22nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer a question. On Tuesday last, the right honorable gentleman, in answer to a question asked by me, dealt with the proposal to increase the rate of interest on advances on wool shipped overseas, which matter had been raised by my colleague, the honorable member for Darling, in previous questions. I direct the Treasurer’s attention to the fact that the effect of this proposal on purchases of wool by countries trading indirectly with Australia, such as Poland, will be very considerable. Trading primarily under its trade agreement with the United Kingdom, Poland purchased in 1956-57 wool worth £12,000,000 Australian. With the consent of the honorable member for Darling, I propose to place before the right honorable gentleman the document in which the relevant figures are given, and I ask him to examine it from the stand-point of whether the increased interest rate will not be an actual detriment to sales of wool in Australia - affecting Poland in one sense, of course, but also affecting the market generally.
– I will be pleased to look into the details, and ascertain the facts.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Has it been the practice ever since former enemy countries began to establish diplomatic missions in this country, that, at commemorative ceremonies at the Australian War Memorial, only diplomats representing British Commonwealth countries lay wreaths at the Stone of Remembrance? In view of this, why have arrangements been made for the Prime Minister of Japan to visit the war memorial and to lay a wreath at the Stone of Remembrance? Have these arrangements been made at the request of the Prime Minister of Japan, and if so, does this indicate any national repentance on the part of that country? Alternatively, has the wreath-laying ceremony been arranged by the department responsible for the arrangements for the Japanese Prime Minister’s tour, and if so, can the arrangements now be varied? Would any wreath laid by the Prime Minister of Japan at the Australian War Memorial honour the memory of thousands of Australian servicemen and women who were butchered or murdered by the Japanese or starved in Japanese prison camps?
– If the Government adopted the view of the honorable member it would, of course, not have invited the Prime Minister of Japan to come here at all. Still less would it invite him to come here and then go out of its way to offer him affronts. We have invited the Prime Minister of Japan to come here. The great majority of the people of Australia have realized for a long time now that we must live in the world with Japan and must try to accommodate our relations for the future on a basis of understanding and friendship.
– Does that apply to all countries?
– That applies to all countries. Of course it does.
– When is Khrushchev coming?
– I do not know. You would know more about that than I would. When you get an answer to your last letter [ will communicate with you. The reference made to the laying of wreaths on certain ceremonial occasions - Anzac Day and Remembrance Day - is a reference to the procedure that has been developed that wreaths should be laid by representatives of Commonwealth countries. There is a variety of reasons for that, and they are not difficult to understand. If the Prime Minister of some other country, or some other visitor, chooses to lay a wreath on the National War Memorial, or in connexion with it, he will be doing exactly what many people from our own country have done in other countries - some former friends and some former enemies. I hope nothing will be said to perpetuate the state of mind that the honorable member has so clearly exhibited in his question.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service may remember that a fortnight ago I asked him a question concerning the hold-up on the Sydney waterfront and its relation to the return from abroad of the general secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia. Can the Minister now inform me whether work has been resumed on the Sydney waterfront? If it has not, can he say whether the moderate forces which had control of the federation during the general secretary’s absence abroad are gaining strength so that waterside workers will be able to give service to the national economy to their own great benefit?
– To the best of my knowledge there has not yet been a resumption of work on the Sydney waterfront, but there are indications that quite good prospects exist for an early resumption. Representatives of the two trade unions which have been engaged in disputation over this matter one with the other - the Foremen Stevedores Association and the Waterside Workers Federation - met, and I gather that at the meeting there was some agreement in principle that if an acceptable independent arbitrator could be secured to deal with the aspect which could not normally come before the relevant Commonwealth tribunal or the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority - the question of any alleged assault by a member of the Foremen Stevedores Association - that would be regarded as an acceptable basis for settlement of that aspect of the dispute. On the sling loads aspect, which has also been an element, I believe, in causing trouble, I am informed that the judge, who is a presidential commissioner dealing with this industry, will give a decision to-day or to-morrow - I think to-day, but I am not certain on that point. I do not want to canvass the matter further at this stage because I think that, having regard to the circumstances I have mentioned, it is better to wait and see whether these events work out favorably before considering what other action the Government may have to take if the dispute is prolonged.
– Will the Minister acting for the Minister for Primary Industry be able to make a statement to the House before the end of this sessional period on the wheat position generally, with particular reference to the price of bread and the low protein content of the wheat coming forward? Has he any information to give the House about the importation of Manitoba wheat from Canada, and is he aware of the juggling by the great milling organizations in the city to squeeze country millers out of an allocation of premium wheat which would enable the bread baked for the nation to be of the requisite standard? The matter is urgent, and there are many other aspects that could be mentioned. Will the Minister give the House an opportunity to deal with this matter, and, if necessary, to debate his statement?
– I shall endeavour to obtain the facts about this matter, and if it is possible I shall make a statement to the House before it adjourns.
– I ask the Minister for Territories a question. What measures are being taken in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea for the improvement of maternal and infant welfare among the indigenous people?
– The Administration of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is giving a great deal of attention to this problem, because it recognizes that it is fundamental to the improvement of the health and the advancement of the social welfare of the people. At the present time, the Administration conducts twelve central . infant welfare clinics. From these central clinics a further 173 centres are being visited by mobile units. The mobile units are in the form of specially fitted motor vehicles, and the driver and nurse and any other staff go out in a unit to the place where attention is required. These mobile units are now visiting over 1,000 villages.
In addition, the Christian missions are conducting 77 clinics. An attempt is also being made to train native women as infant welfare assistants. At the commencement of this year, 183 girls were in training on a course that will take three years and that will turn them out as quite well qualified infant welfare assistants. One indigenous girl is a fully qualified infant welfare nurse, and is in charge of one of the clinics.
I should like to point out that the Administration is having difficulty in filling all the advertised positions. We have an establishment of nine senior nurses and 61 other nurses, but unfortunately it is not always possible to obtain sufficient applications from Australia to fill vacancies. At the present time, we have thirteen vacancies for infant welfare nurses. I think this work provides a wonderful opportunity for well qualified Australian infant welfare nurses not only to practise their profession, but also to find an outlet for their idealism.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question concerning the Commonwealth’s liability to pay damages for injuries caused by the drivers of its vehicles. The right honorable gentleman is aware that under compulsory third party legislation in all States the driver of a private or State motor vehicle is always presumed to be driving it with the authority of the owner, and that the owner is liable for the bodily injuries caused by a driver of his vehicle. Does the right honorable gentleman know, however, that the Commonwealth refuses to accept liability for bodily injuries caused by its drivers unless at the time they were driving in the course of duty? If the right honorable gentleman knows this to be the position, or if on inquiry he finds that the position is as I have stated it, will he give instructions to all his Ministers that the Commonwealth is not to take advantage of a defence that is no longer available to private employers and owners, and which the State governments have surrendered in respect of their own vehicles?
– I regret to say that I am not at all aware of the legal position on this point, either here or in the States, but I shall have a look at it, because the point raised is quite a significant one.
– 1 ask the Minister for the Army a question without notice. Is it a fact that applications have been invited to fill the position of Assistant Research Officer in the Department of the Army? Is it a fact that the duties of this officer, as advertised, comprise conducting research on parliamentary matters and other projects as required, and the study of United Kingdom parliamentary debates, the London “ Times “, and similar publications for matters of interest to the Minister and senior officers? If so, can it be expected that as a result of this officer’s work honorable members can now expect that they will no longer have to endure long, dreary, illinformed speeches from the Minister? Finally, will the Minister say whether this change in Army arrangements results from the Government’s recently announced overhaul of the defence structure?
– I was not aware that advertisements for a research officer had been published, but I shall make inquiries. The information that the honorable member gives in his question is very interesting. I am sure that if such an officer were appointed, the information that he would collate would be very valuable to both the honorable member and myself.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral inform the House whether it is necessary to use an antenna with every television set that is installed, and whether there is a possibility that some people are being sold antennae that are unnecessary?
– I do not lay claim to any very extensive technical knowledge on the point raised by the honorable member. In recent months, however, because of certain statements that have appeared from time to time, I have been making some inquiries from those who are in a position to advise me on this matter. From these discussions, it appears to me that there are some cases where purchasers of television sets are installing aerials at a greater cost than is necessary in order to ensure really good reception. I find that in some cases, and for some types of sets with built-in aerials, it is not always necessary to have an expensive outdoor aerial in areas where the reception is good. Each case must be carefully reviewed in order to determine the requirements of the set. Therefore, I believe it is highly desirable that any purchaser of a television set should seek the advice of some competent engineer or technician and ask for a trial of the set in his area so as to find out whether he can avoid the somewhat heavy expense associated with the provision of an outdoor aerial. I repeat that I am not putting this forward as a technician; but I believe that it is good, sound advice which might well be followed.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether it is a fact that in all States, with the exception of Victoria, a uniform subscription rate operates, irrespective of age, for all who participate in the Commonwealth hospital and medical benefits schemes. If this is a fact, can the Minister inform the House why the position in Victoria is different from that in the other States?
– The attitude of the Commonwealth has always been that whenever benefit organizations apply for registration, they are informed that, in addition to complying with Commonwealth requirements, their activities should not cause at least any major interference with the laws of the States. There are some differences between the circumstances in Victoria and those which obtain in other States. This matter is currently the subject of negotiations between myself and the Victorian health authorities.
– I ask the Minister for Territories whether his attention has been drawn to a statement attributed to a former officer of the Papua and New Guinea service who is now secretary of a settlers’ organization in the Central Highlands and a member of the Legislative Council of Papua and New Guinea, alleging that something like stand-over tactics, as they are colloquially described, are being adopted by official members of the council towards those who insist on putting forward views which are contrary to those of the Administration. In view of the former position held by the person to whom these statements have been attributed, and his wide experience. I now ask the Minister whether he has any information that he can give to the House upon the subject.
– The situation is a customary one so far as the publishing of statements is concerned. The individual to whom the honorable member referred did make a statement which was along the lines that he indicated. The Administrator of the Territory immediately made a statement flatly contradicting it. and challenging the gentleman to produce any single instance that had so happened but, of course, the Administrator’s statement was not published in Australia although the original statement had been published. I regard the statement, from my own knowledge, as being completely groundless. Nothing has ever come under my notice - and I keep a fairly close eye on the Territory, or try to - that would give the least cause for believing that anything of the sort has happened. Of course, if the gentleman can respond to the Administrator’s challenge and produce a single instance, that instance will be examined.
– Has the Treasurer been advised that the central bank is concerned about employment and housing prospects, but has told the trading banks that credit will not be eased until unemployment becomes serious? Does he not consider that the existence of 50,000 or more unemployed is a serious matter? As he has power to give directions to the Commonwealth Bank, will he direct the bank to ease the credit position?
-Order! There is too much audible conversation on the front bench.
– Will the Treasurer take this action in order to give employment and homes to the many unfortunates in the community who are affected?
– Frequent discussions are taking place with regard to the subject raised by the honorable member. The matter is under control, consistent with the policy of the bank and the Government. The honorable member would be well advised to make all possible facilities available by assisting in a speedy implementation of the banking legislation.
-Order! I must direct the House to come to order. There is too much audible conversation, and it is impossible on occasions to hear the questions. The purpose of question time is to enable honorable members to seek and obtain information and not to converse aloud.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Health, is prefaced by the following comments: Last year, in reply to a question which I addressed to him in this House, the honorable gentleman said that the Australian Council of the National Fitness Movement would be convened in Canberra early in 1957. As far as I am aware, no move has yet been made in this connexion. Although this splendid youth agency operates under Commonwealth legislation, I am concerned at an apparent growing apathy to its activities by the Government. I therefore ask the Minister when the council will be convened. When will the 1956 report be tabled in this House? Is any scheme for the re-organization of the National Fitness Movement under consideration?
– The question of the National Fitness Movement is under consideration. I may be able to give the honorable member more details about it later on.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral, who represents the Minister for Repatriation, aware that I was provided with a- written answer to a question about the Repatriation General Hospital at Heidelberg and the state of the food there, which indicated that only good quality food was being used, that no change had taken place, and that recent inquiries made of patients and the staff showed there were no complaints? Will the Minister inform the Minister for Repatriation that the food supply was changed in October, that the quality of the food is very bad and that in each ward a considerable quantity of food is thrown out? Will he also inform the Minister for Repatriation that the inquiries were made only of persons responsible for this change, that among the patients and members of the staff there exists a considerable fear of victimization, and that I have received four letters in the last ten days confirming the position? Will he convey this information to the Minister for Repatriation and ask him to see that a full and proper inquiry is made?
– I direct the attention of the honorable member for Yarra to the fact that the Minister for Repatriation is represented in this House by my colleague, the Minister for Health. It is true that during the absence of the Minister for Health some little time ago I took charge of an amending Repatriation Bill, but the position now is that the Minister for Health represents the Minister for Repatriation in this House. However, the Minister for Health heard the question. I can assure the honorable member that the substance of it will be brought to the notice of the Minister for Repatriation, who will take appropriate action.
– I direct a question to you, Mr. Speaker. It concerns the noise that is heard in various parts of the House during question time. When you are directing attention to noise coming from a front bench or any other section of the House, will you make it quite clear from which side of the House the noise is emanating, so that members of the public, who take a great deal of interest in question lime, will be made aware of the fact that the noise emanates mainly from one side of the House?
-The remarks made by the honorable member for Perth will be considered and given appropriate attention.
– In view of the assurance given by the Minister for Health that the writing of death certificates is not a chargeable service under the pensioner medical scheme, will the Minister say why the writing of cremation certificates is a chargeable service and whether more work is entailed in writing those certificates? Will the Minister also say whether it is the responsibility of the Commonwealth or the States to control the extortionate charge made by doctors for the issuing of cremation certificates? If it is a Commonwealth responsibility, will the Minister take action to have these charges brought within the scope of the pensioner medical service?
– The information that I gave to the honorable member was that charges for cremation certificates are not payable under the pensioner medical service.
– The pensioner medical service provides roughly what used to be provided under the old lodge agreements. Cremation certificates entail a great deal more work and responsibility than ordinary death certificates. With regard to charges made by doctors, of course the Commonwealth Government has no control whatsoever over those charges.
– My question, which is addressed to the Postmaster-General, relates to the proposed new Australian Broadcasting Commission building in Perth. I direct the Minister’s attention to a letter that he forwarded to the Lord Mayor of Perth on 30th October last, and of which he was good enough to give me a copy. In that letter the Minister said -
However, you will understand that the preparation of working drawings in a project of this size is a task of some magnitude. It is therefore not expected to complete this phase of the work until March or April of next year.
I direct his attention also to a statement made by the Minister for Works, during a debate on the Estimates in this House in October last, that the time required to get the working drawings ready could be reduced considerably if funds were available. The Minister suggested that the Postmaster-General’s Department was responsible for the funds not being available. In the light of that statement, will the Minister give further consideration to this matter with a view to making funds available much more quickly in order that the building may be proceeded with and the congestion under which workers, are operating may be relieved, and also in order that the new town hall agreement, which provides for that site being made available for the erection of the new town hall by the end of 1960, may be complied with?
– This subject has already been covered very well both by questions and debate in this House, and by letters to those honorable members interested in the new A.B.C. building in Perth. Following a statement by the Minister for Works, it was pointed out that his statement referred only to the task of his department in preparing plans and specifications for all the works submitted to it. In addition,
I think the Minister also pointed out that his statement did not constitute a basis for determining the starting point of the actual work.
The honorable member has suggested that if the plans and specifications are completed before the expected date, consideration should be given to the provision of funds to enable an earlier start to be made with the work. The capital worksprogramme for my department, as with all other departments, is thoroughly investigated and determined prior to the presentation of the Budget, and the funds allotted then are the best that can be made available for all the work anticipated. Therefore, tocomply with the honorable member’s suggestion, that funds not already provided in this year’s Budget be made available for the new building in Perth, would simply mean that funds would have to be diverted from other work of an equally urgent nature, i do not consider that policy to be justified..
– Has the attention of the Minister for Territories been, directed to a statement made by Mr. C. T. Roscoe, Acting Director of Education inthe Territory of Papua and New Guinea, that only 30,000 native children of a school potential of 300,000 to 500,000 are receiving education? Since less than 10 per cent, of eligible native children are receiving formal education, and since less than 50- per cent, of these are accommodated by Administration schools, are any plans inhand to improve this most unsatisfactory situation?
– I think every figure quoted by the honorable member is incorrect. However, I readily admit, as I have often stated in this House, that the problem of education in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is not fully mastered. That situation has been brought about simply through lack of resources. Year after year, more money is being devoted to education; more teachers are being appointed; more native teachers are being trained, and more schools are being opened. In this regard this Government is doing about five times as- much to-day as was being done when it took office.
– In directing my question to the Postmaster-General I refer to the amendment of the relevant act some two years ago, which provided for the payment of a fee of £10 for all new telephone installations. Is the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in Adelaide correctly interpreting the provision when, in the case of the dissolution of a partnership between two medical practitioners and the commencement of a new partnership between one of the original partners and a new partner which necessitates the installation of new switching equipment, the original partner, as well as the new partner, is charged the installation fee of £10?
– The question of whether the £10 service connexion fee is payable in regard to the new installation is determined by whether the department is required to provide extra equipment, either in the medical practitioner’s residence in the shape of cable pairs, or in the exchange itself, in order to provide the new service. From the information which the honorable member has given in his question, I am not in a position to say whether extra equipment was provided, but, if the £10 fee has been charged, I should say that further equipment had to be made available, and that would make the installation liable to the charge. If the honorable member likes to give me further details, I will have the matter looked into. However, I have found that the department applies the installation fee with fairness and, wherever possible in the case of transfers, with proper equity.
– I ask the Minister for Trade whether he has noted the opinion expressed by the Australian Aluminium Production Commission in its last annual report that imports of aluminium ingot should be restricted to the difference between the total Australian demand and the commission’s production. As the right honorable gentleman is aware, last year the commission had to sell overseas and at a loss hundreds of tons of ingot made surplus to Australia’s requirements by ingot imported under accumulated licences.
– I have not seen the observation of the Australian Aluminium
Production Commission, to which the honorable member has referred. I shall make it my business to study it. A suggestion along the lines that the honorable member appears to indicate would, in respect of a Government instrumentality, involve considerations of policy which I would not set out to deal with at question time.
– I direct my question to the Minister for the Navy. I desire to know whether it is a fact that Royal Australian Navy ships of 500 tons or more in commission to-day number twenty, compared with eleven just prior to the outbreak of World War II. - an increase of 45 per cent. Is it a fact that sea-going personnel in the same period increased by 51 per cent, whilst shore personnel, including civilians, employed at naval establishments other than the Navy Office, Melbourne, increased by 508 per cent, and personnel employed at the Navy Office, Melbourne, increased by 579 per cent.? If that is so, what is the Minister’s explanation of this enormous increase in the number of those employed at naval shore establishments as compared with seagoing personnel?
– It is obvious that the honorable member for East Sydney has been doing a good deal of investigation into figures and has cited figures and percentages which probably do not represent the true position. We all know that it is very easy to take figures and give them a meaning which is not properly attributable to them. I can inform the honorable member for East Sydney that the Naval Board is paying much attention at present to the manning of shore establishments and, instead of increasing the personnel at shore establishments, is reducing the number wherever possible so as to make the maximum number available for sea-going duties. I shall have the honorable member’s question looked at so that I may show where the statements he has made to this House are incorrect.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to a statement attributed to
President Eisenhower, following the launching of the Sputnik satellite by the Russians, to the effect that he endorsed the view of scientists that America needed to be awakened to the absolute necessity of increasing the output of scientists from colleges and universities. Has the attention of the Prime Minister also been drawn to the comment of the City Bank of New York - the greatest private banking institution in the world, I believe - to the effect that what the universities can do depends upon the number of students leaving secondary schools? In view of the close link between the output from universities and the basic output from secondary schools, has the Prime Minister considered calling together representatives of the States and the Commonwealth with a view to obtaining an overall idea of the problem as it affects Australia?
– 1 had a question on this matter, in substantially similar terms, from the honorable member for Mallee yesterday. I refer the honorable member for New England to my answer to that question.
-In the absence of the Minister for the Interior, I ask the Prime Minister: Is it now nearly five months since the eminent British town planner, Sir William Holford, visited Canberra, after which visit he was expected to advise the Government on the future planning of the National Capital? Did the Minister for the Interior, at the end of June last, indicate that Sir William Holford had already made some firm recommendation concerning future planning? Can the Prime Minister say whether Sir William’s report has yet been received, and whether it will be published?
– The Minister for the Interior is not in his place in the House to-day. The question should be directed to him on Tuesday next.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that, because of isolation, many people in country areas are able to obtain telephone services only at considerable cost to themselves? I know of at least two instances in which the cost involved would be more than £1.000. As this high cost is often sufficient to prevent people in most need of a telephone service from obtaining one, will the honorable gentleman consider providing such services on reasonably easy terms, covering a number of years?
– As the honorable member is well aware, this Government has done a great deal to relieve, as far as possible, the cost of providing telephone services in outlying areas. I remember that when the previous Government was in power, many of us put forward representations, from time to time, that the amount spent on departmental construction in the provision of country services should be increased very considerably. Those requests were refused. I speak from memory when I say that the department then provided £100 per subscriber. Soon after my predecessor came to office, recognizing the need for more generous treatment, he introduced a system which was based, not on an actual figure per subscriber, because that would mean that increasing costs would steadily reduce the extent of departmental construction, but on the cost of constructing a certain length of telephone line. At the present time, this means that, in respect of applicants for new services, the department will undertake construction work representing the cost of 60 chains of construction. That is a generous contribution to the solution of this great problem, although in relation to many areas that are remote from telephone exchanges, it still leaves subscribers with a considerable amount of expense in order to obtain a service. However, I think that the object of the honorable gentleman’s question was to suggest, not so much greater expenditure by the department, but the institution, in extreme cases, of some form of long-term payment. I shall be glad to consider that suggestion and see whether it is possible to adopt it.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Navy. How does the honorable gentleman justify his recent reply to the honorable member for East Sydney that the figures quoted by the honorable member in respect of the increase of the number of naval officers and ratings stationed ashore in 1957, compared with those of 1937, were incorrect, when the figures quoted by the honorable member were those which the Minister had given him on 16th May last in reply to a question placed on the notice-paper on 2nd May? Secondly, did the Minister give incorrect figures in May when he indicated that, in 1937-38, sea-going personnel numbered 202 officers and 2,777 ratings, and in 1957, 321 officers and 4,175 ratings, and that shore personnel at the Navy Office-
– Order! The honorable member is transgressing the forms of the House. He is giving information instead of seeking it.
– I ask for leave to make a personal explanation.
– Order! Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Davidson) claimed that I had given inaccurate information to the House. I point out that the information that 1 gave to the House was accurate, and was based on the figures that had been supplied to me by the Minister.
– Order! The honorable member asked for leave to make a personal explanation.
– I desire to make a personal explanation.
– Order! The position is that if an honorable member claims to have been misrepresented it is customary for the House to listen to his explanation.
– When I directed to the Minister for the Navy a question, in the course of which I indicated that there had been an enormous increase in the number of shore personnel compared with the number of sea-going personnel, the Minister said that he would have investigations made, and that he would be able to prove that my figures were inaccurate, or incorrect. I think that the Minister used one of those two terms.
– I said that the honorable member’s interpretation of the figures was incorrect.
– On 2nd May of this year, in reply to a question placed on notice by me, the Minister supplied certain figures. I had asked for information about the number of Royal Australian Navy ships in commission; the number of seagoing personnel, showing the number of officers and ratings separately; the number of persons employed at the Navy Office, Melbourne, showing naval and civil personnel separately; and the total number of persons employed at naval shore establishments, showing naval personnel and civilians separately.
– Order! the honorable member is really going too far. I ask him to come more definitely to the point on which he claims to have been misrepresented.
– I just want briefly to quote the Minister’s-
– Order! 1 ask the honorable member to deal only with the matter on which he claims to have been misrepresented, and to refrain from a complete recital of the question that he asked this morning.
– I will not refer to the question. I will refer to the answer given by the Minister.
– Order! I will not allow the honorable member to pursue a debate on this matter. I ask him to confine his remarks to the portion of the Minister’s answer in which he claims to have been misrepresented.
– The Minister said that my question was based on inaccuracies. I claim that my question was based-
– I rise to order. The honorable member for East Sydney is suggesting that the Minister for the Navy said that his figures were inaccurate. It is not true to suggest that the Minister said that. Therefore, the honorable member was not misrepresented. What the Minister did say. Mr. Speaker - you and I both heard him - was that the honorable member was using these figures to create a picture that was not accurate.
– Order! No point or order is involved. The question of accuracy does not arise. I ask the honorable member for East Sydney to assist the Chair by confining his remarks to the point in relation to which he claims to have been misrepresented. If he does not do so, I shall be compelled to ask him to resume his seat.
– I will endeavour to comply with your request to the best of my ability, Mr. Speaker. The Minister for the Navy claimed that my question was based on inaccurate information. I ask the Minister now-
– Order! The honorable member may not pursue that line.
– Then I ask for your guidance and assistance, Mr. Speaker. How can I prove-
– Order! I ask the honorable member to come to the point, and to deal only with the point on which he claims to have been misrepresented.
– That is exactly what I am doing.
– Order! I point out to the honorable member that he is going beyond that.
– Keep it short.
– I am doing my best to make it short. The Minister claimed that the question that I asked him this morning was based on inaccurate figures.
– Order!I ask the honorable member to resume his seat.
– I move -
That the honorable member for East Sydney be heard.
– Order! I cannot accept such a motion. Have Ministers any ministerial statements to present?
– I rise to order. Will you, Mr. Speaker, indicate under what standing order you ruled the motion proposed by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) out of order?
– Order! Our Standing Orders do not providefor such a motion. Have Ministers any ministerial statements to present?
– In what way was the motion out of order?
– Order! I call the Prime Minister.
– I move -
That the Prime Minister be not further heard.
– Order! The honorable member, with his long experience in this place, knows full well that the motion is out of order. The Prime Minister has not yet said anything. If the honorable member does not refrain from this conduct, I shall be compelled to take action.
– I may be an Opposition member, but I have my rights in this place the same as any other representative has, and I want my rights.
– Order! The honorable member will rise and apologize for those comments. He has reflected on the Chair.
– I do.
– Order! Does the honorable member apologize?
– I do.
– Order! The right honorable gentleman will rise and apologize for reflecting on the Chair.
– I have done so.
– Order! If the honorable member pursues this line of conduct, I will take action against him.
– Then I apologize, and I remind you that I am not “ the right honorable gentleman”; I am only “the honorable gentleman “.
– by leave - As has been pointed out on a variety of occasions, the Government has had before it a number of individual proposals from Western Australia in relation to the northern part of that State. I now want to inform the House that the Government proposes to make available to the Government of Western Australia over the next five years a total grant of £2,500,000 to promote the development of the area of that State north of the twentieth parallel of latitude.
The Government has been assisted in its consideration of this matter by the views which have been put before it by the State Government, by an all-party delegation from the Western Australian Parliament, and by Western Australian members and senators in this Parliament. These representations drew attention to the special difficulties involved in the development of this area, and in particular, to the limited financial resources which the State Government had been able to devote to capital works in this outlying area of the State.
The Government appreciates that the development of this area presents a special problem, and that, if development is to be speeded up, some direct Commonwealth assistance is necessary. Accordingly, it has been decided to make available, as and when required over a period of five years commencing on 1st July, 1958, a grant of £2,500,000 for expenditure by the State on developmental works in that part of the State which lies north of the twentieth parallel. Honorable members from Western Australia will remember that, when money was made available for a water scheme, and certain annual limits were placed on the amount, that arrangement proved inconvenient, and that, more recently, we abandoned it in order to make the total sum more flexibly capable of distribution year by year. That is what we are doing on this occasion.
As the overall responsibility for the development of this area will continue to rest with the State, it is envisaged that the State Government should decide the particular works projects on which this grant will be expended. At the same time, the Commonwealth is concerned to ensure that the money it provides will lead to new and additional development in the area and will not merely be used, wholly or partly, in substitution for expenditure which the State Government would otherwise have carried out. That, of course, is obvious. The Commonwealth will therefore seek from the State Government assurances to that effect, and will ask the State Government to submit to it for approval, projects it intends to undertake under the Commonwealth grant. The Commonwealth will do this in order to satisfy itself that the area is obtaining a full measure of additional developmental aid from the money we are making available.
Details of the scheme will be discussed shortly with the State Government, and legislation to authorize the payment of the grant will be introduced in the next session of this Parliament.
– by leave - In view of the comments that have been made, both in Parliament and the press, I feel that the time is opportune to make a statement to correct certain misunderstandings which have arisen in connexion with the operation of the recent trade agreement with Japan. I refer more particularly to the extent of the fears and apprehensions of various sections of manufacturing industry that damage will be caused because of the removal of the discriminatory treatment of Japanese imports.
As I have previously advised the House, this agreement was concluded only after a protracted series of negotiations with the Japanese Government. Before these negotiations the Australian Government realized that if imports from Japan were given the same treatment as imports from other nondollar countries resulting increases in the volume of imports from Japan could cause damage to established Australian industries. I can say that at least a year before the agreement was signed it was recognized by this Government that effective steps would have to be taken as part of the agreement that was envisaged to protect Australian industry if these problems should arise.
In 1954, Japan was put on a licensing basis which enabled the Government to observe the impact on local manufacturers of imports from Japan. During this period imports of some items from Japan were restricted by the Government to ensure that damage was not done to local industry. However, no item was imported to the full permissible quantity, and in no case did imports occasion any damage to the corresponding Australian industry. Nevertheless, the Government included in the trade agreement provisions which would enable it to take emergency action against imports from Japan if it appeared that Australian industry was threatened with serious damage as a result of the removal of the special discrimination against Japan.
The objective of a trade treaty with our second biggest customer was to preserve our place in the Japanese market and gain new trading advantages for Australia. The balancing advantage for the Japanese was to put their sales to us in the same position as those of other foreign suppliers. However, there is one highly important reservation - provision still exists to apply special protection for Australian industry if, as a result of our putting Japanese imports on a basis of equality with other foreign importers, serious damage should be caused to Australian industry. These special arrangements to permit protection of Australian industry would never, of course, be interpreted as justifying the erection of any greater barrier against an item of Japanese trade than that of the kind contemplated by the Parliament when the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act was amended in 1956. In other words, a treaty which clearly has the intent of increasing mutual trade would never be interpreted as justifying the erection of any barrier to Japanese trade which would not have been justified had a trade treaty not been negotiated.
Having provided this protective clause in the agreement, the Government has now made the appropriate procedural arrangements to ensure that its objectives will be attained. The Government recently appointed Mr. M. E. McCarthy, the chairman of the Tariff Board, as an advisory authority to examine matters referred to him by the Minister for Trade so that he can advise the Minister whether he considers any serious damage is likely to occur to any industry as a result of the operation of this trade agreement. I have already mentioned in this House that Mr, McCarthy is an advisor, not an arbitrator, and these duties are quite apart from his functions and duties as chairman of the Tariff Board.
The House will be interested to learn that when I first considered the appointment of an advisory authority I approached the Prime Minister and suggested that Mr. McCarthy was the most appropriate man to undertake these duties if he would agree to do so. Subsequently I decided to approach both the Associated Chambers of Manufactures and the Associated Chambers of Commerce and ask them for nominees to this position. It is a happy coincidence that both organizations suggested that Mr. McCarthy would be the most appropriate nominee for this position.
In this connexion I have invited any industry which feels it is being adversely affected by the operation of the agreement to form an industry panel on a federal basis and, in conjunction with the Associated Chambers of Manufactures, discuss its problems with the Department of Trade. The department is maintaining a very close watch on imports from Japan and, indeed, on licences taken out for imports from Japan. Although it will not disclose the import orders of individual importers it will make available to industry panels details of the overall value of licences which have been issued for particular commodities so that they can assess the prospective volume of imports of these commodities in the future. If, having had these discussions with the department, an industry panel feels that the industry is likely to suffer serious damage it should make representations to the Minister for Trade. The Associated Chambers of Manufactures has also undertaken to advise the Minister on these individual approaches. If the circumstances suggest that there is a threat of serious damage the matter will be referred by the Minister to Mr. McCarthy for his assessment of the position and his advice as to what action could be taken to overcome any problem which may arise. Indeed, following representations from the panels set up by the Australian printed textile industry, the knitted outerwear industry, the umbrella industry and the porcelain insulator industry I have already referred these matters to Mr. McCarthy, who is at present examining them.
So far as Mr. McCarthy is concerned, no rules of procedure have been laid down and he is free to make any inquiries he thinks necessary in order to advise the Minister for Trade. He can, for example, call upon the resources of the Department of Trade or he can make independent inquiries. The nature of these problems suggests that Mr. McCarthy will have discussions with the appropriate industry panel and the panel which has been established by the Associated Chambers of Commerce.
Other organizations have asked for the right to appear before Mr. McCarthy in conjunction with any matter he is investigating. I am concerned that there should be no serious delay in these proceedings and, since I have no doubt that Mr. McCarthy will discuss particular problems with these organizations if he sees the need, I do not think the circumstances require that such organizations have this formal right of approach.
Several of the industry panels have already discussed their difficulties with the Department of Trade. These discussions indicate the complexity of the problem. The recent relaxation of import licensing has increased the volume of imports of most commodities from all countries.
Indeed, the competition that is being felt from imports in some of the cases that have been discussed is, in fact, from countries other than Japan. The Government has made it clear on many occasions that it will not retain import licensing for the purpose of protecting local industries, so that in these cases industries should seek tariff protection through the normal Tariff Board procedures.
A decision to establish a precise and standing maximum level of Japanese imports of an item that has been suggested could not be relied upon as an effective protection. The dangerous level to Australian industry will vary with internal economic circumstances as well as the strength of competition from other countries. Thus, if Australian demand for a commodity fell drastically, imports from Japan of even less than any predetermined quantity could have a disastrous effect on the local manufacturing industry.
The procedures that the Government has established will, I am quite sure, overcome or obviate the difficulties envisaged by local industry. The Government is quite firm in its intention to protect Australian industry from serious injury arising from this trade agreement. This was discussed frankly with the Japanese Government when the agreement was being negotiated, and I am quite sure that the safeguards incorporated in the agreement will prove effective.
In answer to an interjection by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), I inform honorable members that, up until a few days ago, four industries had asked for consideration of their particular cases. I have named those industries in my statement. There have been indications that other industry groups may ask for consideration of their cases, but my advice at the moment is that no further groups have yet asked for consideration of their problem.
– by leaveThe statement just made by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) with respect to the effect of the Japanese Trade Agreement upon Australian industry proves conclusively that the Opposition was correct in its “criticism of this agreement. Even the machinery that has now been established - which I hope to show is not proving very effective - would not have been established unless the Opposition and the Australian public and those interested in Australian industry had expressed great concern at the effect that the agreement was to have on industry and employment in Australia. On paper, it may appear that the Government has taken some steps to appease this disquiet in the Australian community and has established a panel, which the Minister said would act only in an advisory capacity, and which would in turn bring to the notice of the Government any particular matter that it believed was endangering Australian industry. But I think it is only a paper organization. 1 do not think it will do anything of an effective nature. What is to be done by the Government to short circuit the intolerable delays in reaching a decision when Australian industries do become affected? While the Minister is talking about industry panels being formed, about submissions being made to an advisory body, what is happening to the Australian industries that are already being seriously affected by Japanese imports?
Take, for example, the toy manufacturing industry. In a question recently I directed attention to the serious effect that Japanese imports were already having on the Australian toy manufacturing industry, whose problem and danger is immediate. What action has the Government taken to deal with this situation? The toy manufacturing industry is one in which many ex-servicemen have invested their capital, limited as it may be. It is an industry giving employment to many disabled exservicemen whose disabilities prevent them from entering other forms of industry. What is to happen to that industry and the men employed in it while the Government goes through this tortuous process involving an application to an advisory body, the formation of industry panels, and then the submission of recommendations to the Minister? Before the Minister can make a decision many of the industries will have been irretrievably injured and in some instances forced out of existence.
Take the other industry mentioned by the Minister - the manufacture of porcelain insulators. 1 received correspondence through the Leader of the Opposition in the Victorian Parliament with respect to the serious effect that Japanese imports have had on the manufacture of porcelain insulators in this country. This is a very important industry. It was developed and expanded during the war years when Australia needed porcelain insulators. The industry is now in such a plight that it employs only 25 per cent, of the number it employed during the peak period. The industry attributes its present difficulties to Japanese competition. There is no need for an investigation into this situation, because the industry is fully aware of its threatened extinction. The goods being imported from Japan are produced under labour conditions which make it impossible for Australian manufacturers to compete. Why does the Government have to go through this tortuous process during which the industry will be destroyed while a long investigation is in progress? In my opinion, the proposed procedure is only a device to try to satisfy the Australian people that something is being done to protect Australian industry.
To-day, in Australia, textile mills are working part-time. They have reduced their working hours because of Japanese competition. What is the Government do-, ing to protect the textile industry? The Minister seems to obtain a great deal of satisfaction from the fact that all of the dire predictions made by critics of the agreement have not yet been borne out as a result of actual trading with Japan. But what we must keep in mind is that the Japanese made it quite clear that they recognized that they were dealing with a very dangerous situation, and they indicated that they would be very cautious about immediately increasing their trade with Australia. But for the December quarter, the quarter we are now discussing, the import of toys from Japan constituted 200 per cent, of our intake for the previous year. Does the Minister regard that as being of no consequence? Does he not believe that the local industry is worth protecting?
The Minister referred to the advisory board that had been established and he said that the chambers of manufactures and commerce had agreed that Mr. McCarthy should be appointed to control this advisory authority. The Minister said that the appointment would not conflict with Mr. McCarthy’s duties on the Tariff Board. I ask the Minister whether it is a fact that Mr. McCarthy has been displaced from his position on the Tariff Board? He is no longer the chairman of the Tariff Board, so how can his position as the advisory authority conflict with his duties on the Tariff Board? Is that not a misleading statement by the Minister? If Mr. McCarthy has already been relieved of his position on the Tariff Board, how can his duties on the advisory committee conflict with his duties as chairman of the Tariff Board? The Minister’s statement is completely misleading, and as time goes on the Opposition’s attitude to this agreement will be shown to have been correct.
The Minister said that, as a result of this agreement, the Japanese are to be treated in the same way as other foreign suppliers, and included among the foreign suppliers are British exporters. If a member of the Opposition referred to the British as being foreign suppliers he would be denounced as unpatriotic. But the Minister groups them with other foreign suppliers. The Japanese are to be put in exactly the same position, because he said the Japanese must be put in a position of equality with all other suppliers from the non-dollar area.
– I did not say that.
– That was the Minister’s statement, and he can find it by examining the “ Hansard “ report. There is no doubt in the world that not only will this agreement have a serious effect on Australia’s industries, but it will also impair our market in Great Britain, which is our greatest market for Australian primary products. If the British imports from Australia are reduced as a result of imports from Japan to Australia, does it not follow that the British market will find it impossible to continue to take the same quantity of Australian primary products? Although it is perfectly true that there is a great disparity between the value of our exports to Japan and our imports from that country the Minister wants to widen that gap. He said that under the agreement there are to be increased opportunities for Australian produce to be sold on the Japanese market. But the more Australian produce that is sent to the Japanese market the wider will become the gap between Australian imports from Japan and exports to that country and the greater will be the pressure to open the flood gates and allow the Australian market to take greater quantities of Japanese goods.
This agreement is designed merely to reinforce support of the Government by the Australian Country party, which believes that the agreement will expand the Japanese market for our primary products. But it will do immeasurable harm to the Australian community and economy generally. I am perfectly satisfied that time will prove beyond doubt the attitude of the Opposition to this agreement to be fully justified.
The following bills were returned from the Senate -
Without amendment -
Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill 1957.
Without requests -
Sales Tax Bills (Nos. 1 to 9) 1957.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Superannuation Act 1922-1956, and for other purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Commonwealth superannuation scheme relates the eligibility for superannuation pension to the salary of the contributor. Increases in salary carry the entitlement to contribute for a higher pension on retirement, up to the limit of salary at which the maximum annual pension is reached. The pensions for those who are at present contributors to the Superannuation Fund, and of those who have retired in recent years, have been maintained on a reasonable level because, as I have explained, salary increases have, in general, been accompanied by increased entitlement. In addition, pensioners have benefited from the increases in the value of each unit of pension which occurred in 1947, 1951 and 1954. There are, however, many whose superannuation pensions are related to salaries that were paid in pre-war days. Although the increases that have been made from time to time in the value of the units have been extended also to their pensions, they have nevertheless been substantially affected by changes in conditions since retirement. To provide relief, this bill will increase the unit of pension by £13 per annum for all those whose retirement was prior to 14th May, 1942, at which date cost of living adjustments were made to Public Service salaries.
Similar adjustments to salaries occurred subsequently, again accompanied by additional pension entitlements, and the increase is, therefore, reduced on a sliding scale, for this reason. For example, for those who retired on 5th April, 1947, the increase in each unit of pension is £9 2s. per annum. After that date, there were some general increases in salary, but the date of effect varied between different groups of contributors. The increase of £9 2s. per annum for those who retired on 5 th April, 1947, will therefore be extended also to those who retired subsequently in similar circumstances.
The bill also provides that the pension for orphan children shall be increased from £39 to £78 per annum and that for other children from £26 to £52 per annum. The cost of these increases will be met from the Superannuation Fund. It is proposed that all increases provided in the bill shall be paid on and from 31st October, 1957, the nearest date to that from which other pensions have been increased.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Clarey) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) proposed -
That Order of the Day No. 1- Supply (“ Grievance Day “) - be postponed until a later hour this day.
.- The Opposition offers no objection to this motion to-day, but it hopes that next session some regard will be paid to the rights of honorable members on Grievance Day to bring forward private members’ business. There is some feeling on the part of the Opposition that the denial of these rights during this session have not been in the best interests of the Parliament. We know how busy the session has been, and the Opposition has cooperated with the Government with due consideration to its own position. However, we think that we should not be asked, in future, to forgo private members’ rights in order to facilitate Government business during the whole period of a session.
– in reply - I will certainly take into account the comments of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mt. Calwell) and bear them in mind when arrangements are being made for the business of the autumn session. However, I point out to the House that in this quite long, and, as the honorable member has said, very busy session, there have been a great variety of opportunities for private members to express themselves on matters of all kinds, because they were not circumscribed by the particular business before the House. For example, during the course of the session we have had the general debate on the Budget and the long debate on the various items of the Estimates, and members have also had opportunities to speak on the motion for the adjournment of the House when various matters have been raised. You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that on many occasions during question-time, also, honorable members have managed to convey to the House the substance of many matters in what became, in effect, short speeches.
– And that practice will have to be looked at, too.
– Honorable members still feel that they should have their opportunity to “ grieve “ on Grievance Day.
– It may be said that steam must find an outlet, and honorable members may have some pent-up desire to express themselves on various matters, as the honorable member has suggested. However, he knows that I have endeavoured to collaborate with him as best I can to enable representative viewpoints to be expressed in this chamber, without hindrance, consistent with the volume of business which must be attended to in a swiftly developing country in a swiftly moving world. Subject to those comments, I will be glad to do what I can to meet the wishes of the Opposition on the matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 20th November (vide page 2328), on motion by Mr. Davidson -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The purpose of the bill now before the House is to amend the Flax Fibre Bounty Act of 1954, as amended in 1957. This is the fourth occasion in the last four years on which the flax industry has been the subject of consideration by this House. In 1953, an act was passed which enabled the formation of a flax commission. In 1954, the first bounty bill was passed and at the beginning of this year another bounty bill was passed. The bill now before the House is to give effect, in the main, fo recommendations which were made by the Tariff Board in respect of further bountysupport for the flax industry.
In order to appreciate the extent to which the industry has been the subject of investigation and of legislation, I think it would be well to review the decisions that have been made in the two previous bounty acts and then consider the position in the bill that is now before the House. In 1954 the Flax Fibre Bounty Act provided for the payment of a bounty of £35 a ton on flax fibre, based on a landed price in Australia of a specified grade of flax of £330 a ton. A provision was then inserted in the legislation that as the price of the standard fibre, landed in Australia, increased or decreased above or below £330 a ton, the bounty would rise or fall in units of £5 a ton.
In 1957, that provision was amended and provision was made that the bounty should be £50 a ton on flax fibre produced on or after 1st November, 1956, and sold before 1st May, 1957, on a basis of flax fibre landed in Australia from overseas at a cost of £300 a ton. From 1st May, 1957, the bounty was increased to £60 a ton. In the first act, the amount of bounty that was to be paid to the flax industry was limited to £70,000 per annum. Under the bill passed in the early portion of this year, the maximum amount of bounty that could be paid to the flax industry was increased to £112,500. That bil! was regarded, at that stage, as a temporary measure to enable some relief to be given to the flax industry until such time as the Tariff Board had concluded its inquiries and had made a recommendation to the Government. As a consequence of that inquiry, we now have this bill before the House which makes certain provisions with respect to the future payment of bounty and which will deal with the flax industry from 1st May, 1957, until 31st October, 1960, so that it really covers a period of three years.
Clause 4 of the bill requires that the bounty on flax sold on or after 1st May, 1957, and before 1st November, 1958, will be £65 a ton. From 1st November, 1958, to 31st October, 1959, the bounty will fail from £65 a ton to £60 a ton and thereafter the rate of bounty will be £55 a ton. The basis on which the bounty is to be paid still remains that of fibre of a certain standard, landed in Australia from overseas countries at £300 a ton. Provision is also made that as the landed cost of standard fibre rises or falls the amount of the bounty will rise or fall by £5 or multiples of £5 with the one exception that the amount of the bounty shall not be increased by more than £10 a ton. In other words, once the price of flax landed in Australia reaches £310, the bounty will not be further increased. It will remain at £10 over the amounts that are fixed in the bill. One important factor, however, is that the previous limitations on the total amount of the bounty that can be paid in any period of twelve months have now been removed. So if the amount of bounty reached £150,000 it would be paid. Hitherto, there has been a limitation on it.
Having explained that, I want to deal with some of the factors in connexion with the industry. The statement that was made by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) in his second-reading speech on the bill clearly indicated that some very important changes were going to take place in the production of fibre in Australia. In view of the reasons for the establishment, in the first place, of the Flax Production Committee and, subsequently, of the Flax Commission, I think it is essential that a general review of the industry should be given in order to see the possibilities that may arise in the industry as a result of the policy that was announced in the secondreading speech.
The flax industry has been the subject of consideration over a period of years. It was subject to Tariff Board investigation in 1928. in 1935, in 1954, and again in 1 957. The flax industry, to be of economic value to Australia, depends not only on the growing of the flax itself but upon the existence of processing bodies in Australia to turn the flax straw into flax fibre. Al present, two bodies in the Commonwealth are concerned with the processing of flax. One of them is the Flax Commission which was created by the Flax Industry Act 1953 and which entirely monopolizes the production of flax fibre in the south-eastern portion of Australia. The Flax Commission owns and controls six factories in Victoria and one in South Australia. The only other processing plant in Australia is that owned by the Blackwood Flax Cooperative Company Limited, a Western Australian body which processes the flax that is grown in Western Australia.
The importance of the flax industry can be demonstrated by the provisions of the Flax Industry Act 1953. I shall read only one section because that clause indicates the reasons why various governments have been so anxious to assist the flax industry. Section 13 states -
The functions of the Commission are to maintain and develop the flax industry in Australia and the capacity of Australia to produce flax in order to ensure that sufficient supplies of flax are available for the purposes of the defence of the Commonwealth and that the capacity of the flax industry to produce flax for those purposes in the event of war will be adequate.
It is clear from the provisions of that act. and, I think, amply proved by subsequent legislation, that the flax industry is considered an essential industry from a defence stand-point. This is further demonstrated by the fact that on the outbreak of World War II. the question of the supply of flax fibre to Great Britain became very urgent. Approximately 90 per cent, of the supplies of flax from outside sources was cut off. The result was that this commodity, essential from the defence point of view, was not available, and Great Britain was in a difficult position. Arrangements were then made by the United Kingdom Government with the Australian Government for flax to be produced in Australia and sold to Great Britain. The agreement continued in operation until 1946. In that year it was terminated, and since then the flax industry had experienced a great deal of difficulty.
The industry, both before and since World War II., has had a most chequered career. Flax has been produced in Australia for close on a century, but, for most of that time, only in a small way. From 1907 to 1922, and again from 1930 to 1935. the industry was supported by guarantees or bounties given by various governments. Prior to World War II. the industry was not firmly established, partly because of lack of interest on the part of growers, who were not very much concerned with the production of flax, and who had little confidence in their ability to grow satisfactory crops. In 1936 a company was formed, known as Flax Fibres Proprietary Limited, which endeavoured to popularize the production of flax straw, lt succeeded in achieving greatly increased production. This was a good thing, both for Australia and Great Britain, because we then had the foundations of a flax industry when World War II. broke out, and it was quite possible to increase our production of the commodity.
The industry expanded very rapidly during the war. It was considered that in order to supply the needs of Australia and Great Britain about 70,000 acres would have to be planted with flax, and crops were grown in Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia. Since the agreement with the United Kingdom Government was terminated in 1946 the industry has not been as successful as it was during the war. In order to show the fluctuations that have occurred in flax production, I shall cite some figures from the report of the Tariff Board on flax fibre, dated 8th February, 1957. They show the variations in the area of land given over to flax production between 1947 and 1956, which is the last year for which figures are available. I shall not give the variations for different States, but only for Australia as a whole. In 1947 the area under production was 10,872 acres. By 1950 it had fallen to 4,939 acres. It then increased to over 15,000 acres in 1953. It had again fallen to 4,666 acres in 1955, and the total acreage throughout Australia for the year 1956 was 5,750 acres. It is seen, therefore, that because of the insecurity and instability of the industry it is difficult to induce farmers to undertake the growing of flax. In any case, if they wish to grow flax their farms must be within 20 miles of a processing plant. Wherever there is a processing plant it is commercially possible to grow flax, but if there is no processing plant it is not possible to produce flax straw.
The yields of flax seem also to have varied considerably. In 1947 the amount produced was 16,796 tons. It fell to as low as 6,109- tons in 1951. It increased to 22,346 tons in 1953, and fell again to 7,640 tons in 1955, the last year for which figures are available.
A further difficulty which the industry is experiencing is with regard to costs. In a period of only three years costs have increased considerably. The inquiry made by the Tariff Board in 1954 revealed that the cost of production of flax straw in Victoria and the Mount Gambier area was about £12 5s. an acre. In Western Australia it was about £9 15s. The 1957 report of the Tariff Board shows that the cost of production has risen in Western Australia to £10 15s. an acre, and in Victoria and South Australia to £14 2s. 6d.
The point to be emphasized is that the industry has made some progress towards achieving a permanent basis, but that basis will remain permanent only if conditions with regard to agriculture and processing are satisfactory to the producers. Some growers find that flax is a good crop from the rotation stand-point, but the main question that will always exercise the minds of growers is whether the return from flax production will be as great as could be obtained from other crops. If flax straw is to be retained in production as a commodity required for defence purposes, then both the Federal Government and the State agricultural committees must give encouragement to the industry. In the recent report of the Flax Commission, complaint is made that whereas the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization had been receiving £30,000 per annum for the purpose of investigation into flax industry problems, and that vote had now been cancelled, no similar provision was being made to enable the commission itself to deal with research problems concerning the industry. Research is essential if this industry is to be placed upon a permanent basis so that we can be sure, first, of adequate supplies of flax straw; secondly, that production of flax fibre will meet defence requirements. Two other important factors are reasonable prices and ready access to mills.
The granting of a bounty in Australia is not unusual so far as some primary industries are concerned, but it is a feature in connexion with flax production in countries overseas. To indicate the extent to which this industry is subsidized overseas, I shall read the following passage which appears on page 10 of the Tariff Board’s report on flax fibre, dated 8th February, 1957-
An important factor in the difficulties of the Australian industry is the policy of subsidy in some producing countries. It is understood that in France, the largest producer in Western Europe, production is subsidized to the extent of about £100 per ton. In Northern Ireland there are guaranteed minimum prices ranging from £410 to £335 per ton according to grade. At the time of the fixation of this minimum price the landed duty-free cost of overseas flax fibre in Australia was about £292 per ton. As it fs unlikely that the landed cost in Australia would be less than in Northern Ireland it is evident that the subsidy in that country is probably not less than £43 per ton and could be about £100 per ton. If Australia does not meet this form of competition by domestic subsidy it will either have to abandon the industry just as it is showing signs of being established on a firm basis or protect it by duty.
I refer now to the present depressed condition of the industry. During the last twelve or eighteen months the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics has practically flooded the world markets with flax fibre at an exceedingly low price. As a consequence, not only has there been a measure of instability and, indeed, a depressed condition in the industry in Australia, but also flax-producing countries in other parts of the world have been very seriously affected.
Having made clear, first, the necessity for flax fibre production from a defence stand-point, and secondly, the difficulties confronting the industry, I now refer to the somewhat startling decision announced in the second-reading speech of the PostmasterGeneral who introduced this bill. He stated -
In the light of the continuing trading losses of the Flax Commission, which last year exceeded £100,000, despite the receipt of bounty, and the urgent need for further capital, the Government has decided to withdraw from the field of flax production at the earliest opportunity by closure of the mills in Victoria and South Australia after the current year’s harvest has been processed.
We have, therefore, this rather extraordinary position of the Government, on the one hand, desiring to maintain or increase the production of flax straw by payment of a bounty upon flax fibre production, and, on the other hand, deciding to close down the mills which process the straw into fibre, thus giving the growers no outlet whatsoever for the flax straw which they produce. I say quite candidly and frankly that if that policy is pursued the Government might just as well tear up this bill and let the flax industry go out of existence altogether, because unless there are flax processing mills to turn the straw into fibre the industry simply cannot exist.
It is true that over the three years of its existence the Flax Commission has lost an amount of approximately £263,000; but if flax fibre is essential for defence purposes - and it certainly is essential for defence purposes in the United Kingdom - what good purpose will be served by closing down these mills merely because there has been a loss in processing operations? The £263,000 involved in keeping the industry going for the last three years is a mere flea-bite when related to the £1,200,000,000 which this Government has spent on defence since it assumed office. To suggest that this industry, because of a loss of £263,000 over a period of three years, “is to be threatened by the closing down of the mills, indicates to me a lack of realism on the part of the Government and a failure to appreciate the necessity of flax for defence purposes.
– Apparently, the honorable member has not read the defence advisers’ appraisal of the industry.
– And it is very clear that the Government has not read the Tariff Board’s report. Floods and wet weather during the last two years have resulted in a substantial deterioration in the quality of straw, and the percentage of flax from the straw has not been as great as it might have been. Further, the Flax Commission itself complains very bitterly at the considerably deteriorated stocks it took over from the Flax Production Committee in 1954. After this Parliament passed the legislation in 1953 creating the Flax Commission a period of time elapsed when nobody was controlling the flax industry. As a consequence, large quantities of straw awaiting processing were left in the open subject to wet weather and floods, and the result was a remarkable deterioration in value of the flax straw. The newly appointed commission that took over this industry, according to its own reports, has been charged full prices for straw that was in a deteriorated condition. It made it clear in its first report in 1955 that, with the straw it had taken over, losses were bound to occur in the ensuing year because a reasonable quantity of flax fibre could not be produced from straw in a deteriorated condition.
A second difficulty that the industry has had to face is that the mills taken over in 1939 were not equipped with the mosmodern machinery. The reports of the Flax Commission during the last three years indicate that it has done everything possible to improve the mechanical efficiency of the industry. Each report indicates that new machinery has been purchased, that additional assistance has been given to the growers and that, once the industry is properly mechanized with the latest machinery, it has every chance of becoming economically sound. With the commission trying to do that, I have considerable difficulty in understanding the Government’s policy of determining peremptorily that at the end of this season’s harvest - the harvest, I think, commences in September of each year - it will close the mills and deprive the growers of the opportunity to have their straw processed. Probably, the Government will say that it is quite prepared to sell these mills. If it does so, it will sell the mills at a considerable loss or at an extremely low price. It will certainly be very difficult to get people to buy the mills and to carry on the processing of the straw into fibre if losses are being incurred at present.
The Government adopts a most extraordinary attitude. If a Commonwealthowned industry is profitable, it is sold because the Government has no right to make profits. If such an enterprise is operating at a loss, the Government’s attitude is that the taxpayers should not bear the losses and the mills must be sold. We get the ridiculous position of trying to build up an industry and at the same time killing it by making the processing of the straw into fibre so uncertain that the growers do not know exactly what will happen. This industry is one that should be assisted. Even if the Government must bear the losses for a number of years before the industry becomes economically sound, that action is worth while from the stand-point of defence. The commission was given the power to operate the mills in the cause of defence, but then because a few losses have been incurred, the Government, before the industry is placed on a proper economic basis, takes up the attitude that the mills will be closed. If that is done, the industry will probably be killed.
The Opposition does not oppose the payment of a bounty. We think the payment of a bounty is necessary and right. We think such a bounty is essential to enable this industry to become economically sound, but we strongly condemn and criticize the proposal, which was announced when this measure was introduced, to close the processing plants that at present give security to the industry and enable farmers to grow flax straw, knowing that it can be processed. Once any uncertainty is created about the continued operations of the processing mills, the flax producers will lose all faith and confidence in the industry and an industry, essential from the stand-point of defence, will be utterly destroyed.
– We are indebted to the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) for a very clear explanation of the purpose of this bill.
– Based on a false premise!
– Only in one respect, and that is the impression he gave that the bill has the effect of closing the mills. That is not so. Although the honorable member corrected that impression towards the end of his speech when he said that the bill is concerned with the payment of a bounty, I should like to emphasize that the bill does not close the mills. As I continue, honorable members will find that on many points I am in complete agreement with the honorable member for Bendigo. The extension of the payment of a bounty on the production of flax fibre for a further three years, which is the sole intention of the bill, is proof of the good intentions of this Government towards an industry that has been helped considerably over a long period by all governments. This Government has recognized that the industry is operating under somewhat difficult conditions.
Flax has been grown in Australia, with varying degrees of success, for a very long time - nearly 100 years now. The most successful crops have been grown in Victoria, and, to a lesser degree, in South Australia. The rainfall and soil conditions in Victoria are suitable for the production of this crop. The industry enjoyed government support from 1907 to 1935, but during that period growers were not particularly active. They did not show a great deal of confidence in flax fibre because it has always - and I am afraid this still applies - been a rather chancy crop. It is dependent on weather conditions. In a dry season, sowing is difficult and in a wet season, weed control is extremely difficult. Considerable research is needed to help the industry.
It was not until World War II. that a real appreciation of the importance of linen thread was brought home both to the Government and to the growers. Local spinners in the years just before the war had been trying to put the industry on a better basis and, because of their work, when war broke out we were in a position to carry on with the production available, but we had nowhere near the required acreage. In 1940, the Government formed a Flax Production Committee. At that time it was thought that 8,000 to 10,000 acres would be sufficient to meet our requirements. However, the British Ministry of Supply had its main source of raw materials - Belgium and Russia - cut off, and it asked Australia to help it. The acreage was gradually extended until we had a very sizeable industry with about 70,000 acres in production, and the crop was processed in 39 mills. Immediately after the war, the demand subsided and the acreage has declined until to-day the crop is grown on only 4,000 or 5,000 acres and processed in only seven mills. The Flax Commission, which took over from the war-time committee in 1954, is aiming at 10,000 acres. About 1,000 acres will be in the electorate of McMillan, some parts of which have proved to be most suitable for this crop. Clearly, the commission needs to be encouraged to go ahead with its project.
The industry is largely dependent on continued recognition by the Tariff Board of the need for Government support. In its latest report, the Tariff Board points out that the industry is being conducted on sound and progressive lines and that the quality of the fibre produced is satisfactory to the users, that is, to the spinners. The report also states that shortage of capital is a major deterrent to economic expansion of the industry, and that cessation of the industry would deprive farmers of a useful rotational crop and result in some unemployment in rural areas.
All of this is true, and it justifies every effort being made to help the industry to operate economically. This bill has been introduced for the purpose of enabling the bounty, of an amount recommended by the Tariff Board, to be paid. The honorable member for Bendigo has given the details of the calculation, and I merely point out that, at the present time, the maximum rate is £75 a ton, working on a base rate of £65 a ton for grade B fibre, and that it is proposed to extend the payment for a further three years. The bill, therefore, is eminently satisfactory. I am, however, rather disturbed, as was the honorable member for Bendigo, to find that the Minister, in his second-reading speech, indicated that the Government had decided to withdraw from the field of flax production. The Government has indicated that it will close the mills in Victoria and South Australia as soon as possible after the current crop has been processed. I do not think we should take it for granted that the industry will be cut off abruptly. Incidentally, nothing has been said about what is to happen to the industry in Western Australia.
– There is a co-operative in Western Australia.
– Exactly. The fact that the industry is conducted by a cooperative is a very good reason for continuing the bounty. This proposal to close down the mills reminds me of the position in 1949, when the government of the day indicated that it would endeavour to get out of flax production as a government activity. At that time, the Western Australian mill was disposed of and the present co-operative was formed. It comprises a group oE lo:al growers and has operated with considerable success. As I have said, continuation of the bounty will enable the co-operative to carry on. The extension of the bounty is particularly necessary in the case of Western Australian growers, because they are obliged to rehabilitate themselves after unprecedented floods.
I have been at some pains to try to find out the real basis of the decision to close the mills, and on the face of it, in view of the very heavy losses of the last three years, which unfortunately have reached a total of £263,978, we must have some sympathy with the decision of the Government to lean in this direction. There are, however, many other factors which I believe should be given much further consideration. The commission has been handicapped in its operations because it has had to take over a lot of straw that could not possibly be handled economically. That factor has had a considerable bearing on the losses and, what is even more important, on the cost of production.
Most of the machinery in use is some sixteen or seventeen years old. A certain proportion of it has been replaced, but not all of it has as yet been put to the fullest use. The machinery should be replaced by modern equipment, such as our competitors overseas are using. The industry needs modern machinery capable of doubling the throughput of the mills, and which would result in better quality of the finished fibre. We have some pulling machines already, but if more were available for harvesting, the rate of production per acre could be increased. I point out that our growers have done very well. They have improved production per acre from 27 cwt. in 1955 to 37i cwt. in 1956, and still further to 51 cwt. in 1957. This figure could be still further improved upon, with a consequent reduction of costs.
I support the contention of the honorable member for Bendigo that a contribution to research should be made, even though the mills are closed. He referred to the fact that £30,000 was once available to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization for research into the flax industry. If such provision could be restored, it would give encouragement to growers. It would be of particular benefit if it were devoted to extending the investigations that have already been made with a view to finding higher quality seed and rust-free strains. Another thing that is badly needed for the improvement of the quality of the fibre is the protection of straw from water damage and the inroads of rats. That would cost a lot of money, but it seems fairly plain that if the industry could dispose of each year’s crop as it was grown, even on to-day’s low world prices, it could meet competition and at least break even. Any increase of tension in the various trouble spots of the world, which could happen at any time, would so affect the price of flax products as to make the flax industry a profitable proposition.
The Minister has indicated that it is now apparent that continued assistance to the flax industry cannot be justified on defence grounds alone. Of course, section 13 of the 1953 act makes it clear that that is the main ground on which the industry rests at present. This attitude, however, can hardly be reconciled with other pronouncements that have been made in connexion with defence. Whenever I have suggested that civil defence preparations should have a more prominent part in our defence planning, 1 have been told that we are not likely to be involved in a global war, and that we are not in danger from atomic demolition of our cities; that we must continue to plan for conventional warfare and concentrate on maintaining a small regular army capable of rapid expansion into an expeditionary force; that the role of the Navy must be to continue to keep our sea lanes open; and that a defensive Air Force is necessary to protect us from a raiding enemy. If that is so, obviously we must be prepared to send armed forces to tropical areas. Those forces will need gun covers, hatch covers, webbing of all kinds, and parachute harness. In particular, of course, sewing thread will be needed for use in boot manufacture. During the last war, the Americans thought that they could get away with cotton, plastic, and other materials, but they quickly realized their mistake when, under tropical conditions, the soles of their boots simply fell off.
I believe that there is every justification for the retention of at least a nucleus of the flax industry in this country, so that people who have acquired a particular skill in growing flax and in processing it should be able to continue in that employment. There is no doubt that much re-organization of the industry is necessary, but I cannot believe that the present state of world tension permits of any devaluation of the importance of linen thread as an essential commodity. It may, of course, be possible for growers in some districts to form co-operatives, as was done in Western Australia, to carry on the mills. If that were to be done, or if the spinners got together and took over the mills, it is possible that the extension of the bounty for another three years and further reference to the Tariff Board at the end of that time would give to those interested in this essential industry grounds for confidence in its ability to carry on.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
.- Mr. Speaker-
– I wish to make a short personal explanation.
– Order! It would not be permissible for the Minister to make a personal explanation at this stage while the business before the Chair is being dealt with. The Chair gave the call to the honorable member for Wills before the suspension of the sitting.
– Has he begun his speech?
– Order! It would not make any difference if he had.
– At what stage would it be permissible for me to make a personal explanation?
– When the business before the Chair has been completed.
– With respect, there is a lot of business before the Chair. There is a whole notice-paper of business before the Chair. I understood that the practice of the House had been that, if a member had been misrepresented, particularly in the press, the House gave him a chance to state the facts at the earliest practicable opportunity. That has always been my understanding of the matter.
– Order! I am afraid that the right honorable gentleman is wrong.
– Then, will you rule on what will be the earliest practicable opportunity for me to make a personal explanation?
– It will be when the business before the Chair is completed.
– Will you rule what is the business before the Chair?
– It is the Flax Fibre Bounty Bill (No. 2) 1957.
– I hope that your remark, Mr. Speaker, that it did not matter whether or not I had begun my speech did not refer to the content of the speech I propose to make. We are now discussing the Flax Fibre Bounty Bill (No. 2) 1957.
– It is a very important measure, too.
– It is a very important measure, and I am afraid that it has been largely ignored by honorable members, and probably by the public at large. In discussing this measure, I do not speak, as other honorable members have done, on behalf of producers in my electorate. I speak on behalf of the consumers of flax products - the people who keep the supporters of the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) in Cadillacs and such like. I have taken from an encyclopaedia the following description of flax -
Flax is a most valuable and useful fibre, lt is superior to cotton in quality and produces a finer fabric. The fibres are remarkable for their great tensile strength and durability, and are used in the manufacture of heavy sail-cloths, canvas, duck, carpets, the strongest twine and thread, the best fish and seine lines, the finest writing paper, and in insulating fabric.
It is used also in textiles such as linen. So this is a very important primary product. One of the tragedies of the flax industry is that, in the last ten or twelve years, it has reached a state of collapse. It is finally being almost abolished, shall we say, by the actions of this Government. The bill provides that the bounty shall be extended tor three years. However, the second-reading speech made by the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) contains some depressing aspects. The Minister said - . . the Government has decided to withdraw from the field of flax production at the earliest opportunity by closure of the mills in Victoria and South Australia after the currenyear’s harvest has been processed.
This is just another link in the chain of the destruction of public enterprise by this Government. There is no difference in principle between the destruction of the Government’s interest in the production of flax, and the destruction of its interests in whaling and the retailing of petrol, or putting up for sale publicly owned coal mines in New South Wales. Whether or not public enterprise is socialism is nol important.
– It is very important
– Government supporters, of course, bring to the discussion of these things such a doctrinaire approach that it is almost impossible to argue with -them about it. Apparently, the Government’s reason for disposing of its interest in any activity is that this Administration does not believe in participating in business or trade. The Minister said also that the need to ensure that sufficient supplies of flax are available in Australia for defence is no longer applicable. He stated -
The main function of the Flax Commission, as expressed in the Flax Industry Act, is the maintenance and development of the flax industry in Australia to ensure that sufficient supplies of flax are available in Australia for defence and that the industry would have the capacity to produce adequate supplies of flax in the event of war.
The point made by my friend, the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan), before the suspension of the sitting, was well taken. He described the defence requirements for which flax is needed - canvas goods such as tents, webbing for soldiers’ equipment, harness for parachutes, and the like - and said that, therefore, flax is a very important product indeed.
One of the important aspects of this debate has been the admission by the Minister, on behalf of the Government, that our principal competitors in this field are the Russians. He said - the industry is operating under considerable difficulty, due principally to the depressed world market for flax following on the pressure of Russia selling low-priced, low-quality flax line fibre
So we are to abandon completely a field of production in which our principal competitors are the Russians. I emphasize that we are to abandon, not one small part of the field, but the entire field, which is to be given over to the Russians. When the importance of the flax industry was being discussed earlier, the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) interjected, “ Nonsense! “ T suggest that he might well turn his mind to the importance of flax products, not only to ourselves but also to the United Kingdom. At the beginning of World War II., the United Kingdom was dependent on imports of flax, and that was one of the reasons why we had to expand production in Australia. This is pointed out in a publication entitled, “ Flax Production Under War Conditions “, printed by the authority of (‘‘£ rentleman who was Minister for Supply and Development in 1941 - I hope that I shall not transgress the Standing Orders if I mention that distinguished gentleman’s name - Senator the Honorable P. M. McBride.
– Order! The honorable gentleman is out of order. He should refer to the Minister correctly.
– This is historical, rather than contemporaneous, because it deals with earlier activities in relation to the production of flax. I suggest that the Minister would probably have done better to confine his efforts more industriously to such matters. The publication to which I refer states -
Very shortly alter the outbreak of war it was realized that Australian production of flax was likely to be of some importance in supplying British spinners. In peace-time the United Kingdom imported 70,000 tons of flax fibre per annum, principally from Russia and the Baltic States, Belgium and Holland.
Our own production, small though it has been, is an important feature of our contribution to preparations for defence. The honorable member for McMillan pointed out that synthetic fibres that were used during the war did not serve nearly as well as flax fibres, and I can well understand that. Honorable members should consider very carefully the relationship of flax production to defence. As the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) pointed out, the actual expenditure involved in maintaining flax production is, to use a term that I have heard the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) use, chicken feed. It has amounted to £263,978 over the last three of four years. An expenditure of £70,000 or £80,000 a year out of a total defence expenditure of £1,200,000,00 over eight years in order to maintain the flax industry is indeed a small item. The initial reasons for the establishment of the Flax Commission - the maintenance and encouragement of production - remain.
There are other depressing aspects of this bill. The honorable member for Bendigo pointed out that the disposal of the flax mills will cause insecurity and instability in the industry. An important feature of flax production is the guarantee to the farmers that they can sell their product. In a publication entitled “ The Cultivation and Harvesting of Fibre Flax “, reprinted from the journal of the Department of Agriculture, in Victoria, in April, 1941, the following statement is made: -
Before intending growers think of sowing any flax, however, it is essential that they arrange a contract with the manager of a recognized flax milling company.
In other words, a farmer should not grow flax at all unless he has arranged a guaranteed market for his product. The Government is proposing now to dispose of our seven mills, which have a capital value of about £800,000. 1 believe that by doing so it will be placing the farmer in such a position that he will not have the first requirement in the flax production field - a ready accessible market not far away from his point of production. Therefore, the Government is sounding the death knell of this industry.
The interesting thing is the rather optimistic note in the last report of the Flax Commission. We find that the commission is carrying out trials in order to develop better production methods, better types of seed and so on. The Tariff Board, in its report on its examination of this industry, said -
The board is satisfied that the quality of Australian-made flax fibre is satisfactory.
The commission itself has carried out field trials to improve production and quality, but the important thing, and the most optimistic note about it all - the thing which should make us eager to encourage the industry generally - is this further note in the commission’s last report -
The overall average yield per acre harvested was 51 cwt., which is the highest so far recorded tor the Australian flax industry.
Although over the last ten or twelve years we have had a great variation in the production per acre the present trend is towards better farming and belter production. It should be encouraged. During the 1956 harvest the commission had six modern flax pulling machines. The commission has been operating those machines and has been hiring them out to growers, thereby encouraging them. By its ownership of this capital equipment it has made it possible for people to continue in production. The general optimistic note prevailing in the commission’s report encourages one to believe that this is a field of primary industry which Australia could expand very satisfactorily. . Let us see the comment made by Mr. Walker in his book “ The Australian Economy in War and Reconstruction “, published by the Royal Institute of International Affairs just after the war. Mr. Walker wrote -
Another minor industry that showed remarkable development was flax growing and processing. The world’s greatest producer of flax fibre is Russia, but, in recent pre-war years, that country had exported little. . . . Flax had often been experimented with in some parts of Australia, and in recent years the problems of treatment had been carefully studied by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. It was fortunate that this work was coming to fruition just when the need for Australia to grow her own flax suddenly became acute.
That is from a chapter in that book which honorable members might well read.
– To what year does that refer?
– 1947. The situation has not changed. The Government is still prepared Iq say that we are in a state of world tension. Although the Prime Minister has indicated that he does not think we will have a global war, we are not prepared to back his prophesy in that regard and disregard defence altogether. Every aspect, every fragment and every sector of defence will be a very important matter if it comes to an actual war. Of course defence does tend to become a kind of sacred cow in the whole field of public debate. You can get away with anything as long as you are doing it for defence purposes. But also involved in this measure is the very destruction of an industry, and of Australia’s selfsufficiency. In addition, there are the people involved in these seven mills. There is a basic industry in flax, and the names of the few firms that are actually engaged in the manufacturing side of the industry can be seen in the Tariff Board’s report. No steps should be taken by the Government to destroy an industry of this nature and to bring insecurity into the lives of the people involved, but this, unfortunately, is one of the aspects of Government policy in various fields which continuously come before us. Whether it be in regard to the application of import controls to the complete disregard of some small industries, or the destruction of industries in other fields such as the Government aircraft industry, there is always an utter disregard of the human beings involved, regardless of their number. The whole thing is an important aspect of human relations and social policy and the Government should not take any steps to bring insecurity into the lives of those people, or to prejudice an Australian industry, no matter how small. The general point made by the Government is that the subsidy to this industry, which is very small compared with the subsidies paid to other industries, is not justified in a field where money is being lost. It says that we cannot afford to continue production and that there is no point in doing so. That contention loses a good deal of its point when we consider Australia’s relationship to other nations engaged in flax production. On page 10 of its report the Tariff Board points out that France and Northern Ireland, two principal competitors in this field, both have heavily subsidized industries. This is not a free competitive market. It is a field in which governments participate, and therefore this Government has to accept that duty.
I place these points before the Government, and I think it should give more mature consideration to fostering any industry in this country which will help us towards national sufficiency, no matter how small the industry may be.
– I ask the indulgence of the House to make a personal explanation. I regret interrupting the business of the House to do so, but I think the matter is sufficiently important for me to take that course. I claim to have been misrepresented in an article which appears to-day on the front page of the Melbourne :’ Sun “ under the heading, “ Last Minute Government Bid to Pair Sick Senator “. It will be necessary to read the article in order :o indicate the degree of misrepresentation. The article is quite short, Mr. Speaker. It bears the date-line “ Canberra, Wednesday “ and reads -
It was disclosed late to-night that the Governnent made a last minute move to avoid the scene of a desperately ill man voting in the Senate. The Leader of the House of Represenatives, Mr. Holt, after a hurried conference of Ministers, arranged with the Leader of the Governnent in the Senate, Senator O’sullivan, to confer vith the Leader of the Senate Opposition, Senator McKenna
Just before the banking bill was introduced he Government suggested that a Government Senator would retire.
The numbers would remain equal, the bill vould be negatived. The Government would be defeated, but there would be no necessity for Senator Arnold to enter the chamber.
This last minute bid to retrieve the position was oldly rejected by the Labour Party.
It was pointed out to the Government that if : could grant a pair to Senator Arnold at this tage it should have been done a week ago and -.is presence would not have been necessary.
The fact is that no such conference occurred. There is no basis of truth in that portion of the report whatsoever, and I think it desirable, in view of some of the comments which appear in the report, to indicate that I, as Leader of the House, and other members of the Government were entitled to assume, that the senator’s medical adviser and the leader of his own party were convinced that there was no hazard either to his life or to his prospect of recovery in coming to the Senate. It is not, of course, the first time, either in this Parliament or in a State parliament that sick members of various parties have been brought in for a particular issue. I offer no comment on that matter. It is entirely within the province of the Government or the party concerned,
– Such contemptuous treatment!
– That was not presented in contemptuous terms. It was certainly not a taunt to either the party or the people concerned. I do not want to debate this matter, and if honorable members do not tempt me to do so, I shall not transgress on the indulgence of the House. I am trying to state the facts for the information of the House, and I repeat that I think it is a reasonable assumption that we are entitled to believe, that in the circumstances, no risk to either the life or the prospects of recovery of the senator concerned are involved when his party brings him here in this way. Therefore the Government did not feel that it was necessary to hold the kind of conference that has been alleged.
I have since checked this matter with my colleague, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, and so that the position may be made clear I think the facts should be placed on record. The Leader of the Government in the Senate has told me that after the bells commenced to ring he indicated to the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate that it would not be necessary to bring the senator actually into the chamber, and that we would arrange for one of the Government senators to retire so that the vote would not be affected. That was purely a matter of consideration and convenience for the senator concerned. The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate did not choose to accept the offer, but the point is that it was made after the bells had commenced to ring, when the state of voting of the parties was quite clear. It was merely a matter of consideration for the senator concerned. Those are the facts as I understand them.
– I am sure that the statement of the Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt) is correct in all details, and I regret that he, in common with many other honorable members, has been misrepresented, not for the first time, but often. I do not know how these things happen, but I suppose we have press men or journalists who are not actually reporters any more; they are commentators. They give themselves other titles which they think enable them to slant the news, to distort and twist it. They create “ think “ pieces nr. l publish that stuff as news.
As far as I know, there was no conference between the Minister and his colleagues. I do know that Senator O’sullivan made an offer to Senator McKenna to retire a Government member so that Senator Arnold would not have to be brought into the chamber. That offer was flatly, and, in the Opposition’s view, very properly rejected. When Senator Arnold was at the door of the Senate, about to be wheeled in for the vote, it was too late to offer pairs. The Opposition thinks that if the Government was prepared to offer a pair then, it should have been prepared to offer a pair a week earlier when Senator Arnold was in hospital. Now that the matter has been raised, the Opposition would like the Government, in the interests of a very sick man, to offer him a pair in all future divisions on the banking bills. Opposition members would like to see the Senate get back to a standard of civilized living, in which the interests of sick people will be considered as more important than the manoeuvring of politicians who are anxious to take advantage of a man’s ill health and pass legislation through the chamber when it can only be prevented by bringing the invalid to Canberra. I hope that there will be no further misrepresentation of the facts of the situation by the press. I hope that saner counsels will prevail in the Senate, and that Senator Spooner, in particular, will take a reasonable view of all matters so that the business of the Senate will proced in the same proper manner, if I may pay you a compliment, Mr. Speaker, as it proceeds in this House.
.- After the statements honorable members have heard from ‘the Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) it is rather an anti-climax to return to the debate on the Flax Fibre Bounty Bill. It is proposed in this bill to continue the bounty on flax for another three years. I welcome the measure, which will have the effect of encouraging an important industry. I only hope that the Government will see fit to give an absolute assurance in the near future that it is prepared to continue the bounty at least at the present level beyond the three-year period, so that enterprises that are considering the possibility of taking over the mills of the commission may have an assurance that their future will not be jeopardized by the withdrawal of the bounty.
Most of what was said by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) and the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) related to the announced intention of the Government to withdraw from active participation in flax production after a certain period of time. As stated by those honorable members, the grounds given by the Government are that the consideration that applied in the past - that this industry is vital for Australia’s defence - no longer applies. The Government stated that the continuation of financial assistance to the flax industry in Australia cannot be justified on defence grounds, which does not mean, of course, that it cannot be justified on other grounds. However, the Government took the opportunity to have a look at the losses that had been made by the Flax Commission ever since its inception, and decided that, without the defence motive, there was no real justification for using, in relation to this industry, what are, after all, scarce resources.
The honorable member for Bendigo and the honorable member for Wills have contended that the Government is not justified in stating that financial assistance to the flax industry cannot be justified on defence grounds. They pointed to the present state of world tension and they said that, from the point of view of defence, the flax industry seemed to be just as important as it ever was. I remind honorable members that, from a defence point of view, there has been a change in the assessment of the threat to Australia. Honorable members will remember that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in his last statement on defence, indicated that Australian defence planning and, indeed, the defence planning of all the principal countries in the free world, was now based on the fact that a global war was considered to be unlikely. That being so, our defence planning has a definite bearing on this industry. We are now assuming that our defence effort will be directed to either cold war conditions or limited war conditions. It would only be under global war conditions that this country would not be able to obtain flax from overseas. Under conditions of cold war or of limited war, ample supplies would be available to us from overseas. This change of attitude by the Government is a direct result of the changed assessment of the threat of war - that global war is now unlikely and that our defence preparedness should be related to a limited war or a cold war situation. In that respect I agree with the Government’s decision that financial assistance to the industry cannot be justified on defence grounds alone.
But, of course, there are other grounds on which the Government decided to withdraw from active participation in this industry. One has been the very considerable losses which have been incurred by the commission. This has been due, principally, as has already been stated, to the very steep fall in world prices that has taken place in recent years. As the honorable member for Wills stated, the principal cause of this fall in prices has undoubtedly been the undisguised dumping, by Russia, of flax on the world markets. It might perhaps be worth considering, in passing, Russia’s motive in dumping this flax. I am advised that it is dumping in the true sense. It has been put on to world markets at a figure much below that at which Russia could possibly produce it. This leads one to consider whether Australia should cooperate with other parts of the free world in reducing the free world’s dependence on Russian sources. However, whatever the cause, the fact is that prices have come down very drastically indeed, and that has been the principal reason for the losses which have been sustained by the Flax. Commission. If the flax industry in every country is eliminated for these reasons, and we were to experience global war, the possibility is that we would be totally deprived of sources of flax.
But, as has been mentioned during this debate, the industry has been incurring losses for other reasons. One of the principal reasons has been the failure until recently to introduce modern machinery as has been done in other countries. This has been done in the last year or so in some mills, but in general it can be said that the efficiency of flax mills in Australia and the standard of their machinery are a good way behind standards overseas. That fact is mentioned in the Tariff Board’s report on flax fibre on page 9, in these terms -
There is a present opportunity for reduction in the Australian costs of production of flax fibre by acquisition of available modern types of harvesting machinery and processing machines.
It may appear to be paradoxical that another reason for these losses has been the defence emphasis that has been placed on the industry. Because the industry has been kept in being mainly as a result of an assessment of its defence importance, it has been required to carry stocks of straw very much in excess of what normal commercial considerations dictate. This has resulted in losses in many ways, but particularly in the deterioration of the straw during the time that it has been held. From that point of view, the running of the industry by private enterprise, without defence considerations coming into it, would immediately lead to an increase in efficiency. To give an example, in one mill alone at Mount Gambier, 618 tons of straw was written off because of deterioration. That straw would never have been carried if it had not been for defence considerations. But in the year 1956-57, it had to be destroyed. There have been comparable happenings in the other mills.
In the past the Government has been dilatory in its attitude towards this industry. So long as the industry’s continued existence was necessary for our defence, every effort should have been made to make it as efficient as possible. In other words, as long as the industry had to be kept in being for defence purposes, measures should have been taken to make the industry as efficient as possible and help it to reduce its losses. The chairman of the Flax Commission went overseas in 1953 and made a thorough examination of the methods used in the principal flax-producing countries. On his return, he expressed, in a report to the Government, his conviction that the competitive position of the Australian flax industry could be considerably improved by the introduction of more modern machinery.
It would appear that, despite the urgent recommendations that were made to the Government by the Flax Commission on this score, for some reason or other the Government took nearly two years to make up its mind about whether or not capital would be provided for the modernizing of the industry. That decision was taken and a start was made to modernize the equipment in some of the mills. But by that time, the Government, after having another look at the defence position, decided to get out of active participation in the flax industry, because the continuation of financial assistance could no longer be justified on defence grounds alone. However that may be, I am completely in agreement with the decision of the Government. Now, that it has been decided that on defence grounds alone financial assistance is not justified, I do not think the Government would be justified in undertaking the further capital expenditure which would be necessary to make all of these mills more efficient.
Other things being equal, in my opinion the flax industry should be encouraged to exist because of the very valuable things that it does for the communities in which it is situated. Some of these considerations are listed in the Tariff Board’s report. That report points out - and it is certainly true from my own experience - that the processing of flax for fibre contributes to decentralization of employment because flax processing mills are established in rural areas. Flax-growing is useful to farmers in diversifying production on individual farms. We have, over the years, gained a considerable body of experience from the growing of flax under Australian conditions. These are all very good reasons for the continuance of the industry if it can be continued on a reasonably efficient basis.
As I have said, in general terms, I agree with the decision of the Government to end its participation in the flax industry. I think that the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) interpreted the Government’s motives accurately in this connexion. I believe that it is no part of a government’s business to engage in enterprises of this sort unless there is a very good reason, such as the defence reason which was valid up to 1954 or 1955. But without that reason I do not think that it should be the Government’s job to go in for this sort of business enterprise.
The fact that the Government does not intend to participate directly need not mean the end of the flax industry. As has been stated several times in this debate, last year the Flax Commission lost £114,000. But it must be remembered that the commission controls seven mills. Some of those, due to various factors, are more efficient than others and better equipped to function at a profit or, at any rate, at a very small loss. The mill in which I am most interested is situated in the fast-developing city of Mount Gambier in the south-east of South Australia. There, modern scutching machinery has been installed and additional retting capacity provided. The mill is situated in one of the areas in which additional retting capacity is justified. It is one of the areas in which the adequacy of supplies of flax to the mills cannot be contested. I have no doubt that if this mill were managed with enterprise and enthusiasm, if its proprietors were given an absolute assurance of a continued bounty at the present or a higher level, and provided that the company which takes it over is not over-capitalized, it could be run at a profit. I urge the Government to do everything in its power to encourage private enterprise to take over this mill and any others which could operate with reasonable chances of success.
I think that there are two ways in which that could be done. First, an assurance could be given beyond that which has been given at present that the bounty will be continued in the future beyond the threeyear period that has been nominated. Secondly, the Government could sell the mills as a going concern without paying too much attention to getting the last penny from the disposal of those assets. Given those conditions, the mill at Mount Gambier should have every opportunity of operating successfully, although it will not have much of a margin in which to operate.
If the mill is over-capitalized by virtue of an enterprise having to pay too much for it its chances of success will be reduced. I ask the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) to give consideration to these factors because I believe that there are splendid opportunities for a continuation of the flax industry in this country with consequent benefit, not only to the country as a whole, but to the towns in which these mills are located and the districts in which flax is grown. I believe that that applies particularly to the mill at Mount Gambier and to some others in the same category.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 7th November (vide page 1937), on motion by Dr. Donald Cameron -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is a bill to amend the National Health Act 1953. In 1953 the Labour party put forward its views on the principles contained in the legislation of that day very fully - or as fully as it was allowed to do - and indicated where the scheme was basically wrong. There was a limited debate on the matter. The then Leader of the House gagged the measure at the end of the second reading debate. Although it was a bill of 139 clauses, when it was taken into committee those clauses were made the subject of a guillotine motion and were rushed through the Parliament.
The proposals of the Labour party were contained in an amendment moved to the measure by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). I propose to read the amendment that he moved because nothing that the Labour party suggested at that time has been accepted by the Government. The bill now before the House, which represents the first amendment proposed to the 1953 act, will do nothing other than increase the additional benefit which a person may be paid if he happens to be a member of a registered benefit society or hospital association, although there are a few other minor amendments which are not of general consequence.
When the National Health Bill was beingdebated in this House, on 18th November, 1953, the honorable member for EdenMonaro moved, by way of amendment, that-
The bill be withdrawn and redrafted to place greater emphasis through co-operation with the States and local authorities on the promotion of positive health -
in the establishment and maintenance of diagnostic and health centres;
in dental care of children under sixteen years of age.
in the provision of medical training and research facilities and a system of regional hospitals: and to provide -
for substantially increased rates of hospital benefit having regard to the rise of hospital costs;
for the negotiation of fresh agreements between the Commonwealth and the States to ensure that throughout Australia there should be no charge and that no means test for qualified patients occupying beds in public wards of public hospitals;
that payment of Commonwealth hospital benefits or medical benefits shall not be conditional upon a patient being a contributor to a hospitals fund or a medical benefits fund;
that registered organizations shall be subsidized to ensure that their benefits will be extended to chronic sufferers and those suffering disabilities at the commencement of their membership of registered organisations;
to devise in consultation with the medical profession and State governments machinery to stabilize medical charges and to determine just variations of those charges;
that medical benefits be extended to mileage charges of medical practitioners incurred by patients especially those in outback areas;
that the provision of medical and hospital benefits should be financed from revenue raised on a graduated scale based upon capacity to pay;
for the cure and relief of mental illness
That amendment was defeated, but only by eleven votes.
– The majority will be greater to-day.
– The honorable member for Petrie, who has just interjected, was one of those who voted against that amendment. We stand by the principle enunciated in the amendment. We do not intend to move a similar amendment to-day. first, because it is very late in the sessional period, and secondly, and more importantly, because we have ascertained that members of the Liberal and Australian Country parties in this chamber hold views no different from those that they held in 1953.
– That is what I am saying.
– Exactly. The honorable member wants a means test for pensioners and those unfortunate enough to have to seek hospital treatment. He wants other anti-social provisions included in the legislation. He wants to deny hospital benefits to persons who are not members of registered societies, or, at least, to deprive them of the additional benefit granted by the Commonwealth.
It is all very well for the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) to say that the number of contributors to registered hospital insurance organizations has increased from 1,900,000 in January, 1952, to 6,000,000 to-day. If people want to receive the additional benefits that the Commonwealth provides, they have to do what the Government says. There would not be 6,000,000 members of these registered societies if the Commonwealth had not continued to follow the principle that money which the taxpayers contribute to revenue cannot be paid out to those who are sick unless those sick people agree to join hospital societies or medical benefits societies.
A new principle has been introduced in this legislation. Persons cannot obtain hospital benefits until a period of two months has elapsed after their joining a registered society. Therefore, if a person becomes ill and has to enter hospital, he cannot receive the additional benefit until he has been sick for two months.
– A man does not take out an insurance policy while his house is burning down.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong brings up the old materialistic argument, comparing a sick person to a burning house. Government supporters are concerned only about property, not about persons. It is not humanity that interests them, but the value of some asset. You cannot relate the value of property to the value of a human life.
The amendment proposed in 1953 postulated that there should be no obligation on any person to join any friendly society in order to obtain the Commonwealth benefit. We wished also to get rid of the means test on all persons who happened to be sick. Our amendment also provided for an advisory committee on medical charges. We did not claim that every doctor was overcharging or that it was a general practice of the medical profession to abuse the provisions of medical benefits legislation made possible by the 1946 amendment to the Constitution, but one finds abuses in all professions and occupations, and it seemed to us that it was not a sufficient safeguard to leave the policing of this matter to the British Medical Association or other disciplinary bodies of the medical profession. We suggested that the proposed advisory committee should include representatives of the medical profession. We said that it should have a member of the legal profession as one member, and that perhaps the Commonwealth Statistician should be included. We desired also to have a representative of the friendly societies. However, the previous Minister for Health was very much in favour of committees dominated by the medical profession. We did not believe it to be right that the medical profession should be able to determine the charges to be made by its members for treating various ailments.
The bill before us consists of a great number of pages. There are 26 pages in the schedules, indicating what the Commonwealth benefits will be for professional services in respect of which fund benefits are also payable by registered medical benefits organizations. Some of the charges for professional attention range from as low as 6s. to some pounds; charges for operations vary, but in no case are charges very high. I am sure the medical profession will not make very much profit out of the amounts provided for in this particular piece of legislation. Perhaps what 1 am about to say does not bear much relationship to this bill, but I do not think the medical profession in Australia, in common wilh a lot of other people in the professional world and those who are regarded as being in the middle class income group, is enjoying the standard of living that it enjoyed in other days. I think the middle class income earners are the principal victims of the inflationary period through which we are passing. I do not intend my remarks - nor can they be construed - as a reflection on the medical profession. We wanted this committee established because we felt the friendly societies had a right to speak in the determination of the charges which were levied. We thought also that the Commonwealth Statistician and a member of the legal profession would be of assistance. We wanted consultation for the purpose of ensuring that the benefits provided by the scheme went to the patients and were not quickly dissipated by increased charges imposed by members of the medical profession.
The Opposition objects to the provision in relation to medical and hospital benefits for the” following reasons. First, because the amounts payable under the scheme are conditional upon the patient being insured with a private organization registered by the Government. Second, because no medical benefit can be received by the patient unless he is insured. It is wrong that the present additional hospital benefit of 4s. is not payable unless the patient is so insured. Our third objection is that by applying that principle to the 8s. additional benefit, the benefit having been increased from 4s. to 12s. a day, only 8s. of the £1 a day hospital benefit will be free of the compulsory insurance provision. A patient, therefore, has to insure to obtain 12s. of the £1 hospital benefit.
Flowing from our third objection, we say that in practice the married man is heavily laden with a debt because of the provisions of this bill. For instance, a married man insuring to obtain the maximum benefit for himself and his family is required to pay £7 10s. per annum for medical benefits and £9 12s. per annum for hospital benefits. In our view, this amounts to punitive and discriminatory taxation to the extent of £17 2s. per annum.
– The honorable member for Petrie may be an accountant and presumably, therefore, has some knowledge of arithmetic; but if he examines the scheme and makes his own calculations he will find that what I have said is completely true, namely, that a married man who insures for the maximum benefit for his wife and family will be mulcted to the extent of £17 2s. per annum.
– If the honorable member had any experience of the working of the scheme, he would know that it is a good scheme.
– We are not opposed to the measure, in principle. We do say, however, that a married man, as every other person in the community, is entitled to hospital and medical benefits for himself and his family without being required to pay this amount of money. No working man can afford to pay £17 2s. a year as an insurance against illness. Why should he be required to pay that amount in a civilized community? The scheme can be financed, as suggested in the Opposition’s plan, by a graduated scale of income tax whereby the wealthy will pay to the fullest extent and those on low wages will pay what they can afford. The man on the basic wage obviously cannot afford to pay very much because he is earning the minimum wage which the court thinks ought to be paid in order that a married man shall be able to maintain himself and his dependants in reasonable comfort.
The honorable member for Petrie and other honorable members opposite think £17 2s. a year is not much for the average married man to pay. If their salary was close to the basic wage - if they come into my electorate I shall introduce them to many people receiving the basic wage - they would know that £17 2s. is too much.
– What would they spend the money on, luxuries?
– If that is the principle to be adopted, that anything a man spends on so-called luxuries is to be taken from him in taxation, then taxation will rise very steeply. What about honorable members opposite and their friends, who have much more money to spend and probably spend it more wastefully than any member of the working class who has just a few shillings left over from his wages? The argument advanced by the honorable member for Petrie is typical of the arguments heard in the early days of federation. It is a return almost to the stone age of politics and would have been popular in the antediluvian age, but in the atomic age it is completely out of place.
– The atomic age is the reverse, is it not?
– In the atomic age we are a little more advanced in scientific and other knowledge, even if we pervert that knowledge. We say that the restrictive and coercive policy embedded in this legislation is completely wrong, and when we have the opportunity we will abolish it because we will never agree with the principle that a person who is sick and finds himself in financial difficulties should be required to pay for his treatment. We have always believed that the sick should receive the best attention. In any case, we believe that those people who are asked to insure should receive benefits more commensurate with the amount of insurance they pay. We say, generally, that hospital, dental and medical treatment should be free for every citizen in the community, and should be financed out of general revenue.
The Government has not attempted in any way to controvert the arguments we have advanced. It says that it is right that people should insure against ill-health in the same way as they insure against fire and burglary and other things.
– What about life assurance?
– Life assurance is a completely voluntary thing, and the person who insures his life for the benefit of his dependants is acting wisely.
– Does the honorable member like things to be voluntary?
– I like to see people insured with hospital funds, but the Opposition does not think that insurance should be a pre-requisite to the payment of additional benefits out of revenue. All wise people make reasonable provision for insurance in respect of all the contingencies of human existence. In this particular case, it is the small man who is being hit hardest in order to provide funds for hospitals, because the Government does not want to accept the financial burden involved in a scheme of free hospital, medical and dental treatment. During the next election campaign, we will put before the electors a considered and reasoned proposal, and ask for their endorsement of it.
If the Chifley Government had not introduced this scheme, none of these benefits would be payable to-day. In the 1946 referendum, we put forward proposals that would enable the Commonwealth Parliament to pay certain increased benefits, including scholarships and assistance to students and matters affecting widows’ pen sions and the like. Though that referendum was carried, we were opposed by the votes of most honorable gentlemen opposite. The only member of the present Government parties who advocated an affirmative vote for the social services proposals, as far as I am aware, was the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and he did not do so as Leader of the Liberal party. He said that he could not make a declaration on behalf of his party but he personally recommended an affirmative vote. The Australian Country party made a declaration through the mouth of its leader opposing all three proposals that we put forward. The Australian Country party opposed the social services referendum as strongly as it opposed the referendum on orderly marketing and on industrial powers.
Strangely enough, with the passage of time, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) became Minister for Health in 1949. He commenced to extend some of the benefits under the legislation, and the longer he remained the more he was convinced, firstly, that he did not oppose the referendum in 1946 and, secondly, that he had sponsored it. He tried to take the whole of the credit for what was done.
– You did not get on very well with the doctors under your scheme, did you?
– Of course we did not, because the doctors were mostly Liberal party-minded people and were determined that our scheme would not be put into practice. I do not deny that there were faults on our side. Perhaps we could have been more accommodating concerning an agreement. However, now that the honorable gentleman has raised the question of the attitude of the medical profession, all I have to say on that point is that the medical profession had a different attitude when dealing with the right honorable member for Cowper from that adopted when dealing with Ministers of the Chifley Government. The doctors were prepared to accept proposals advanced by the right honorable member for Cowper, which they had rejected when they had their discussions with us. Had they been prepared to make the same agreement with members of the Chifley Government - I refer particularly to Senator McKenna, the Minister for
Health, and the late Mr. Chifley as Treasurer - the scheme would have got under way long before it did.
The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme), who has interrupted me on several occasions, asked what we did. He has been most helpful; he always is, but not intentionally so. He has enabled me to elucidate some points that perhaps I would not otherwise have dealt with. A moment or so ago, he asked me what we did in the matter of a national health scheme. I have figures from Sir Roland Wilson, the Secretary to the Treasury - I suppose they will be accepted by members of the Liberal party as being factual - showing just how much has been spent on the national health scheme from the passage of the referendum in 1946 and the legislation based upon it up to date. Leaving out the odd thousands of pounds, a total sum of £223,000,000 has been spent. The medical benefits scheme, which is the subject of this legislation, commenced in 1953-54. Only £17,000,000 of the £223,000,000 has been spent under that head. Medical benefits for pensioners were introduced by this Government in the financial year 1950-51 and, under that head, £13,000,000 has been spent. The nutrition of children was another scheme advanced by the right honorable member for Cowper as Minister for Health and was introduced in the same financial year, 1950-51. Under that head, £11,620,000 has been spent. So it will be seen that the great bulk of the expenditure for medical benefits, medical benefits for pensioners, hospital benefits, pharmaceutical benefits, pharmaceutical benefits for pensioners, nutrition of children, miscellaneous health services, tuberculosis benefits and mental institution benefits has been on the proposals introduced by the Labour government.
We give this Government credit, as far as it is entitled to it, for extending the scheme, but we want to see the scheme recast on the lines of the amendment moved in 1953 by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), which I mentioned at the commencement of my speech.
– You want to destroy people’s responsibilities?
– We do not want to destroy people’s responsibilities. How that ultra-conservative view could be uttered in a democratically elected chamber to-day is beyond my comprehension. We do not want people to be taxed beyond their responsibilities. We want those who contribute by taxation to receive the benefit of taxation. We do not want pensioners, the indigent and others who cannot afford to insure for more than 16s. a day to be told that they must be content with 4s. a day. Under this legislation, a person who does not insure for more than 16s. a day is not to receive the benefit of the extra 8s. That is discrimination. There is a preference for those who are wealthy against those who are not. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) knows all this, but he has to maintain his pose.
– Not those who are wealthy; those who are thrifty and those who are not.
– I have grown up with great numbers of thrifty people who have raised families but who have had the misfortune to be sick or unemployed at various times. No matter how well behaved and how thrifty they were, they never had money with which to provide for hospital or medical treatment for themselves. Thrift does not always get its own reward. People who are thrifty are very often the worst done by persons in the community. Those who are lucky will often be able to escape illness, acquire wealth without work or perhaps grow fortunate because the rains fall at the right time and they have the right numbers of sheep, which, in some instances, enables them to become capitalists against their will. They can therefore afford to pay for their medical benefits. If the Government intends to try to devise a scheme on the basis that the thrifty shall get some benefit and the thriftless shall not, it will not be able to understand just how people have become either poor or wealthy. A judgment cannot be formed on the final result; many other factors must be taken into consideration.
We will give the Government the bill, but we will give it at the end of a spade. We do not think it is a good bill and we would like to amend it. We feel disgusted that the proposals we put forward four years ago have not even been considered. However, the wheel of politics turns and times change. When we get the opportunity - it will come some day - we will put forward our proposals. We will incorporate them in legislation, and what was mauled by the right honorable member for Cowper when he changed the basis of our scheme for medical benefits in 1953 will be corrected. It will not be the first mutilation of Labour’s legislation by the right honorable member for Cowper that we have repaired. He once mutilated the Banking Act, but we later repaired the damage. Our concern in this matter, right through, has been for the poorest and weakest sections of the community. We think it is a bad thing that age pensioners - perhaps the most defenceless section of the community - and married couples, who bank on good health, but do not always have it, should be unable to pay the sums required for membership of medical benefit organizations. We want to ensure that those unfortunate people do not find themselves in a straitened economic position when they are ill.
There are in this legislation provisions which give the Minister certain discriminatory powers, but I suggest that it would be better not to lay down conditions that make exceptions necessary. We shall let the legislation pass, but we will continue to put our point of view about its inadequacy and the wrong basis on which it is founded.
.- The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) made a very interesting speech, but, for the most part, it had nothing to do with the bill. The few comments he made that dealt with the bill showed that he knew very little about hospital and medical benefits. For instance, the honorable member said that a married man would have to pay £17 per annum to obtain full benefit.
– For both hospital and medical benefits.
– Rubbish! A married man would have to pay ls. 6d. a week, or £3 18s. a year, for hospital benefit, or 2s. a week, or £5 4s. a year, for a medical benefit. If the honorable member will add those two amounts together, he will find that they total only £9 2s. a year, which is very different from the figure that he gave.
As the Minister has said, the main purpose of this bill is to give effect to the decision of the Government, which was announced by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in his Budget speech, to increase the Commonwealth hospital additional benefit by 8s. a day, to bring it up to 12s. a day, over and above the amount at present allowed to hospitals of 8s. per bed per day. Hospital benefit organizations work on a contributory system, and we know that they are very well regarded in the community. As I said some time ago, approximately 6,000,000 people are associated, in one way or another, with hospital and medical benefit organizations in this country. 1 think it is correct to say that hospital and medical insurance is becoming a vital link in our system of social security benefits. These organizations emphasize public service but, in the main, utilize private enterprise to provide a health service for a great many people, many of whom are not financially equipped adequately to meet the costs that are incurred in time of serious ill health. That is why the hospital and medical benefit organizations are so popular to-day, and why they have been such a great success.
As honorable members are aware, the friendly societies and hospital benefit organizations have played a very important part, during the last decade, in helping to make the national health scheme a success. In fact, they have been the principal channel through which the Commonwealth has been able to direct the benefits that it has provided for the people. I think that the Government was very wise to choose this type of agency, because no other organization to-day is better equipped to do the work. Friendly societies have been operating in Australia for approximately 100 years. They had already performed good service in this field before this new form of hospital and medical insurance was introduced. Changing conditions have resulted in Commonwealth legislation which has given Australia a national health plan, and the friendly societies and hospital benefit organizations have been a medium through which the benefits of the plan have been made available to the people. I think the Government will admit that the vast experience of these organizations was very helpful during the initial stages of this national scheme.
Hospital benefit organizations, which are much younger than the friendly societies, have made tremendous strides during the last decade; so much so, in fact, that they are represented in every State and have accumulated financial reserves with which to meet unexpected claims. This has been done under the direction of their actuaries, who have advised them of methods of providing additional benefits. Most of these hospital benefits organizations have on their boards of management not only medical people, but also people who have had experience of hospital or institutional care. The combined ideas and the work of both groups of people who serve on these boards have been of great assistance to the organizations.
The important point to be remembered, in respect of both friendly societies and hospital benefit organizations, is that before they can operate in this field they must be approved by the Commonwealth Government. The Government has a committee, composed of officers of the Department of Health and the Commonwealth Actuary, which investigates these organizations before approval is given to them to administer funds and distribute benefits. This committee is able to make a very close investigation of the ability of the organizations to do what they claim to be able to do. The biggest overhead cost that these hospital benefit organizations have to meet is that of administration. Consequently, they must be ever watchful if they are to meet the claims made on their funds. The activities of hospital benefit organizations have increased considerably in recent years, and it is very pleasing to see most of them making such a success of their task and increasing the benefits they provide. But we have to appreciate that tremendous progress has been made in medical science during the last decade, and it is this progress that has been largely responsible for the increasing costs of medical equipment. It seems, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, that, year after year, medical care is becoming more expensive. Sudden illnesses and accidents are unpredictable, and, unfortunately, the average citizen is most concerned about the expense in which he may become involved if he or she should have a sudden illness or an accident. The obvious answer is for him to become insured with hospital and medical benefit organizations.
The hospital benefits scheme is a prepayment scheme which has been established for some time in this country, and for a long time in the United States of America, under the name of the Blue Cross scheme. A great deal of actuarial information has been gathered in order to establish that what is being done in Australia is financially feasible and will give considerable benefits to the people who are insured with friendly societies or hospital benefit organizations. Each year, we are gathering further additional statistical and actuarial information. We are now able to say that the hospital and medical benefit schemes have come to stay in Australia. What is more important, they are very popular, and they have made a tremendous contribution to the health of the community, and to the mental wellbeing of many people who would otherwise be continually perturbed about what an illness might cost them. It is only to be expected that well conducted schemes such as this would be a tremendous success. They have been a great help to most Australians, who dislike the thought of depending on private and government charity, and are prepared to play their part in such schemes. I believe that the increased additional benefit will please the taxpayers greatly, and that they will fully appreciate the benefits of this Government’s administration.
I feel that something should be said about one aspect of hospital and medical benefits. At some time or other, the Government will have to consider the needs of people who suffer from incurable diseases. This is one of the most difficult aspects of the introduction of increased benefits. I do not think that any provision is made by any hospital benefit organization or friendly society for sufferers from incurable diseases. Sooner or later, the people will have to be afforded the opportunity to insure themselves against these diseases. This problem is causing many people a great deal of concern, because they know that, if they should be unfortunate enough to contract an incurable disease, they will probably incur very heavy expense, and may have very little in the way of funds to meet it.
When I last discussed hospital and medical benefits, I pointed out that, in Victoria, there was no flat-rate system, and that some people over the age of 70 would be prevented from receiving the additional Commonwealth benefit. The additional fund membership charge for people over the age of 50 gave me considerable concern. I am very glad to say that I have now been informed that, since 1 last discussed this matter, a flat-rate system is to be introduced, and that there will be no bar to people over the age of 70 joining a friendly society, or a hospital or medical benefit organization. This only goes to show that it is possible to remove anomalies if a little thought and consideration is given to them. The action of the Victorian Government in removing the anomaly that I have mentioned reflects very well on its good sense, and its efforts to achieve perfect understanding between State and Commonwealth authorities. What has been done demonstrates that, when officers of Commonwealth and State departments co-operate in removing anomalies, the people benefit considerably. I am very pleased to know that a flat-rate system will operate in Victoria, that there will be no question of age limits for membership of hospital benefit organizations, and that no additional membership charge will be made for persons over 50. Much of the future success of the hospital and medical benefit schemes depends upon the existence of uniformity throughout the Commonwealth. Such uniformity would greatly help these schemes.
This bill is a very good one. It is a further development in a scheme that has worked very well since this Government introduced it. The success of the scheme generally reflects very great credit on its originator, the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), who, as Minister for Health, introduced it. I am certain that the present Minister is just as keen to ensure that the scheme functions successfully and develops further as the years go by, and 1 trust that even greater benefits - both Commonwealth and fund benefits - will be provided, and that the hospital and medical benefit scheme in this country will be as popular as the Blue Cross scheme is in the United States. Every day, additional members subscribe to hospital and medical benefit organizations, and this fact is an indication of the popularity of the hospital and medical insurances. They meet a very great need. I commend the Government for increasing the additional Commonwealth hospital benefit.
.- This bill makes some amendments to two features of the National Health Act 1953-1956, the first to make increases in certain hospital benefits paid by the Commonwealth, and the second to make increases in medical benefits towards doctors’ fees. In a full year, the total cost to the Commonwealth of the first will be about £3,000,000, and of the second, about £105,000. The first point, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, is the only response by the Government to the expiry of the hospital benefits agreement between the Commonwealth and the States made in 1953. Last January, the Health Ministers of the States passed a resolution - and forwarded it to the Commonwealth in these terms -
The Commonwealth-State Hospital Benefits Agreement due to expire in August next, has not achieved its purpose because the Commonwealth contribution is fixed and has not therefore risen in proportion to rapidly rising hospital costs.
As a result the public hospitals of Australia face a critical financial position. This position can only be met by a very substantial increase in the Commonwealth contribution.
This Conference of Health Ministers resolves that the States seek a variation of the Agreement so that the Commonwealth contribution be substantially increased and remain thereafter related to hospital costs.
When the resolution was conveyed to the Prime Minister he replied in the following terms: -
The renewal of this agreement has been considered by the Commonwealth and it is our desire that payments should continue to be made on the basis specified in the existing agreement.
Accordingly I wish to give you formal notice of the fact that my Government is willing to renew the current agreement for a further period of five years from the date of expiry of the present agreement. I might add that the Commonwealth Government is now examining some other proposals which bear on this field; but the present action of renewing the existing agreement will ensure that the current rate of benefit is continued and that there will be no interruption in the payments required by the Commonwealth by the agreement.
There has been no agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, which run the hospitals, since the old agreement expired in August. The States are faced, therefore, with the position which faces them in most matters which involve a great deal of expenditure - they either take what the Commonwealth offers or get nothing at all. It is a grant by the Commonwealth. It is not a payment made pursuant to an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States. The only increase which the Commonwealth is here making is quite a small one compared with the general cost incurred by governments in running hospitals in Australia and by individuals in paying hospital bills.
The other weaknesses regarding hospital aid by the Commonwealth remain unaffected. We still have the position of the chronic or incurable patient who receives nothing from hospital benefit organizations registered under the act, although he must contribute to an organization if he is to receive any benefits from the Commonwealth at all. He has to pay to an organization which will not, and perhaps cannot, help him. For this reason there have been many scandals in relation to unregistered hospital benefit organizations. Only a year ago there were four such organizations in Victoria alone which were in the process of liquidation at the same time, and there have been many other liquidations throughout Australia in the last few years. It is true that the Commonwealth can do nothing about those organizations. It cannot prevent an organization from setting itself up to accept contributions from citizens to cover hospital expenses, and it can do nothing if those organizations go bankrupt. All that the Minister does, and all that his predecessors for some years did, is to issue warnings to the public not to subscribe to unregistered organizations. What is the chronic invalid, the incurable patient to do? There is no point, in his view, in contributing to a registered organization, none of which will assist him. He therefore grasps at this desperate measure of contributing to an unregistered organization in the hope of getting some assistance from it. Of course, when the organization goes into liquidation most of the contributors get nothing for their pains and the Commonwealth gives them no assistance.
The point I wish to make on this, therefore, is that the Commonwealth at least should give some further assistance to those people in the community who need it most. Incurable and chronic cases are always incurring hospital costs, and they are the ones who get least help. The person who has no pre-existing ailment can contribute to a registered hospital benefit organization and will then get the Commonwealth benefit and the payment from the organization as well. The person who is chronically ill or who has a pre-existing condition has to contribute to one of those organizations in order to get the Commonwealth benefit, but he gets nothing from the organization. To sum up, he has to pay as many contributions as anybody in the community and he invariably, inevitably, receives smaller benefits although he is the person who requires the most assistance.
Let me give another example of a flaw which I brought to the Minister’s notice earlier this year, and which the bill does nothing to remedy. That is the case of people who are covered by their parents’ contributions to hospital benefits organizations until they become sixteen years of age, and who then have to contribute to that organization themselves if they are to receive any Commonwealth benefit. I pointed out to the Minister a case where a person who had suffered a disability while he was covered by his parents’ contribution was denied any assistance for a recurrence of the disability by the organization to which his parents had contributed for many years, and to which he contributed when he became sixteen years of age. I am glad to say that the Minister did intervene in that case. But I would say that that is not sufficient. Registration should be accorded only to organizations that cover people throughout their lifetime. They should provide continuity of eligibility from the time when a person is covered by his parents’ contributions to the time when he begins to make his own contributions. I would think that that is a very simple amendment for the Minister to make in clause 8 of the present bill. 1 do not always quote the British Medical Association with approval, but I shall quote it now on the subject of the increased partial grants that are being made under this bill towards hospitals expenses. The general secretary of the B.M.A., Dr. John Hunter, was reported on 5th October as saying - that the B.M.A. considered the 12s. increase in hospital benefits to self-insured patients in the higher brackets was still inadequate.
Dr. Hunter said the increase should have been at least 16s.
I want to deal rather more generally now with the position of hospital costs in Australia. In my view, and in the view of most members on this side of the House, the solution of the hospital problem is unquestionably that the Commonwealth should take over the administration of hospitals from the States, that the States should refer to the Commonwealth the power to administer hospitals now administered by the States. The Constitution makes no reference to hospitals. It makes no reference to health. The one word touching on the subject was “ quarantine “. At the time of federation the State governments spent practically nothing on hospitals. The first Commonwealth “ Year-Book “ shows that the expenditure on both general and mental hospitals throughout Australia at that time did not amount to £1,000,000.
The general attitude of the Government towards these matters of administration is that the federal system operating in this case in respect of eight separate hospital systems - six State and two territorial - would mean a reduction in the power of government. I would think that anybody studying hospital administration in particular would feel that it would not mean merely a reduction in the power of government but a reduction in the efficiency of government.
Whatever arguments apply in favour of requiring citizens to contribute to the cost of medical treatment and drugs do not apply to the costs of hospital treatment. If the State or Commonwealth Government were to run the hospitals and provide treatment in them, at least in the public wards, free of cost to the patient but at the expense of the community as a whole, then it would be a humane step for the patient and an economical proposition for the community. The confidential patient and doctor relationship is not infringed. If a person goes into hospital he is idle, and is not earning money during his stay there. If he does not go into hospital, he can very often make some contribution to pharmaceutical or medical expenses because he is still employed - he can still go to work. But when he is in hospital, a time when his expenses are greatest, he cannot earn anything at all. It is to the advantage of the community that people should promptly receive hospital treatment when they require it. There is a great deal of absenteeism and inefficiency in industry because people are not receiving promptly the medical or hospital treatment which they require. It is too expensive for them, so they stagger on. The community benefits if they are quickly rehabilitated and quickly returned to work.
From a humanitarian and economic point of view it is reasonable for hospital treatment to be free. From the psychological point of view it is sometimes said that if you give free pharmaceutical or medical treatment you will encourage the malingerer and the sponger, and that people will unnecessarily take up the time of the medical profession and unnecessarily impose on the community, but surely that cannot be said about hospitals. Neurotics may resort to doctors with undue frequency, but they do not enter hospital, immobilize and isolate themselves, without good reason.
I have spoken of the desirability of the Commonwealth conducting the hospitals that are at present conducted by the States. I think it is appropriate to consider that suggestion at this stage, because the Government in this bill is trying to give uniform assistance in conditions of diversity. One has only to look at the tables of State expenditure on health in the Commonwealth Grants Commission reports to see how uneven are the services provided by hospitals in the six States. The last report of the commission gives the expenditure in the various hospitals for the financial year 1955-56. In New South Wales, the government’s per capita expenditure on hospitals was 67s. 3d., in Victoria, 68s. 6d., in Queensland, Ills. 8d., in South Australia. 73s. 8d., in Western Australia, 93s. 5d., and in Tasmania, 91s. 5d. The average over the six States was 77s. 4d. The range is from 67s. 3d. in the case of New South Wales to Ills. 8d. in the case of Queensland. There is not nearly the same variation in the case of mental hospitals. In New South Wales, the government’s per capita expenditure on mental hospitals was 22s. 7d., in Victoria, 35s. 6d., in Queensland, 25s. 10d., in South Australia, 23s. 5d., in Western Australia, 22s. lid., and in Tasmania, 22s. lOd. The public contribution is notably greatest for hospital patients in Queensland and for mental patients in Victoria. But the amount that has to be contributed in all the other States by the patient or his relatives is seen to be all the greater.
I must counter the argument that the State governments should run the hospitals because they find most of the money. In fact, they do not find most of the money. The Commonwealth finds just as much money as the States do for the cost of hospital, medical, and pharmaceutical treatment. Let me quote the figures from the year’s estimates for the National Welfare Fund. Hospital benefits will cost the Commonwealth this year £10,930,000. Pharmaceutical benefits will cost £10,590,000. Pharmaceutical benefits for pensioners will cost £1,920,000. Medical benefits will cost £6,526,000. Medical benefits for pensioners will cost £3,105,000. The Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service will cost £626,000. Nutrition of children will cost £2,856,000. Under the Tuberculosis Act, introduced by Senator McKenna when he was Minister for Health, the Commonwealth will spend £5,774,000. For miscellaneous health services, such as the Commonwealth Health and Serum Laboratories, the Commonwealth will spend £1,087,000. All told, the Commonwealth is itself spending this year £43,414,000. The cost of running repatriation hospitals is a further £10,957,000. In addition, there are certain capital costs for mental institutions and tuberculosis hospitals which come out of revenue, and those payments this year amount to £4,000,000.
But disregarding the capital contributions, it emerges from a comparison of the State figures in the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission with the Commonwealth figures in the Budget that more money is spent per capita by the Commonwealth on health services than by the States. In view of the fact that the Commonwealth has to make some attempt to give uniform assistance in conditions of diversity, in view of the fact that our assistance to the sick is considerably greater than is State assistance, in view of the fact that it is impossible to render free hospital treatment or improved or uniform hospital treatment except on a Commonwealth basis, I believe that the argument for the Commonwealth taking over hospitals from the States, or States referring the administration of hospitals to the Commonwealth, is inevitable and unanswerable. 1 next pass to the features of the bill dealing with medical contributions. This seems to be in direct obedience to the resolutions of the Federal Council of the British Medical Association at its meeting in
Adelaide in September last. The council stated that in its view the obvious defects of the present National Health Scheme were the inadequacy of medical and hospital benefits; exclusion from benefit of preexisting illness; exclusions from benefit in relation to chronic conditions; and failure of the scheme to provide for patients suffering from catastrophic illness. The first of those matters was partially dealt with in the first part of the bill under discussion. The council of the British Medical Association then resolved that present benefits under the scheme should be increased to give an assured cover of at least 75 per cent, of the average fees charged at present. It also decided that the association should draw up a scale of average fees at present being charged for the commoner medical services to be submitted to the Government as a basis for a revised schedule of benefits, and that this schedule should be reviewed biennially.
I should “like to ask the Minister whether the schedule to this bill is in accordance with the scale of average fees that the Federal Council of the British Medical Association decided, in Adelaide last September, should be drawn up. Has the Minister received that schedule, and will he make it available to honorable members so that we can see how faithfully he follows the behests of the profession of which he is a distinguished member? Honorable members will note that this schedule should be revised biennially. Honorable members will remember that this is the third time that the medical benefits schedule has been altered. The first time was in the act of 1953. That schedule was repealed and a new schedule substituted in 1955. This is the third such schedule. It seems that every two years we have to substitute a new medical benefits schedule to the National Health Act. The consequence of the alterations is merely this, that doctors increase their fees by the amount of the increases in the schedule. The public derive very little benefit from such increases. It is one of the reproaches of this national health scheme that it is effective only to the extent that the medical profession permits it to be effective. It is not primarily a scheme to assist or to subsidize patients’ costs, but a scheme to assist and subsidize doctors’ fees.
– Run away from that one as quickly as possible.
– I have not time to run through it as fully as I would like. 1 should think that the honorable member for Balaclava well knows that the point I am making cannot be answered.
– But you have not established the value of it.
– I do not want to raise the honorable member’s hypertension. Let me reiterate for him that in 1953, again in 1955 and now, in 1957, the medical benefits schedule of this act has been completely replaced. It is significant, I suggest, that the only general increase in benefits, under this act, has been in respect of medical fees. There has been no corresponding increase in hospital fees. Hospital fees are more burdensome to patients than are medical fees. Hospital fees are incurred when a patient is immobilized and necessarily out of work, yet the Government makes no significant increase in the assistance to patients to meet hospital fees and will not reduce the cost of hospital treatment. In regard to medical fees, however, it makes regular increases. These increases follow the resolution of the British Medical Association’s federal council meeting last September in Adelaide, and they will be sought every two years in accordance with that resolution. Surely, it is significant that there is this tenderness in respect of medical fees, but not in respect of hospital fees. The patients are very often the same. Why should greater assistance be given in regard to doctors’ expenses, but not in regard to hospital expenses? The obvious inference is that it is to assist the doctors to increase their fees and not to assist the patients, primarily, at all. 1 now wish to refer to the pharmaceutical provisions of the act. If one traces the numerous questions which I have put on the notice-paper to the Minister on this subject, one will notice the great delay in the three steps which are necessary before drugs can be prescribed under the free medicine scheme. Drugs can be provided free, first of all, if the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee recommends them; secondly, if the Minister accepts the recommendation; and thirdly, after the recommendation is gazetted. There has been very great delay by the Minister in accepting these recommendations, and great delay in the gazettal of them.
Let me summarize the effect of the meetings of the committee in the last year. On 6th July last year the committee made six recommendations for new drugs. They were accepted two and a half months later, on 21st August. They were gazetted and became available on 1st November. Why was there a delay of four months in making available to the public these six drugs which the committee recommended should be provided free? On 2nd November last year the committee made two recommendations. They were accepted by the Minister on 4th March, four months later. They were gazetted on 7th June last and were made available on 1st July. Why was there a delay, in this case, of eight months? On 1st March last the committee made four recommendations which were accepted on 11th April. That is the quickest the Minister has acted in this matter. They were also gazetted on 7th June and made available on 1st July. On 5th July last the committee made three recommendations which were accepted on 28th August and gazetted on 26th September.
Let me give an example of the prevarication that can take place in these matters. One of the drugs which became available on 1st July last was recommended by the National Health and Medical Research Council on 24th May, 1956. The Minister is well represented on the council by five out of its seventeen members. The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, which the Minister entirely selects - in some cases from panels submitted by other bodies - made a similar recommendation on 4th April last. To give a further example of delay let me give the history of representations which I made to the Minister concerning another drug. It was recommended by the committee on 2nd November last year, was approved by the Minister on 9th March last and became available on 1st July last. I had long correspondence with the Minister about it. On 21st January this year he told me he would ascertain if the committee had made a recommendation. On 1st February he told me that the matter was still under consideration. The committee had actually made its recommendation on 2nd November but he told me, on 1st February, that the matter was still being considered. On 7th May he told me that the necessary legislative action was being taken to carry out the committee’s recommendation. That is the recommendation which the committee had made on 2nd November and which he had approved on 9th March. He took four months to take the necessary legislative action to make this drug available.
I think that we are entitled to some explanation why the Minister takes so long to accept recommendations and to put in train the necessary machinery to make these free drugs available. An expert committee which he chooses makes the recommendation, a few months elapse and he accepts the recommendation, a few more months elapse and he gazettes it. In some cases a few further weeks elapse before the regulations in the “ Gazette “ come into force. I should think that the national health scheme as enacted and as administered calls for very much more drastic overhaul than it has received in this bill.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- There are several matters in the speech of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) to which I wish to refer. They comprise a number of specious and shallow arguments against this extremely important and well-thought-out act. The first subject that he mentioned was the agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the State governments. I should like to point out, first of all, that this bill deals with the payment of benefits by the Commonwealth Government to individuals, to members of the public. It has absolutely nothing to do with any agreement between the Commonwealth Government and State governments. If the State governments are not happy with the agreement that exists between them and the Commonwealth on the subject of health they have only to seek a conference with the Federal Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) in order to see if some alteration can be made to that agreement. But the agreement has nothing to do with this bill, which is a matter between the Federal Government and the individual members of the public. Therefore the agreement should be completely omitted from any discussion of this bill.
In speaking to the bill I am very proud indeed to be a supporter of a government which has introduced a health scheme of this nature. Without any doubt, in the last five years the success of the Page health scheme has been assured. It has received the welcome support of the vast majority of the population of this Commonwealth. Already, 61 per cent, of the whole population is enrolled in voluntary health insurance schemes. The maximum possible enrolment is only 80 per cent, of the population because the remaining 20 per cent, comes under health insurance in other forms. That 20 per cent, includes pensioners who are provided for under the pensioner ‘health scheme, repatriation beneficiaries, and those covered by other benefits.
Public approval of this scheme has been tested at more than one federal election, and on each occasion it has received the overwhelming support of the people of Australia. Therefore, we are implementing the will of the people. Unlike the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), who said that the vast majority of the population did not want this health scheme, I would say that the vast majority of the people have already demonstrated their approval of the scheme. More than ever, they have shown their support for a health scheme that meets their needs.
As the Minister for Health said in his second-reading speech, this is a scheme which helps those who are prepared to help themselves, and I submit that those people constitute the majority of the citizens of this Commonwealth. Under this bill, the additional benefit payable to those who have insured themselves is raised from 4s. per day to 12s. per day. The bill applies only to those people who are insured. It applies only to those who are prepared to give some thought to the future and to accept some responsibility for themselves and their dependants. I believe that those people are the backbone of this nation and deserve to be helped in whatever way may be possible.
There are three points that emerge from this bill of which notice should be taken. First of all, the 19 per cent, of the population who are not in a voluntary organization would do well to get into this scheme as soon as possible because the majority of contributors have realized the benefits that accrue from it. Secondly, to those who are insuring on the lower schedules I would say, “ Change to the higher schedules in order to qualify for the maximum benefits so that you will really insure to the greatest possible extent and in line with your needs “. Thirdly, I think it is important that those, people who are going to insure should do so before this bill comes into operation on 1st January, 1958. All those people who are now eligible for benefits should advertise to their friends the benefits that accrue from being in this scheme and urge them to get into it prior to 1st January, 1958.
An important feature of this bill is that the new schedules to which reference has been made by other speakers have increased the benefits for the more expensive operations. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) said that he thought that the benefits payable were too small in a number of cases. I think that he cannot have read the schedules correctly, because the figures that are printed there are not the total amounts that the doctor receives for any particular operation. They are merely the Commonwealth benefits. To that has to be added, not only the contribution by the society, but also any further contribution that the patient himself may make.
As we know, the whole purpose of this scheme is not to provide for complete insurance but to provide for the payment of 80 per cent, of the total expenses that may be incurred by a patient. Bearing that fact in mind, the new schedule of benefits is pretty well in line with the general scale of charges throughout the community to-day. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) also mentioned this question of the schedules and the fees charged by members of the British Medical Association. He expressed surprise at the rapid rate at which these schedules are altered. He grumbled about their being altered once in every two years. I believe that, with the rapid advance in medical science, with the new operations and medical practices that are appearing every year, it might easily be found necessary to alter these schedules even more frequently.
I think that the Minister for Health has done a great job in revising these schedules. The medical operations and treatments that take place to-day are multifarious. He should be commended on the fact that he has been able to keep them all in mind and to maintain a balance in the costs that are incurred. I hope that these schedules will be revised in the future as frequently as they have been revised in the past in order to keep them in line with the advance of medical science. We can now say that the patient, broadly speaking, is covered for all the minor ailments which he may experience and, under this scheme, he is covered, to a large extent, against health catastrophes. I admit that he is still not covered to the extent of 100 per cent, of his expenses, but his cover under this scale of charges is much better than it was under the previous legislation. Probably 75 per cent, or 80 per cent, of his expenses will be provided for under the new scale included in the schedule to the bill. There may be still further room for improvement, but I believe that persons who suffer major disasters will now have most of their medical expenses provided for. As more and more people take advantage of the scheme it should be possible to revise the scale still further, in order to provide a coverage for all forms of illness.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to the two months’ waiting period, after joining a medical benefits society, before the Commonwealth benefit may be obtained. This provision applies only to the 19 per cent, of the population who do not at present qualify for Commonwealth additional benefit. It does not apply to those who are already members of registered societies, or who are changing from one scale to another. It does not apply even to the 19 per cent, of the population to whom I have referred if medical treatment is obtained as the result of an accident. It applies only in cases of illness. The provision brings the Commonwealth requirements into line with those of the registered societies. The scheme is an insurance scheme. It is designed to encourage people to prepare for the future. It should, therefore, provide benefits, first, for those who look ahead and make provision for the future well in advance. This aspect of the legislation is in keeping with the whole purpose of the scheme.
I see in this bill another stage in the development of the voluntary health insurance scheme. It is in line with the Government’s policy of providing increased benefits for those who help themselves. It also continues the Government’s policy of consulting the people who have to make the scheme work. Included in this category are . not only patients, but also doctors, hospital boards of management and other persons and organizations. The people who have to make the scheme work are the ones who are consulted, and they are cooperating in the development of this farsighted scheme.
I believe that the scheme is developing along lines that are satisfactory to the Australian people. 1 cannot for a moment believe that the people of Australia really want the kind of health scheme envisaged by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Werriwa. The disadvantages of the kind of scheme they have propounded are apparent from the experience of the people of the United Kingdom with such a scheme. In that country, the health scheme last year cost £590,000,000, and in the present year it will cost £615,000,000. If a similar scheme were instituted in this country it would add probably between £100,000,000 and £220,000,000 to the tax bill. Can we afford such a scheme, in addition to the charges that we have already incurred? Do the people of Australia really desire a scheme of that nature, under which they do not have to worry about anything, and the Government has to pay for all medical and hospital services? I believe that the Australian people want a say in their own future, and they want to provide voluntarily for dangers that might lie ahead.
Do any of those who have to co-operate to make a success of the health scheme want a scheme such as the one in operation in Great Britain? I believe that all those people consider the present voluntary scheme the best system for the people of this country. I do not believe that the Australian people want a system such as that outlined by the honorable member for Werriwa, under which the Commonwealth would take over all the hospitals and have one centralized scheme under socialist control. As always, the Opposition advocates centralization. It wants to take matters out of the hands of the State governments and to have one overriding authority which is presumed to know what is best for the health of the nation. I ask the honorable member for Werriwa: How are savings to be effected under such a scheme? He has said that it would be an economic proposition, but he did not say how he was going to do the job more cheaply than it is done at present. In every other country that has tried to introduce such a scheme, it has been found to be an uneconomic proposition, and has led to a greater degree of inflation.
These new provisions in the legislation, which will cost a total of £3,000,000, are along lines that are satisfactory to the Australian people. They are an example of how we in this country try to get value for our money.
I wish to make one other point, concerning the public hospitals. A person who pays ls. 6d. a week for hospital insurance will be able to receive hospital benefits at the rate of 36s. a day in all. This, I think, is rather a different figure from that cited by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, but that point has already been well made by my colleague, the honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth). This amount of 36s. a day is the amount that public hospitals in most States are allowed to charge. Therefore, those persons who are prepared to insure themselves under this scheme will have no difficulty in meeting expenses that may be incurred in a public hospital. If all hospital patients can meet their payments in full, the public hospitals will be assisted to a very great extent. All available information suggests that full payment of hospital accounts by patients would be a big step towards solving the financial difficulties of public hospitals. Therefore, I, as a member of the board of management of a public hospital, welcome this bill.
In some cases, however, the maximum charges that the State governments allow public hospitals to make are not in line with the maximum benefits that may be obtained by patients insured under this scheme. I hope the State governments concerned will examine this legislation, and will amend their own State acts in order to bring them into line with the Commonwealth provisions.
In supporting the bill I say again that it is a further step in the development of a voluntary health service, a service that has been in line with the requirements of the majority of the Australian people. As we tread another mile along the road towards the full development of the scheme, we are helping all those people who have the interests of the health of the nation at heart.
.- In these days of social advancement no one would question the amount of money expended upon relief to people who are sick and incapable of securing otherwise the treatment they require. To that degree, therefore, as has already been intimated by the Deputy Leader df the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), the Opposition will not oppose this measure. But the Government has not by any means justified the manner in which this money is being disbursed. I, with other members of the Opposition, resent the discriminatory character of the principle embodied in this legislation and feel that its incidence is not as equitable as it should be. That being so, this measure will be of advantage to people in comfortable circumstances but will deny to many among the poorer sections of the community help which they rightly should obtain.
The tendency of the Government to-day - and it is being done in a very subtle manner - is to transfer the obligation of providing social security and benefits of that character to the community. Those who enjoy the advantage of a high income are best able to provide these benefits for the poorer sections of the community by means of the income tax they are required to pay in accordance with their capacity. The Government has altered that system by introducing a form of direct contribution which will relieve wealthier people of the responsibility that rightly rests upon them to provide this kind of social benefit and place upon wage-earners the responsibility of paying at much higher rates than they should in order to obtain the care to which they are entitled. I have no doubt that the Government will ultimately introduce some scheme whereby pensions will be financed in a similar way. Such a system would be one of the most decadent and reactionary ever to be proposed to this Parliament. It would ignore the true basis upon which social welfare should be provided for in a community.
This measure does not afford the benefit it should. It is supposed to provide assistance to persons requiring help in regard to their care in hospital, but in fact it will provide a greater source of income for hospitals to enable them to meet increased costs. That is not in accordance with expert opinion, which is to the effect that the State authorities responsible for the maintenance of hospitals should receive assistance, so essential these days, from the Commonwealth in keeping with the agreements that have been made. That being so, in reviewing the provisions of this measure, we should ask ourselves whether it covers as fully as it should the essential needs of hospital administrators at the present time in meeting the needs of the sick and of those who suffer injury and require urgent treatment in hospital.
I have here a letter addressed to the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) by the Minister for Health in New South Wales, Mr. Sheehan, a copy of which was forwarded to the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). The contents of this letter demand some statement from the Minister for Health in this Parliament so that at least a clear understanding of these charges and the amounts made available for this kind of social benefit as between the Commonwealth and the States. The letter reads -
I have just had an opportunity of perusing the Bill to amend the National Health Act, 1953, in relation to additional hospital benefits.
I must say that I have been extremely disappointed that there has not been any consultation between the Federal and State authorities in connexion with the present proposal as 1 thought would have taken place in the light of discussions at the Health Ministers’ Conference in Hobart earlier this year.
The present proposals of the Commonwealth Government do not, as I see it, assist hospitals in any way to solve their financial difficulties because all the present proposals will do will be to place more money in the hands of the contributor patients.
As you know, it has always been my contention that the Commonwealth should make a greater contribution under the Hospital Benefits Agreement and that the basis of the contribution by the Commonwealth and the State towards the subsidy of public hospitals should be on a one-third/ two-thirds basis, substantially in keeping with the contribution agreed upon when the original Agreement was negotiated.
I would ask that even at this stage the Commonwealth might agree further to consider this matter with a view to increasing its contribution under the Hospital Benefits Agreement by direct payment to the State.
In 1946 the Commonwealth paid the State 4s. 5d. per day in respect of every qualified patient in public hospitals. This represented 53/170ths, or approximately one-third of the average bed cost in the base years of 1942-43, which was 14s. 2d. per day.
The average bed cost for 1956-57 was estimated at £4 2s. per day and if the Commonwealth contribution to the State was to bear the same relationship to this as it did in the base year, it would amount to approximately £1 5s. 6d. per day as against the existing contribution of 8s. per day which is the only amount received by the State, except of course, in respect of pensioners who are not members of an approved fund, on whose account the State receives 12s. per day.
I must also point out that any additional contribution made by the Commonwealth will not assist public hospitals if it is made in the form of additional hospital benefit to patients as is proposed in the Bill under review.
In my opinion, the only constructive approach towards the stabilizing of public hospital finances would be by means of a straight-out payment to the States by the Commonwealth, in respect of each qualified patient bed day without imposing the condition that the patients are to be credited with the additional amount.
If this were conceded and the Commonwealth makes a further payment of say 12s. per day to the State in respect of each qualified patient, something over £2,000,000 additional assistance to hospitals would result and I need hardly emphasize the effect this would have on the maintenance finance of our public hospitals.
Turning to the details of the Bill itself, it seems to me that one of its objects is to eliminate the tables of benefits of less than 2s. per week by applying three times the additional benefit to persons contributing at the family rate of 2s. or more.
If such is the case, then I presume that it must be conceded that it would bc a hardship to require persons in receipt of old age pensions and similar pensions to contribute at this higher rate since it has been accepted that they could not be expected to do so at a lower rate.
My reason for referring to this matter is that under the Agreement between the Commonwealth and the State, the Commonwealth has agreed to pay to the State 12s. per day in respect of each pensioners bed day in lieu of the 8s. per day payable in respect of other qualified patients.
It occurs to me that if as heretofore the Commonwealth accepted the position that it should pay the State in respect of pensioners, who are not members of approved benefit funds, at the rate of the hospital benefit plus the additional benefit rate of 4s. per day, then the Commonwealth may be prepared to continue the same principle when the present Bill becomes law, by increasing the hospital benefit rate to £1 per day for such pensioners.
There is one other aspect of the Bill which I would like to suggest might be reconsidered. It is the proposed amendment to Section 55 by the insertion of the new Sub-Section (4).
Under the present legislation it is permissible for the additional hospital benefit to be paid immediately from the date a contributor joins an approved hospital benefit scheme. The amendment changes this and imposes a qualifying period. I recognize that as far as the benefit scheme is concerned the fund benefit has never been payable until the patient has fulfilled a qualifying period; however, I have always considered that the Commonwealth action in allowing the immediate additional benefit to be paid has been an encouragement to persons to join the scheme, particularly when they are admitted to hospital and the value of the scheme is then brought very forcibly under the patient’s notice. More important still, it has been a spur to hospitals to expand the membership of the various funds because of the added revenue available to hospitals as a consequence.
I would suggest, therefore, that you might seriously consider maintaining the status quo in relation to this particular aspect.
I appreciate the fact that the funds generally would not be prepared al the present time to waive the qualifying periods but the Commonwealth Government is not/in the same position and might be prepared to consider this matter in the light of my foregoing remarks.
The letter is signed by W. F. Sheahan, Minister for Health in New South Wales. He concluded by saying that he had sent a copy of the letter to the Leader of the Opposition. That is the considered opinion of a responsible Minister of the Crown, who is administering health matters in the largest State in the Commonwealth. Surely, the Commonwealth Minister for Health will recognize that he should indicate how far he feels the Commonwealth is obligated to the States in this situation. I shall wait for a reply from the Minister before making further observations on that point.
Earlier in this debate, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) sought to encourage people to bid for the greater benefits available under this scheme. Of course, that is consistent with the Liberal idea that people should make these contributions, but it is quite inconsistent with the general provisions observed in the administration of a great hospital system which comes under Commonwealth jurisdiction. I refer to repatriation hospitals. There is no discrimination in that system. The only requirement before treatment is given is that a person be an ex-serviceman. Everything else depends upon the need of the person for medical care, and he is given the best that can be given by hospitals and doctors. Nothing in that scheme is akin to what the honorable gentleman has sought to represent. The system adopted in relation to repatriation hospitals supports the policy of the Australian Labour party on hospital treatment generally. There is no reason why the benefits given to those who served the nation in time of war should not be extended to the advantage of the community generally.
Who pays for repatriation? Its cost is paid from Consolidated Revenue. In respect of income tax, those who are in the best position in life are required to make the greatest contribution. That ensures that there is an equitable distribution of the cost of repatriation benefits. But in respect of this health scheme, the Government is trying to get round that method of providing benefits. It is, in effect, imposing a direct tax to finance a social service benefit, so that there may be serious discrimination against those who have the greatest responsibilities, such as the people with large families, who are to be found mostly in the working-class communities. Unfortunately, they are not in a position to contribute to medical benefit organizations to the degree that honorable members opposite suggest they should contribute.
Of course, by the payment of additional contributions, some people can ensure that they will have private rooms in hospitals, instead of having to go into public wards. I contend that that should be possible only when the medical condition of the person concerned requires segregation from other patients. This kind of social distinction, which is so often evident in many of these institutions, does not afford to many people the consideration that rightly is due to them. Although their medical condition may require such consideration, because they cannot afford to pay for increased benefits, insufficient provision is made for them. Unfortunately, in many instances such people are required to accept conditions of treatment that are not always as helpful, as considerate and as beneficial as they might be.
I do not deny that these medical insurance schemes have been of aid to many people. Of course they have. But I say that the Government’s health scheme does not impose an equitable obligation on the community. It seeks to place on the community as a whole a responsibility that rightly should rest on the more wealthy sections of it. That being so, while supporting the legislation generally, I contend that many aspects of it require correction. I think that this is a matter which could engage the time of the House with great advantage not only to honorable members, but also to people who require special care in time of grave need.
.- While I support the bill before the House, I must admit that I do not do so with any enthusiasm.
– The honorable member never has any enthusiasm about anything.
– There is no need for the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) to be so nasty. As a matter of fact, I am most enthusiastic about the bill that he has brought before the Parliament. That being so, I think he might be a little sympathetic towards me on this occasion. While I do not support this bill with any enthusiasm, I agree that it is a very small step in the right direction. I should have thought that the Government would have taken advantage of the introduction of the bill to remove a number of the numerous anomalies that exist in the present health scheme. Because of its many faults and defects, I think that it is a misnomer to call it a national health scheme. Surely the main virtue that a health scheme should possess is that, to all intents and purposes, it covers everybody in the community. But unless one can measure up to certain requirements, by way of a cash contribution to an approved organization, one does not come within the orbit of this scheme. In my view, that is a very glaring defect in the legislation.
I contend that the fundamental principle which should underlie any health scheme has been ignored in this scheme. In racing parlance; therefore, the scheme falls at the first hurdle, a fact that is to be deplored. Although the taxpayer contributes to the provision of hospital and medical benefits by his contributions to the National Welfare Fund, he is not entitled to benefit unless he joins an approved society. I am told that 19 per cent, or 20 per cent, of the community is not covered by this scheme, which means that that percentage of the community is being denied benefits because it is not prepared to make supplementary payments by means of contributions to approved societies. Why should taxpayers be deprived of benefits for which they have paid, through ordinary taxation, because they are not prepared to join voluntary organizations? As a matter of fact, it is quite wrong to use the word “ voluntary “ in this context, because this scheme involves virtual conscription.
– Economic conscription.
– That is so. Whatever term is used, the result is the same. The taxpayer is required to pay excise duty, income tax, sales tax and, in some instances, company tax, but he will be deprived of his share of the National Welfare Fund, in relation to health and medical benefits, unless he is prepared to pay another sum to an approved society. Apparently, the alternative to voluntary action is compulsory deprivation of benefits for which taxpayers have already paid.
I suggest that any system of voluntary health insurance falls down if it fails to provide for the very people for whom it should provide. They are, in the main, those whose economic circumstances are such that they do not feel prepared to contribute to one of the approved societies. There are many people who find it very difficult to contribute to such things. I refer, for instance, to that vast body of unskilled workers with the threat of unemployment always hovering over their heads, and to those whose employment is intermittent. They are not prepared to take a chance and pay money to such organizations, because they do not know whether they will be able to continue their membership. I ask the Government: What will happen to this much-vaunted scheme if Australia encounters another depression, and many members of benefit organizations become unemployed, cannot find the wherewithal to continue their contributions to the organizations, and allow their membership to lapse? They will then be deprived of the benefits to which they are entitled by reason of their contributions to the national welfare scheme. I cannot understand why the Government does not grapple seriously with such an apparent anomaly, and initiate a health scheme worthy in every respect of the description “ national “. To my way of thinking, the solution to the problem is to make the benefits of a national health scheme available to every one in the community regardless of whether a person is able, or prepared, to contribute to a voluntary scheme.
I propose to point out the inconsistency of the Government’s approach to its health scheme. Every one in the community is entitled to pharmaceutical benefits. If a doctor prescribes certain life-saving drugs listed in the schedule, one receives those drugs free, even if he is a millionaire. No account is taken of whether a person is a contributor to a health insurance society for the purposes of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. In other words, the Government has a two-faced policy. Free drugs are obtainable regardless of whether one is a member of a health insurance society, if a doctor considers that one’s health is such that one should be treated with the drugs listed in the schedule of free drugs. The doctor does not ask his patient, before prescribing one of those drugs, whether he belongs to a medical benefit organization or any other kind of organization. All that the doctor considers is whether the patient’s state of health requires treatment with one of the free drugs, regardless of the cost of the drug. If the doctor considers that the drug is necessary, the patient receives it free, and there is no requirement that he shall receive free drugs only if he is a member of a benefit society.
Not only is the Government inconsistent, but also I am not satisfied that the approved organizations are doing the job that they were originally intended to do. There is a surprising lack of uniformity among them, and as a consequence, there is continual discontent among the members of various organizations, which pay benefits at different rates, or confer benefits different from those of other societies. I know that this lack of uniformity has caused a great deal of controversy. In addition, there is a marked divergence of opinion among the approved societies about the admission to membership of chronic sufferers from diseases, and of persons over the age of 65. Various societies have different rules with respect to these matters. If the Government wants a scheme under which the people will contribute to these approved societies, surely it should ensure that the societies function under common rules, and that there are no differences between them in any respect. That is a reasonable view, and such a proposition should not occasion the Government any great difficulty. It should not cause any dislocation of the health scheme to hammer out these differences, and ensure that all approved organizations function under a uniform set of rules.
I wish to make a complaint about the length of time that it takes some societies to pay claims. Some societies pay within two or three days. Others pay only after considerable delay. One of the greatest offenders in Victoria is the Hospital Benefits
Association of Victoria. If one goes to an office of that association with a claim for a small amount, the claim will be paid within ten minutes or a quarter of an hour of the particulars being handed over the counter. But a claim for a large amount is paid only after the claimant has waited for weeks. That is entirely wrong. It occasions no great hardship for a contributor to this association to wait, say, four or five weeks for the benefit of 24s. to which he is entitled for a total charge of 35s., occasioned by two visits to a doctor, at 17s. 6d. for each visit. However, a person who has paid £20, £30 or £40 wants his benefit as early as possible. Indeed, the average worker finds that he is exceptionally short -of funds after he has paid a large bill for hospital or medical expenses. That is the very time that he wants the money as quickly as he can get it. Yet he has to wait, in some instances for five or six weeks, to get it from the Hospital Benefits Association of Victoria. That has been my personal experience.
I think that the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) should give these -organizations a prod, and insist that they engage more staff, or obtain additional office accommodation - whichever is required to avoid delay in meeting claims - in order that claimants shall not have to wait weeks for their money. When I raised this matter during the early stages of the scheme, the House was told that -staff troubles were responsible for delays, because the staffs of the organizations were not used to dealing with claims. After the scheme had operated for a year or two, I was told by the Minister for Health of the day that there would be no delays, and that claims would be paid overnight. Yet, after the scheme has been in operation for three or four years, we still have the same trouble! Many of my constituents have protested strenuously to me about the lengthy delays that they experience in having claims paid.
Another great defect in the scheme is the inadequacy of the benefit paid for major operations. The charge for three or four visits to a doctor occasions no great hardship to a patient. When it comes to the charge for a major operation, the position is very much different, because the maximum benefit under the medical benefit scheme is not very great. Some time ago, it was £30. 1 do not know whether it has been increased since. A benefit of £30 does not go very far towards meeting a bill of £100 or £150 for a major operation. I should prefer the benefit for major operations to be increased, because it is when a person has to meet a large bill that he is in serious need of extra money.
I suggest that the scheme has a great deal of leeway to make up. Government supporters give forth paeans of praise about the scheme. They think that it is the last word in social welfare and medical schemes, and that it is the best in the world. To hear them talk about it, one would think that no other scheme could compare with it. I disagree with them. I admit that it is a step in the right direction, but surely, after some years of experience, it can be seen that there are many defects in it that the Government should make a determined and practical effort to remedy as early as possible. I hope that, in the early stages of next year, another bill relating to this scheme will be before the Parliament, and that the Government will then consider very seriously the representations that have been made by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) and the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) with respect to the amount of Commonwealth benefit paid *o hospitals. A benefit of 8s. a bed a day seems much too small.
I am associated with the new PrestonNorthcote Hospital, in Melbourne, which is now under construction. The Victorian Government is providing only £250,000 a year for that hospital, which is expected to cost £3,000,000. At the present rate of construction, it will probably not be completed for another eight years. This long delay is occasioned by the fact that the Victorian Government is not getting from the Commonwealth enough funds to provide necessary health services. It is quite idle for Government supporters to say that the construction of hospitals is a matter solely for the State governments. Every one knows that the funds that the State governments can provide for such purposes are conditioned by the amounts that the States receive from the Commonwealth, which, at present, makes the States only a miserable handout for health purposes. In these circumstances, it is impossible for the State governments to provide necessary health services, and, especially, adequate hospital facilities. The position in Victoria is absolutely disgraceful. Hospitals find it impossible to obtain sufficient money, either by way of government grants, or by way of loan funds or subscriptions from the public, to modernize their establishments, and make much-needed additions. The delay that the lack of funds has occasioned in the construction of the new PrestonNorthcote Hospital, which I have already mentioned, is absolutely disgraceful, and is a blot on the record of civilized government in Australia. This Government, which holds the national purse-strings, refuses to make adequate finance available to enable the Victorian Government to build necessary hospitals around the environs of Melbourne, where people cannot get into hospitals because of lack of accommodation, and in some cases have to wait for months for admittance. It is high time that this Government - the National Government - realized its responsibility, in any authentic health scheme, to provide adequately for the erection of State hospitals to overtake the lag in hospital accommodation. But the Government is like Pontius Pilate - it merely washes its hands of the whole problem and says piously that it is a matter for the States. Let us face this thing in a statesmanlike manner. We should all realize that under the present financial system in this Commonwealth the State governments will never have enough money to meet their hospital problems. That has been the case since 1945-46.
This agreement, in one form or another, has been in operation since 1945-46. It was amended three years ago when the Commonwealth benefit was raised to 12s. a bed a day for insured patients, and the benefit is now to be increased again, still in respect of insured patients. But in 1945-46 the average daily cost of a bed in a Victorian hospital was 16s. 2d. The comparable cost now is £5. The agreement expired last August, and the Government apparently is not prepared to alter it, although it has not achieved its purpose. Apparently, as long as this Government is in office the Commonwealth’s basic contribution will remain inflexibly at 8s. a bed a day. The contribution has not risen despite rapidly rising hospital costs. It should be increased to at least £1 ls. a day.
In Victoria, there are two great hospital problems - the problem of the erection of hospitals, which I have mentioned, and the problem of maintenance. Last year the accumulated deficit of Victorian hospitals was about £3,500,000, and it is expected that it will be about the same amount this year. Yet the Commonwealth Government will not accept its responsibility in this connexion at a time when the States obviously have not the money to meet their hospital commitments! The result is that hospitals have to do all sorts of things in. order to raise money. They have to adopt ways of financing themselves that areentirely unsatisfactory.
I think that the Minister for Health who, I believe, is very genuinely interested: in hospitals because they are connected’ with his life’s work is doing a very good job but is just not getting the necessary support in Cabinet. He should point out to Cabinet that the present system of financing hospitals is as antiquated as it could possibly be. What is the present position? First, we have the Commonwealth subsidy of 8s. a bed a day. Then, we have the special grant, the hand-out: from the Commonwealth Government. Then we have the charges to patients, which vary in accordance with their economiccircumstances. In many States the proceeds of lotteries help to finance hospitals.. I cannot be accused of being a wowser, but I think it deplorable that we have to dependon the proceeds of lotteries for the financing of our hospital systems. I often take a ticket in a lottery, but I say that no scheme that has for its purpose making sick peoplewell and preserving our health standards should be tied in any way to the proceedsof lotteries. If the States want to run lotteries and use the proceeds for any otherpurpose that is their affair. But the necessary acceleration of hospital building should not depend on whether Tattersalls runs two consultations, three consultations or four consultations a week.
Because of lack of finance, and because of the sources of finance, the hospital system is completely in chaos. The voluntary system of financing hospitals has almost completely gone. I have always advocated the voluntary system, and I have- done my best in my small way to make contributions to the various hospitals. But this present conglomeration of sources of hospital finance is completely outmoded and antiquated. 1 am sure that the Minister realizes that fact, and I hope and expect that he will use his best endeavours in the Cabinet to have something done about the defects of the present system. If he succeeds in doing so he will perpetuate his name in the history of Australian statesmanship as that of the Minister who convinced Cabinet of the need for a new system of financing hospital construction and maintenance. Those activities should be financed entirely by the Federal Government. I am satisfied that the necessary money can be found to put the finances of our hospital system on an intelligent and fair basis. I support the bill, but, because it makes such small provision towards the solution of the real hospital problems that confront this nation, I do so with more sorrow than enthusiasm.
.- The bill before the House makes no change in the method of providing hospital benefits. As the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) pointed out when introducing the legislation, it is a measure to give effect to the proposal, announced in the Budget, to increase the Commonwealth’s additional hospital benefit. There are two kinds of payments made in relation to patients in hospital. There is the Commonwealth hospital benefit, of 8s. a bed a day, which is paid in respect of occupants of beds in public hospitals, and some other hospitals. The payment of the Commonwealth additional benefit depends on whether or not the patient is insured with a private insurance organization. It is paid only if he is so insured.
The amount of this benefit has been 4s. and is now to be raised by 8s. a day. This seems to indicate the kind of preference that the Government is giving in its provision of assistance to hospital patients. This preference is obviously biased in favour of those who participate in a private insurance scheme. This is justified on the primary ground mentioned by the Minister that the Commonwealth additional benefit is designed to help individuals to handle their problems of living - to help those who are prepared to help themselves.
This question of self-help has been raised several times during this debate. Once the position was that most of those who expressed opinions on this subject in public seemed to have a single and unqualified view. All people were assumed to be in somewhat the same position with regard to their capacity and their willingness to help themselves, and all people tended to be judged upon this. Of course, we still have among the supporters of the Government in this House people who take the view that those who cannot or do not, or who are not in a position to help themselves very much in the community are in this position very largely because of their own fault. Of course, in more recent times a very obvious fact, a very obvious truth, has obtained far greater emphasis. That is that the very ability to help yourself is very much determined, if not completely determined, by the amount you get in the way of income to begin with. The ability you possess to help yourself is proportionate to the amount of income you get. The realization of this truth still left this system of emphasizing the virtue of self-help more or less unimpaired until it was realized that what people got out of this community in the shape of income is not by any means always, or alone, the result of their ability or of what they contribute to it. This view was held only while the economic principle was acceptable that one’s rewards were proportionate to what was contributed in production. However, when it was realized that the rewards the people obtained in the shape of income were very much influenced by the opportunities they acquired to exploit the community through monopolies, this view was no longer so readily accepted. However, in this legislation the Government is still relying upon the principle that the benefits received by the individual should be conditioned by his contributions to the scheme.
After the establishment of the Beveridge plan in Great Britain, and the committee that inquired into these matters in this country from 1941, the principle of social service became more widely accepted, and the Labour party sees a health scheme as fundamentally a part of that social service. In the course of the last few years, the growth of hospitals in this country has been creditable, as has been the provision of health services, but the provision of these services under this Government has not been on an equitable basis. The additional benefit provided by this bill is a further example of the way in which the Government has moved from an equitable basis to one on which the individual is required to pay for the service rendered without any regard to his ability to pay.
The bill allows people to benefit to the extent of 8s. a day if they contribute to a private insurance concern that requires people to contribute a sum of money which is in no way related to their income or to their ability to pay. Thus, we get still further away from the principle of social service, for which the party on this side of the House stands, the principle that people shall contribute in accordance with their ability to pay and shall benefit at an increasing rate that is determined only by the capacity of the community as a whole to provide, not only for health services, but for each and every one of the other facilities that have to be provided for through the Budget. At all times, it is a matter of bearing in mind the essential principle of contribution in accordance with ability to pay, and secondly, that there must always be a priority in expenditure, a priority within the provision of health and hospital services themselves, a priority between these services and other kinds of services, such as age and invalid pensions, the provision of education, and even the provision of roads. Expenditure by governments on services of this kind establishes a significant system of priority.
It is quite clear, as the Minister said, that the increase will be of great help to members of hospital insurance funds and to those concerned with financing hospitals. In the existing situation, there is a conjunction of interests between the persons who run the hospital insurance funds, rather than those who contribute, and those who are concerned mainly with the problems of financing hospitals in a manner that will not necessarily increase the burden of taxation. I submit that the people who are mainly concerned with running these hospital funds, and of financing hospitals, are people in the higher income bracket, and would prefer to see a development of this system in which the rate of contribution is uniform irrespective of the income of the persons contributing. They would prefer to see this system developed rather than see an equitable system devloped that would mean, on the contrary, that the contributions would rise with the income of the persons concerned. For nearly ten years we have moved in this direction. This is quite inconsistent with the way in which the Opposition would like to see the scheme developing. At the same time, we have produced a most complicated system with very high operating costs. These matters will sooner or later have to be taken into account. It is to be hoped that this system does not become so complex and cumbersome that the simplification of it will be impossible.
This bill leaves a great deal to be desired. The principles upon which it is based leave a great deal to be desired, but at the present time it is the best we can hope for and, there being no foreseeable alternative, the Opposition is prepared to forgo any objection to the bill itself.
– in reply - The debate on this bill has ranged far and wide and has covered a great deal of matter which one would hardly have thought was particularly concerned with the bill itself. However, as that has occurred, I think it is proper for me to direct attention to two or three of these matters and, if I can, to put the record straight. The first thing I refer to is the remarks of the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam), who referred to several things, some covered by the bill and some not. The main force of the honorable member’s opening suggestion was that the finance made available by the Commonwealth, by agreement, to the States is inadequate. What I want to point out about this argument is that this bill does not in fact deal with the agreement with the States, which provides for a daily payment of 8s. for an occupied bed. The effect of what the honorable member said, and the effect of what other honorable members said, was to make it appear that that was about all the States got from the Commonwealth. In fact, the States get a very great deal more than is provided for under that agreement. Actually, under that agreement in the last financial year, the States received from the Commonwealth as direct subsidy a little over £6,000,000, but in addition the
Commonwealth paid out more than £2,000,000 in Commonwealth additional benefits. Obviously, the great bulk of that amount finds its way into hospital finance, because it is paid to people who receive bills from hospitals. They in turn, pay the bills and the hospitals get the money. So, directly and indirectly, the Commonwealth Government paid out to the States last year under those two headings very nearly £10,000,000. But that is by no means the end of the assistance rendered by the Commonwealth to the States. Let me remind the House that all the capital expenditure and nearly all the maintenance expenditure on chest hospitals is found by the Commonwealth. In addition, allowances are paid to patients who occupy beds or who are infectious and being treated for the disease. In the last financial year that amounted to about £8,500,000. But, in addition, the Commonwealth paid out for pharmaceutical benefits, £10,000,000. These pharmaceutical benefits were used by public hospitals and were paid for by the Commonwealth Government. I refer also to the pensioner medical service which, last year, cost the Commonwealth just on £3,000,000 for medical services and for the provision of free medicine, nearly £1,800,000. If these sums had not been paid by the Commonwealth the great burden of this expenditure would have fallen on the public hospitals’ out-patients departments. Consequently, they have been correspondingly relieved. I could go on giving further instances. Last year the capital expenditure on mental hospitals for the States cost the Commonwealth about £1,250,000. The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) is good at arithmetic, and if he adds all these amounts he will find that the assistance given by the Commonwealth to State hospitals has been not a small but a very large contribution.
The honorable member, as I understood him, said also that there was no advantage to a member contributing to a hospital benefits organization other than to get the 8s. a day which, in fact, every person who occupies a bed in a public hospital has deducted from his account. But the advantage of contributing to a registered hospital benefits organization is that the contributor thereupon becomes eligible for the Commonwealth additional benefit which, under this bill, will be increased to 12s. a day. Therefore, the advantage of belonging to a registered hospital benefits organization and contributing for the higher benefit of 12s. a day is, in fact, a net return to the contributor of 20s. a day.
– I was dealing with chronic sufferers who contribute to the organization and get nothing.
– The advantage to the chronic sufferer who joins a registered organization is that, whether he is a chronic case or not, he gets the Commonwealth benefit plus the Commonwealth additional benefit paid through the organization, which totals 20s. a day. That shows that there is an advantage to a chronic sufferer in joining a hospital benefit organization.
The third matter raised by the honorable member was the delay in making drugs available after they had been recommended by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee. I admit that the procedure takes some time, but that is because of unavoidable reasons. In the first place, the committee has to consider the therapeutics of the drugs. It then makes a recommendation which comes to the Health Department. The relevant facts are put together in a minute and the recommendation is then sent to me. I approve it, and then it has to go to the Attorney-General’s Department for the requisite regulation to be drafted. Before the drug can actually become available, pharmaceutical chemists have to be notified that there has been a change in the regulation and doctors have to be notified that they can prescribe it. So, it is not a process which can be compressed into a short space of time. I assure the honorable member that between the time the recommendation reaches me and my approval is given not more than a few days, and sometimes only a few hours, elapse.
– That is not what you told me in answer to my questions.
– It is the substance of what I said. The honorable member referred to one occasion when there was a much longer delay. This was concerned with an antiobiotic. On that occasion not only was I anxious that the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee should consider the matter, but it was also most important that the antibiotics committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council should also review the indications for the drug. I say quite frankly that the delay which occurred was largely as a result of my insistence that the whole situation should be properly explored before it was made available.
Reverting to the question of hospital benefits, I wish to deal with the matter raised by the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin). To say the least of it, I think it is a little strange that a Minister of a State government should write to a Commonwealth Minister and send a copy of his letter to a member of this Parliament thus enabling it to be used in debate before the Commonwealth Minister’s reply has been forwarded to the State Minister. 1 can regard that procedure only as an endeavour to put pressure on me to reply along the lines which the writer of the letter desires I should reply. However, as this matter has been raised here and if we are to conduct correspondence by loud speaker and in public, I intend to say something about the suggestions made in the letter.
In the first place let me refer to the statement that, in effect, the Commonwealth contribution to hospital expenses under the agreement with the States should amount to one-third of those hospital expenses. I make it perfectly clear at the start that never at any time has there been an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States that this should be so or that the Commonwealth contribution should represent any definite proportion of a State’s expenses. “ If it ever did so, it was purely fortuitous. I want to say, also, that I cannot imagine any Commonwealth Government putting itself into a position where it makes a fixed contribution to a large and expanding expense over which it has no control whatsoever. I cannot imagine even a Commonwealth Labour government being silly enough to do that. The New South Wales Minister in his letter went on to say that the present proposals do not assist hospitals in any way to solve their financial difficulties. I have already made it plain that the present proposals will considerably increase the funds flowing to the State hospitals. I think I made it plain in my second-reading speech that the object of this bill was not merely to assist State hospitals - although it will do that indirectly - or that it was not connected with the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, but that it was a proposal to assist contributors to registered hospital benefits organizations.
That brings me to the remark of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) that the Commonwealth is not concerned with providing services except by way of self-help - that is what I understood to be the purport of his remarks; in other words, that the principle of what the Commonwealth is doing is to assist people who are helping themselves, but it is not concerned with assisting others. Under this particular measure, the Commonwealth is endeavouring to help those who are helping themselves, but it is totally untrue to say that it does not provide a great deal of assistance under other measures to those who are incapable of helping themselves. In that respect I refer to two examples only, both on a large scale - the pensioner medical service and the tuberculosis agreement.
Those are the main points which, I think, were raised. I want to refer to one more, that is the suggestion that the alterations to the medical benefits schedule under this bill were made in response to pressure by the British Medical Association. 1 repudiate that suggestion, lt is complete nonsense. In fact, if the honorable member who made it had thought for a few moments he would have realized that whereas the total difference which will be made to payments as a result of this alteration of the schedule will be £105,000, the total payment in respect of medical benefits is well over £6,000,000.
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 5*56 to 8 p.m.
– by leave - It gives me both official and personal pleasure to present to the House the valuable report on the Australian universities made by what I will refer to in the course of these remarks as the “ Murray Committee”. Last year, when in England, I approached Sir Keith Murray and asked him whether he would preside over an investigation of the problems of our universities. He agreed to do this, subject to the approval of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in Great Britain, an approval which was willingly given.
The committee appointed was very well balanced. Sir Keith Murray, himself, is the chairman of the University Grants Committee in Great Britain, and is highly skilled in assessing the financial needs of universities, the wisdom and practicability of university development programmes, and the part that governments can play. Sir Ian Clunies Ross, the chairman of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, is, of course, familiar with our national need for scientists in a wide variety of fields and has an intimate knowledge of the problems of our universities. Sir Charles Morris, the ViceChancellor of the University of Leeds, is a practising university administrator, familiar with ;he universities’ day-to-day problems. Mr. A. J. Reid, the Chancellor of the University of Western Australia, is a former head of the State Treasury and a member, of course, of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. He, therefore, has a special knowledge of both university matters and Commonwealth-State financial relations. Mr. J. C. Richards is assistant general manager of the B.H.P. and a former Rhodes scholar. He was able to bring to the inquiry a considerable knowledge of industrial interest in and requirements of the universities.
To this strong committee, we gave a wide chaner which included the role of the university in the Australian community; the extension and co-ordination of university facilities; technological education at university level; the financial needs of universities and appropriate means of providing for them. In less than the three months, July, August and September of this year, the committee visited every university institution in Australia, received the views of large numbers of people and bodies, including Commonwealth and State Government departments, and has prepared this extensive report. We are grateful to the committee for its remarkable speed, thoroughness and grasp of the matters involved in their task.
The Government has also had the report of the Australian Academy of Science on Scientific and Technological Man-power Supply and Demand in Australia. It is a very valuable analysis of one aspect of the problems investigated by the Murray Committee and indeed reinforces much that is contained in the committee’s report. This is not the appropriate time to comment in detail on the academy’s findings, but I do take this opportunity of commending them for their contribution to an understanding of one important aspect of the total problem. To-night I have the privilege of presenting to the House a statement of the decisions which the Commonwealth Government has so far taken on the recommendations contained in the Murray Committee’s report. Some matters have yet to be finally dealt with for reasons that I will indicate. But we considered that there should be no delay in dealing with the main recommendations, having regard to what the committee has described as “ the need for immediate action in 1958, 19591 and 1960 if the position “ - that is the position of the universities - “ is not to be catastrophic “.
But before I announce the particular decisions, I should make some remarks to explain the setting in which the problem isbeing looked at and the reasons for what may be regarded by some as a departure from normal Commonwealth practice. It is, of course, true that, under the Australian constitutional division of powers between Commonwealth and State, education is in the State field. It has” been dealt with in a progressive manner by State governmentsand parliaments at a rapidly growing cost, this cost being very naturally a material factor in the steep increase in tax reimbursements and special grants to States in recent years. We are not promoting any idea that the legislative power over educationshould, by a constitutional amendment, be transferred to the Commonwealth. The idea of uniformity can be carried too far.
In both primary and secondary education, each State, with highly varying conditions of climate and occupational opportunities, is in the best position to judge for itself its own most suitable educational curriculum and organization. Such matters are not best or most flexibly dealt with from one national centre. Experience has shownthe advantages of local policy and administration in the educational field. Why then has the Commonwealth Government come into this matter, as we already have, at the tertiary or university level? That it. should do so in the Capital Territory is, of course, inevitable. The Australian National University and the Canberra University College are clearly its responsibility and not that of any other government and, of course, we propose in the future, as in the past, to discharge that responsibility adequately. But we have pursued an active policy in relation to the universities generally for reasons which have seemed to us to be of inevitable and special importance and urgency. Our view of their urgency has been much sharpened by the report of the Murray Committee.
Since this report and the decisions of the Commonwealth Government mark, as I hope and believe, the beginning of a new and brighter chapter in the history of the Australian universities; and as our acceptance of much greater financial responsibilities should, if it is not to lend itself to loose generalization, be clearly related to its own special circumstances, I will take a little time to summarize the particular elements which justify and seem to us to require special Commonwealth action.
The whole feature of university education is that, upon the basis of a general mental training achieved by the primary and secondary systems, it provides, for those willing and able to undergo it, special and higher training. Such training leads to the acquisition of recognized degrees, the attainment of high professional qualifications, the entrance to higher research, particularly but not exclusively in science and technology, and the securing of those immeasurable and civilized benefits which flow or should flow from the study of, or association with the students of, humane letters.
The university is not a professional “ shop “, though I confess that in my day we used to identify our own by that mercantile name. As the word implies, the university must not be narrow or unduly -specialist in its outlook. It must teach and encourage the free search for the truth. That search must increasingly extend to, but is not to be confined to, the physical resources of the world or of space. The -scientist is of great and growing importance, and what we propose to do will, I believe, enable many more scientists to be trained in proper circumstances and with improved tuition, buildings and equipment.
But I hope that we will not, under current pressures or emotions, be tempted to ignore the basic fact that civilization in the true sense requires a close and growing attention, not only to science in ali its branches, but also to those studies of the mind and spirit of man, of history and literature and language and mental and moral philosophy, of human relations in society and industry, of international understanding, the relative neglect of which has left a gruesome mark on this century.
Let us have more scientists, and more humanists. Let the scientists be touched und informed by the humanities. Let the humanists be touched and informed by science, so that they may not be lost in abstractions derived from out-dated knowledge or circumstances. That proposition underlies the whole university idea, lt warrants and requires a great variety of faculties and the constant intermingling of those who engage in their disciplines. To perform these vital tasks our universities must be equipped in a very practical way to meet the challenge which, both in quality and quantity, becomes more urgent and insistent every clay. i have indulged, with the permission of honorable members, in these general reflections, not because the Government has any reservations about the urgent and growing need for more scientific training, a need which has been more and more clear in recent times, but because it would be unfortunate for the universities themselves il the balanced conception of higher education came to be regarded as out of date.
I will not take up time by making extensive quotations from the report. I will content myself by pointing out that, the committee has detected and clearly stated some of the most important elements in the problem of the present and future of our universities. They make it clear that we are suffering from a grave shortage of university graduates. They refer with great force to the fact, as I, and, no doubt many honorable members, clearly recall, that even 25 years ago there was a theory that most nations were over-producing graduates and that the pattern of the future might well be “ that industrial communities would be run by machines and unskilled labour, the whole direction and control being in the hands of a few very brilliant and well-trained experts “. This illusion has disappeared. As the committee says -
The post-war community calls for more and more highly educated people all along the line, and in particular for more and more graduates of an increasing variety of kinds. Industry and commerce call for more graduates, government and public administration call for more graduates, and all the services of the welfare state call for more graduates. The proportion of the population which is called upon to give professional or technical services of one kind or another is increasing every day; and the proportion of such people who have to be graduates is increasing also.
They sum that matter up in a few words: -
High intellectual ability is in short supply, and no country can afford to waste it; every boy or girl with the necessary brain power must, in the national interest, be encouraged to come forward for a university education, and there must be a suitable place in a good university for everyone who does come forward.
They emphasize that education is only one of the two central aims of the university, the other being research. They make an interesting and important comment upon the nature of our population growth, a growth which is accompanied by the characteristic concentration of population in Australia in the cities. The comment is -
Not only has the rate of increase outpaced the capacity of the schools and universities, but it is also weighting the younger age groups to an extent that is not experienced in countries whose population is not growing so rapidly; this as a factor which entails a relatively greater deployment of resources into the building of schools and universities than would be necessary if the population were more evenly distributed among the age groups.
This is a welcome phenomenon, but is a consequence of our population growth that is worth noting. Again there is the most practical consideration that the enormous development of and capital investment in industry, both primary and secondary, has been accompanied by relatively high production costs. If our capital resources are to be used to full advantage, there must be more expertise and a growing demand on the universities.
It is, therefore, clear that the demand for all universities’ graduates is bound to rise. There are, the committee finds, shortages of graduates in arts, of economists, lawyers, doctors, dentists, agriculturalists and veterinary scientists, no less than of scientists, in the sense in which the term is usually used, and industrial technologists. In addition to these, the secondary schools, providing an education to matriculation standards, are making a heavy demand on universities for graduates in arts, mathematics and science. That demand is unsatisfied, with the result that we find ourselves in something of a vicious circle, the university students being numerically limited by the number of teachers in the schools, and the supply of teachers in the schools being limited by the insufficient number of university graduates. For 1960-61, government and non-government schools in Australia will require an annual intake of 450 mathematics and science teachers. But the output of science graduates from all universities in 1957 for all purposes is likely to be little more than 500.
Another striking fact of the very many set out in a report which I hope will be widely read is this: There are to-day 36,000 university students in Australia. The numbers are growing. The size of firstyear classes already presents overwhelming difficulties, resulting in many cases in the adoption of quotas. Yet, the committee has reached the conclusion that the total number will, if provided for, grow to 70,000 in 1965 and possibly to 80,000 by 1967, which is only ten years hence! The position would be slightly less disturbing if we were getting, if I may use the expression, “ full value “ out of those who are or become undergraduates. But we are not. The failure rate is alarming. Thus, of the 1951 first-year entrants, only 61 per cent, passed first year in 1951; only 35 per cent, graduated in the minimum time; and only 58 per cent, are expected to graduate at all. This failure rate is, in the words of the committee, “ a national extravagance “. It reduces the efficiency of the universities, and it grievously lessens the national resources of trained graduates.
What are the reasons for this waste? The committee did not find any reason to suppose that the matriculation standards are lower than they used to be. It seems to me that they regarded as the effective reasons several large and significant matters. Classes are much too big. The persona! contact with the lecturer is greatly reduced at the very time when the disciplined school-boy becomes a self-reliant adult and needs to have guidance as well as freedom. There is clearly far too low a proportion of staff to students; much lower than in Great Britain where, incidentally, the failure rate, for a variety of reasons, including a more selective admission of students, is much lower. The pressure of work, particularly in the science faculties, has been greatly increased by complex modern discoveries and the opening of an immense variety of new avenues of knowledge.
Building and equipment are alike inadequate. Lack of accommodation extends to class-rooms, laboratories, libraries, commonrooms, and those student amenities, including sporting facilities, which are an essential element in a full undergraduate life. There is gross over-crowding and many make-shift buildings. The shortage of equipment and materials becomes more acute every year. In the physical sciences, out-of-date equipment represents a grave handicap. This no doubt has something to do with the finding of the committee that there is a serious general weakness of honours and post-graduate research schools. This is not due to any lack of general aptitude, I hesitate to say, for Australia has produced more than its due proportion of distinguished research workers. It is primarily due to lack of encouragement and of facilities.
Staff salaries are too low to attract and retain the necessary number of first-class lecturers and instructors. Scientific and technological education and research are naturally but increasingly most expensive as compared with other faculties. It is a good thing; I am not complaining, but we should have it in mind. Thus, in the Melbourne University, the Faculty of Law, with 702 students, costs at present £27,381; the Faculty of Engineering, with 482 students, costs £187,301. All of these considerations seem to us to mark out the university problem as one which possesses special difficulty and urgency, which call for unorthodox Commonwealth action.
On the machinery side, the committee is of opinion that there is inadequate liaison between the academic body and the policymaking and controlling senate or council. The vice-chancellor, in their view, should become the academic leader as well as the executive officer for overall policy. If I may offer my own view, that seems to me to be completely right. The committee recommends that there should be an Australian university grants committee, to develop a national policy, to co-ordinate the work of the universities, to co-ordinate the work in this field of the Commonwealth and State governments, to examine proposals for the creation of new institutions, and to plan university development generally.
Finally, on the financial side, the committee has been inevitably struck by the ever-increasing budgetary difficulties of the universities, difficulties which beset and hamper the mere carrying on of their present activities - present activities being 36,000 students, not 70,000 or 80,000 students. They have also reached the conclusion that the capital provision for the universities must be dramatically increased if the future is to be looked at with anything less than despair. They recommend that the commonwealth should enter the field of capital provision. They sum their view up in one sentence -
State funds are no longer adequate to meet the existing situation. If the States’ financial resources have not enabled them to meet the universities’ needs up to the present, they will certainly be inadequate to put things right and get ready in time for the inevitable expansion which lies ahead. The efforts of the States require to be supplemented and speeded up.
The Commonwealth Government has, in fact, been finding increasing sums of money for the State universities. The annual grants for recurrent purposes have risen from £1,103,000 in 1951 (when the scheme began) to £2,300,000 in 1957; in addition to which we pay, through the Commonwealth Scholarship Scheme, the fees of no less than one-third of all the full-time students in the universities. The State Governments have also devoted increasing attention to this budgetary problem of the universities. The Murray Committee states the position concisely in paragraph 67 of its report -
The States have endeavoured to afford special treatment to their universities in the allocation of their funds. Between 1950-51 and 1955-56, the States’ revenue from income tax reimbursement grants, State taxation and special grants rose by 77 per cent., but their grants to the universities rose by 123 per cent.
So, nobody can say they have not been active on this matter.
Nothing could more vividly show how the universities’ problem has grown and is growing and how inescapable it is that the Commonwealth should accept an adequate share of a financial burden which probably no State could support by itself. It is, of course - and I think I should say this clearly - unfortunate that the universities in Australia should be overwhelmingly dependent upon the financial goodwill of governments. But private benefactions have been isolated; endowments in total provide only a small fraction of the total income. And this is a state of affairs that does not exist so starkly in other countries. The reason for this is pointed out by the committee, and 1 think this is worth quoting because I should like many people in Australia to think about it. In paragraph 75 the committee states, and quite truly, that there are large sections of public opinion which are not yet aware of the facts and do not yet appreciate their implications. It says -
Certainly they are not as much alive to the needs of the future in this country as they are in the United Kingdom and the United States. Indeed, they are not as sensitive in this matter as might have been expected. Australia has already benefited in quite spectacular fashion from the application of science in the primary industries; there is common agreement that, with a very high standard of living, secondary industry can only maintain its present promise of great achievement by technological and managerial skill and enterprise of the highest quality; and behind all this is the basic need to drive ahead with the development of a whole continent, vast areas of which, but for the benefit of science, must remain unproductive bush and barren desert. All this is becoming more fully recognized. What is not recognized is that this requires not a small number of very clever people, but a very large number indeed of very highly educated men and women, and that nothing short of this will do.
With this sketchy, but, I think, necessary preamble, I now turn to the decisions which the Government has already taken. Some of those decisions, as will be seen, relate to recommendations for joint action between the Commonwealth and the States. We are at once putting in hand discussions with the States on these matters - I have already communicated with them this evening - for it is only by close and true cooperation that the desired results can be secured. But we think it proper that we should at once indicate quite clearly our own willingness to co-operate along the lines which I will indicate.
Our decisions are as follow: -
This makes a total of £8,501,800 for these three years compared with Commonwealth grants totalling £6,040,930 in the three years 1955, 1956 and 1957.
The committee also recommended that there should be a contribution by the Commonwealth Government for the equipping of new buildings calculated at 16 per cent, of its share of the cost of the new buildings - £6,270,000 - or £1,003,000, leaving the universities to find the balance from additional State grants, from gifts from industry and other non-State sources. We accept this recommendation.
The recommendations relating to the Canberra University College are deferred pending a decision on the special question as to the future development and association of these two bodies. The answer to this question has not been fully worked out by the committee. It deserves to be worked out promptly, and we propose to examine it promptly.
Mr. Speaker, if I may confess it, this is rather a special night in my political life. Therefore, I should like to make one final general observation. In my own undergraduate days, students were either scholarship holders, at a time when scholarships were few and difficult to win - the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and I well remember this time - or they were maintained by relatively poor parents who were prepared to make great sacrifices for their children; or, in a minority of cases, their parents could readily afford to sustain them through their courses of training. I can well recall smiling wryly on hearing a member of Parliament, during my own time, describe the Melbourne University of my day as a “ bear garden of the idle rich “. Old conceptions die hard. It is not yet adequately understood that a university education is not, and certainly should not be, the perquisite of a privileged few. It is not to be thought of merely in terms of the individual student. It has become demonstrably clear that a complex and highly industrialized modern society has claims upon the universities which must be met, and has great responsibilities for seeing that those claims can be met.
The social, scientific, economic and industrial complexities of Australia to-day are largely beyond the imagination of forty years ago. Great skill achieved after high training is no longer to be regarded as something to be admired in a few. We must, on a broad basis, become a more and more educated democracy if we are to raise our spiritual, intellectual, and material living standards. Viewed in this way, our universities are to be regarded not as a home of privilege for a few, but as something essential to the lives of millions of people who may never enter their doors.
This new charter for the universities, as I believe it to be, should serve to open many doors and to give opportunity and advantage to many students. They will, I am sure, not forget that under all the circumstances I have described, the community is accepting heavy burdens in order that, through the training of university graduates, the community may be served. This represents a challenge to the whole future student body to take the fullest advantage of the chances which come to them; to see that future failure rates are not their fault; to realize more than ever that the contribution that they have to make to this great social effort is to be willingly and effectively made. A university may look to governments, and perhaps primarily to governments, for land and buildings and equipment. But its ultimate achievement will depend, as ever, upon the zeal and quality of its staff and of those who train under them.
It is, I think, a happy thing that we should have had the opportunity of reviving our conception of the universities and their work by the presentation and discussion of this brilliant and provocative report. I lay on the table the following paper: -
Australian Universities - Report of Committee - Ministerial statement. and move -
That the paper be printed.
.- The first thing I want to say is that the decision of the Government to make these grants to the universities of Austrafia is a very important one, indeed. The grants are very generous and cover almost every recommendation of the Committee on Australian Universities. They indicate the necessity for a close examination of the relationships of the Commonwealth and the States because, after all, the States have a big share in assisting the various universities. The close examination by the committee of the inadequacy of Commonwealth assistance hitherto to universities - I use the word “ inadequacy “ only because the grants are to be increased so greatly - serves to emphasize the differences that exist generally between Commonwealth and State financial arrangements.
Let me illustrate this at once by reference to education generally. This report deals only with tertiary education. It deals only with the universities. One of the features of Australia since the depression years, I think it is fair to say, has been the inadequacy of expenditure by the States on education. I think that that is common ground. Some States have been better able to provide funds for the education of their children than others have been. The inadequacy of classrooms, in many instances, the shortage of teachers, and the difficulty of obtaining trained teachers, particularly teachers trained in scientific subjects such as mathematics and applied science - all these things highlight the tremendous difficulties that the States have faced. I say without hesitation that it is certain that this additional grant must foreshadow a complete review, not only of the grants to the universities, but also of the responsibilities of the National Legislature and the National Government to all the States with respect to education generally.
I would say that the chief characteristic of the Murray report is that, in dealing with the universities, and endeavouring to deal with them alone, it continually extends into the problem of the secondary schools. If we go one step further, the problem of the secondary schools extends into the problem of the primary schools. I think that it is perfectly clear, from an analysis of some of the passages in the report, that the situation in the schools will have to be dealt with in the near future. We cannot simply have the universities well catered for, and schools throughout Australia badly, or inadequately, catered for. That is the first point that I wish to make.
It is clear, also, Mr. Speaker, that there has been a great wastage of talent at the secondary school level - indeed, those are almost the words of the report - due to early leaving. That problem merits most serious attention. The report indicates that there are about 36,000 persons attending the universities in Australia, and that, for every person taking a university course, there are at least three others of equal skill and intellectual capacity who could undertake a similar course, if they had the financial means, and were not prevented by other circumstances. If all who wished to avail themselves of university education were able to do so, there would be many more than 100,000 students at the university level. The 1954 census revealed that only 45.8 per cent, of fifteen year olds, 20.5 per cent, of sixteen year olds and 9.4 per cent, of seventeen year olds, were undergoing fulltime education of any sort. Further, in 1957, only 4.4 per cent, of the seventeen and eighteen age group in New South Wales entered the universities of that State. On the other hand, statistical evidence suggests that 16 per cent, of the members of any age group of the Australian people have intellectual ability above the minimum generally considered necessary for success at the university. That proves my statement that, through circumstances beyond their control, a great many people are deprived of tertiary education that they could undertake successfully.
According to the great pioneers of education in States like New South Wales - I refer particularly to Peter Board, a very famous man in his day - the way for the child, the young man and the young woman, should be a highway; that is to say, opportunities should be open to all. This is in no sense a criticism of what is being done for the universities. What is being done for them is, not only generous, but also munificent, from their stand-point. Their troubles appear to be over, but, in fact, their troubles are only beginning, because further demands, which they will find it difficult to satisfy, will be made on them. Nonetheless, I am certain that they are very pleased indeed at the Government’s decision.
I think it is correct to say that, in the universities, the view is widely held that a substantial cause of the high failure rate to which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) referred is the lack of adequate preparation of students in the schools, lt has been pointed out that, for the most part, students go to the university at about seventeen years of age, and that they lack the balance gained in the higher school forms under the English system, and the benefit of the study that takes place under that system. That study amounts to research, because it is done without direct instruction.
I want to refer the House to the report of the Australian Academy of Science on Scientific Man-power Supply and Demand in Australia, which the Prime Minister mentioned, and from which, in dealing with the matter in a different way, he was unable to give references. It is a very striking report. It suggests that it might have been expected that, with the increasing reliance on science in the modern community between 1939 - at the outbreak of World War II. - and 1955, there would have been an appreciable rise in the proportion of students enrolled in the faculties of science, engineering, agriculture and veterinary science - what I shall term the science faculties. But that has not been the case. A substantial rise in the proportion of enrolments in those faculties occurred in the early post-war years, when the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme was at its height. But those figures were not maintained, and the evidence now indicates that we cannot expect any increase in the per centage of students electing to study science or applied science, unless special measures are taken to encourage them.
Statistics of bachelor degrees conferred indicate that, in 1950 - at the peak of the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme - 703 bachelor degrees were conferred in science. It is estimated that, in 1957, the figure will fall to 332. It has been estimated that, in engineering, the figure will fall from 427 in 1950 to 329 in 1957; in agriculture, from 101 in 1950 to 68 in 1957; in architecture, from 101 in 1951 to 57 in 1957; and in veterinary science, from 91 in 1950 to 44 in 1957. So, generally speaking, there has been a sharp and steady decline in the number of bachelor degrees conferred in those science subjects. If one thing is common ground in the community to-day, it is the need for additional science graduates. They are absolutely ‘essential for the development and the defence of Australia. The postwar rise in the number of students is reflected in the output of graduates in science up to the period from 1950 to 1952. Since then, there has been a decline to a little more than 60 per cent, of the figures for the peak years. That is a very serious position. According to the Australian Academy of Science, special measures are required to deal with the problem. Other reports bear out that conclusion. The academy emphasizes that fact.
So far, no reference has been made to one aspect of the shortage of graduates that has grave consequences for the future - the inadequate supply of mathematics and science teachers for the schools. The payment of teachers, of course, is a responsibility of the States. No detailed figures are available from the State education departments, or from the private schools, but senior officers of those departments have emphasized repeatedly the serious difficulties with which they are confronted in maintaining, let alone improving, the standards of teaching in mathematics and science. A similarly disquieting situation has arisen in both the United Kingdom and the United States of America, according to the academy. In the United Kingdom, attempts have been made to rectify the position, and similar attempts are now being made in the United States. According to the academy, we must recognize the probability that, for some years, the present inadequate supply of teachers in mathematics and science will continue to decline.
I have discussed science at some length because it is recognized to be of supreme importance to both defence and development, in the light of technological developments in the modern world. The inference I draw from it is this: Steps will have to be taken, not in the universities alone, but also in the secondary schools, to see that mathematics, which is the basis of all science, is properly taught. Also, in connexion with other science subjects, you cannot draw an arbitrary line between the secondary school level and the university level. The point av which a student develops a particular capacity which will enable him to reach the highest ranges of mathematical and scientific learning may occur while he is at school. It may be delayed. It may not occur until after his graduation from the university. I could mention many cases to illustrate either possibility. But the point is that you cannot, looking at the provisions for the universities, say, “ Well, that is sufficient “. There must be teachers at the schools and they must be highly qualified. The boys and girls must have the opportunity at that level because the mind that is able to grasp the higher reaches of mathematics can often be determined and assessed at school. Therefore, any gap of one year or two years in training that may occur, or a lack of proper teaching in the schools, are of very serious moment indeed. To give a simple but convincing illustration of the importance of mathematics in the scientific field - in this case the realm of applied science - I shall read from the magazine “Courier” published by UNESCO, a United Nations authority, an article showing what was involved in the man-made satellite projects of the United States and Russia. There are just one or two sentences which show the enormous importance of this basic training. The magazine said -
The most ambitious project of the International Geophysical Year and the most imaginative project in the history of science will reach out into space, possibly as far as 1,800 miles beyond the earth’s surface, to observe and report on conditions there.
The article added that this would be - an incomparable achievement - not because it is spectacular, but because it is precisely planned, mathematically predicted in advance, and because it requires the use of many fabulous devices which have been perfected only recently, a focussing of many sciences and the integrated co-operation of thousands of experts.
The books dealing with the subject show that the basis of the whole conception, the application of which is so startling, is the mathematician - the pure mathematician who, with the assistance of the imagination which is given to some of the great scientists and mathematicians of the world - like Einstein himself - can deduce from general principles exactly what should happen.
The opportunity for training in science, and especially in pure mathematics, must be given to young people even before they reach university level. That seems to me to be what is wanted and now perhaps is the time to move towards it, because the Government is certainly taking a bold step forward in connexion with university education.
I just want to interpolate this in relation to the needs of Canberra: Here, we have two higher educational institutions. One is the Canberra University College, and I sincerely hope that a decision will be made by the Government to give that institution university status. I say that because this institution is a teaching body, unlike the other institution, the Australian National University, which is primarily a research body. It is most important that the college should have university status and I think that that is not excluded by the Prime Minister’s statement of the Government’s decisions. I strongly suggest that that is one step that could be taken in addition to those announced by the Prime Minister.
My remarks are an attempt to cover in a short time quite a number of ideas. I emphasize that the time has come when there must be an attempt to look at the educational needs of the people of this country, children and adults, from an entirely new point of view. Since the depression there has no doubt been a tendency to subordinate to other needs - great economic needs including those of transport and the like - the claims of the children for adequate education. That position has been forced on the States. The railways, for instance, have imposed a heavy financial obligation on the States. During the war State railways were placed at the disposal of the Commonwealth. They carried the servicemen and war materiel of this country and of our allies. The permanent ways and the rolling-stock suffered heavy damage then. From the financial point of view that put the States in a very difficult situation indeed, and therefore they have been compelled, again and again, to do less than they have wished to do. How is the situation to be remedied? The States receive their grants from the Commonwealth. There is no magic in the needs of the universities simply because they are universities. But the human need has to be satisfied. It is the same at the secondary school level and the primary school level.
I have here a work from which I want to quote. It is “ Assumptions Underlying Australian Education “, by Mr. R. Freeman Butts, Professor of Education at the Teachers College, Columbia University, United States of America, who visited Australia recently. He wrote -
If I may be so bold as to make one recommendation as I conclude T would say that Australia needs a great educational revival and awakening of interest in education. Somehow the fires of educational enthusiasm and inspiration for a better education must be kindled. I miss a widespread feeling of ferment or dissatisfaction or criticism. I do not see a bubbling up of ideas and experiments. I do not sense that strong professional organizations are constantly at work promoting discussion and exchange of ideas, criticizing practices and theories, and stimulating new procedures and new probings. The directors of education meet together, the inspectors meet together, the headmasters meet together. But where do the teachers and lecturers meet? Where do they all meet with each other and with the public?
The needs, of course, are obvious and urgent - not merely the needs of the scholars and the students but also of the teachers. The teachers in the schools, like the professors at the universities, are entitled to, and claim, higher salaries. All those things cannot be segregated from Commonwealth responsibility. The Prime Minister has shown what can be done in connexion with universities. A similar approach should be made to the whole question of the education of the young people of this country, so that the road to the highest type of learning will be a highway along which any scholar who works hard enough and devotes himself to his studies may travel, with the assistance which I suggest should be given.
.- Mr. Speaker, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has rightly said, this is a great parliamentary occasion. I am sure that all honorable members will join with me in congratulating the Government on its response to the challenge created by one of the greatest problems of our time. There have been no half measures in the Government’s attitude, no niggling at its responsibilities. The Government grasped the nettle completely. It looked into the future, estimated Australia’s requirements, and made the required provision.
I am sure that all honorable members will join with me in congratulating the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) for his thoughtful contribution to this debate. I should also like to congratulate the Murray Committee on its splendid report. I am certain that the report will go down as a landmark in the history of Australian universities, and, indeed, if I may say so, in the history of this nation. I say this because I have no doubt that Australia’s future achievements as a nation will depend on her resources of trained man-power, not only in the physical and mechanical sciences, but also in the moral and social sciences.
All honorable members who have read this report will be astonished at the enormous amount of ground the committee has been able to traverse in the short time available to it for the conduct of its inquiry. Many honorable members will have read full-length books dealing with university problems, but this report is as complete, as all pervading, as penetrating, as any of them. Yet the committee was able to carry out all the investigations involved and bring down its report in a few short months! That is partly due to the expertise and experience of the members of the committee, but it is also due to the devoted work of the bodies that gave evidence before the committee, particularly those connected with the various Australian universities. These bodies are listed in one of the appendices.
In this respect I should like to pay a tribute to the university staff associations. By their nature they can, of course, be expected to be vitally interested in matters that are considered in this report - such matters as salaries, study leave, travel grants, and superannuation. But the staff associations have always shown a wider interest in the matters affecting the institutions to which they belong. It is sufficient for me to say that on at least one occasion the University of Adelaide staff association suggested increased equipment and buildings for one of the departments in lieu of an increase in their own salaries, despite the fact that the salaries in Adelaide at that time were lagging far behind the general level of the other universities. I have read the submission of the Federal Council of the University Staff Associations of Australia, which was presented to the committee, and I have no hesitation in saying that it is a balanced and comprehensive review of most of the matters mentioned in the report, and it must have been of considerable assistance to the committee.
I mention this because the submissions of this and other bodies explain to a large extent why the committee has been able to achieve so much in such a short time. Virtually everything that is in the report has been said before. In some cases it has been repeated for many years. The absolute necessity for a university grants commission, the waste that is involved in high failure rates, the urgent necessity for new buildings and equipment, our shortage of trained scientists and technologists - all these things have been stressed many times before. The importance of the Murray Committee’s report is that it puts the stamp of its authority and experience on these conclusions. But, in applauding the report and the Government’s acceptance of the greater part of the committee’s recommendations, let us not forget that it is largely a synthesis, a confirmation, as it were, of the conclusions of many others, and not least, the conclusions reached by responsible bodies in the universities themselves.
It is not, of course, possible to refer to many of the matters raised in the report in the course of a short speech, but some, I feel, deserve special attention. In particular, I should like to refer to the specific financial assistance that the committee recommended should be provided by the Commonwealth over the next three years. I emphasize that these sums are designed to remedy the defects that the committee sees in our universities at their present level of operation. This assistance does not pur port to cater for the expansion of the universities, which, as the report points out, and as the Prime Minister has emphasized to-night, must be expected and catered for. The amount is designed to bring the universities up to an immediate standard for carrying out their responsibilities in relation to their present student numbers. 1 think this deserves consideration, because it indicates the urgency of the situation and the extent of the effort that will have to be made if the universities are to be able to measure up to their responsibilities in future.
I should like to refer also to the proposed grant recommended by the committee for the University of Adelaide. As honorable members who have looked at these grants in the report will see, the grant for the University of Adelaide is considerably lower than might be expected in the light of the size of that university compared with other Australian universities. To explain what I have just said, I point out that the grant recommended for the University of Adelaide in Table 10 on page 112 of the report is £850,000, whilst that for the University of Western Australia, a considerably smaller university, is £1,235,000, and the grant for the University of Tasmania is £1,510,000. The same comment applies to the amounts recommended by the committee for the building programmes of the universities in the larger States. At first sight that may appear to be strange. It may even appear that South Australia has been hardly done by, but when one reads further in the report the explanation is clear. I should like to read to the House a passage from the report. This appears on page 50 -
The sciences and technologies in the University of Adelaide are better housed, in terms of present needs - though some will require more space immediately - than in any other university, and the Faculty of Engineering there is the only one which can be considered to be satisfactorily housed and equipped by modern standards. Similarly, the Faculty of Agriculture . . .
That is a great tribute to the University of Adelaide, the Government of South Australia and the South Australian community as a whole. Although the support ot the South Australian Government may not always have met the full needs of the university, that government has lived up to its responsibilities better than any other State government in Australia. That the South Australian community have gone part of the way in living up to its responsibilities is indicated by the fact that Adelaide, despite its size, has the best endowed university in Australia. Above all, the position in Adelaide is due to the wise administration of the university itself. In particular the authorities there have kept firmly to a decision made many years ago, to put their money into permanent bricks and mortar. They have resisted all temptations to put up temporary buildings which become permanent - so prominent a feature of many of the other universities.
It should be realized, however, that in this concentration of bricks and mortar they have paid a price. They have deliberately chosen buildings rather than men. That is not to say that the men and women the Adelaide University has on its staff are not of a high calibre. They are. When I left that university the average was raised considerably. It is not quality which is lacking, but numbers. The result is that the ratio of staff to students is considerably lower than that in some other universities. It is not clear whether the committee, in its recommendations, or the Government in its acceptance of those recommendations, has recognized this fact. If either has not, it is patently unfair because it would be tantamount to penalizing South Australia for the virtues of its government, its community and its university administration.
In the few minutes left to me I wish to refer to the shortage of scientists and technologists. I do not think that any honorable member needs to be reminded of the urgency of making the changes which will remedy this position. The report devotes a whole chapter to pointing to the problem and suggesting remedies. We must press on with those remedies. But do not let us lose our perspective in the process. Even if we are inclined to do so, the report is not. I shall quote from what I regard as being almost the most important section of the report. It is as follows: -
It sometimes seems that while we have been advancing at a formidable speed in our knowledge of technical matters we have, if anything, been falling behind in our understanding and appreciation of human values. We can handle machines and physical nature beyond the dreams of previous generations, but we handle ourselves, our families and our fellow human beings in general no better, and perhaps less well, than our father.-; did before us. Many of the most serious problems in the world to-day are moral problems and are problems of human relationships. The need for the study of humanities is therefore greater and not less than in the past.
Let us not forget that the more we press on with realizing the essential objective of extending our output of scientists and technologists, the more the disparity between our power over the physical nature of the universe and our power over ourselves widens. The gap between the scientists, on the one hand, and what may be described as humanists and social engineers on the other, will become wider if no attempt is made to bridge it. If we do not take steps while we are training scientists, to humanize them, and, conversely, give the humanists an insight into science - if we do not bend over backwards to ensure that an opportunity is given for the humanities and the social scientists to keep pace with the physical scientists - the gap between the two will become wider.
This is not an academic question, as everybody connected with universities knows. For years a constant pressure has been put on the universities to divert their resources from the all-important humanistic and social sciences to the physical sciences such as medicine, engineering, and so on. Unless some positive step is taken to correct the situation it will grow worse; it will not get better. I hope that the Commonwealth in making this magnificent contribution to the future of our universities will, in some way, without reducing the independence of the universities or the responsibilities of State governments, ensure that this particular trend is corrected.
.- Like the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) and the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) I, too, desire to congratulate the Government on the steps it has taken in the practical implementation of the aspects of the report to which it has given attention. I think it is a very good thing that this is a great day in the political life of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), and that he does see in the action that has been taken by the Government, something of which to be proud.
The appointment of the committee of inquiry was a good thing. It had been called for for a very long time. To have a report such as this is also a good thing, but I think it is stretching the matter much too far to say that this report is brilliant and provocative. As was submitted by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes), this report is mainly a repetition of facts that have been known and repeated many times over the last seven to ten years. The action which the Government proposes to take now would have been as thoroughly justified at any time over the last seven or ten years as it is justified to-day. So, in congratulating the Government and in approving of the course of action it has taken, we should not lose sight of the fact that this kind of action has been called for very vividly and strongly for such a long time.
I was interested to hear the Prime Minister speaking of university education - and of education as a whole, for that matter - as very largely a State responsibility. I think this is rather unfortunate. Some years ago, the Prime Minister was inclined to regard education, particularly university education, as increasingly a federal responsibility. I think his emphasis upon the responsibility of the States in relation to this matter this evening is a retrograde step. I think that this becomes strikingly apparent when we realize the inadequacy of the provision for primary and secondary education which, of course, is almost exclusively a State responsibility at present. We will not get very good results by planning to increase so considerably the funds for university education if we do not make sure that we provide even greater funds for primary and secondary education.
The important thing that the Government has done has been to act so quickly on this report. But, as the honorable member for Barker pointed out, the Government, in providing an apparently great increase of £16.000,000 for the next three years over the amount for the last three years, is providing for only a minimum standard for the rising number of students which the report anticipates will number about 80,000 by 1967. More than that will be necessary if the quality of the work of the universities, in al! its aspects, for that number of students is to be improved.
No doubt, to all those who have been thinking of university problems and the provision of funds for universities, £16,000,000 seems to be an extraordinarily large figure; but to one who, for a number of years now, has been considering amounts of money of fantastic proportions in Budgets, the expenditure of £16,000,000 in three years does not seem to be so much. It is an increase of a little more than £5,000,000 a year. No doubt, this seems a great deal of money to most people and particularly to the people who have been concerned with the practical problems of universities, but when placed in the context of the figures that we deal with in Commonwealth Budgets, which go up to £1,200,000,000, it is not so great.
So I do not think that we should leave the discussion of this report with the feeling that we have made any great or revolutionary change in the situation. A great deal has been done and we are thankful for that, but we have not created an entirely new situation in Australian universities. We are providing nothing much more than is necessary to allow them to provide the existing type of facilities for the increased number of students that we anticipate will go into the universities during the next ten years.
Again, as the honorable member for Barker pointed out, it would be quite impossible to deal with more than a few aspects of this report this evening. The report repeats most of what has been agreed upon for a number of years. It has not any brilliantly new suggestions or ideas; and it has its shortcomings. It begins by discussing the functions of a university and it says that they are essentially the same as they have been for years. The first is the provision of graduates. The report points out that some kind of a change has taken place in this connexion. In the past, the provision of graduates has been seen somewhat as a reflection of the right of people to a university education if they had the ability to pay for it. Now, it says, we must adopt a much more positive attitude; we must ensure that those members of the community who have a capacity to undertake a university education should most certainly have the opportunity to do so and that this should not depend so much on their ability to pay. I think that, in some ways the capacity as it was seen in the past can be lowered.
The report considers the wastage of students. The provision of funds at the present time is not likely to take up that wastage very much. It points out, as the
Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) pointed out, the very small proportion of children from fifteen to seventeen years of age who continue at school. It mentions the very small number who continue their education until they are seventeen or eighteen years of age, compared with the number of such children in the community who have the ability to do a university course. At page 22 of the report it is stated -
In 1957, only 4.4 per cent, of the New South Wales 17-18 year old group entered the universities of that State. On the other hand, statistical evidence suggests that 16 per cent, of any age group of the Australian population have intellectual ability above the minimum generally considered necessary for success at a university.
That is to say, only about a quarter of those who have the intellectual ability necessary for success at a university get that far. Many more could easily do- so, and if they do, of course, the apparently extensive provisions that the Government is making as a result of this report will prove inadequate.
The report goes on to consider why a greater proportion of those who have the intellectual ability to do a university course do not do so. It seems to me that present here is, perhaps, the greatest deficiency of this report. It is only too apparent that the main cost of education for the individual does not consist in what happens inside the university. It mainly consists in the maintenance of the student. I believe that this is the most important of the factors that reduce the number of students who go on to a university to about one quarter of those who have the capacity to do so. The maintenance of the student, I think, is the most important barrier. Scholarships in the ordinary form are not enough unless they provide adequate living allowances. If they do that, one of the problems will have been solved, but there is no provision for any significant change in that situation in the proposed £16,000,000 increase of funds to be provided by the Commonwealth Government in the next three years. I think that the report, in dealing with this matter, is very colourless. It says, at page 28-
It is difficult to resist the conclusions that some diversion in the flow of talent is necessary, and that steps ought to be taken to present to the public, and not least to boys and girls in the schools, as true a picture as is possible of what the future holds in store for Australia.
And, I suppose, for them -
We believe that active steps to do this should be taken without avoidable delay by governments, universities, industries and schools.
Although the committee had only three months to inquire into this matter, I think that we have a right to expect to be told a litle bit more about what the Government, the schools, and the universities should do to solve this problem. I think that when the student or his parents are comparing the alternatives, on the one hand of his leaving school, taking a paid occupation, and thereby bringing money into the home, and on the other, of continuing through several more years of education, one thing that they might take into account is the kind of income that the student will get if he goes through the university. The Government proposes to allow an increase in university salaries at the professorial level of about £500 a year. We hear a great deal these days about the necessity to increase the salaries of scientists. I think it is only proper at this stage to remind the Government and the people that there has been considerable resistance towards these salary increases over the last seven or eight years. On many occasions representatives of the Public Service Board have appeared before the tribunal which has been concerned to decide these salaries, and have submitted cases against increases. Their appearances were not just formal, either. The same thing has occurred in the case of other income-fixing tribunals, as a result of the offensive taken by the Government.
There is another matter that I believe could have been dealt with a little more fully by the committee. The committee dealt with it to a limited extent when it pointed out that the great increase in interest in education, and the need for university graduates and so on, has occurred very largely as a result of the recognition of the need for the Western Powers to turn out more scientists because of the great scientific contest that is taking place in the world to-day. The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have, quite correctly, emphasized the need to be concerned with the humanitarian aspects of education and not to lose sight of them. From my own point of view, I believe, even after considering the implications of the launching of the Russian satellites, that the world to-day needs humanitarians more than it needs scientists. I would not like to see too much emphasis placed upon the purely scientific aspect. If, indeed, we can allot a greater proportion of the national resources to higher education, and to secondary and primary education, as a result of the great concern about the Russian satellite, that will be a good thing. But we still need to foster the humanitarian aspect of education, so that people may properly use the gains of science. We need to do so to-day more than ever before.
I believe that the reason for the insufficient number of students in universities was very well outlined by the Leader of the Opposition. This still seems to me the most important point that has been made by any of the speakers who have contributed to the debate. The Leader of the Opposition referred to a publication by Professor R. Freeman Butts, entitled “Assumptions Underlying Australian Education “. I believe that there was more provocation, more brilliance and more stimulation in that small book by Professor Butts than in this report by the committee. The Leader of the Opposition quoted the words of the professor, who said -
I would say that Australia needs a great educational revival and awakening of interest in education. Somehow the fires of educational enthusiasm and aspiration . . . must be kindled. A wide-spread feeling of ferment or dissatisfaction or criticism must arise.
I do not believe that the mere increase of £16,000,000 in the expenditure on university education in the next three years, important as it is, will achieve the desired result. Something more is required. Professor Butts went on to indicate one of the requirements that I believe is necessary. He said that in moving about Australia, during the time he was here, and mingling with teachers - one would expect that questions and criticisms concerning intellectual activity would be more generally heard among those people than elsewhere in the community - he found relatively little concern among inspectors or teachers to reexamine fundamentally their practices or assumptions. He said that this apparent lack of serious and sustained intellectual grappling with the most fundamental social ina ] philosophical problems of education vas a curious result of a system which put ;o much emphasis throughout upon intellecual description and scholarly knowledge.
Acquisition of information he found to be much more important than the desire to question and criticize.
– That is, in Australia?
– Yes. Professor Butts, 1 feel, had a sound view of the cause of this. I am speaking from practical experience of ten years in a university when I say that I agree with the following remarks of the professor: -
There, then, is the issue. Shall universities be centres of purely intellectual concerns or shall they point the way to social responsibility? Shall they be devotees of the “ life of the mind “ or advocates of social and public service?
There have been important questions before the Australian community during the last two or three years, such as the one concerning the great international conflict on the use of nuclear power. Only one or two of the professors of Australian universities have come out into the open and expressed opinions on these matters. There has been great activity in the political life of Australia during the last few weeks, centred on the banking legislation, but as far as I know only one university professor in this country has thought it worth while to express an opinion on that matter.
– And he is at a university college.
– That is so. The matters that I have mentioned are, I believe, symptomatic of the trouble that Professor Butts saw in this country. Those who have academic knowledge should be prepared to express their opinions, no matter which side of the argument they support. There is a deadness, an apathy, an unwillingness to criticize and ask questions in Australian academic life to-day, which will never produce any kind of educational revival or awakening in this country. In the particular field of university work in which I have had some experience there were, in the 1930’s, two professors who were at the very centre of public controversy. They were Professor Copland and Professor Giblin. Although they expressed opinions with which, on the whole, I disagreed, and which were politically opposed to mine, I was very pleased that they expressed those opinions, because their students were encouraged to examine these problems. They felt free to express opinions. They did not have to continually toe the line, or to be standardly conservative for fear that a departure from such an attitude would affect their futures when they became officers of the Department of the Treasury or took up other positions at which they were aiming. There was a freedom which I believe characterized intellectual activity at that time. But in more recent times the faculty to which 1 have been referring has become conservative, standardized and regulated. What inspiration is there to students to concern themselves with current problems when there is such a pigeon-livered attitude?
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I shall not detain the House very long, but 1 would like to say a few words on this matter because of its importance, I believe, to the whole of Australia. First, I wish to congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Government on bringing the committee’s report before the House so quickly and taking action upon it. I should like to congratulate the Prime Minister also upon the able speech that he made in connexion with the report and the manner in which he summarized it. At the same time I wish to congratulate the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) on the very constructive suggestions that he made in his speech.
I note that the right honorable gentleman regards this question of education as one that should be outside party politics. I am the chancellor of a university in New England which was inaugurated by a Minister for Education of the New South Wales Government who belonged to the Country party. He is now a member of this House. I refer to the honorable member for New England (Mr. Drummond). But no one could have worked harder for the development of that university than Mr. Heffron, the present Minister for Education in the New South Wales Government, who is a member of the Labour party. There has never been the slightest suggestion at any time that party political considerations dictated the course of action of those gentlemen. It is imperative that party political questions should be set aside when we are dealing with this subject, because the education of the people of Australia is, after public health, probably the most important problem that we have to tackle. I congratulate the Committee, two members of which are very eminent men from overseas for having so quickly grasped the real fundamentals of the Australian position. I think the report of the committee goes right to the heart of the matter, and I approve its findings. I am glad to see additional money being allocated to all universities. I realize that the report is not sufficient to form the basis of any long-term prognosis, but from my own knowledge of the development of a baby university - it is some twenty years since we saw it in embryo and now it is something more than a fairly lusty infant, and will reach its majority next year - a programme extending ten or twenty years into the future, and not two or three years as mentioned in the report, is really needed.
University buildings should be on the scale of the University of Sydney Great Hall which has been erected now for nearly one hundred years and is still regarded as one of the great monuments of architecture in Australia. University buildings should be not only efficient in their utilitarian aspect but also of noble design. Dr. Dunmore Lang pointed out many years ago that very frequently it is only governments with public money at their disposal that can erect beautiful buildings. The ordinary building erected by a private person is very seldom much more than sufficient to keep out the weather. Therefore, I would welcome the formation of a permanent commission to deal with this matter. However, I should like to see something more than that. I should like to see a CommonwealthState council of education which would review the whole problem because it cannot be discussed in isolation. Everything is tied up with the youngster who proceeds from the primary stage to the secondary school and finally to the university on the scientific side. Failure to carry out efficiently that particular part of education will lead to wastage. The chances are that a great deal of the wastage at present evident in the universities - there are so many failures to attain the proper graduate standard - is due to something that happened quite early in the piece.
I should like to see also some plan evolved which would enable us to handle the problem for a period of at least ten years and if possible, fifty years. A great deal can be said for this approach from the point of view of attracting benefactions.
Mr. H. E. Barff, who was registrar and warden of the University of Sydney for many years, told me that, not until the university had a fine building, a sense of permanency and a number of faculties did it attract benefactions. The Challis benefaction of £200,000 was received when the Great Hall was built. Many other benefactions have been received, some amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds. It has been our experience that as soon as we erected decent buildings and got people thinking of a university as a place where they could erect a permanent memorial for something they desired to commemorate, we attracted benefactions.
This problem ought to be dealt with on a long-range basis by all governments in Australia, acting together. There is no other way of dealing with this particular question, because it is not only vital to our material existence, but also essential for our spiritual existence and the development of the humanities in Australia. It is necessary also for our survival that we develop our scientists to such a degree that they can hold their own with anybody in the world. We, in Australia, have nothing to be ashamed of in that regard, because we have sent to the educational centres of the world first-class men who have held their own and, indeed, led the way in a number of wonderful discoveries.
We must make certain that we are able to attract the best possible teachers and professors to our lecture rooms, because on the standard they set up and their knowledge, capacity and character, will depend the standard of students and graduates who will pass out from that university; and that is really what will determine the future of Australia. I congratulate the Government on this extraordinary job of work it has done. I think the Prime Minister will always recognize that he has achieved something of note in bringing this committee to Australia and then making provision for this expansion. However, I should like to see this whole matter approached on a long-range basis.
– I commend the Government on the decision it has taken on the recommendation contained in the report now before the House. The proposed financial provision is on a scale which the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) described as munificent. I agree with that view. I agree also with the view he expressed and which was also expressed by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) that there is need for the Commonwealth to extend its interest and assistance into the wider fields of education, those fields leading to what we are prone to regard as the present ultimate, the university level of education.
I shall direct my remarks to those sections of the report which relate to the Canberra University College. I believe those associated with the college have, in general, welcomed the report of the Murray Committee, recognizing its very considerable contribution to the strengthening of higher education throughout Australia. As regards the recommendations of the committee directed immediately to the college itself, the financial proposals offer the belated prospect of a much-needed beginning on a building programme and sufficient contribution to running costs for a very modest development of teaching facilities over the next three years. However, what has proved a very considerable disappointment to many who have given years of service to the council and staff of the college, and to others associated with the college in other capacities, is the overvagueness of the recommendations contained in paragraphs 321 to 329 concerning the future status of the college.
In those paragraphs the committee, in effect, says, first, that the college is a mature institution which has outgrown its link with the University of Melbourne; secondly, that in its faculties of arts, commerce and law it has a staff which the committee describes as highly qualified, mature and distinguished; thirdly that the time has come for the college to be given independent control of its courses, and indeed of the whole conduct of its academic affairs; and, fourthly, that the college should have, with the least possible delay, accommodation for a science faculty and some residential accommodation for students. In other words, the committee says that the college has all the essential qualifications for a small, developing, independent university with the four faculties of arts, commerce, law and science which, in Australia and elsewhere, are regarded as the basic core of a university. With nearly 500 enrolments in the middle of this year the college had a larger number of students, as well as staff, than other Australian universities had for years after their formation.
But here, I suggest, is the rub. The committee, having spoken in that way about the college, then drew back and said that the establishment of a second university in Canberra is not to be lightly undertaken. So, the college had better seek the best terms it can get from the Australian National University and tag along as a sort of “ Sputnik “ or satellite of that institution. In other words, the committee said that the college has outgrown the tutelage of Melbourne University - one of the greatest universities in Australia, which has a notable history of graduate and undergraduate education and which has produced some brilliant scholars indeed. The committee said that the college is capable of managing its own affairs, but, for reasons of what, I suppose, could be called political expediency, it suggested that the Canberra University College should drop its subordinate position to Melbourne University only to re-assume it in relation to the Australian National University. This, I suggest, disregards both the history and the logic of the situation.
Two years ago, after prolonged and thorough examination by, and negotiation between, the councils of the Australian National University and the Canberra University College, the Australian National University deliberately and formally advised the college that it would be better for each institution to go its separate and quite different way. The college concurred in this view and applied to the Government for independent status. None of this was lightly or quickly decided. All aspects of the problem were considered, from the academic issues to questions of economy and overlapping. In the end, both institutions felt fully justified in deciding to proceed independently.
The basic reasons for those decisions are clear. The two institutions serve different publics for different purposes and in different ways. The Australian National University, on the one hand, as its name implies, is a national institution drawing on students, scientists and scholars from the whole Commonwealth and beyond. It is a post-graduate - and for the most part an advanced post-graduate - institution, training students for doctorates and carrying on fundamental research. It is a unique and altogether distinctive institution in which undergraduates and raw graduates would be quite out of place and, I suggest, destructive of its prime purpose.
The Canberra University College, on the other hand - like the University College of New England, to which the right honorable member for Cowper referred and which has recently been advanced to the status of a university - serves Canberra and adjacent southern New South Wales. It is a regional, not a national, institution in most respects. It already draws students from Yass, Goulburn and beyond those centres. With the opening of a general science faculty, now overdue, it will serve southern New South Wales much more extensively and considerably. To name just one area, the big population of scientists and technicians now in the Cooma-Snowy Mountains area want to send their children to the college. Some of the students, of course, will be enrolling next year and others will enroll as soon as the science faculty is launched. This means not merely development for the Canberra University College but relief for the greatly overcrowded laboratories of the Sydney University and the University of Technology. The Canberra University College can and should become the undergraduate university of southern New South Wales as well as of the Australian Capital Territory. If it does, it can, incidentally, save the New South Wales Government a good deal of expense. Already Commonwealth and New South Wales authorities have agreed that a proportion of New South Wales teacher trainees should and could take their degrees at Canberra, to relieve the pressure on Sydney and to enjoy the benefit of smaller classes, and then proceed to the Teachers College.
Out of the earlier negotiations between the Canberra University College and the Australian National University emerged the fact that very few economies could be effected by any sort of merger or affiliation. The common use of sports grounds would, perhaps, be one economy but that could be organized anyway, whether the college is linked to the Australian National University or simply lives next door to it. Even in the matter of libraries, it is quite clear that the design of a library for a purely research university would be very different from that for an undergraduate institution. So, in varying degrees, would be the selection of books and journals, the rules governing their use and so on. Again, in administration, over a large part of the field the work is different as between the undergraduate college and the post-graduate university. Here and there are areas where joint services and shared facilities could be managed, but that would be true of two independent institutions provided they were reasonably contiguous and their respective Registrars maintained a working liaison on purchasing, servicing and matters of that kind. In a measure, that already exists. In other words, the economies which the committee envisages in paragraph 323 from some form of affiliation can, so far as they are really practicable, be achieved also with complete independence of the college provided the sites of the two institutions adjoin. That is at present true and is quite possible for the future. In the interests of the Australian Capital Territory and of southern New South Wales, I believe the college should be granted independent status to serve this region in undergraduate and in immediate graduate education. 1 refer now to decision 14 announced by the Prime Minister to-night. That decision, in part, is -
The recommendations relating to the Canberra University College are deferred pending a decision on the special question as to the future development and association of these two bodies. The answer to this question has not been fully worked out by the committee. We propose to examine it promptly.
The Prime Minister added that it deserved to be worked out promptly and, indeed, would be worked out promptly. I have tried to point out to the House that this matter has been under discussion for years. Discussions have been held between the Canberra University College and the Australian National University. Recommendations have been made to the Government on this point, and I hope that what the Prime Minister has said will be given effect and that a decision will be reached promptly. For my part, I hope that decision will give independent status to the Canberra University College.
.- I too wish to speak only briefly to-night. We received the report too late to be able to say anything convincing about it. I congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on the decisions that have been made. They show a courage that matches the vision, faith and enterprise of the founders of Sydney University, who built such a magnificent pile of buildings, including the Great Hall, the like of which is not found anywhere else in the Southern Hemisphere. The generous way in which the Prime Minister has met the challenge put to him by the Murray Committee must win our admiration. It provides the universities, for the first time, with an adequacy of funds and with an opportunity to do much that they could not do before.
The report can be regarded as a comprehensive one, although honorable members who have read it will have noticed that the members of the committee say that, had they had more time, their report would have been even more comprehensive. Those who have followed the trend of thought on education in Australia will realize that the report reflects the opinions of the Australian members of the committee. One sees in the report the type of statement made by the Australian members in other circumstances. One can also see traces of the difficulties that the English members had in adjusting themselves to Australian conditions when they had been accuustomed to English conditions.
I invite the attention of the House to the report of the Public Accounts Committee on the Commonwealth Office of Education, which Was presented to the Parliament in September of last year. If honorable members read that report, I think they will find that it supplements the report of the Murray committee and covers matters which that committee was not able to cover. The report of the Public Accounts Committee sets out the lines of possible future action quite as clearly as, and perhaps even more clearly than, does the report of the Murray committee.
I am always preoccupied with the problem of administration, and if I have any criticism to make of the report of the Murray committee it is that it does not state clearly the methods of control to be exercised by the various people who will be affected by the decision of the Common1wealth to support higher education to a greater degree than hitherto has been the case. I think that the problem that we have to solve always in matters of this kind is how the work is to be done. I, for one,
Would never allow work in the field of government to be carried out unless I knew beforehand how it was to be done. lt is quite an easy matter to decide whether money should be given to universities, and it is also easy to decide the degree to which income tax should be increased to provide the additional money that it is proposed to give. But it is not so easy to decide how the management of the expanded activities is to be arranged. As every one knows, there is Commonwealth machinery for the management of education in the spheres in which the Commonwealth undertakes education. The field of education with which the Commonwealth mainly is concerned covers universities, the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme - which is fast dying out– -and the Commonwealth Scholarship Scheme. The two important educational bodies in the Commonwealth sphere are the Universities Commission and the Commonwealth Office of Education. I believe that any development of organization for the administration of the increased grants that the Government proposes to make will have to be done through the Commonwealth Office of Education. In my view, and I think it is also the view of the Public Accounts Committee, the Office of Education will need to be expanded and also reorganized, so that it will be capable of doing the job that will have to be done. The answer to the question, “ How is the Government going to handle the expanded activities? “ is partly to be found in the existing machinery of the Office of Education and the Universities Commission.
Australian universities have problems which are different from those of the universities in England. As honorable members know, in England each university has a longestablished organization which provides for a chancellor and a vice-chancellor to be in
Charge of its activities. We in Australia have adopted that scheme of management for our universities. We have a Senate, or a board of control, with a chancellor, a deputy-chancellor and a vice-chancellor. Usually, the vice-chancellor is a university man of some distinction and is in charge of the whole of the activities of the university.
He has a dual role to play. The vicechancellor manages the business of the university, and he also has the task of determining and preserving the academic standards of the university. Each of those tasks is enough for any ordinary man. Combined, they really require the services of extraordinary people, if they are to be done properly.
I think, therefore, that one of the things we have to do is to consider the question of the management of universities, to see whether they actually are able to use to the best advantage the funds that they receive. I doubt whether that is so at the present time. I think that preoccupation with academic matters robs a vice-chancellor of the time that he needs to deal with the management of a business that may spend more than £1,000,000 a year. The expenditure is up to £3,000,000 a year in the case of Sydney University. That is bigtime business requiring first-class managerial ability, which is not necessarily found in academic circles. It might be worth while for our universities to think about the American system, whereby the management of the University is in the hands of a president and a board. The academic staff is concerned mainly with the formulation of academic standards. We have rather shunned the idea of a businessman as the president of a university. I think the reason has been the fear that if such power were placed in the hands of business people, the academic authorities would lose some of the control of the humanitarian studies that universities exist to provide.
I put to the House the proposal that we need an investigation of the type of management that at present exists in the universities, with a view to seeing whether these additional moneys that are being provided by the Commonwealth will be used to the best advantage. As I have said, the mere handing over of vast sums of money will not necessarily solve the problem. It is not enough simply to pour in large sums of money. We must also see that the organization of the universities is capable of such development that the funds provided will be used in the best possible way.
Another matter which the Murray committee mentioned in its report, and with which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) dealt to-night, concerns the organization necessary to advise the Government on the degree of financial assistance that the universities require. There are two factors in this. First, it is necessary to have advice on how much assistance should be given by the Government, and secondly, the universities themselves need advice as to the way in which they can best use the moneys that are being provided. There has been such a lot of discussion of this matter that it is not necessary now to do more than make a short reference to the inability of the Australian Vice-chancellors’ Committee, for example, to co-ordinate the work of the various universities in dealing with the spending of public funds. Professor Partridge, who read a paper at the symposium that we had in Canberra a few years ago on “ The Australian Universities and Governments “, said -
There are a number of reasons why it seems unlikely that a body like the Vice-chancellors’ Committee could undertake the task of deciding the distribution of Commonwealth provided funds and of planning the limited sort of specialization and concentration I have been supporting. However detached and broad-minded the Vicechancellors might be, it is inevitable that they should be largely influenced by their duty to watch the interests of their own universities, and of course their primary concern will always be their relations with their own State governments.
In England, there is a University Grants Committee. It is proposed that there should be a similar committee here. The proposal is for a full-time chairman, with seven parttime members. The Murray committee is satisfied that there would be so much for the committee to do, and so much for it to learn, that its members would not be able to render sound advice to the Government immediately. The Murray committee, therefore, has proposed that the committee should be given three years in which to find its feet before advising the Government on the amount of money to be spent on university affairs.
When the Public Accounts Committee of this Parliament dealt with this matter, it suggested a different kind of university grants committee, linked with the Universities Commission and the Commonwealth Office of Education. The University Grants Committee, in the United Kingdom, has a fulltime chairman, and seventeen part-time members. It has almost complete autonomy in the distribution of government funds to the universities, and in advising the universities how those funds are to be used. Its autonomy is quite unusual in one respect:
Although the Auditor-General audits its accounts, the Public Accounts Committee of the United Kingdom Parliament is not allowed to investigate the way in which the money is distributed by the committee. That situation has caused quite a lot of comment, because the body that the Parliament has appointed to examine the expenditure of government funds is not allowed to investigate the way in which the universities expend the millions of pounds with which they are provided by the University Grants Committee. I think that we shall have to appoint a similar kind of managing authority to help the universities in Australia, but we shall have to consider very carefully whether it will be capable of dealing detachedly with the problems created by the immense expansion of university education.
I want to conclude with a reference to the Government’s decision to deal through the States in this whole scheme. As honorable members know, the Government has decided to have consultations with the States to determine the kind of controls that ought to be established, and therefore, the kind of body that the proposed university grants committee will be. I think that the proposed committee will have, to some degree, the duty of deciding whether the universities are using the funds to the best advantage. The Prime Minister said that it was proposed to adhere to the policy of leaving control of education with the States in the same way in which they have controlled it in the past. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) considered it a retrograde step for the Commonwealth to call the States into being in a new way in this field. I think that it is not a retrograde step. I agree with the Prime Minister that it is quite impossible for education throughout Australia to be directed by one authority, completely excluding the States from any share in the control of education. The States ought to retain unimpaired their responsibility for education, and particularly for secondary education. The Commonwealth is not doing, through Commonwealth scholarships and the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme, everything that is required in the field of secondary education, and, in the field of tertiary education, the States should be entirely responsible, and should merely receive grants from the Commonwealth, which should not take a major part in the field of education.
I think that one of the problems to be considered is whether, by the provision of these large funds for the various universities, we shall not achieve just what we hope we shall not achieve - a uniform system with a dull equality of methods throughout Australia. If every university has the same level of income compared to the number of its students, there will be a tendency for all the universities to pay salaries at the same level, and to teach exactly the same subjects in exactly the same way. I should regard that as disastrous. I should want as much diversity as possible, and as great a variety as possible in research. We should eschew completely anything that tends to break down the very nature of tertiary education, with its many diversities, and bring everything to a level of dull uniformity.
.- In the report that the House is discussing, the Committee on Australian Universities makes an important statement about the purpose of a university, and, I think, puts into proper perspective the question of the development of the science faculties, and of the faculties that deal with human problems. At paragraph 12, at page 11. the report states -
Scholars and scientists who spend their lives in the search for knowledge should, at least in their own spheres of inquiry, be proof against the waves of emotion and prejudice which make the ordinary man, and public opinion, subject from time to time to illusion and self-deceit. There are obviously many spheres in which the scientist can keep us from self-deluding error - in the attempted final conquest of the air, for instance, or in matters of national defence; and there are also fields of at least as great importance, ultimately indeed of more importance because they more closely affect the life of the mind and spirit, where the historian, the lawyer or the economist, to mention only a few of the other spheres of academic scholarship, must join with the scientist to make us less hypnotized by what is ephemeral and temporary and more sensitive to the fundamental laws which govern human destiny. The preservation of human integrity in facing truth and the demands of justice is the most exacting task which a nation can impose upon itself.
I think that it is important to remember that many tyrannical regimes have fostered science, but no tyrannical regimes have fostered those faculties of universities that deal with human affairs, sociology, and those fields of thought where criticism of tyranny is likely to emerge. Reports that I, in common with other members of the Council of the Australian National University, have from time to time seen, leave us in no doubt whatever about the high privileges extended, for instance, to scientists in Russia by the Soviet regime. We have also much evidence - more common, perhaps, during the period of Stalin’s control than to-day - of interference with all other forms of scholarship - economics, anthropology, and anything that may lead to criticism of the regime. In point of fact, in the field of genetics, at the time when Lysenko’s alleged science was made official in the Soviet Union, there was even an interference with sciences. One has only to read the book, “ Doctors of Infamy “, to realize that, similarly in Nazi Germany, science without conscience had developed. It was wholly disastrous, and it is intersting to note that it ultimately became completely unscientific. I hope that, in the great expansion of university education that is taking place, the Government will see to it that we do not become utterly uncritical about science, and that, in the field of science itself, emphasis is placed on pure science as well as on applied science.
A kind of Philistinism is developing in this matter. T think that it is enshrined in the name of the New South Wales University of Technology, in Sydney. There is no such thing as a “ university of technology “. The term is a complete misnomer. The word “ university “ implies all studies. “ Technology “ implies technological studies. It is impossible to have a university of technology. We can have an institute of technology, but, even there, there is a kind of emphasis in favour of the applied sciences and engineering. The Murray report gives us a valuable corrective on that point. I shall not read all that it says about it. At paragraph 10, at page 10, it states -
The academic scientists go on for years, some in a big, some in a small way, to use their techniques and record their discoveries in the learned journals for the information and benefit of one another; and side by side with, but normally separate from, this steady accumulation of the bits and pieces of knowledge there also goes on the work of the inventors and “ development “ experts, which turns the new knowledge to practical account. Without the work of the academics the whole great process would lose its foundation and support. Every nation wants to enable its scientists to contribute a fair share to the total stock of human knowledge; and if there were any weakening in this high motive, no nation to-day dares on grounds of national defence alone to fall entirely behind or to be without its own good number of highly qualified men of science of the academic or university type. Apart from any desire for the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, university research is recognized as indispensable to the welfare of the nation.
I wish I could feel assured that we were holding that aim steadily before us. I feel that we should not have a new valuation for education simply on our consciousness of the fact that to put a Sputnik into space required a rocket which could have intercontinental ballistic properties, and on our realization that we are falling behind in scientific advances and that therefore we must, virtually as a part of the defence vote, devote large sums of money to the training of scientists. If that becomes our motive in. education, our education will be perverted at its root. As Nazi science became unscientific because it was without conscience, so I think any education which is entirely geared to defence science would become ultimately a menace to any effective defence.
At page 27 of this report there is another important paragraph - paragraph 75 - in which statements concerning the scope of education are made. The paragraph reads -
What is not recognized is that this requires not a small number of very clever people, but a very large number indeed of very highly educated men and women, and that nothing short of this will do.
There has been a good deal of comment in this report on the very high failure rate among university students, and I think it is time we took another look at the whole of our structure of education in relation to that. I think we have two conceptions of universities in the western world. The British conception is of a university of high academic quality, and the emphasis is on a highly intellectual education. In the United States there are universities of two kinds. There is a kind of college university whose first year might be the equivalent of the leaving year, or even the sub-leaving year in high school, in this country, and which gives a university education which one might say was, in its final form, up to first and second year university standards here. Then there are a number of universities of a much higher standard than that.
I am not certain whether the American idea is not better for a country like Australia than is the British one - in other words, whether we could not have more universities, some of them not necessarily of the very highest standard, with facilities for going on to a very high standard of postgraduate work, but giving a broad general education to more people. At least such a system has done one thing in the United States, and this is a very marked contrast between the United States and this country. In the United States large numbers of people are interested in universities. The American businessman who has been to a university contributes very heavily to universities and university research. One of the things which is rather a tragedy for the Australian universities is the almost total ingratitude of their students. Very many of them who have graduated and are doing very well in the community as the result of their university training, have no further interest in assisting, financially or in any other way, the universities which gave them that training. It is remarkable - and I think this is something that ought to exercise the minds of our university authorities - how very little loyalty or gratitude universities seem to evoke from those who have benefited a great deal from university education.
At paragraph 79 the report also warns us, as the Leader of the Opposition did, of the extent to which there is wastage of talent in Australia. I think it is a tragedy in Western Australia, my own State, to-day, to see the deterioration of education at the secondary school level. This report talks about overcrowded first-year classes at the universities. It is a desirable thing - and it used to be a feature when I was at high school - that a high school like Perth Modern School should have about 500 students. Such a school could truly be a school. To-day, in high schools that are practically newly opened, there are 2,000 or 3,000 students. The headmaster does not know all his staff. He has 70, 80, 90 or 100 members on his staff, and the school is a great barracks. The classes are such that nobody can be educated in them. They can only be dragooned. The schools, because of the great numbers, lack a corporate spirit, and become almost soulless barracks.
I think it is equally true, although the people who wrote this report did not actually make the point very strongly themselves, that the enrolments they are demonstrating and prognosticating in the universities seem to be completely tragic. In table 9 in paragraph 298 at page 82 of the report we see that the University of Sydney has 8,318 students and that it is expected shortly to have 17,000. The University of Technology in New South Wales has 5,000 students and expects to have 10,000 soon. The University of Melbourne has 7,000 students and expects to have 14,400 soon. I thing it is entirely undesirable to have universities with such large student numbers. It would be much better for the community if we could multiply the number of universities rather than have one university with several times the optimum number of students. The University of Sydney, with 8,318 students, is already too big, and it is quite tragic if we are going to accept the enlargement of it. That is why I feel that this report is wrong in one respect in speaking of the Canberra University College. It seems to eliminate the possibility of the establishment of a university in Canberra.
I think that southern New South Wales and northern Victoria could’ easily do with a university located here - a full university, the University of Canberra. I do not agree that the Canberra University College should be attached to the Australian National University. I think the conception of retaining a research university is very important. The staff of the Canberra University College is active in trying to promote the affiliation of the college with the Australian National University, and on that campaign I should like to make this observation: If that union were to be made, I do not believe that the existing staff of the Canberra University College would necessarily be the staff of a university college attached to the Australian National University. We have been endeavouring to recruit staff for the Australian National University throughout the British Commonwealth of Nations and, indeed, all around the world, and I hope that even if the Government were to give the university an under-graduate wing, we would continue to recruit staff in that way. I do not think that a staff that happens to be in a locality where an Australian National University is later developed has a vested interest and a vested right in being the staff that would be employed at the Australian National University. The two institutions were separately created with quite a separate vision in mind. It is no reflection on the staff of the Canberra University College to say that if we were to add an undergraduate wing to the Australian National University, there would be no vested right in the present staff of the Canberra University College to be the staff of the wing.
The Leader of the Opposition made a point which he did not develop but which is very true. He pointed out how different people develop at different ages. We must be careful to preserve an educational structure which gives opportunities to as many people as possible. The child who obtains a scholarship is not necessarily the child who will get an exhibition to the university. The exhibitioner is not necessarily the person who will become the brilliant university graduate; and the brilliant university graduate is not necessarily the person who ultimately makes great contributions to research. The point made by the Leader of the Opposition that different people seem to develop at different stages of their lives is valid. The maintenance of as open an educational system as possible, giving opportunities to as many as possible, leads to the best results in the community.
In paragraph 119 of its report, dealing with the size of classes, the committee states -
From the school class of 30 to 40 he now finds himself in what appears to be a not very different class of 250 to 600.
If that is actually a description of our firstyear classes at universities in this country, I can imagine nothing more tragic, because it does not lead to the tutorial work, which is the vital work of the university. The report continues -
He may not be sure of the lecturer’s name, nor is his likely to be known to the lecturer except on a class roll. His difficulty is the greater if the lecturer turns out to be one of those whose main quality is brilliance in a chosen subject and who has no gift for or training in exposition. The student may even be troubled by what is a very real merit in a university lecturer, namely, the desire to give a statement of basic principles or the elucidation of difficult concepts rather than the repetition of matter already admirably presented in text-books.
I know that at the university I attended we used to say that the lecture was the process whereby the notes of the lecturer became the notes of the student without passing through the brain of either. If we are to have from 250 to 600 people hearing these lectures, I am sure that definition of a university lecture can be the only one possible.
The Government’s conception in accepting this report and its tremendous financial obligations holus-bolus is a bold one and a wise one, and I think it will present the universities of Australia and their staffs with their first real challenge. If they can no longer constantly attribute, as they have in the past, their difficulties to the fact that they have lacked finance, with the Commonwealth now granting this finance the universities will have to show that they contain the men of vision that this nation requires, men who will be an inspiration to their students, as were men such as Professor Murdoch and a number of others 20 or 30 years ago. If the universities are presented with this financial assistance by the Commonwealth, they will have to face up squarely to the challenge as to whether they are worthy of the leadership which the community is giving them.
Mention has been made in this report of the lack of libraries. Among the places to get libraries, the Australian National University has been mentioned. I am interested in that institution obtaining a library, but I think that the Government recognizes that the establishment of a national library in the Australian Capital Territory would serve both the university and the community, and at this stage it is rather a luxury to envisage erecting a great university library and a national library as two separate institutions.
– The House can congratulate both the Government on the initiation of these proposals and itself on the way they have been received, because the debate that has followed them has been both constructive and reasonable. The Government has taken the initiative in this matter, but it has gone further and it has translated that initiative into action. By this grant of an extra £16,000,000 or £17,000,000 over three years, it will do something to redress the deficiencies in our university set-up, deficiencies that are perhaps a modern product, because our universities have not kept pace with the development of the country.
I hope that the Government, in allocating this money, will not want to control too exactly the way in which it is spent. It is the function of the Parliament to arrange for the payment; it is the function of the Parliament to debate how that payment should be used, to give advice; but it is not the function of the Parliament to instruct or direct too exactly how a university should spend the resources made available to it by the community. Too much paternalism is surely out of place in this matter. I hope that the universities will be given freedom of discretion as to how they apply the funds that will be made available to them under this proposal.
Nor is it only the Government that should be wary of providing too exact a direction to the universities. Let the universities themselves beware of that. We should recall the way in which the school of ancient Athens degenerated into the school of ancient Alexandria - too much paternalism; too much direction. We do not want that kind of thing - the difference between the Hellenic and the Hellenistic - to affect our thinking and our universities. In universities there should be a certain amount of disorder associated necessarily with the processes of growth. There should not be too much codification, too much freezing of the syllabus, of discipline. Over the short term, and looking only at the short term, one obtains the best results by a strict and ferocious discipline; but such a process is self-stultifying and selfdestroying. Over the longer term more freedom must be given, because it is only from that freedom that long-term results can be achieved. One of the puzzles of human history is how we can prevent those who want to cash in on the short-term from destroying both their own long-term prospects and also the long-term prospects of those whom they may surpass by exploiting the advantages of the short term. Let us beware then of too much direction, whether it be from this Parliament or from any commission that may be set up in the future as a result of this Parliament’s action.
I agree with the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) that it is unwise for universities to be too large. The committee has suggested, in a tentative fashion it is true, an upper limit of 12,000. That seems to me in itself too high a figure, and I would agree that it would be better to have a large number of smaller universities than a small number of these mammoth institutions. In this regard one must preserve some balance. One does not want a very large number of universities each too small to be giving effectively the training that comes from a concentration of numbers. If I were to suggest 6,000 or 7,000 students as the optimum figure to aim at, I would do so only very tentatively, because the figure must depend on the nature of the university, the degree to which it is residential, the degree to which it is split up into colleges and other factors of that nature. As a kind of rough mark, I would think of that figure as the optimum figure, realizing that there might have to be a substantial variation either way.
One of the defects of our Australian university system is that so far our universities have failed to attract adequate endowments and bequests. I hope that this measure will encourage, rather than deter, private benefactors to make bequests, which, falling freely into a university’s hands and having, one would hope, not too many strings attached to them, could be used by developing universities in a way which might be a little freer than that available in the case of an annual government grant.
It was said earlier in the debate - I think rightly so - by honorable members on both sides of the House that this university problem is only a part of the general problem of our educational system, and the defects and deficiencies of that system as it exists to-day. No doubt the financial relationships between the Commonwealth and the States, and the way in which the States conduct their budgetary affairs - we can argue about efficiency and inefficiency - are at the root of this problem, but I think that this is not a proper or appropriate time to debate that larger subject.
I do, however, wish to direct the attention of the House to the fact that children cannot wait. They grow up. Their ages set for them a time-table. They are only young once. They are only in the educational zone once as they pass through it. It is not much comfort for a parent to be told that his child cannot have the education that he should have, due to the inefficiency of a State government, however true that might be, or due to the defects of Commonwealth and State relationships, however true that might be. But let the Government be congratulated for having taken the first serious and really constructive step towards a solution of this problem. It has at least cut off one corner of the problem and, by doing so, has made the remainder smaller and, therefore, more tractable.
Of all the capital that we have in Australia or elsewhere - this is a general proposition - it is human capital that is of the greatest significance, the greatest value and the greatest importance. The physical apparatus - factories, houses, public works or whatever they may be - that we construct is, after all, only a framework for the men and women who constitute the real value and worth of the community. Something has been said to-night about the relationship between technical and humanist education. Here again, we meet the problem of the short and the long term. The country which pushes forward its science and technology fastest is likely to gain an advantage in the race for power and domination, but in so doing it destroys or lessens, at any rate impairs, the chances of the human race as a whole to make lasting and significant progress. We can only hope that the short-term considerations will not finally vanquish the long-term considerations, because if they do humanity will have a lesser chance of survival and a lesser chance of pushing forward to the things which now lie before it.
There must be a synoptic approach, a humanist approach, to the problems which lie in front of us, because, as was said by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) earlier in the debate, whereas our technology has gone forward with immense strides in the last hundred years, we have not advanced - perhaps we have gone back - in the science of the moral relationships of man to man, the relationships whereby men live, and for lack of which men might well die. In the past, of course, there was not this division between technology and the arts. The sciences were so small that the human mind could comprehend them all and, therefore, take a humanist view of the whole body of human knowledge altogether. It is no longer possible that an Aristotle could arise who would be, not merely the philosopher of his age, but also the scientist of his age. The body of human knowledge has proliferated into so many branches that no one man could possibly absorb them all. On the scientific side, specialization is, unfortunately, inevitable. What we must do, surely, is to end the scandal of the divorce of science and administration, as we see in its broadest sense in this Parliament and the parliaments of other countries. It is certainly impossible for one scientist to cover the whole field of the sciences. But is it impossible for those who have the direction and administration of human affairs to have an overall knowledge of scientific progress, so that they can estimate correctly the impact of new scientific developments and estimate correctly the opportunities which lie in front of us? There is this scandal of the divorce of science and administration. It must be ended.
Furthermore, is it possible for us to make better use of our existing scientists? This is something which I hope to have an opportunity to bring before the House at some future time. I will speak of it now only in outline, hoping to speak of it in detail later on. Would it not be possible to have here in Canberra, or somewhere else in Australia, a kind of scientific clearing house which could co-ordinate knowledge, particularly knowledge of the new techniques which are coming into existence here and overseas, and so help our scientists to make better use of them? If we were to do that, it would add to the prestige of Australian scientists. We have no reason to be ashamed of our scientists. Individually, we have produced more than our quota of very brilliant men. Unfortunately, many of them have had to go abroad to find their full opportunity. If we could keep here in Australia some kind of scientific clearing house of this character we might be adding significantly to the prestige of Australian science as a whole.
I will not detain the House longer. I should have liked to speak on this subject at much greater length, but I end as I began by congratulating the Government on the initiation of this forward, very constructive, far-reaching proposal.
. -It is unfortunate, in a way, that this evening the only honorable members who have spoken on this matter have been those who, themselves, in one way or another have been associated with universities.
– Surely the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory will not take that in silence.
– I forgot the local content. He has a special case to plead. It seemed that we were in danger, perhaps, of exaggerating this problem in relation to a lot of other problems underneath it; but, as was brought out by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and my colleague, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), a close reading of this report reveals that the problem arises as part of the problem of Commonwealth and State financial relationships as they exist at the moment. It indicates a kind of marginal starvation in the Australian community because the States have not the financial resources to develop according to the new needs of the times. Merely to think that universities should be identified with the present shortages of scientists and technicians is, in my opinion, to take a very short-sighted view indeed of the problems that face this community. Taking the members of this Parliament as a crosssection, I do not think it could be said that those members who have gone to universities have contributed any more - perhaps no less - to the welfare of this nation than have those who have not had the opportunity to do so. It is true, as again the statistics in this report indicate, that quite a number of people, if they had had the economic opportunity to go to a university would have done as well as, and possibly better than many of those who were fortunate or privileged enough to do so.
Just as the influence of a university reaches out into the community, so also do the needs of the community flow back into the purposes of the university itself. I happen to be associated with a movement in Victoria, a State-financed organization, which faces exactly the same kind of problem as we are facing to-night. I refer to adult education in a very broad sense - not just the education of a few fortunate adolescents and adults in universities. There, not for the want of a few million pounds, as has been talked about here to-night, but for the want of a few hundred pounds, that movement is being stultified at its roots. I know that a similar situation exists in each State. I should hope that the example that is given in this report of an impartial and expert inquiry into the shortcomings of our university education may induce the Government to give a lead in other fields of which adult education is only one. One can think of other things such as libraries and many matters provision for which still, constitutionally, fall within the province of the States, but the States are being starved just as much as the universities are.
The problem of the universities cannot be considered in isolation. It is necessary to go back to the problem of secondary education and even to the field of primary and kindergarten education. But this problem has been considered in isolation, and in that respect it has been fortunate. It has been investigated by a committee well versed to undertake the inquiry and, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has indicated to-night, the Commonwealth has taken the lead and is prepared to go some way, at any rate, in meeting the financial deficiencies involved. I should hope that the Commonwealth will take the same generous and tolerant attitude towards some of the other financial problems confronting the States. We are grateful that something is being done in this particular direction, but there is a great need for more to be done in other directions.
The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) referred to what he called the fear of paternalism growing so far as the universities are concerned. I am not quite sure whether he meant by that that those who provide the finance might want to control the machinery or direct the ways in which that finance is used and perhaps seek to pattern the development of the various universities. I hope that day is a long way off. That will be one of the problems that will face the new grants commission that is envisaged. Will the commission work on the basis of an overall block grant which it will then apportion among the various universities, leaving it to each of them in its own way to determine how its share shall be apportioned among its various activities?
I cannot entirely agree with my colleague who said that universities of technology are badly named. I think that such naming at least recognizes the fact that in the past the term “ university “ may have been too narrowly construed. Whether such institutions should be called universities or not, I do not know. It seems to me that it is only an attempt to segregate particular faculties in one institution and to shear them off from the universities. Whether that is good or bad I do not know; but we should recognize at least that in every State at the moment there is probably as much need for greater endowment of technical education, as it is broadly understood, as there is for greater financial assistance to the universities. The two claims should not compete one with the other, but should be recognized separately and met separately.
For quite a number of years now there has been talk in Victoria of establishing a new organization which will be known as a university of technology, but at the same time as we are talking about establishing a new university of technology, our existing university has indicated a shortage of funds to finance the various functions that it is called upon to perform for the day and generation in which we live.
This report should be an indication of the diversity of problems that exist in Australia at the moment and also of the fact that if these problems are to be met there must be greater co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth in partnership. Whatever views we may have ultimately about federalism or unified States, we must recognize that, for some years to come at any. rate, there will be the separate States with important constitutional functions devolving upon them. But they are not endowed to-day with financial resources to discharge those responsibilities. For the betterment of this Commonwealth there must be more systematic examination of this kind, and the Commonwealth must come into the matter so far as finances are concerned. The honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) like myself, has had experience in State Parliaments and will probably agree with me that the real evil to-day is an unsympathetic attitude on the part of the Commonwealth to the real needs of the States. Here is a need that is being faced, and I hope that it will be the pattern for the Commonwealth attitude to our national welfare in years to come.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Royal Australian Navy - Imports from Japan - Censorship- - Laying of Wreaths at Australian War Memorial - Diplomatic Relationships.
Motion (by Mr. Osborne) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Earlier to-day, I asked the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Davidson) a question without notice, and he claimed that the basis upon which I had asked it was inaccurate. I endeavoured, in the course of a personal explanation, to demonstrate that my questions, and the allegations contained in them, were based on a reply furnished by the Minister himself. I am sure that everyone who is worried about the cost of government and administration must be disturbed and alarmed at the situation which exists in this department and others. The Department of the Navy will serve as an illustration of what is going on elsewhere. 1 asked the Minister the number of Royal Australian Navy ships in commission; the number of sea-going personnel, showing officers and ratings separately; the number of persons employed at the Navy Office, Melbourne, showing naval and civilian personnel separately; and the total number, showing naval personnel and civilians separately, employed at naval shore establishments. It appears that in the year 1937-38 there were in commission eleven ships of over 500 tons, and in the year 1957 there are twenty, an increase of 45 per cent. In 1937-38 there were 202 sea-going officers and 2,777 ratings. Those figures have since been increased to 321 and 4,175 respectively.
I especially direct the attention of the House to the enormous increase in the numbers of shore personnel. In 1937-38 naval personnel employed in shore establishments, other than at the head office of this department - the Navy Office in Melbourne - numbered 53, and civilians 142. Those figures have now been increased to 185 and 1,139 respectively. In 1937-38 there were in the Navy Office 1,316 naval personnel. That number has since been increased to 7,269. The number of civilians which in 1937-38 was 1,058, has since been increased to 7,159.
Any one who cares to work out the percentages will discover that the number of ships in commission has increased by 51 per cent., but the number of personnel engaged in shore establishments, other than at the Navy Office, Melbourne, has been increased by 508 per cent. The number of naval personnel at the Navy Office has been increased by no less than 579 per cent. Those figures show an enormous increase in the administrative element of the Department of the Navy. It warrants close examination by the Government with a view to the effecting of economies. 1 do not claim to have any great experience of service departments, but it seems to me that most of the activity of the Navy takes place on land. I have already placed on the notice-paper a question seeking details of the sea-going service of various units of the Royal Australian Navy. 1 believe that this information, when available, will further substantiate my point that Australian naval units spend more time in the harbours of the main cities than at sea. It seems to me that this great administrative structure on land should have been drastically curtailed.
Earlier to-day, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) claimed that the importation of Japanese goods was not having a serious effect on employment in Australia. Sunshine Porcelain Potteries Proprietary Limited is an all-Australian company which was established in Victoria 40 years ago. At the outbreak of the second world war it had 300 employees, and 98 per cent, of its production was utilized for war purposes. It performed a very useful and important service during the war, when imports were not available. According to the management, competition from Japanese goods during the last twelve months has been so great that the firm now employs only 93 persons. Therefore, 217 Australians have already lost their jobs as a result of Japanese imports in the last twelve months. According to the management, more men are threatened with dismissal, and unless some relief is forthcoming the industry may have to close down completely. Those concerned merely ask the Government to ensure that they shall have 25 per cent, of the available market so that the concern may maintain production. The management says that, despite the fact that the materials are all manufactured in Australia the company cannot possibly compete against the Japanese product, made in Japanese factories under conditions with which we all are familiar. The workers of Japan do not enjoy the wages and industrial conditions that operate in this country. According to the Minister, the plight of this company will probably be put to the advisory committee, but the committee must investigate the matter and then report to the Minister.
The Minister will undoubtedly hold the report for a considerable time before dealing with it, and by the time a recommendation is made to Cabinet and the recommendation of the advisory body becomes effective, the firm will undoubtedly have been forced to close down. The fact that unfair competition from Japanese imports is having a serious effect on this industry at least is quite evident.
In the few moments that remain, I want to direct my attention to a matter of censorship. The censorship to which I refer has been imposed, not by any government, but by the newspaper proprietors themselves. We are always talking about the liberty of the subject, and the liberty of the press to publish what it wishes. What I want to know is whether the press in this country has any special licence to suppress any information that it regards as being to its disadvantage or as opposed to its policy. When I asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) a question the other day on a matter that he regarded as being of sufficient importance to warrant further investigation, his reply seemed to indicate that he was in sympathy with the attempt that was being made to stop the publication and the circulation of salacious, sexy journals by these so-called respectable newspaper organizations.
One of these papers, known as “ Crowd “ is published by the organization that produces the “ Sydney Morning Herald “. The other, “ Weekend “, is produced by the organization which publishes the “ Daily Telegraph “ and the “ Sunday Telegraph “. Time will not permit me to give very much detail, but I shall quote some of the headings to indicate the type of tripey stuff that is being dished out to the youth of this country. One “ Weekend “ heading was -
My love affair with Liz.
– Order. - The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has repeated to-night some statements and comparisons which he made this morning at question time - statements and comparisons in which he tried to create the impression that there is in the Navy an overstaffing of shore establishments at the expense of sea-going personnel. I stated briefly in my reply that I would be prepared to look at his statements and show him where they were incorrect. I also pointed out that it was very easy to give to figures a meaning that was not properly attributable to them. I am glad of this brief opportunity to explain exactly what I meant and to show where the inferences that he drew from the figures and the percentage that he had worked out were incorrect.
The honorable member cited the comparative strength in the various branches of the Navy in 1937-38 and in May of this year. From those figures he worked out certain percentage increases in the various branches of the service between those two periods. For instance, he cited the percentage increase in the number of ships, sea-going personnel, shore personnel including civilians, and the personnel at the Navy office. He invited the House to consider the variation in those increases which ranged from 50 per cent, to about 500 per cent, and he implied that there had been an inordinate increase in shore based personnel which, he claimed, must have been at the expense of the effective operation of the Navy in its main role of manning our ships.
I put it to the House as a fair proposition that to make such an implication from a comparison of the percentage increases which he cited was entirely unjustified for the simple reason that no account whatsoever was taken of a number of factors which have an important bearing on the manning of our various branches. That is the reason for my statement that it is very easy to give the wrong impression of a position simply by using bare figures. I have already pointed out that the figures that the honorable member used were compiled at May last. There have been considerable changes in the manning position since then in some branches. But I do not rely only on that fact for my reply.
If the honorable member is really desirous of finding out the reason for the variation in the percentage increases, I am very glad to have the opportunity of giving him this reply because it will save me the trouble of writing him a letter later on. The comparison that he made was between the pre-war situation of 1937-38 and the present time. Every one knows that in the intervening period, with a war and a great deal of development in technical science “since the war, there has been a radical change in the equipment and type of ships in the Navy and in the role of the Navy. That change is reflected in the strength of the various branches which constitute the Navy.
The Navy, as most people know, has been equipping for some time with the latest radar and electronic equipment, developed overseas and in Australia, for the detection of air and submarine attack. We have, for instance, the Daring class ships. One of them is in commission at present and two will be commissioned shortly. We have the anti-submarine frigates which have been converted recently. We have the “ Q “ class destroyers - all with the latest equipment which make them some of the latest and most efficient ships in the world’s navies. This development of the latest equipment in our ships, which is essential for our protection, demands greatly increased technical training of all those who constitute the Navy. That increased training is producing ratings and officers with technical skill, in many cases, far in excess of the skill obtained in civilian occupations, and it is essential for the successful operation of our ships. Incidentally, it is very valuable to the members of the service themselves.
In order to carry out that training it has been necessary to increase the shore establishments in many of our branches. I shall briefly mention several branches so that it will be seen how these increases occur and how essential they are. The shore establishment of Watson was established only in 1940, whereas the figures given by the honorable member for East Sydney were for the period which commenced in 1937-38. Watson was established in 1940 in a small way and has been built up since as a radar school. Lately, the torpedo and anti-submarine school has been transferred there, with the result that it has a shore establishment of about 350 which was not included in the 1937-38 figures on which the honorable member for East Sydney based his comparison.
When the Navy purchased its two aircraft carriers and developed the Fleet Air Arm it became essential that there should be an operational shore-air station at Nowra for the training of pilots, mechanics, observers and all of those who go to make up our Fleet Air Arm. At Albatross, this new station which has existed only since: 1948, there is a strength of about 1,200. This figure was not taken into account in the comparison made by the honorable member for East Sydney. Yet it will be agreed that this is an establishment which is absolutely essential to the carrying out of the Navy’s present function. For the purpose of trying to improve enlistment, the Navy developed a six-year instead of a twelve-year period of service. That has meant increased numbers of ratings to be trained and an increase in training establishments throughout Australia.
The honorable member for East Sydney referred also to an increase of 500 per cent, in the number of civilians employed between 1937-38 and now. In that period we took over the Williamstown dockyard, ft was acquired in 1942. There are now 900 men on Navy strength there. Again, that figure was not included in the honorable members computations. In the prewar period there were about 1,000 men at Garden Island. Now there are 2,400 - another increase of 1,400. Does the honorable member say that that increase is not justified, taking into account the fact that we are now involved in a large shipbuilding programme which is providing us with vessels and employing a great number of Australian workers? We put up a torpedo factory at the request of the Admiralty in 1944. Again, the relevant figure was not included in those cited by the honorable member for East Sydney. There are 162’ men there.
We are increasingly using civilians in our shore establishments in tasks which do not require naval training. We are constantly taking men who have been trained in the Navy out of jobs in shore establishmentswhich do not require such training, in order to make as effective as possible all those whom we train for the Navy. As I mentioned in reply to the honorable member’s question, a survey is proceeding throughout the shore establishments in Australia and in the Territories to see that no trained man is used in a shore establishment who is not essential to enable that establishment to> carry out its peace-time role and retain itscapacity to be extended rapidly should war come. The numbers by which the shore establishments will be reduced by the surveyare not at present available to me.
I have spoken rapidly in order to give a lot of information in reply to the honorable member. I submit that the facts that I have given show the fallacy of citing figures and basing percentages on them without taking all relevant factors into account. They also show that the Navy is not building up a top-heavy shore establishment at the expense of its sea-going personnel. They show that the Navy is doing its utmost to keep abreast of the latest developments in equipment and that it is carrying out the training necessary to give it the capacity to make use of the latest equipment, and that at the same time it is keeping its shore establishments to the absolute minimum.
– I apologize to the House for detaining it at this late hour, but I do want to make my position quite clear in regard to something which I consider to be of great international importance. During the last two days, two questions have been asked of the Government concerning the laying of a wreath at the Australian War Memorial by the Japanese Prime Minister during his visit to Australia.
Our Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in his reply this morning showed, I believe, a breadth of vision and a depth of understanding of both international and human relationships. He displayed wise statesmanship, which is to be highly commended. Had it not been for the publication of a letter of protest by the Council of the 8th Division in some of to-day’s press, there would have been no necessity for me to say anything, but as a member of the 8th Division - as an individual of that division - I wish to make my position and my feelings on this matter quite clear.
Unfortunately, that letter has focussed the fierce glare of the public searchlight on this particular item in the programme of the Japanese Prime Minister. We all know that international problems are rarely simple, and this one is far from simple; it is complicated. I, and I think every other member who was fortunate enough to return are proud to be members of the Australian Imperial Force (Malaya). Whatever we did or did not do, we were one of a band who saved just sufficient time for this country to get reinforcements from its allies in order to prevent it from being overrun. It may be that if we had saved more time, the 7th Division would never have got back to Australia. We might have been lucky.
As a member of the Australian Imperial Force (Malaya), I sincerely sympathize with, and fully understand the feelings and emotions of those who penned that letter. Nevertheless, Mr. Speaker, I would have been happier if it had never been written. If we searched into our own hearts, would we not ask ourselves the questions: Who are we to pre-suppose and pre-judge such an action as the laying of a wreath as something that is either hypocritical or insulting? Who are we to refuse to accept as an apology this act of the Japanese Prime Minister and also probably as evidence of a fervent desire that in the future our two nations may live in amity and peace?
In the Boer War, if we remember our history - and it was in my lifetime - 25,000 women and children died in our concentration camps. We are not proud of that fact. We have endeavoured to atone for it and we have not been spurned. We sincerely hope that the hatred that that engendered in the hearts of thousands of Afrikaans-speaking people will not be maintained. Japan has apologized to the Philippines and other countries. In this day and age, is there any difference between east and west? When the German Minister for Foreign Affairs visited Australia on 18th March this year, he laid a wreath at the Australian War Memorial. I do not need to draw any comparison. Therefore, we are faced with a problem in which we must not allow, even though one can sympathize and feel as other members of this House can feel, our emotions to overcome our better judgment. It may be that a Sydney commentator, or columnist, was right when he said -
Hatred may be a necessity in war, but in peace it is a disease.
It is a disease, Mr. Speaker, and a disease that most virulently attacks those who provide it with food and shelter.
There have been no voices of protest in this House about the visit of the parliamentary delegates to Japan; I hope there will not be. I congratulate the Prime Minister on being, I think, the first Prime Minister of the Commonwealth to visit Japan, and I know what he experienced, because I was there two years earlier. When those members stand on a rising eminence in Tokyo, as no doubt they will, and look around the city and realize that two-thirds of it was razed by fire and bombs - in one night alone there were 77,000 deaths - and that every city down as far as Osaka on the Inland Sea was similarly treated, they will not be able to help feeling that at least the Japanese have paid once, if not twice, for some of the tragic events that we remember only too well.
Therefore, I make this plea: Difficult as it may be, perhaps we ought to remember that we are a Christian community - every sitting day in this chamber we say the Lord’s Prayer - and we might be hypocritical if we take the wrong outlook with regard to this particular item in the programme of the Japanese Prime Minister.
– What about Pearl Harbour? That is how much you can trust them.
– In war, a lot of things happen, and those of us who have been in one war did not want another; those of us who were in two wars understand, I think, the difficulties that confront every individual at those times. All I say is, that hatred merely breeds and feeds upon itself and that, as I have said before in this House, trust, I know, takes a long time to be developed. After all, the unspeakable Turk of the first war was not so long ago invited to our Anzac ceremony. In this day and age of swiftly moving and rapidly changing events, might we not try to telescope time and, while being on guard, nevertheless I think we should try to judge people by their actions of today rather than the events of over a decade ago.
.- I think that the House will be moved by the speech just delivered by the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes). He is one who could have been excused for rising in his place and conducting a tirade of hate and abuse against the Japanese people. He has not done that. Like the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), he has told the House that the peoples of the world must learn to live with one another. The alternative is the destruction of every one of us. In other words, we must learn to co-exist. There must be an acceptance of the fact that coexistence is inevitable if we are to survive.
It is very easy for people to condemn the Japanese Prime Minister for his intention to lay a wreath at the war memorial. Before we condemn him or say that he should not lay the wreath, let us make sure that we have our facts right. I put it to the House that the Japanese Prime Minister has no alternative but to lay the wreath, having been asked to do so by this Government. Had he refused to lay it, having been invited to do so by the Australian Government, his refusal would have been misinterpreted and condemned as emanating from some one still carrying within his bosom the hatred that the people who fought for Japan against us years ago apparently harboured against our troops.
Let us be fair, and let the public be fair. If we want to condemn anybody, let us not condemn the Japanese Prime Minister merely because he was courteous enough, to accept the invitation of the host nation to lay a wreath at the war memorial. I personally am pleased that the Government has adopted this new attitude to other nations. The change is long overdue. It is gratifying to know that the Government has gone to the extent of recommending to the people of Australia friendly relations with those who fought against us during the war. It naturally follows that the Government will recommend and strive vigorously for friendly relations with those people who fought on our side.
– Who, for instance?
– The honorable member who has just interjected has, apparently, already forgotten who were the people who fought on our side.
– He is the dunce of the class.
– It appears that he is. A person who can forget so easily those who were on our side in those days of dire peril should not qualify for membership of this Parliament. I remind the House that one of the countries that fought alongside us while we were fighting the Japanese was the Soviet Union.
– That is what I was getting at.
– Ah! That is what I was expecting. You have had a great victory! The point is that if we are going to pursue this new policy that the Prime Minister spoke of, and which, I am pleased to see, the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) supports - and I do not say that in a “ smart Alec “ kind of way, because I know that he is sincere-
– He said that we should judge the Japanese by the way they behave now.
– Oh no, he did not. The Prime Minister made it quite clear, and the honorable member for Chisholm seemed to me to support the Prime Minister’s view, that we have to learn to live with the rest of the world. Let the Government be consistent. If it is going to extend the hand of friendship to the people who were our enimies - particularly the Japanese - let it also extend the hand of friendship to those who fought alongside us and who, in no small measure, helped to make it possible for us to be sitting in this Parliament to-night. I believe, therefore, that the Government should endeavour to re-establish diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union as quickly as possible. If it is right that we should have friendly relations with the Japanese, why should we not also establish friendly relations with continental China? The people of that country fought on our side, or at least were fighting against the Japanese at the same time as we were fighting against them. Let us also establish friendly relations even with the people of Egypt. If the Prime Minister wants to be consistent, let him invite to this country, not only the Japanese Prime Minister, but also the leaders of other countries, even to the point - it may sound absurd - of asking Colonel Nasser to visit this country as a friendly gesture.
This is a Christian community. There is no doubt about that. But we were Christians at a time, about 1942, when we put up placards showing a gruesome caricature of a Japanese, with his claws dripping blood, and a caption saying, “ He is coming south! “ He was depicted with great ivory tusks for teeth. This was the creature presented as a Japanese coming south, with a knife in his mouth, ready to do us over, as it were. We were still Christians when we put those placards on every post office. We were still Christians when we told our children that the Japanese were barbarians and scarcely human. We have not changed. Our religion has not changed. We were Christians then as we are now. Therefore, let us not talk at lot of nonsense about this matter.
We have already extended the hand of friendship to the Hungarians, who fought against us during the war. We have brought thousands of their refugees to this country - and I agree with the policy - following the revolution that broke out in Hungary. We have extended the hand of friendship to the Germans, who fought against us. I believe that it is only right that we should be consistent and extend the hand of friendship to all the peoples of the world, especially those who stood by us in the days when the Japanese threat to this country was so great that it was only by a hair’s breadth that we were saved from conquest and being wiped completely off the face of the earth.
I finalize my remarks by reminding the people of Australia - and the members of the Eighth Division too - that they should be fair about this matter and remember that the Japanese Prime Minister was requested by the Australian Government, the host government, to lay a wreath at the war memorial. Imagine what the outcry would have been throughout this country if the Prime Minister of Japan, for any reason at all, had said, “ I refuse the invitation. I will not lay a wreath on your war memorial.”
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.48 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
ser asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
These figures include temporary employees and employees of statutory authorities, &c, accepted for superannuation benefits, (b) Not available, (c) Not available.
d asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
e asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has furnished the following replies: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 November 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1957/19571128_reps_22_hor17/>.