plan.
I have raised this matter because I believe that when the Opposition says the Government should do this and that in this field of activity, it is proper that the valuable work that has been done quietly and well over the years should be brought to the notice of the people. The Government is spending a huge sum each year on social services, and in other ways, such as through these child health centres, and it is doing1 magnificient work for the underdog.
f 8.42]. - Some Government members, including the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske), have told us some of the history of social services. I agree with the honorable member for Balaclava that progress is best made step by step. There is more virtue in making solid reforms progressively than there is in going ahead in too much of a hurry. Nevertheless, my criticism of the bill is that it is extremely modest. I devoted a great deal of attention to this subject at the time of the debate on the Social Services Bill last year. I had been interested in the subject before then, but it was at that time that I became aware that departmental officers also were extremely interested in it.
In this bill, the Government is devoting its attention to a very narrow band of the spectrum of social services. The spectrum contains some bright colours. This narrow band concerns people who, although not complete invalids, are unable, without training, to do useful work. The officers of the Department of Social Services and the Commonwealth Employment Service have rendered a great service to that section of the community. They are deserving of the highest praise for their attention to detail and their humanitarian approach to the problems of physically handicapped people, who are unable entirely to fend for themselves. It is a good thing that the Minister has changed the name of the scheme to the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service. Now, amongst the great national services, we have the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service.
I hope the Government will make some attempt to expand the scope of its inquiries on behalf of the people affected by the bill. There is a need for inspectors to make inquiries into industrial establishments, in order to discover the ability of industry to absorb physically handicapped people. Many industrial establishments are reluctant to employ them. Some establishments do employ them, but others adopt the attitude that they pay good wages for good labour, and have no time for anything else. That attitude is far too prevalent. Many industrialists have yet to learn of the useful work that can be done by physically handicapped people. It is necessary to have inspectors to inquire, not only into the opportunities for the employment of handicapped people, but also into the labour needs of industrialists and the community generally. There is a need to co-ordinate the requirements of industry with the availability of physically handicapped people who could be absorbed into industry.
In a previous debate, I pointed out that it is possible for a factory, staffed entirely by physically handicapped people, to manufacture some lines of goods and supplement the ordinary output of industry in a useful way. That source of employment could be considered. The inquiry should cover also the opportunities of employment for elderly people. It is necessary to get a clear idea of the whole problem, and I think the bill should provide for a survey of that kind.
I wish to refer now to those physically handicapped people who are almost unemployable. Some of them can be employed only on housework. Many of them live with relatives and do housework for their relatives, but others live by themselves. Those who are living with friends or relatives are probably in a good position, but those who live by themselves are in a very serious plight. Most of them are in ill health. They have meagre financial resources and no means of finding useful work. I think they are entitled to more consideration, and the Government should give immediate attention to their requirements. I suggest that they be paid something in the nature of the domestic allowance paid to war widows. People of this type who live by themselves are in a different position from those who live with relatives.
There is a great need for the community to play its part in dealing with this problem. The employers could do most by improving their factories. The modern trend is towards well-lit factories, with air conditioning plants and dust-removing appliances. That trend promotes efficiency, but it also does a great deal to help physically handicapped persons. I think industrialists should be encouraged in some way to equip their factories so that they . will be able t” absorb physically handicapped people. I have in mind an excellent factory in my own electorate-. It is a modern building, and. the company has a positive policy of employing physically handicapped people. Amongst the staff there is a man with only one arm and there is another man with only one leg.
A very capable young man who had been a stonemason asked me to help him -to find employment. He had contracted tuberculosis, and had recently been discharged from hospital. His tuberculosis allowance had been stopped because he was considered to be cured. He came to me in great consternation and said that he had no means of keeping himself and his family. He asked me whether I could arrange for the continuation of the payment of his allowance. He was such a good type of man in every way that I thought the best means to meet the situation was to get him some form of employment. The Commonwealth Employment Service came to my aid, and made assiduous inquiries. As a result, it was able to place this man in a well-equipped, well lit, dustproof factory which was most suitable for a man who had been suffering from tuberculosis. He is now happily engaged in his work. That was the result of the management of one factory adopting a practical policy of helping the physically handicapped, and making the factory modern, so that the employees could work under the best conditions. That illustrates how the community can help.
The Government can also do a great deal. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon), having been Minister for Air, will know that full well. I deplore the fact that service establishments that have much menial work to be done make use of trained servicemen, and those who are physically fit, to throw out ashes and to do ordinary camp duties. That is a waste of man-power. If servicemen are to be enlisted for those duties, they might just as well stay outside the services. There are physically handicapped persons who could do that work, and the Government should employ them, and release servicemen for other duties. Quite recently, I found that physically handicapped servicemen who were not capable of doing full duties were being put off work at a military establishment and fit servicemen were being put in their places. I telephoned the commandant and suggested that the Government should take its share of finding employment for physically handicapped, just as private enterprise did. He replied that he had so much work to be done and so many men on establishment to do it, and he could not afford to retain men who were not able to pull their weight. Fortunately, he saw my side of the argument and kept the men concerned on duty. The Government can do much to assist the community in that respect. I do not agree with the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) who praised the great work of the industrialists in that connexion. Some do their share, but employers, as a whole, could do much more than they do at present.
I wish to direct attention also to the proposed loans of £200 at 4-£ per cent. The loans will do much good in helping to provide equipment for persons who have learnt how to use it, but I believe that the amount of £200 might not be sufficient to purchase certain modern equipment which saves hand work. The provision that the loans must be repaid at 4-J per cent, also calls for some comment. Having had some experience of lending money, I say that this type of loan, from the point of view of the ordinary financial institution, is about the poorest kind of loan that one could enter into. The Minister for Social Services is probably aware that much of the money that is to be distributed in loans will never go back to the Treasury. In addition, 4£ per cent, is a high rate of interest, and it might not be recouped. We have to consider carefully whether people who are starting in business with a small quantity of equipment will be able to make a repayment with interest. I believe some relief should be provided in respect of the repayment of the loans, and suggest that consideration should be given to that matter. I believe that the loans should be entered into carefully. They cannot be considered loans in the ordinary course of business, such as are made by a banker, because all the things that a banker looks to when he makes a loan will be absent from these contracts.
I agree with the honorable member for Eden-Monaro when he said that persons who are suitable for a rehabilitation course should not be forced into it. Honorable members will know that persons who are physically handicapped frequently suffer from a nervous disorder which is attendant on it, and leaving the care of their own folk is a serious matter, particularly for young girls. At times, they need the shelter of the home, and great caution must be used in such cases. I know the Minister would say that there is no compulsion. His reply to my proposition would be that if these people do not want rehabilitation, they will not be forced into it; but a serious position arises with the Department of Social Services and the Commonwealth Employment Service. What is the situation when a letter to the person concerned informs him or her that a rehabilitation course is open to them; they are not expected to take it but if they do not do so, they will be struck off the unemployment relief list? That is a form of compulsion, and it should be watched carefully.
I commend the suggestion of the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) who said that the rehabilitation service should be open to all, without a means test. That would get more people into useful employment. There are occasions when it is better to have- a number of people of the same class seeking employment than to have a few. I recall that, in this connexion, I referred about eight months ago to a practice in G’reat Britain where much attention was devoted to the provision of special factories and special means of absorbing people who needed assistance. Provided enough people are available, it is possible to devote officers, equipment and supplies to their needs, and it is better to have a considerable number of people of one class than to have a few situated in various parts of the country. Therefore, if the rehabilitation benefits were extended to all persons, whether they have some assets or not, the beneficial effect would be spread more widely. It would give the new Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service, figuratively, a bigger piece of cheese to bite on.
I look forward to the day when we shall be able to rise in this chamber and have difficulty in making a speech that contains anything fresh on the subject of rehabilitation. Honorable members should endeavour to make constructive comments and suggestions that will be helpful to the Government. I hope that the Minister for Social Services will submit bills on this subject more frequently until honorable members have difficulty in finding anything wrong with them.
.- I rise to support the bill, which provides for improvements to the rehabilitation service under the social services legislation. The rehabilitation of civilians is an important matter. The Minister for
Social Services (Mr. McMahon) has been congratulated by many honorable members during this debate on the proposed improvements to the scheme, and he deserves those’ commendations ; but honorable members should also bear in mind the work of the Social Security Committee, a joint parliamentary committee appointed by this Parliament, which first directed attention to the rehabilitation service. Honorable members should also recall the work in this connexion of the present Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator MeKenna), who, as Minister for Social Services in the previous Labour Government, laid the foundations of the scheme. Reference was made to his work in this connexion by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Eraser). The present Minister for Social Services has done good work so far as he has gone. The rehabilitation scheme will be difficult to administer if it is to bring real benefits to those who are suffering disabilities. That is because many such persons are reluctant to take the steps necessary for their own rehabilitation. As the Minister has stated, this scheme will depend for its success on the co-operation and the team-work of all sections of the community. It is quite clear that without such co-operation and willingness to work together, it will be impossible to put a satisfactory rehabilitation programme into effect in this country.
I have been associated with a paraplegics association in South Australia. It is a very small organization, which was set up to try to help paraplegic people who were unable to take advantage of our social services legislation and who had been, to some degree, a forgotten section of the disabled people in our community. That association was initiated by a paraplegic who called a meeting to discuss the formation of the organization. Two wellknown South Australian doctors, one of my colleagues in the South Australian Parliament, Mr. Frank Walsh, two Commonwealth Public Service officers and myself, together with representatives of the Chamber of Manufactures then set out to try to help the paraplegics and make their lot a little easier. Most of these people had difficulty in being accepted for rehabilitation courses by the Department of Social Services, because the medical officers were not prepared to recommend that their expectation of life was long enough to warrant the spending of money and time on their rehabilitation. It was the contention of the department that there were many other disabled people whose expectation of life was many years, and who would amply repay the expense of rehabilitating them. Consequently, honorable members will realize that the paraplegic people find life rather difficult. The group of persons that I have mentioned has been endeavouring to find out how we could help them, and how we could get them back to work in industry.
One case that we dealt with concerned a British immigrant who had just settled in this country. He was married and had a couple of children. He became involved in a motor accident, and because of the injuries that he suffered the lower part of his body became paralysed and he was condemned to a wheel-chair for, as far as could be ascertained, the remainder of his life. He had not been in Australia long enough to become eligible for an invalid pension, and his wife had to become the bread-winner for the family. The eldest daughter, who should have been doing her leaving certificate course at school, had to leave school in order to stay at home and look after her father. Honorable members will realize that the family was in a fairly bad economic plight by that time.
I visited that man’s home, and noticed that the house was surrounded by a wellkept garden. During conversation I asked him who attended to the garden, and he said that he did himself. He showed me how he looked after the garden from his wheel chair. He was able to use gardening implements and other simple implements from his chair, and the result was quite a well-kept and well-ordered garden. In fact he had done a really magnificent job on the garden, which made me rather ashamed of myself because I could not do as well in my own garden. We decided that we should try to find this man a job, and we contacted the industrial officer of a large motor body building works in South Australia. He was very sympathetic towards our plans and said, “ Well, fetch the man over and we shall see what we can do with him “. I took the man over to the works in my car, carrying his wheel-chair in the boot of the vehicle, and went with him to see the industrial officer. He then called in his personnel officer, and asked him what could be done for this man. The personnel officer said to us, “You stay here, and I shall take this man to the section where we think we may be able to find employment for him “. The paraplegic man went off in his wheel-chair with the personnel officer and about three-quarters of an hour later he came back smiling broadly, and told me that he thought he could do the job that had been shown to him. He said that that would be a, job in the machine-shop, but he had first to go to the employment officer to sign the necessary employment card. Nobody offered to help him to go across to the employment officer, and he did not seek help, because it was essential that he should believe that he would be able to do his job like the other men in the factory.
That large industrial concern was General Motors-Holden’s Limited, and it employed him as a second-class machinist. Once again that man became the breadwinner of his family without going through the rehabilitation training that might have been given him under a rehabilitation programme. Of course, that man could not have been placed if the company had not been co-operative. That is because two or three levers on the machine had to be moved so that they would be easier to work from a wheelchair. A few other minor alterations in his working conditions had to be made to assist him. The company told me that it did not want him to think that he was being given something for nothing, that the company thought he could do the job, and would not offer him anything more than they offered any other employee in the works. The man also knew that he was replacing an able-bodied employee who was being moved to another job. That man was quite prepared to do that job, and to pedal his wheel-chair 3 miles to work each morning. One concession that he was given was that he was not required to queue up to clock-on in the mornings.
The point is that if large industrial concerns like the one that I have mentioned will co-operate with persons and organizations in the community, half the battle of rehabilitation will have been won. Of course, more than one or two industrial concerns will need to help in that way; in fact, they all will need to help. “While I was at the factory that I have previously mentioned, we were watching from a distance of about 30 yards a group of six people working at a bench. The foreman told me that one of the men was blind, and asked me to pick him out. After we had watched the group for a while we could see quite clearly who was blind, because that man was not looking down at his work. He was picking up screws, using his screwdriver and doing the assembly work, but was not watching what he was doing. That was another case of a disabled man taking his place with able-bodied men and doing the same work that they were able to do. The work can be found for the physically handicapped while there is full employment. But it is doubtful whether firms will be willing to undertake the initial training of these people if unemployment returns.
In order to make the rehabilitation programme effective, the Department of Social Services should engage in a publicity campaign to instil into the public mind the need for co-operation. It would be a good idea for the department to set up the kind of committee that I mentioned before in each capital city. The personnel officers of industrial firms in each city should be brought in close contact with these committees which could find jobs for people after the Department of Social Services had trained them for particular positions. I believe that the scheme will be a success. Naturally, as other honorable members have said, it could be improved, upon. The Opposition supports this bill whole-heartedly but we should like to have some improvements made in it. The provision in the bill for the training of people who are at present denied training because they are not invalid pensioners will contribute greatly to the success of the scheme. But no charge should be made for that training. Whether such people are eligible for invalid pensions or not, train ing should be freely available to them so that they may go back into industry, not only in order to restore their health, but in order to become a national asset instead of a liability. The Minister said that the scheme would cost nothing. That is fine. But if it will cost nothing it seems that it should have been enlarged. The expenditure of a few. million pounds on a purpose such as this would not be very much relative to the Government’s total budget expenditure.
The part of the bill which provides for training for home employment is very important. I know of a man in South Australia who could benefit greatly from training for home employment. This man is a paraplegic who could very easily be trained for the trade of watchmaker. Before he had an accident he was engaged in similar work and, with very little training, he could become a competent watchmaker. Grave difficulties would confront this man if he had to travel to a place of employment. But if’ he were able to work in his own home as a watchmaker he could establish quite a good business. The earlier part of the bill in which provision is made for young people from fourteen to sixteen years of age has already been mentioned in this debate. I agree with other honorable members who have mentioned this matter that training could well be commenced at an age. younger than fourteen years if necessary. No doubt there are problems connected with this matter. But the rehabilitation of physically-handicapped people cannot be made to conform to a pattern which will apply to every individual in the community. In many cases, it will be necessary to deal with each individual in the special manner which may be suited to him. I am confident that the officers of the ‘ Department of Social Services will treat these people sympathetically. The officers with whom I have come in contact in South Australia are very sympathetic to this scheme. Their activities have been limited by past legislation. Now that this bill will enlarge the scope of the scheme, we can look forward to a better deal for those people who need, not charity, but the assistance of the State and the co-operation of all sections of the community in order that they may become bread-winners once again instead of having to exist on social services benefits.
I hope that the Minister will give consideration to the matters that have been mentioned in this debate by honorable members on both sides of the House. I particularly hope that he will pay attention to the revision of the requirement that 85 per cent, permanent incapacity must he established before a person may receive the invalid pension. I am sure that all honorable members must have come in contact with people who are clearly unable to earn a living but who have been denied an invalid pension because somebody has decided that they are not 85 per cent, permanently incapacitated. I hope that the Minister will take steps to ensure that all those people who are clearly invalids shall become entitled to assistance. I support the bill. I hope that it represents only the beginning of an enlargement of this scheme, so that eventually hope may be given to physicallyhandicapped people that they may soon be able to help to make the wheels of industry turn.
.- This is a bill which must excite the compassion of every honorable member. I am pleasurably surprised at the manner in which it has been received by everybody in the House. Let me repeat a few of the explanatory remarks that were made by the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) when he introduced the bill. He stated, in relation to the rehabilitation of physically-handicapped persons -
It may be denned as the restoration of the physically handicapped, through treatment and vocational training, to the fullest physical, mental and economic usefulness of which they arc capable, lt seeks to develop the latent ability and special aptitude of the handicapped individual and to restore his confidence and independence. It hopes to enlist the resources of the community to this end.
I can conceive of no more laudable objective, and I voice my commendation not so much to the Minister for Social Services, whose responsibility it was to devise and introduce the bill, but to liberal opinion and to liberal social consciousness in this country. I do not use the word “liberal”, in the party political sense. A popular delusion which is expressed freely throughout our country, and which has been expressed throughout our history, and, indeed, repeated frequently in the House, is that all forms of social legislation stem from the Labour party. The measure now before the House is a demonstration of the fact that such thinking is false. The bill is only one of hundreds of measures of its kind that have been introduced by the Government, or which are likely to be introduced by it when it is given sufficient time to enable it to arrange the political affairs of the country to make their introduction possible.
During our political history, the fact that it was liberal opinion that was responsible for the abolition of slavery has been completely forgotten. Liberal opinion was responsible for the introduction of the factory acts that meant so much to the people who were engaged in our secondary and tertiary industries very many years ago. Moreover, liberal opinion led to the abolition of child labour wherever it was found; and it was responsible also for the introduction of education, in a qualified form in the first place, and with a semblance of universality in the second place. Liberal political opinion led to the establishment of the elementary, secondary and tertiary schools, and was responsible for the establishment of our universities and of all of the advanced schemes for technical and scientific education. The provision of hospital facilities stemmed from liberal opinion. A great number of people have the idea that the fixing of wages is the exclusive province of the Labour parties.’ but our political history demonstrates that, wherever it was possible, liberal opinion has always expressed itself in favour of the raising of wages to meet changing economic circumstances without waiting for any force to be applied.
The same remarks apply to the fixing of hours of labour. Another popular delusion, which, indeed, is encouraged, is that the fixing of hours of labour is exclusive to the Labour parties. Throughout our industrial history, hours of labour have been reduced consistently as a result of the influence of liberal opinion. The great schemes for housing, employment, pensions, national health insurance, and other social services of that kind have all stemmed from the social consciousness of liberal opinion. The fact that 100, or 150, years later, other people seized the opportunity to capitalize changing social circumstances and excited the cupidity of sections of the community by promising that, if they voted in a particular manner, there would be an increase in the amounts of a certain form of social services benefit to the exclusive advantage of a section of the community and to the prejudice of the remainder of it, does not alter the fact that all of these social services benefits have flowed as a result of the influence of liberal opinion. The bill is one of many measures that represent a. complete contradiction of the popular form of political thinking to which I have referred.
Since 1949, the Government has dedicated itself, week by week, to conceiving such forms of social legislation as it has introduced on this occasion, and has grasped the first oportunity to introduce them to the House. I wonder if honorable members have forgotten that, since 1949, the Government has increased the social services benefits that have been paid to age pensioners, not once or twice, or in a niggardly manner, but year after year as the changing circumstances have rendered it necessary to increase those benefits. The Government did not stop at that point. It has progressively eased the means test as it has been applied, first to property income, and then to income generally, until the stage has now been reached at which age pensioners are in a much better position than they have ever been in previously. Surely such measures constitute recurring demonstrations of the sincerity of the Government, pervaded, as it is, by a social consciousness that motivates it in introducing them. Precisely the same story may be told in relation to invalid pensions. Never at any stage has the Government thought that, in monetary terms, the point . has been reached at which nothing more should be done for the invalid pensioner. Invalid pensions have been increased year by year whenever such increases have been warranted and justified. Moreover, there has been a progressive easement of the means test as it has been applied to both the property and income of invalid pensioners. The same thing applies in respect of allowances for wives. The rates have been consistently increased year by year, and so have the allowances for children. Pensions for the blind have been increased also, and there have been progressive easements of the means test which is applied in respect of property. Never for a single moment have the unemployment and sickness benefits been left at the status quo ante, but have been increased as changing circumstances have warranted from time to time.
I have a very vivid recollection, and I have no doubt that other honorable members have a similar recollection, that this Government, pervaded by a spirit of liberal social consciousness, introduced a bill to provide endowment for the first child. Honorable members opposite said that it was financially and socially impossible to pay endowment for the first child, but this Government introduced that benefit and takes great pride in having done so. In addition, child endowment has been increased from time to time, so that to-day it is immeasurably greater than it was in the past. That seems to be a laughing matter for the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) who, at the moment, is in charge of the Opposition, but it is not a laughing matter for those who are in dire need of these social service benefits.
The Opposition said that it was utterly impossible to introduce a medical benefits scheme for pensioners. This Government devoted itself to a solution of all the problems which are inseparable from the introduction of a service of that kind, and we now have a pensioners’ medical scheme which is working perfectly. That is another demonstration of this conception of liberal social consciousness that has been the jewel in the crown of democracy as we have known it. Again, there are giggles from honorable members opposite. The introduction of a pharmaceutical benefits scheme was considered to be impossible by those who went before us. They said it could not be done, and that the pharmacists would not work with anybody else. Because it was a social necessity to do so, this Government introduced a scheme of pharmaceutical benefits which works like a charm for those who are in urgent need of that form of social service. Exactly the same story can be told in relation to health benefits. These are stories that ought to be told, as they were by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske), because they are of fundamental importance to our immediate present, and also our immediate future. Those who say that we must do all sorts of things in order to retain our freedom, forget our present and our immediate past. We have been doing all these things ever since we had the opportunity to translate liberal social consciousness into a legislative and practical form. The recent legislation to provide homes for the aged was a startling innovation of transcendental importance to those who have fallen on evil days at a time when they are beyond the peak of their earning capacity.
The bill before us is devoted, in the words of the Minister, to the restoration of the physically handicapped, through treatment and vocational training - not by means of a pension - so that they may have the opportunity to develop the maximum usefulness of which they are capable. That is the crux of this very important measure. It seeks to develop the latent ability and the special aptitude of the handicapped individual, and to restore his or her confidence and independence. It hopes to enlist the resources of the community to this end, and the indications are that the resources of the community will he enlisted, since this very valuable piece of social legislation is being supported by honorable members opposite.
I wish to make a brief and passing reference to two particular phases of this bill. This Government has all sorts of schemes for the provision of educational scholarships, and a great many advantages are available to the hale, the hearty, and the young, who are in possession of all their faculties. We make such advantages available exclusively to those who are gifted with strong bodies and strong minds, and we exclude everybody else. Wc grant an educational scholarship to a child because of his academic qualifica- tions, and having granted it, we bring him up before a panel of doctors and nurses who examine him for physical disabilities. If he is discovered to have a faulty eye or ear, or a sore hand, or something of that kind, he is immediately excluded from the scholarship that he won on sheer merit. So far as I am able to judge, that is wrong. Those who have disabilities deserve encouragement more than anybody else. The education departments in all States of the Commonwealth, and also the Commonwealth Office of Education, are subject to the grave charge of injustice, in that scholarships are given to people and then taken away if they show, as a result of tests - and there are no limits to the tests - that they have the slightest disability. Up to this point in our history, the situation has been met by giving such people a pension. For far too long that has been the complete answer to all our social problems. When a woman is widowed, we give her a pension and throw her on the scrapheap. She is finished. When people are unemployed, we give them a pension and keep them unemployed. When they are sick, we give them a pension and keep them sick. And so it goes on throughout the social scale. Now, we have this practical piece of legislation which seeks to get away from that state of affairs.
I was delighted to see in this bill provision for what the Minister very succinctly called “home employment”. Surely, there are illimitable avenues for employment of the physically unfit, if they can be gainfully employed without going through the hazards of travelling to a factory or workshop. This home employment scheme is the complete answer to that problem. Some of the greatest things that have been done in our history were done by home employment. Ali our crafts, skills and creative work can be performed just as adequately in the home as anywhere else. Indeed, frequently they are done better in the home than in other places. All the traditional crafts had their genesis in a cottage somewhere or other. All the fine spinning, weaving and metal work of the past were done in homes. This scheme gives an opportunity to those who have disabilities of any kind to be trained and to be gainfully employed at home.
The danger in this bill, of course, is that the physically handicapped may become the important work force in our country. That is a danger I foresee. It may happen that, if this home employment scheme is expanded to include all those who need a scheme of that description, they will apply their energies and resources in a way that the physically fit have not done for 30 or 40 years. It may be that those home workers will divorce themselves from what are called the conditions of labour, such as the senseless convention that when the clock reaches a certain hour a person should go, in a leisurely fashion, to his place of employment, and that when it reaches another hour, he should stop work instantly. The physically handicapped will not be subjected to those stupid restrictions. So it is that, by introducing this piece of social legislation, we are not only giving a semblance of self-respect to those who have been deprived of it by the lack of an organization such as this, but we are also opening up an opportunity for countless men and women to be gainfully employed and to become reputable members of democratic society. The liberal social consciousness deserves commendation for that, if for nothing else.
– I support the measure, and I commend the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) on its introduction, because it goes a step further along a very worth-while road of social advancement. I must at once comment on the speech of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton). I am constrained to wonder where he has been for the last seven or eight years. The honorable member spoke of an upsurge of liberal social consciousness. He professed to spell the word “ liberal “ with a small “ 1 “, but I think that the capital letter was very much evident in the points that he made and in his manner. I do not propose to recount the facts of the history of social services to the honorable member. I merely refer him to a handbook entitled Social Services of the Commonwealth, which is published by the Department of Social Services. Ihe handbook lists every social service provided by the Commonwealth, details of the benefits that are available, and also the dates on which those services were introduced, and it gives a brief history of each benefit. The handbook does not delineate governments by the titles of the relevant political parties; it names them as we would refer to the Menzies Government of to-day, or the Chifley Government or the Curtin Government of past years. If the honorable member for Riverina takes the trouble to obtain that handbook and study it, he will find that almost every major social service enactment was introduced by a Labour government.
– Did Labour introduce child endowment? : Mr. J. R. FRASER.- My statement is correct, and the Treasurer should know that it is correct. When the first Menzies Administration went out of office, in 1941, the Commonwealth provided only three social services - age and invalid pensions, maternity allowance and child endowment, which had been introduced only three months before, in circumstances which the Treasurer knows full well.
– The honorable member’s knowledge of the history of child endowment is completely wrong. It was introduced three years before the time that he mentioned.
– The history that I have given is absolutely correct, and the right honorable gentleman can check it from official documents. The honorable member for Riverina has spoken of ihe introduction of widows’ pensions. They were introduced for the first time on a Commonwealthwide basis by a Labour government. Unemployment and sickness benefits also were introduced by Labour governments between 1941 and 1949. The honorable member referred also to pensions paid to invalids and to aged people. The first major relaxations of the means test were introduced by Labour governments between 1941 and 1949, as the social services handbook attests. Labour, during the same period, introduced also the payment of allowances to the dependants of invalids, and the payment of allowances to meet the cost of funerals for invalid and age pensioners. Allowances to persons who care for invalid pensioners also were introduced by Labour governments between 1941 and 1949. I refer any honorable member who is at all in doubt about the history of social services to the official handbook of the Department of Social Services, which, as I have mentioned, states the date of introduction of each social service and also the name of the Government that introduced it. Any honorable member whose memory is no less faulty than is that of the honorable member for Riverina will be able, without difficulty, to recall the political colour of the government in question in each instance.
– The social services handbook is an excellent publication. It was prepared by a most capable author.
– I understand that the original publication was indeed a very fine one.
The honorable member for Riverina finally came to the bill. He then waxed even more poetic. He introduced various quotations in his most effective tones and praised the Government for the introduction of this great measure. The plain fact, of course, is that the original measure, the Social Services Contribution Act (No. 2) 1948, was entirely a Labour party measure, under which the annual expenditure was expected to be £500,000. This bill, on which I commend the Minister, merely increases that expenditure by £50,000. The 194S act was introduced by the Labour Government led by the late Right Honorable J. B. Chifley, when the present Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator MeKenna) was Minister for Health and Social Services. I had the great privilege of working with Senator MeKenna in those days, and I know something of his contribution to that great measure. I know something also of the personal interest in it that was taken by Mr. Chifley. The measure was at the time recognized, as I believe it is recognized to-day, as one of the most Christian measures ever to be enacted in Australia. It was not intended to achieve an economic gain.
– Of course it was.
– It was not. Its prime purpose was, as the honorable member for Riverina and other honorable members on both sides of the House have stated, to restore the confidence, selfrespect, and independence of those people, who had suffered injury or had been disabled in industry or elsewhere. It is perfectly true, as honorable members have stated many times during this debate, that this service - I am pleased that the Minister has changed the title from “ scheme “ to “ service “, because I do not like the word “ scheme “ - has meant a- saving to the Commonwealth because it has eliminated the payment of some pensions, and to the country as a whole, because it has restored to productive work people who previously were completely a. charge upon the State. Not only has it increased production, but also it has returned those people to the. field of taxation. All in all, the individual and the community have gained substantially, both economically and financially. The late Mr. Chifley considered that the 1948 act had due regard to the merits of the individual and to the need for the restoration of his confidence and dignity.
– That was why the Labour Government limited its application-
– The honorable member has made his speech, and I understand that it was a most worthy one.
– Let the honorable member speak the truth in this matter.
– I speak the truth wherever I speak. I am telling the House the truth now, and I am correcting an incorrect statement that has been made. In the eyes of Mr. Chifley, the great purpose of the 1948 act was to restore individual people to useful places in the community. He looked to that end much more than to the economic gain to be derived from the measure.
– That is better.
– If the honorable member would only listen, he would know that that is what I have said all along. There has been, and there must be to-day, a recognition of the problem that confronts the man who has suffered an injury that prevents him from continuing usefully and gainfully in the employment to which he devoted his working years and for which he trained, probably by apprenticeship, and through long years of experience. Such a man who, either at his place of employment or elsewhere, suffers an injury which prevents him from continuing in that employment, feels almost that in one instant his whole world has come to an end. Previously, he had nothing to turn to hut the pension, unless he could find suitable part-time employment, and he was doomed to remain on the industrial scrapheap, as it was termed, dependent on the pension paid by the Commonwealth. The rehabilitation scheme, as it was called, introduced by the Chifley Administration in I94S altered the picture completely, because it offered a chance of rehabilitation to a man who had lost the ability to practise a skill that he had attained and to earn a living for himself, his wife and his family. The word “ rehabilitation “ is very commonly used, and it has an extremely wide application. That scheme offered him an opportunity not only to have his health restored but also to learn a new skill with which he could engage in useful and gainful employment and take his place again in the community. I know that that is how Mr. Chifley regarded this legislation and that that was its purpose. I am confident that that is the purpose also of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) in bringing down this amending legislation. A most important result of the work of The rehabilitation service is that it gives security to the wives and children of disabled men and so removes them from being a charge on the social services of the Australian Government.
I speak with some knowledge of rehabilitation centres because, when I was working with Senator McKenna in his capacity as Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services. I saw much of their work. I have had frequent opportunities to observe what is being done at the Jervis Bay centre in my own electorate. I know how valuable is this work, and also the work of the staffs at the centres. I appreciate also the splendid service of the officers of the Department of Social Services who are charged with the responsibility of administering the rehabilitation centres. They are men who have a great love for humanity, and some of them have made sacrifices to carry on this work. I applaud their efforts and also that of the Government in bringing down this measure and 1 hope that it will lead to an extension of these activities. -
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske), after devoting considerable time to the Lady Gowrie child welfare centres, eventually delivered some remarks on this bill. I agree with him that the centres he mentioned do a magnificent work in the community, but I do noi agree that this Government has given them, great assistance. The honorable member will recall that, last year, honorable members on both sides of the House sought repeatedly on requests from the association controlling these centres to have the annual grant made by the Australian Parliament substantially increased, but nothing was done. The Government turned a completely deaf ear to all those pleas and no argument could prevail to alter its attitude.
I commend the bill, and also the Minister on the way in which he has introduced it.
.- In the limited time left for this debate, I begin by saying that I am not happy about some of the arguments that honorable members have advanced. Obviously, they are seeking to make purely political propaganda out of a proposal with which the House, fundamentally, is in agreement. The measure is designed to help unfortunate people who need assistance. It is particularly pleasing to notice in this piece of social services legislation that the morale of the sufferers is not being undermined. Sometimes, when social services are carried to an extreme, as in welfare states in other countries, one result is to sap initiative and thrift from the people sought to be helped.
Honorable members should rightly be pleased to support this measure because it will assist unfortunate persons and restore some happiness to their lives. A few weeks ago, I visited the Queensland Industries Fair, in Brisbane, in company with some other honorable members of this House, and witnessed a display by the Department of Social Services. It was a demonstration of work by persons at a rehabilitation centre in Brisbane. I was particularly impressed by one young man suffering from Hansen’s disease - leprosy - whose hands were deformed and almost completely paralysed. He was doing a really useful job of work and was obviously happy on that account. I noticed also paraplegics working pottery wheels. One lad who was recovering from poliomyelitis, and had weak legs, was working a lathe, and this occupation was not only giving his legs necessary exercise but also was teaching him a trade. Subsequently, I inspected the rehabilitation centre at Kingshome, Taringa, Brisbane, where valuable work is being done, although under difficulties in some of the buildings. Some of the accommodation is not satisfactory and improvements need to be made to the centre. Unfortunately, when the Department of Works is asked for an estimate of cost it invariably quotes much more than the budget will allow. As an illustration, a quotation of £7,000 was received from the department to build a retaining wall and level a piece of ground. Several Italians who were unemployed about a year ago were given the job to do. Some of them were bricklayers and not only did they build the retaining wall and a set of brick steps, but also they levelled the ground and did other small jobs at a cost of only a few hundred pounds. Some of the work at that centre, such as building concrete stumps, is being done by the staff. They are painting buildings and doing other such work, because of the fantastic and unreasonable quotes for performing such jobs that are submitted by the Department of Works, the acceptance of which would lead to a waste of the money that should be used to help these men and women in other directions. I regret that, because of shortage of time, I cannot say more on this subject, but I should like to commend the Government for the introduction of the measure, and for extending the scope of the rehabilitation service to cover youngsters between the ages of fourteen and sixteen years who previously did not come within its scope. The Government has taken this action out of sheer goodness and a desire to help people to be able to lead happier lives.
– in reply - I shall reply first to some of the arguments of the honorable member for
Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Eraser), who led the debate for the Opposition. The honorable member discussed increases of the living-away-from-home allowance, and the training allowance. I point out that when these matters were considered, we did not relate them to increases of the cost of living. The amendments to the principal act are intended to provide an incentive to people, who are already undergoing rehabilitation, to continue their training. For that reason, I can give my personal assurance that, far from relating them to any increases of the cost of living, or decreases in the value of money, or to the C series index, we were concerned mainly with incentives for trainees.
The honorable member also claimed that charges were to be made for the first time, and said that this was a new feature which had been imported into the working of the scheme. It is not an innovation. In 1948 a system of payments was introduced for the first time by the Chifley Government. They were payments in respect of government instrumentalities such as the Joint Coal Board and the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, which might make use of the service. What has been done on this occasion is to increase the scope of a provision that was already in existence, so as to extend it to cover private cases, particularly those connected with insurance companies.
The honorable member for EdenMonaro then made a wise suggestion. He proposed that the Government should consider extending assistance to widows who had ceased to be A class widows because they no longer had children under the age of sixteen in their care, and to single women who had lost some of the normal opportunities of life because they had to look after elderly or sick relatives or friends. I remind the House that a special benefit can be paid in respect of a real case of need of those classes, if satisfactory evidence is supplied to the Director-General of need.
The only other matter to which I should like to refer concerns employers. It has been suggested that greater effort might be made by employers to take into employment people who have been through rehabilitation centres.- I point out that 80 per cent, of the people who undergo rehabilitation training are placed in employment before their period of training has been completed. In other words, we are able to discover what their special aptitudes or vocational aptitudes are and get am employer interested in them, so that before the trainees leave the centres they can be assured of employment. The Department of Labour and National Service accepts responsibility for the remaining 20 per cent, of cases, and I have been assured that in the majority of cases people in that category are able to find employment quickly. Nonetheless, there is no reason for complacency, and I assure the honorable gentleman that that aspect of the matter is receiving the closest consideration. We hope that in future, as a result of increased co-operation between trade unions, employers, the Department of Labour and National Service, and the Department of Social Services, people among the 20 per cent, of cases I have mentioned can be assured of employment before they leave rehabilitation centres.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 (Provision of treatment and training).
– I direct the attention of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) to proposed section 135 (1.) (iv) of the principal act, which provides for the treatment and training of persons between the ages of fourteen and sixteen years. I suggest to him that the wording of that proposed section will very severely restrict the usefulness of the proposed extension. If it is limited to adolescents who would be likely to become qualified to receive pensions at the age of sixteen years, it will be restricted to those whom the medical officers are able to certify as likely to be totally and permanently incapacitated. I think that would be a very regrettable restriction, and I suggest to him that, before the bill is passed, the provision should be altered to refer to youths who would be likely to become unemployable, or would be likely to become qualified for benefits. This will give a much wider scope to the Director-General.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 6 to 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 -
After section one hundred and thirty-five B of the Principal Act the following section is inserted : -
” (3.) The amount of a loan made to a person under this section, or the total amount of the loans so made, shall not exceed Two hundred pounds.
– I move -
That in proposed new section 135ba (3.), the word “ Two “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ Three.”.
This clause provides that the DirectorGeneral may make loans of up to ?200 to persons who have received treatment or training for the purpose of enabling them to buy plant and equipment to be used in the pursuit of a vocation at home. My party considers that this amount is too small. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) also believes that the amount of ?200 for such a purpose is thin. I have no doubt that he suggested a figure of ?400, and that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in his haste said, “ Halve it “. We suggest that the amount should be at least ?300 in order to improve the chances of the rehabilitated people of purchasing the tools necessary for them to engage in a vocation at home. Adoption of the proposed amendment would not necessarily mean that the amount of such loans would be increased. It would mean, however, that the Director-General would have more scope in relation to the making of loans in suitable cases. We must remember that rehabilitated people who wish to engage in a home vocation will be greatly assisted by mechanical devices, which are fairly costly nowadays.
– I second the amendment. Obviously, t!ie amount of ?200 is very restrictive, when the present cost of mechanical equipment and tools is considered. The Director-General has the power to decide that only ?10, ?20 or ?30, as the case may be, should be granted in particular cases, if he thinks fit. To place an extreme limit of £200 on the amount of loan that he may authorize seems to me to he a mistake on the part of the Government, which might well prevent the Director-General from giving relief, or allowing the purchase of equipment, in a deserving case, merely because the equipment might cost, say, £250. It is fairly certain that in some cases the cost of mechanical equipment required for a home vocation will exceed £200. I consider that the amount that the Director-General should be authorized to allow as a loan should be at least £500, since that officer has full control of the advances that may be made to applicants. However, in the hope that the Government will agree to increase the amount, we suggest that the DirectorGeneral be authorized to lend at least another £100. bringing to £300 the total amount that he may authorize as a loan to one applicant.
I foreshadow that my leader will move another amendment to the clause. However, I think that the Minister should indicate his willingness to increase the maximum amount of a loan or loans to £300. It may be that the Minister will, on reflection, consider that even £300 is not sufficient, and increase the amount to, say, £500.
– The Opposition has made it plain during the debate that it would very much like the Government to liberalize many of these provisions. “We shall, therefore, support the amendment, although I point out that the moving of amendments which the Government has made it plain it will not accept, is not a very useful exercise.
Question put -
That the word proposed to be left out (Mr.
Joshua’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move-
That the following sub-section be added to proposed new section 135ra - “(6.) Where in the opinion of the DirectorGeneral, the borrower has made satisfactory progress in his vocation at his home, the Director-General shall from time to time credit the borrower with such amounts as will repay the amount of the loan, together with interest, within two years.”.
This is a very important amendment. Proposed section 135ra provides for the granting of a comparatively large amount to a man who is in the process of trying to re-establish himself. Perhaps be is suffering from a considerable disability and is endeavouring to get back on his feet. During my speech on the motion for the second reading of the bill, I mentioned the difficulties with which such people might be confronted, and pointed out that there will be an absence of the usual considerations that are present when money is lent in the ordinary course of business. I think that the most careful arrangements should be made in connexion with loans granted to persons to assist their rehabilitation. Every encouragement should be given to such persons.
As proposed section 135ra is now drafted, I consider that many persons entitled to such financial assistance will refrain from entering into the commitment because of an apprehension that they might not be able to repay the loan, particularly in view of the interest charges that would be incurred. I considered moving an amendment to reduce the rate of interest to be charged on these loans, but decided that it would he better to submit this amendment. The idea underlying the amendment is that, if persons who are granted loans to reestablish themselves make satisfactory progress in their vocation, the Government will favorably consider reducing the amount of the loan commitment by crediting them from time to time with such amounts as will, in the course of a couple of years, discharge the debt. T believe that it is most desirable to offer such persons that encouragement. If the Government does not accept the amendment, I am sure that many people who are granted loans will have no end of trouble in trying to find the money to repay them. I seriously believe that this is a worth-while amendment, and that the Government should agree to it. If the Government does not agree to it, this money will not be made available, as it is intended to be, because those persons who should benefit from it will be frightened to accept a loan.
.- I had not proposed to do more than second the amendment, but I feel that I should make a few remarks in view of the moans that greeted the amendment moved by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua). Apparently honorable members on the Government side expect us to adopt all the clauses of the bills that Ministers introduce, without examining them in any way. If we attempt to suggest amendments, we hear moans and groans from the Government side.
– There have been no groans yet.
– Honorable members on this side of the chamber distinctly heard groans and moans a few moments ago.
– Order !
– If rumours are correct, honorable members on the other side of the chamber are talking about increasing their remuneration for doing their duty. If that is so, it is time they paid a little more attention to the business of the Parliament. The hour is still early, and, quite frankly, we could have moved amendments to other clauses of this bill, and suggested many improvements.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to relate his remarks to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Ballarat.
– “We did not move those other amendments, but chose to submit the most important of them, in the hope that the Minister would consider them and, if he were not prepared to accept them now, that he would consider their insertion in this bill when the measure is before the Senate. The amendment we have suggested is one that naturally springs to mind in view of the Minister’s statement that if this scheme is successful, it will mean a saving to the Government in pensions, because persons who gain benefits from the scheme will be able to earn an income and will no longer be a drain on the Department of Social Services. The Minister made that point, and it was praised by members on both sides of the chamber. If the Government will save money from the successful introduction of this scheme, surely we should not turn the screws on those persons who have to borrow money, charge them interest at the rate of 4£ per cent., and, generally, insist on the full pound of flesh. If the loan succeeds in its purpose, and a person does rehabilitate himself and relieves the Government of the necessity to pay an invalid pension, then the Government should remit a substantial part of the loan.
Despite the jeers from the Government side, this amendment has been seriously suggested, and I hope the Minister will give consideration to it.
– It is, perhaps, the pardonable enthusiasm of inexperience which has led the new leader of the new party to believe that he can move this flint-hearted Government to accept an amendment to improve the lot of unfortunate people who are dependent upon the Government’s bounty. However, the new leader will learn, I am sorry to assure him, within the next few minutes, that this Government is immovable on matters of this kind.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro will no doubt support the amendment.
– The amendment is a pious hope, but it is a worthy attempt, and we shall support it, particularly as the Leader and Deputy Leader of the party in the corner have none of their own supporters to assist them in their endeavour.
– The honorable member has not many of his own supporters.
– We will lend the amendment our support and do what we can to have it carried, but I am very much afraid that the new leader will learn, as we have learned by long experience, that while we may do our best to persuade this Government, it is impossible to achieve the result desired by moving amendments.
.- I have been trying to understand the amendment moved by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua). It appears that the intention of the amendment is that if the person rehabilitated is successful in the venture he establishes with the loan that he is granted, then, at the discretion of the Director-General, he is to be absolved from repayment of the loan. The obvious implication is that the poor, unsuccessful fellow will have to pay up. That does not seem reasonable to me, and I cannot support the amendment.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 12 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) - by leave - proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
.- I ask the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) whether he will consider, before the bill is transmitted to the Senate, the proposals made this evening by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua). They are well worthy of consideration. If the Minister is not willing to adopt the suggestions in their entirety he may consider adopting part of them.
– in reply - It goes without saying that any suggestions made by members of the Opposition will always receive the most careful consideration by the Government in exactly the same way as would suggestions made by honorable members on this side of the House. I give the honorable member my assurance that his suggestions will at least be most carefully and courteously considered by the department.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment: -
Loan (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development) Bill 1955.
Loan (Swiss Francs) Bill 1955.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to criticize the attitude of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr.. McEwen) towards the raising in this House, by members of the Opposition, of the question of the overseas deficit. His cavalier attitude towards the honest attempt on the part of members on thisside of the House to have the matter raised in the House does him no credit, and indicates that he is not so concerned with the decline in our overseas balances as we are. This morning I asked him a series of straightforward questions. He made no attempt to answer them. He skated around them and brought in party politics. One of the questions I asked was -
Is the Minister satisfied with the advertising methods that Australia is adopting in the United Kingdom?
As he has just come back from that country, I thought that he would be able to answer that question for me. He did not attempt to do so. My second question was -
What are the methods of advertising our products in the United Kingdom?
Again he refused to reply. I asked him also -
Do we have trade representatives in the large cities or do we concentrate our attention upon London?
Finally, I asked -
Is the Minister satisfied with the labelling and packaging of Australian products in the United Kingdom?
I asked those questions in the sincere hope that the Minister would give the House some idea of what the Government was doing in this matter. All of us do not have the opportunities that are available to the Minister to visit London. The fact that he refused to answer my questions suggests that he cannot do so satisfactorily. It is all very well for him to say that our overseas balances will rectify themselves in the course of time. That will be of little comfort to the primary producers whose products are at present having such a rough spin on the United Kingdom market. The Minister has proved himself to be a responsible individual and, occasionally, I have given him credit for good work that he has done. However, both I and the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) take a very poor view of the way in which he has, during the last few days, treated the subject of our adverse trade balance. Because the honorable member for Hume quoted from a Melbourne newspaper the result of investigations into the way in which our products were being received by the ordinary housewife in the United Kingdom, the Minister said that we were knockers of Australia and were besmirching its good name. What is the Parliament for if it is not the place to raise such important matters for discussion and clarification by the Minister concerned? The newspaper in question has done the country a service by raising this important issue. Why are our products not being received in the United Kingdom as they should be? There must be a reason, and it should be known to the large staff at Australia House. The Minister, having just been there, must know the reason. He should find a solution of the problem, but during the last few days he has not put forward one constructive idea for its solution.
One often sees in the newspapers photographs of our High Commissioner in the United Kingdom opening fairs at which Australian products are exhibited, but I have wondered why such fairs are confined to London. What of the housewives in the north and west of England ? Is their ignorance of our products attributable to the fact that our sales propaganda is concentrated upon London and does not reach tie housewife in the small villages? Every English housewife must buy meat, butter, cheese, sugar and bread made from Australian wheat. Surely, we can improve our methods of advertising our products. If we have come to the end of our tether let us take a lesson from the United States of America. I am putting these suggestions forward, not to knock this country, but because I want to see the sales of our primary produce in Britain stabilized. I do not want to see it ruined, then rendered ineffective, because the cavalier attitude is adopted in this country that they will right themselves in time.
During the war and the immediate post-war years the quality was not important, but, to-day, with packaging, it has No. 1 priority. Suitable containers are necessary because competition on the primary produce markets of the world is terrific. Australia is feeling the effects of increased competition from countries that have just come into the export market full-blast. We must be able to stand up to such competition.
– What is the price of rabbit in London?
– The honorable member should keep quiet. That is the only sort of contribution that he can make to debates in this House. If he is an example of our parliamentary undersecretaries pity help our country! When this matter was raised yesterday, the Minister became very annoyed. He came into the ring and launched a vicious attack upon the particular Melbourne newspaper and the honorable member for Hume as if he had no right to raise the matter. To-day, he dodged my questions on this important issue. He did not attempt to answer one of them but gave a party political speech about what Labour should have done five and a half years ago. What is the position? According to the Government Statistician, our overseas balance of payments was in deficit to the extent of £96,300,000 for the period July to December, 1954. That was made up of £30,600,000 in trade deficits and £65)700,000 in invisible payment deficits. The total decline in Australia’s overseas balance is £150,000,000 compared with a surplus of £54,300,000 for the first six months of the last financial year. The value of our exports decreased by £71,000,000 compared with that of exports for the first six months of last financial year, whilst the value of imports increased by £75,000,000 during the same period. The main increases in exports were in butter, mutton, lamb and wheat. These were offset by decreases in exports of sugar, barley, greasy wool, sheepskins, flour, beef and veal. The United Kingdom is our main buyer of many of those products. My colleagues and I want to know why there is a decline in consumer demand for many of these products. Is it due to politics, bad packaging, or Australia’s inability to stand up to competition? Is it attributable to neglect on the part of our officials in the United Kingdom? Goodness only knows, that staff is big enough to handle such matters. What is the purpose of the costly loans from the International Monetary Fund? For buying of expensive equipment for primary production increase.
– Order ! The honorable member may not allude irrelevantly to a previous debate of the current session.
– I am only asking why such action is being taken at a time when our export market in the United Kingdom is contracting. These things do not add up.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I shall not reply at great length to the honorable member, but wish to put this matter in its proper perspective. The basis of the criticism made by him, by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller) and by a certain newspaper has been the problem of Australia’s balance of payments. The substance of their approach is that our balance of payments will be substantially improved, if not corrected, by better marketing of Australian goods overseas. I want to put this matter in its proper perspective. Australia’s export earnings are derived mainly from a group of important commodities which, I should have thought, would be in the mind of every newspaper man and every honorable member of this House.
There is no problem of quality or packaging in connexion with our wool. The decline of our export earnings, which is said to be about £90,000,000 over a certain period, is, to the amount of £60,000,000, attributable to wool. It is the outcome, not so much of a decline in the quality of wool exported during that period, as a decline in the quantity of wool exported. The explanation of our reduced export earnings from wool is not that the production of wool has diminished. The decline is due to a variation in the timing of exports. That deals* with £60,000,000 of the £90,000,000.
Our second greatest export commodity is wheat. Australian wheat is as good to-day as it has been in any period of our recent history. There are always some people who will assault the quality of Australian wheat, but when we trace the criticisms to their source we generally find that they are originated by people who want to bear down the value of Australian wheat. The game of criticizing the quality of a product as a preliminary to bearing down its price is as old as Adam. Our wheat sales have been at least as buoyant as the average world wheat sales. My latest information is that we can expect to sell during the present year the whole of the exportable surplus of the pretty fair crop of last year, which amounted to 150,000,000 or 160,000,000 bushels, and that our carryover next year will be no greater than the carry-over with which we entered the present wheat year.
The next most important source of our export income is base metals. The quality of our base metals compares favorably with the quality of those of any other country. No questions of packaging are involved. We receive rather better than the average world prices for our base metals.
Our mutton and lamb have been selling freely, at highly satisfactory prices. The main criticism that I have heard on occasions about our lamb is that it is nattered by being described as Canterbury lamb, which is conceded to be the best lamb on the export market. Sheep meat is perhaps our fourth greatest export commodity. There are no problems there.
The quality of Australian sugar is at least as high as the quality of sugar produced anywhere else in the world. We have no difficulty at all in selling the whole of our exportable surplus of sugar. Again, no problems of packaging are involved. Last year, our beef sold magnificently, but at the present time there is a serious and perturbing slackening off of the demand for frozen beef in the United Kingdom, where there is an accumulation of stocks of frozen beef. This is worrying the Government, the Australian Meat Board and the Australian meat-producers. However, I can assure the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) and the House that the slackening off of the demand is not the result of any neglect in the presentation of Australian beef on export markets. Our difficulty is that, being so distant from the United Kingdom market, our beef arrives there as frozen beef. Of course, it is not comparable with British homekilled fresh beef. Neither is it comparable with chilled beef from Argentina. The beef it.*elf is Comparable with British and Argentine beef, but not in its frozen condition. It is easy to say, “ Let us sell chilled beef, not frozen beef “, but the change would give rise to a series of practical problems that could not be disposed of merely by deciding to make the change. The beef, industry and the Government are fully aware of the position. The industry, aided by the Government, will gear itself to export chilled beef as soon as that can be done.
Up to the present time, our butter has not been sold in the United Kingdom under Australian brands. It is the same kind of butter that we use here. It is good butter. So far, it has been blended, but it will not be blended after the 1st July. A year ago, the United Kingdom Government decided to abandon bulkbuying of butter at the end of a longterm contract, and gave to us and New Zealand the option of continuing under existing arrangements for a year or of reverting to private trading and presentation under our own brands. The Australian dairying industry gave most serious consideration to the relative merits of selling our butter through the United Kingdom Government during that year and of doing what New Zealand opted to do. It was the judgment of the industry that it would be better to continue to sell in a manner which had, as one of the end results, the sale of our butter in bulk and the blending of our butter during that year. Honorable members can pit their judgment of what is best for the dairying industry against the judgment of the industry itself. They may come to a conclusion different from that arrived at by the industry. For my part, I accept the industry’s judgment. It was a well-considered judgment. As from the 1st July, our butter will go through ordinary trade channels and will carry its own identity.
– In the long run, that will be better for us.
– In the long run. Time does not permit me to canvass the reasons which impelled the dairying industry to come to that conclusion. Cheese is a commodity which I have no hesitation in saying has disappointed me and many other people. In war-time, the United Kingdom asked us to gear our dairying industry largely to the production of cheese. It provided the. capital to convert and build factories for cheese-making. Cheese did not require a great deal of refrigerated space in ships, which was an advantage in war-time. The emphasis by the buyer on quantity, not quality, had bad effects on our cheese industry. That is well recognized. I have pointed out to the cheese industry myself that, in recent years, a most disappointing quantity of the choicest grades of cheese has been exported. The cheese industry has taken far-reaching steps to improve the quality of its product. I engaged in some pretty rugged discussions with the British Ministry of Food in London, when I protested against its action in turning on to the United Kingdom market Australian cheese, under its own identity, in the course of disposing of accumulated stocks. The British Ministry of Food sold, under its own brand, Australian cheese that had been held in store for too long, and that obviously had lost its high quality. That did no good to our reputation. As a result of my representations, that kind of thing was stopped, but the effect is, still being felt.
I heard no condemnation of the quality of our eggs until I read something in the Melbourne press during the last few days. I keep closely in touch with an industry which is really in trouble on the export side.
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired,
.- I shall not detain the House for long. I only wish to ask the Government if it will put aside for a moment its objections to compulsory unionism in order to find some method by which we can compel the federal president of the Labour party led by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) to join a trade union. The Australian Labour party in the past always said that it was the instrument and voice of the trade union movement. For example, the majority of the members of the Opposition parties in this House could not have been endorsed as Labour candidates for election to the Parliament unless they had had at least two years’ membership of the trade union to which they were eligible to belong. Recently, there was a purge in the Australian Labour party, and the reason given for the purge was that some members were not true to Labour principles and could not appreciate the industrial viewpoint. The lord high executioner who reduced the Premier of New South Wales to a jelly, and members of the State executive of the Australian Labour party in New South Wales to an even more doubtful state was none other than the present federal, president of the Australian Labour party,. Mr. Chamberlain. I refer- to the Labour party that is led by the right, honorable member for’ Barton. Mr. Chamberlain was the chosen vessel through which the voice of trade unionism was to be expressed throughout the land, particularly in Labour circles. But I understand from a statement by trade union secretaries that was published in the Western Australian press recently, that MrChamberlain is not even a member of a trade union himself. This is the gentleman who sat in judgment on members who now sit in this corner of the chamber to determine whether they were true to trade union principles and subscribed to the views of the Australian Labour party.
Mr. Haylen interjecting,
– I am glad to note that supporters of the right honorable member for Barton support. non-unionism. Their actions show just where they stand, and how “ fair dinkum “ they are. The federal president of the Australian Labour party is the grand mogul of that party ; he is the boss : It does not matter what the right honorable member for Barton may say here. The man who really claims to be the voice of Labour is the federal president of the Australian Labour party. Now, we have the astonishing revelation that although this august person is eligible to be a member of a trade union, and ought to be by every principle of the Labour party, he is, in fact, a non-unionist and he has the impertinence-
– He threw the honorable member for Yarra out of the party.
– He has the advantage of me as a non-unionist who ignores the rules and principles of the Australian Labour party. As a result, Senator
Kennellys hatchet man now finds himself on one side of the fence and I find myself on the other; but I have no doubt which set of principles will prevail ultimately in this chamber and in Victoria on the 28th May. The gentleman to whom I have referred, who is the federal president of the Australian Labour party, is a non-unionist. I wonder how our stalwarts from the canefields of Queensland feel about a gentleman who refuses to join a trade union which he is eligible to join? Those stalwarts look askance at anybody who does not adhere to union principles. They insist that every worker has a right to refuse to work with a non-unionist, and they have driven workers off the canefields because they were non-unionists. How do they feel when they sit in this chamber as members of a party that is led by a man who refuses to join a union? No wonder I am reduced to asking the Government whether it will forget its objections to compulsory unionism so that we may have an opportunity to drag this gentleman by the heels into a trade union.
– Which union should the gentleman join?
– The union which he is eligible to join is the Federated Clerks Union. In the issue of the West Australian dated Monday, the 9th May, the secretary of that union in Western Australia protested vigorously against Mr. Chamberlain attempting to be a delegate to the Australian Congress of Trade Unions. What a pass we have been reduced to in trade union and Labour party circles when a gentleman, who is not even a member of a trade union, can be a delegate to the highest trade union body in the country! He can claim to be the voice of the Australian Labour party and still not be a trade unionist.
What kind of Alice in Wonderland show has the right honorable member for Barton established ? Our friends are led by a man who entered Parliament by defeating a Labour candidate and who, a few months ago, did not have a membership ticket in the Australian Labour party until his supporters discovered in Mosman a person who said he had written one a few months before and did not know anything about it. Yet, the big boss outside has been wielding the axe against those who, he declared, were not upholding Labour principles and were not pure socialists. The big boss who is not even a member of a trade union!
I direct the attention of honorable members to this matter to emphasize the hollow mockery of the claims that are being made in this House, and which are being made to-night, I suppose, by the right honorable member for Barton and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) in Victoria, that they support the true principles of the trade union movement. The honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) is, apparently, a staunch advocate of non-unionism, although he is a member of a trade union. We have reached a sorry pass when members of the Australian Labour party, whether they support the right honorable member for Barton or not, advocate the claims of a non-unionist. If those honorable members were “fair dinkum” about whether anybody really was following Labour principles they would demand immediately that this gentleman resign his position as their federal president or make him join a trade union. They should not support him, even if he joined a union. A man who has to be forced to join is not a unionist, and has no right to speak on behalf of the Labour party. The right honorable member for Barton came in as an independent, and did not even have a Labour party ticket a few months ago and had to be forced to take one out. When they tell ns they represent the Labour party and the workers, I leave it to the true Labour supporters and trade unionists of Australia to pass judgment on them. It is a disgrace that anybody who is not a unionist should stand before the Australian community and claim to speak for the great Australian Labour movement, which was built up by trade unionists. It is a disgrace that the backbone of honorable members who sit behind the right honorable member for Barton is so flabby. What a sorry pass we have reached when the Australian Labour party, which reserves the right to speak with the voice of the trade unions, is prepared to accept a non-unionist as its leader!
– How did he get to the top?
– Unfortunately, I have not enough time to tell the House the full story. Briefly, he got to the top by tearing up every rule in the rule book of the Australian Labour party. With the assistance of the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), another of those geniuses who govern the Labour party, he got to the top by tearing up the rule which required that only members of the Australian Labour party could be delegates to conferences of the party, and by admitting non-members to that conference to sit in judgment on those who bacl been members of the party practically all their lives. Having in mind his record as a non-unionist, there is little wonder that Mr. Chamberlain was prepared to tear up the rule of the Labour party which requires that every member of the party shall be a trade unionist.
– Order ! The honor-, able member’s time has expired.
.- I believe that neither honorable members on this side of the chamber, supporters of the Government nor those who support the splinter party should be gravely concerned about the type of investigation that is likely to be made as to the good trade unionism, or otherwise, of the leader of the federal executive of the Australian Labour party. If the facts as already propounded by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) are true - and facts should always be the truth - something should be done about it. As it happens, the lying statement of the honorable member for Yarra concerning the membership ticket of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt)-
-Order ! The honorable member cannot use the term “ lying statement “. He must withdraw.
– As a matter of exactitude-
-Order ! The honorable gentleman must withdraw the statement.
– I withdraw. I say that the statement made by the honorable member for Yarra in relation to the Labour party ticket of the Leader of the Opposition is not true, and the honorable member knows that it is not true. The series of circumstances vamped up by the honorable member for Yarra need not be repeated at this time of the night, because they would only bore honorable members. It is sufficient to say that we are not talking about a subject like blended butter; we are talking about a high political issue.
There has been some discussion about the Labour party ticket held by the Leader of the Opposition. The fact is that he held a ticket in his own electorate at the time of that discussion, and he hai held a ticket in that electorate since he first entered this Parliament in 1940. There has never been any question of the Leader of the Opposition not having a ticket in the Labour party, and the honorable member for Yarra knows that fact only too well. The little party in the corner to which the honorable member belongs plays the part of love locked out. It scratches at the door of the Australian Labour party at midnight, crying to be let back in. Perhaps I can ask the honorable member for Yarra what sort of ticket Santamaria has in any party? That gentleman is his natural leader, and has tried to direct the Labour party from outside this Parliament, without any warrant to interfere, and without a ticket in either the Labour party or any union.
This preposterous nonsense from the honorable member for Yarra about being concerned over the Labour party is merely cheap propaganda in connexion with the general elections in Victoria. It is too late in the night to get bloodpressure over the honorable member for Yarra. Even his leader has walked out on him. He is hard put to it to find something to talk about when he raises issues of the sort that he has put before honorable members to-night. They have neither truth nor balance in them. The members of the Government appeared to listen with rapt attention to the honor-, able member for Yarra, but his story was untrue, and I dare say that if the matter were investigated, the story about the union status of the president of the federal executive of the Australian Labour party is also untrue. Therefore, [ suggest that Government supporters may go to bed and sleep peacefully without quakingbecause of the terrible things that they think they have heard in this House. There is nothing at all in this usual midnight diatribe of the honorable member for Yarra, and if the Government wants to sleep peacefully it should pay no attention to the scratchings on the door and the midnight meows of the corner party. The corner party is feeling its isolation, and consequently produces these extravagant and unnecessary protestations which are acceptable to neither side of this House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Thefollowing papers were pre sented : -
Life Insurance Act - Ninth Annual Report of the Insurance Commissioner, for 1954.
Public Service Act - Appointments! - Department -
Repatriation - H. Davey.
Works - D. J. L. Brown, F. E. Yeates.
Stevedoring Industry Act - Australian Stevedoring Industry Board - Fifth Annual Report and financial accounts, for year 1953-54.
House adjourned at 11.3 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated : -
n asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Chairman. - The Prime Minister. Right Honorable R. G. Menzies, C.H., Q.C., M.P.
Vice-Chairman. - Sir Giles Chippindall, C.B.E., Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs.
Dr. H. C. Coombs, Governor of the Commonwealth Bank.
Mr. W. E. Dunk, C.B.E., Chairman of the Public Service Board.
Mr. I. M. McLennan, general manager. Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited.
Mr. A. E. Monk, president, Australian Council of Trades Unions.
Sir Frederick Shedden, K.C.M.G., O.B.E.,
Secretary, Department of Defence.
Mr. A. S. V. Smith, C.B.E., Electricity
Meter and Allied Industries Limited.
Mr. R. J. Vicars, C.B.E., governing director,
John Vicars and Company Limited.
Hon. R. C. Wilson, C.M.G., M.L.C., general manager, Grazcos Co-operative Limited.
Sir Roland Wilson, C.B.E., Secretary,
Department of the Treasury.
s. - Yesterday, the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) asked me a question concerning the report of Dr. Stoller on mental institutions. I promised the right honorable member that I would ascertain certain dates that he is seeking. I am now able to tell him that the report was received by the Minister for Health from Dr. Stoller on the 31st December, 1954. The foreword by the Minister for Health at the commencement of the report was written by him in time for incorporation with the printing of the report which began on the 28th February, 1955.
– On the 11th May, 1955, Mr. Nelson asked the Minister for Health the following question : -
Can the Minister for Health give the House any particulars in relation to the recent outbreak of encephalitis in the Northern Territory, as a result of which two native children lost their lives? Will he inform the House of any steps that have been taken to ensure that the outbreak will be confined to the particular locality and not allowed spread to other parts of the Northern Territory and the southern States?
Recently one native and one half-caste child from Borroloola died from encephalitis in Darwin Hospital. There have been no further cases. The Deputy Director of Health in the Northern Territory hag undertaken a seriological investigation of 24 contacts and has instituted all practical epidemiological measures to limit and localize the disease.
d asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
z asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has furnished the following replies to the honorable member’s questions : -
n asked the Minister for Air, upon notice -
On bow many occasions have Royal Australian Air Force aircraft been made available to (o) each of the members of the Government, (6) the Leader of the Opposition and (c) the Deputy Leader of the Opposition?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The aircraft have been made available from the Royal Australian Air Force on 70 occasions since I became Minister for Ail, the services being provided for the use of the Governor-General and Cabinet Ministers only. Of this number, 46 have been on behalf of the Governor-General, sixteen on behalf of the Prime Minister, five on behalf of the Treasurer, three on behalf of the Minister for Air, two on behalf of the Minister for the Army; two on- behalf of the Minister for National Development, and one each on behalf of the Minister* for Commerce and Agriculture and Supply. On no occasion since that date, viz., 9th July, 1954, has an aircraft been provided for the Leader or Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 May 1955, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1955/19550512_reps_21_hor6/>.