21st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. C. ¥. Adermann) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether any request has been addressed to him officially from the Leader of the Opposition for the tabling of the whole of the documents in the Petrov case. If no official communication has been directed to the right honorable gentleman, ‘has he noted a request which may be considered to have been, addressed to him unofficially? In either of these cases, could the right honorable the Prime Minister inform the House whether it would be in the interests of Australia that such papers should be tabled or whether it would give valuable and secret information to those who may seek to do harm to the inhabitants of this country?
– I will not say that the Leader of the Opposition has asked for the tabling of all the documents, but he did ask me some time ago before the debate on the report of the Royal Commission on Espionage, whether certain documents not published by the commission could be made available to him. I said, “ No “. I said that I did not think that it was proper that documents should be made available which the commission itself had not thought fit to publish, and that anybody who wanted more than that should have the burden of establishing a convincing case why he should have it. That was the attitude which I took then, and which I take now. It may be taken for granted that the royal commissioners, when they refrained from publishing any document, did so because of its content and nature, sometimes refraining from publishing because to publish would be to inflict injury upon people who, in the opinion of the commissioners, ought not to be exposed to that injury. For example, there were references to some foreign diplomats, and the commission dismissed them; but it did not publish the document containing that because to do so would be to give rise to unnecessary embarrassment for some other countries and in other instances, of course, documents relating to matters of security, but not necessary for purposes of the report on the terms of reference, are also not disclosed. I do not propose to take any steps to disclose any of those documents.
– Arising out of that question and the Prime Minister’s answer to it, I draw the attention of the right honorable gentleman to the fact that I did officially request him to make these documents available, and that I put them in two categories. One category comprised documents which the commission thought should not be published and which I think are in. a special category and to which I make no further reference ; but the second and main category consisting, I suppose, of 98 per cent, of the documents, includes those which are actually in English translation and printed in the report. I ask the Prime Minister, will he reconsider making available the actual documents which are published in the report only in their final English form. Also, will the Prime Minister look at what the commissioners have said, namely, that they would have liked to publish all of them in their original form but for the printing difficulty ? As honorable members will know, they actually did publish one letter in the original form. Will the Prime Minister table, for the information of honorable members, the documents which are published and which, in the sense that I have mentioned, are not regarded as privileged by the commission? This would give honorable members an opportunity to see the form and contents of the documents in Russian as well as in English. Thar is a fair request and it has nothing to do with documents that the commission has regarded as privileged. Will the right honorable gentleman do that?
– I can hardly take very seriously a proposal that a number of documents in Russian should be tabled for the information of honorable member who, so far as I know, are not likely to be proficient in that language. The real object of the exercise, no doubt, is to have an investigation conducted into the pinholes in the corner of the paper, and therefore the answer is in the negative.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it would be reasonable for the individual State governments to assume a responsibility in relation to local authority works programmes similar to that adopted by the Commonwealth in relation to the . States.From its own resources, the Commonwealth Government supplements loan raisings to enable substantial State works programmes to be undertaken. If a similar responsibility were accepted by the State governments, it would make possible the financing of essential public works which are under the control of local authorities such as in Brisbane, where the supply of power in the future is being seriously jeopardized because the Queensland State Labour Government puts its political interests before the interests of the people.
– The honorable member will appreciate that, as local authorities are established under State laws, responsibility for local authority matters rests with the respective State governments rather than with the Commonwealth. I agree, therefore, with his suggestion that if any local authority is in difficulty in relation to its works programme, the question of providing financial assistance for that authority is a matter for the State government concerned. The Commonwealth, for its part, has arranged assistance amounting to over £40,000,000 in the last four years for the works and housing programmes of the State governments. Some further assistance will be provided by the Commonwealth during the current financial year. Each State government is at liberty to pass on any part of this Commonwealth assistance to its associated local authorities. If, as I understand, theBrisbane City Council is in financial difficulties, the responsibility for assisting that authority rests primarily with the Queensland Labour Government. It is worth noting that at the beginning of the current financial year, Queensland’s public balances amounted to. about £25,000,000, a sizeable part of which represents moneys accumulated from budget surpluses made available by this Government in recent years. There is no doubt, therefore-
– Why does the Treasurer not seek leave to make a statement?
– Order ! If interjections do not cease during question time I will call on the next business.
– I rise to order. Do you not think, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that privilege is being abused by the Treasurer in reading this document? He is not answering the question.
– According to the observances of this House, Ministers may answer questions in the way they think best, and I know of my own knowledge that Ministers of previous governments, expecting questions on important subjects, have used prepared statements in the same way.
– I have been long enough in politics, and Treasurer in this Government long enough, to anticipate questions with regard to State and Commonwealth financial arrangements. I repeat that the Queensland Labour Government has accumulated public balances amounting to about £25,000,000, a good deal of which has been made possible by the generosity of this Government to the Queensland Labour Government. There is no doubt, therefore, that the Queensland Government is in a position to assist the Brisbane City Council if it so desires.
– Yesterday, the Prime Minister informed the House of the reasons he had given to the GovernorGeneral why an election of both Houses of this Parliament should be held on the 10th December. Will the Prime Minister fulfil the promise that he has made to the House on several occasions to table the papers relating to the double dissolution that occurred in 1951? In view of his failure to honour previous promises that he has made in regard to this matter, can he now tell us that he will table the papers to which I have referred?
– I have had in course of preparation a White paper on the matter of the double dissolution. I regret to say that, for a variety of circumstances, I have not yet completed it. I do not think, therefore, that I am likely to be able to table it to-day.
– And the right honorable gentleman will not be able to do it later.
– And after the election, of course, I shall not be here !
Opposition members interjecting,
– “We may as well end up on a humorous note - after the election I shall not be here.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Interior. As it does not affect my own electorate, by way of explanation, I should like to mention that the subject-matter of the question was referred to in evidence given before the Public Works Committee on a recent tour of the Northern Territory and northern Queensland, and I promised that I would bring it before the Parliament, particularly insofar as it affected certain municipal authorities at Cloncurry. Is the Minister aware that little reliance can be placed on weather reports available to residents in the far north-west of Queensland and in the Northern Territory? As accurate information is vital to the movement and care of stock and for the protection of the people in these remote areas, will the Minister have this matter investigated with a view to providing an improved service?
– The honorable member for Bennelong was kind enough to postpone this question.
Opposition Members. - Ah!
– I am being quite frank with honorable members. The honorable member for Bennelong was good enough to postpone the question from yesterday until to-day, so that I could get the facts relating to the matter. It has nothing at all to do with politics, but the matter is of importance, and therefore I got in touch with the meteorological bureau, so that I could give the honorable member a proper answer. Preparation is being made at the present time to extend the forecasting service from the meteorological office at Cloncurry, so that special forecasts will be published for the Cloncurry and Longreach areas, in addition to the district forecasts broadcast by regional stations of the Australian Broadcasting
Commission. With the co-operation of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, the weather information will include reports of rainfall and river heights from northwest Queensland. The new weather reports will be broadcast by the Royal Flying Doctor Service from Cloncurry as well as from the broadcasting stations at Longreach and Rockhampton. The district forecasts for the Northern Territory are being broadcast daily from VJD pedal set base station of the Royal Flying Doctor Service as well as Station 5AL Alice Springs. The reception of these services is being investigated so that it will have the greatest utility practicable with the limited sources of information and communication available.
– I address a question to the Minister for Territories following a series of questions previously addressed both to himself and to the Prime Minister concerning the Government’s attitude towards the overdue adjustment of the taxation zone allowance applicable to the northern areas of Western Australia. I remind the Minister that the tax allowance was first introduced by a Labour government in 1945 with a view to providing some small measure of relief to residents domiciled in that area.
-Order ! The honorable member is giving a good deal of information.
– An adjustment was made in 1947 to meet the increased living costs, again by a Labour government. Since that date, notwithstanding everincreasing commitments-
– Order ! Will the honorable member cease giving information and ask his question.
– ‘Can the Minister now provide an answer that will give some satisfaction to . the people who are anxiously awaiting a favorable reply?
– As stated in answer to previous questions, this matter has been under the close and detailed examination of the Government but, like all other taxation matters, it was subject to policy decisions which were incorporated in the budget presented this year by the Treasurer.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether any difficulty is being encountered in obtaining the required number of immigrants from the United Kingdom. How does the total number of British immigrants who have settled in Australia since World War II. compare with the number who have migrated to other countries such as Canada?
– I am happy to be able to advise the honorable member that in recent years there has been considerable interest in the United Kingdom in immigration to Australia, despite the very good economic conditions obtaining there. I think this interest was stimulated quite substantially by the visit to Australia of Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh. We are not having difficulty in getting the numbers we want at the present time other than the difficulty we are experiencing in getting shipping adequate for those whom we desire to bring here under one aspect or another of the immigration scheme. Compared with other parts of the Commonwealth, I cannot say what the position is at the moment, but when I looked at it some little time ago, Australia had succeeded in attracting more British immigrants in the post-war years than most of the other Commonwealth countries put together, certainly substantially more than have gone to Canada, which was our principal rival in this respect. We are hoping that at the end of this year, the 500,000th British immigrant of the post-war period will have set sail for these shores.
– I address a question to the Minister for Social Services concerning the period which elapses between the date when an application is lodged with the War Service . Homes Division and the date when the division commences to deal with the application. I now wish to ask the honorable gentleman whether this period will remain constant for the remainder of this financial year or will bo extended as the year proceeds.
– The honorable member may have created the impression that I had said that the waiting period was now a record of 23½ months, and to that extent he is guilty of distortion of ‘the statement I made in this House. I simply stated that the waiting period for homes built by the War Service Homes Division would now be 23½ months. I made no statement whatsoever as to whether it was a record period. The honorable gentleman has asked whether there will be an increase of that waiting period. Yes, as I stated in the paper, there will be. If he read the paper correctly, he would find that it accurately states the position. The Government thinks that all the facts should be known by honorable members so that they may be in a position to inform any one who asks them for advice. The waiting period is now 23½ months. It will slightly increase during the rest of this financial year.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture a question relating to the current drive for exports. The Minister last week mentioned a trade promotion campaign in New Zealand. Has the Government authorized any publicity additional to the fashion and store promotions promised for next year?
– The trade promotion branch of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture is encouraging Australian industry to make a special drive for sales in New Zealand, because there are obvious natural advantages for Australian commerce in that country. A highly successful exhibition of automotive products was held in Wellington recently. Another is being organized for the Auckland carnival in January next, and more than 100 Australian firms will participate. The Government believes there is great opportunity for expanding Australian trade in New Zealand, and it is giving all possible encouragement to Australian industry.
– I address a question to the Minister for Immigration. Is the Minister aware that the executive of the Evatt Labour party in Victoria has launched a sustained attack on our vital immigration programme, claiming, in an official statement issued last Saturday week, that the real purpose of our immigration policy is to build up a pool of unemployed labour and break down Australian working standards and conditions? In view of the fact that this policy statement by the Victorian executive of the Evatt Labour party is a deliberate insult to and slur on every new Australian settler in this country, and is clearly intended to build up prejudice and dislike against all our immigrants, will the Minister take steps to answer this false, malicious and dangerous propaganda?
– I do not pretend to understand fully the motives for the campaign that has been launched by the section of the Australian Labour party in Victoria to which the honorable member has referred, but I am glad to be able to remind the Souse that all sections of this Parliament, and, indeed, of the Australian Labour party as a whole throughout Australia, have given consistent support to the immigration programme. We have managed, I think with credit to the. country and to ourselves, to keep the constructive features of this programme out of the party political arena. I believe that the former Premier of Victoria, Mr. Cain, quite unlike most of his colleagues in that State and the Labour Premiers of other States, has exhibited a resistance to immigration that has been evident in some of his recent statements. Any propaganda to the effect that this Government has in any way misused the immigration programme, either to threaten the working standards of Australian people or to create a pool of unemployed labour, not only is an entirely unwarranted piece of political propaganda, but also is refuted by the facts of out situation, which demonstrate that, during the term cf office of this Government, full employment has been sustained, with high wages, and immigrants have enjoyed the same standards and conditions that our own native-born Australians enjoy.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. In view of the imminence of a federal election, and for the information of those who will be charged with the responsibility for electing a new government, will the right honorable gentleman make an early statement illustrating what the Government has done to honour its promises, made during the election campaign of 1949 and repeated later, to “put value back into the fi “, or, “ to make the people’s money purchase more”, and to restrict excessive profits by the imposition of an excess profits tax?
– All I can say to my friend is that I am sorry that his famous last words should have been so lacking in originality. I think he said something about this subject on the day he came in. He will be able to look back on having said something about it on the day he left.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior whether there would be any difficulty with the printing of electoral rolls in order to have a State election in New South Wales on the 3rd December, as well as a federal election on the 10th December.
– Actually, the Commonwealth Electoral Office might have had some trouble with the printing of the supplemental rolls, but as the New South Wales Government had stated that writs were to issue on the 7th November, this Government, in considering an election on the 10th December, decided that writs would issue on the same day as in New South Wales, so that the rolls for both elections would close on the same day, and only one supplemental roll would be printed. If that could have been produced for the 3rd December, I do not think that there would have been any difficulty with regard to the printing of the rolls, even if a few extra copies had to be run elf. Being a printer myself, I know that that does not involve very much trouble. Therefore, I think that that is hardly an excuse for postponing the State election.
– Is that not lovely!
– Is it not!
– I direct a question to the Minister for Territories. In view of the fact that the Northern Territory, because of its lack of adequate shipping and rail communication, is dependent to a large extent on air transport, and bearing in mind the adverse effect on its development which will follow the recent increase in freights and fares by TransAustralia Airlines and Qantas, will the Minister confer with the Australian National Airlines Commission and Qantas, with a view to having portion of their operating surpluses used for the purpose of stabilizing freights and fares to those remote areas at the lowest possible level ? In addition to increases of freight on foodstuffs and increases of fares, I instance the case of newspapers, the concessional freight on which has been withdrawn entirely, with the result that the cost of a Sydney newspaper in Darwin is 3s. 9d., 3s. 4d. of which represents freight. Corresponding increases have taken place in other towns in the Northern Territory. This last instance could result in the closing of all newsagencies throughout the Northern Territory.
– I shall certainly, as requested by the honorable member, discuss this matter with my colleague, the Minister for Civil Aviation. I think the honorable member might appreciate that this may be an attempt to save the Northern Territory from some of the contaminations that affect other parts of Australia.
– Recently, the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) asked me a question and I undertook to give him an answer to it. The question related to the Tariff Board investigation into rubber footwear. I have ascertained that the position is that the delay that has occurred is due to the fact that, under certain arrangements, negotiations have had to be conducted on the subject with one or two other countries. The Minister for Trade and Customs has made a submission to Cabinet relating to this matter, and I anticipate that it will be dealt with at the next Cabinet session.
– I lay on the table the report of the Tariff Board on the following subject: -
– On behalf of the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs and myself, I lay on the table the following papers : -
International Labour Organization - Thirtyeighth Session, Geneva, June, 1955 - Reports of the Australian Government, Employers’ and Workers’ Delegates.
In the interests of economy, I do not propose to move that the papers be printed, but copies will be available in the parliamentary offices for such honorable members as desire them. Following recent practice, at a later date I shall inform the House of the action taken, or proposed to be taken, in respect of the conventions and recommendations adopted by the conference.
– As Chairman, I present the report of the Public Accounts Committee on the following subject: -
Twenty-third Report - Department of Civil Aviation - Progress report.
This is a progress report only. May I say in explanation that the committee has collected all the material for a comprehensive report, but there has not been sufficient time to enable it to prepare such a report.
Ordered to be printed.
– I have received from the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) an intimation that he desires to submit a definite matter of urgent public importance to the House for discussion, namely -
The administration of the War Service Homes Division, particularly in regard to the waiting period, and the failure of the Government to provide the division with sufficient finance to meet the home requirements of eligible approved applicants for homes.
Is the proposal supported?
Eight honorable members having risen in support of the proposal,
.- I regret that it has become necessary to adopt this means of directing attention to the fact that there has been an obvious deterioration of the administration of the War Service Homes Division. I use the word “regret” because most honorable members will agree that, as a matter of policy, this subject could well be considered outside the realms of party politics. No doubt that is the plane upon which the ex-servicemen’s organizations desire it to be kept, but it can be stated with equal certainty that those organizations would be the first to point out that, when the interests of the ex-servicemen are being neglected, the Opposition would be failing in its duty if it did not endeavour to have the anomalies adjusted at the first available opportunity.
It can be assumed from the number of protests that have been lodged by exservicemen’s and allied organizations that grave dissatisfaction exists over important fundamental issues of policy under the administration of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon), and with the administration of the War Service Homes Division. Quite apart from the protests that honorable members have received in recent weeks, the Minister must realize, in view of numerous questions that have been directed to him, mainly in relation to the waiting period, to which I shall address myself in a few moments, that there is both merit and justification in my submission of this matter for discussion.
I first realized that there must have been an alteration of Government policy in relation to the provision of war service homes when I began to receive letters from ex-servicemen indicating that their applications for loans under the terms of the act for the erection or purchase of new homes had, although formally approved, been deferred for a period of twelve months or more. I immediately directed the attention of the Minister to this matter, and questions that I directed to him were followed at not infrequent intervals by questions asked by other Opposition members. The position, therefore, is common to all States. Indeed, I have before me one such case from South Australia. I have received another from Ballarat in Victoria, and numerous other complaints from Tasmania. As I stated only a few moments ago, questions in relation to the waiting period and other matters affecting war service homes administration have been directed to the Minister by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly), the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), and other honorable members.
Applications that were tentatively approved for processing in September of this year have been deferred until August or September, 1956, and in some cases the amended date has suggested that it would be 1957 before the applications received . further consideration by the division. It can be accepted as being a fact that Government supporters have received similar complaints, because quite recently the Minister admitted that, in view of representations that had been made to him by those honorable members, he intended to make a full statement to the House regarding the waiting period and other matters affecting war service homes administration. I am well aware that when I have resumed my seat the Minister will almost certainly embark on the dreary monotony of a recapitulation of the history of the War Service Homes Division between 1949 and 1955. If the Minister had been prepared to give a reasonable reply to the queries that were directed to him on this matter, instead of merely comparing the records of different administrations, the debate on the present proposal could easily have been confined to the question whether ex-servicemen’s housing requirements are being adequately met under the War Service Homes Act. I am not in the least impressed by the Minister’s weary recapitulations of the records of governments. If he really believes that that form of defence is acceptable to honorable members on this side of the House and, more important, to members, of the organizations whose duty it is to safeguard the interests of ex-service men and women, then I can only say that he is less competent to speak on the subject than he apparently gives himself credit for being. Comparison of the achievements of Labour governments and non-Labour governments does not help the ex-serviceman who is now waiting the opportunity to provide his family with a home. The ex-serviceman’s concern, at the moment, is to have the time-lag between the lodging of his application for financial assistance and the actual provision to him of a home cut from its present length of 18 months. The ex-serviceman knows already that in 1946, at the beginning of the transitional post-war period, 556 homes were provided under the Labour Government, and that the rate progressively increased as more labour and materials became available. He knows that in 1949 the Labour Government made 6,287 homes available to ex-servicemen or their dependants. He also knows that in 1954-55 a total of 12,788 homes was made available by the present Government. He knows that £16,200,000 was- set aside for the use of the division in 1949, the last year of office of the Labour Government, and that for the same purpose £80,000,000 has been provided by this Government in the currrent financial year. He understands those facts but, having analysed the position, he also knows that the demand for war service homes has never been greater, that costs have never been higher and are steadily rising, and that the current year’s allocation will be little> if any, more than the allocation in 1949, in terms of value. The ex-service applicant for a waa* service home understands all those facts’ which the Minister will surely repeat when he rises to speak. He understands the facts better than the Minister apparently gives him credit for.
To illustrate how costs have risen, I shall compare the average cost of a home in 1949 with the average cost in 1954. I shall use the figures for Tasmania which, on analysis, prove to be more favorable from the Government’s point of view than are the figures relevant to most of the other States. In 1949, the average cost of a dwelling-house in Tasmania was £1,658. To-day the average has risen to £3,285. The time between the lodging of the application and its granting which, it is suggested, is determined by several factors, including the availability of funds, the number of applications requiring attention, and the increase in effective applications, has increased. The number of applications received in 1954-55, when the average loan was £2,250, was 28,931. The Minister suggests that in 1955-56 the average loan will increase to £2,600 which, no doubt, is an acknowledgment of the existence of the inflationary spiral. Even then it will still be £150 less than, the maximum permissible loan of £2,750 available for the acquisition of a home under the act. A general survey of the position indicates that the waiting period between the receipt of the application and the time when the applicant obtains possession of a home has increased from approximately twelve months to 34 months, or almost three years. This indicates that the finance to be made available for the purpose of construction of war service homes this year will be inadequate to meet the demand. The sum of £30,000,000 was made available for 1954-55, but the number of effective applications’ is increasing each year with a corresponding increase in the waiting period. We all know that the war service homes legislation is popular, and I have no doubt that when the original legislation was framed, it was intended that it should be popular ; but it is rapidly losing its popularity under this Government. The fact that an ex-serviceman is compelled to wait three years before he can obtain his home could not, in any circumstances, permit this act to remain a popular one. In order to cover up this serious state of affairs, the Minister for Social Services has suggested that, under certain circumstances’ and subject to prior approval by the division, temporary finance might be arranged by the purchaser in order to build, or to purchase a newly erected home. But the Minister is well aware that it is practically impossible to obtain temporary finance. The Government has applied effective credit restrictions in this regard.
– Over 1,000 such applications have been approved this year.
– Time does not permit me to elaborate that point. If the Minister disagrees with my contention and can suggest how frustrations may be removed in regard to temporary finance, his statement will be received with gratitude by thousands of ex-servicemen.
Nothing has been said on this side of the House in criticism of the splendid work that is being done by officers of the division. All honorable members appreciate the co-operation and assistance which they receive from members of the staff. But we do emphatically protest against the Government’s policy which the officers of the division are now being caused to administer. The Government is guilty of negligence and lack of consideration. By authorizing an immediate extension of the waiting period, it has placed many ex-servicemen in an invidious position. That is deserving of censure, and I have no doubt that it will be administered in due course.
The Minister has frequently suggested that the Government’s’ first consideration should be the provision of new homes. I heartily agree that that suggestion is a desirable one. The practice of building homes under the supervision of the War Service Homes Division should be encouraged, because every house built by it adds to the total number of new buildings erected in Australia. Nobody would disagree that that contention is sound when the economic position is sound, but, at the moment, it is not sound because of unchecked rising prices and the manner of interpretation of the act. Exservicemen are being forced to obtain houses by purchasing, existing properties. They have no alternative in this matter. Therefore, I suggest that the Government is responsible for ensuring that an exserviceman whose application has been accepted under the provisions of the act is provided with a home, whether a group home, a new home, or even an old one which has been declared structurally sound by officers of the division.
I indicated at the commencement of my address that all is not well within the division. A waiting period of three years is a farce and a disgrace, and should not be allowed to continue. A thorough and searching investigation is desirable and should be immediately undertaken by the Government. Either that, or the Minister in his reply should offer an alternative suggestion which we might hope would achieve the desired effect.. If the imposition of a waiting period of three years is the only practical method of allocating the available funds, it merely bears out my original statement that insufficient funds are being made available for this purpose in this financial year. The Government cannot be excused even if,, as the Minister suggested, £30,000,000 is a record allocation. The waiting period is three years, and it is practically impossible for exservicemen to secure homes these days. I suggest that the act is not being applied in accordance with the original intention. Therefore, the Minister should immediately consider making additional funds available which would allow this disgraceful state of affairs to be remedied, and enable homes, which are urgently required, to be made available to exservicemen.
.. - -Last week I made available the facts relating to the provision of homes by the Division of War Service Homes so that every member of this House could be well informed: as to what was happening and the reasons for the increase in the waiting period for homes. The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) has added nothing whatsoever to the contents of that paper, although he very bravely set out by stating that he hoped that the Minister would not repeat the facts that had previously been made available. I find that impossible, because the division went out of its way to get all the facts and put them . in that paper for presentation to honorable members,, because I thought that that was a proper course to follow. We all like honesty in this House, and we all like honesty in the presentation of the facts that are available to the Government. But the honorable gentleman, if I may say so, made an abominable confusion between the administration of the division and the policy of the Government. It seems wise, therefore, that I should let him know the difference.
The honorable member started off by saying that there had been a deterioration in administration and that, therefore, the interests of returned servicemen were being neglected. Let us examine the statement that there ha3 been a deterioration in administration. First of all, I shall quote from a letter received from the chairman of the War Service Homes and Housing Committee of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia dated the 22nd September, 1955. The letter, which is directed to the War Service Homes Division, states -
As Chairman of our War Service Homes and Housing Committee I wish to endorse the remarks made by Mr. Moore when during the course of the September meeting, he referred to help afforded by a number of your officers. It is exceedingly gratifying to know that when an ex-serviceman brings us to a housing problem which appears to be one that could be solved by the use of one of the various types of assistance which the Division affords, we can without difficulty refer him to some one who to our certain knowledge is thoroughly competent and also sympathetic when handling such matters.
The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts), who is interjecting, is a young fellow coming up with obvious aspirations, and he can test this evidence. The honorable member for Bass is a gentleman who will not be in the House after the general elections. But those honorable members can both rely on the written testimonial of the returned servicemen’s organization.
Mr. Haylen interjecting,
– Order !
– The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) is yapping away again. He will soon be yapping to a different tune. He will have plenty of opportunity to yap outside the House next week.
– You are like an angry ant.
– Order! The honorable member for Parkes will apologize to the Chair for repeatedly disobeying after I have called for order.
– I am sorry, sir. I just said that I thought that the Minister was like an angry ant. I withdraw and apologize.
– If I were to say what I thought of the expression on the honorable member’s face-
– Order !
– I am shocked, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I want that statement withdrawn. I am going to the country shortly, and it will dampen my prospects.
– I do regret it, but I have not damaged it. It has damaged itself.
– You are horrible.
– The second evidence that I want to place before the House is that within the course of the last few days the Federal Conference of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia has met in Brisbane. On the business-paper was a motion asking that the whole of the administration of the War Service Homes Division be investigated. But what happened? On the motion of the federal president of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia the other motion was withdrawn. Instead, it was suggested that because the work of the division was so tremendous, with a turnover of over £40,000,000 per annum, the work should be entrusted to a commission of three. But the man whom they suggested should be the permanent chairman .of the commission and, therefore, the one responsible for the administration of the division, is the present Director of the War Service Homes Division. In other words, there has been a clear statement from the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia that it is satisfied with the administration. It knows that the director is doing a magnificent job, and if the honorable member had shown any gratitude or respect for the performance of the War Service Homes Division he would have had the courage to get up and say it, instead of bringing a tawdry political issue into this
House and trying to make capital out of it at the moment. That is the evidence relating to the administration. I have no doubt that from the head-quarters of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia itself comes the greatest commendation. If I, and my colleagues on the back benches were asked whether we would accept the opinion of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) and the honorable member for Bass, on the views of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, we would say, as would, I am sure, the general public, “ Let us take the views of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia, which have been in complete endorsement of the administration and the Director of War Service Homes “. As I said at the beginning, the honorable member has confused administration and policy.
The second question is that of policy. The facts leading up to the Government’s policy have already been set out in the paper presented to this House. What are the facts? They are quite simple. I will not go over the lot of them, but will mention one or two. This week the Government allotted £30,000,000 for the provision of war service homes. It has made that amount of money available because it believes that if the allocation were greater, it could well be an inflationary factor and, instead of the exserviceman getting his home for, say, £2,600, he would have to pay a substantially higher price. The Government’s policy is vindicated by the facts produced by the honorable member for Bass relating to the increase in prices in Tasmania. He said that the cost of an ordinary home had increased from £1,658 to £2,385. We have this to our credit : As a positive result of Government policy, we can say that the price of homes is at last steadying and that there is even a tendency for prices to fall. In other words, the Government’s policy has been vindicated and what it hoped to achieve is, in fact, being achieved.
I want to put this to the House as the one other factor relating to the Government’s policy: The Government realized, as was shown in the budget, and in the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on economic policy, that in an economy like ours - a healthy, vigorous, bounding economy - there was a possibility that we could try to develop too quickly and that it was, therefore, in the interests of the nation not to push development beyond the bounds of our capabilities. Therefore, there was a review of public works programmes and public works expenditure so that there would be a substantial saving this year of approximately £10,000,000, by the reduction of public works. Two departments which were included in the review but were not touched were the Department of National Development and the War Service Homes Division. Does the honorable member for Parkes think for one moment that the Government should neglect everything else and concentrate on the provision of war service homes? I do not for one moment think that the ex-servicemen would expect that, nor do I think that the honorable member for. Parkes would think it a reasonable proposition. The honorable member for Bass .should have directed his remarks to Government policy. The Government has said that it is not prepared at this moment to give any further incentive, any further impetus to inflationary forces. In fact, it wants to reduce them. Here is the test : Prices of homes are, we hope, steadying. Indeed, there is a slightly perceptible- tendency towards a fall. We hope that that tendency will increase, and that in the future we shall be able to provide homes at a reasonable cost.
I mention for the benefit of the House and particularly of the honorable member for Werriwa, who is very interested in these problems, that if we had tried to sustain the same programme as last year it would have cost an extra. £10,000,000 - not £30,000,000 but £40,000,000- and I ask the honorable member what he thinks would have been the result. In my own opinion, and in the opinion of the best advisers that I can get, it would have meant that a large proportion of that increase would have gone, not to the provision of extra houses throughout Australia but to a very perceptible increase in prices. So, on both scores, we say that the honorable gentleman’s case has not been made out. The Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia is satisfied with the administration. We know that the Government’s policy will yield beneficial results for this country and therefore we are not prepared to change it. I move -
That the business of the day be called on.
Question put. The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr.c. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Services (Mr. McMahon). The honorable gentleman stated that I had criticized the administration of the War Service Homes Division. I did not do so by any interjection during the debate. I have never criticized the administration of the division in any of the speeches I have made concerning war service homes.
Honorable members interjecting,
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) agreed to -
That for the remainder of this week so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the introduction by Ministers of hills without notice and the passing of such bills through all stages without delay.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the validation of collections of duties of customs under Customs Tariff proposals.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to validate, until the 30th June, 1956, the collections of customs duties made in pursuance of the following customs tariff proposals: -
Customs Tariff Proposals No. 3 of the 26th May, 1955 ;
Customs Tariff Proposals No. 4 of the 8th June, 1955 ;
Customs Tariff Proposals No. 5 of the 13th October, 1955;
Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) Proposals No. 2 of the 26th May, 1955;
Customs Tariff (Canadian Preference) Proposals No. 3 of the 13th October, 1955;
Customs Tariff (Papua and New Guinea Preference) Proposals No. 1 of the 26th May, 1955 ; and
Customs Tariff (Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland Preference) Proposals No. 1 of the 20th October, 1955.
It will not be practicable, in the time available, to hold a full scale tariff debate to enable the enactment of the Customs Tariff proposals concerned. Earlier in this sessional period I told the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is Deputy Leader of the Opposition, that I would take the first opportunity to arrange for the Customs Tariff proposals to be debated in the House before the House went into recess. It . was at that time my intention to ensure that such an opportunity would be provided, but circumstances have changed, and it is impossible to arrange for the debate, which, of its very nature, must be very lengthy, because every item in the schedule would be debated. Because of the nature of the changed circumstances, it is impossible for me to give effect to the earlier assurance that I gave to the honorable member.
The proposed tariff variations as set out in the various tariff proposals covered by this bill are, I might mention,, in practically all cases based on recommendations emerging from Tariff Board inquiries. This bill, as honorable members will appreciate, is purely a machinery measure. Unless tariff alterations are enacted or validated within six months of their introduction into the Parliament, or before the end of the parliamentary session, whichever first happens, such alterations would then be open to legal challenge. The bill merely safeguards that position until the 30th June, 1956, by which time full opportunity should be available to debate, and enact, the various proposals as set out in the schedule to this bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Clarey) adjourned.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to provide for the validation of collections of duties of excise under Excise Tariff proposals.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The circumstances surrounding the introduction of this bill are the same as those associated with the Customs Tariff Validation Bill 1955, which I introduced a few minutes ago. The bill now under consideration provides for the validation of collections of excise duties made in pursuance of Excise Tariff Proposals No. 3, introduced into this House on the 26th May, 1955, provided such collections are made not later than the 30th June, 1956. As with the Customs Tariff Validation Bill 1955, the bill now before honorable members is purely a machinery measure. Ample opportunity will, I feel, be available some time before the 30th June next to debate and enact the excise tariff proposals concerned.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Claret) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1952, as amended by the Judges Remuneration Act 1955 and by the Salaries Adjustment Act 1955.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 26th .October (vide page 1915), on motion by Mr. Holt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill, in effect, extends the provisions of the Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Act, which expired on the 2nd September of this year, for a further period of three years. This extension will be of very great assistance to the trade union movement. Indeed, the extension has been sought by the trade union movement, and it has been agreed to by some employers.
– I do not think it can be said that it has been agreed to by the employers. As I said in my secondreading speech, we knew there were differences of opinion as to the necessity for extending the period, and the Government had taken into account the views put to it. Some of the employers who havespoken to us about the proposal were not favorable to it.
– On the other hand, some employers were favorable to it, and the trade union movement itself has agreed to it. I believe that the continuation of the local committees will be of very great assistance in carrying out the immigration programme of the Government. From that stand-point alone, quite apart from certain matters which are suggested in the second-reading speech of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), the extension of the period of operation of the act is justified.
The Minister has said that negotiations have been proceeding between himself and certain sections of the trade union movement which are specifically interested in the extension of the training scheme for tradesmen. If, as a consequence of the negotiations, some understanding is reached in this matter, then the continuation of this measure will assist greatly in carrying out any understanding reached between the trade union movement and the Government in connexion with the improvement of the supply of skilled labour. Taking all things into considera tion, we find this to be an acceptable bill. We offer no objection to it, and trust that it will be passed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 26th October (vide page 1915), on motion by Mr. Holt -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Act and the Re-establishment and Employment Act are, in respect of their times of operation, very closely allied. As the first bill has been passed, there is no need for debate on the second bill, because it naturally follows that when the first is passed, the second must be passed. I agree to the motion for the second reading of this measure.
.- As the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has explained,, this bill seeks to amend the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945-1952. It provides, amongst other things, for an extension of the provisions of the original act, and that is the only part’ of the measure to which I wish to address my attention. Because there has been a gap from the 2nd September until now, it might be thought that the provisions of the act did not apply during that period. This bill will put that matter into its proper order.
But there is more to it than that. It is all very well to have an act which lays down conditions of what we properly call preference to ex-servicemen, but there is the problem of ensuring that those conditions shall be observed. Although penalties are provided in the act to ensure that such conditions will be carried out, unfortunately, as the two wars recede, people are apt to overlook the provisions of the act, or lose some sympathy for ex-servicemen. This brings about a state of affairs which is rather unfortunate for ex-servicemen.
I am not speaking idly on this matter because, quite recently, a case involving preference in employment was brought to my notice. I do not propose to mention the individuals concerned by name. That would serve no useful purpose. But I should like to run very briefly through the circumstances. The case concerns an application to fill the vacant position of secretary of a country hospital board. The vacancy was caused by the death of the previous secretary. This occurred during 1954. Applications were called by the hospital board, and about a dozen people applied. From that number, several were called before the board for interview, and one of them - an exserviceman - was selected. His selection and appointment were entered in the minutes of the board. But as honorable members will know, in New South Wales, such appointments must be confirmed by the Hospitals Commission. The commission did not endorse the board’s selection. A short time later, the appointment was suspended for the reason I have given - the commission refused to endorse it. The vacancy which then occurred was supposed to be filled by a person who had replied to an advertisement, and another applicant was appointed. To some extent, it might appear that that was a breach of section 30 of the original act, which provides that an employer shall not, without reasonable cause, terminate the employment of any person whom he has engaged in employment in accordance with the provisions of that act. I do not know that that point was actually raised, but the New South Wales Branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia took up the case and had it brought before a stipendiary magistrate who was appointed under the provisions of the act as a “ prescribed authority “. The magistrate found for the applicant on four counts and, on the 5th May, 1955, issued an order instructing the board to re-engage the man who had originally been appointed to fill the vacancy. I mentioned earlier that the case began in 1954. Applications were originally invited about the 3rd December, 1954.
I am informed that the board entirely ignored the order made by the magistrate on the 5th May, 1955. The only course open to the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia then was to issue a summons against the board, which it did. After many delays, the board sought leave to appeal against the magistrate’s order. It has been represented to me that these delays were occasioned not by the exserviceman but by the board, which sought adjournments and otherwise delayed the proceedings. Eventually, the application for leave to appeal against the magistrate’s order came before Mr. Justice Kirby, of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in Sydney. Having heard evidence extending “over some days and having inquired into the matter most exhaustively, he granted leave to appeal, and the appeal was set down for hearing at a later date. On the 18th August last, His Honour, having heard the case, con-. firmed in its entirety the original order made by the stipendiary magistrate. That confirmation, I believe, was given in decision No. 564 of 1955. Up to that point, the situation was that the hospital board had filled a position; the appointment had not been confirmed by the New South Wales Hospitals Commission; the ex-serviceman had summonsed the board for not observing the provisions of the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945-1953; a stipendiary magistrate had made an order instructing the board to re-appoint, if one may use that term, the original appointee; the board, as lies within its power under the act, had appealed to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court; and Mr. Justice Kirby, of that court, had upheld the magistrate’s decision and had made an order instructing the board to proceed with the engagement of this ex-serviceman.
I am informed, further, that, since this procedure, which should not leave in the mind of any one a doubt about the ex-serviceman’s fitness for the position, the board has taken no action to. implement either of the court orders. Mr. Justice Kirbys order, which directed that employment should begin by the 26th September last, was not signed until after the 2nd September, when the principal act expired, and the board .has claimed that, therefore, it need not appoint the ex-serviceman. It seems that the board is .acting in complete defiance not only of the act but also of the stipendiary magistrate and Mr. Justice Kirby. This matter has now extended over more than ten months, and the legal costs incurred by the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia have exceeded £500, but the ex-serviceman is still not employed by the hospital board, as he should have been employed in the first place, or in accordance with the terms of both the court orders. The virtue of this amending measure is that it will destroy the board’s argument that, as Mr. Justice Kirbys order was not signed until after the principal act expired, it need not employ the ex-serviceman. There can be no further quibble about it when this bill becomes law; he must be given the employment to which he is entitled.
As a result of this case, it has been suggested to me that the principal act should be amended to prevent this kind of thing from occurring again. I have been told that the act should be amended in three respects, which I shall detail to the House. In the first place, it is suggested that appeals against court orders should be lodged within a specified time. I am informed - not having any legal training, I do not know whether my information is accurate or otherwise - that the act does not specify a time within which appeals shall be lodged. Therefore, the hospital board may have deliberately delayed obeying the stipendiary magistrate’s order - I do not know that it did so- - simply by indicating its intention to appeal and thereby preventing the exserviceman from taking the matter again before a court. If the act specified a time within which the appeal should be lodged, an employer would not be able to adopt these delaying tactics, and the difficulty would probably be overcome.
The second suggestion for the amendment of the principal act relates to subsection (1.) of section 33, which specifies penalties for the contravention of the provisions of Division 2. of the act. It is suggested that sub-section (l.) of section 33 should be amended to provide for heavier fines, particularly to cover cases such as this one, in which it appears that an employer has grossly flouted a court order. It is suggested, also, that a day-to-day or week-to-week penalty should be imposed while the contravention continues. Sub-section (1.) of section 33 reads -
A person who contravenes or fails to comply with any provision of this Division, or con,travenes or fails to comply with any order of a court made under this Division, shall be guilty of an offence punishable on conviction by a fine not exceeding one hundred pounds or imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months, or both.
I do not know when that provision was originally enacted, but it probably dates back to legislation which was enacted in the ‘twenties, when what we call preference to ex-servicemen was introduced, and . which was replaced by the Re-establishment and Employment Act 1945. At the latest, the provision dates from 1945, because it appears in the 1945 act. Although a fine of £100 might in those earlier years have been comparable with imprisonment for a period of six months, there is obviously no comparison to-day. A fine of £100 now represents only five weeks’ income to a person whose income is, say, £20 a week, and therefore it bears no comparison to imprisonment for a period of six months with consequent loss of income for that time, especially as the fine does not deprive a -person of his liberty. However, I am concerned not so much about the individual. When the employer, as in the case to which I have referred, is a hospital board or some other organization, it is obviously impossible to imprison the employer, and consequently a fine is the penalty imposed. I put it to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that it is rather farcical that a hospital board, representing a public institution, should be able to flout the law and get away with a fine of £100 at most. It appears that the board may continue to defy the court order, and it has been suggested that the payment of a fine of £100 may be regarded as a licence to continue committing the offence for some indefinite period. I have not the legal background which is necessary to understand properly the implications of the matter, but it seems a suitable suggestion that if the offence continues to be committed the fine should be a continuing one. I suggest that the Minister give consideration to increasing the amount of the fine to, say, £500, which would be more in keeping with the penalty of imprisonment for six months. It may be that even this amount is not sufficient to prevent the commission of such offences, but at least it would to some extent act as a deterrent.
A third matter which has been raised relates to the lack of provision in the act for the awarding of costs. In these cases an applicant, or a sub-branch which is prepared to sponsor him, may incur very substantial costs. The league has spent at least £500 already on the case to which I have referred, the merits of which appear to be entirely in its favour. That expenditure cannot be recovered under the terms of the act. I have some reservations about that suggestion, because it might be a double-edged sword. An exserviceman who felt aggrieved might be prevented from taking advantage of the provisions of the act by the fear that, if he lost his case, costs might be awarded against him. Although the suggestion has been made that costs should be awarded, I think that I should not force that issue.
Section 33 (2.) provides -
Where a person is convicted of an offence under this section, the court may order that a portion of the fine imposed shall be paid to such person entitled to preference as the court specifies in the order.
It seems to me that that action might be taken where the court considered that an applicant, who had incurred considerable expense in court proceedings or had lost a substantial sum in wages through failure to observe the provisions of the act, should receive some reparation from the fine. If the fine is limited to £100, it does not appear that he would receive much benefit from it. However, if it were increased to £500 he might receive a substantial sum to offset his costs and loss of wages.
I have taken rather longer than I intended, but not nearly so long as I could have taken had I read all the evidence which has been supplied to me in order that I might bring it to the notice of the House. I know that the Minister is sympathetic in such matters as this. All the facts of this case are readily available in the records of the court. The offence seems to be particularly flagrant and directs attention to some provisions which need investigation. I am sure that the Minister will investigate the matter and do what he can to correct this position.
– in reply - I shall reply very briefly to the matters raised by the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes). As he has outlined the facte of this particular case, and has referred me to the existence of detailed evidence, I shall arrange to have the matter examined carefully by the appropriate officers, but on one or two points I may be able to give him some useful information. I think that it is not correct to say that there is no power for the court to award costs in a case such as this. On my reading of section 29 (1.) (/) of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, the court has power to make such an order as it thinks fit as to the costs and expenses of any proceedings before it. I do not know whether, in this case, a request for costs was pressed, but on the face of that section it would appear that it was open to the applicant to have applied for costs. Reference was made to the inadequacy of the penalty provided, and I think that this criticism has some substance. The penalty of £100 was provided when the act was originally passed in 1945, and we all are only too well aware that there has been a downward movement in the value of currency since then. A penalty which was considered by the Parliament to have been adequate then would, if it remained unchanged, bear little relationship to money values to-day. But though I am quite sympathetic to the submission of the honorable gentleman, I should not wish to give any snap decision on the acceptance of an amendment at this stage, because it is probable that over the whole range of Commonwealth legislation there are very many instances where an increase in the amount of penalties is justified because of movement in values over recent years. However, I shall take up his suggestion with my colleague, the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer)., and suggest that in any general review of penalties which might be made, this aspect, as it applies to the bill before the House, should receive special consideration. I shall make a similar recommendation to my colleague in relation to what has been said about the practicability of a continuing penalty.
I think that the action which we propose under this bill will overcome any problem in relation to an applicant’s being out of time so far as an order is concerned, because we shall restore his rights to the date at which the legislation lapsed. His rights will therefore be preserved. I trust that it will be found that this overcomes the difficulty which the honorable gentleman has mentioned. If I have overlooked any of his suggestions in attempting to give this immediate and quite brief reply, I shall ensure that his submissions to the House are carefully examined from the Hansard report. I thank the House for the reception that it has given to the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate ; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 26th October (vide page 1916), on motion by Mr.
That the bill be now read a second time.
Mr.E. JAMES HARRISON (Blaxland) [12.15]. - The purpose of the bill is to make sure that Mr. Justice Gallagher will be fully covered by the provisions of the Coal Industry Act while he is performing the duties both of the Coal Industry Tribunal and of a judge of the Industrial Commission of New South Wales. I agree with the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) that there is general agreement that Mr. Justice Gallagher has done an excellent job as the Coal Industry Tribunal. Those of us who have been associated with or interested in the coal industry for some time, know that this great national industry is now faced with serious problems. We hoped that the Minister, in his second-reading speech, would give us full information about the relationship between the two offices held by Mr. Justice Gallagher and about how his appointment to the Industrial Commission in New South Wales would affect his position as the Coal Industry Tribunal.
I speak with some knowledge of the Industrial Commission, and it seems to me that either one thing or another is happening. Is the coal industry declining to such a degree, on the interstate level, that authority can well be vested in Mr. Justice Gallagher to perform the duties, not only of a judge of the Industrial Commission in New South Wales, but also of the Coal Industry Tribunal, on the ground from now onwards any industrial disputes that occur in the coal industry will affect only New South Wales? We do not agree that the coal industry is, so to speak, only a New South Wales problem. Nor do we agree that the difficulties that confront the industry now will make the task of Mr. Justice Gallagher, as the Coal Industry Tribunal, any easier in the immediate future than it has been during the last ten years.
The Coal Industry Tribunal is a very important authority, with a wide range of responsibilities. It can take cognizance of any dispute in the coal industry extending beyond the limits of any one State ; of any industrial dispute in a State not extending beyond the limits of that State ; of any dispute that arises under an award of a court or of the tribunal, relating to the industry; or of any industrial dispute or matter referred to it by a local coal authority. I am sure that at least one member of the Government parties, who has some coal-miners in his electorate, is wondering why the Minister did not, in his usual informative manner, give us more detailed information about the relationship between the two offices held by Mr. Justice Gallagher. I do not know whether there was an arrangement between the two governments in relation to the appointment of Mr. Gallagher to the Industrial Commission.
Mr. E. JAMES HARRISON.This Government was notified by the New South Wales Government that Mr. Gallagher was to be appointed to the Industrial Commission.
– I do not bind the Minister to his recollection. I want him to understand that I am not criticizing Mr. Justice Gallagher or what may be the intention of the two governments in relation to the positions that he holds. As one who has been closely associated with industrial disputes over a long period of years, I feel that, before we endorse a principle of this kind, we should know more about the relationship between the duties of the two offices occupied by Mr. Justice Gallagher. The Minister is well aware of the fact that the functions of a federal authority can be quite distinct from those of a State authority.
– The Coal Industry Tribunal is the product, not only of federal legislation, but also of complementary State legislation.
– I agree that that is the position. That is an additional reason why we should be given more information in this instance. I do not know whether the information was given to the New South Wales Parliament. I have no.t read the report of the debate that took place there, if one did take place. I am concerned about our responsibilities in this matter. I am concerned about the disputes that may occur in the coal industry as a result of the tapering off of the demand for manpower by the industry. I feel sure that the Coal Industry Tribunal must be uneasy, to say the least, about the present position of the industry. I know that one member of the Government parties is uneasy about the general tapering off of the demand for man-power in the industry and about the difficulties that have arisen as a result of the mechanization of mines. Those factors may give rise to industrial disputes. We know that, as a result of mechanization, the small coal problem is becoming a vital problem in New South Wales. Under the old methods of coalmining, 60 per cent, of the production was big coal and 40 per cent, was small coal, but to-day that position has been reversed. Sales of small coal are falling off. There is a general tapering off of the demand for man-power in the industry. Those problems are immediately in front of us.
I speak subject to correction by the Minister, but I understand that Mr. Justice Gallagher is a full-time judge of the Industrial Commission. That is the position at a time when the demand for man-power by the industry is declining and, therefore, there is a possibility that discontent and industrial unrest will occur. The Minister and his advisers may say, “ We have millions of tons of coal at grass. Therefore, at this stage, we need not worry about any industrial dispute that may occur in the industry “. A dispute that is not dealt with immediately may spread considerably. That is one of the things that worries me. The Minister has said that the Coal Industry Act provides that, if the gentleman who constitutes the Coal Industry Tribunal is absent from his post for more than fourteen days, certain action shall be taken. I understand that that provision is to be abandoned. I say that we cannot tolerate, particularly at the present time, a situation in which, for periods of fourteen days or longer, the coal-miners will not have available to them a tribunal for the settlement of disputes in the industry.
– I have already said that the first call on Mr. Justice Gallagher’s services will be given to the coal industry. That has been agreed to by the New South Wales Government.
– I put it to the Minister that, although he may have covered the position in relation to any dispute that may arise in the coal industry, the situation is undesirable. I presume that Mr. Justice Gallagher has been appointed as a full-time judge of the Industrial Commission. I presume also that he will not sit on the commission waiting for disputes to arise in the coal industry. If such a dispute does arise, he will not be given a fortnight’s notice of it. I say it is a completely wrong principle for an authority of this kind to occupy two positions. Mr. Justice Gallagher may have to drop one position in the middle of a dispute and, in the discharge of the duties of his other position, turn his attention to another dispute. That is completely wrong. Nobody knows that better than does the Minister. I do not know what Mr. Justice Gallagher’s responsibilities will be as a judge of the Industrial Commission.
For example, what would be the position if he became tangled up with the metal trades industry and something happened on one of the coal-fields, where the manpower position is causing concern to the miners’ union. At Leconfield, 76 men were stood down as from the 30th September; at Belmont North, 42 were stood down as from the 3rd October; at Kent, 30 were stood down as from the 30th October; the Millfield mine is to close altogether; and at Bloomfield, 120 men will he stood down at about Christmas time. I direct attention also to the position in the western district as a result of the transfer of coal contracts from the west to the- north. That transfer, of course, is beyond the scope of the Coal Industry Tribunal unless a dispute arises from. it. In the western district, also, there has been a tapering off of manpower requirements. At Newcom, 25 employees were issued with notices on the 30th September, and eleven more are to be stood down. At Ivanhoe, 33 ceased on the 30th September, and another 40 are to be stood down on the 31st October. In addition, more men are to be stood down at Renown Siding and Lidsdale. The latest information J have is that a rumour is current on the coal-fields that 280 men at the John Darling colliery will receive notice.
AIL these things add up and cause disputes on the coal-fields. I know that Mr. Justice Gallagher has done a remarkably sound job in the interests of the coat mining, industry and of industrial peace ; but I submit to the Minister, as I would submit to the New South Wales Parliament if I were a member of it, that it is wrong to place a man who is acting as a coal industry tribunal in a position where he might have to interrupt his hearing of a dispute in another industry to attend to a dispute in the coal industry. The services of Mr. Justice Gallagher should have been confined to the coal industry, and we should not be faced with the pOSsibility of the difficulty to which I have referred.
– The appointment of Mr. Gallagher as a judge of the New South Wales Industrial Commission is an undoubted compliment to him and to those persons who are engaged in the coal-mining industry.
It indicates quite clearly that a measure of stability has been achieved in the industry, and that the legislation passed during the time of my predecessor as member for the Division of Macquarie has had very beneficial effect. We should be grateful for that.
The bill now before the House should be judged, not on what might appear to be the present position, but on past performance and what will happen in the future. I desire, however, to support the remarks of my colleague, the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), who has raised a number of doubts in relation to this turbulent industry. He has pointed out the difficulties that may arise, and the necessity for the Coal Industry Tribunal to be able to devote its whole attention to problems associated with the coal-mining industry. The need for peace in the industry is undoubted, and it is necessary that the miners should know with some degree of certainty that they will be able to go to work day after day and week after week.
The duties of the Coal Industry Tribunal are onerous and difficult. Mr. Justice Gallagher has given a great amount of satisfaction’ to those persons who are engaged in the industry. It is impossible to give complete satisfaction on every occasion when a decision is made; on some occasions, one side is satisfied and the other is dissatisfied. Generally speaking, stability has been brought to the industry, and I think it is true to say that the status of the employees has been lifted from what it was in the bad old days of the past when their only means of redress was. to pour out their tea and then walk home.. The measure of stability and satisfaction that has been achieved in this difficult industry should be preserved at all costs.
The Parliament should not close its eyes to the difficulties that loom ahead. The hazards of coal-mining should not be forgotten. The community generally, and the Parliament, should look to the miners with a great deal of thankfulness for their efforts in providing the fuel and energy that are necessary to keep the wheels of industry turning. It is not too late now for the Government to indicate, in addition to what it proposes in relation to Mr. Justice Gallagher, that further dismissals will not occur, and that a long-range programme will be introduced to solve the problems that are mounting up because of the use of residual oils and other trade difficulties.
If the present economic trends continue, and if the Government continues to adopt false economic policies involving, amongst other things, restriction of credit, the future of those who are engaged in the industry will not be very bright. I am concerned about miners generally, but especially about those who are employed on the western field, a large number of whom -I represent. I am grieved when I think that large bodies of men who have given splendid service to this country, and who were guaranteed continuity of employment, now find themselves being thrown out of the industry, and that the best that they can be offered is to go hundreds of miles to another district where they might be fortunate enough to obtain employment. A new approach is called for, and that new approach should come from the Government. I believe that Mr. Justice Gallagher, who is an estimable gentleman, will be able to discharge his duties to the general satisfaction of the industry.
I repeat that, whilst this legislation apparently has the blessing of the New South Wales Government, we should reserve our judgment upon it and judge it, not on the present position, but on future performances. If in the future the Coal Industry Tribunal operates to the satisfaction of the industry, as presumably it has done in the past, we shall be able to accept this legislation, believing that the right thing has been done. It rests with the Parliament to deal with the coal-mining industry on a political level, and to ensure that there shall be no further dismissals. Although we have received guarantees in the past, I hope that the Minister for .Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), who has given a promise to officials of the industry, will be able to give a positive indication that the miners who have served their country well will not lose their employment in the intervening period but that a new deal based on a new approach to industrial problems will be introduced. jr.- [77
– in reply - The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) and the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), in addressing themselves to the subject-matter of the bill, also raised the general question of the situation of the coal industry, particularly in New South Wales. I do not intend to try to answer fully, in a very brief reply, the attempt of the honorable members to unfold that story ; but, as I think all honorable members in the House will know from answers that I have given in this chamber to questions put to me in the course of this session, the Government is by no means inactive in respect of dealing with the position in the coal industry in New South Wales. My colleague the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) and I have had two quite lengthy, and representative, conferences with coal industry interests comprising management, trades unions, the Joint Coal Board and other interested parties. As I indicated when I was last replying to questions on this matter in the House, we intend to meet again in December in order to carry our discussions a stage further. It is, of course, true that the industry is experiencing difficulties, but there is nothing novel about the existence of difficulties in the coal-mining industry. All that changes from time to time is the nature of some of the difficulties, although others of those difficulties, unfortunately, do not change, but persist from year to year. I do not think that we help that industry by painting too black a picture of it, because one of the elements in maintaining the coal-mining industry in a healthy state is a belief by the consumers of coal that that product has a future. The analysis made by spokesmen for the industry, particularly those of interests which have large sums invested in it, is by no means pessimistic. Indeed, the current level of production is, I understand, of the same order as that in earlier years, including recent years. The fact that the production level has been maintained despite some use of oil by former coal consumers suggests that we can reasonably expect, as the economy expands, some increase of coal consumption with, of course, a consequent increase of coal production. But there is the immediate problem of the placement of employees in the industry who will be displaced from their employment in certain coal mines which, for the sake of more efficient production overall, have either been the object of some restriction or have been closed down. As honorable members will be aware, the Department of Labour and National Service, in conjunction with representatives of the industry, is, through the coal employment committees, doing what it can about the placement in employment of people dismissed from their jobs in coal mines. I think the department is doing a very effective job in that regard, and we hope to be able to continue to do it:
I think that there should not be much disputation here about the intentions of the bill itself.’ I can understand the views expressed by the honorable member for Blaxland and echoed, to some degree, by the honorable member for Macquarie; but I think the honorable member for Macquarie has himself given the sensible and practical answer. He says that this is a move which, apparently, is not only supported by the Federal Government, but has received also the support of the New South Wales Government. We may have some doubt about whether the further calls on the time of the Coal Industry Tribunal, Mr. Gallagher, will make him less capable of dealing with the problems of the coal industry; but let us see how we get on, and, if the scheme proposed in the bill does not operate” satisfactorily, it is not beyond our competence to do something to cure that situation. I emphasize to the House that, realizing that there might be difficulties of this kind, we felt that the very stability achieved in the industry, due, in no small part, to the contribution that Mr. Gallagher had personally been able to make, was worth preserving and that, rather than seek some theoretical improvement at the expense of losing Mr. Gallagher’s services, it would be better to take the risk of making other calls on his time. As the New South Wales Government has, in the first instance, concurred in having his services made available and given first priority to the coal industry, we shall be able to continue to use the services of a man who has increased the confidence of all sections of the industry, and has made a notable contribution to stability in the industry. I hope that the House will support the measure in the committee stage. If, later, the House thinks the arrangement provided for in the measure should be reviewed, it will not find the Government backward in entertaining representations addressed to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 12.42 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 26th October (vide page 1921), on motion by Sir Earle Page -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Mr.E. JAMES HARRISON (Blaxland) [2.15]. - Mr. Deputy Speaker, this bill of 43 pages is rather heavy for this stage of the life of the Twenty-first Parliament. It has become historical that our Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) has a habit of making rather long speeches in relation to health measures in the dying stages of a Parliament. I think it can be said that, on this occasion, in his secondreading speech on this long bill, he very carefully avoided discussing all the matters with which the bill deals. He produced what must be regarded as a first line piece of political propaganda. I suppose that, normally, one would not condemn the Minister for that, but he consistently accuses honorable members on this side of the House of attempting to take political advantage of debates on the subject of the health of the community. So, for that reason, if for no other reason, I, for one, was rather surprised that the Minister should make this type of second-reading speech at a time when, as he says, the health of the community is all important. At the beginning of his speech, the Minister had this to say -
Since the act was passed in 1953 it has operated with extraordinary smoothness, but with the advance of medical science and as a result of experience, it is now desirable to make certain amendments. These amendments are in the bill which is now submitted. They will not alter any of the principles of the act but they will smooth out a number of procedural’ and machinery .problems that have arisen from time to time. It is essentially a committee bill.
– The Minister agrees. But whilst it is essentially a committee bill, the typescript of the Minister’s speech covers eleven pages, ten pages of which are propaganda for the Government in respect of the health of the community.
– What is wrong with that?
– Nothing, but those who live in glasshouses should not throw stones. If the Government wishes to make political capital out of health it should not condemn those who want to do the right thing when they speak on the subject of health. The Minister’s second-reading speech is propaganda. The Minister indicated that he proposed to review, briefly, results obtained over the last six years. Normally, to take to pieces the results for the past six years, as one should, a good deal of time would be taken in discussing a measure of 43 pages, if one were to get a detailed account of how this health scheme is operating, not always in the glowing terms mentioned by the Minister, but in the many difficult ways that are not satisfactory to the contributors to hospital funds or to the public generally. On the night before I left my home, I received a telephone call from a young husband whose wife was undergoing pre-natal care. She was sent to a public hospital for blood tests, and the husband had been informed by the hospital fund to which he is contributing that, because his wife was treated as an out-patient in that instance, he was not entitled to assistance from the fund. I throw that in in that case as an example. One gets them day by day. The Minister, in indicating that everything in the garden is lovely, is not giving us a true reflection of how the health scheme is operating. I admit that a great many advantages attach to it. The Minister dealt with public health and the prevention of disease, and mentioned free milk. The distribution of free milk was not originally supported by this Government.
– Yes it was.
– It is a principle that was put into operation by a State Labour government.
– No. It was put into operation by the present honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond).
– In a very minor way. The Labour Government had put it into effect before the present Government copied it and adopted it. We could have a first-class political fight on every section of the propaganda that was put up by the Minister if we wanted to take it piece by piece and indicate our views in respect of the whole problem as we see it now. When the Minister said that this bill was essentially a committee bill, he was avoiding, as far as he could, facing up to what is happening with respect to the real changes that he is making in the measure.
There are one or two very important changes which the Minister should have dealt with, and deal with in a manner that would have made the position clear to every honorable member. We need not place too much emphasis, unless we want to make a first-class political fight out of it, on the Minister’s comment, which reads as follows: -
Even more valuable than the actual money benefit is the knowledge to the aged and ill that medical care is readily and freely available.
– Hear, hear!
– I am glad of the “ Hear, hear “ from a Government supporter with respect to the first main- principle that we must analyse. It will be found that the people in the most necessitous circumstances are the ones who will be most severely hit by the provisions of this measure. I believe that the Minister has been sympathetic towards those who more than any one else need assistance. Because he has shown that trait, I cannot help but think that the statement which has been made pretty consistently, that these measures are being taken at the direction of the British Medical Association, is the truth. The Minister said that the Government had decided to correct what he regards as an anomaly, and that the British Medical Association had agreed to the proposed action. That is a little different from the statement that he made not long ago when he said that the British Medical Association was prepared to carry on with this scheme only if certain alterations were made as from the 31st October. Those alterations were made at the instigation of the British Medical Association to give effect to the decision of that association in relation to the operation of the means test. The Minister said -
All new pensioners after 31st October, .1055, will be subject to satisfying the means test as it was in December, 1953, insofar as the pensioner medical service is concerned. After the 31st October, 1955, a pensioner’s eligibility for admission to the pensioner medical service will be governed solely by the amount of his income from all sources, apart from his pension.
Reading that, one would assume that the means test was to be applied to the medical service. The truth of the matter - and this is not made clear in the Minister’s speech - is that a section of pensioners will not only be excluded from medical benefits by the means test, but also lose their entitlement to pharmaceutical benefits because they will not have their medical cards. Now let us look at its effect. One cannot get away from the figures that are set out in the Minister’s speech. He says that, as from the 31st October, a married pensioner couple with the permissible income of £4 a week - the figure specified in 1953 - making a total income of £12, will not be eligible for admission to the pensioner medical service. Whatever might have been said for that, no honorable member can honestly vindicate what is being done from there on.
Let me take first the married couple, only one of whom is a pensioner. Under the bill, if they have an income of £9 the pensioner medical service will be denied them. I defy any honorable member to tell me that any one has a greater need for medical assistance than a sick pensioner who must be cared for by his wife. Such a couple will be excluded under the bill as soon as their income reaches £9 a week. I would like to know whether honorable members of this House feel that that is a fair go for invalid pensioners in this country. If there is one section of the community that, above all, should have every consideration so far as medical protection is concerned, it is the individual pensioner, especially when he is so ill that his wife must remain at home and care for him; yet he is the very man who, under this measure, is to be denied the pensioner medical service which has been prated about as being so worthy.
Consider, too, the single woman who lives by herself in a flat, in all the misery that attaches to a solitary existence. There are many of them. If such a woman receives a pension of £4 a week, and £2 a week from any other source - a miserable pittance of £6 a week in all - she will be denied as from the 31st October, any protection under this scheme.
– Who is responsible for ‘ that?
– We say that the British Medical Association is responsible for it. The Minister must either accept the responsibility himself or admit quite frankly that it is being done at the direction of the British Medical Association. So, as far as we are concerned, gone is the day when any honorable member of this Government can claim that the Government is taking care of those who most need care in this country.
Let us take widows’ pensions. Is any one here prepared to say that, as from the 31st October, the A class widow, with two children to keep, should be denied medical benefits because she. has an income of £2 a week from some source and her total income exceeds the miserable pittance of £6 5s. a week? Yet that is what is to be done in the future under this scheme. If that is the type of protection that the widows and the children can expect from this Government, thank goodness the 10th December is election day, because those people will have something to say about it when honorable members opposite have to answer to the public of Australia. Let us consider now the widow over 50 - the B class widow. As soon as her income exceeds £5 7s. 6d. a week she is to be denied pensioner medical benefits.
– She has never received them before.
– -At the present time the widow with an income of £5 7s. 6d. is receiving something, but after the 31st ‘October, the Minister will deny the pensioner medical service to such widows. It is no good the Minister mumbling in his beard about it because that is the fact.
– They never had it before this year.
– If that is the rough justice that is being handed out by the Minister and the Government under the national health scheme let them be honest about it, not cover it up and say, as the Minister did in the beginning of his speech, that it is merely a committee stage bill. If this is such a bill, I should like to know what could be more vital or serious to those who are in need. We are not dealing with a section of independent people in the community, but with individuals who are in want and who require protection and assistance. Under the policy enunciated by this Government they are to-day receiving it, hut they will be denied it after the 31st October, as a consequence of this legislation. We will test every supporter of the Government because we propose to vote against this provision of the bill. We will put Government supporters on the spot and they will have to indicate whether they believe that the widow with children should not receive a medical entitlement card if she has an income of £6 5s. a week, and that the individual pensioner, living somewhere in a flat by himself, should, once he receives an income of £6 a week, be denied the medical assistance to which he is entitled.
I have in mind at the moment invalids who are in receipt of medical benefits. What the Minister said was right. They get some comfort from that service, and it has helped them. They feel that in their hour of illness, when extreme pain strikes them, they can, because they are pensioners, turn to their medical adviser or chemist for assistance to tide them over. However, as a consequence of this measure, as from the 31st October, any one in that category who receives more than £6 a week will be denied medical benefits. I do not know how any Government supporter could be proud’ of a bill of this description, because we on this side would be ashamed of it. It is not sufficient for the Minister to ask, “ What has been done in the past?” The bill will take away from people in the future a right that exists at present. It will take away from people in the future the benefit of a principle that is already established.
Consider the position of invalid sisters, one of- whom became an invalid before the introduction of this measure and receives the full income and pension - a total of £7 10s. a week. According to the Minister, because she became an invalid before the 31st October, she is to be treated differently and better than her sister, who was unlucky enough to become an invalid after the 31st October. That is the type of legislation that we get from this Government in this year 1955, in the dying hours of the 21st Parliament. I have indicated that we propose to vote against it in no uncertain manner. I would be surprised if any government supporter who followed his conscience would be prepared to place this burden on the future invalid pensioners of this country. Admittedly, they are not a very strong voting force, and perhaps they do not count in that respect. Even if that were so, it is a miserable approach and one that should not be accepted by any government worthy of authority in this country of Australia.
I want now to turn quickly to something that the Minister said about hospital benefits. A lot has been said in this chamber from time to time ;about where we are going in the matter of hospitalization and its cost. I have not been able to get the latest figures, but I have figures showing costs of hospitalization in New South Wales in 1949 as compared with the costs in 1954. The costs would be even higher to-day. The actual cost of an occupied bed in a New South Wales public hospital in 1948-49 was £1 10s. 7d. a day. It will be recalled that at that time, under Labour legislation, occupants of those beds were receiving 8s. a day from the Government. In June, 1954, the average cost for the same beds, but, I pray, occupied by different persons, had increased to £3 ls. 2d. That represents an increase of 100 per cent, since this Government assumed office, and all that the Government says about it to the people is, “Provided you contribute something to a hospital scheme from your pension, your savings or your earnings, as the case may be, we will give another 4s.”.
The Minister takes some credit for the fact that Government expenditure on hospitalization and the like has increased from £8,000,000 to £13,500,000. The actual cost of public hospitalization in New South “Wales for the year 1953-54 was more than £19,000,000. Here we saw the Minister reading eleven typed pages of propaganda to tell us what the Government is doing for the health of the people, yet it contributes only two-thirds of the amount spent on hospitalization and the like - and that fraction includes only the amounts spent by the States, apart from any other expenditure. Therefore, the great burden of hospitalization and of health falls upon the State governments.
We have heard a lot about the amount that this Government has contributed in hospital .benefits, pharmaceutical benefits, and in treating tuberculosis. The Minister had a good deal to say about that subject in his second-reading speech. When we compare the amount of money that this Government has contributed with that provided by the State governments, we find that the contribution of the present Government is, proportionately, substantially less than was contributed by the Labour Government in 1949.
– It is eight times as much!
-I said that proportionately it is less.
– It is eight times as much !
– The Minister, in his usual fashion, raps the table and says-
– It is the truth, and the honorable member is misleading the House.
– That is the old catch-cry. When the Minister was asked to give us some figures in relation to this matter, he said, in effect, “ I am unable to furnish figures showing the actual maintenance cost of hospitals in
New South Wales, but I am sure that the Minister for Health in that State would be only too pleased to provide them”. The figures that I am giving to the House now have been obtained from the Minister for Health in New South Wales, yet the Minister for Health in this House tells me that I am wrong. Is he prepared to say that the New South Wales Minister for Health, after having been recommended by him as a source of information, would give us false information? The figures that I have cited have been derived from New South Wales statistics. The Minister for Health in this Parliament admitted that he did not have the figures and could not give us the information, but when some one provides the right figures his only answer is, “ They are not right ; they must be crook “. That is the kind of reply that we have heard from this Minister repeatedly in debates in this chamber during the life of this Parliament. I am prepared to take his advice and to accept the information given by the Minister whom he recommended as a source of information. That is the sort of thing that should be considered when we are assessing the true value of a propaganda speech such as we heard from this Minister.
Now let me turn to the bill. According to the Minister for Health, this is only a machinery measure, and its only purpose is to straighten out some of the difficulties that have been discovered in the legislation. Of course, the provision regarding the application of a means test as from the 31st October resulted from a demand made by the British Medical Association. As I have said, we propose to vote against it. The provision appears in an inconspicuous part of the bill, under paragraph (o) of clause 4. We propose to support a motion for its deletion. I remind honorable members on the Government side that if they support the Minister in this matter they will support an imposition on invalid pensioners of the kind that I have described. If they desire to support such an imposition on invalid pensioners they will support this measure, but if, at this eleventh hour, they feel that justice should be done to the section of the community in which the people are least able’ to look after themselves, then they will leave the Minister sitting by himself at the table, and they will do the right thing by the people of this country.
I now turn to clause 12 of the bill. This clause seeks to add a new section, 37a, to the act, to provide that -
A medical practitioner shall not -
make, either orally or in writing, a false or misleading statement. … or do certain other things under threat of a penalty of £100 or imprisonment for six months. I and other honorable members would like to know what has been found wrong with the present section 37.
– There was the case of a man who was found guilty, and whom it was not possible to summons.
– Why did the Minister not tell us that in his second-reading speech ? He said that this was a kind of machinery bill.
– It is only a committee bill.
– Then perhaps we can be told why, when it is decided to impose a penalty, which was described this morning in this House as being inadequate, it is kept to the level of £100 or imprisonment for six months. To a medical practitioner guilty of the offences prescribed in this act, a fine of £100 would mean merely the writing of a cheque to cover a week’s earnings. If the Minister really desires to stop these offences, why does he not provide a penalty more in line with present-day values of money, as the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) this morning tacitly agreed should be done, when the matter was raised by a member of the Australian Country party in another connexion?
– The penalty prescribed in legislation of the Labour Government was £50.
– The Minister must remember that, in those days, £50 was worth a lot more than it is now. If the Minister feels that imprisonment for six months is a penalty that should be prescribed for these offences, why does he limit the amount of the fine to £100 ? This provision takes away from the Supreme Court and from any one capable of dealing with these things the right to impose a fine of more than £100 if such offences are proved.
I now wish to refer to clause 23, which provides for the repeal of section 85 of the act and for the insertion of a new section in its stead. Section 85 of the act is to be repealed, and the power of control is to be given to the Minister on all occasions. We thought the Minister would have told us, in his second-reading speech, why matters arising under this section are to be determined all the time by the Minister, instead of by regulation, which honorable members could study as they came before Parliament, and so gain some knowledge about the position.
– I doubt it.
– The honorable member would doubt the rising of the sun, even if he happened to see it.
– A chemist will be able to explain it.
– Unfortunately, a chemist has not spoken in this debate. When we are presented with a bill of this kind, we should be told by the Minister, in his second-reading speech, what it contains.
Clause 27 relates to the supply of certain pharmaceutical benefits by medical practitioners. This is only a minor matter, but I ask the Minister to consider it. Section 93 (3.) of the act provides that a small country doctor who supplies pharmaceutical benefits under that subsection shall receive a monetary return less than that which the chemists receive for the same service. I know that the Minister holds the view that these doctors do not incur the same expenditure and are not subject to the same loss factors as the chemist, since the chemist must keep larger stocks and a greater variety of brands, but this bill continues what is a distinct anomaly to the small country doctor. These doctors incur a certain amount of expense in always having a small supply - it may even be a large one - of the drugs that would normally be kept by chemists, and they point out that the person who requires these drugs probably is often saved the inconvenience and cost involved in travelling perhaps 15 or 20 miles for them. Therefore, the doctors believe that they should receive better consideration. I do not think that the Minister’s reason for denying to country doctors in outlying areas the same price for pharmaceutical supplies as the chemist receives is a good one.For those reasons, we say that this is one matter to which the Minister should give earnest consideration when he is overhauling the whole field of pensioner medical benefits.
Honorable members on this side of the House are most unhappy about the introduction of the new provision relating to the means test and, for the reasons I have outlined, we propose to vote against it. Having that in mind, I leave any further comment that I wish to make on clauses 23 and 27, and perhaps clause 12, until the committee stage. I hope that the Minister will introduce a satisfactory amendment.
– The amendments that are proposed under this bill are generally of a minor nature, with one exception. That is the amendments proposed to the pensioner medical service. These have been attacked with great heat and some incoherence by the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), but I do not intend to reply in a piecemeal and disjointed fashion to what he has had to say. I want to go on and present to the House a complete picture of what is intended in the amendments and what is the position of the pensioner medical service. I believe the whole of what I say will be a complete answer to his attack. Before I do that, there is one thing I should like to say. If the benefits given under this act to widows and pensioners are regarded by the Labour party as inadequate, then honorable members of that party should be the last to complain because they, in fact, gave to those people nothing at all. The pensioner medical service is, of course, part of the whole medical scheme. This scheme is based on the idea of partnership and co-operation, and the pensioner medical service should be considered against that background.
First of all, what is proposed under these amendments? What is proposed is that the amount of permissible weekly income which a pensioner may have in addition to his pension and still be eligible for medical benefits under the pensioner medical service is now pegged at 1953 rates - in other words, at £2 for a single pensioner or £4 for a married couple where both are pensioners. It is most important that the House should be completely clear about this. I want to read to the House briefly from a document so that no one will have any doubt in his mind as to the intention of this particular amendment -
After the 31st October, 1955, a pensioner’s eligibility for admission to the Pensioner Medical Service will be governed solely by the amount of his income from all sources, apart from his pension.
Under the means test in force at the 31st December, 1953, a pensioner could have a specified amount of income (usually known as “permissible income”) and still receive a full pension. In all such cases, he still will be able to get an entitlement card for pensioner medical treatment.
That is to say, those who are already in that scheme are not disqualified. It is important that we should realize that. The document continues -
Where the pension is granted after the 31st October, 1955, and the pensioner’s income from all sources apart from his pension does not exceed the specified permissible income under the 1953 means tests, he will be admitted to the Pensioner Medical Service. If his income, other than his pension, does exceed the specified, permissible income he will not be eligibile for the Pensioner Medical Service. For this purpose, income from property will be taken into account, but not the capital value of the property itself.
Here, I want to correct something that was said by the honorable member for Blaxland, who stated that he understood that from now on all those pensioners would also be excluded from the pharmaceutical benefits. The fact, of course, is that every one in the community, pensioner or not, is, always has been, and will continue to be eligible for pharmaceutical benefits.
The proposals of this amendment are, in fact, a limitation of the pensioner medical scheme. This scheme rests on an agreement with the British Medical Association. It is very easy for honorable members to get up in the House, as the honorable member for Blaxland did, and attack the British Medical Association and to say that it forced the Government to agree to certain conditions. Of course, this scheme rests on an agreement, just as a great many other things in the structure of national policy rest on agreements; just as the whole of the Dairy Industry Act, for instance, rests on an agreement between the dairy-farmers and the Government. We do not hear any of this ‘nonsense about the dairy-farmers holding a pistol at the Government’s head. No schemes of this nature can function, unless the Government first of all agree? with those who, in fact, operate the schemes. Just as the wheat-farmers have an agreement with the Government on which wheat legislation is based, so, quite properly and sensibly, the British Medical Association has an agreement with the Government on which the pensioner medical service is based. If there is to be an agreement, of course there must be some degree of bargaining. The parties to it must put forward their points of view, quite rightly and properly, and it is nonsense to talk about such a process as forcing the Government into some particular position. After all, the Government hia to rely on doctors, and especially members of the British Medical Association, to carry out the whole of the scheme; so that it is perfectly natural, right and proper that it should be discussed and agreed upon with them.
I think it would be advisable for me to say something to the House about the nature of the British Medical Association, because it is important that we should understand that if we are to understand how this scheme operates. The British Medical Association is an association into which members enter voluntarily, and from which they can resign voluntarily at any time. It is not a tightly controlled organization in which its supreme council - the federal council - or the State councils have, in fact, disciplinary powers over the members. The councils can advise their members on a course of action to pursue. They have no powers of compulsion whatever, and if a member were to be expelled from the British Medical Association, he could continue to practise, and, in all probability; his patients would hardly be aware of the fact that he was no longer a member. So it is not correct to imagine it as a tightly controlled organization.
What has happened in this case, of course, is that the federal council, aft** consultation with its members, has entered into an agreement with the Federal Government, which, in effect, is an agreement to advise its members to follow a certain course of action. Each individual doctor who participates in the pensioner medical service must make, in effect, a separate contract with the Government, because he must agree with the Government that he will observe the conditions of the negotiations between the Government and the federal council of the British Medical Association before he can participate in this scheme at all. He can withdraw from it at any time if he is dissatisfied with it. This is the kind of agreement on which the pensioner medical service is based, and if we understand that it becomes perfectly obvious that it is nonsense to talk about an association of this character forcing the Government into certain agreements.
Now let us have a look at the nature of the agreement itself. It has three salient features. The first, of course, is that it is a concessional agreement - that it is based on a concession by the profession. Of course, it has always been a tradition of the profession that it will provide free or concessional services to what I shall call, for the lack of a better term, the poor, or, if that expression is out of fashion nowadays, the medically indigent. That is done by honorary service at public hospitals and in other ways, and if the agreement was not made, Mr. Deputy Speaker, all those patients now treated by doctors in their surgeries would be, in large measure, thrown upon the outpatients departments of the public hospitals. The second feature on which the agreement is based is that it should be a fee-for-service arrangement; that is to say, that the doctor should be paid a fee for each service, and that it should not be on a capitation system. The reason for this is that it is the firm belief of the profession in this country that a capitation system would inevitably depreciate the standards of medical treatment. Th* third condition is that there should V some limit to the expansion of the scheme, and this was understood by both th« profession and the Government from- the start. Obviously, if the scheme is to b« indefinitely expanded, then there can be no independence and no fair conditions for those taking part in it. So the pensioner medical service, being a service of this nature and being part of the whole scheme, should be, as I have said, considered against this background.
The fundamental object of the whole of the medical scheme is to make medical services, especially domiciliary medical services, available at a price the individual can afford to pay. It is not to provide a nationalized service, and this is not merely the objective of the British Medical Association. It is the objective of the whole scheme and of every one on the Government side of politics in this country, and I believe that it is the basic desire of the great majority of Australians that that should be so and that this should not be the basis of a nationalized medical scheme. When this scheme was brought into operation, the profession co-operated by agreeing to treat the pensioners at concessional rates, but members of the profession have always made it clear that this must be done on such a basis that their professional freedom would not be threatened. In other words, they realized that an indefinite, or, indeed, an extensive, expansion of this scheme would constitute a grave threat to their independence and threaten them with nationalization. They therefore asked for two conditions - first, that it should be on the basis of fee for service, and, secondly, that there should be no unlimited extension. The Government agreed to that, quite rightly and properly. The only way to impose this limit was by a financial means test, and I put it to the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that there is nothing to be ashamed of in imposing, in this or in anything else, a financial means test. It is applied on a wide scale in various walks of life every day of the week, and this attitude that there is something to be ashamed of in having a means test appears to me, and always has done, to be complete nonsense.
If the patient’s income continued to rise after this agreement was made, obviously a point must eventually be reached where he could afford to join a medical benefits society, and as the basis of the whole of this medical scheme rests on the principle of medical insurance, it was obvious that the profession would always have regard to the approach of this point. It is. obvious, too, that the Government, of course, having put this scheme into operation, should also look to see whether that state of affairs was not approaching. It is obvious also that, if it was to be indefinitely extended, we would reach a point where people whose income was derived from sources other than the pension and who, perhaps, even had family responsibilities, could actually receive no more or even less than a married couple on the pension would receive. Is it reasonable to suppose that the country is then put in the position - and I point out to the House that this position has virtually been reached now - where, at the expense of the taxpayer, it has to make medical services available to pensioners who perhaps are receiving £3 5 a week, and not to a man with a wife and family, and attendant responsibilities and expenses, perhaps earning no more? Of course, it is obvious that, if there were no limit to the extension of this scheme, we would arrive at a completely impossible state of affairs.
These are cogent considerations. However, the chief consideration in the minds of the profession was not a financial consideration, but a principle, and the principle was that the profession should not be placed in such a position that it was in danger of nationalization. Obviously, if there was no financial limit placed on those coming into the scheme, whether or not they were pensioners, there was always present the danger that the profession might be nationalized, and, as I have said before^ not only the profession but also the people of Australia have indicated in the clearest possible way that they do not desire to see medicine in this country nationalized. After all, what have we in Australia involved ourselves in with respect to social services and medical expenses? As a country, is it not wise, in the interests of the national economy, to set some limit to this process ? Let me just remind the House what we have paid out of the National Welfare Fund for social services in the last few years, and direct its attention to the rate at which this amount is rising.
In 1952-53, it was £165,000,000; in 1953-54, £176,000,000; in 1954-55, £191,000,000; and in 1955-56 we have reached the enormous figure, on budget estimates, of £218,000,000. Out of that, the amount provided for age and invalid pensions alone in 1952-53 was £72,000,00Q; in 1953-54, £81,000,000; and in 1954-55, £88,000,000. During that time the amount devoted from the National Welfare Fund to medical expenditure in this country has risen from approximately £7,000,000 to something over £30,000,000 a year.
There are now about 650,000 pensioners and their dependants benefiting from the pensioner medical service, and the expenditure on that service last year was, for the provision of drugs, about £2,500,000, and for medical services - from memory -about £4,000,000. That is apart from the pensioner’s share of the general pharmaceutical benefits. So it appears to me that, apart from any considerations as to whether pensioners are to be provided, because they are pensioners, with medical services, and apart also from any other considerations, we have the problem of how much we are prepared to hand out, and, in fact, how much we are capable of handing out for social services and collecting from the taxpayers every year. Unless there is some rational approach to this subject and some reasonable limitation of social services - and I say that this is a reasonable limitation - the process will become completely out of hand and the national economy will be seriously disturbed by it. It is quite unreal for the honorable member for Blaxland to indulge in a great sentimental tirade about pensioners. After all, every one has sympathy with pensioners, as I pointed out when I began to speak, but if we are to contrast what this Government has done for pensioners with what was done by the previous Government, there is no doubt which has exhibited the greatest measure of sympathy.
– Hear, hear!
– But it is quite unreal to imagine that we can charge any figure we like to the national economy and say, merely because of sentimentality or because these persons are pensioners, that at no stage in our history will we ever call a halt to the amount of money that we are prepared to spend on them. That, in effect, is what the Labour party is saying now because it is in opposition, and it is very different from what it said when it was in government.
The Minister, in his second-reading speech, referred to the need for restraint. I desire to make it plain to the House that restraint is exercised by the profession, and on advice given to its members by their federal council. As I have pointed out before, the council has no way of compelling them. If it says to its members, “ We consider that your fees should not rise above a certain level”, and the members say, “We are going to raise them “, the council has no power whatever to prevent their doing so. In this country every doctor is free to charge fees on whatever level he likes. I hope I make plain that it is a great tribute to the medical profession that it has exercised the restraint which has made possible the working of this medical scheme. It is not only the doctors who are called upon for restraint. If this scheme, which is a partnership between the Government, the doctors, and the community, is to work, there are other authorities which must exhibit a similar responsibility to that which they demand of the medical profession. In this context I refer especially to the Government of New South Wales, whose enormous and sudden raising of hospital fees can do nothing but jeopardize the whole structure of the hospital insurance scheme. One is tempted to think that that Government, which raised its hospital fees so suddenly and so steeply, did so, not only because of the increased costs of hospitalization - because this course has not been taken by any other State in Australia - but also in order to make up for the enormous deficits which it has incurred in other avenues of government expenditure.
May I sum up what I have been saying in this way: I believe that what I have said shows, first, that this pensioner medical scheme provides a great service; secondly, that it does so with the help and co-operation of the medical profession; thirdly, that it is, and should lae, :’ properly based upon an agreement with’ the profession; fourthly, that it must be limited in scope in the interests of the whole country and in order to provide a really good and effective medical service; and fifthly, that this limitation is a reasonable limitation, and will be agreed to be so by almost every one.
Therefore, I support this amending bill, and I wish to say, in conclusion, that as a medical man I can appreciate,- as perhaps very few in this chamber can appreciate, the remarkable work that has been done by the Minister for Health in bringing into being and to fruition in the course of a few years, not only this pensioner medical service, but also the whole of the medical scheme. All sorts of difficulties, which can be appreciated only by those who have been engaged in the medical and pharmaceutical professions in this country, have had to be overcome, and the fact that the Minister should have been able to secure the cooperation, not only of both of these professions, but also, I believe it is true to say, the profound admiration of the country for what he has done, far outweighs any criticisms which may be offered. I say quite frankly that it has been to me, as a doctor, a great privilege to be able to co-operate in some way with- the Minister in what he has done, first in introducing, and later in modifying and implementing, a health scheme for Australia which, I believe, surpasses that of practically any country in the world.
.- The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), who has replied, on behalf of the Opposition, to the speech of the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), worked himself into a white heat about certain aspects of this bill. His interpretations of the bill show definitely that he has not read it completely and that he does not appreciate certain aspects of some of the clauses. Otherwise, he would not have made several statements during the course of his speech. I desire to refer to one or two of those statements, but before I do so, let me say that I think that the speech made by the Minister for Health was a very good exposition of the complete working of the national health service in this country.
One point that he made was that each partner in the health scheme, the Government, the doctor, and the chemist, has defined functions, designed to make the scheme pay back to the community more than it actually costs, and if it does not do that it fails. In plain words, I would say that the object of the national health service is not to sap the nation’s independence and self-reliance and make it a nation of leaners, but to make a practical, planned attempt to cut down the incidence of sickness with its consequential sapping of the nation’s strength and virility. I may describe it in a different way by saying that the social health legislation represents to-day’s acceptance of the idea of a nation’s readiness to undertake the task of keeping itself strong and healthy. It operates in three ways; first, through early medical diagnosis; secondly, through skilled medical and hospital attention; and thirdly* through the prompt supply of the very best available drugs and medicines, irrespective of the patient’s economic position. The cost of the scheme, as has been mentioned already in this debate, is enormous. Reference has been made to the sum of £30,000,000. Actually, the scheme is costing the country something like £44,000,000. That expenditure can be justified only if it achieves its objective, which is to cut down the suffering, misery, economic waste and national decadence caused by avoidable sickness. It has been said, very rightly, that only a healthy, nation can afford a national health scheme. That statement may appear to be paradoxical, but it is very true.
This costly obligation is imposing a heavy burden upon the taxpayers of this country. The medical benefits scheme has begun to grow rapidly in this country, just as- similar schemes have begun to grow rapidly in all the other countries that have introduced them. It has gone beyond the provision of services by doctors and chemists for age pensioners - the sick old people - and invalid pensioners at what have been described by the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) as concessional fees. Perhaps one could use another term - that is, cut rates. It has taken in a wider section of the pensioner class. It now covers, not only the indigent poor, but also many superannuated men and their dependants. The British Medical Association, which has been referred to several times during the debate, has objected to the alarming extension of the concessional fee or cut rate system. Its objections can be understood and appreciated. Medical treatment is a service to the community. It is provided by trained practitioners. When a government assumes the responsibility for providing such a service, it is hard to justify a cutting of rates or prices, at the expense of those who do the work. If the nation decides that it will pay for the provision of a medical service to a certain section of the community, why should it ask another section of the community to do the work indefinitely at a cut rate, any more than it should ask, let us say, the stevedores to load Bed Cross parcels for places overseas at cut rates? I believe that the honorable member for Blaxland would be one of the first to object if the stevedores were asked to accept a cut rate if they happened to be loading goods intended for relief work in another country. That is the simple explanation of the Government’s decision in relation to the means test. We take the view that one section of the community should not be made to suffer, by comparison with the rest of the community, just because it happens to be providing a service for indigent sick or aged people.
The British Medical Association is irrevocably, and 1 think justifiably, opposed to the socialization of our health services. From time to time, it has expressed its growing concern at the increasing extent to which its members must rely upon a government cheque in payment for their services. This Government, which believes in private enterprise, is well aware of the virtue of selfhelp in the individual as well as in the nation. To the indigent poor, the aged and. the sick poor, it gives the maximum aid which the community can afford. It has been said, quite rightly, that over the years - in fact, since federation - the Liberal party and the Australian Country party in this Parliament have done more for the people of Australia than have any other parties. That cannot be contradicted. The decision to apply a means test in future in relation to the pensioners’ medical and pharmaceutical benefits scheme is, I believe, a wise and prudent decision which is in the best interests of this country.
The corollary of a restriction of the pensioners’ medical benefits scheme is one that I think the Minister should consider. I refer to the extension of the voluntary health insurance scheme which is a fundamental feature of the present national health scheme. Any move to extend the scheme in order to cover all ancillary charges associated with sickness should be encouraged by the Government. We are all familiar with the householder’s comprehensive insurance policy, which almost every householder takes out to cover himself against loss by fire, theft, accident or other causes. We want a comprehensive voluntary health insurance scheme in this country, to which all salary and wage earners, as well as superannuated persons who will not in future pass the modified means test, should be encouraged to contribute, according to their means, upon a well-considered scale. In that way, they would share in the provision of a thoroughly democratic, efficient and modestly priced comprehensive health insurance scheme. I believe that that is the practical way in which to approach this problem. Such a scheme could be described as a “ packaged hospital, medical and medicine coverage “. Added to the voluntary medical and hospital insurance schemes already in existence, it would be a fine incentive to self-help and a practical demonstration that this country of ours will never develop, under a Liberal health policy, into a nation of mendicants. Everybody in the House will realize that such a thing is possible if they study the history of the early stages of the New Zealand scheme. At one time, that scheme got out of hand and the New Zealand Government had to resort to slogans such as, “ You cannot get health out of a bottle “. I suggest to the Minister that those who have shared with him the experience of launching the Government’s free medicine scheme should be invited by the Government to pool their knowledge, with the idea of developing some voluntary system to cover all aspects of sickness not covered at present by the Government’s subsidized scheme.
The honorable member for Blaxland, with a great deal of indignation and heat, referred to the provisions of clause 23. The Minister, I think quite rightly, has described this bill as a “ committee “ bill. The committee stage is the stage at which we should consider the suggestion made by the honorable member for Blaxland. No vital principle of the present act is to be discarded, although the method of administration by means of what is called ministerial determination is to be extended. Some honorable members who dislike what is described as government by regulation might look askance at the method of ministerial determination, which seems to invest the Minister and his advisers with supreme power to change overnight the destiny of the medical and pharmaceutical professions. I know something about this matter, and I think it should be explained, in all fairness, that to issue determinations instead of promulgating regulations will reduce a series of delays in the routine administration of the scheme. In the past, additions to and removals from the list of free drugs, and consequential price changes, have been made by regulation. I am credibly informed that the delay in promulgating a regulation is about three months, and in that time a great deal of hardship and vexation can be caused to those whose duty it is to supply life-saving drugs. Although we may dislike the trend towards administrative short-cuts by the use of such devices as ministerial determinations, we must admit that the promulgating of regulations, particularly in relation to the provision of life-saving drugs, is a slow and cumbrous process.
– If that theory is correct, we ought to abolish the Parliament.
– If the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) knew anything about the working of the national health scheme, he would realize just how foolish was his remark. After all, we are dealing with something that must be supplied quickly and with the least possible irritation. The delay caused by the necessity to promulgate regulations has been a major source of irritation, particularly to the ‘ doctors and the chemists. That method has added greatly to the complexity of their routine clerical work, which covers hundreds of drugs and preparations. I believe that, as soon as the Government, the doctors and the chemists have reached agreement on these many routine administrative problems, involving such matters as prices and the dates of availability of benefits, the determination may be made overnight. I should also like to suggest to the Minister that, at a very early stage, he should publish a brochure outlining the details of the national health scheme so that the people may have a guide to their entitlements.
My mind goes back about six years to the time when the Liberal party and the Australian Country party promised the people that, if they were elected to office, they would legislate for the provision of free life-saving drugs. The Government has gone very much further than that, as we all very well know, because the present scheme includes a considerable number of benefits that were not envisaged originally. The Government has provided a complete national health service which not only has received the approbation of the people of Australia but also has been admired by people in other countries who are in a position to make comparisons. I believe the people of Australia appreciate the manner in which the Government, particularly the Minister for Health, who has worked extremely hard to bring the scheme to fruition, has approached the problem. Because of the tremendous number of complexities involved, the task of formulating a scheme has been exceedingly difficult. The doctors, chemists and the hospitals have been asked to do things to which they have not been accustomed and which, ten years ago, they would not have thought likely. The Minister has had a series of conferences with representatives of the parties concerned, and has been able to produce a -national health scheme of which this country can well be proud.
.- I do not wish to prolong the debate, but I desire to refer to one or two aspects of the bill. I note that the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) stated, in his second-reading speech, that this was a committee bill. Possibly, to some extent, that is right. However, there are several features of it which, according to the press, were concealed, not only from Government supporters in the party room, but also from the Parliament until the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Eraser) submitted to the House for discussion, as a matter of urgent public importance, the proposed alteration of the pensioners’ medical scheme. Following very sound criticism by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, the Minister gave a garbled explanation of why the Government had repudiated, amongst other things, its pledge that pensioners would receive free medical service.
The Minister, in his second-reading speech, also referred to the great work done by the Government in relation to tuberculosis, and to the benefits that have been given to sufferers from that dread disease. He referred to the provision of free milk and other aspects of the free medicine scheme, and took full credit, on behalf of the Liberal party-Australian Country party coalition, for the benefits that are enjoyed. It is time that the Parliament and the people generally were told that the tuberculosis scheme was instituted by the Chifley Labour Government, and that what this Government is providing to-day is only a continuation of a scheme which was the brain-child of a previous Labour administration. When the non-Labour parties occupied the treasury bench, they did very little to bring relief to tuberculosis sufferers. The Minister might well have given credit to the government that introduced benefits for tuberculosis sufferers instead of taking it to himself.
As I have already stated, the right honorable gentleman referred to the provision of free milk for school children. For generations, Labour governments in New South Wales have provided free milk for school children, but it was not until approximately a year ago that the suply of free milk was placed on a Commonwealth basis. It took the Minister about twenty years to realize that such a scheme had been adopted by progressive Labour governments, yet, in his secondreading speech, which I shall not discuss in detail, he took credit for the introduction of it. Again I say that the Minister might well have given credit to
State governments which had adopted free milk schemes. The right honorable gentleman referred to the free medicine scheme, and the sum that is being expended on it. But when he was in opposition during the regime of the Chifley Labour Government, he condemned out of hand, and voted against that Government’s free medicine scheme. To-day, he takes credit for a scheme against which he voted and which he assisted to sabotage. I do not know what drugs cost now, but it is a well-known fact that a couple of years ago, under the inflationary conditions for which this Government was responsible, the average cost was approximately £1 for each prescription. The position has been eased a little, but until .comparatively recently one had almost to have one foot in the grave before he could obtain some benefit. At one stage we had the amazing spectacle of a person who required a life-saving drug being told, when he applied for it under the scheme, that he would have to stay alive until the drug was obtained from America. This happened under the scheme for which the Minister was, at that time, taking great credit unto himself. Great thought had to be brought to bear to enable this nation to have such schemes as this, but it is not the present Minister for Health who is entitled to the credit. The original scheme was initiated by the Chifley Labour Government in the face of energetic criticism from the right honorable gentleman. Had it not been for the action of the Chifley Government in launching the original scheme thousands of Australians to-day would not be receiving such benefits as are provided by this legislation.
The Minister stands condemned for his responsibility for the fact that Queensland, which has in office a Labour Government with an independent mind, is the only State in the Commonwealth with free public hospitalization. The Minister abolished the Chifley Government’s free hospitalization scheme, which was introduced following an inquiry by an allparty social services committee, of which I was pleased to be a member, which advocated the abolition of the means test in public hospitals, and for years, under the Chifley Government, the Australian people enjoyed the benefit of free treatment in public wards. They were not subject to the fear of being unable to pay hospital accounts. The hospitals benefited by that scheme, and the Labour Government progressively increased the benefits available by increasing payments to the States in respect of the free hospitalization scheme. Rut the British Medical Association has given its instructions to its representative in this Parliament, the present Minister for Health, about what it wants done, and the Minister has, on this occasion, as on every occasion when the British Medical Association tells him what it wants, capitulated to its demands. He abolished the scheme for completely free hospitalization in public wards. He surrendered to the British Medical Association with the result that, as I have said, free hospitalization has ended in all States except Queensland, whose State government, by wise legislation, and because it had been able during its long term of office to put aside sufficient resources, was able to withstand the dictates of the Minister and the British Medical Association. Yet the Minister has the temerity and audacity to boast to the Australian people of what the Government is doing about hospitalization. I wonder what the people who are called upon to pay hospital fees think of this Minister when they compare their present lot with their position during the Chifley Administration, when hospitalization in public wards was completely free. What do they think of the present scheme compared with the Chifley Government’s national health scheme, which was sabotaged by the medical profession? I do not wish to go into that matter now, but I say that anybody who is in need of medical attention, be he wealthy or poor, should be able to receive the best treatment that medical science can give him, whether it be by way of hospitalization, surgery or anything else within the ambit of medical treatment. The Minister cannot deny that the people have never been further from that state of affairs than they are now, as a result of the various legislative measures that he has introduced in this Government’s term of office.
The Minister is not interjecting much to-day. Recently, in this chamber, he got very excited when similar criticism was levelled at him, but the members of the Government have told him to keep quiet to-day on these issues, because they are facing a general election. We know that the press played down the news that the Minister prepared this measure without informing the meeting of the joint Government parties that it provided for the imposition of a means test in relation to free medical treatment of pensioners. The story goes that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) closed that meeting somewhat promptly in order to let the Minister get the instructions that the British Medical Association had given him, so that he could read them to the meeting and let it know the full contents of the measure. The Australian people should be told about these things now, because when honorable members opposite go to the hustings they will take credit for the Government’s national health scheme. The truth is that if a Labour government were operating the scheme that it tried to operate in the face of resistance from the medical profession, the people would have the benefit of an extensive scheme on a national basis which would be worth maintaining. Is not the present Government the Government that gained office on a pledge of the people, among other things, that it would abolish the means test in relation to social services? Is not this the Government which said it would completely implement, within two years, a national superannuation scheme with no means test? This is the Government that said “ Our policy is the abolition of the means test”. As the honorable member for Eden-Monaro said here a few weeks ago, it gave an undertaking to the people that they would be able to receive free medicine and free medical treatment under the Government’s national health scheme. But now, because the British Medical Association has laid down the surrender terms, the Minister is re-imposing a means test on pensioners which will result in denying them urgently needed medical treatment. He is doing this despite the pledges given during election campaigns. It is shocking that a responsible Minister of the Crown should take his instructions from the British Medical Association, and should refuse to legislate in the interests of the people because a pressure group tells him what to do. He has to do what the British Medical Association tells him to do. He is himself a doctor, and must yield to the dictates of the association. The result is that the schemes that he introduces are not what is required by the people, but what the British Medical Association will let the Minister do. He, of course, turns turtle every time the association looks around, in order to be sure that he will not be offside with it and will be able to say that he has at least tried to do something for the doctors.
I mention those matters because we know that the Minister for Health is one of the most wily members of this House. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) knows how wily he is. Members of the Australian Country party know how constantly he puts it over them in relation to various measures. The Liberal party did not wake up, until the bill was almost approved for submission to the Parliament, to what it contained, because he had not told them about the very dramatic change in the position of pensioners that was to be effected by the measure. The Minister must explain why the Government is repudiating the pledge given to the pensioners by re-imposing a means test in- relation to free medical treatment for pensioners. In the general election campaign in 1949, and in subsequent campaigns, the pledge was given that about 90,000 pensioners would have the right to free medical treatment when the scheme came into operation. That pledge has been dishonoured, simply because the Minister is taking care to fulfil his obligations to the British Medical Association. I do 11Ot blame the association for looking after the interests of its members. It is the most powerful trade union in the country, and it is lucky to have as Minister for Health a man who will do anything it wants, irrespective of the effect on any section of the community - and this measure will have particular effect on the deserving pensioners.
Honorable members will notice how quiet the usually voluble Minister is on this question. He thought he would get away with it without any questions being raised. Recently, a newspaper writer wrote an article which said that the Minister, in explaining his health scheme, says “ You see ! You see !, but you don’t see “. There is no doubt about the truth of that statement, because the people have only a very garbled idea of what is happening, after having heard and read the Minister’s explanations.
The most important change which will result from this measure, as pointed out by the honorable member for EdenMonaro, is the change in the position of many thousands of people who are entirely dependent on pensions. The Minister said in a statement that he issued to the press-
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member entitled to quote from Hansard reports of speeches made in this session.
– Yes, provided the quotations are relevant to the discussion.
– Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for your very generous ruling. The Minister made a statement to the press in regard to this change, by which the pensioners will lose the benefit of free medical treatment. He said -
Secondly, the British Medical Association informed the government it would continue the pensioner medical service after the 31st October, 1955, only if the service was restricted to pensioners able to satisfy the means test in force on the 31st December, 1953.
The doctors said they would continue to co-operate in the scheme only on those terms. What would have been the reaction of the Minister, when he was in opposition, if a trade union endeavoured to tell the Minister for Labour and National Service in a Labour government something to that effect in regard to industrial policy ? We would have heard him roaring about it. But to-day he takes his instructions from outside, and the Government blindly follows him hoping that it will be able to make the people forget this measure by the time the general election is held, and the fact that the Government has broken its pledge regarding free medical treatment of pensioners.
I could go on for some considerable time. I am not hopeful that the Government will rectify this error, because the Minister has been given his instructions, and it is mandatory on him to carry them out. The Government evidently intends to use its numbers, if necessary, to force the measure through the House. Therefore, I could not let the occasion go without registering my protest, on behalf of the many thousands of people who will suffer under this legislation, against the sorry spectacle of the Government turning back the pages to 1953 in order to save a few shillings and satisfy a powerful organization which stands over the Minister. The Government should not escape its responsibility on this occasion, because it gave a pledge to the electors to remove the means test in respect of this and other social services, and the people are entitled to have that pledge carried out. Let me say, in justice to them, that the Labour governments that have gone before this Government have introduced the great social services schemes of this country and have given to the Australian people all the social services benefits worth mentioning. The Minister has spoken of the tuberculosis scheme, the free milk scheme and various other schemes.
– Order ! Is the honorable member ever going to touch on the bill?
– I refer you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to the second-reading speech of the Minister, in which he said -
There are other public health measures also. The Commonwealth provides the money for the free milk scheme administered by the education departments of the States. It also pays 80 per cent, of the maintenance expenditure on tuberculosis and the whole of the cost of the campaign to eradicate the disease.
– Order ! My ruling still stands.
– I do not want, at the termination of the session, to have to quibble over the matter, but it is amazing that the Minister should be able to speak at length on these matters whilst I am denied the right to criticize him. If it were not that it might be thought that I was being discourteous, I would think it an indication that we should not criticize Australian Country party Ministers too much. I make the criticism that I have made in justice to the people who are suffering under this measure. I hope that the Minister will give credit to
Labour governments for introducing legislation of this kind. I hope that when the Minister replies he will not, if I may use the expression, “do his block”, but will give us a clear and coherent account of what is taking place in regard to hospitalization and free medicine and social services, particularly with regard to health services, without endeavouring to run away from his obligations. I hope that he will apologize for taking away from the pensioners something to which they are entitled - free medical services. I hope that he will give to this country and the Parliament some explanation as to why he stands to-day, in this House, as the agent of the British Medical Association, prepared to throw aside the Government’s pledges in the interests of the coterie that controls that organization.
.- I desire, on behalf of the corner party, to criticize this measure. But before doing so, let me say that we do not share what seems to me to be the very strange attitude of mind that has been adopted on the other side of the Opposition towards the medical profession. The attitude of the medical profession to this measure is simply the attitude of people who earn their living by following their profession, who are subject to the economic circumstances of that profession and who look after their own interests as best they can.
– They do not do too badly.
– That is true. But it is a good principle. The Australian Workers Union, to which the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) belongs, is a good organization because it looks after its members. Therefore he should not criticize the British Medical Association because it looks after its members. There are many respects in which my party feels that the British Medical Association, in carrying out its desire to protect its members, goes to lengths to which we think that it should not go. Unfortunately, members on the other side of the Opposition, in their criticisms, go far beyond the British Medical Association. They seem to regard the members of the medical profession as people who should be attacked on every occasion as persons without any professional honour or any desire to look after the poor and needy in the community. It is that attitude of mind that I wish to rebut because the vast majority of the Australian people call in their doctors in a time of trouble in the family, and they know very well that these men do a great job for them and they are very friendly towards them. The family doctor is one to whom they turn for consolation in times of trouble and distress.
– It is nice to hear the honorable member supporting a doctor, anyway.
– My only regret is that we did not have a couple of doctors the other night. My criticism of this bill does not include what is, to my mind, malignant criticism of the medical profession as such, which seems to come into these discussions on social service schemes from a section of the Opposition. Most of the trouble that occurs is caused by the fact that we have had a crazy patch-work quilt of social services for many years which should have been put in a definite shape one way or the other. Our friends on the other side of the Opposition support a nationalized medical scheme. Personally I think that I am speaking on behalf of the members of the party-
– Which party?
– The Australian Labour party.
– The splinter party!
– I speak for the splinter group. The honorable member can speak for the splintered group.
– It seems to affect everybody’s seat, anyway.
– I do not believe that a medical service, in which all doctors were public servants, would be a good thing for this community. I do not believe in a nationalized medical scheme, and in their hearts, most honorable members of the Opposition do not believe that-
– Speak for yourself.
– Our friends on the other side of the Opposition say that they believe in the nationalization of medicine. If that is the case, they are entitled to their view. But my party does not believe that it would -be a good thing in this community if all the doctors were nationalized and the only person to whom one could look in time of illness would be a public servant who would come to you under regulation A, section C, and sub-section D.
– The honorable member did not always believe that.
– Of course, we have always believed it, and the Labour party has always believed it.
– Why did the honorable member not say so earlier?
– Order! The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) will remain silent.
– The State governments, one of which I presume the honorable member for Herbert supports, could have nationalized medicine in their respective spheres for years past. Did the Queensland Government nationalize medicine? Of course not ! Has the New South Wales Government nationalized medicine. No! Of course it has not ! Labour governments have had power to nationalize medicine ever since the States have been in existence, but they have not attempted to do it, and. the honorable gentleman and his colleagues know why. They talk, theoretically, about nationalizing medicine, but, in actual fact, they know that it would be a bad thing for the community and for the medical profession. The only difference between the honorable gentleman and myself is that I say what I believe when I say that I do not believe in the nationalization of medicine.
– Why did the honorable member not always say so?
– Order! If the honorable member for Herbert continues to defy the Chair, he will leave the chamber.
– Having said that, let me say that I do not believe that the present patch-work arrangement that the Minister has brought into being is a satisfactory solution to the problems of illness and, particularly, it is not a solution to the problem of obtaining doctors for pensioners or any other person in the community who is ill. It is an undoubted fact that the average wageearner, and the pensioners in particular on their lower incomes, cannot provide for the heavy costs of illness at the present time. With a few visits from the doctor and some of the drugs that are required to be prescribed, many of which are not on the free list, pensioners can find themselves heavily in debt. Of course, a family can get itself very heavily in debt as soon as it encounters a serious illness. That is the problem that we must face and iron out as soon as we can. The Government must enable families to provide for the inevitable medical costs that come upon them, and enable pensioners and other people who cannot meet medical costs to be similarly provided for. At the same time it must safeguard people’s right to choose their own doctor, and the right of the doctors to continue to engage in private practice. This measure should not have been introduced now. There should have been a proper review of all the health services so that we should know exactly where we stood and be able to devise a scheme that would either enable every one in the community to make provision for himself, or would provide for him. This legislation is somewhat hasty. The Minister states that those old people who are already participating in the scheme will not be affected, but that those who will become eligible for pensions in the future will be affected. Many people will suffer great hardship as a result of this legislation. Consider the position of a single pensioner who is able to receive only £6 a week. He need only become ill and make a few visits to the doctor to find himself in a very difficult position. The means test that the Minister now proposes to place on the medical benefits scheme for pensioners is a retrograde step.
While recognizing that nationalized medicine is not the solution of our problems, we must recognize that the State has a duty and right to make medical services available, in some way or another, to those who cannot afford to pay for them. The means test will deny these people adequate medical services at the very time when they need them most. As the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) knows, during old age one is parti cularly susceptible to lingering illnesses that require fairly constant attention and involve, for psychological or other reasons, the ordering of considerable quantities of medicine. I regret that the Minister should have taken such precipitate action to impose the means test on the pensioner medical services. It would have been far better if he had postponed his decision until he had attempted to bring the health services into line, and provided an ordered medical service in place of the present patchwork arrangement. We would then know where we stood.
I suggest that the best health service that the Minister can provide is one that will, first, preserve both the right of the doctor to engage in private practice and the right of the patient to choose his own physician. Secondly, provision should be made for the family, the pensioner and every one else who cannot afford to meet the present terrific cost of illness. The scheme should ensure either that they are given medical services at a very much cheaper rate or that they receive some form of subsidy. Those two aspects of the scheme are essential. I see a smile on the Minister’s face and realize that he is about to get up and tell honorable members that that is just what the bill does. I must tell him that it does not. This is a retrograde step, so far as the medical scheme is concerned, and therefore we must vote against it.
– in reply - I am afraid that the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) does not remember the history of national insurance in this Parliament. In 1923, when Mr. Bruce and I were in government, we appointed a national health commission which travelled throughout Australia for nearly six years and recommended a system, legislation for which I, as Treasurer, introduced in this Parliament. The best that the commission could recommend was a system under which there was a definite income limit, so far as the worker was concerned. We found that that would not work very well because people who were self-employed and so on were outside the scheme, and would have to pay double the rate paid by any one else.
Also, people on higher incomes could not be insured. Consequently, the measure was not accepted by Parliament.
The matter was dealt with in this very wide way under the insurance power. It is the only power - together with section 96 - that is worth while in dealing with the subject of health. The Constitution amendment in 1946 was, as I pointed out at the time, a snare and a delusion. It meant nothing. It merely touched on the fringe of the subject. I said to the present Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), at the time that if he wanted the Commonwealth to do anything about health we would have to have a placitum in section 51 dealing with that matter alone. That would have given us the same power as the States, and we could have dealt with the matter in the broad way suggested. In 1938 another national insurance measure was brought down to deal with this matter and was passed by Parliament but never proclaimed. Although a Labour government subsequently was in office for eight years it was never ready to handle national health insurance. The result has been that we have had to deal with the matter according to such power as we have had. We are, to-day, by this measure, trying to avoid having a patchwork system and making certain that everything is in its proper place. That is one reason why the bill has been brought down.
I do not wish to speak at length upon it at this stage, though the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) seems to have made his pre-election speech. 7 shall not deal with the various aspects of the bill, beyond saying that, so far as pensioners are concerned, we have in the chamber at present some very distinguished leaders of friendly societies. They know that it proved absolutely impossible to operate a system of medical service benefits based on an income limit that could not be clearly denned. In fact, that is the reason why the friendly society system has adopted the “fee for service” principle and abandoned an income limit. If we insist that pensions must continue to be increased according to the needs of the people, and that at the same time the means test must be eased, we shall find ourselves in a position similar to that which has arisen as a result of the last increase of fi a week in the combined pension of a married couple. Such a couple may have a total income of £15 a week, or £7 a week above the pension. If we capitalize that at 5 - per cent., it means something like £7,000 or £8,000 for each patient who would be provided with free medicine. Hundreds of thousands of young parents have an income that is no larger than £15 a week, and they must make provision for the education and livelihood of their children. They - and I - have felt the practical difficulty of that. Such an anomaly can only cause tremendous difficulty and hardship. Also, it seems to me that if we are to load the pensioner medical service with an unlimited list, it will make it practically impossible to remove the means test. It would be sufficiently difficult to deal with a means test by itself, but a means test plus a medical service which is free to everybody would amount practically to nationalization of medicine - a complete government service - and be accompanied by tremendous expense.
The Government desires to keep the field clear so that these problems can be dealt with individually. That is the only way in which it can be done. A surgeon does not take out six organs’ in one operation. He takes them out one at a time. We cannot deal with a huge problem such as that of the means test if it is inextricably mixed up with the question of the pensioner medical service. I will deal with that when we come to it at the committee stage.
When this Government came into office hospitals were all practically bankrupt. In Melbourne, the banks had refused to make any further advances, and big wards were being closed up. The Royal Prince Alfred Hospital was threatening to do the 3ame. Although this system has been so much discounted by honorable members of the Opposition, I believe that all of them are insured so that they may take advantages of the benefits available under the scheme. Since it has been in operation I have gone into the electorates of practically every Labour member in Sydney. I have been invited there because for the first time in the history of the hospitals, extending over 70 or 80 years, those hos»pitals were able to show a surplus, and the authorities in charge of them were eager that I should visit the hospitals on the occasion when they showed a surplus for the first time. It is idle to say that the scheme is no good, when there are millions of people who are insured and who have been paid benefits under it.
– We did not say that the whole scheme was no good.
– The way the honorable member has been talking would lead one to believe that the Labour party would repeal the legislation if it were returned to power, although, of course, I do not think it has a chance of being returned. Are Opposition members in favour of the scheme or not?
– They will divide the House on the matter.
– That is the position ; are they in favour of it or are they not? The fact is that the bankruptcy which the hospitals faced has now been averted. We see the hypocrisy shown by Labour members from New South Wales, who say it is a terrible thing to charge hospital fees when, during the last month or six weeks, the Premier of New South Wales has increased every charge in the hospitals under his control by 50 per cent., and at the same time has reduced the subsidy paid to the hospitals. When the hospitals were starting to show a decent credit balance, the New South Wales Government decided to reduce the subsidy, and it said, in effect, “ We have deficits in our railways and other undertakings, so we will sock the sick “. Then Opposition members from New South Wales come here and weep crocodile tears about the sick. There is no one in this House, except, perhaps, the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron), who has spent many years, as I have, in looking after the sick, who thinks more of helping the sick in a practical way than I do. We reject all these accusations with contempt.
Question put -
That the hill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
Section four of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting from sub-section (1.) the definition of “ pensioner “ and inserting in its stead the following definition : - but does not include a person to whom, or inrespect of whom, a pension is granted to be paid from a date after the thirty-first day of October, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-five, and who, by reason of his income, would not have been eligible under the Social Services Consolidation Act 1947-1953, or the Repatriation Act 1920-1953, as in force on the thirty -fir st day of December, One thousand nine hundred and fiftythree, to receive the maximum rate of pension that would have been payable to him if the relevant Act had remained in force as on that date without amendment; “; and
, - Clause 4 is the one that has attracted the opposition of honorable members on this side of the chamber, because of the introduction of the means test. I indicated in my second-reading speech the reasons why we were opposed to it, but there is one matter that I still want explained.
I noticed that the honorable member for Oxley (Dr. Donald Cameron) and the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) challenged my statement that the free medicine would be denied to pensioners - to invalid pensioners in particular - if they came within the means test provision of this bill. They did not explain the reasons for the exclusion of those persons. I admit that they are in the same position as ordinary citizens with respect to the life-saving drugs, but what I have in mind is that where the means test deprives an invalid pensioner of free medicine because he has an in’come of ?2 ls. a week in addition to the ?4 pension, no medical benefit card will be issued to him. He will not come within the scope of the scheme at all. The point I make is that he will lose, not only the benefit of free attendance by medical practitioners, but also the right to any medicine he requires other than the life-saving drugs. I think I am still correct on that point. Neither the honorable member for Oxley nor the honorable member for Isaacs pin-pointed his answer in connexion with that matter. I ask the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) whether I have described the position.
– That is the position. They must have an entitlement card.
– I am glad the Minister confirms what I said in my second-reading speech. The honorable member for Oxley-
– He was referring to the life-saving drugs, I am sure.
– I was not referring to the life-saving drugs. Everybody knows what “life-saving drugs “ means. I repeat that by insisting upon this provision, the Government will not only deprive the invalid pensioner, who has an income of ?2 ls. a week in addition to his pension, of the benefit of the attendance of medical practitioners but also take away from him his free medicine rights which go with the medical entitlement card. That position will obtain as from the 31st October, 1955. For the reasons I mentioned in my second-reading speech, supplemented by what I have just said, we on this side strongly oppose that principle. I therefore move -
That, in paragraph (b), all words from “ but does “ to “ without amendment “, inclusive be left out.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Mr. ?. James Harbison’s amendment) stand part of the clause.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 22 - by leave - considered together.
.- The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), at the second-reading stage, asked for some information about clause 12. Its . purpose is merely to insert in the principal act a new section 37a to provide for a penalty for a false statement by a medical practitioner in connexion with a claim for payment for medical services rendered under the scheme. Up to the present time, it has been necessary to deal with such offences under the Crimes Act on a charge of conspiracy. The case out of which this new provision has arisen was that of a doctor who was abusing his position by faking claims in the names of various people. Unfortunately for him, throughout the period of imprisonment of the patient, he submitted claims in respect of a man who was imprisoned in Long Bay gaol in Sydney for one month. When he was charged before a magistrate, the magistrate found that, as the man in respect of whom the claims were submitted was in gaol, the doctor could not have been conspiring with him. Although the magistrate read. the medical practitioner a lecture, he had to let him go.
– How often do doctors do that sort of thing?
– Very seldom, but we want to make certain that they shall not avoid punishment if they do.
Clauses agreed to.
Clause 23 (Pharmaceutical benefits).
SirEARLE PAGE (Cowper- Minister for Health) [4.27]. - The act at present provides that pharmaceutical benefits are the drugs and medicinal preparations “the names or formulae and other particulars of which are prescribed “ - that is, prescribed by regulation. In practice, it is necessary to make frequent alterations to particulars regarding the strength, form of unit and maximum quantity of the drugs prescribed as pharmaceutical benefits. In each instance, it is necessary to amend the regulations and these frequent amendments are the cause of some complaint by chemists and doctors, because they cannot keep track of the amendments and are prevented from obtaining fresh supplies of drugs for several months while the regulations are being drafted and approved. New section 85 provides that pharmaceutical benefits shall comprise the drugs and medicinal preparations the names or formulae of which are prescribed and the other particulars of which are determined by the Minister and notified by him in the Gazette. The Director-General of Health will continue to issue to chemists and doctors printed booklets specifying the names and particulars of all benefits. The procedure provided for in new section 85 will enable more regular and systematic advice of amendments to be* supplied to doctors and chemists. The new procedure will make it much easier for them to obtain supplies of drugs, and much delay will be avoided.
– The present procedure will be shortened?
– That is so.
– The Opposition opposes this clause, which will omit the . existing section 85 and substitute a new section under which the Minister will be given the power that was previously in the hands of the Parliament because, under the existing section, amendments of the regulations had to considered by the Parliament before they were notified in the Gazette. For that reason, as I stated at the secondreading stage, the Opposition proposes to vote against the clause.
.- The honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) believes that the existing section 85 of the principal act meets the wishes of the various people who provide pharmaceutical benefits at the direction of the Government. From time to time, changes take place in the sciences, and new drugs are coming into use almost every week. These new drugs can be included in the approved list supplied to chemists only by an amendment of the regulations. The procedure of amending the regulations is so long and ponderous that often months elapse before the notification of the inclusion of new drugs filters through to the people who are directly concerned, namely, the chemists and the doctors. The proposed new section is designed to circumvent the present long and ponderous procedure by authorizing the Minister for Health to make a decision that will have immediate effect. This matter has been of great concern to chemists and doctors, and particularly to chemists, many of whom have incurred so much expense as a result of changes in the list of approved drugs that they have been out of pocket. As they provide the service for the Government at cut rates, it is completely wrong that they should be further penalized by the out-of-date system that has existed for so long. I thoroughly support the proposal, and so do the doctors, and particularly the chemists.
That the clause be agreed to.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . . . 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Remainder of bill - by leave - taken as a whole.
.- I wish to refer to clause 28 of the bill, which seeks to make a very minor amendment to section 94 of the principal act. This section lays down the conditions under which the Minister will approve hospital authorities under the provisions relating to pharmaceutical benefits. Upon application by a hospital authority, the Director-General of Health may, in his discretion but subject to sub-section (5.) of section 94 approve a hospital authority for the purpose of its supplying general pharmaceutical benefits. Sub-section (5.) provides -
A hospital authority shall not be approved under this section in respect of a hospital unless the dispensing of drugs and medicinal preparations at that hospital is performed by or under the direct supervision of a medical practitioner or pharmaceutical chemist.
In approving a hospital authority under the act it is mandatory that sub-section (5.) shall apply. The Director-General must satisfy himself that the dispensing of drugs at an approved hospital is, or will be, carried out under the supervision of a medical practitioner, or a fully qualified pharmaceutical chemist. I direct the Minister’s attention to the fact that this provision is not being observed. I am rather concerned about it, and I ask him whether he will consult with departmental officers with a view to ensuring that this provision of his own law is being adhered to. This is most necessary for a number of reasons, the main one being the preservation of the safety of patients. The present position, which has prevailed for quite a long time, is that medicines and drugs are supplied to country hospitals from a bulk store, which is maintained in the city by State governments. Mixtures and prescriptions are prepared there, undoubtedly under qualified pharmaceutical supervision, but upon receipt by country hospitals they are dispensed to patients from the local bulk supply in accordance with doctors’ orders or prescriptions. This practice might have been quite all right in days gone by, when it was customary to give patients medicines which, if they were not beneficial, were at least of an innocuous nature. I refer to cough mixtures and preparations like that. To-day, however, the development of medicine has progressed at a terrifically fast rate, and we have antibiotics which, I should say, have a sudden effect one way or the other. They either cure or kill, and one cannot afford to take the risk of a wrong pill or tablet being administered to a patient. This risk is rendered greater because so many pills, capsules, and powders, are almost identical in colour and make-up. It is quite easy for a nurse in a hospital to take from a bulk supply on a shelf a bottle containing the wrong drug, and administer the contents to a patient, possibly with dire consequences. Some years ago, in the ‘thirties, there was quite a furore in New South “Wales because accidents like that had happened, and some attempt was then made to stop the dispensing of medicines at hospitals except under skilled supervision. That happened when we had relatively harmless types of medicines. To-day, the risk is much greater. I have no objection to hospitals being supplied with drugs from government bulk stores, but for the safety of patients those drugs must be dispensed in a way which will ensure that the patients do not face the risk of being administered a wrong capsule or pill. I ask the Minister to examine that matter and ensure that the law is being observed. I know that the States are the worst offenders in this regard.
– I give the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) that assurance. I shall discuss the matter with my officers and with the .State governments. I should like to explain to the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) that clause 27 proposes an amendment of section 93 of the principal act, which relates to the drugs in a doctor’s bag, for use when visiting critically ill patients in their homes.
.- I think the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) has made a very good point, and I am glad that the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) has given the assurance that he has given. Hospitals are too prone, in some cases, to permit trainee nurses or probationary nurses to handle drugs in their dispensaries, not under the supervision of a medical practitioner or a pharmaceutical chemist. This is a matter in respect of which the Commonwealth can help considerably. As the honorable member for Moore has said, it is usually the State governments that offend. If the Commonwealth were to withdraw, even temporarily, the authority given to certain hospitals to dispense drugs and medical preparations under the provisions of this legislation, those hospitals would lose a good deal of revenue. As a result, those hospitals, and other hospitals, would be careful in future to observe the conditions specified in the act. I will not say there have been many cases, but, from time to time, there have been cases of deaths occurring through the carelessness of a probationary nurse or a trainee nurse who has not fully appreciated the potency of a particular drug. When people handle drugs frequently, they tend to become slightly careless and to forget how dangerous the drugs can be if they are administered to a patient too frequently or not in accordance with directions. It is a good thing that we have an assurance from the Minister that he will see to it that the provisions of the legislation will be observed to the letter by all hospitals.
Remainder of bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Sir Earle Page) - by leave - proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
– I understand that this measure, in a sense, rounds off the programme on which the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), as Minister for Health, has been engaged for a period of six years. Whatever views may be held by honorable members about certain aspects of the national health scheme, I am sure that most Australians realize that a really remarkable job has been done on their behalf by my distinguished colleague. I should like to place on record our admiration of what he has accomplished for the people of Australia in connexion with health services.
– I am pleased that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has raised this matter. I think that the work of the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page), despite our criticism of some aspects of it, must be admired by everybody who has watched the growth of the national health services under his control and administration. On behalf of honorable members on this side of the House, I join with the Minister for Labour and National Service in paying tribute, not only to the right honorable gentleman’s accomplishments, but also to the tremendous energy that he has displayed in giving effect to something in which he really believes.
– I, too, wish to refer to the great service to this country that has been rendered by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). I join with the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) and the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) in the tributes that they have paid to the right honorable gentleman’s work. We have had our differences of opinion, but we have always recognized that he has been most earnest and sincere in working for the benefit of the community. His work will stand as a monument to his integrity and sincerity. If we should find it necessary later to make any alteration of it, they will be alterations of something which has a very solid foundation.
– in reply - I thank the three gentlemen who have spoken for their gracious appreciation of my work. This is the nicest thing that has happened to me during the whole of my time in the Parliament.
– It is well earned, too.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is quite short and very simple. The bill goes to no major matter of principle or policy. It is designed to do two things; first, to relieve the full Bench of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court of the need to deal with a few categories of case that come before the court, which the Government feels can appropriately be dealt with by a single judge; and secondly, to satisfy a request made to the Government by the Premier of Tasmania. I will develop these two points a little.
Generally speaking, the jurisdiction of the court is exercised by a full Bench of not less than three judges. There are exceptions to this rule. Under the 1947 act, a single judge could exercise the court’s powers in respect of matters of practice and procedure. The disputed elections legislation of 1949 provided that election irregularities and the like could be dealt with by a single judge. Our 1952 legislation added a few more categories of case, in which a single judge could act for the court. For some time past, the Government has felt that single judges could, to the advantage of the functioning of our arbitration machinery, dispose of some of the less important cases that now occupy the time of the full Bench, and tend to delay its consideration of cases that really require a full Bench. I may say that the Chief Judge advocated this same thing in a recent annual report.
Under normal circumstances, the Government would have preferred to bring forward its proposals after it had completed its review and consideration of a number of suggestions that are currently being put forward for what has been called the reform of our arbitration system. The course events have run does not, however, permit this particular amendment to await the re-assembly of the Parliament. I refer here, in particular, to the regrettable illness of the Chief Judge and Sir Edward Morgan. As of the moment, the court, which has seven judges, is reduced, in effect, to five, and two of these, are principally engaged in particular jurisdictions. Therefore, the bill proposes that, in future, a single judge will, instead of a full court of at least three judges, be able to exercise the court’s functions under sections 5, 29(1.) (e), 80, 81, 88 and 89 of the act. It may be that, in some particular case, a single judge would feel the issues involved to be of sufficient importance to warrant their consideration by a full Bench. “We have, accordingly, made provision for this in the bill.
Now for the bill’s second purpose. Put shortly, the Premier of Tasmania has asked that section 87 be amended. That section entitles a registered organization to recover fines, fees, levies and dues from its members, in a court of competent jurisdiction constituted by a police, stipendiary or special magistrate. The Premier of Tasmania has stated that a recent decision of the Supreme Court of Tasmania means that there is no such court in that State, and that an organization would have to resort to the full bench of the Arbitration Court to recover. We think that the Premier’s request should be met, and that the bill satisfies it. I commend the bill to the House.
.- As the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) has stated, the bill has two features which might briefly be described, first, as the transfer to a single judge of certain powers now possessed by the full Bench of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, and, secondly, the curing of an ambiguity which arises from a decision of the Tas.manian Supreme Court that in that State there is no competent court of jurisdiction in accordance with the terms of section 87 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act before which an organization may sue for recovery of union dues and contributions.
Insofar as the bill transfers certain powers and rectifies the peculiar position that exists in Tasmania, the Opposition offers no objection to it. However, perhaps the House should understand the powers that it is proposed to transfer from the full Bench of the Arbitration Court to a single judge. One of the sections in question is section 5, which deals with action that can be taken where an employer has prejudiced the employment of or has dismissed an employee because of his association with a trade union as a member or official, or because he has taken part in certain proceedings before the Arbitration Court. The proposed simple amendment of section 5 will enable a single judge to deal with such cases. Included in the bill is an amendment of section 29 (l.)(e) which will enable a single judge, not only to grant leave to appeal from a decision of the registrar, as is now the case, but also to hear and determine any appeal in respect of which leave is granted.
Section 80 of the act deals with a disallowance of the rules of an organization because they are regarded as being tyrannous, or for some other reason, and section 81 gives to the court power to direct an organization to carry out its own rules. If this measure is passed, both of those matters, which must now be determined by the full Bench of the court, may be considered by a single judge. It is proposed that the power that is now given under section 89 to the full Bench to order that a person shall cease to be a member of an organization shall be exercised by a single judge.
The Opposition believes that the bill, so far as it goes, certainly will help to improve the functioning of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. It has been felt by the Opposition, and, indeed, by the trade union movement, that during the last few years constant amendment of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act has simply imposed greater tasks upon the full Bench, which consists of three judges, .as a consequence of which there has been a tendency for blockages to occur in the ‘hearing and determination of cases. Instead of cases being heard promptly, it has been necessary to await the constitution of a full Bench, and generally the whole process of arbitration has been slowed clown and an effective brake has been placed upon the efficiency of the court. These amendments, which seek to remove only a few matters from the jurisdiction of the full Bench to that of single judges, is at least a step in the right direction, and I hope that further steps will be taken in the future. It has always been the opinion of the Opposition and of the trade union movement that the tendency to place matters in the hands of the full Bench has gone too far, and we are glad to note that experience shows that our attitude was correct and that, as a consequence in some slight measure, the act is being improved.
It is regrettable that during the last few years some of the eminent judges of the Arbitration Court have suffered from serious illness. As has been stated by the Minister, even at the present time the Chief Judge, Sir -Raymond Kelly, and Mr. Justice Morgan are both laid aside because of illness. Amendments to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act within the last two or three years were designed to effect the formation of two full Benches to clear the decks of cases that were awaiting hearing; but, because of illness, it is impossible at present to constitute two full Benches. My own opinion is that it would be much better if the jurisdiction of the full Bench were limited to basic principles of arbitration and if all other matters fell within the jurisdiction of a single judge. When all is said and done, the Government appoints to the Arbitration Court men of wide experience in law who have made some mark in their profession, and one would think that, when men of distinction are appointed, they could be entrusted with many of the functions that are now entrusted to the full Bench. In most of the other courts - I exclude the appeal courts and the supreme courts - quite a large number of cases are determined by single judges.
The trade union movement, as well as the Opposition, welcomes the proposed amendment of section 87. If agreed to, it will cure a defect in regard to the rights of unions in Tasmania to sue for contributions. However, I view clause 5 of this amending measure with a great deal of dissatisfaction, because it seeks to extend the power of reference by a single judge to the full Bench. The present provision is expressed in clause 24a, which was inserted by Act No. 34 of 1952. It reads -
A single judge exercising the jurisdiction of the court by reason of the last preceding, section-
That is, the power for a single judge to deal with certain questions - may, if he thinks fit - (a), refer a question of law arising in the proceedings before him for an opinion of a court constituted by no less than three judges.
That may be a necessary provision, but one would think that a competent lawyer who had been appointed to the Bench would be able to determine a question of law. Of course, tricky questions of constitutional law may arise, and one could understand that in those circumstances it might be desirable to refer questions of law to the full court for decision. But this measure goes a bit further. Not only does it include a provision for a reference of matters of law to the full court for decision, but it also provides as follows : -
A single judge exercising the jurisdiction of a court by reason of the last preceding section may, if he thinks, fit -
refer the matter before him, or a part of the matter, to the court constituted by no less than three judges;
– It does not provide for anything new. It contains no power that does not currently exist. It merely means that these matters which are referred to here having been given into the competence of a single judge, if there is any aspect of them which in his judgment should be referred to the full court, he can refer it. In other words, he may prefer to see the power entirely in the hands of a single judge, but, from the honorable member’s point of view, it is certainly an important alteration from the position at present. But it relates only to those matters, as I understand it.
– The amendment to section 8 passed in 1952 provides as follows : -
That the jurisdiction of the court may be exercised by a single judge with respect to -
It then enumerates a large number of matters. Clause 4 provides for the amendment of section 24 of the principal act, and the powers referred to in the amendment are powers to deal with matters referred to in sections 5, 80, 81, 88, and 89 of the principal act. Section 24a is to be repealed, and under the new section which is to replace it, power is given to a single judge, if he thinks fit, to refer questions of law to the full court. In addition it is also provided that a matter submitted to a single judge for determination, and on which he is expected to make a decision may be referred, in part, or in whole, to the full court. That means that, instead of carrying out his task the single judge may transfer it to the full court. I point out to the House that I regard this provision with great disquietude, because I am afraid that a great deal of the difficulty we are experiencing with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to-day arises from the fact that conciliation commissioners can refer a matter, in part or in whole, to some other authority. I believe that when people are appointed to a court to carry out certain functions they should, carry them out and should not be in a position to ask some other authority to carry them out. The power to refer such matters causes more expense to trade unions and employers and results in delay. I shall not go so far as to say that we shall oppose the bill because of this provision. We propose to allow the bill to go through, but I wish to express my regret that section 24a of the principal act is to contain such a provision.
– I was not aware that the proposed new section was likely to have that effect. That was not my understanding of it, and I give the honorable member an assurance that I shall have that aspect examined. After all, between now and the commencement of the next parliamentary session there is not likely to be a great number of matters which would be dealt with in this way.
– I do not want to oppose the measure because there are not likely .to be many matters affected between now and the commencement of the next session, but I do not like to see legislation tending in this direction. I think that a single judge or conciliation commissioner should determine these matters and thus save time and expense, and, above all, prevent discontent among the workers who are affected. I wish to point out that anything that I have said, on behalf of the Opposition, in respect of this bill, should not be taken as meaning that we regard the bill as making the Conciliation and Arbitration Act satisfactory to us. We have already given our views of the act on many occasions. We believe that a complete review and overhaul of the machinery of arbitration is necessary if we are to ensure efficiency in production and the contentment in industry that arbitration should bring. So, although we agree with the improvements to be made to the act now, nothing that I have said is to be regarded as indicating that we are content with the act as it stands. The Opposition supports the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 26th October (vide page 1904), on motion by Sir Arthurfadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– There are several rather odd features about this bill. Last night, the House sanctioned a measure for the payment of 2,215,000 dollars as Australia’s contribution to a new international organization. To-day, we are asked to approve a measure to borrow 15,000,000 dollars from Canada on terms which seem to gratify the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) but which, I would suggest on closer examination, indicate that he has struck a very poor bargain for Australia. The Treasurer said in his remarks yesterday that the loan was opened for public subscription on the 7th October, and had proved a great success because the books were closed, oversubscribed, within an hour of opening. I suppose, on the surface, that could be taken as a very successful undertaking, particularly when it is remembered that the money was borrowed ostensibly at 4 per cent. Of course, in Australia, we are used to 4½ per cent, for government securities nowadays. But I took the trouble to consult a recent issue of a Canadian paper, the Globe-Mail, of Toronto. The latest issue that I could obtain was dated Monday, the 9th September. It contains quotations for the Ninth Victory Loan, due 1961-66 and bearing interest at the rate of 3 per cent, and quoted on the Canadian market at par. International Bank3½ per cent, debentures, which are not Canadian government securities, but which are the securities of a reputable organization, due in June, 1969, also were quoted at par. Another type of financial security, Canadian National Railways, 4½ per cent, debentures, due on the 1st July, 1957, was quoted at over par by 3½ points - at 103.5 per cent. I emphasize that, because a more realistic money policy is being followed in Canada, government securities can be borrowed at the rate of 3 per cent.Therefore, there is no wonder that the Canadian investing public have rushed securities - particularly as they are guaranteed by a government - which are nominally 4 per cent, securities, because, when we look, in a moment, at some of the peculiar terms that are contained in the agreement, we will see that the terms are very much better indeed than 4 per cent. It is no wonder that such a loan was successful when it bore interest at much over 1 per cent, more than the current gilt-edged rate in that country.
– What taxation is payable ?
– These are free of taxation, which makes the argument that might have been implied by the honorable member worsefrom his point of view.
I suggest that the speech which the Treasurer made yesterday was remarkable, not so much for what it said as for what it did not say. I suggest that he made a statement which is very misleading to the Australian Parliament. He said, “ The issue price to the public is 98½per cent.”, and he suggested that the yield on that figure would be approximately 4.13 per cent. One would imagine from that statement that the Australian Government was to receive 98½ dollars from every nominal 100 dollars of the loan. But it will be seen that that is not true if the two rather remarkable schedules that accompany the bill are consulted. I ask honorable members to follow this argument carefully. There are two schedules to the bill, the first schedule and the second schedule. The first schedule is an agreement between the public company in Canada, Wood, Gundy and Company Limited, of 36 King-street West, Toronto, and the Australian Government and it is signed by the representative of the Commonwealth of Australia, the Treasurer. I suggest that for an agreement between a supposedly reputable government on the one hand and a private concern on the other, it is most humiliating indeed to Australia. I draw the attention of honorable members to clause 7 of the first schedule, which reads as follows : -
Our obligation to purchase and pay for the Fifteen Year Bonds shall be subject to the following conditions: -
After the date of the Prospectus and prior to the closing, date there shall have been no material adverse change in the position of the Commonwealth, financial or otherwise, from that set forth in the Prospectus.
Apparently this private firm has no very great faith in Australia. I suggest that, as an agreement entered into between a private firm and a government, it is most humiliating, not to the private firm, but to a great nation such as Australia. Now I draw attention to the opening part of that schedule which is partly in the form of a letter because it commences -
Dear Sir, The undersigned-
That is the company - hereby offers to purchase from the Commonwealth of Australia (hereinafter referred to as the “ Commonwealth “) all but not part of the $15,000,000 principal amount of its 4 per cent. Fifteen Year Bonds dated November 1st, 1955, and due November 1st, 1970, (hereinafter referred to as the “ Fifteen Year Bonds “ ) at the price of 98.50 per cent, of the principal amount thereof plus accrued interest to the date of delivery.
I ask honorable members to note, particularly in view of the statement made by the Treasurer, that this loan was opened for public subscription on the 7th October, proved a great success and was closed within an hour of opening. If honorable members will work out a little sum, they will see that this particular underwriting concern received a premium of 2 dollars in respect of every 100 dollar bond issued in the name of the Commonwealth of Australia. In other words, for the work of a mere hour or so, the firm received a payment of 300,000 dollars, being 2 per cent, of the 15,000,000 dollars that were raised. I suggest that 96½ dollars per 100 will be received by the Australian Government, not the 98½ dollars that the Treasurer mentioned in his speech in which he made a statement on the real cost to the Australian Government. Instead of being, as he said, 4.13 per cent., rather is it in the order of 44 per cent. Rut that is not the end of this remarkable story.
I ask honorable members to have a look at the second schedule to this measure. I must say that as this bill was introduced only yesterday, there has not been a great deal of time for honorable members on this side of the House to study it very carefully. It does provide for something that is called a sinking fund. Apparently, every year, commencing, I think, in 1957, the Australian Government is to pay at least 500,000 dollars into this sinking fund which will be used to repay some of the securities as they fall due. I ask honorable members to refer now to an earlier part of the schedule. The clauses in this schedule are not numbered and it is rather difficult to identify them, but I ask honorable members to look at the fourth clause. It needs to be read in conjunction with the earlier clause -
The right is reserved to the Commonwealth to redeem the 4 per cent. Fifteen Year Bonds as a whole at any time or in part and by lot from time to time at the following percentages of the principal amount thereof:
I repeat that these bonds were issued on the market at 984 although, by reason, of the underwriting agreement, the Australian Government receives only 96½ The terms of the agreement are - The loan is issued in October, 1955, at 984 to the public up to and including the 1st November, 1958, at 102.50 per cent. In other words, anybody subscribing to this loan at 98½ - aud the Treasurer is congratulating himself on the terms of the loan - can have bonds redeemed - some of them at any rate - on the 1st November, 1958, at 1024, a premium over a threeyear period of four points. I quote from the second schedule -
Up to and including November 1, 1901 at 101.75 per cent., thereafter up to and including November 1, 1964 at 101 per cent., thereafter up to and including November 1, 1967 at 100.50 per cent., and thereafter and prior to maturity at 100 per cent. . . .
Again I ask honorable members to take note, and to read that in conjunction with the next paragraph of the schedule, which reads -
The schedule continues -
For a period of 120 days after each such sinking fund deposit such sinking fund moneys will be used to purchase 4 per cent. Fifteen Year Bonds in the market or by private contract at prices not exceeding the principal amount thereof plus in each case accrued interest and costs of purchase.
If the Government has undertaken that any redemption prior to maturity, and up to the 1st November, 1958, shall be at 102.5 per cent., how can it expect any one to accept par as the value in terms of the redemption fund ? If any one has the prospect of receiving 102.5 dollars for. a 100-dollar bond will he redeem it in the market in the normal sense? It is, of course, rather in the nature of a lottery. That is another peculiar feature of this agreement. The Government’s argument must be followed closely to be understood. I suggest that it would be difficult to redeem the bonds under those circumstances. Apparently the Government realizes the position, because the schedule reads -
Cash on hand in the sinking fund provided it amounts to Twenty-five Thousand Dollars ($25,000) or more at the expiration of said period of 120 ‘days will be applied to the redemption of 4 per cent. Fifteen Year Bonds by lot . . .
If they are redeemed by lot they must be redeemed at 102.5 per cent. Nothing was said by the Treasurer about either of these two schedules. As $500,000 is to be put into the fund year by year and, according to the bill, it must be spent - subject to a limitation of 25,000 dollars - some fortunate people in Canada will get a bonus of two or two and a half points each year according to the stage which the repayment of the loan has reached. In fact, to be realistic, these 4 per cent, bonds free of tax in Canada would, if any one were willing to buy them, already be fetching a premium on the Canadian market. Certainly, the Canadian drawer of this document has been fairly shrewd and the Australian Treasurer has been taken for a ride by people with more experience of market operations.
In a moment I want to look at the other side of the matter and at the apparent failure of this Government to face the reality of a dollar shortage in this country. The shortage is, apparently, so acute that this Government is prepared to pay any price to get a few extra million dollars each year from which to pay the interest on loans negotiated in the preceding four or five years. The Treasurer has been far from frank in explaining this remarkable bill, with its two rather peculiar schedules. No attempt whatever was made to explain its clauses. When the over-all picture is examined it can be seen that this money has been borrowed on most unfavorable terms, though apparently they are the best that the Treasurer was able to get in view of this country’s status in the eyes of the rest of the world. I suggest that he, as the head of the Treasury in this country, is largely responsible for that state of affairs. Apparently Australia’s status overseas has deteriorated just as much as has its trade position. In a few moments I should like to look at that side of the matter because I think we must realize that the Government’s policy is apparently to borrow, at the beginning of each year, a loan sufficient to enable it to pay interest on the money that it has borrowed in the previous year.
Since the Government has been in office it has negotiated a number of international loans. This is the first that it has negotiated with Canada, and I hope that it will be the last. In August, 1950, it borrowed 100,000,000 dollars from the International Bank, at 4¼ per cent. In July, 1952, it borrowed a further 50,000,000 dollars at 4¾ per cent. In March, 1954, it borrowed a further 54,000,000 dollars at 4¾ per cent., and in March, 1955, another 54,000,000 dollars at 45/8 per cent. In that period there have also been two Swiss loans aggregating about £10,000,000.
– The Government will have to go to Iceland next!
– That will be about the only place left for it to go to. Last year I addressed to the Treasurer a series of questions seeking details of the international loans that had been raised and also the projected schedule of repayment over the next few years. I found that it would involve Australia in the following expenditure: - In 1955-56, 3,410,000 dollars for International Bank loans; in 1956- 57, 5,540,000 dollars; and in 1957- 58, 8,940,000 dollars. The amount will accumulate in this way, as additional loans are negotiated. I ask honorable members to concern themselves with the fact that our interest and principal repayments each year are now of such magnitude as to approach the additional sum that is borrowed in that year. The Commonwealth Statistician recently published figures on the Australian balance of payments from 1951-52 to 1954-55. In the section dealing with the dollar area it will be seen that in 1954-55 the adverse balance of payments with both the sterling and dollar areas was £25,000,000. It is remarkable how greatly the dollar deficit is contributing to Australia’s over-all adverse balance of trade position. Notwithstanding that trade with dollar areas constitutes, in aggregate, only about one-eighth of Australia’s total international trade, taking both exports and imports into account, the deficit on dollar accounts alone is over £100,000,000. The reason ostensibly given by the Treasurer for asking the House to sanction such measures as these is that they will, in the long term, help to develop Australia’s trade with dollar areas; in other words, they will help in the future to increase our trade with dollar areas and make us less reliant on imports. Any one who has studied the figures for the past three or four years will find that Australia, rather than becoming less dependent is becoming more dependent on dollar areas, and our balance of trade with those areas is becoming more adverse.
I have a further set of figures, which are contained in a document headed, “ Survey of Companies with Overseas Affiliations “, which was published by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics on the 21st September, 1955. If those figures are examined it will be found that Australia is being invaded by more and more American undertakings. In some respects the development of those undertakings is welcome, but I think the House is entitled to ask whether Australia is becoming less or more dependent on America because of such relationships. I would suggest that these undertakings from the dollar areas make a relatively small initial contribution in dollars, and because - American firms being far from foolish - they pick the most favorable conditions and fields of operation, they are making in Australia large profits, measured not in dollars but in Australian currency, which become the property of the parent company involved. Without drawing invidious distinctions, I may say that every one is familiar with the case of General Motors-Holden’s Limited, which, on a very small American capital, has now built up a large industrial empire. By far the largest part of the profits that have been made and ploughed back into that firm has been earned not in dollars but in Australian currency. If honorable members will consult the table on page 2 of the document that I have just mentioned, they will find that there was a rise in oversea investment in this country from 1947 to 1954. The table refers to the total face value of paid-up capital and issued debentures in Australian companies held by oversea companies or individuals as at the 30th June in each year, and the units are expressed in terms of £1,000,000 Australian. In 1947 the total was 123.1, and in 1954 it was 227.1, which shows that the holdings had almost doubled. The United Kingdom’s share in 1947 was 77.9, and in 1954 it was 154.8. The share of the United States of America in 1947 was 23.8, and in 1954 it was 37.1.
That table should be read in conjunction with Table B, which appears at page 3 of the same document, and is headed, “Intercompany Accounts Owing By Australian Subsidiaries to Oversea Parent oi- Associated Companies as at 30th June “, meaning the profits ploughed back or retained or awaiting transmission in the form of dividends to the overseas companies. Again the units are expressed in terms of £1,000,000 Australian. In 1947, the total amount of United States of America and Canadian investment owing, apart from the share capital, was 8.2. By 1954 it had increased to 32.6. In 1952, strangely enough, the figure was 45.5, the reduction being due to the fact, as was pointed out by honorable members on this side of the House, that certain American companies in Australia, awaiting the ratification by Australia of the double taxation agreement, had not been sending dividends to America in those years, because they would have had to pay an additional tax on them. They waited until the requisite favorable legislation was passed. Immediately following the ratification of the agreement there was a big exodus of dividends to those countries. Of course, that was quite a legitimate and shrewd move, but it was a move that could have been prevented had this Government made the agreement apply only to dividends earned after its ratification. If dividends earned before that time had been subject to taxation at the normal rate, Australia would have benefited by some millions of dollars.
I point out these things merely to show that, -with an initially small shareholding, these undertakings are building up huge ownership in Australian industries, developed in Australia by Australian skill, in conjunction with American skill, and as the result of profits taken largely out of the pockets of the Australian public. I suggest that this Government does not appear to be very critical of the trends that are apparent. Rather does it go grovelling to any likely country, and then say to the people, “We brought back 15,000,000 dollars from Canada; last year we got 8,000,000 from Switzerland, and in the previous year we obtained 54,000,000 dollars”. Those amounts are really capital amounts, but they are being used to hide a deterioration in Australia’s annual balance of payments, a problem that this Government is doing little to face up to, except by a rather slipshod resort to imperfect import controls on the one hand, and on the other by apparently being willing to receive any amounts from any overseas country, allowing the resultant problems to build up for the future.
I have gone into this matter in some detail, because I suggest that the Government has treated this Parliament in a cavalier fashion by bringing a measure such as this into the House yesterday and asking that it be rushed through as quickly as possible to-day. It has made no attempt to give people inside or outside this House an opportunity to examine the terms of the measure, and apparently we are supposed to be satisfied with the statement of the Treasurer that he has made a real bargain. I suggest that a realistic appraisal of it will show that it is a very hard bargain indeed, a bargain that will merely add to the difficulties of Australia in the very near future - difficulties that will have to be faced up to by a future Australian government. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) announced yesterday that he seeks a mandate from the people to improve our critical economic situation. I suggest that he and his advisers, and in particular the Treasurer, should more closely examine this critical position which, instead of alleviating, they are merely aggravating by the policy they are following. I suggest that the people, both inside and outside this House, should be critical of the Treasurer, and should give a little study to schedules 1 and 2 of this bill. The first schedule, which details an agreement between a private company and the Government, is surely the most humiliating document ever presented in a parliament of this country. The hocuspocus contained in the second schedule I leave to the people to contemplate.
– I wish to say, in a few words, that my party will oppose this bill, not because we do not believe that Australia should be developed as quickly as possible, but for the very reasons stated by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean). He has delivered a most comprehensive speech. I was glad to notice that he returned to his own constructive style, uninhibited by the ideas that seem to be put into his mind from time to time by his leader. Unlike my stand last night, I entirely support what he has said on this measure. My party and I are very disturbed at the Government’s approach to this serious problem of the balance of payments. It does not appear to me that any real attempt has been made by the Government to master the situation and put it on a sound footing. Although the Treasurer is obviously aware of the situation, he covers it up with such remarkable statements in his speech as were referred to by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. The relative terms used are such as would not reveal to the ordinary person just what was going on. For example, he says that the total interest payments on the foreign debt of Australian public authorities are less than 3 per cent, of our total current external earnings. But we are dealing in dollars in connexion with our total current external earnings, and our dollar profit is getting worse every year. The Treasurer should have confined himself to dollars and to the principles contained in this bill.
The right honorable gentleman made other statements of a more abstruse nature. For instance, he said -
Our external debt is not large for an economy of the size of our own. It is less than 15 per cent, of gross national product and this proportion is less than one-half of what it was ten years ago.
Obviously gross national product is much greater now than it was ten years ago, and these comparisons are irrelevant. They are not true comparisons, and they do not speak in simple words.
Just where are we getting with our dollar payments? The Treasurer knows full well that we are getting deeper and deeper into the mire. His method of combating it is to borrow more money, not for the purpose of developing Australia, but for the purpose of stemming the flow. This business of separating capital expenditure from current expenditure is a lot of eyewash. The two are combined irrevocably. Of what use is it to say that so much will be spent on diesel engines, aeroplanes and other things and that so much will be spent on current expenditure ? There is wholesale waste in our current expenditure. Money that is being used on capital expenditure is being squandered and thrown down the drain. I have not been able to go thoroughly into the matter, because the ramifications of this problem are difficult to perceive. They are things known only to men connected with big business.
I do not wish to deprive any person of his sport. One likes to see the Australian people enjoying their sport. But let us consider, for the purposes of my argument, the Redex trial that was held last year and this year. That trial costs somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000 dollars every year. All that money is blown up in gas for cars to tear round Australia. A terrific amount of overseas currency is wasted also in destroying cars and in the consumption of extra petrol in towing cars back to civilization. It is all just so much money thrown down the drain. And for what? Is it expended for any scientific advantage or for any real benefit to industry? I say the Redex trial is just an advertising spree which the Government looks upon extremely lightly and which costs a lot of valuable dollars, at a time when we are borrowing every year for current expenditure.
Constructive measures should be the first consideration of the Government in a matter such as this. The Government should make the suggestion to the motor car industry, instead of the motor car industry telling the Government what it should do. It should suggest that this type of sport, shall we call it, or advertising campaign, might be conducted less frequently, perhaps once in three years, and that it might be conducted on some sort of scientific basis so that some benefit may result to the motor industry and the people ‘of Australia in return for all the valuable dollars that it costs. There is no examination of our dollar expenditure at all where the motor car industry is concerned, yet, if one asks for a dollar allocation for some Australian industry, one must be very careful to show that it is a wise expenditure, that it is an expenditure which will be useful to Australia and to the particular industry concerned. There appears to. be some examination of expenditure in connexion with some industries, but there is no such examination where other industries are involved.
I have drawn the Treasurer’s attention to this matter before. I repeat that a good deal of current dollar expenditure is being squandered and wasted at present. It is time that the Government got down to the problem instead of just arranging for loans to make up for the deficits. There must also be a positive approach to the problem as to how we are to get more dollars and increase our dollar income. When I speak of a positive approach, I envisage the stage where our approximate dollar requirements are earned every year, and where we have a proper interchange of trade. We have not a proper interchange of trade at the present time. Such an interchange of trade will need careful planning, and I do not see any such planning by the Government. It is most disturbing to see the Parliament asked to authorize these dollar loans from time to time, and the Government, with its majority, secures the necessary approval. It is high time the Treasurer told us just what he is doing about it. A great deal of the camouflage that is put over in second-reading speeches relating to dollar loans ought to be moved. I should think a great deal more of the Government if it told us what its direct plans were, what it hoped to achieve, what it could definitely and positively say would he the gain from these dollar loans instead of framing those speeches in such nebulous terms as “it is going to build up Australia “. When it is suggested that we spend money on dollar-producing goods, can we. actually see dollar savings or dollar earnings resulting from that expenditure? That has never been related to any of these loans. They have been dealt with merely in a general way. The time has come when we have to avoid generalities and get down to the particular.
I realize the enormous magnitude of the various factors that enter into the problem, but, nevertheless, these things are capable of assessment and the Treasurer should place before the country some proper means of encouraging proper dollar income and reducing the strain on expenditure. He should put before us some sound means of bringing the two into line. If I could see something like that, I should feel a great deal happier about these bills authorizing dollar loans which repeatedly come before the House. The Government has not produced any plan, and that is disturbing to us. Our current expenditure of dollars receives no examination whatever, although the spotlight is thrown on certain aspects of dollar expenditure by these repeated bills. These questions of current expenditure and capital expenditure require to be merged, and the Treasurer should make a proper statement on the subject.
We will not support the bill for thereasons I have outlined. We want Australia to be developed, we want our export markets to be developed and we want our dollar income to be increased to the stage where it approximately equals our outgoings from current account. After that, if we have any development to do, dollar loans for capital purposes will really mean something. Honorable members then will not have the uncomfortable feeling that these bills are being introduced merely to regain some of the leeway that was lost because we spent too much on current expenditure and in waste which could be avoided.
.- The Opposition feeling, as expressed by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) and later by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua), is ample reason why we should refrain from supporting this measure. In addition to that, this measure is a typical example of the completely inconsistent and ill-considered policy of the present Government. A long time ago, the Opposition laid down the terms upon which dollar loans might be approved. When the first dollar loan was sought from the International Bank, the Opposition stated four major conditions upon which loans of this nature might be justified. We did not oppose that measure. We said that the Government could justify borrowing of this type of it showed, first, that such borrowing increased our capacity to earn dollars. That is very important, having in mind, the chronic shortage of dollars in this country. We pointed out, secondly, that, if the borrowing of dollars or other overseas funds increased -Australia’s capacity to produce and to absorb new population, from both immigration and natural increase, the borrowing could be justified even if it did not earn more overseas exchange or more dollars. We pointed out, thirdly, that, even if the borrowing earned no greater overseas exchange, it could be justified also if it increased the capacity of Australia to defend itself in time of war or of international strain.
Since we laid down those principles, successive loans have been negotiated. Not once has the Treasurer, speaking on behalf of the Government, given any indication that a loan was negotiated on that basis and that the completely sound tests stated by the Opposition were applied to it. Instead, we have had a frantic search throughout the world for little pockets of dollars, so. that the Treasurer could ease himself out of a current stringency in his dealings with other countries. In his second-reading speech, he went to extraordinary lengths to justify the bill. He stated, at the outset, that this was the first loan raised by an Australian Government in Canada. Towards the conclusion of his speech, the right honorable gentleman said also -
This loan from Canada is an important landmark for both countries. As I have said before, this is the first occasion on which a loan of this character has ever been made by the Canadian market to an outside government. It creates a new economic link between two great countries of the British Commonwealth which I am confident will stimulate many others and will help to foster even closer relations between us.
The fact is that this Government is broke and bankrupt - bankrupt not only of external exchange, but also of ideas. It is trying to obtain small amounts of money - in this instance hard currency - anywhere in the world to meet the current shortage of overseas exchange, as the honorable member for Ballarat pointed out.
This loan will make no contribution to the expansion of Australia’s capital equipment. Nor, so far as we can ascertain, does it satisfy any of the tests that the Opposition applies to every loan negotiated from overseas. The simple fact is that the Government finds itself temporarily embarrassed because it has not enough money to meet its overseas commitments. Therefore, the Treasurer has rushed round the world. He. went, first, to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and then to the Swiss Government. He stated that the International Bank loan created a grand new relationship between the bank and Australia, and that the Swiss loan created a new link between the Swiss nation and the Australian nation, and he states now that this Canadian loan will forge an important new link between two countries of the British Commonwealth of Nations. What it will really do is to lower irreparably the credit standing of Australia in the eyes of the world. The Government went, not as one might imagine, to the Royal Bank of Canada, a government institution, but to a firm of private underwriters, and negotiated a relatively small loan on terms that are onerous and harsh for Australia. What the Treasurer has described as an important landmark, and a link that will cement the friendly relationship between Australia and Canada, is merely another blow to Australia’s financial prestige in the eyes of other nations. The right honorable gentleman thinks that a loan of 15,000,000 Canadian dollars- hard currency - made on these terms will help to improve our financial standing and forge closer links with Canada. His view merely demonstrates once again the abysmal ignorance of the Government, and of the Treasurer, speaking for the Government, of the financial relationships that Australia should have with the rest of the world.
What will happen now ? We shall have our 15,000,000 Canadian dollars, but they will be used up very rapidly in meeting our current commitments, as the honorable member for Ballarat rightly said. We shall not obtain through this loan one single additional item of equipment or anything that will help us to earn more overseas exchange. We have not even the shadow of a possibility of earning more Canadian dollars as a result of this loan. What will it help us to produce that we can sell to Canada to meet some part of our commitments to that country ?
– Dried fruit.
– “ Dried fruit”, says the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). We are battling already at a great disadvantage to sell to Canada anything that we produce, without the burden of the additional commitment now to be imposed upon us.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I had stated the tests that Labour applied before borrowing of this type should be indulged in. They were the standards set by the Labour Opposition when this programme of overseas borrowing commenced. Such borrowing should increase our capacity to earn dollars, absorb new population and develop the country more rapidly, and to improve our ability to defend ourselves. In addition, it should be the means of providing more foodstuffs and other materials which the world needs to introduce and maintain decent standards of living. On the information which we have been given, this bill does not measure up to those standards, which we regard as reasonable, just, and necessary tests of overseas borrowing. I do not object to overseas borrowing or capital investment in this country; on the contrary, I welcome both, provided that they facilitate the rapid development of the country. That has been our programme ever since the birth of the Labour movement. The Australian continent must be developed much more rapidly. My objection to the Government’s present financial policy is that it shows every sign of retarding drastically the country’s speedy development. Borrowing of this type, and the Government’s handling of loan finances both at home and overseas, indicate very clearly that before very long a definite crisis of great magnitude will impede, and. possibly stop altogether, our vital development. Such overseas borrowing as the Government has practised can be carried out properly only if the loan market at home is put in order. To-day, the Australian loan market cannot meet the needs of the Government at home. This is merely because of the mismanagement and errors of the Treasurer and the Government. Before the Government can approach the overseas loan market with confidence, it must be able to show that it can borrow from its own people the money it needs for its own internal development. Only then can it confidently approach overseas investors, people who do not know the Australian continent, the Australian capacity, or the Australian people. The loan market at home has failed solely because of the actions of the Treasurer and the Government.
The manner in which the Treasurer has rushed around the world, raising loans from banks and other countries, gives every indication that before very long all overseas sources of loan moneys will be closed to us. If this programme proceeds, overseas investors will be warned to keep clear of representatives of the Australian Government and the Treasurer, because it is known that they are eager to “touch” investors for a few more dollars or pounds. That policy has done, and will continue to do, irreparable harm to Australian prestige in the eyes of the world, and will retard rather than encourage this country’s possibilities for development. The future of this country is far too important to be placed in pawn. The Government must follow a proper financial policy to ensure that development shall be rapid enough, and our resources at home adequate, to attract capital from overseas. It would be indeed tragic if, for six months or six years our development were pushed forward rapidly - perhaps too rapidly, as has sometimes been the case - and then, because of financial mismanagement it were impeded and developmental works were stopped, so that the population which we have accumulated with so much effort would be lost by emigration overseas.
There are signs in the sky as a result of the Government’s mismanagement. Finances at home are chaotic. Borrowing overseas has placed us in a position where we are obtaining less of the resources we require for development. Before the Treasurer embarks on another attempt at overseas borrowing, he must put his own loan market in order. It is possible, and immediately practicable. He has only to adopt a policy which satisfies the tests which the Labour Opposition imposes. If that is done, proper financial management at home will ensue, followed by a flow of capital investment from overseas. The Government’s policy is retarding our development.
The Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) has said that a crisis is upon us, that before very long the deepening shades of an economic crisis may appear. Financial mismanagement will lead to the complete cessation of development. It will then be very difficult to re-start, and much loss and suffering will be endured before we gain again a desirable tempo of development and immigration. Moneys borrowed from overseas to meet the ordinary commitments of the Government make no positive contribution to our development, and provide no additional capacity to earn dollars. In fact, they do nothing more than add a further burden in hard currency to Australia’s annual commitments without increasing our capacity to meet our present and growing interest burden.
.- It is a pity that we were not on the air to-night, so that the Australian people could hear this Government properly exposed for its failure in handling the finances of the nation. The bill is called the Loan (Canadian Dollars) Bill 1955. It ought to be called the Canadian Moneylenders Bill.
– Where do you want to borrow ?
– I do not want to borrow at all. If the Government is worth its salt, and is even half as prosperous as it protests it is, it ought to be able to raise all the money it requires to finance State loan programmes. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has told us that the Government’s problems are those of prosperity. If we are prosperous, why does the peripatetic Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), whom I am pleased to see back in Australia for a little while, have to wander round the conference room at Istanbul, Turkey, discussing the financial future of this country in association with the people who issue to him his directives from Whitehall and other places?
– But not with Molotov.
– He was seeking assistance from this one and that one. I should not like to see him beseeching Molotov for monetary assistance to Australia, but Russia is about the only country that has not been tapped. In his speech, the Treasurer said -
This is the first loan raised hy an Australian Government in Canada.
What is there in that to be proud about? This is the first time that we have put this country- in pawn in Ottawa ; that is what he means. He continued -
In fact, it is the first loan made by the Canadian market to an outside government, and this is a. point which reflects most favorably on our credit standing overseas.
How pathetic ! What bathos ! When we go on to read the amount of the loan, we find that it is something like £6,750,000. That does not amount to very much. Certainly it does not justify the Treasurer’s proud boast that Canada has great faith in the standing of our credit. This was a loan that was opened in Canada. The Treasurer told us that it was rapidly filled. It ought to have been rapidly filled.
– Hear, hear.
– It was all right from the money lender’s point of view, but how good is it to the Australian people ? The. issue price was 9c% to yield approximately 44 per cent., and the payments of interest and capital are to be free of Australian taxes for bond-holders not resident in Australia. So there is another hand-out in regard to taxation. The Treasurer says that that is in accordance with our existing income tax laws. As the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) has pointed out, there is also a brokerage fee of two dollars for every 100 dollars. So 300,000 dollars will be paid to somebody outside Australia. That means that there will be an additional expense to the Australian people of 300,000 dollars for this financial accommodation. The current rate of interest in Canada is 3 per cent. I do not know how the Canadians managed to put it over the Treasurer as easily as they did. He has the reputation of being a very successful financier. He has that reputation, but that is not the fact. His predecessor in the leadership of the Australian Country party was known as the tragic Treasurer. He is known as the woeful Treasurer, because all that he has been able to do during the six years that he has been Treasurer has been to fail to get from the Australian people the money needed to meet the loan requirements of the Australian States.
Our national income now is about £3,000,000,000 a year and we have a budget of £1,000,000,000 a year. But the State Premiers are always at their wits end to find the money to build schools, hospitals and everything else that they require in order to discharge their ‘obligations, under the Constitution, to the people of the States. The Treasurer thinks he has done a marvellous job.
– Hear, hear.
– The simple minds who sit behind the Treasurer are so easily mesmerized by the glib talk of the economists and the other pundits who are advising the Government and leading this country to ruin.
– Not Dr. Burton.
– There are a few other doctors among the people who are advising the Government at the moment. It all adds up to the fact, that this country is in a bad plight. Our economic situation is growing worse. As a solace to the Australian people, the Treasurer says -
Including this new Canadian issue, the Government has raised £134,000,000 of new money overseas since coming into office, including £115,000,000 from four loans from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and £12,000,000 in Switzerland.
– What have they got to show for it?
– As the honorable member for Perth asks, what have they got to show for it? All that money has been borrowed on onerous terms. We have to repay £115,000,000 to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development in a very short space of time. The Australian Government is not only paying a fair rate of interest on the money that it borrowed from the bank, but it is also paying something else, in order to make up for the bad debts which the bank incurs in its loans to other countries.
Mr. Davis and Mr. Pearce interjecting,
– I wish the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis) and the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) would give their tired tonsils a rest. Their observations are neither coherent nor intelligent. The money which the Treasurer has borrowed, in total, is only £134,000,000. When the Treasurer of a great developing country such as this boasts that he has been able to cadge £12,000,0Q0 from little Switzerland, it is certainly nothing to be proud of. It is a wonder that he has not been able to borrow from Lebanon, Armenia, Turkey, Greece or even Italy. Apparently he can borrow from almost any country in the world except Australia. Equally apparently the Australian people have no faith in this Government.
– What about Skolnik?
– The honorable member for Gippsland talks about Skolnik. Where is Skolnik? I never knew of any country called Skolnik.
– The honorable member knew the individual, though.
– Of course I did. He is a very estimable gentleman, too. Does the honorable member for Deakin know him?
– I know of him.
– -For the observations they make subsequently in this House, honorable members opposite depend ‘upon irrelevant interjections by the fast disappearing corner group.
– Why run down Australia ?
– Why cannot the Government borrow its full loan requirements in Australia? If we did that, we should be able to build the Burdekin Dam in Queensland. Does not the Treasurer want the Burdekin Dam to be built? Does he still regard it as an economic proposition, as he once described it in this Parliament? Does the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Brand) believe that money should be provided for the development of the Burdekin project, so that we can produce more goods to sell overseas? It is not only a matter of borrowing overseas. It is also a matter of producing more food in Australia, so that we can increase the volume of our exports and thus not be obliged to borrow from other countries in order to finance our deficits.
What a sorry record the Treasurer has in regard to our London funds ! He will remember that, in the year before the “ horror “ budget, he allowed our reserves in London to run down from over £800,000,000 to just over £400,000,000, because the pundits, the doctors of philosophy in economics, who were advising his Government told him that if we used our overseas funds to finance imports into this country, the competition “between goods produced overseas and goods produced locally would force down the cost of living. We wasted our overseas reserves to finance the importation of French wines, Swiss gruyere cheese, English sweets and English biscuits, and the other unnecessary consumer goods, but in the end we found that our cost structure was even higher than it was before this Government started to dissipate our London reserves. Now we are struggling along with something like £250,000,000 of London funds. That is not enough to meet our current requirements and the legitimate demands of traders and other people who have claims on those funds. We are almost in a state of beggary.
– The London funds are going down every month.
– They are indeed going down every month, like the Treasurer’s reputation. This country is in a very bad state. The Government, instead of hoping to bemuse this Parliament and fool the people of Australia with a policy of borrow or burst - that was the policy of the Bruce-Page Government in the 1920’s - ought to be doing something to increase production in this country. It ought to grant depreciation allowances, which were recommended by the committee of which the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hume) was the chairman, so that we can produce more goods for export. But the Government will not do anything of that kind. The Treasurer and his colleagues say that it is a good thing to borrow abroad. They walk in the bad tradition of the past. I invite honorable members to compare that record with the record of the Chifley Government in war-time.
– What rot !
– I heard a strange noise on the Government side.
Mr. Davis interjecting,
– I hear it again. It does not make sense ; it is only something that amuses or enteitains us. The present Treasurer might well emulate the policy of the previous Labour Treasurer. The Chifley Government did not borrow abroad. During and after World War II., it repatriated approximately £400,000,000 of Australian funds from abroad, and at the same time raised £1,500,000,000 from the Australian public to finance the war effort and the Government’s works programme. None of our loans was a failure. We never had any difficulty in persuading the people to invest money in loans to guarantee the future of this country, but, although the Australian people hold £1,000,000,000 in savings bank deposits, this Government comes along every three months for a paltry £35,000,000. When it obtains the money, it says, “We are very successful, the loan has been over-subscribed “. When the Government is unable to obtain all its requirements from the Australian market, it sends the Treasurer around the world to try to borrow a few more pounds wherever possible. I am pleased to note that he always looks better when he returns.
– His last trip was a very profitable excursion.
– And a costly one. The Prime Minister recently had a trip overseas which cost £21,000.
– Now, now !
– That is right.
– It is not right.
– Do not interrupt me.
– Order ! The honorable member should get back to a discussion of the loan.
– I am discussing the bill which seeks parliamentary approval of the loan. The Treasurer has borrowed this money as a result of his trip abroad.
– The honorable member was referring to the Prime Minister.
– I am saying that they are all running around the world and that, when the Treasurer is not at an economic conference, the Prime Minister is; in fact, he is taking another trip soon. Of course, the Prime Minister took an army of experts with him, and the cost of sending them abroad helped to absorb the sum of £21,000 that the trip cost. That expenditure must be set as a debit against this particular loan raising. Why did not the Treasurer tell us, when introduring the bill, that a brokerage fee of 300,000 dollars was involved? Why did he hide that fact? It remained for the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), who has had only a brief opportunity to study this measure since it was introduced yesterday,, to discover the facts. The Treasurer, having been furnished with his brief by officials who apparently do not want to give the Parliament the fullest information but only such information as they hope will mesmerize honorable members, proceeded either to ignore or to obscure other facts. I hope that, when the right honorable gentleman replies, he will tell us why this loanwas more costly than he said it was, and why the Australian people must pay such a high rate of interest when the current rate in Canada is lower. He might also tell us when he intends to cease borrowing money abroad, and when he intends to get down to the job of inspiring the Australian people to have sufficient confidence in their country to lend to this Government. The fact that the Australian people will not lend money to the Government is sure evidence that they have no confidence in it.
– in reply - If further evidence is required of the disunity of the Australian Labour party, it has been pathetically provided during this debate. Let me state, in the first place, that it was as an act of courtesy that the Government introduced the bill, because the raising of the loan was done by the Australian Government as the agent of the Australian Loan Council. It is entirely a Loan Council matter. The Loan Council is composed of whom ? It is composed of the Labour Premier of New South Wales ; the Labour Premier of Queensland; the Labour Premier of Tasmania ; the Labour Premier of Western Australia; the nonLabour Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford; and the non-Labour Premier of Victoria, Mr. Bolte. All of those gentlemen, the majority of whom, I emphasize, are Labour members of the Loan Council, unanimously approved terms for the raising of this loan which were less favorable than those that I eventually negotiated on their behalf.
– That is not right.
– It is absolutely correct. I repeat that the terms unanimously approved by the Loan Council were less favorable than those that I, as the chairman and representative of the Loan Council, and as Treasurer of the Commonwealth, was able to negotiate. To-night, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has repeated a mis-statement that he has made so often. He said that the Chifley Government repatriated to Australia from overseas, mainly from London, borrowed funds amounting to £400,000,000 during World War II. and later. In actual fact, the amount was less than £100,000,000 sterling. That is a long way short of the £400,000,000 mentioned by the honorable member. He also re-stated a misleading claim when he asked the people of ‘ this country to believe that the Chifley Government was able to raise by public subscription, for the purpose of government loan activities and State borrowings, all the loan money that it required. That is absolutely untrue. To the degree that the Chifley Government was able to achieve the desired result, it was due entirely to the fact that the rate of interest was 3^ per cent. Why were the loans so successful? Their success was due entirely to the fact that during the regime of that Government there were restrictions and controls and shortages of all commodities that the Australian people desired and for the purchase of which they had sufficient money. That Government controlled capital issues, it pegged prices, and it rationed petrol and other commodities, with the result that people who had money were not able to use it as they desired. As a consequence, the surplus moneys that would otherwise have been used for private resources and necessities found their way into what, in effect, were compulsory loan raisings.
Having said that, let me emphasize that, whatever disabilities have been suffered or whatever bad deal might be alleged to have been made in relation to this loan raising in Canada, the loan had the entire approval and unanimous support of every State government as represented on the Loan Council. I repeat, with emphasis, that the conditions on which approval was obtained unanimously were far less favorable than those ultimately obtained, which are the subject of this measure. Government securities in Canada normally yield about i per cent, more interest than do securities in New York. That has been traditional. The terms of this loan are quite consistent with the 3f per cent, issue in New York last December. I negotiated, also with the unanimous approval of the Loan Council, the refinancing of that loan last year. The margin between gilt-edged yields and the new loan is normal for such foreign borrowings. It must be remembered that this is the first foreign loan that has ever been raised in the Canadian market. It is the first time the Canadian investors have ever subscribed to a loan borrowed outside the dominion itself.
– They could not resist it at 4^ per cent.
– It was not 4£ per cent. The right honorable gentleman is just as inaccurate in this as he is in other matters.
– It is, in effect.
– It is not 4£ per cent, in effect. It is at a price of 98-J, returning to the investor 4.13 per cent. The right honorable gentleman does not know his mathematics.
Mr. Crean interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), who opened the debate for the Opposition, and who is generally so well behaved, is incessantly interjecting. I ask him to maintain his good record.
– I have a very orderly record, but the Treasurer is wrong.
-Order! The honorable member will obey the Chair, or he will find himself outside the chamber.
– The honorable member for Melbourne Ports has to take what is coming to him for making misstatements. During the course of his speech he said that I did not give the- House enough information in my second-reading speech. I realize that now, since the honorable gentleman has displayed his ignorance of the bill after having read the schedules. I realize that I should have written a text-book for his information, in order to overcome his ignorant interpretation.
With regard to the underwriting letter, do honorable members opposite expect people to carry underwriting and brokerage for nothing? Do they think that nobody else is entitled to payment for their services except those whom they claim to represent in this Parliament? I should like to inform honorable members opposite that Mr. Chifley had no compunction in. dealing with Morgan, Stanley and Company as underwriters in 1946-47, at a cost of about 2 per cent, in New York to re-finance the loan he raised at that time. The rate for this loan is exactly the same. In this instance, Wood, Grundy and Company Limited will receive 2 per cent. That commission is known as “ spread “, and is an underwriting compensation. It had the unanimous approval of the Loan Council, which is directly concerned. It is 2 per cent, for this loan compared with 2f per cent, for the refinancing of the New York loan twelve months ago, which also had the unanimous approval of the Loan Council. So it is f per cent, better than the Loan Council agreed to in respect of the previous loan. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports made great play of the optional clauses dealt with in the schedule. I respectfully refer him to the third paragraph of the second schedule, which states -
The right is reserved to the Commonwealth to redeem the 4 per cent, fifteen year bonds as a whole at any time or in .part and by lot from time to time . . .
This means that, if Canadian interest rates are reduced in future, the Commonwealth is given the opportunity to redeem part, or the whole, of this loan, and to reborrow at lower rates. That is a very desirable safeguarding provision. The holders of the securities have absolutely no option. This is an option granted entirely to the borrower. This is. of more benefit to the nation than having one maturity date.
Somebody spoke about the balance of payments position. It is true that Australia had an unfavorable balance of trade with the dollar area last year. That is a normal state of flairs. It obtained under the Chifley Labour Government also. It was one of the reasons which prevented the Chifley Government from lifting petrol rationing. The balance of payments with the dollar area cannot be considered in isolation, as we had a surplus with non-sterling countries of £51,000,000 last year, and a total surplus of £380,000,000 in the last three years. This was an enormous help to the sterling area since the reserves easily offset our dollar deficit for those years.
– Who wrote that?
– The information has been obtained from my officers. I am not irresponsible. I do not go around making irresponsible statements such as an allegation that there was a repatriation of £400,000,000 to this country, when the true figure was £100,000,000. Of course, I have my facts checked, in order to be able to give reliable, accurate and straightforward information to the nation. The honorable gentlemen who have spoken in the debate laid great stress on their opposition to dollar loans.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable gentleman says, “Hear, hear ! “ Yet honorable members opposite bask in the reflected glory of Mr. Curtin, for having called for American aid to help save this country in the last war. They have done nothing but skite about his action ever since, at every opportunity, but they are now hypocritically claiming that they are opposed to dollar loans. Why? Because they think they .can get some political advantage out of such opposition. I cannot understand the alleged concern of the Opposition over dollar loans. Apart from this loan the Government has borrowed new money in dollars from the International Bank totalling 258,000,000 dollars.
– Listen to t at! That is the foundation on which I am going to build my statement.
– It is a very poor foundation.
– Of course it is a poor foundation ! But it was provided by the honorable gentleman’s deputy leader. Of the amount of 258,000,000 dollars, 190,000,000 dollars have been allocated to agriculture and transport. The dollars allocated to agriculture have been used to finance imports of such essential equipment as tractors, combine harvesters, hay-balers, and other equipment for fodder conservation. Much of this equipment is being used on farms allocated to ex-servicemen under the war service land settlement scheme. Do honorable gentlemen opposite object to that? If they do, let them say so, and we shall know where they stand. By the 1953-54 season most of Australia’s main agricultural products had practically reached the production targets set for 1957.-58, and the equipment brought into this country as a result of dollar loans contributed greatly to that achievement. In addition, dollars from those loans have been used for improvements of railways through the purchase of dieselelectric locomotives and rail cars, and for the purchase of road-making machinery and aircraft. Portion of the earlier loans was also used for electric power development. I have already explained, in my second-reading speech, how the proceeds of the Canadian loan will assist State loan programmes this year and have no protest whatsoever in connexion with that explanation.
In conclusion, I say that this loan borrowing was made for and on behalf of the Australian Loan Council, comprised, as I have said, of a preponderance of Labour Premiers. It had the unanimous approval of the Loan Council to be raised under conditions less favorable than I was ultimately able to obtain. So where can the complaint come from in that direction? The statements that have been made by Opposition members show that there is a definite split between the views of Labour members of this House and the desires of the Labour Premiers of the States who will be the recipients of this loan. This loan is to be used as a contribution towards the loan programmes of the States - loan programmes which cannot be financed out of the resources of the loan market in Australia.
– The loan market in Australia could have been improved.
– Of course it could if the same terms and conditions used by the Labour Government were utilized by this Government to obtain the money. But this Government is a non-restrictive government. It is a government that will not have a bar of controlling the savings of the people in order to channel those resources into governmental activities by means of what would be virtually a compulsory loan. The pegging of wages, the fixation of prices, the restriction of the supply of goods were contributing ingredients in the recipe for the financial policy of loan raising by the Chifley Government. We will not have a bar of those methods of loan raising. We will not conscript, by those devious means, the savings of the people. Our objective is to increase the resources of Australia; to measure them with the availability of money; to stabilize the currency; and to maintain our prosperity.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. C. F. Aderm ann.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I do not wish to speak at any length, but I must confess that some of the remarks of the right honorable the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) have provoked me to attempt some sort of reply. I do not think that the Treasurer has really dealt with the arguments of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean). It is quite unworthy of him to refer to that honorable member’s remarks as ignorant. They were based on careful study. I Would like the Treasurer to consider certain facts. If I am wrong I assume that he will correct me. This loan was raised by the Commonwealth of Australia. It is the borrower. No one is speaking about the States. In the eyes of the world the Commonwealth of Australia is the borrower. The Loan Council agreement, which has been made under the Constitution, states that the Commonwealth shall be the borrower. That is why the security is absolutely safe. It is ridiculous for the Treasurer to say that he is paying this House a courtesy by bringing the matter before it. It is the duty of the Government to do so. That is why the Treasurer is doing it. It is the only way in which the loan may be properly authorized.
I shall give now details of corresponding borrowings at about the relevant time, so far as I can ascertain them from the careful speech of my colleague, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. First, let us consider local Canadian loans. Three per cent, victory loans were quoted at par. The money was lent, on the security of the Canadian Government, in Canada. Surely the security of the Australian Government in Canada is equivalent to that of the Canadian Government. Long-term debentures issued by the International Bank at3½ per cent, were also quoted at par. Because there was an international element the rate of interest was a little higher - 3½ per cent.
– I speak subject to correction, but the rate of interest does not vary because the security is overseas.
– It does.
– We are borrowing £15,000,000 at an interest rate of 4 per cent., but it is issued, not at par, but at £98 10s. Therefore, the Australian people will get £98 10s., but will be obliged to repay £100. That is only the beginning, because brokerage will reduce the amount we shall receive to £96 or £96 10s. for each £100 of the loan. 1 estimate the effective rate of interest which the Australian Government will pay to be 4f per cent. Is that not right ?
– It is absolutely wrong.
– The right honorable the Treasurer should check whether that is so.
– There is no need for me to check it. The Leader of the Opposition should check his calculation.
– I have already done so and find that the effective rate of interest is 4f per cent., compared with 3 per cent, for the local Canadian victory loan and S£ per cent, for International Bank debentures. Both those rates are enormously lower than the price which this Government must pay in Canada. I claim - and I invite the Treasurer to answer my argument - that the operative rates on the Australian loan is 4§ per cent. The Treasurer admits to 4.13 per cent, and anything more than 4 per cent, shows Australia to bp inferior in credit worthiness to the Government of Canada and the International Bank. Is it not true that this Government’s management has earned for us in the markets of the world the reputation of being desperately keen on borrowing, borrowing and more borrowing? I should not mind if the Treasurer did not boast about his borrowing performances. He wants to borrow from every country. He borrowed a tiny loan from Switzerland, which, in effect, could only be paid in the form of Swiss products in Australia. There is no country from which he will not borrow. One would not mind so much if the terms of the loans were comparable to those existing elsewhere, but they are completely irrational. Even worse, the Treasurer chooses to compare himself with the late Mr. Chifley. He is correct in saying that that gentleman did not increase the borrowings of this country but reduced them. It is true that he did not reduce them by £400,000,000, but even the Treasurer has admitted that
Mr. Chifley reduced our overseas indebtedness by £100,000,000. Did he not also reduce the overseas interest charges by £13,000,000?
– Then what did b* reduce them by?
– I do not know.
– The right honorable gentleman is the Treasurer, but I do not blame him for not knowing everything. My recollection is that the figure was well over £10,000,000.
– That is very different from £13,000,000.
– By careful management of this country’s finances Mr. Chifley reduced its overseas indebtedness by approximately £100,000,000. Does the present Treasurer consider it a good thing to have overseas indebtedness? He has a balance of payments crisis every year or two. In his absence, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) came along and said, “ An international crisis is coming. Let us arrange for a broadcast. What are we going to tell the people?” The Treasurer spoke of the restrictions imposed by Mr. Chifley during war-time. The right honorable gentleman, who supported those restrictions, now says that he does not believe in restrictions, but is this true? Apparently he believes in restrictions on wages, but not on profits. He is very ready to control imports and that is now necessary because of . the Government’s mismanagement of the finances. I deeply resent the right honorable gentleman’s attack on Mr. Chifley’s careful husbanding of the finances of this country. What the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) said was, is substance, true. He said that Mr. Chifley, realizing that external borrowing was intimately related to the problem of overseas balances, reduced it by carefully husbanding Australia’s finances. He was looking ahead to a time when Australia’s primary products would not be sold at a high market price, and we might fall upon a period of adversity. He built up our financial reserves to approximately £800,000,000. The present Treasurer said, “ We will get rid of them.- We shall bring in goods and that will cure inflation “. We know what happened. Inflation has not been cured.
The Treasurer speaks of the “ ignorance “ of the honorable member for Melbourne ports, but that honorable gentleman was deputed by this party to examine this bill very carefully. He reported, as I have indicated, that the rate of interest was too high because, apparently, the credit of this country abroad was too low. That sort of thing never happened under Mr. Chifley’s administration. What is the Treasurer’s answer to that? As I have pointed out, not only shall we get only £98 10s. for every £100 that we shall have to repay - I think it is called “ issuing at a discount” - but also we shall pay substantial brokerage. I should imagine that the promoter would have to do little more than print the prospectus because he would be offering interest rates beyond the wildest dreams of the Canadian investor.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman’s time has aspired.
.- I did not want to come into this discussion, and I did not want to waste the time of the House during the last hours of the Parliament, but I could not refrain from rising after the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) made such utterly foolish statements. I am sorry to have to say that, but obviously the Leader of the Opposition did not know what he was taking about in relation to . overseas borrowing. He had not the slightest idea about it, and certain statements that he made show how utterly ridiculous his contention is. For instance, he made an interest calculation, taking into consideration certain costs associated with the matter which, in any borrowing transaction in any country in the world, can never be taken into account in regard to the interest rate. The interest rate is 4.136 per cent. To get that figure we take the discount rate at which the loan is floated, which is 98.5 for 100. Other matters are not taken into consideration.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) also showed his utter ignorance when he criticized the fact that an amount of 300,000 dollars was paid for brokerage. That is the normal rate of brokerage in any country in the world - 2 per cent. There is nothing fantastic about that.
The Leader of the Opposition then gave certain other figures. Because the rate in Canade for local gilt-edged securities is 3 per cent., and because he contends that the security of Australia is equally good - and I have no doubt that it is - the Leader of the Opposition thinks that the Australian rate should be 3 per cent. That shows a complete and absolute ignorance of the basic principles of foreign borrowing in any lender country in the world. I went through all these matters for three or four months in the United States of America, and I know what I am talking about. The effective interest rate of 3 per cent, on’ the gilt-edged securities would indicate a rate of 3£ per cent, on the types of securities that are closely related or allied to the Canadian securities. I refer in that connexion to such things as dollar loans in the United States of America. On that ratio, however, foreign loans would be at 4 per cent. I say quite frankly that the loan that we are debating to-night has been negotiated on very good terms, and the Treasurer is to be congratulated on obtaining this loan for Australia.
Certain other statements were made by the Leader of the Opposition. He made a charge that the policy of the Government is to control wages. Although that matter is not completely related to the bill which is being debated, the statement must be replied to. It is not the policy of this Government to control wages in any way. This Government stands for the principle that the arbitration system should deal with wages in this country. Let it be said, however, that State governments all over Australia think that wages should be legislated for and should not be left to be dealt with by the proper instrumentality under the arbitration system.
The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, also demonstrated his ignorance when he was speaking on this matter. He said that we wanted to increase production in this country. The purpose of this bill is to increase production in this country. The Leader of the Opposition said that this was a Commonwealth loan and that it had nothing to do with the States. This money is for the States. In the name of goodness, what is he talking about? This loan has been obtained to buy materials for works carried on in the States, in order to increase production in the States. What is Labour coming to? To-night we have seen the Leader of the Opposition, his deputy and other members standing up in this House and knocking Australia at every opportunity, instead of fighting for the development of Australia. Surely it is a grand thing that our Treasurer can go to Canada, America and other countries and be received in the way that he is received. What a contrast there is between . the right honorable gentleman’s standing overseas and that of the representatives of Labour governments in their dollar borrowings in America in the past. Jack Lang, who was the very much revered Labour Premier of New South Wales, was the first borrower of dollars, and he left such a reputation overseas that countries on the other side of the world were fearful lest ‘ Australia should default. It was only when this Government came into power that that fear was dispelled, and those countries now know that they are perfectly safe in lending money to Australia. There is one thing that people overseas are afraid of in regard to Australia. They are afraid of Labour getting into power and socializing the industries of this country. If Labour attains power and socializes industry, we shall never be able to borrow any more money overseas, and we need the money now for the purposes of development.
This is a grand floating, a splendid loan, and the Treasurer and the Government must be proud when they realize that we are the first people in any part of the world to whom the Canadian people have lent money on such beneficial terms. This loan is making history. Apart from the benefit that it will confer on production in Australia, it forms a link between Canadians and Australians. That is something that has been established in the first instance by our Treasurer, and I hope that the financial relations between Canada and Australia will improve as a result of it.
Criticism was offered regarding the optional redemption provisions of the loan, and this again shows the ignorance of the people who criticized those provisions. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports said that we shall pay back 100 dollars that we borrow, having received 98.5 dollars, by paying 102.5 dollars in 1958. The Treasurer explained one angle of that computation. We must realize that people do not want to lend their money to-day and receive it back to-morrow. They want to invest money for a certain period, and, apart from the fact that there may be fluctuations in the interest rate, it is proper and customary in all borrowings everywhere to have a premium rate on the early redemption of a loan. Therefore, 102.5 dollars is the figure fixed for 1958, 101.75 for 1964, and 101 for 1967. The figure is reduced as the period lengthens, and on the maturity of the loan the figure becomes 100.
– It is purely optional !
– Yes, purely optional ; there is no doubt about that! We must have money to develop this country. Our policy is to do these things in the way that everybody knows we are doing them, not putting the country in pawn but borrowing where it is essential. Our borrowing is not very great. Labour’* answer to this problem would be to inflate the Australian currency, put more money into the Treasury, print the notes and create inflation which will destroy all the solid investments that people have in Australia. The Labour party does not mind doing that. It does not mind destroying the capital investments of people in Australia. It does not want private people to own anything in Australia. It is prepared to destroy the credit of our currency in Australia, because it wants to have as much governmentowned industry and as much direction by government as possible. I am proud to associate myself with the Treasurer in this matter, because the loan will be very beneficial to Australia’s production and to the growth of this great young country.
– There are one or two points that I should like the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) to answer directly. He has avoided them, so far. To my mind, there is no gainsaying the fact that for every 100 dollars of this 15,000,000 dollar loan, the Australian Government will receive no more - it will be slightly less - than 964 dollars. I suggest that that is written very clearly into the first schedule of this bill. If the Treasurer says that is not true- -
– Nobody has ever denied that. The document is unambiguous.
– Then, to put the question in the terms used in high finance circles in which the Treasurer moves, what is the redemption yield to Australia of the fifteen-year bonds purchased by Australia at an effective rate of 964 dollars? I suggest that the Treasurer should first answer that question.
As to the underwriters, it seems to me that they receive 300,000 dollars as a result of this deal. The only real expenditure that they will undertake is envisaged in clause 3 of the first schedule, which states -
The cost of printing the Prospectus shall be paid by us.
– That is sheer nonsense.
– The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) is an estate agent. He is not a high financier; he is a low financier. Clause 3 of the first schedule continues -
All legal expenses in connexion with the issue of the Fifteen Year Bonds, including the expenses of our counsel-
That is provided for - both in Canada and in Australia, shall be paid by the Commonwealth.
Again, that is written in cold, clear terms. Then clause 15 of the first schedule says -
The Fifteen Year Bonds shall be offered to the public in Canada through a group of Canadian investment dealers and chartered banks selected by us at the initial offering price of 98.5 per cent.
In other words, the price is 984 dollars. This means that to the investing public, this loan is a winner on the Canadian market. I suggest that if the Treasurer could ask, by way of telegraph to Canada, the rate at which the 100-dollar bonds are quoted on the market at the moment - if there is any sale - he would find that they would be quoted at above 100 dollars. No doubt the Treasurer will say that such a rate indicates the great confidence that other people in the world have in Australia. Bonds for which we get 964 dollars will be quoted to-day on the Canadian Stock Exchange at about 1024 dollars, yet the Treasurer is asking honorable members on this side of the House to believe that he has made a good deal ! I suggest that it is a poor deal.
– The honorable member should have that out with the Labour members of the Loan Council.
– If the Treasurer had done as my colleague suggested and negotiated a similar loan through one of the principal banks in Canada, he probably could have it for flotation expenses in the region of 50,000 or 100,000 dollars instead of 300,000 dollars; and I suggest that he could have got it on the same terms as those on which the International Bank gets it - about 34 per cent, or 3f per cent. - instead, of, as he says, the effective price of 4.13 per cent., but which, on a proper objective analysis, will be found to be nearer 44 per cent.
The other point which I have asked the Treasurer to explain, and which he has carefully avoided in his explanation to-night, is connected with the second schedule to this agreement and relates to the operation of the sinking fund. What does the jargon in clauses 3 and 4 of this second schedule really mean? The honorable member for Bennelong quoted the payment of this loan in 1960. I make the point that the loan raised in Canada in October, 1955, at 984 per cent, can be redeemed in November, 1958 - not 1960 or 1961, but only three years after - at 1024 per cent.
– Redeemed by the Commonwealth.
– I may be dull in these matters, and the Treasurer is probably just as dull, but he is in a much more responsible position than I am. I ask him: Does the position I have stated mean that, in a period of three years, they are guaranteed a capital improvement of 4 per cent.
– Goodness me, no!
– Contrast that with the fate of the poor bondholder in Australia under this Government’s policy. An examination of the position will show that bonds attracting 31/8 per cent., or anything under 4½ per cent., and which are redeemable in Australia in the next few years, will not be quoted at over par; they will be quoted at anything from 8 per cent, to 10 per cent, below par. I. repeat that there has been more security given to investors in Canada against a potential fall in the market than has been given to Australian investors. The Treasurer has suggested that the protection accorded is against a fall in the rate in Canada. I suggest that the protection is against a rise in the possible rate of Canadian interest, and that the public is being insulated thereby. If the Treasurer takes Canada as an example, I suggest that the next time he speaks, he answer my question as to why public borrowing in Canada to-day can be negotiated at 3 per cent., whether it be done by the loan council, the council of the provinces or the central government, while in Australia it can only be done at 4½ per cent, for Commonwealth loans and for a slightly higher margin for semi-governmental institutions.
The Treasurer went into past history. I want him to come forward to the present time and explain these two points. He has admitted my first point, which is that for every 100 dollars that Australia has to repay - in fact, it may be 102½ dollars for a considerable proportion of it - we have received only 96½ per cent. The effective rate is much above the 4.13 per cent, that he mentioned. If the rate in Canada is put down at 3 per cent, to-day, why is it as high as it is in this country at the present time?
Again I draw the Treasurer’s attention to that humiliating clause in the first agreement which safeguards this small private company against any deterioration in the status of Australia.
– Since four Labour Premiers have officially conveyed their approval of this arrangement to the loan council, I think that rather than takeup the time of the committee in this fashion members of the Labour party should resolve their differences with their colleagues in the State parliaments. Therefore, I move -
That the question be now put.
Question put. The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Mr. G. J. Bowden.)
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– As Chairman, I present the following report of the Public Accounts Committee : -
Twenty-secondReport - Aluminium. Production Commission - Part II.
In presenting this report, I should like to make a brief explanation. Honorable members will recall that Part I. of the report on the Australian Aluminium Production Commission was presented to the House on the 2nd June last before the Parliament adjourned for the winter recess preceding this budget session. The committee stated at that time that it had made most of its inquiries but had not had sufficient time to frame the report in respect of most of the matters inquired into. It has now been able to complete the report, and Part II. is accordingly presented. The committee has not yet been able to have this report printed. Proofs only are available. I hope that the report will be printed early next week and that it will be possible to post copies to honorable members during next week.
Ordered to be printed.
Debate resumed from the 26th October (vide page 1906), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill, like the Loan (Canadian Dollars) Bill 1955, looks, on the surface, comparatively innocuous, but nevertheless hides some of the financial manipulation that has been practised by this Government. It is, as honorable members will see, a bill to establish a loan consolidation and investment reserve, and for purposes connected therewith. Its purpose is ostensibly to appropriate in advance £48,500,000 of the £48,670,000 that the Treasurer imagined would be his budget surplus for the financial year 1955-56. It also contemplates that there shall be paid to the credit of that reserve more than £100,000,000 which stands to the credit of the Debt Redemption Reserve Trust Account.
The reason given by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) for this measure, if reflected upon, indicates the seriousness of the financial difficulties in which this Government has placed Australia. The right honorable gentleman made his second-reading speech on this measure last evening. Again, honorable members on this side of the House have been given little opportunity to examine so important a bill. The Treasurer, in his secondreading speech, stated that, at the 30th June last, the amount of war debt due to mature in the period to 1961 stood at £870,000,000. I have no doubt that he really meant that war debt, as we all know, is principally debt that is not represented by any available assets, although, as debt held by members of the public, it is still negotiable security for them. The Treasurer went on to say, in a masterly understatement -
No doubt when the time comes, efforts will be made to convert as much as possible of this debt into other securities, but this could well prove difficult. There is no means of knowing in advance what financial conditions are likely to prevail in that period.
I suppose that that possibly is true, so far as the Government is concerned, but again I suggest that there is much misconception about the Australian public debt, and this measure affords to us some means of examining that question, because of its intimate connexion with it. I cited recently figures which I propose to cite again. They are taken from a very valuable compilation, issued by a reputable firm of stock brokers, which is known as Were’s Guide to Australian Loans and Debentures. On page 2 are given the total holdings of our public debt, which at the end of June, 1954, totalled £2,721,000,000.. Of course, it is sometimes imagined that the public debt is held by the little people of Australia, in the form of £100 war savings certificates, and £1,000 in security loans, and that kind of thing. However, the future of the loan market should he assessed in the light of these figures, which show that of the total amount, £682,000,000, or 25 per cent., is held by the Commonwealth Bank and Commonwealth Savings Bank. If some portion of this £870,000,000 is held by the Commonwealth Bank and the Commonwealth Savings Bank, I doubt whether there will be any difficulty about negotiating the conversion of that loan, particularly as most of it is loaned at the low rates which prevailed under the Chifley Government, and may be converted to the higher rates now offering. An amount of £355,900,000, or 13 per cent., is held by the trading banks of Australia, including the Commonwealth trading bank. I suggest that such institutions, being realistic in their approach, will not mind converting 3£ per cent, holdings into 4i holdings. Life assurance companies, which depend for their existence on the holding of Government securities, hold £211,000,000, or nearly 8 per cent, of the total. I suggest that they would welcome conversion of their holdings from low rates to high rates. Other insurance concerns hold £4.7,000,000, and Commonwealth and State governments, and local semi-governmental bodies, hold £446,000,000, or 16 per cent, of the total. These figures indicate that really the public debt of the Commonwealth of Australia can be largely manipulated and controlled by the Treasurer and the government of the day. Therefore, to suggest that because this £870,000,000 falls due in the next five or six years we have to set aside such an amount, is not the real answer at all. It merely illustrates the ^public camouflage which is perpetrated by the Government in its accounts.
The ‘budget papers, which we considered recently in conjunction with the Estimates, show that at the end of June, 1955, trust funds totalled £733,000,000. The measure which we have before us simply seeks to establish a new trust fund and absorb the old one, but it is still a trust fund. Of that amount of £733,000,000 at the 30th June, 1955, £126,000,000, which represents ft considerable portion, was in what is called a debt redemption reserve. The measure before us proposes to appropriate an amount of £48,000,000- odd and to add to it the debt redemption reserve. It is interesting to examine some of these trust accounts, and. sometimes it is difficult to know precisely what happens to them. An interesting one, which is familiar to the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) is the Strategic Stores and Equipment Reserve, which, at the end of June, 1955, totalled £48,875,000. Every year, when the budget is brought before the House, Ministers say, “ We have to protect ourselves, by stockpiling, against a likely shortage of certain materials in the future”. But to a large extent that is a camouflage procedure. All that happens is that they say, Here is a good chance to salt away £20,000,000 or £30,000,000 of surplus revenue, that otherwise the States, which are not altogether satisfied, might inquire about.
– That is awful rubbish, is it not?
– Let him go!
– An amount of £48,000,000 stands to the credit of that account. I ask the Minister for Supply whether he is in a position to supply the information for which an honorable member asked.
– I brought in the reply, and he did not turn up to hear it.
– The Minister could have delivered it just the same. We shall be interested to hear it.
– I shall give it next session, if the honorable gentleman is here.
– Another way of hiding a surplus is to provide for the expenditure of £200,000,000 on defence, and, having under-expended by £12,000,000 at the end of the year, to say, “ We shall put that into a defence trust account”. In one year that procedure was adopted to the extent of £12,000,000, and in the next year to the extent of £8,000,000, making an aggregate of £20,000,000. The Auditor-General, in his last report, said. “ The account stands at £20,000,000, and nothing appears to have been done with it “. This measure is a similar piece of legerdemain. It is an attempt by the Treasurer to show that he has not the revenue that the States suggest he has, and it will be salted away by the Government for very good purposes. It may be that he is not as confident about the economic future as the Prime Minister apparently imagines the Australian public will think he is. It is a good attempt to establish one of these new, mysterious accounts, but the real purpose is to ultimately camouflage the true position. Before I was a member of this Parliament, I was a supporter of the previous government, although I was not here. I was a member of a State parliament, and one of the annual escapades of the present Treasurer, who was then in opposition, was to chide the Treasurer of the day with the question, “Where is all this money that has gone into these trust accounts?” The Treasurer has now been in office for six or seven years and has apparently found some of the channels through the maze, and I ask him whether he will tell us where all these trust funds go. The other night the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) said, “ We know that when governments collect surplus revenue they do not just put it under the counter in the form of pounds, shillings and pence, gold sovereigns, or anything of the kind. It is used in some way or other in the process of government “. There is a very convenient term that we use from time to time. We refer to what are known as internal treasury-bills. As I understand the internal treasury-bill procedure, if the Government has £20,000,000 more than was anticipated in one account and £20,000,000 less than was anticipated in another account, it says, “ We will take money from Account A and pay it into Account B. The money will be there if we want it “. If honorable members will cast their minds back to an occasion when the National Welfare Fund was being discussed, they will remember that the present Government parties asked, “Where is the £183,000,000 which Mr. Chifley was supposed to have in the National Welfare Fund?” I ask the Treasurer now: where is the £733,000,000 shown on pages 76 and 77 of the budget papers? He ought to know whether the money has been utilized. If he wanted to be honest and frank in these matters, he would not attempt to camouflage the true position in that way.
I suggest that there is less need for this measure than for the one, the introduction of which he described a few minutes ago as an act of courtesy on his part. Is this measure an act of courtesy on his part, or is it just an attempt to hide the real position of the finances of the Commonwealth? I quite agree that there is good reason to be concerned about the economic future of Australia if the right honorable gentleman is the Treasurer during the next three or four years. We on this side of the House hope that he will not be, and I believe that many more people than he envisages share our hope. It is easy to bamboozle honorable members by using an old device and giving it a new name. We say that the Government has got surplus money. In previous years, some of the money was used to underwrite the loan programmes of the States. I notice that the Treasurer is quite prepared to blame the States when it suits him to do so, as it did to-night in dealing with the Canadian loan, hut he is also prepared to take credit for his action in raising money on the loan market for the use of the States. We say that the Commonwealth and the States are not separate, isolated entitles. They are both a part of one great entity which should be engaged in promoting the welfare of this great country.
By this measure, the Government is, in effect, simply giving a new name to a very old practice. Let me ask the questions that I asked in discussing the bill that was before us recently. Why is it that the Government can raise loans in other countries at rates of interest lower than those at which it can raise loans here? Why does not the Government do something to improve the confidence of the Australian people in its loans, instead of saying, “ We are not likely to be successful in our conversions during the next six or seven years “ ? I suggest that the responsibility lies, not on the Loan Council, as the right honorable gentleman suggests, but primarily on the Treasurer of this Commonwealth, acting in conjunction with the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, so to orientate and direct the financial resources of this country as to secure the greatest economic development. I suggest that, judged as a partner in that kind of union, the Treasurer has been an awful failure. He has allowed things to slide and has done nothing to retrieve the position.
I read the other day that in some of the States great difficulty is being encountered in filling what are called semi-governmental loans. There is quite a number of them on the market at the present time. The Electricity Commission and the Gas and Fuel Corporation in my State have been trying to raise loans at 4¾ per cent, interest - a rate higher than that offered for Commonwealth loans. One of the proposals contained in the bill is the repeal of a section of the Audit Act dealing with State securities. The Treasurer says that State securities, as such, no longer exist. That is true in a very technical sense, but it is not true in the sense that there are no securities guaranteed by the government of a State. There are still many securities guaranteed by State governments. The State governments, unlike this Government, cannot offer the attraction of a taxation concession on interest payments. Therefore, in order to induce people to subscribe to their loans, they are forced to offer a higher rate of interest than that offered by the Commonwealth. A prominent Melbourne financier said the other day that semi-governmental institutions would have to offer higher rates of interest if they wanted their loans to be successful. Investors know that if they subscribe to Commonwealth loans they will enjoy the advantage of a taxation concession of 2s. in the £1 on interest payments, so they subscribe to Commonwealth loans and will not subscribe to semi-governmental loans. Why should not the Treasurer extend the mantle of such taxation concessions to cover semi-governmental loans raised for State purposes? Such loans foster national development. If that concession were made, investors would not seek such a high return from semi-governmental loans. They would be satisfied with a lower rate of interest, because they would enjoy a taxation concession. The attitude of the Government and of its supporters seems to be, “Raise interest rates and lower wages. Somehow or other, out of that we shall get economic security “.
I put it to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the Treasurer was not very frank in his explanation of this measure. I suggest that it is simply a device by which the Government intends to pay surplus revenue into an account, where it will be frozen for the time being, so that it will be able to tell the States, which need money for national development, that it really has not got a surplus.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Rill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate. [Quorum formed.]
Debate resumed from the 26th October (vide page 1909), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden) -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The amendments contained in the bill now before the House fall under six separate heads. Normally on such an occasion, one would discuss the whole question of taxation, the principles upon which taxes should be levied, and the contribution that they might make towards a solution of our economic difficulties. I do not intend to do that at this late hour and at this late stage of the session, but to address my brief remarks only to the six separate heads to which I have referred. The first head deals with an extension of a benefit that is given to primary producers. No doubt it will be welcomed by those primary producers who are able to take advantage of it. They will be given the benefit of an extension of the 20 per cent, depreciation allowance on structural improvements situated on land used for agricultural or pastoral purposes and on plant, machinery and equipment if installed between 1951 and 1955. Although those producers who can afford to effect structural improvements or to buy the equipment and plant that is covered by this amendment will receive some benefit, the vast majority will obtain no benefit at all. Because of the rising costs of production, primary producers are in real need of some consideration from the Government. It proposes to give some slight concession under this head, but it has shown no real appreciation of the problem with, which they are confronted in producing and trying to sell their products on the world’s markets. Unless something positive is done by the Government, they will be confronted by a crisis in the near future. The Opposition does not oppose this amendment, because it does give some slight concession, and we supported the introduction of the depreciation allowance originally.
The second amendment proposed relates to sales of live-stock due to the Government’s campaign to reduce pests. The amendment provides that income derived from such sales may be spread over a period of years for taxation purposes. That is a reasonable provision. It would not be fair if the income derived from a forced sale of stock were taxed in the year of receipt. The proposal follows a pattern that has been laid down by Labour governments, and which has been followed by this Government from time to time.
The next concession relates to residents in isolated areas. This benefit was originally introduced by the Chifley Labour Government. It was the aim of that Government, by zoning the Australian continent, to provide a small concession to residents in outback areas. In doing so, it sought to give some recognition to the fact that costs in such areas were higher. My friend and colleague, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson), has sought from this Government over the years an extension of the concession that it is now proposed to extend. His pleas, which were the pleas of a man who knows so intimately the hardships and the cost of living in the outback areas of Australia, have hitherto fallen on deaf ears. The Government now proposes to extend the concession to the territories that are mentioned in the bill and in the Treasurer’s second-reading speech. The Opposition offers no objection to this amendment, but I suggest to the Treasurer that, if he is in a position to make concessions when the new Parliament assembles, he might listen to the earnest pleas of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie.
– He will still be the Treasurer ?
– He may be. I said that if he is in that position, he might listen to the earnest pleas of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, and that he might make a realistic concession in relation to these areas.
The next amendment relates to gifts to a fund that has been sponsored by the Duke of Edinburgh. Although the Opposition has not had sufficient time to consider this proposal, I point out that it too follows a pattern that was established by the Australian Labour party, and which has been supported by this Government from time to time. We offer no objection to it. The next head relates to the taxation of profits derived from uraniummining. The ‘ major alteration to the existing legislation, to which I take some exception, is that the existing provision that three-quarters of the voting capital of the companies that mine and process uranium ore must be owned by residents of Australia is to be removed. It seemed reasonable that such companies ought to be substantially- Australian-owned. I think that that provision should have been retained, and that the Treasurer ought to give some explanation for the proposed alteration.
The final matter for consideration is the method of taxing income derived by friendly society dispensaries. The Treasurer, in his second-reading speech, pointed out that the Chifley Labour Government had legislated for a tax of 15 per cent, on moneys received by friendly societies from the Government under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act 1947, which was introduced by the Chifley Labour Government. He also pointed out, and rightly so, that that tax was never levied, because, for a number of reasons, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act never came into full force. If it had come into full force, it can be assumed that there would have been a large increase of government payments to the friendly societies, and that great profits would have been derived. Moreover, the legislation that was introduced by the Chifley Government exempted from this flat rate 4- income received by the societies from trading with their own members. The proposed amendment seeks- to include income that is derived by friendly societies from trading with their own members. It is proposed that the only income derived by friendly society dispensaries which will be exempt will be the per capita payments made to the friendly societies that own the dispensaries. The Treasurer, in his second-reading speech, stated -
After an exhaustive examination, the Government .proposes that the dispensaries shall in future pay tax on 10 per cent, of the gross income that they receive from the Commonwealth under the national health services scheme and from trading with the general public, including members of friendly societies.
My suggestion to the Government is that this important change might have been left to a. later date. It seems to me unnecessary, and unjust to introduce such a provision in the dying hours of the Parliament. The Government might well make a further examination of it - or the new government after the general election in December may do so - and forgo for the present the imposition of tax on the income of friendly societies, which is now proposed. It has been pointed out to me that friendly society -dispensaries, have .fixed their rates for the current year, and the 10 per cent, tax on their gross incomes might easily mean that some dispensaries may incur a considerable loss instead of making a profit. I suggest that the Treasurer might well defer this new provision. This is the first time this class of tax has been levied. It is a tax, not on profits, but on gross income received from the trading of friendly societies. Even a dispensary that makes a loss will be required to pay the tax on its income received from trading, and. the income it receives from the Government. .It is not a good tax in the normal sense, and should receive more consideration. It should certainly be deferred at this late stage in the life of the Parliament. With those comments I leave the matter, merely pointing out that this is the only clause to which the Opposition takes any real exception, and that our objection is rather to the way in which the new provision has been introduced at such a late stage of the Parliament’s life, without apparently the proper consideration having been given to its effect on friendly societies which incur losses as well as those which make profits.
.- It appears that the Opposition does not strongly object to any clause in the measure, and I rise only to make a suggestion about the clause concerning the special depreciation allowance. One of the amendments proposed to the principal act is designed to extend, for one year, the special 20 per cent, depreciation allowance to primary producers. Primary producers all over the country are pleased that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has seen fit to extend this provision for one year, because the special depreciation allowance has been very beneficial to them. It has served its purpose in helping to foster production, and at this stage in our history we wish to do that to the utmost. We are anxious to get all the exportable primary production that we can in order to augment our overseas balances, and the allowance has therefore been of great benefit to Australia generally. I hope that the Treasurer will give early consideration to a further extension of the application of the special depreciation allowance to primary producers. I think it should be extended for at least another three years from the end of next June. Five years is sometimes thought to be too long a period for which to extend such a provision, but three years is certainly not too long. I also wish to point out the wisdom of making a decision on this suggestion as early as possible, because primary producers have to plan their programmes ahead and an early decision on my suggestion would assist such planning and benefit Australia.
– At this late hour in the dying stages of the Parliament I do not propose to detain the House for very long, but I should like to mention the fact that in the six years that I have been a member of the Parliament, during all of which time the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has held his present ministerial office, there has been a considerable simplification and streamlining of our tax laws. I think that this is a tribute to the Treasurer, who has achieved’ something of real importance in that direction by removing a num!ber of anomalies and by generally straightening out our tax laws. People who are familiar with the tax laws will agree that this is something that has passed almost unnoticed, but it is something of which we should take note and in regard to which we should pay a tribute to the Treasurer.
I suggest that there are one or two matters to which the Treasurer might give attention in connexion with further improvements to our tax laws. The first is, that it seems to me, as one who makes no claim to be an expert in tax laws, that the principle whereby public companies and private companies are treated on an altogether different basis under the tax laws is wrong. I feel that the incidence of taxation now is weighted heavily against the small company. * Quorum formed.’]* The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who is slinking behind the door to the lobby, has been .up to his usual tricks. There he is showing his head now! He walked out, trying to exercise the authority that he hopes will be his after the general election, when he dreams of supplanting the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, or even the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). On this occasion, when the Parliament is breaking up for the recess, and all but two of the members of the Opposition were outside the chamber, he instructed the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) to direct the attention of the Chair to the state of the House. The honorable member for East Sydney was thereby displaying, right to the very end, that uncooperative and ungracious character for which he has become so notorious in the course of this Parliament. I was suggesting to the Treasurer that he might give some consideration to altering the basis of our tax laws so that private companies will be placed in much the same position as public companies as regards the incidence of taxation. It seems to me . as one who, I repeat, claims no expert knowledge of these matters, that it is unfair, and is an improper discrimination against private companies, that they should have to pay what are, in effect, considerably higher rates of tax than apply in the case of public com panies. When we take into account the fact that the public companies are, on the whole, the big companies with larger capital and that the private companies, generally speaking, are the small companies, it becomes all the more remarkable and it becomes all the more necessary that some action should be taken on the lines that I have indicated.
– Would the honorable member make the private companies publish their balance-sheets?
– It is true that private companies do not publish their balance-sheets and that public companies do, but that is a separate matter. I donot hold any strong views on that. Public companies have paid taxation at the rate of 7s. in the £1; and after paying that 7s. in the £1 they are not liable for any further taxation on their profits. They can retain the balance of 13s. in the £1. They are under no legal obligation to distribute any of that money to shareholders, although the pressure of public opinion, demands that they should make some distribution to their shareholders. But there is no legal obligation to do so. They can put all that money into reserves, and public revenue has no further claim on that 13s. in the £1. The private companies, although they pay a rate of 6s. in the £1 on their income after the first £5,000, have to pay an additional rate of 10s. in the £1 as undistributed profits tax on the balance, if they do not distribute the amount. It seems to me to be unfair that this extra burden should be imposed on the private companies - the small companies.
I see no reason why public companies and private companies should not be on exactly the same basis for taxation purposes. There is no reason why they should not pay exactly the same rates. I understand that that is the position in other countries. In the United States of America and in the United Kingdom this distinction is not drawn between the two types of companies. The private companies are not penalized by having to pay this heavy rate of undistributed profits tax which applies in this country. I suggest to the Treasurer that this matter is becoming more and more important in the community as a result of a recent development in the financial structure of the business community. It is a very noticeable fact that more and more public companies are not nowraising capital on the share market because they would have to pay more money in dividends on that extra capital and money paid in the form of dividends is money that is paid after taxation has been paid on profits. So more and more companies, instead of increasing their capital in that way, are now increasing the amount of their working funds by raising debentures in various forms. By increasing their working funds in that way they pay interest on that money, but the interest is a deductible item for income tax purposes and so they are much better off than they would have been if the money had been raised in the form of share capital.
What they are doing is perfectly legal. It would not be right to say that they are defrauding the taxation authorities of money, because they are not. But they are depriving the revenue of a considerable amount by adopting the device of increasing their working funds by means of debentures rather than by raising extra capital on which they would have to pay dividends after taxation had been assessed on their profits. I put it to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) that this practice of raising debentures rather than increasing the amount of paid-up capital is becoming much more prevalent in the community and the main purpose of that device is to lessen the incidence of taxation. That, of course, is quite a proper and legitimate thing to do. But this practice is mainly being indulged . in by the big public companies. They are the beneficiaries of this scheme and the smaller private companies are not able to take advantage of that sort of commercial transaction. Such being the case, I suggest that large public companies are getting further benefit out of taxation laws by increasing their working funds in this way. That highlights the fact that the private companies - the smaller companies - are at a big disadvantage as regards the incidence of taxation because they are not in a position to avail themselves of this method.
– Is the honorable member opposed to monopoly capitalism ?
– That is another matter. I am discussing the incidence of taxation. If the honorable member had been listening to what I said, he would have heard that I suggested that the public companies have an advantage over the smaller, private companies. That is the first matter that I put to the Treasurer. I do not want to be drawn into a lengthy debate.
– Why not?
– Other speakers on previous matters have taken up all the time. I suggest, in view of the general principle, that there seems to be no justification for making the rate of taxation on the smaller private companies heavier, in effect, than the rate of taxation on the larger companies. In view of this new commercial practice that I have described in relation to debentures, I think the time has arrived when we should review the differences in the incidence of taxation on the two different types of companies.
The second matter to which I ask the Treasurer to give some attention is the fact that all companies, whether public or private, enjoy a considerable advantage in relation to the incidence of taxation as against the individual taxpayer. It is a well-known fact that all wage and salary earners have their tax deducted from their wages or salary each week. They literally pay as they earn. Business men and professional men who earn annual amounts pay as they earn by means of provisional taxation. It must be a real anomaly in our system of taxation that the only section of taxpayers in the community which is not called upon to pay its tax out of its current year’s earnings are the public companies and private companies. They pay tax upon the previous year’s income so that the money which they pay in the form of tax is at least twelve months behind all the time ; and as the companies are the big income earners - as the tax that they pay each year runs into hundreds of thousands of pounds, and indeed, into millions of pounds in some cases - they have, over a period of a year, the use of this money which actually belongs to the Commissioner of Taxation.
I will not go into every detail but I think that there is an anomaly that should be looked into, so that companies will not enjoy these considerable benefits that individual taxpayers do not enjoy. The truth of the matter is that the general rate of taxation of public companies in this country seems to be unduly low when compared with the rate operating in other countries and when compared with the rate paid by individuals. I suppose it is rather unusual to draw attention to a matter such as this on the eve of an election, but I think that we should realize that the public companies in this country pay tax at the rate of 7s. in the £1 and that that rate is considerably less than the rate that is paid by public companies in the United Kingdom and in the United States of America. It seems to me that it would be more in keeping with the principles of equality and justice in taxation if public companies, which are the big income earners, paid a higher rate of tax than at present, particularly when we consider that after they pay their primary rate of taxation, there is no further call on their profit in the form of undistributed profits tax or excess profits tax. I do not believe that we should be justified, in this country, in imposing an excess profits tax. I think that it is impracticable, that it would present us with too many anomalies, and that it could not be worked out on a fair and equitable basis. On the other hand, I believe that 7s. in the £1 is inadequate. In the United States of America the rate of taxation on all but the first 25,000 dollars of profit is 52 per cent. In the United Kingdom the rate is considerably higher than it is in Australia. That is a matter for consideration by the new Treasurer and the incoming government. When consideration is being given to finding sources of additional taxation, for expenditure in desirable directions - and this is not the proper occasion on which to suggest what they might be - honorable members should keep in mind the possibility of bringing taxation on public companies up to a rate approaching that which obtains in other countries.
In regard to that I wish to make a final point. I think that it would be more equitable if public companies paid a higher rate of taxation, as they did in previous years, and pay-roll tax were abolished. The public companies are well able to pay a higher rate, and it would be much fairer if they did so. Such a tax is based upon ability to pay. A company may not make any profit - it may actually lose on its operations for the year - but it is still liable for pay-roll tax. .Some companies, which employ many persons, in relation to turnover, pay a considerable amount of pay-roll tax. Other companies, which employ few men but make large profits, pay much less. It seems to me that this tax is unjust and improper because it bears no relation to one’s ability to pay. I do suggest to the Treasurer that he give consideration to that matter. The revenue that would be lost by completely abolishing pay-roll tax could be more justly and equitably derived from the business community by bringing up the rates of taxation on public companies to the level that I have suggested.
, - I shall speak for only a few minutes. I should not have risen but for the fact that the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. W. M. Bourke), who invariably speaks with profundity and clarity, if not brevity, has made some suggestions for the amendment of the taxation law. While the arguments that he has voiced show that he has given a considerable amount of thought to the subject, they do not reveal quite the degree of research that encompasses the path of one who seeks to find the difference between the laws of different countries. Nothing is more confusing or misleading than the comparison of statistics from different countries, and I suppose that taxation is no exception. I agree with the honorable member insofar as he refers to the rates of taxation paid by public and private companies, and the need to increase the former. The point at which he goes astray is this: Although the public company is not taxed more than 7s. in the £1 and is thereby able to distribute a larger profit, that profit is taxed in the hands of the individual taxpayer. There is forever grief amongst the many people who, having paid company tax, find that they must pay tax on the money that comes to them as individual shareholders also. This is especially the case with wealthy shareholders, who are taxed at a very much higher rate. The same reasoning applies to many other aspects of the taxation laws. It would require a great deal of very honest and painstaking research to ascertain accurately how things work out in other countries. For instance, it is quite true that in the United States of America and Great Britain the company tax is as high as 52 per cent., hut in those countries companies have the benefit of extraordinarily fine depreciation arrangements, which enable them to more than overtake the leeway. Many Australian companies look with envious eyes upon the ability of those in other countries to overcome obsolescence, and generally recreate the value of their investment, by this means. I do not propose to enter into a discussion of that to-night I merely refer to it in passing because the honorable member for Fawkner, as I have said, always makes a very thoughtful contribution to debates. I want to say briefly in conclusion that I consider the present Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Australia, the right honorable Sir Arthur Fadden, the best Treasurer who has ever sat in that chair.
– Notwithstanding the objections raised by my distinguished friend, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr, Keon), I propose to demonstrate briefly just what I mean. Only a man of great ability can tax people so that they do not react with sounds and appearances that betoken extreme pain. Any ordinary accountant can add up figures and plaster a tax on people, but only a man of real vision can extend certain privileges and in doing so realize that in the fullness of time he will collect very much more than he has given out. I think that the present Treasurer, who has been here for a very long time and will be here for a great deal longer, will reap the benefit of that policy.
– I would not depend on his being here much longer.
– Despite the observation of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), I must empha size that the almost prophetic vision of the Treasurer has enabled him to effect certain important reforms. Let us consider first the 20 per cent, special depreciation allowance to the man on the land. Speaking from memory, I think that he has laid down 60 items as capital items, expenditure upon which is a straight-out deduction for the purpose of taxation. He has laid down another 50 items, such as the housing of employees, the purchase of plant and the improvement of land which may be amortized in five years at the rate of 20 per cent, flat. The 20 per cent, allowance is to be continued for another year. The Treasurer is showing more wisdom than has any other Treasurer because he realizes that the 20 per cent, allowance will encourage people to develop and enrich the land. One cannot enrich the land without the cornucopia, as it were, pouring its wealth back into the Treasury. He has demonstrated what T might describe as real vision. What has been the result? A farmer in my electorate with 10,000 acres of land this year has treated his land with superphosphate and seed. In the middle of a New England winter I visited his property, which is in one of the coldest parts of my electorate, and found him loading fat bullocks. That is something that was absolutely unheard of in that area before our present wise Treasurer began to induce people to pour their money back into the land. Those bullocks will bring £50 or £60 a head, and the Treasury will receive some benefit as a result. The employer will have more money to pay his employees. The employees will be better housed and more satisfied. The land will be enriched and the national economy increased, and all because we have a Treasurer of outstanding ability, who is prepared to grant a concession of this kind. Concessions to encourage development could be widely extended. For instance, this country has very rich limestone deposits, which are lying idle because State governments have lost their powers of taxation and consequently have no inducement to develop those deposits. In New Zealand lime is transported to agricultural areas for practically nothing, and if State governments would follow that kind of policy our land would be enriched and production increased. Those facts are recognized in New Zealand, where lime is transported for practically nothing. Our coastal and tableland areas would use countless thousands of tons of lime if it could be transported at a similar low rate.
-Order! I think that the honorable member’s speech has gone beyond the subject of taxation.
– I am just demonstrating how a Treasurer who has shown such remarkable vision could, if he received the co-operation of the States, cause the land to yield vast fields of pastures and legumes and carry large herds of fat stock, resulting in a larger flow of money into the Treasury. I pay tribute to the work of the Treasurer, Treasurers are unpopular people, because they frequently have to say to Ministers, to honorable members and to people outside the Parliament, “ If we did everything you wanted us to do, we would be stony broke, or even bankrupt, and so you must wait your turn “. But our Treasurer is improving conditions so that we may hope the day will not be far distant when people will not have to wait their turn, and when there will be so much money that the tax gatherer will bc almost embarrassed by the collections, and the taxpayer will find it so pleasant, to pay that he will do so as though he were under an anaesthetic. For these reasons I pay my tribute to the Treasurer to-night. He has shown vision, capacity, integrity and strength. ‘ I congratulate him on the policy that he has applied.
I shall not speak on other aspects of tinbill, because there are others more capable than I am of doing so, and, in any event, I do not think it is necessary for me to do so.
.- I wish to address my remarks to only one portion of the bill, as it relates to the State of Victoria. That State, because of the industry of its people, and because of its wealth, which has accrued as a result of their industry, pays more tax per capita than does any other State in the Commonwealth. But, despite that fact, Victoria receives back from the Commonwealth less per capita than does any other State, because of the inability of the honorable member for Melbourne, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) to represent his State properly in this Parliament when the uniform taxation legislation was introduced. As a result, the social services of Victoria have been starved and circumscribed. Responsibility for that rests on the honorable member for Melbourne, who represented Victoria in this Parliament when the uniform taxation agreements were first concluded. If, to-day, the mental hospitals in Victoria have not enough money, if our other hospitals, our homes for the aged and all our public health systems are short of money, and if Victorians are subsidizing the hospitals of New South Wales, the fault lies with the members of the Australian Parliament representing Victoria who were on the Government side when the uniform taxation legislation was introduced.
-Order! The honorable member must realize that this is an assessment bill, and he must get away from the topic he is now discussing.
– I put it that the assessment is related to the uniform taxation legislation, and as the law applies equally to all the States,, what I have had to say regarding their contributions has a very definite bearing on the bill before the House. However, in view of what you have said, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall content myself with referring to the position of Victoria in relation to the revenue that is obtainable as a result of the present assessment.
– Does the honorable member not believe in uniform taxation ?
– I believe that Victoria should get a fair share of the revenue, and there is no earthly reason why Victorian taxpayers should be subsidizing hospitals and social services in New South Wales and Queensland. It is all right for Victoria to subsidize the other States that need assistance, such as South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, but I can see no reason why a Victorian taxpayer should have to pay tax in order to provide better hospital conditions in New South Wales than in his own State. I shall give the House figures showing the expenditure per head on social services in other States in order to prove my point.
– Order ! The honorable member must keep to the subject of the bill.
– The purpose of the bill is to raise taxes, and what I am trying to point out is that because of the rates fixed by this bill the taxpayers of Victoria will have to pay more per head, because of their industry and because of the wealth of their State, than do the taxpayers of any other State, and they will receive back less per head than do the residents of any other State, and as a result:-
– Order ! I cannot allow the honorable member to continue on those lines. “We have had the budget debate, during which these matters could have been discussed. This is an assessment bill, and the honorable member must confine his remarks to the bill.
– I think that I have made my point, and since the honorable member for Melbourne, who is the guilty party in this case, says that we may discuss the matter on the next bill, I shall be pleased to discuss it then. I conclude my remarks by saying that I hope the injustice that is being inflicted on the people of Victoria will be remedied in the very near future.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Consideration resumed from the 26 th
October (vide page 1913), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden - (1.) That, in this Resolution - . . . ( vide page 1009 ) .
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Sir Arthur Fadden and Sir Eric Harrison do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Arthur Fadden, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate. [Quorum formed.]
Debate resumed from the 20th October (vide page 1763), on motion by Mr. Kent Hughes -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill has the support of the Opposition. It is rather late to elaborate our point of view on the matter. The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) stated a case the other night under difficulties, but he did state it very well, and the Opposition is prepared to allow the bill to pas? through all stages.
Question resolved in the affirmative. .
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 20th October (vide page 1764), on motion by Mr. Hasluck -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill is complementary to the Australian Capital Territory and Jervis Bay (Lands Acquisition) Bill, and is related to the Lands Acquisition Bill 1955, which has just been returned with amendments from the Senate. The Opposition offers no objection to this legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed (vide page 2009).
– This bill, which was introduced by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) earlier to-day, validates the customs tariffs proposals that have been presented to the House. The Opposition offers no objection to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Rill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed (vide page 2009).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate, with amendments.
.- The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has asked for a short time to consider the amendments made by the Senate in this bill. I have discussed the matter briefly with him, and, accordingly, I move -
That the amendments be taken into consideration, in committee of the whole House, at a later hour this day.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 5th October (vide page 1244), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the following paper be printed: - Australian National University ActAustralian National University Report for 1954.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), at the request of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr.Evatt), has moved that the report of the council of the Australian National University for the calendar year 1954 be printed. The report was presented on the 5th October. The Estimates for the university were discussed on the 15th and the 20th September. Therefore, the House was not given the opportunity, during the debate on the Estimates, to discuss the report. The esteemed members of this House who are our representatives on the council of the university, and other honorable members, were not able to make the enlightened contribution to the debate on this important subject that they undoubtedly would have made had the report been available in time. We are no longer surprised by reports being presented too late for discussion during the Estimates debate. Although approximately 60 reports have to be presented to the Parliament each financial year, even at this stage, at the end of the budget session, only half of those reports have been presented. This one, as I have said already, was presented a fortnight too late to be discussed during the Estimates debate.
A study of the report reveals severalfinancial matters that the House would certainly have wished to discuss and upon which it should have received some reassurances. When the report was presented, the Prime Minister took the opportunity to make some of the urbane remarks in which he often indulges on these occasions, but, as with so many of his urbane remarks, they did not convey much information. In fact, they were meant mainly to atone for his very lukewarm reception in 1946 of the statute under which the Australian National University was constituted. Somewhat shamefacedly, he now has to confess his tepid treatment of that measure, and his lack of faith in the university’s future. But we are grateful for his atonement, even if it be late.
The first part of the report touching financial matters appears on page 4, and is in these terms-
After a carefulreview, the Council reached the conclusion in May, 1954, that it was necessary to increase academic salaries by some 20 per cent. The grounds for this conclusion, and for the consequential adjustment of other emoluments in the University, were presented to the Government, asking that it make funds available to enable payment at the increased rates to be made to members of thestaff as from 1st July, 1954. Pending a decision the increases were applied as from 1st January, 1955.
For all I know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the increases may now have been sanctioned by the Government and may have been made retrospective to the beginning of the financial year 1954-55, as requested by the council of the university. However, we do not know. No one has given us the information, and the Prime Minister, although he made a statement on the subject, did not refer to that important matter.
There are several other references to the finances of the university and the restricting effect of its financial position. I shall refer briefly to three schools - the John Curtin School of MedicalResearch, theResearch School of Social Sciences, and theResearch School of Pacific Studies - all of which suffer from a modest restriction, and then I shall . refer in detail to the Research School of Physical Sciences. In reference to the John Curtin School of Medical Research the report, at page seven, states -
Work is now actively progressing on the erection of the main building and hope of its early completion is still undimmed.
One might think that that is a nice academic understatement. In respect of the Research School of Social Sciences, the report, at page 45, states -
The School continues to be housed in the Old Hospital Building. Especially as new senior appointments are made, it is becoming difficult to provide suitable office accommodation.
In respect of the Research School of Pacific Studies, the report, at page 65, states -
The accommodation position at present is not unsatisfactory, but another year of expansion will undoubtedly impose some strain.
More disturbingly the report makes, at page 21, the following complaints con cerning the position at the Research School of Physical. Sciences with respect to the gift by the United Kingdom Government of an electron-synchrotron - . . acceptance of this gift involves installation and running expenses which strain our present resources. The machine is being installed in the Department of Nuclear Physics and could yield results of considerable importance if staff can be engaged to operate and use it. . . .
On other aspects of the School of Physical Sciences the report proceeds -
No expansion of the activities of the School has been possible during the year owing to limitations set by the grant available for annual expenditure. The inability to appoint the academic staff and technical assistants required to enable research programmes to be developed fully has resulted in smaller capital expenditure than had been estimated, so that the limited capital grant has been sufficient to meet essential needs. . . . The effects of inflation and of cuts in estimated expenditure have retarded greatly the achievement of even these limited ends. This is discouraging to those who joined the staff in the first flush of enthusiasm for the concept of a national institution of advanced studies when the support promised seemed adequate. . . . While appreciating the problems of government in combating inflation and securing a balanced development of the Australian economy, we believe that it is essential at this stage that the country should play its full part in the development of its technologies for both primary and secondary industry, and should back this with adequate activity in the source of all such advances, which is research in the basic sciences. In the end the highly trained men needed to assure the economic future and defence of Australia must be produced by her universities.
Properly planned and effective research, and the training of men for research and development in the physical sciences and technologies, are expensive. There is no cheap way of producing results of value in these fields. Except for certain restricted activities by C.S.I.R..O. the physical sciences have languished in Australia, and this despite the fact that the needs for development are greater, both in terms of population and absolutely, than in most other parts of the English speaking world.
The National University is unable to draw funds from sources other than the Federal Treasury, especially at this stage in its development. State universities can exploit local loyalties and can and do derive substantial help from local industries and private benefactors. Any attempt to divert such support to the National University in Canberra would be resented by the other universities. Hence restrictions’ imposed by cuts in estimated expenditure fall more heavily on the National University than elsewhere.
Because scientists can work effectively only in laboratories, with adequate technical assistance, it is impossible to make academic appointments unless the ancillary services are provided. Thus financial policy of recent years has placed great restrictions upon the development of the Research School of Physical Sciences. We are drifting to a position where the staff faces exactly those conditions which have prevented proper development of the physical sciences in any academic institution in Australia and which have produced discouragement and disillusionment.
It is all the more alarming when, in spite of that pretty trenchant criticism by an academic institution, the Estimates show that the capital grant for the current financial year has in fact declined slightly as compared with the last financial year, and the report, of course, concerns only the first half of last financial year. How, in the face of that report can the Government justify a cut in the capital grant? What is the position? Can we be given some information on this subject? It has not been given to us.
University education is, naturally, expensive, but we spend considerably less a head of population on university education than does the United Kingdom. University education in the United Kingdom would, in the ordinary course, be cheaper than it is here, because the facilities are more compact and it is not as necessary to set up new institutions, libraries, laboratories, and the like. Yet, in terms of Australian pounds, the United Kingdom expends almost twice as much a student a year as does the average Australian government. The expenditure a student in Australia a couple of years ago - the last year for which figures are available - totalled £268. The corresponding figure, in Australian pounds, for United Kingdom university students was £422.
It may be thought that great expenditure on universities in times of financial stringency, when governmental expenditure is being cuton so many fronts, is not desirable, I might conclude, therefore, by reading a passage from a speech by the late Sir StaffordCripps, an eminent academic and socialist gentleman, made in 1948, when the United Kingdom was passing through one of those periodic financial crises - balance of payment crises - in the same way as we are now passing through one. Where as the United Kingdom passes through them every two years, we pass through them every four years. During such a period, Sir Stafford Cripps, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking about increased grants which the United Kingdom Government was making to universities, said -
The darkness of the economic outlook gives no ground for economy in the sphere of University grants. The Universities have a great contribution to make towards national economic recovery. We look to them to continue with unabated vigour the search for new knowledge and the education of increased numbers of young men and women from all classes of the community. For it is on the advances made in scientific knowledge and on the energy, initiative, directive capacity and courage of these young graduates that the economic future of the country will largely depend.
I commend to the uninformative, if eloquent, Prime Minister, in place of the urbane and vapid remarks that he makes, these more inspired and enlightened remarks passed in the United Kingdom at a time of no less strain than that through which we are about to pass.
Sr. DONALD CAMERON (Oxley) [11.6]. - As a member of the Council of the Australian National University, I feel bound to make a few remarks consequent upon those of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), not only so, but also as the honorable gentleman enjoyed the advantage of attending the same university, and, in fact, the same college as I attended.
– No, no, no ! It could not possibly turn out two men of such entirely different calibre.
– All I can say is that there was something crook somewhere.
– Curiously enough, I have just come from attending a meeting of a sub-committee of the Council of the Australian National University. I think it would be wrong for us to get the idea that the university is seriously restricted in funds. After all, it has been in being for only a comparatively few years, and I think that we may all take a good deal of pride in its achievements from the time of its foundation until the present. For its running expenses in the current year, the Government has provided a sum of £877,000, and for capital expenses, I think, about £750,000, which are fairly considerable sums. It is only fair to state that in the opinion of the council of the university, this is a reasonable provision. It is not true that there is a general feeling in the university that its activities are being restricted, at any rate to any serious degree, by lack of funds. In fact, I think that all members of council will agree that progress is taking place fairly satisfactorily. It may be that some adjustments are made among the different schools, but, on the whole, progress is pretty steady. It does not do, I think, to be too academic . about this kind of thing, or to imagine that there is really serious criticism of the progress of the various schools. In fact, the School of Medical Science is now rapidly approaching completion. I refer, of course, to the building. The actual work of the school has been going on in temporary buildings for a considerable time, but the permanent building in which it will be housed will be completed in the comparatively near future. We should remember, when we are discussing this university, that it is an institution of a special character. It is not similar to the State universities. It is not a real criticism of it to say that there is a large teaching staff and a small student body. In fact, the students are research students. They are not comparable with the undergraduate body of an ordinary university. Let us make no mistake about this: The Australian National University is destined to play a very great part in the development of this country. I believe that it is already doing so. It is not a factual statement to say that it is seriously restricted as far as funds are concerned. With great respect tomy honorable friend, I do not think it is a valid argument to say that, because the United Kingdom spends so much per head and we spend a different amount per head-
– Half as much.
– Or any other amount - that that means that we are causing real difficulties to the university. The fact is that this university is developing very satisfactorily, I hope that the honorable member for Werriwa will take an early opportunity to visit it. If he does so, I am sure he will agree with me that it is not only comparatively well provided with funds, but also is making very good use of the funds available to it. At this stage of the life of the Parliament,we have not a great deal of time to devote to a discussion of this report. I think that all members of the Parliament could well agree that we have in the Australian National University a very fine institution There is no limit to the amount of money that could be spent on it. It is developing in a highly satisfactory manner and I believe that it will make a great contribution to the development of Australia.
Mr.Calwell. - All honorable members should visit it.
– As the honorable member for Melbourne says, all honorable members should visit it. I had no doubt that, if they did so, they would be convinced that what I have said is true. A certain amount of criticism is valuable, but do not let us get the idea that this institution is being starved of funds and that its development is being frustrated. That is not the case. It is an institution in which we can all take a great deal of pride. I believe that, in a comparatively few years, it will be an institution which is regarded highly, not only in this country, but also, as it is beginning to be now, all over the world.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I present the report of the Printing Committee, sitting in conference with the Printing Committee of the Senate.
Report read by the Clerk.
Motion (by Mr. Drury) - by leave - proposed -
That the report be agreed to.
– I ask whether the Printing Committee will take action to print the report of the Australian National University, to which the House has just agreed,
– The printing of that report has been approved by the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without requests -
Appropriation Bill1 955-56.
Without amendment -
Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill 1955-50.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
Clause 4 -
This Act is divided into Parts, as follows: -
Part IV. - Compensation for Acquisition by Compulsory Process.
Division 3. - Determination of Compensation by Agreement (Sections 23-24).
Senate’s Amendment No. 1. - After “Division 3. - Determination of Compensation by Agreement (Sections 23-24).” insert “Division 3a. - Determination of Compensation by Arbitration (Sections 24a-24b).”.
Clause 5 - (1.) In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears - . “ mortgagor “, in relation to a mortgage, means the owner for the time being of the land which is subject to the mortgage; “ public purpose “ means a purpose in respect of which the Parliament has power to make laws;
Senate’s Amendment No. 2. - After the definition of “mortgagor”, insert the following definition: - “‘notice to treat’ means a notice to treat for the sale of land to the Commonwealth given under section 8a of this Act;”.
Senate’s Amendment No. 3. - Leave out the definition of “ public purpose “, insert the following definition : - “ public purpose ‘ means a purpose in respect of which the Parliament has power to make laws, and, in relation to land in a Territory of the Commonwealth, includes any purpose in relation to that Territory;”.
Senate’s Amendment No. 4. - After clause 8, insert the following clause in Division 3: - “8a. - (1.) The Minister shall not recommend to the Governor-General the acquisition by the Commonwealth of land by compulsory process unless he has first caused to be served upon each of the owners of the land, or such of them as can, after diligent inquiry, be ascertained, a notice inviting the person on whom the notice is served to treat with the Minister for the sale to the Commonwealth of the interest of that person in the land. “ (2.) Where service on an owner cannot be effected under the last preceding sub-section in accordance with section sixty-three of this Act, service on that owner may be effected by causing a copy of the notice to treat to be published in a newspaper circulating in the district in which the land is situated and -
Clause 9 -
Senate’s Amendment No. 5. - Leave out subclause (1.), insert the following sub-clauses: - “ (1.) Without prejudice to the liability of the Commonwealth under any contract for the acquisition of land by agreement, where -
a period of twenty-eight days has expired after the service of a notice to treat, or of notices to treat, in relation to land ; or
the Minister has given a certificate under sub-section (8.) of section eight a of this Act in relation to land, the Minister may recommend to the GovernorGeneral that the land or any interest in the land (not including an interest in respect of which a notice to treat has been withdrawn) be acquired by the Commonwealth by compulsory process. “ (lA.) The Governor-General may, on the recommendation of the Minister under the last preceding sub-section, authorize the acquisition of land by compulsory process for a public purpose approved by the Governor-General.”.
Senate’s Amendment No. 6. - After subclause (4.), insert the following sub-clause: - “ (5.) An authorization by the GovernorGeneral under sub-section (1A.) of this section shall not be invalidated or called in question by reason of any failure to comply with any of the provisions of this Act.”.
Clause 11 -
Senate’s Amendment No. 7. - Leave out subclause (4.).
Senate’s Amendment No. 8. - After clause 24, insert the following heading and clauses: - ” Division 3a. - Determination of Compensation by Arbitration. “24a. - (1.) The Minister and a claimant may, instead of determining by agreement the amount of compensation to be paid in respect of the acquisition of any land by compulsory process, agree to submit the determination of that amount to arbitration in accordance with this section. “ (2.) Where an agreement for arbitration is so made, the law relating to arbitration (other than the law relating to the enforcement of awards made upon an arbitration) of such State or Territory of the Commonwealth as is specified for the purpose in the agreement applies, subject to the agreement, to and in relation to the agreement and to and in relation to the arbitration under the agreement. “24b. - (1.) If, at any time after an agreement for arbitration is made in relation to a claim by a person in respect of an interest in land and before the award is made upon the arbitration in pursuance of that agreement, another person makes a claim for compensation in relation to that interest or another interest in that land or the Minister learns of another person who may be entitled to make such a claim, the Minister may revoke the agreement. “ (2.) Where the Minister revokes an agreement under the last preceding sub-section, the Commonwealth is liable to pay the reasonable costs of and incidental to the agreement and, if the arbitration has commenced, of and incidental to the arbitration.”.
Clause 25 - (1.) Where, in the case of a claim for compensation which has been accepted by the Minister - the claimant may institute proceedings against the Commonwealth in a court of competent jurisdiction for determination of the amount of compensation under this Act in respect of the interest the subject of the claim.
Senate’s Amendment No. 9. - After “ may “, insert “, unless an agreement for the determination of the compensation by arbitration is in force.”.
Clause 26- (1.) Where-
the Minister has made an offer in writing . . . and -
the compensation has not . . been determined by agreement or by a court; and
proceedings in which the claimant is a plaintiff for determination of compensation under the last preceding section are not pending.
Senate’s Amendment No. 10. - After “ agreement “, insert “, by arbitration.”.
Senate’s Amendment No. 11. - After “section “, insert “, or proceedings in an arbitration in respect of the claim,”.
Nothing in this Part, or in a determination of a court under this Part, entitles a person to receive payment of compensation otherwise than in accordance with Division 5 of this Part.
Senate’s Amendment No. 12. - After ‘ court “, insert “, or an award upon an arbitration,”. ‘
Clause 32- (1.) Notwithstanding the provisions of the last three preceding sections, where a person claims to be entitled to an amount of compensation determined in respect of any land by agreement or by a court. . . .
Senate’s Amendment No. 13. - After “agreement “, insert “ , by arbitration “.
Clause 33- (3.) Where the amount of compensation determined by a court does not exceed an amount offered by the Minister, interest is payable only up to the date upon which the offer of the Minister was received by the claimant. (4.) Where compensation (not being compensation deposited in the Treasury) is determined, or ordered to be paid, by a court, interest continues to be payable under this section and not otherwise.
Senate’s Amendment No. 14. - After “determined “, insert “ upon an arbitration or “.
Senate’s Amendment No. 15. - After “ is “, insert “ determined upon an arbitration or is”.
Clause 50 -
Senate’s Amendment No. 16. - After subclause (2.), insert the following new subclauses : - “ (3.) Where land has been acquired either by agreement or by compulsory process under this Act or the Acts repealed by this Act and, within seven years after the date of acquisition, it is proposed to dispose of the land in pursuance of paragraph (a) of sub-section (1.) of this section, regard shall be had to the general principle that, in such cases, the land should, where practicable, be first offered for sale to the former owner at a reasonable price. “ (4.) The last preceding sub-section does not apply where the Commonwealth has, since the date of acquisition, made substantial improvements to the land. “ (5.) A person contracting or otherwise dealing with the Commonwealth is not concerned to inquire whether the requirements -of this section have been complied with, and the title of such a person to land acquired from the Commonwealth is not affected by any failure to comply with those requirements. “(6.) In this section ‘the former owner’, in relation to land, means -
Senate’s Amendment No. 17. - After clause 63, insert the following clause: - “63a. - (1.) The Acts specified in the first column of the First Schedule to this Act are amended as respectively set out in the second column of that Schedule. “ (2.) An Act specified in the first column of the Second Schedule to this Act, as amended by this Act, may be cited in the manner specified in the second column of that Schedule opposite to the reference to that Act in the first column. “ (3.) Notwithstanding the amendments made by sub-section (1.) of this section, the provisions of the Acts amended by that subsection, as in force immediately before the date of commencement of this Act, continue to apply, as if this Act had not been passed, in relation to the acquisition of land acquired or agreed to be acquired before that date and in relation to compensation in respect of any such acquisition or in respect of any other thing done before that date.”.
Senate’s Amendment No. 18. - After clause 64, add the following Schedules: -
– I suggest that we take as a whole the amendments made by the Senate. It may be that some honorable members will want to say something about them. There are three major amendments, two minor amendments and a series of consequential amendments. I shall deal with the two minor amendments first.
The amendment to clause 5 is the substitution of a new definition of “ public purpose” for the definition appearing in the bill. Clause 7 provides for the acquisition of land for a public purpose approved by the Governor-General. In certain limited cases, land can be acquired by agreement for a public purpose approved by the Minister. Clause 5 defines “public purpose” as “a purpose in respect of which the Parliament has power to make laws “. It is now considered that this definition may not be satisfactory in the case of land in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. It is necessary that the definition of “ public purpose “ should have a wider application in relation to those territories than it has in relation to the States.
As regards land in the States, the Commonwealth can be authorized to make acquisitions only for the purposes of the Commonwealth as a federal government - that is to say, broadly speaking, for the purposes set out in section 51 of the Constitution. In the case of land in the territories, however, the purposes for which it may be necessary to acquire land include, not only the purposes of the Commonwealth as a federal government, but also all other purposes in relation to the Territory - for example, the purposes of schools or hospitals. The purposes of the
Commonwealth in the territories are equivalent to the combined purposes of the Federal and State governments in relation to a State and, therefore, comprise all purposes in relation to the Territory. The new definition will put it beyond doubt that the expression “ public purpose “ is used in the bill in this wide sense so far as it relates to land in the territories referred to.
The second what might be termed minor amendment, although it may be a major amendment in some ways, is the amendment of clause 11, which deals with the powers of the Houses of the Parliament to avoid acquisitions. Clause 11 requires a copy of every notice of acquisition to be tabled in the Parliament, and empowers either House of the Parliament to disallow the acquisition. Subclause (4.), as passed by the House of Rep r esentatives, however, makes certain exceptions from the power of disallowance. A provision similar to this subclause was contained in the original lands acquisition legislation passed in 1901, and is also in the present act. It is now considered that these exceptions are unnecessary and are an unwarranted restriction of the power of a House of the Parliament to control the actions of the executive government in these matters. The amendment, therefore, proposes the omission of sub-clause (4.) of clause 11.
I turn to what I have referred to as the three major amendments. The first deals with the question of notice to treat. Although I am a little doubtful about the possible outcome of inserting the new clause 8a in the bill, I realize that there is some substance in the suggestion contained in the Senate’s amendment. Therefore, the Government proposes to accept the amendment. If it leads to certain irregularities and certain difficulties with regard to compensation, we shall hare to amend the provision at a later date. At present, by administrative act, notices to treat are issued in many cases, but not in every case. The object of the new clause, as well as of the consequential amendments which it renders necessary, is to ensure that, except in special circumstances - mainly urgent defence acquisitions - the Commonwealth will not resort to compulsory acquisition unless it has previously invited the owner to treat for the sale of the land to the Commonwealth. A consequential amendment to clause 9 will ensure that compulsory acquisition does not take place until the expiration of 28 days after the service of notice to treat. There may be some cases - for example, acquisition of land for urgent defence purposes - where it is necessary to proceed to compulsory acquisition without notice. Subclause (8.) has been inserted to enable the Minister to dispense with the application of the section in such cases. That has caused several consequential amendments with which I do not think it is necessary to deal.
The second major amendment, which relates to the determination of compensation by arbitration, was originally suggested by the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer). Although it was not approved when he suggested it, I said that the matter would receive further consideration, and it has been included by the Senate. The new Division 3a, covering clauses 24a and 24b, will enable an agreement to be made between the Commonwealth and a claimant whose land has been acquired by compulsory process for the determination of the amount of compensation by arbitration. I and presumably my predecessor, have on several occasions, by administrative act, put into operation similar processess. In some ways, as I stated when the bill was before the House, the amendment may be redundant, but the Government has no objection to its inclusion in the bill.
– What will happen if agreement is not reached?
– There will still be available the ordinary processes of law in the competent court of jurisdic tion. Where the determination is by agreement, the award of the arbitrator or arbitrators, unless otherwise agreed, would be final and binding on the parties. There is no compulsion, however, on either party to agree to arbitration. Clause 24b provides that the Commonwealth may withdraw from an arbitration if further claimants become known, but that in that event the Commonwealth must pay the costs of the arbitration.
The third major amendment relates to the’ disposal of land vested in the Commonwealth, and the question of its return to the original owner after a certain time. The object of this amendment is to provide that, where land has been acquired either by agreement or by compulsory process, and, within seven years after the date of acquisition, it is proposed to dispose of the land as not required, regard shall be had to the general principle that in such cases the land should, where practicable, be first offered for sale to the former owner at a reasonable price. I think it was the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) who proposed this amendment originally. One of the main difficulties is the identifying of the former owner, having regard to the complicated interests that may exist in land at the date of acquisition and the changes that can take place through death and other causes while the land is held by the Commonwealth. The clause does not solve those difficulties, but, in effect, passes on to the Minister the problem of solving them in particular cases by vesting in him a discretion to identify the former owner. The Government is prepared to accept the clause on an experimental basis. If it proves to be unworkable, a future parliament may have to reconsider the position. It was suggested in another place that the price at which the land should be offered back to the former owner should be the same as the Commonwealth paid for it. However, the Government was not prepared to accept the clause in that extreme form. The clause now before the committee provides for a reasonable price, that is, a price based on current values at the time of the offer to the former owner.
The remainder of the amendments are consequential, and I do not propose to deal with them in detail.
To sum up the position, the minor amendments cover the definition of “public purpose” and the giving of more power to the Parliament to annul an acquisition if it does not think the acquisition is proper. Then there are the three major amendments which deal with a notice to treat after 28 days, the question of the return of the land to the original owner within seven years, and the question of arbitration by agreement. The Government accepts the amendments. I move -
That the amendments be agreed to.
– The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) explained the amendments to me during the suspension of the sitting for dinner, and he gave me a list of them when they were received from the Senate about an hour ago. I appreciate what he has had to say. It is a pity that they have come before the committee at this late hour, and that honorable members have not had an opportunity to consider them more fully. The Opposition accepts the Minister’s assurance that they are well based, and that the principal amendments are such that the committee should accept them. The fact that they have been agreed to by the Senate without division or much debate indicates that they have received general approval in that chamber. The consequential amendments are necessary to give proper effect to the principal ones.
We hope that another Parliament will not find it necessary to make further amendments that it has been suggested may be necessary. The Government has taken a chance in certain directions, and it may be that lawyers, estate agents and others will find loop-holes. To a degree, all legislation is chancy, but it is to be hoped that the passing of this measure will represent a more or less permanent settlement of the vexed question of the acquisition of land by the Commonwealth on just terms and in a manner that will not leave aggrieved landholders feeling that they have not had a fair deal.
I wish to refer briefly to war-time acquisitions. I was a member of a government that acquired land, especially for the establishment of munition plants.
I should like to see some of those old files re-examined, because I always had the unhappy feeling that many blocks of land in the vicinity of the Maribyrnong munition plant, which was near the electorate that I represent, were not acquired at prices that were as fair as they should have been. The people who had to surrender the blocks did not or could not incur the expense of appealing to the courts. But the then government did state a case to the High Court of Australia in relation to the acquisition of land for the Essendon airport, and paid the costs involved. The people concerned got a fairer deal than otherwise would have been the case. I should like very much to see the Minister instruct his officers to go over some of those old cases and see that justice is done, because justice delayed is justice denied. There are many small people, poor people who bought building blocks in the land booms of the 1920’s and sold them under compulsion to the Government for use for the extension of airports, as sites for munition plants and so on, who did not get the fair and just treatment to which they were entitled.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Sitting suspended from 11.31 p.m. to 10 a.m. (Friday).
Friday, 28 October 1955.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without amendment -
Coal Industry Bill 1955.
Commonwealth Aid Roads Bill 1955.
Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1955.
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Bill 1955.
International Finance Corporation Bill 1955.
Loan (Canadian Dollars) Bill 1955.
Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve Bill 1955.
Loan (Housing) Bill 1955.
Loan (War Service Land Settlement) Bill 1955
Meat Export Control Bill 1955.
National Health Bill 1955.
Re-establishment and Employment Bill 1955.
States Grants Bill 1955.
States Grants (Mental Institutions) Bill 1955.
States Grants (Special Financial Assistance) Bill 1955.
Tobacco Charges Assessment Bill 1955.
Tobacco Industry Bill 1955.
Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Bill 1955.
War Pensions Appropriation Bill 1955.
Western Australia Grant (Water Supply) Bill 1955.
Without requests -
Customs Tariff Validation Bill 1955.
Excise Tariff Validation Bill 1955.
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Bill 1955.
Tobacco Charge Bill (No. 1) 1955.
Tobacco Charge Bill (No. 2) 1955.
Tobacco Charge Bill (No. 3) 1955.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) agreed to-
That leave of absence be given to every member of the House of Representatives from the determination of this sitting of the House to the date of its next sitting.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) proposed -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker, which time of meeting shall be notified by Mr. Speaker to each member by telegram or letter.
.- I think this would be an appropriate time to make an observation on behalf of the Government as the session ends. In the first place, I am sure that every member of the House would like you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to convey to Mr. Speaker our sympathy with him in his very prolonged illness. We all hope that he makes a quick and complete recovery. We offer to the presiding officers in his absence, through you, sir, our appreciation of their work, from yourself down to the Temporary Chairmen of Committees. I should like to offer the good wishes of the Government to all the members of the House, who divided themselves - leaders and deputy leaders, I suppose, and private members - into three groups, like Gaul: first, those who are supporters - every Prime Minister likes them a good deal; secondly, those who chastise us - they perform a very valuable function in this Parliament; and last, but by no means least, those who arrange us - the Leader of the House and the deputy leaders of the two Opposition parties.
We all are, as is usual as we come to the end of a session, much indebted to the staff of this Parliament, including the officers at the table and all those who look after us in this place. This House, ever since I have been in it - that is as far back as my memory will take me, naturally - has been extraordinarily well served by its officers. We have a very able parliamentary staff. Hansard does not appear to have lost its ancient skill in converting into English what sometimes has not been English. Every honorable member is much indebted to Hansard. I should like to extend our good wishes to those who provide the ancillary services, including the intellectual services of the Library and the gastronomical services provided in a place slightly further towards the rear of the building.
It is very well that at the end of a parliament we should recall our constant debt to the civil service of this country and, in particular, to those with whom we deal so frequently in this place. Their ability is outstanding; it deserves to be remembered. And if I might single out one harried official and those who assist him for special praise, it would be the Parliamentary Draftsman, whose tasks are not always made easy by those who call on his services. That is true of us, and I am sure it is true of honorable members on the other side in their own time. How parliamentary draftsmen manage to produce these works of art at such short notice, I have never been able to understand.
I understand that somebody announced a day or two ago that there would be an election, and no doubt that is so, but the fact that we are to have an election and that we shall probably chastise each other with the utmost vigour at our command, does not prevent us from remembering that in this House, in spite of some beliefs to the contrary, there are strong friendships, very many close personal relations between political opponents, and a very great deal of goodwill.
– In supporting what has been said by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), I shall refer especially to several matters. First, I think it is a remarkable thing that the daily Hansard experiment has been so successful.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– That that is so is surely a great tribute to the energy and ability of Mr. Campbell and his staff. It is a transformation in the recording of the proceedings of the Parliament, and 1 must congratulate the officers concerned, and also the select committee which initiated the proposal. It is an extremely important improvement, and I think it will have a great bearing upon the future status of Parliament.
I wish to pay a tribute, if I may, to Mr. Tregear, who so recently has assumed his new office as Clerk of the House, and who, when he reads out the messages, is heard with the same ease or difficulty as was his predecessor, thereby carrying on the great tradition of the House of Commons, where it is said that no one is entitled to hear what the Clerk is saying. With the Clerk I include the staff, those here in the chamber, and also the records officers who have been so helpful to us right through this Parliament. The Library, of course, is becoming an institution for the service, not only of the Parliament, but also of the people of Australia. Without the assistance of the Librarian and his staff, we could not do our work at all. The Prime Minister has fittingly referred to the most courteous and efficient members of the dining room and other staffs of the House, and I pay a tribute to them, too.
You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have had to preside over this House in unusual, and sometimes very difficult and exciting conditions. I feel that I am bound to pay a tribute to you. I always have the right of dissent from your rulings, although it is not upheld in the House. The spirit in which you approached the task was an important factor in the discharge of your duties, and I should like to say that I am glad you gave such a favorable application quite recently to the notorious Standing Order 303. On behalf of the Opposition, I ask you to convey to
Mr. Speaker best wishes for recovery from his illness, to which I think the strain of his important office has contributed. Finally, I convey to all members of the House of Representatives my personal good wishes. I agree with the statements of the Prime Minister about the work of the non-partisan public servants without whose co-operation Parliament could not do its work, and the people of Australia would not be served in the federal sphere. The Prime Minister has paid that tribute in words that I need not repeat, but if it were an order - as I am sure it is not - I would move that the words of the Prime Minister be suitably inscribed on parchment, and a copy sent to the three judges of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.
– I join with the right honorable” gentlemen who have expressed good wishes to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to Mr. Speaker and to the staff of Parliament House. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) have spoken of the work of every member of the staff. Perhaps I might say that we could give a more prominent place in our remarks to the staff of the Government Printing Office, who have done an enormous task for the Parliament. As we finish this Parliament and go to the people, we know that the elections mean a lot of shouting and hard work, but I am sure that every one will understand me when I say that, back of it all, there is something far greater. In that spirit, I wish you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the members of the Government, my colleagues of the Opposition and my friends in the press gallery a very merry Christmas.
– I wish to thank the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and my colleagues for the co-operation they have given me in the presentation of bills to the House. Although they may have felt at times that they were being treated in a curious manner, taken by and large, they have responded very well. The
Prime Minister has asked me - because he omitted to make mention of them - to refer to the excellent work that has been done by the party “Whips. He would like me to convey to them on his behalf his felicitations and thanks for the work they have done in helping to run the House. I also pay a tribute to the Whips. They have been ruthless and overpowering in the execution of their duty. We are losing one of the trio, an excellent member and not, by any means, the least of them. To him we wish godspeed, and prosperity in his future activities. He has been a source of inspiration in this House, particularly to the younger members, and I know that the experience he has gained in this place in the handling of men will be of value to him when he is mustering his sheep.
I pay a tribute to the Clerks of the House because, as honorable members know, the business of this House is extremely arduous and difficult at times. But for their help, this House could not be run effectively. From time to time, I have had long consultations with them over difficult problems that have been put up by my opposite number, but with their help, we have generally managed to surmount the difficulties with which we have been confronted. I pay a tribute to the clerks for the help they have given us.
Finally, I pay a tribute to my opposite number, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), for the cooperation I have received from him and the way he has helped me. I believe that, in some way, I have helped him to see that this House is properly conducted and run according to the best traditions associated with the Parliament. We have had our differences, but may I say that if, having had those differences, we could not finally resolve them in an amicable spirit, this democracy would be well on its way out. The chair is very nicely situated for the making of necessary arrangements for the business of the House. I have happy recollections of the moments spent behind it, and I hope that from time to time in the future we shall still be able to foregather there.
– I wish to be associated with the sentiments that have been expressed, but particularly with those that have been expressed by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) about the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett), the Government Whip, who is retiring from political life. As the right honorable gentleman has stated, the honorable member for Henty has carried out his onerous and difficult duties as Government Whip, not only with great honesty and integrity, but also with great efficiency. I pay tribute to the manner in which the honorable member always honoured arrangements that had been entered into, for the manner in which he performed his duties generally, and for the fact that he could be entirely relied upon. Perhaps if a little more responsibility had been left to him, some of the episodes behind the chair would not have been necessary and incidents such as that which caused the VicePresident of the Executive Council to lose his temper in the House recently would not have occurred.
I wish the honorable member for Henty well. I say sincerely that it has been a pleasure to work with him. Although I have disagreed with him politically on almost every matter that has been raised, he has added lustre to the Parliament, he could be relied upon, and it was a pleasure to be associated with him.
– I shall be happy to convey to Mr. Speaker the wishes of honorable members. I conveyed to him the earlier expression of good wishes for his recovery, and he expressed his grateful thanks. The House will be pleased to know that he expects to leave hospital on Monday next, and to be able to return to his home. He is making progress towards better health. I am sure he would have me to express his thanks to the - House and to all the officers with whom he has worked, to which thanks, I add my own. It would have been very difficult for me, as his deputy, to preside in his absence without the very able help of those officers. I thank honorable members for their good wishes, and wish them happy days ahead.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.19 a.m. to a date and hour to he fixed by Mr. Speaker.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
b asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
n. - On 4th October, the honorable member for Lalor asked whether I would compile a reasonably accurate estimate of the cost to the nation of the increase of 10 per cent, in freight on goods brought to Australia and also the cost of the increase of 7½ per cent, on goods exported from Australia. He further asked how many ships could be built each year for this nation with the sum represented by these increased shipping freight rates.
I presume that the honorable member’s questions refer to the increases which recently took place in freights on cargoes carried by Conference lines vessels between Australia and the United Kingdom and Europe. It is estimated that the increase on goods brought to Australia by the lines will cost importers from £2,500,000 to £3,000,000 each year. The increase on goods exported from Australia by these same lines will represent about £2,250,000 per annum. The extent to which the increase on exports will have to be borne by Australian producers will depend on the extent to which the cost is passed on to overseas buyers.
i asked the Minister for Defence Production, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has furnished the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
b asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Transport has furnished the following replies: -
h asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What are the figures during the last financial year and the estimated figures during the current year for -
the total consumption in Australia of cigarettes and tobacco;
the total quantity of Australian leaf -
offered for sale, and
purchased by manufacturers ;
the quantity imported into Australia of -
processed cigarettes and tobacco, and
the quantity of Australian leaf absorbed in manufacture of cigarettes and tobacco;
the reductions in imports imposed on -
processed cigarettes and tobacco, and
the quantity of twist tobacco purchased by the Commonwealth for distribution in New Guinea and other territories -
processed overseas, and
processed in Australia;
the percentage of Australian leaf used in twist tobacco processed in Australia: and
the price paid for such twist tobacco ?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has furnished the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
Motor Vehicle Imports.
Mr.Peters asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
SirEricHarrison. - The Minister for Trade and Customs has furnished the following answers to the honorable member’s questions -
Motor Vehicles,etc. - continued.
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice-
– In February, 1951, I stated that the Australian Government was examining a plan to store meat bought during the period of peak production for release at times of extreme shortages and highest prices. I also stated that even if such a plan was found practicable, the Commonwealth could not, constitutionally, carry it out alone. The proposals were examined on two occasions by Commonwealth and State officials, but in view of the practical difficulties it was not possible to proceed with the idea.
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
z asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are . as follows : -
Primary Production in Tasmania.
e asked the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 October 1955, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1955/19551027_reps_21_hor8/>.